The Teensy Weensy Cafe

26 Jan

This will be my new name for our kitchen in the flat, because it’s impossibly small.  But it is serving us well, and I made as close a New Years resolution as I ever make to get us all eating more healthfully.  So despite the minescule working space, and with the additional incentive to save money for more fun things like traveling, I’ve experienced a renewed interest in cooking.  I’ve been making a real breakfast every morning because I’ve noticed we both tend to go too long between meals and then get ravenous and eat anything in sight.  So a typical breakfast has consisted of porridge (stone ground oats made on the stove with a little brown sugar) and fried eggs, and fruit if we’re lucky.
Some of our dinners have been a bean, barley and vegetable soup, some broiled fish, spaghetti, and I roasted this chicken and vegetables which has since also become fajitas, chicken pot pie, a couple of sandwiches and a large pot of stock. (there was a lot of butter on this chicken, so maybe not the leanest thing ever, but it sure was yummy and much cheaper than eating out!) Last night was chili.

One lovely thing I’ve discovered is that since the UK isn’t all that big a place, a lot of the food comes from within a relatively small radius–things like chickens, eggs, fish, beef, lamb, and a lot of vegetables.  For those roasted veggies, I got a bag at Tesco that contained half a large turnip, a parsnip, two carrots, a couple potatoes and an onion for right around £1.

Of course we’ve had our indulgences, chiefly some scones from a nearby bakery with clotted cream and jam.  And we’ve made an almost nightly tradition of hot cocoa and popcorn while we watch old episodes of Northern Exposure on DVD.  Maybe not particularly healthy, but comforting and cozy and it makes for nice me and Eric time after Everett’s gone to sleep, which we need!

A couple recipes/methods for you to try.  I’m no expert cook, I just kinda play around, so any suggestions from you more seasoned chefs are certainly welcome!

Emily and Eric’s Cocoa for Two

  • About 1/3 of your favorite flat solid chocolate bar (Green & Blacks is one of my favorites, the 60% or 72% cocoa, it breaks nicely into 3rds) broken into smaller pieces along its creases.
  • 2 cups milk
  • A heaping tablespoon of brown sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

The complicated directions:
Put the milk and chocolate pieces in a saucepan over high heat, whisking constantly as it warms.  When the chocolate is mostly melted, whisk in the sugar and vanilla.  Keep cooking until the milk boils and almost overflows then quickly remove from heat (something about letting it get to that point seems to make it extra yummy).

The Make-it-up-as-you-go Pot Pie
I’ve found pot pie to be a really lovely use for leftovers, including those straggling vegetables that hang out after you’ve used just the right amount for a more precise recipe!  My basic method is to just make a basic roux first:

  • Melt one stick of butter
  • Saute one onion (or half of one of those giant ones), a clove or two of garlic, and celery and mushrooms if you’ve got ’em, until translucent.  Reduce heat to medium.
  • Add 1/4 flour and stir until well blended
  • Then you add milk and chicken or vegetable broth–I’ve seen many different ratios of this, but I think a good combination is about 1 1/2 cups broth to 2/3 cups milk.  Stir this in until thick and bubbly.*
  • Now you can add whatever you want for the filling and seasoning!  Leftover chicken, roasted vegetables, fresh vegetables, or even frozen ones, all work great.**  Herbs de Provence are super yummy with chicken and vegetables, but also just thyme and salt and pepper.
  • Pour into your prepared crust*** and bake at 357 F for about 30 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into it.

*I messed up this ratio the other night, ended up too soupy, so I added a little more flour, more seasoning, and let it cook on as high temperature as I could without burning until it reduced a little.  I still ended up with extra so I made a second smaller pie.
**DO NOT, under any circumstances, use okra.  It’s good in lots of things, but will make your pie filling the consistency of snot (sorry for that image, but I made this mistake once and had to throw out the whole pie b/c neither of us could stand the texture!)
***Use your favorite crust recipe, OR the refrigerated kind from the store, no judgment here!  Those refrigerated ones are pretty yummy, especially the gourmet pie crusts from Trader Joe’s, and sometimes they make the difference between eating dinner on time or past the point where everyone gets over-hungry and cranky:)  Also, some people I know really love doing a basic biscuit topping with no bottom crust which would also be an easy way to go.


Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Kitchen Experiments


3 responses to “The Teensy Weensy Cafe

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