So we ended up having an unexpected guest last night; Phil texted his dad at midnight, to say happy new year, and invited him to drop in when he got back from his evening with Phil’s cousin’s family. He came in and had a drink and a chat with us, ’round the dining room table, then eventually pushed off and I went to bed. Phil obviously stayed up for a couple more hours, so come morning, I was up early, and he still slumbers on.
To keep myself occupied, and because we have his dad coming back tonight for our usual Friday dinner, I started mooching through the leftovers, looking for ways to give them new life. I had a bunch of filo scraps, many lemons, so many eggs, and as it happens, horrifying amounts of caster sugar, and a big pot of Fage Greek yogurt in the fridge, along with a vague memory from my baklava research, of something called patsavoura glyko, a sweet yogurt pie made with jumbled-up filo scraps. No delicate handling needed, just bunch ’em up in the bottom of a lightly greased pan, mix up the yogurt with oil, sugar, eggs, a bit of baking powder, and some vanilla extract (although I added some lemon zest, ‘cuz I think lemon zest improves practically any creamy sweet thing), which you then pour over the filo, and bake at about 200° C for 30-ish minutes or so. Then you let it cool, and pour over a hot lemon syrup, and voilà, you got your patsavoura glyko. Because I cannot leave well enough alone, or, seemingly, follow a recipe precisely, I cut the recipe roughly in half, as I’m only feeding three people, and there was the lemon zest, and there might possibly be some rosewater in the syrup, because I love rosewater.
It’s cooling now, and I am soon to take a break from writing to make the syrup. At the moment, however, I have some oxtails roasting in the oven, as a preliminary to making a good, hearty, beef stock. When I first moved over here, the BSE-era rules about beef on the bone were still strictly enforced, and this made it hard to make a really good stock. Happily, the ban ended some time back, but finding good soup bones can still be a challenge, and I was resigned to commercial beef stock (the liquid Touch of Taste concentrate is actually pretty good) until one day, in Sainsbury’s, I spotted some oxtails. Hello! I thought. Beef bones, and in a nice, compact form. I had absolutely no experience with oxtail, but figured they’d work, and so they did. You want an intensely flavoursome jellied beef stock, which freezes beautifully? Oxtail. Very strong, so it has to be cut with water, but it’s nice to have so much flavour for such a small commitment of freezer space, always at a premium around here.
So, to get rid of my stock of wilting herbs, some sad-looking celery, and a few flabby carrots (all still perfectly fine and safely edible, just nothing you’d want to bite into raw), I grabbed a package of oxtails when I saw them in the shop. I’ll pull them out of the oven, chuck them in one of my slow cookers (I, uh, have three of them, and I’d probably buy a mini if I could find one) with the veg and herbs, cover it all with water, and then ignore it for 12 hours or so, which is when the unpleasant part comes, and I have to strain it. Gack. Worth it, but I do dread that part.
There appears to be some kind of paleo/autoimmune cult around bone stock these days, and, well, I doubt it’s quite the miracle devotées of said cult believe, but it’s good stuff, and if people who invest it with magical properties create enough of a demand for it that I can find oxtails easily, without having to go to the inconveniently-located butcher, great! Unfortunately, this also drives prices up — see what happened to lamb shanks for an example — but every time I see a £3 whole chicken in the shops, I feel kind of sad and horrible, as I wonder what kind of conditions those chickens, and the people who raise and process them, must live and work in. Organic/free-range seem more realistically priced, but harder to find. Still, if your food budget is severely limited, there’s a couple of meals to be got from a chicken…and then I remind myself that I am being one of those middle-class people, the kind who is one patronising step away from telling economically disadvantaged people all of the time-consuming and skill-heavy ways they could be feeding themselves cheaper and more healthily, and I want to smack myself.
Right. So that bit up there was such a downer that I wandered off to make my rosewater/lemon syrup, which I duly soaked my cake with, and the cake tastes great, although it’s far from photogenic. You know what is photogenic? This:
I made toad-in-the-hole for tea, as I think my father-in-law had kind of hit the wall with all the spicy stuff I’ve been cooking of late, and on a wretchedly cold and rainy night, stodge with onion gravy goes down a treat. I used some of my leftover onion confit as a base for the gravy, and got another couple of hundred grams of flour and 4 eggs out of my overstock — I made far too much batter, but it’ll keep well enough, so I’ll make something else of it tomorrow. Possibly some sort of clafoutis, depending on what kind of fruit I can scrounge up. I swear I am totally going off desserts as a regular thing, once Phil goes back to work, because god knows the extra kilo of holiday lard needs to be driven off as soon as possible, but in the meantime, the ugly Greek yogurt and filo cake tasted much better than it looked.