There are weeks, like the one just gone where I can barely remember the slightest thing of interest happening in day to day life.Most noteworthy was hurriedly inflating an air bed on the pavement outside my in-laws' house fifteen minutes after the children were due to be asleep on it in our bedroom as there were guests needing theirs. I had to do it outside, in case you were wondering, because the air pump attaches to the car's cigarette lighter. It wasn't because I love the great outdoors.I immediately punctured it on the thorns leading up the path to the house. This is what comes of doing things last minute. We've had this mattress ten years without incident, using it perhaps three times over the decade. The one time we really need it a prick burst it.I've barely cooked this week at home –by home I mean the in-laws house as we continue our stay away from the dust sheets and collapsed lost tomb of the Incas our place resembles– which has made a welcome change. It is nice to have an occasional break from the kitchen, if a little odd. As much as I love feeding people, I like the control I have over something and the feeling I get when making other people happy. Filming every day this week I haven't been around much for my family; I've felt my absence keenly.Still, the food cooked for me by mother-in-law Sue has been delicious. Highlights were the mushroom risotto and an incredibly irresistible pineapple pudding from a Jane Grigson recipe that over the course of three helpings with ice cream overcame my avoidance of sugar during the week. I have a feeling that in a fortnight we will have extended waists as well as a redecorated home.But I have cooked a couple of things. A simple ten second pasta sauce for the children on Saturday (blitz together one tin of tomatoes, 1 clove of garlic, olive oil, a pinch of oregano, a dash of tomato purée and a pinch of salt then cook quickly) which everyone tucked into except me. I had bratwurst onto which I spooned the remains of the salsa verde from the other night. Its zing and freshness had faded like a green velvet curtain left in the sun, it's lost grandeur just a reminder of better times. And because everyone else seems to hate bratwurst in my family I got all the sausages.On Saturday night, as we all sat down to watch 'Strictly', the children's eyes kept open with matchsticks, zombified with tiredness yet unwilling to admit defeat to the enemy of sleep, we ate bowls of haricot beans slowly stewed with chorizo, sofrito, a dash of stock and chicken thighs first browned in the paprika infused oil then left to slowly simmer in the mix until tender. Comforting and very tasty.Here's a recipe the children helped me to make the weekend before we shipped out. The sourdough starter and longer ferment gives the brioche stronger structure and deeper flavour than the standard brioche so it stands up a little more to serious abuse from pouring over a load of hot chocolate sauce, if that's your kind of thing. It is mine. At least when I'm not avoiding sugar...Ingredients2tbsp starter200ml lukewarm water plus 50ml350g flour plus extra for kneading15g fresh yeast (or 7g dried)1 egg, beaten60ml milk, lukewarm80g butter80g golden caster sugarAnother 150g flourA generous pinch of saltChocolate buttons, I used a mix of dark, milk and whiteMethodAdd the water to the starter and stir well until dispersed. Stir in the 350g flour and mix well. Leave to rest for about half an hour.Add the salt and the 50ml water and knead together until mixed. The dough should be quite wet and sticky.Add a little more flour and start to knead on the bench, folding and pushing it until it starts to become smooth and elastic. Add flour a little at a time until it becomes tacky rather than sticky and you can shape it into a nice firm but soft ball of dough.Leave in the bowl, covered with a cloth for four hours.Add the yeast to the milk and stir to dissolve. Pour onto the rested dough and add the butter, sugar and egg to this. Mix into the dough. It will be quite sloppy. Add the 150g flour and knead well for another five minutes, adding a little more flour if the dough gets too sticky. Don't make it too dry and firm though, it needs to be on the wet side of tacky.While kneading, add a little more flour if you need, just so it doesn't stick to the bench too much. It will become sticky but silky enough to handle and shape into a ball.Leave to rise for a further two hours then knock back and shape into eight balls.Put the balls in two lines in two brioche or loaf tins. Brush the top with beaten egg mixed with a splash of milk. Dust the top with sugar crystals and a sprinkle of grated chocolate. Leave to prove for another half an hour and bake at gas 7 (190c) for 25 mins until golden and cooked through. Don't have the heat on too high and blacken them as I did. Leave to cool until just warm before serving.
There is a shelf in our fridge that David Attenborough should investigate. Here, behind the inconspicuous looking cheese, the vivid bright colours of the chilli sauce bottle and the jar of ancient miso lie unexplained phenomena. Jars of things, experiments and whims.While we are currently living out of suitcases at the in-laws, I admit there is a possibility I don't need as much stuff as I have. It has been refreshing to live with a minimum of things, and while it will inevitably not last after the decorating has been finished at home, I see that life could do with streamlining. And that should extend to the kitchen. I have boxes full of things I use maybe once a year, and perhaps while we are trying to sell our place, I could do without festering packets of dried animal parts and the like that I insist impart a certain je ne sais quoi to dishes.It can't go on. And while I experiment with flavours, make pickles and chutneys or try and use up gluts of vegetables our fridge becomes fuller and smellier. So I will now stick to the fresh and keep a minimum of jars. Within reason.These shall be:Dijon mustard -- a must, without which vinaigrette is nothing to meMiso -- just for that little savouriness and occasional warming hot drinkChilli sauce -- well that goes without saying. A house without chilli sauce is not a home.Pickled jalapenos -- what are tacos and chilli without those? And let's not forget how brilliant the little pickled chillies are with spaghetti Bolognese, so those can stay tooGarlic and ginger purée -- well, it's just so useful isn't it?Cornichons -- what kind of a household doesn't have those in the fridge? Savages.The jar of dill pickled cucumbers -- great on rye with some of the jarred and pickled herrings. They must stay too.And kimchi -- homemade of course. That's a legal requirement. We should get a new fridge which has a kimchi dispenser in the door as well as one for water. It's the perfect snack, I love an occasional bratwurst in a microwave Chinese steamed bun with a good dollop of the stuff, so space must be kept for this. So that only leaves the half used jar of wholegrain to get rid of. Not much, but it's a start.The kimchi recipe is below. It's a very easy thing to do, perhaps five minutes work. Time does the rest.As for the week ahead, I fancy making Canadian butter tarts for a weekend snack. What's not to like about butter? Perhaps a haricot and chorizo stew to warm us up on a cold midweek night, although this time I'll try to not burn the beans in the pressure cooker like I did last time.A prawn, tomato and fenugreek curry to go with the dhal I have stored in the freezer will make a quick Thursday supper sprinkled with some ground peanut, garlic and coconut chutney and maybe some spicy harrisa coated lamb chops with a spiky green salad to get our fingers dirty with on Friday. And there's always the kimchi, which I've brought with us from home. I have freed up some space in our fridge after all...Ingredients1 Chinese cabbage, cored and sliced lengthwise6 radishes, finely sliced4 spring onions, sliced1 thumb of ginger, grated4 cloves of garlic, grated1tbsp gochujang1tbsp seaweed flakes1tbsp chilli flakesPepper100g salt1tbsp sugarWater, to cover the cabbage in a large bowlMethodAdd the salt to the sliced cabbage in a large bowl and massage into the leaves. Cover with the water, put a plate on top with a heavy weight on and leave for at least three hours. Overnight if possible.Drain and rinse the cabbage thoroughly.Mix together the sugar seaweed flakes, chilli flakes, gochujang and pepper in a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt and mix well.Add the remaining ingredients to the cabbage and mix in the paste.Pack into a sterilised kilner jar, adding a splash more of water to loosen the mix a little if needed.Leave for 24 hours and open the jar to release any build up of gas. Keep in the fridge and use as needed for three weeks or so.This weekRead: Nearly finished Middlemarch. I will need to read a cereal packet for a few days after. As always, The New Yorker fills the gaps; an excellent piece on culinary revolution from Jane Kramer.Watched: Some good costume dramatics in Howards End. I am quite the fan of E.M, having loved Passage to India for A' Level English.Listened: Laura Cantrell, 'Not the tremblin' kind.' An old favourite, gently countryish.Eat: Braai wings at Meat Liquor that blew my head off. They were hotter than a white Escort XR3i. Delicious and for once something that lived up to its spicy billing. I'm still impressed. And I made mashed potato stuffed tortellini with the children. Served with sage butter it was a comforting, carby, delicious supper. 'Though I'm going to have to crack down on the kids in the kitchen, they really didn't crank the pasta machine quickly enough for my liking.