tv dinners

watercooler chat about what’s on TV and what you had for dinner last night

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Sick TV

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Cable for the ailing..

Homegrown on Horse & Country (I kid you not).

After the Home & Country, Switch onto a celebration of rural and equestrian life – yay for the horses, intro played 4 times in a row, Homegrown finally started, with peppy Italian theme music. Bit incongruous for a show on Loch Fyne cheeses but hey. The presenter, whose name I can’t find anywhere – this really is amateur hour (I mean both me and Horse & Country) was a really normal middle aged woman who had normal recipes for this fine local cheese. How refreshing. She was upset Brits didn’t go in for Jerusalem Artichokes more and ecstatic that the Loch Fyne cheese isn’t pasteurised. The strange thing about the show was she kept making dishes but not showing the final result – until the end when she invited one of the cheese factory workers to taste the results. The cheese producer was solemn and vaguely impressed, which makes a change from Ina Garten...

Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten is a stockier, older American Nigella – she’s a former White House analyst who bought a food store in the Hamptons on a whim and in the 25 years she ran it and built up a catering business Barefoot Contessa, the store, became a local landmark. & google images

Ina is friends with Martha Stewart (The US Delia) and this comes through in the style of her show on UKTVFood. Each episode is based on a social occasion – eg picnic at the lake and involves Ina discussing what flowers, cutlery, themed napkins, dishes and glasses she’ll be serving with. At the end of the episode Ina gives her guests a friendly interrogation “Is it good?” “Do you like it?” and invariably they fawn, when did you get time to make this? Hello – she’s a food writer/presenter, it’s not exactly amazing that the meal you’re eating, whilst being filmed, is so great. Her food is great by the way and “the good news is” (Ina’s catchphrase), there’s lots of fun in trying to guess the UK equivalent of the ingredients she uses and repeating her pronunciation of baysil and ohraygahno.

Pignoles = pine nuts or pine kernels, Scallions = spring onion and more.

Finally – I’ve already written a disparaging review of Rachel Allen so will leave her alone except to say her latest series is just as awkward, ” I have .. ….an oven”.

Written by Victoria

March 7, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Recipes, TV

Mr Oliver loves Mr Contaldo, surely.

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Well Delia did a Kitchen/Garden book a few years ago, with no TV series to match (why?) and Jamie’s cottoned on, making a much more relaxed version, Jamie at Home, which I’ve been watching, as I like both cooking and gardening and Jamie Oliver.

As with the last Nigella series, Jamie seems in a frenzy of Jamie-ness, not abashed or self-conscious at all – which is good, even if at times that means he says daft things. What I’m having trouble with is the endless Mr Tomato loves Mr Basil, Mr Frog loves eating slugs, Mr soil loves Mr Nitrogen – I’m starting to worry that Jamie never leaves his house and is trapped in a world with his family, speaking gibberish and eating raw broad bean sprouts.

Then there’s the irritating shots of the book (I’ve not seen the physical book but assume it’s as shown on the interludes on the tv show, where the camera focuses on a shot of strawberry jam with a ‘rustic’ illustration and the text “Simmer for 30 minutes” then we cut to Jamie, “Simmer for 30 minutes” he says.

What exactly is the point of this? To get us to buy the book? To take up time? To highlight Jamie’s ‘quirky’ turn of phrase, “This is top top top”, cut to the book, with the words on the page, “This is top, top top.”

Yeah we get it. I hate this in advertising – where the script flashes up on the screen as the actors try and sell you pro-biotic yoghurt or insurance. I suspect it’s for the Sky+ generation fast forwarding the adds at speeds of x12 or x30 – hoping we’ll still connect “youthful” with Nivea or whatever but when I’m watching ads during shows I actually watch in real time, I have to mute the TV and look away so I won’t be brainwashed.

So why has Jamie at Home used this naff device? I’ll give them benefit of the doubt and hope they’re doing the book shots so that people can note down the bare bones of the recipe and make it that night.

In the end, despite my whining I’m going to keep watching in the hope (lot of hope involved so far) that Gennaro Contaldo makes another appearance. Their mushrooms episode in Series One was awesome, he & Jamie should really do a whole series together.

Also I’m watching for Jamie’s gardener, Brian, a middle aged version of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, he should really get some airtime on Gardener’s World.

Jamie & Brian - from

He could give Monty a run for his money. To grow some of the veg mentioned in the show, check out this nursery and to make the recipes, check out these episode guides.

Finally friends, you can find Delia’s Kitchen Garden book on her website, watch out for the McDonalds ads though.

Written by Victoria

February 22, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Recipes, TV

Food fight

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I’m really suprised that Emma John from the Guardian thinks New Zealand has only recently become a place for good food. It’s true to say that taste in food was very traditional until the 90s, but ‘a sloppy shepherd’s pie or a throat-laceratingly dry roast’ is utter rubbish, how patronising.

New Zealanders have a really strong tradition of home cooking and baking – and while the food we cook today is more adventurous, the traditional roast/pies/cakes etc of tea rooms and restaurants were well cooked – infact NZ’s best selling cookery book, 1907’s Edmonds Cook Book, is still a popular present for newlyweds and expats.

In her article Emma is excited by the cuisine on offer in our finest restaurants – which is great but the reality is the quality of produce is much higher across the board. You can’t buy ready made food on the same scale and foodcourts in our malls often have better meals on offer than a lot of the chain restaurants in the UK, for half the price too.

I’ve lived here for over 5 years and it’s only now that the UK is starting to realise that you can have more than a sandwich or baked potato for lunch. In our cafes you’d never buy a muffin sealed in plastic with a best by sticker on it!

Written by Victoria

February 11, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Recipes

Get Lost?

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I do. Lost is back. The weekend is complete, and with Damages on the next night, it’s like a smorgasbord of never-ending riddles and toothy American smiles.

Well not that much smiling, as Charlie is dead and doh! the people on the boat aren’t what they seem. Yes it’s the Others plot x2, this time with the mysterious boat people. But you have to admit – it’s a great plot.

Half the castaways are convinced the boat is coming to rescue them, the other half have learnt to be suspicious – the split in the camp is not great for the sawyer/kate/jack love triangle but the split story is great – especially as the depressing flash forwards from the series finale are now starting to make sense..

As for Damages – Tate Donovan had the lion’s share of the episode and smiled a lot, which was a nice relief from the Ellen/Patti/Katie stress fest in the previous episodes.

Tate, not in the OC now... Photo

Art and Fiske shared some dark comedy (I’m so glad Danson has something decent to act in, Becker was just so flat) and the murder scene that everything tracks back from is sloooowly taking pace.

The only problem is, there’s nothing on tonight.

So make some Pancakes, instead…

For the clammy crepe style ones go to Delia, who has a step-by-step guide on her site and for the proper thick pancakes you eat with maple syrup and bacon try Nigella’s American diner pancakes.

Written by Victoria

February 5, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Recipes, TV

Not cheep?

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When I did journalism at school, I wrote an article about battery farming and two things happened.

1 – I borrowed a SAFE (Save Animals from Exploitation) video about pig farming that I kept for soo long I was embarassed to give it back, and

2 – I didn’t eat chicken or pork for 2 years

Regardless of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Jamie Oliver – when you discuss battery farming you’re talking animal welfare. To me, what sets us apart from being just carnivores, is the concept of mercy and our higher intelligence. We are capable of treating any animal with respect and we know that their nerve system is as highly evolved as ours – they feel pain.

So why does the average consumer not question the £2 chicken? I understand being poor, you need to make money for food stretch but no-one is forcing you to eat antibiotic ridden, 39 day old chicken. If you can’t afford free range chicken, don’t buy any. Why condone such barbaric farming practises?

I always buy free range – I just buy less. For example, you can get two free range chicken breasts for £3 from Tesco or Sainsbury or ASDA and make enough curry for 3 or 4 if you add some potatoe or other veg in. Buy a small free range whole chicken from £5 and make it last – you can portion the chicken yourself really easily with a good knife, or simply roast it then boil the carcass with carrot, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns for a light stock – use that to make nice risotto, soup or stew.

Hugh’s Chicken Run (on again tonight on 4) and Jamie’s Fowl Dinners on Friday have already started the debate – hopefully more people will try free range and stop the demand for badly treated poultry.

20-minute free range chicken curry

Serves 2-4

2 small free range chicken breasts (skin off).

half an onion

one clove garlic

1 small potatoe

1 small sweet potatoe (try kumara, the NZ sweet potatoe)

1 can reduced fat coconut milk

Pataks Korma paste

Cardomom pods and a cinnamon stick

Lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

Handful of fresh coriander

300 – 500ml Greek or natural yoghurt

Dried mint

75g per person of basmati or brown rice.

Curry & rice If you’re using brown rice, put the kettle on and get the rice started – it will take 20 minutes – set a timer. Add 3 cardomom pods to the water. If you go for basmati – this will only take 10 minutes. Drain the rice after the time is up, back into the pot and leave the lid on so it steams and gets more fluffy.

Chop the onion and half the garlic clove really finely. Add a spoon of olive or sunflower oil to a wok or large frying pan and start cooking the onion, stirring occasionally to avoid it browning – you want it to be transluscent and soft.

Again add 3 cardomom pods and half a cinnamon stick. If you don’t have these – don’t worry.

Chop the chicken into small chunks and peel the potatoes and chop into small chunks too. Add them to the onion and fry for 2 minutes.

Add a heaped dessert spoon of korma paste and stir into the chicken and potatoe – fry for a further minute, then add in the coconut milk, lots of pepper and lemon juice too (at least quarter of a lemon).

Simmer the curry (medium heat, not too vigorous) for the remainder of the rice cooking time. If you want to add peas or brocolli etc add them at the end of the cooking time.

Raita While the curry and rice cook, chop the cucumber (about a 10cm length). Peel it first if you prefer it like that. Mix the cucumber with all but 2 spoonfuls of the yoghurt in a bowl. Add pepper and more lemon juice and a teaspoon of dried mint. Mix together and set aside.

If you’ve got naan or popadom – heat them just before you drain the rice (remove the cardomom pods).

To finish Add the reserved yoghurt to the curry and remove the cardomom pods and cinnamon sticks (they usually float to the surface).

Add half the chopped coriander to the curry. Turn off the heat once you add the yoghurt. NB if you want to thicken the curry, add a couple of spoons of ground almonds.

TV Dinner tonight – Organic rump steak with minted salad potatoes, some homemade hollandaise sauce and green beans.

Written by Victoria

January 8, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Recipes, TV

Christmas, cheers

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This is my plan, for finger food style, yule-buffets..

  • Guacamole – you need 1 ripe avocado, mashed with lime juice (dissolve some salt in the juice before you stir in), spring onions and black pepper, now mix through some greek yoghurt or sour cream. If you use greek yoghurt, hold back 2tBsp to mix through store bought hoummus. If you like this more spicy, forget the yoghurt, add a dash of Tabasco and chopped, peeled and de-seeded tomatoes.
  • Pita chips – cut white pita bread with scissors into little wedges and toss with salt, pepper and garlic olive oil, plus sesame seeds if you’ve got them. Now bake in a moderate oven for 10 mins until
  • Salsa – see my recipe below
  • Hoummus – add 2 tBsp greek yoghurt and juice of half a lemon to store bought hoummus, plus freshly ground pepper and 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of ground cumin. Stir up then serve with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sweet paprika.
  • Cocktail sausages (free range or at least “butcher’s choice”) – bake with honey, soy sauce and a drop of sesame seed oil for 30-40 minutes until sticky and browned. Other versions could be honey and mustard or maple syrup and orange…
  • My favourite cheese – Cenarth brie, St Agur and an amazing cheddar plus plain water crackers

  • Organic chicken bites or breaded prawns, served with homemade plum sauce
  • Mini baked potatoes (mini potatoes baked til super crisp) with sour cream and chives
  • Ham, pesto and boursin tart

Ham, pesto and Boursin tart

  • 1 x pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 x jar basil pesto
  • 3 x thin slices of ham
  • 1 x boursin cheese

Spread basil pesto over half the pastry, leaving a border to seal later

Layer the ham over the pesto

Crumble Boursin on top of the ham then with an eggwash, paint around the border to seal in the filling.

Fold the pastry onto itself, pressing down on the edges and eggwash the top.

Cook in a moderate over for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Serve warm, cut into small squares. This recipe was originally in an old Good Food magazine, it’s a great, simple combination and I sometimes use this combination in toasted sandwiches too.


  • half red onion finely chopped or blitzed
  • 1 red pepper finely chopped or blitzed
  • 1 red chilli – mild, blitzed
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 1 punnet of plum tomatoes, a quarter blitzed, seeds and all and the for the rest of the tomatoes, squished out the seeds with your fingers then chop finely.
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tBsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tBsp fresh parsley or coriander chopped finely

Mix the ingredients up at least 30 minutes before the party, or days beforehand! Keep covered in the fridge overnight if you do make ahead.

Plate style buffet food next week… have I missed anything?

Written by Victoria

November 28, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Recipes

There is no depression on the Wirral

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Somehow, when the clocks went back, I managed to escape time. It’s 3am and I’m wide awake, with work in 7 hours. The clocks went back, so I really can’t explain it at all. Maybe my antipodean genes are protesting at the new 6 hours of sunshine a day regime. Maybe I’m just got too excited about the new episode of Flight of the Conchords.

I made Chinese Plum sauce tonight, which involved chopping up 3kg of soft fruit. I’ll post some recipes soon, when I’ve got photos to go with them!

Written by Victoria

October 31, 2007 at 3:52 am

Posted in Recipes