Friday, April 27, 2007

TGIF ---its been a fairly hectic week and I 'm going out for dinner with friends tonight, toodle-pip!


I have been having a bit of a Crime Fiction fest (In between reading other books, some of which I’ve written about on this blog) and recently came across a book by Laura Lippman entitled By a Spider’s Thread featuring a feisty female PI called Tess Monaghan. To my joy and delight, this is just one of a whole series of books with Tess as the lynch-pin. Isn’t it wonderful when you find there are six or seven books by an author you’ve just discovered, and can look forward to reading?

By a Spider’s Thread is set in Baltimore, and is a cracking crime/mystery about the disappearance of orthodox jew Mark Rubin’s wife and three children. The police will not do anything about the case as it appears that Natalie Rubin left the marital home of her own accord. Mark cannot believe that she would do that and so he hires Tess to try and trace her and the kids. I don’t want to say any more about the storyline as it would spoil the plot for future readers, suffice to say it is well plotted, comes to a satisfying conclusion, all loose ends are tied up very plausibly, and the characterisation is first class.

For years I have been reading the crime fiction by Sara Paretsky featuring her gritty female PI V.I. Warshawski and all are set in Chicago; this book reminded me of them in some ways. Apparently Laura Lippman has set all or nearly all her books in one city Baltimore, and they too feature a single woman PI. I need to read more of her books, but on first acquaintance I prefer Tess Monaghan to Paretsky’s V.I Warshawski – she is a warmer character.

Rated 3.5*


Political correctness raises my blood pressure – and I suspect it does the same for many of you. So read no further if high blood pressure worries you…because this is another example of Local Authority craziness.

Some councillors in Totnes (an ancient seaside town in Devon) have suggested that any furniture owned by the councilwhich is upholstered with leather – such as armchairs, sofas, or the inlaid leather tops of antique desks, should have the leather removed and replaced with plastic to avoid offending vegetarians.

No, it is NOT an April Fool’s Day joke (it’s almost May in case you hadn’t noticed) it is just one more example of the way some folk have become totally out of whack with common sense.

I’m not anti-vegetarian (although none of my best friends are veggies), but I do get hacked off at how much we are all supposed to pander to particular groups. If I am producing a meal for people and there is a non-carnivore among them I will always prepare a vegetarian option. But if I go to eat a meal prepared by a vegetarian, will they have provided a meat option for me? Will they hell. Not that I object to that, in fact I wouldn’t expect it – but recovering the leather furniture with plastic???? What madness.

And if I were a council taxpayer in Totnes, and my local taxes were going to be used on this lunatic idea I would be down at the Town Hall making a serious protest.

Ominvores of the World Unite !


So Marco Pierre White, the ├╝ber celebrity chef, has come out as a fan of Knorr chicken stock cubes, after all these years of masquerading as a purist who has made the average cook feel guilty for not making every thing by hand from scratch. Whatever next - is he suddenly going to come clean about using Paxo stuffing, or packet Bechamel sauce?

Seriously though, I am not fanatical about anything in cooking, though my instant stock of choice is Marigold Swiss bouillon which contains less salt and no MSG.
But I do make chicken stock regularly - approximately every fortnight. The reason is that whenever I do a big shop at Waitrose or Costco, I always buy a Rotisseried chicken. As soon as I get it home I strip the cooked meat off, and it gives about 8 servings, ideal in with pasta, with salad and baked potatoes, and in sandwiches for packed lunch or padkos. Then the carcass goes into my trusty pressure cooker together with a few other bits and bobs and low and behold 1.5 l of stock.


1 chicken carcass (and if you happen to have a chicken thigh or two lying around which you can add, so much the better)
2 carrots, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 celery sticks cut into biggish pieces ( use the tougher outer sticks from a head of celery)
1 medium onion cut into 8 pieces (if you leave the skin on, it gives the stock a lovely golden colour)
3-4 stalks of parsley
1 stem of fresh thyme (or teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
5-6 grinds of black pepper

Put everything into a very large lidded pan. Cover with 3 litres of cold water and bring to the boil; Simmer covered for about 1 hour, cool and strain. Keeps in fridge for 3-4 days. Freezes well.

I haven't given pressure cooker instructions, because they all differ slightly, but about 20 mins at pressure is ideal.


Around My Kitchen Table said...

Totnes is in Devon, my home county. It's a really weird place full of "alternative" businesses. If you want any kind of strange New Age therapy, you are sure to find it in Totnes. Don't breathe in while in Totnes, unless you want to get high. To get a flavour of the place, take a look at this website. It says it all!
(Really like your blog, by the way)

paddy said...

Good post. I used to be a full-time veggie - for social/environmental reasons - but the reason I am now slightly omnivorous is just the one you mention - veggies can be so damned self-righteous. Plus the fact that meat tastes good.

There was a good comment from Viz comic a few years back:

"Vegetarians coming to dinner? Simply serve them a nice bit of steak or veal. Since they`re always going on about how tofu, Quorn, meat substitute etc `tastes exactly like the real thing`, they won`t know any difference."

herschelian said...

Around my kitchen table - thanks for the link to the website, I've only spent an afternoon in Totnes, years ago, but will see it in a whole different light now!

Paddy - Loved the Viz comment!

Jeanne said...

Don't get me started on political correctness!! Why is it we are always trying not to offend people who would not have been offended in the first place?!? Like banning Christmas celebrations in offices in a Christian country, in case we offend any other religions. Do you think anybody woudl cancel Ramadan celebrations so as not to offend Christians?!? It's all loony.

I am a huge fan of good stock and am always on the lookout for good instant ones (being of the life's-too-short-to-stuff-a-mushroom school of cooking!) - I love the Kallo cubes - the chicken ones REALLY taste of chicken and there's no added MSG. Plus I think they do an organic range called Just Bouillon.

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