Tag Archives: food

Christmas Stocking

Like many of you, no doubt, we’ve been stocking up on the necessary goods to tide us over the Christmas period.  

However, Rose tested positive for Covid yesterday, so our most important stocks now look like this:

A collection of lateral flow tests

Rose isn’t suffering much, and we were planning a fairly quiet Christmas anyway, so it’s not a bad time for it to happen!

I’m still showing negative, so am being sent out promptly to do any shopping before that dreaded second pink line appears on my tests too. And that means that I am in full control of the purchasing of the brandy cream which you might have spotted in the top right of my picture. Ho ho ho!

Now, I’ve always liked to consider myself something of a connoisseur of mince pies, and, in the absence of proper home-made ones, I have to say that those carrying Heston Blumenthal’s brand in Waitrose have been consistently good over the years. This year is no exception.  I wouldn’t know Herr Blumenthal (or any other celebrity chef) if I bumped into him in the street, but his pies, this year coming in a larger-than-usual format with a ‘lemon twist’ are decidedly tasty.  And they have an important characteristic for those who, like me, are the sole consumer in the household: they stand up rather well to being microwaved.  Herr B might be shocked at the suggestion, but you really can’t heat up an oven just to warm an individual mince pie.  Not two or three times per day. No, 15-20 secs on 600W is the only viable solution, unless, I guess, you have an always-on Aga.  Mmm.  I always thought there must be a raison-d’être for those, even in the modern age…  Perhaps for next Christmas…

Anyway, mince pies can, of course, be improved even further with a topping of brandy cream, and here too, Waitrose has come up trumps this year with their Courvoisier-infused extra-thick variety.  I’ve always considered brandy cream superior to brandy butter and I’m discovering that even their smallest pot is still sufficient to extend to a variety of other uses after the mince pies have been exhausted.  Porridge, for example, will certainly benefit from a dollop of it, alongside the brown sugar and blueberries.

But the thing that made me seriously consider starting a petition to Waitrose, asking them to stock it all year round and not just at Christmas, was a couple of evenings ago when I first tried it with hot chocolate. Oh my word! (as they would say down under).

Make yourself a proper hot chocolate (which means using hot milk – none of this water-based nonsense).  Use an electric blender or whisk to dissolve the chocolate beans, flakes or whatever — these are rather good — and then finish it off with a decent-sized floating island of extra thick brandy cream, before putting your feet up in front of Crooks Anonymous or Where Eagles Dare, and you can be sure of a jolly good evening.

Even if you do have Covid.

House of the Future

Some people may consider my fondness for home automation to be a frivolous pursuit.

Well, let me tell you this…

Tonight, as I left the excellent Chinese take-away a few miles from my house, accompanied by this evening’s dinner, I was able to turn on the hotplate in the kitchen at home, so that by the time we got back, the plates were nice and warm and ready to hit the table.

Let nobody say humanity is not reaping the benefits of scientific progress…

A small section of the touch control panel in my kitchen.

Redundant Yuletide Instructions?

Waitrose are, once again, selling mice pies under the ‘Heston’ brand. Apparently, this is something to do with a celebrity chef and has nothing to do with Ben Hur.

Anyway, they’re rather good, as you can see from the emptiness of the packet.

However, I couldn’t help feeling that since they were mince pies, and in particular ‘Night Before Christmas Mince Pies’, the label ‘Best before 14th January’ might be somewhat superfluous?

Concerning Hobbits…

You can learn a lot from the wisdom of Hobbits.

I’ve discovered, for example, that it’s important not to neglect Second Breakfast, because to do so can lead to increased snacking between meals.


I’m used to labels on bottles of wine telling me that I should expect a ‘hint of blackcurrant’ or ‘subtle aromas’.

But in Portugal recently I had a (very drinkable) wine from a vineyard whose marketing department had, perhaps, become a little over-excited.

It’s nice to know there are still jobs out there for people with Literature degrees, isn’t it?

Zooming in the rain

On Wednesdays, there’s an interesting group of catering vans that collect at the far end of the West Cambridge campus, and I like to go there for lunch.

But it’s a bit of a distance, and the weather today was bad, so it was important to find the most appropriate method of transportation…

Pavlovian Titillation

One of the reasons I am sometimes envious of design/media companies is that they can get away with names that, in other sectors, would cause people at least to snigger, if not positively guffaw.

Can you imagine a law firm, or a steel manufacturing plant, deciding to name itself The Marmalade? Even in the technology world that I tend to inhabit, where many companies, let’s face it, have some pretty silly names, I’m still impressed.

But you can get away with such names if you have other ways to make people take you seriously. And Seb Wills pointed me at this Fast Company post which suggests that The Marmalade may not find that too hard. The embedded video clip, showcasing some of their work, contains some very impressive sequences.

The food is best from Budapest

Hungarian Mangalica Salami

This is, in my opinion, some of the finest salami yet created by mankind. I’m sure it’s the finest at my local Waitrose, anyway. It’s… well… creamy.

If you’re a salami enthusiast, ask yourself when you last described one as creamy. If it wasn’t recently, give this a try. Goes nicely with mozzarella in a salad.

Autumn breakfast

The world is full of blackberries this morning, and they always taste better when picked straight from the bush. I’m sure this can be traced back to our hunter-gatherer roots somehow. But as an effect, or as the cause?

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser