Simple pleasures

Take your pickle

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 me
Miso — just for that little savouriness and occasional warming hot drink
Chilli 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 too
Garlic 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…

1 Chinese cabbage, cored and sliced lengthwise
6 radishes, finely sliced
4 spring onions, sliced
1 thumb of ginger, grated
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1tbsp gochujang
1tbsp seaweed flakes
1tbsp chilli flakes
100g salt
1tbsp sugar
Water, to cover the cabbage in a large bowl

Add 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 week
Read: 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.

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