“Cheap” is a much maligned word. Cheap skate, cheap shot, dirt cheap and on the cheap are terms that denigrate, that define something or someone as less than it or they should be. In our wealth driven society a divide has appeared. A rift, that dwarfs the eponymous valley, between the very wealthy and the abjectly poor. On one side of that valley, let us call it the Cheapside, “cheap” has become, not so much an accolade, but of the essence. Cheap lets people eat and keeps them warm. Events seen and words read dispirit and disillusion me, but my blog is not a pulpit for proselytism. Although that is the case I should confirm that I am daily more and more depressed with the way that groups of the human race, who purport to be forces for good, seem to be striving to return to the fundamentalism of the Dark Ages and, this time around, fully equipped with all the accoutrements of the modern world to make the experience truly infernal. The sea change in the way of life in the West, one side of the rift, has widened the valley immeasurably.
Meanwhile, here in happy valley, our neighbour’s vegetable garden is positioned but a biscuit’s toss from our wood pile and because of this, and their generosity, we are often the beneficiary of gifts such as the leeks and potatoes in the picture above. They, our neighbours, regularly encourage me, in winter, to take vegetables from the ground whenever I want some but, not having a vegetable patch of my own through which I could return the favour, I am loathe to do this. The potatoes come from their store in a darkened outhouse where the forms of ghostly white potatoes are clearly visible in the gloom thanks to a coating of lime which slows down the shoots that, if left to grow, would create a hellish vision not unlike a box full of shrunken Gorgon’s heads. Was our neighbour’s name Perseus, I would be nervous of accepting a gift of such spuds. This also makes me worry about Gorgonzola….did Perseus go through a nightmare cheese making period.
Casting aside the vision of faces wreathed in writhing serpents, I created a wonderful supper from those humble ingredients with only very few additions. Leeks in red wine is a recipe which, each time I make it, surprises me with its depth of flavour. I originally found the recipe in my copy of Caroline Conran’s “Poor Cook” which volume has survived the depredations of countless house moves and which I still use regularly. There is a meatiness to the flavour which I like, not in the terms of a meat substitute, but because it is so much more substantial as a single vegetable dish than I would ever imagine. The leeks become fondant to the point where a table knife cuts cleanly through them, thus avoiding the wet, stringiness that can so often be the case with cooked, whole leeks, whilst the red wine reduction adds the umami that waters the mouth. I serve these leeks with a purée of potatoes made silky with plenty of butter and creme fraîche. Good as this may be, a winter’s supper would be incomplete without pudding.
In winter there are always apples, pears and clementines together with a hand of breakfast bananas in the fruit bowl.Today,on television,I saw a very good recipe for what appears to be an incredibly quick and simple banana ice cream, so a few fingers of the hand will be sacrificed to that end. It was the scent and appearance of two large and perfectly ripe Williams pears that decided dessert. Returning to the book shelves I remembered a recipe in Mary Cadogan’s “Pies & Tarts” which was a clever combination of apples and orange juice in a light sponge which, in turn, was encased in a flaky pastry case. As thrift was the key to the menu, I decided on using the two pears in place the apples and orange. Apples and pears would have been very good, but why waste the apples which will make another pudding….cheap skate, Roger!
Here are the two recipes….enjoy. How nice it would have been had I bothered to create both the recipes with the same size fonts, etc…..just another cheap shot..must try harder.