imageI am not one of those people who is convinced that everything that comes into my home is plotting to kill me.  My main beef is with stuff claiming to smell of “Cool Mountain Breeze” or “Clean Linen”. Bitch, please.  Having grown up in the mountains (well, speedbumps) of the Poconos, my prevailng olfactory memories of breezes are of acrid rubber, resulting from the spare-tire bonfires that the local kids would start for summer afternoon entertainment. In my backed-up-by-no-scientific-data-whatsover experience, pine (which seems to be the prevailing perfumatory requirement for Cool Mountain Breezes) doesn’t really tend to smell that much until you’re cutting it down.  I propose  “Corporate Forest Rapery” or “When Are You Going To Take Down That Goddamn Christmas Tree” as alternative descriptors.

I totally get that commercial chemical concoctions can be harmful.   I wouldn’t want my cats lapping up Cillit Bang, and every time I sprayed mildew-killer in the spore pit that was the bathroom in my overpriced Highgate rental flat (I still loved that place), I would run out of the room with an itchy nose and the sensation of bugs crawling up my arms.  It’s just those sanctimonious Domestic Warriors and mommy bloggers doing it all for the faaaaaaaaaamily who tend to ruin it for everyone.

I DO think that commercial cleaning products (or rather, the marketing for them) are condescending.  If you don’t kill 99.99999995% of germs on your kitchen table, you must hate your children.  How can you be so woefully ignorant to the impending death lurking on your chopping board?  But don’t worry, here’s this $5 bottle of stuff that performs the exact same function as 2 cents’ worth of white vinegar.  The fact that a box of borax (or in the UK “borax substitute”) performs exactly the same function as Oxy Clean / Oxy Action, is literally 1/5th of the price, and safer.

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The tomatoes and tomatillos have survived despite attacks from aphids and Angus. We sampled the tomatoes, and they are the sweetest I’ve ever had (to think I hated tomatoes as a kid!). These are a tiny bush variety called Tumbling Tom, I think – the stall at Brockley Market where I bought the seedling had two varieties and I forgot to ask which one I was actually buying. Oops.

The tomatillos are finally producing husks after dropping flowers and being ignored by bees all summer. They’re finally tall enough to catch the attention of the little pollinators, but it’s only the very top blossoms that are starting to fruit. So we may get salsa verde yet, just a very small amount.

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SE London exploration continues with a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping at Greenwich Market. I can’t say what goodies we bought – don’t want to spoil the Christmas surprises – but I can oblige with a gratuitous photo of lunch from a stall run by a group of cheery Italians. I didn’t get the name of the place, but you can’t miss it. One side of their cube-shaped formation is a cheese specialist, the other side is a butcher & charcuterie, and the other 2 sides consist of tasty looking Sicilian style pizzas and about 10 kind of giant arancini. These carbo-bomb delicacies are fist-sized versions of the tasty little deep-fried risotto balls, stuffed with various fillings, including mushroom, pesto, chicken, minced beef and the spicy salami/mozzarella combination that Neil and I (well, I) opted for. The risotto was perfect, just the right amount of bite (Arancini can be a bit gluey if the rice is over cooked), loaded with saffron, and in the center, a little pocket of melted mozzarella and spicy salami that was somewhere between genoa salami and a fiery pepperoni. Yum.

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assembling my awesome Heartbreaker burger. 40 day aged beef with ox heart, chimichurri, cheddar, sour cream and rocket. At the Brockley Food Market.

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Neil and I are in the process of buying our first flat, and I’ve been buying up a few pieces in anticipation of the move, perhaps prematurely; we’ve had to pull out of one sale (structural problems highlighted in the survey), but all going well, this one might actually happen.

I’ve wanted a 1950s kitchen since forever, and the freestanding dressers top the list. Unfortunately, the craze for vintage has pushed up prices for these considerably. A year or two ago, I’d see these on eBay for about £50-100; a search yesterday turned up three similar restored ones with starting bids ranging from £180-£350 on Buy It Now.

So when I saw this knackered cupboard listed for collection only near Guildford at £1.09 with less than 24 hours to go, I pounced on it. £16 Plus another £44 for delivery (via the excellent van-sharing courier Anyvan),and 48 hours later, I have myself a kitchen dresser.

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I plan to spend my vacation next week liberating the cupboard from the gloppy white and yellow paint job, the cobwebs (complete with stowaway spider from Guildford), cracked plastic handles and disintegrating shelf paper. I’ll do a post about it when the transformation is complete.

The Formica on the drop leaf shelf needs particular help so if anyone has any suggestions of how to restore or replace it, I’m all ears.

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Yesterday it was my turn to make breakfast, which is usually the domain of the Other Half.  I’m definitely more of a savoury person when it comes to breakfast.  Danishes and pain au chocolat are okay, but I’ll take a breakfast burrito (my favourite is the amazing calorie-bomb at The Breakfast Club) any day.  The exception is French toast.  The Brits have their own savoury version, “eggy bread” which is similar, but eaten with salt and pepper but it doesn’t compare to our maple-syrup drenched artery-closer.

I’ve been wanting to try a savoury muffin for a while, ever since seeing the pumpkin and feta muffins on 101 Cookbooks.  However, we were after something a little less virtuous yesterday, and it’s the wrong season for pumpkin anyway, so I did a more decadent version using a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe as a jumpoff point.  For once I had all the ingredients lying around, including some incredible smoked streaky bacon and mature cheddar from my Abel & Cole box.  Foodie types are always banging on about how it’s worth spending a little extra on good bacon, and I wholeheartedly agree on this point.  A&C’s organic smoked streaky bacon is under £3, and it doesn’t shrink down to nothing like the oversalted cheap stuff.  A while back we had a food thief in the area, who would rifle through the grocery delivery and nick just the bacon.  (I never caught the bacon thief, but A&C kindly offered to put the delivery inside our building, and pilfered pork is now a thing of the past.)

On to the muffins.  This recipe makes 12 muffins.  Neil and I had these for breakfast, but they’d probably make a good quirky alternative to a dinner roll, as Hugh suggests.  These took about an hour to make including baking time, but I was slightly hungover and therefore not at my swiftest and best.

Bacon, Cheddar and Jalapeño Muffins

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 100g (about 4 thick slices) smoked streaky bacon, cut into 1cm pieces
  • 1 onion, finely diced
 (I used a white onion but red would probably look nicer)
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 200ml buttermilk
 (I ran out of buttermilk so used half plain yogurt)
  • 1-2 Jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 
150g strong cheddar, grated

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.

Fry the bacon in the oil over medium high heat till just about crisp, then drain on a paper towel.  Soften the onion and pepper in the same pan, then set aside to cool.  Deglaze the pan with a little water between the bacon and the vegetables if necessary.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, whisk the eggs, butter and buttermilk, stir them into the flour mixture with a spatula until just combined, then fold in the cooled bacon, onion, peppers and two-thirds of the cheese until just evenly distributed.  Don’t overmix – if you do the muffins will be like bricks.  This batter is very thick – almost like dough.  I wound up splashing in a little milk because the flour I used seemed especially “thirsty”.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, and bake for about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool the muffins in the pan for as long as you can bear it (we lasted five minutes), then devour.

 

As tweeted by facebook/twitter friend @rhodri (click to see closeup):

A glorious error. Text for a Ladies Beauty Trimmer ends up in the press release for James Martin’s Electric Knife. http://pic.twitter.com/cXJKyQhK

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