Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Lunch In Paris

J'adore Paris. Completely. The food, the buildings, the fashion, the culture - it is the most wonderful city and it rocks my world.  I could spend hours gawping at the beauty of the patisserie windows, forget the Louvre - patisseries are pure art. Maybe my penchant for Paris is also beacuse it has a rep for romance and I'm a HUGE sucker for love and romance. I have a big fat heart and believe in love totally and utterly and I have no time for cynics when it comes to l'amour.
Ahhh Paris, so beautiful!

J'adore books too and while scanning the titles for a new read in my local library "Lunch in Paris: A Delicious Love Story, With Recipes"  leaped out at me and instantly I knew this book would delight me. I wasn't disappointed. This is an autobiography with a twist. New Yorker Elizabeth Bard meets Frenchman Gwendal and the story follows their love affair punctuated by the meals that signified certain moments during the relationship. You will be hooked as you follow Elizabeth to the Parisian food markets and can almost smell the garlic and pork lardons sizzling in the pan as the smitten couple make "Pasta a la Gwendal."

It goes to show that even with two completely cultures food has the ability to surpass language barriers.The icing on the cake is that at the end of every chapter Elizabeth gives you the recipes for those key moments in their love affair. I can't wait to try the molten chocolate cakes. Remember that M&S ad with the chocolate oozing out? Oh yes bebe!
They haven't a clue what each other are saying but they all understand they love a good scone and cup of tea

Don't read this book in a rush. Set aside a bit chunk of time and cheese, pour a glass of robust red and slip into pure, indulgent food and love heaven. Total escapism and I assure you; you'll be munching on hanks of baguette smeared in Camembert while looking at flight prices to Paris. It really is a beautiful read so indulge and enjoy!


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Odds And Sods

I have given the weekly shop, or the "big shop" as we say in the North a big heave ho. I have given it the middle finger. God how punk rock am I? The reasons being:
  1. I hate spending elongated lengths of time in busy, soul-less supermarkets.
  2. I was getting really boring by buying the same things over and over.
  3. My dream of country living was thwarted since I wasn't seeking out new foodie haunts in my area.
So I've been picking up fewer items more frequently. Now this way of shopping suits me as I don't really have a routine and I don't have children so being blasé and adopting an "as and when" approach to shopping probably isn't practical for a lot of people and frankly unappealing to some. However I'm sure that with both approaches most will be prone to that time in the week when ones pantry and fridge are neither here nor there in terms of culinary provision; full of odds and sods, bits and pieces of this and that which may pose a conundrum as to how assemble a decent meal.

Change your approach and see it as an exciting experiment. I believe these Ready Steady Cook moments when faced with a handful of key ingredients are when you can really unleash your creativity and for me these are the times I unintentionally make the tastiest meals then try to replicate them on another occasion. They're never as good as the first time around.

This happened tonight. I had a bit of mince, a couple of corn on the cobs, a couple of tortilla wraps that on their own all seemed incomplete but put them together and they got on like a house on fire when combined.


Start with a theme and then build around it. I decided to start with the mince and thought of a dry spiced, sort of Middle Eastern inspired dish. I slowly cooked finely chopped onions and garlic for a few minutes, added the mince, cumin, coriander power and all purpose seasoning and stirred. I grated lemon zest into it and squeezed the juice over it all. At the last minute chucked in some pine nuts. If it stuck to the pan, I just added in a splash of water.


In the meantime I grilled the corn on the cob, charred some courgette in the griddle pan and chopped my current faves meli melo tomatoes with cucumber and spring onion. The result was a medley of colour and myself and Mr V put the veg and mince in the leftover wraps with a drizzle of peri peri sauce and munched on the corn. It was delicious!

Go! And Eat.

What's the best Ready Steady Cook style meal you've ever made?


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Mo Money Mo Meals - Budget Cooking Tips

Roller Derby Spag. I'm drooling!
Forgive me for mixing genres on the above title - does hip hop and vintage work? Hell yeah!

Today's post is really timely since people always ask how can they make wonderful healthy meals without spending a fortune. Well today I received a lovely Tweet from a cool roller derby friend of mine who said she had dug out her Jamie Oliver 30 Minute Meals recipe book and was making the spaghetti alla puttanesca meal tonight. Mmmmm! She emailed me the pic of the result AND she has leftovers! Now that recipe has a few ingredients that could make one think that one requires an overdraft extension to make that meal a reality -  it features olives, capers and anchovies as well as the rest. However my fellow Tweet-ee informed me that she can make that whole recipe for under £3 which is mighty fine! She has sourced those ingredients in Aldi. Yes I love plush deli's as much as the next person but in order to eat like royalty frequently you don't necessarily have to be wadded to foot the food bill.

As a vintage lover I'm in awe of how our war time sisters made meals to feed a whole family in the times of rationing. 115 grams of meat per week? So that in mind and inspired by the roller derby princess, I thought it would be a good time to share some top tips with you so you can eat like a King (or Vintage Queen!) and still have some change for that new lippy you've had your eye on.

1. With reference to the above, you can get some fab Mediterranean delights in Aldi and Lidl such as olive oils, continental cheeses, olives, hams (parma etc) for a lot less than from a deli. Yes support your local stores to keep them alive where you can but if you're tightening up on the budget these 2 stores will be your new haunt.

2. This warrants it's own blog post but for now visit your nearest Asian supermarket for herbs and spices. SO much more cheaper than those teeny jars from le supermarche and they're sold in bigger quantities so last for ages. Also fresh chillies, herbs, fruit and veg tend to be a lot cheaper from these stores. Another option is to look in the world foods section of your supermarket. They're crafty buggers and put the cheaper herbs and spices (and tinned goods) in the WF aisle and keep the most expensive ones in the usual place and think we've oblivious. No longer!

3. Ensure your pantry is well stocked with key tins. Tomatoes are great for soups and sauces and mega cheap (the budget ones are totally fine) Passata is reasonable too again for soups and sauces and has a smooth consistency. Tins of mixed beans or other pulses; chickpeas, kidney beans are cheap, healthy and are great for bulking up meals such as chilli which makes the meal go further and tinned fruit (in juice not syrup) are great for your five a day when you run out and need a healthy snack.
Tins are a must

4. For meat I'm lucky that I'm near farms so I can get my hands on decent meat for a reasonable price. However previously I was living an urban (but always vintage) life and if I couldn't get local meat I would buy turkey breast, turkey mince and chicken thighs which have loads of flavour and are cheaper. For beef and lamb cheaper cuts tend to be the ones that are tough and need longer, slower cooking such as stewing in casseroles.

5. Quorn or other equivalent brands are great alternatives to meat. I love the mince and meat balls, dead quick to make and they have mighty yield so I tend to freeze my leftovers. There's usually bogofs on these too! To make your meat go further you can mix quorn mince with real mince if you can't cope with the whole hog.

6. Use up leftovers in soups, casseroles, curries, bubble and squeak or even tomorrow's lunch.

7. Make the freezer your friend. Frozen veg such as peas, broccoli, well pretty much everything are so handy to have in. It saves on waste too as you only need to take out what you need for that meal. Many people think they're not as good as fresh but that's a bit of a misconception as a lot of the time the veg is frozen soon after being picked so keeps it's vits and mins intact.

Beans means mo money!
8. To make fresh herbs last longer, freeze in water in ice cube trays. Pop one out when needed.

9. Re-introduce the humble egg into your life. Jeepers - can they be any more flexible? Plus they're cheap and healthy. Use as a filling for sandwiches, boil for breakfast or chop into salads. Scramble or poach them and have with toast or bacon, combine your leftover veg with them in an omelette or frittata. The ultimate at chez Vivi is Mr V's kedgeree. Old skool and yummy. You can even use tinned fish to save pennies. Mr V uses a nice recipe from the beeb website so click here and have a go.

10. Kill 2 birds with one stone. Shop and socialise. Go shopping with your best pal, get the bogofs then split the bill.

So that's my top 10 tips. I'd love to hear yours too.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

If You Can't Eat It, Wear It!

My love of food doesn't stop at cooking and discovering new recipes - no sir-ee! It also extends into the fashion and accessories arena. The food and fashion fusion is happiness akin to the type when you've just eaten ribs and the sauce is smeared all over your face. Now let me tell you a tale.The other week I was in the hairdressers to get my tired and stressed blonde locks back to Monroe standards. While my nose was buried in a very trashy mag, in walked a cool looking Marianne Faithful-esque gal. My hairdresser was thrilled our appointments coincided since she had always said we'd get on like a house on fire due to our shared love of all things vintage. Well she wasn't wrong. We chatted like old friends and I discovered that this cool lady not only had the same shoes and dress as me (our meeting was meant to be!) but made jewellery on top of working a day job.

Hoping I would leave the salon looking like this. Realistic?
I'm always a fan of championing les dames enterpreneurs. We gots to give these ladies props for having the passion and energy to make a living by following their hearts. Sadly the hair appointment came to an end and upon departure I asked her to send me a link to her website. I needed some new accessories to go with my Monroe barnet and was ecstatic to discover her quirky style extended to foodie trinkets.

The choice was all too much from a ring depicting the fry up to an Alice in Wonderland "Drink Me" bottle. I settled on some ice cream earrings to celebrate the warm weather. For a mega bargain £1.99 these beauties looked very kitcsh and apt with my new 50's dress. Now obviously with the reasonable price tags I could have ordered a whole lot more but I had been a bit naughty with the Vivi budget so I allowed just one treat. However I shall be ordering a whole lot more when my bank balance has restored to something less meagre.

My earrings arrived in this delicious bag

How cute?
Click here if you're as excited as me. The company is called Lucy Loves 1969 and you'll find her range goes beyond the culinary genre so I'm sure you'd find other delights to look good on your dressing table. Spend and enjoy!
HAVE to get these rings next time
Non food related but I WANT it all the same


Friday, 17 August 2012

Simple Abundance

Sometimes in life simple pleasures are so welcome and the most basic of things can give one such a thrill. In a  world filled with the mundane, complexity and sheer bogged down with life-ness feeling, you can come across something that would seem to others total insignificance.

Yesterday I popped into my local Tesco to pick up a few odds and sods and HAD to buy these beautiful tomatoes purely just for their colour. I was a little sad that they actually had to be eaten (mind you that was short lived when I popped one in my mouth!) because they just looked super pretty in a bowl showing the world their bold colours and vibrancy. They're called meli melo tomatoes and I'd love to try my hand at growing some next year.

They tasted ever so sweet but more importantly they made my day that little bit brighter. Later that day, one of my lovely friends emailed me to say she found a purple cauliflower, get a load of this badboy!

Yes I'm easily pleased but I believe in looking at every opportunity to make my heart glow with happiness and slap a big fat smile on my face.

Let me know if you've tried growing these babies! Or what the coolest most colourful food you've had the pleasure of finding.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Souper Trooper War-time Lunch

Still feeling slightly below par, I was in search of a vitamin boost and I decided a soup would be an ideal lunch to achieve this. I stumbled across a war time recipe from one of my food heroes Marguerite Patten (OBE) and loved the speed and simplicity of it and luckily had all of the ingredients available in the Vivi pantry. It's from Marguerite's Post War Kitchen;a great read and gives a great insight into wartime food with some great recipes.

The recipe was for a cucumber soup, something I'd never tried before and I get a bit over excited when trying new dishes for the first time. I was mightily impressed with this one. It only took about 20-30 minutes to make from chopping to eating and in between while it was bubbling I got on with other things so minimal input for maximum results! Plus it's mega cheap to make which is always welcome.

I'm VERY serious adding the milk
I've changed it slightly in that I've added a stockcube and garlic and used less milk in the recipe since a meal is incomplete without garlic in my eyes and to be honest my milk stocks were low. I'm old skool and have deliveries from the milkman so refuse to top up from the local store unless it's an emergency! Click here if you'd like the recipe.

I didn't think it would have as much flavour as it did but Lordy my tastebuds were doing a jig of delight and my tired body was revived! I'm definitely going to do this again, make a big batch and try it chilled for those warmer days we've been having. Let me know if you try it too.

Bursting with flavour and vitamins!

Love Vivi.x

Monday, 13 August 2012

Cave-girl Vivi

I was feeling really gloomy at the weekend since I had to cancel a trip to seeing some dear friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. It had been booked for weeks and I can’t tell you how much had been looking forward to it. However I had been really under the weather for most of the week. I was packed, dressed and ready to leave the house for my weekend jaunt in complete denial that I actually felt hideous and had to admit defeat and stay at home.

After some rest, I was in desperate need for a change of scenery and fresh air so I put on my frock and headed out with Mr Victory in search of some Vivi pantry provisions since we had not been shopping as we were expecting to be away.  The cupboard was bare. I knew just the place to cheer me up. The Hollies at Little Budworth is my idea of sheer heaven. It’s jam packed with almost everything that makes me happy on this earth; amazing food and beautiful home wares. It’s like an art gallery but with food instead of paintings.

The BEST home made cakes

One of the many highlights for me is the butchers. My inner cave woman was unleashed immediately. It looks like the meat version of a Parisian patisserie window. Never before have I seen meat look so beautiful. It was like a carnivorous couture catwalk; pork dressed in Prada and mince rocking Moschino. And I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. Mr Victory had to reign me in and have stern words that we had only needed to buy provisions for one meal only. Plus a rustic trug and a scented candle which are obvious essentials in anyone’s shopping basquet.

I never knew raw met could look this pretty!
After what felt like about 3 hours of deciding what to get, it was narrowed down to beef truffles and smoked bourbon beef rib. One of the butchers (a real character, great  banter) was very open that I would have to guess the ingredients of the marinade (in a jovial way mind) no information sharing - he was clearly very proud of his secret and boy he should be. I was all about the respect of protecting his secret but have now decided that I shall harass him until he reveals it. Bourbon and...? So watch out Monsieur Butcher! Beef truffles are made from mince, shaped like vol au vent cases and stuffed with garlic butter, onion, kiev marinade, cheese and herbs.

Beautiful beef truffles
It then took what seemed like another 3 hours to decide what to have avec le beouf and went for beetroot, red onion and courgette (roasted) and roast potatoes with rosemary.

My new trug and fresh fayre

The meal was really easy to do; all it involved was putting the beef rib in the oven for 3 hours (low heat) then in the last 40 minutes (heat whacked up) sticking some potatoes I’d boiled in another oven dish with olive oil and rosemary and the same for the beetroot, courgette and red onion and the last 30 minutes popped the beef truffles in there too. The verdict: Mr Victory decided that the Great British Sunday roast is totally. O.V.E.R now this meal has been discovered. Controversial! I was just full and happy.


So thank you Hollies for alleviating my melancholy and lifting me from illness hell to culinary heaven. I will be back to plague your butchery team until the marinade secret is revealed!


Friday, 10 August 2012

Herbacious Help

Sometimes in life (well a lot of the time) we all need a helping hand and especially when it comes to ensuring domestic goddess status in the kitchenette. In an ideal world we'd all be sweeping around looking like 20's film stars while still managing to maintain an abundant veg patch, cupcakes in the oven and various pots and pans on the hob bubbling away with numerous dishes for the week ahead.

Catapult me into the real world (no, please don't!) and what we're really dealing with is full time work, mundane chores, offspring, studying, eyebrow maintenance, boring admin, exercise, searching for THE red lipstick and the list goes on and on. So I'm all about reducing farce and time when it comes to cooking.

A while ago I was knocking up one of my fave dishes from Mr Oliver's 30 minute meals - Piri Piri chicken. It's the bomb try it. (I serve it with rice or tortilla wraps though as it's much quicker) The sauce requires fresh basil and Mr Victory was sent out with his spear to go and hunt for some. Alas he returned initially to my horror with not fresh basil but a tube of basil. Our local supermarche was a fresh basil free zone hence his purchase. Inside I held an element of disdain as nothing beats a fresh herb. But Mr V did his best for me so I had to give him props for innovation so I was quickly over it and moved on.
GG saved the day! (And Mr V)
A good ole dollop of this stuff produced top results with the PP sauce so now I ensure it's a regular in Vivi's fridge. This one is by Gourmet Garden but I'm sure there's other brands equally as effective. I do prefer fresh and dried herbs but there are times that fresh herbs can be pricey if you're not going to use them much or if you're away for weekends etc and they're wilted and unusable thus not effective use of one's finances. In the tubular format they're really flexible for other meals and I've used the basil as a fake pesto mixed with pasta and also spread on some toasted baguette with a bit of mozzarella. Divine! I've also added the odd spoonful into sauces and soups. Winner.Yes the ingredients list mentions a bit of sugar etc but for the small quantities you use it ain't going to cause death and disease.
O Thyme tell me what you need!

Another way around herbs is obviously to try and grow them yourself. I grew basil on my but as it's not something I use all of the time it grew to the size of a massive tree and my windowsill couldn't cope. Conversely my thyme which I grew from seed is stunted and I'm obviously doing something wrong so I need to build in research time to look into this. Please give me some tips if you have any!

However my Rosemary is thriving. It might have something to do with her funky retro 60's frock I lovingly made her and maybe that's why Thyme has beef with me. Hmmm I'll address that issue later.
Rosemary rocking Mary Quant-esque threads

People always tell me they don't use herbs as they don't know what goes with what. To get your confidence levels up and for cost effectiveness start with dried herbs as they keep for ages. Fresh herbs are a lot stronger too so just bear that in mind when experimenting. To hell with rules - experiment to your hearts content as there are all sorts of possibilities. But as a basic rough guide I find the following is a good start:

Basil: A good all-rounder and great in Italian dishes, nice in salads, dressings, soups, cheese ie mozzarella.

Oregano: Basil's BF and used as above. Together they rock da house!

Coriander: One of my faves. Lovely in curries, Thai, chinese, Asian dishes and salads.

Dill: Beautiful herb fresh or dried and lovely with fish and eggs.

Rosemary: She truly shines in the company of beef, lamb and roast potatoes.

Thyme: Very versatile and goes with most meats and veg. Especially oozes star quality when she's roasted with chicken.

Happy Friday and enjoy le weekend.
Vivi. x

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Loving Leftovers

In true vintage living style I’m very much into using up every scrap in the kitchen and leaving nothing to waste. If something is really dire it ends up in the compost bin but I prefer it going into a pan to make a delicious meal. This lunch is so healthy and features the leftover beans from my Italian casserole.

It MUST go in the pan, please no -  not the bin!
Honestly it took less than 10 minutes to make and is super healthy. I’ve served it with cous cous which I just adore as it’s like a healthy pot noodle in that all it needs is hot water and time to stand. I tend to do that first while I get on with other tasks and it’s ready by the time the other part of the meal is done. Plus it can be served hot or cold. I always ensure there is a stock of this versatile grain in the Vivi pantry at all times. Sometimes I make double and keep the rest in the fridge for another meal. 

I'm sure cous cous would taste even better if I had this kettle!
Word of warning though - with cous cous it's like a cliched love affair of opposites attract. It's bland on it's own but team it up with a saucy topping then it's a match made in heaven on a really hot date. Pair up the bland grain with a dry protein sauce well we've all been there - BORING! You don't want your bad dates transferring onto the dinner table. Boring has never been and never will be acceptable in Vivi's world and ensure you adopt the same approach. If you that happens stir in some nice spices with the cous cous before you pour in the water and that'll do the trick. A bit of chilli powder or paprika are always welcome in my world.

For the beans I chucked them in a pan with a small bit of chopped onion and olive oil, a few spices: cumin, coriander and garam masala, 1 clove chopped garlic and stirred on a medium to high heat for a couple of minutes until the onions were a bit softer then added a dash of milk, a big dollop of natural yoghurt and a good squirt of tomato puree. The result was a kind of bean curry and let me tell you it was delicious. I chopped a bit of coriander and sprinkled it over the top. This one is a winner for leftover veg and is a great alternative as a lunch if you’re a bit bored of sandwiches. What are your speedy lunches or leftover ideas? Spread the joy and let me know.


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

From peasant food to posh

A couple of weeks ago I went into the lovely Define deli and wine merchants on Chester Road, Sandiway, Cheshire (more on that fab place in future blogs) to pick up a bottle of wine for a cosy Friday night in. I left with not only the wine but also with a packet of Tuscan sausages too. It was ridiculous really as Monsieur Victory was treating me to a night off from Vivi’s pantry and kitchen so I didn’t need them whatsoever that day. But Define is packed full of Mediterranean temptations and I knew that on the sly I’d have to have a little something something. The fact that they’re made just outside of Pisa was too exciting for words so the transaction just had to be made.

Knowing I’d be away for the weekend, I popped them in the freezer loving the fact that I’d temporarily forget about them and then get a surprise when looking in the freezer for something to defrost. And boy did my heart sing with joy when I re-discovered those bad boys and knew they’d be just the thing to lift me from the Monday blues.

 Papa's Italian Casserole is the title of this recipe (click here for it) as my dad is a great food lover and he’s one of the people who I can talk to endlessly about “scran” and recipes. I always text him about what I’m making as I know he’d be drooling but will be making something equally as sumptuous himself. Plus he’s been learning Italian for a while and can natter away in the beautiful language so this recipe pays homage to him. It’s made up of onions, garlic, chickpeas, kidney beans, red and yellow peppers, passata a dash of red wine vinegar, basil and oregano. Had I been more organised I would have probably bought a few different types of beans but I like using up what’s there in the Victory Pantry. I mashed the chickpeas since my husband Monsieur Victory isn’t a fan but it gave the casserole a real robust and thick quality so it was a winner. Thankfully Mr V thought so too.

Mr Victory was happy with the chickpea situation
I was totally outrageous (yes it’s Rock n Roll in the Victory household) and crisped up some prosciutto ham under the grill and crumbled it over the casserole for extra flavour and a bit of crunch. I was going to serve it with pasta but I had left over bread rolls so in full war time ration fashion (and wearing super cute 50’s pinny which heightened the experience!) I whacked them under the grill and rubbed them with garlic and sprinkled with basil for a low fat garlic bread option. Yes the sausages are posh but the rest of the ingredients are really cheap and cheerful from any supermarket and packed full of vitamins and minerals so a good compromise on posh vs peasant food! Plus you can use any sausages you like and will suit any budget but a higher meat content will be the best.

Meaty Goodness!
If you absolutely must have the Tuscan sausages I used in the recipe then get yourself to Define if you’re in the Cheshire area or visit http://www.definefoodandwine.com. They cost about a fiver but otherwise you can buy them online from the company Vallebona www.vallebona.co.uk. However be prepared to part with well earned cash as they’re pretty pricey at £7.49. BUT if your budget permits - think about it; the rest of the ingredients are next to nothing and you can even use scraps of veg that are on the turn in the fridge and they’re cheaper than treating yourself to a takeaway. But they are just gorgeous too, really lean and meaty and I can’t even begin to describe the flavour. I could cry it’s all eaten and over. Hopefully yours will be lovely too. Let me know how you get on!


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Welcome to Vivi's World

Welcome fellow food lovers to my blog! I had to write this after discovering a new butcher's and farm shop on Saturday and hyperventilating over some marinaded ribs that I thought I would bite the bullet and begin the food blog I've been thinking about doing for a while.

Since being a little girl nothing made me happier than food (especially mashed potato) and nothing has changed since. However, I was always more interested in eating than cooking as I found the culinary world intimidating, scientific and complex.

I was forced to experiment with cooking after going to University and I was rubbish. Then along came Jamie Oliver with his first series on BBC2 and I was hooked. Here was someone who threw in ingredients with so much love and passion "whacking" things in pans, "bashing" garlic around (plus I really wanted him to be my boyfriend!) and it gave me the courage to try new recipes. Since then I've made some delicious meals that I'm really proud of and I now have the confidence to throw a few things in a pan and invent my own recipes. Thank God Jamie married Jools as he wouldn't have been any good for my waistline!

It opened up a new world for me as I learned how to cook on a budget while learning how to improve my health by making sure my dishes were nutritious as well as delicious. And this is something I still do to this day as ditching ready meals and cooking from scratch made a huge difference to my energy levels and overall health. Plus I'm a fan of vintage living so I believe in the ethos of home cooking and that it can be achieved without slaving at the oven for hours.

As much as I love locally sourced and seasonal produce, it can be a barrier for some people to cook more at home so I think if buying from a local farmer isn't possible then as long as you're cooking your own meals wherever you bought it from then hats off to you. At least you're not microwaving a soggy lasagne from a cardboard box which is a depressing way to feed yourself and not very cost effective in these times of austerity.

So I hope you enjoy my blog. I still have a lot to learn about food and cooking so any new ideas and ingredients or recipes you have - spread the joy and share the love with Vivi.