28 January 2009


In case you haven't noticed, I've not been cooking anything new lately. I have cooked, but only old, quick stuff. Both Lundulph and I are up to our ears in work, with only enough time to get home and eat quickly before it's bedtime.

So from this year on, we decided to try out the delivery services of Ocado. Lundulph reckoned they have the best reputation. I've had a lot of doubts about all that, but an extra hour every Friday of spare time was tempting and I registered on their web site.

Tonight was our third delivery and I've decided to make it our last.

The first round as a big order - having been away for Christmas and my Sister Bip being over for a week, stocks were low, so I thought might as well give it a good go. The delivery was over an hour late, though admittedly it was icy conditions. All our bits were delivered, but they weren't the ones I normally would buy from Sainsbury's. The choice on the Ocado website was surprisingly low. One of the eggs was cracked, the apples were comedy sized - no bigger than golf balls! And they were well beaten up and bruised. The other vegetables didn't look too happy either. I also had a bit of a struggle with the user interface on the web site and got the wrong number of some items. It was nice to get email confirmation with built in calendar reminder, though GMail interpreted it as an invite, not an appointment. There were a few SMSs as well. And the new thing was the free newspaper, great! And a voucher for a free bottle of wine! Yay!

The second round, I'd prepared my shopping list in advance and also worked out how to add several of an item to a shopping list. The shopping arrived and again veg were sad and apples were bruised. So I decided to do the non-bruisable items from Ocado and go and buy salad stuff and fruit from Sainsbury's. I mostly buy the same things every week, so won't take long. The delivery itself was actually on time and all bits were there. Got the wine and the paper and another free wine voucher, sadly for the same type of wine. But still.

Tonight the delivery was 20 minutes late and I only got a call a couple of minutes before the chap arrived. When he did, he only had the 5-6 bags with cupboard things, the one bag with fridge items was not there and he hadn't printed out my shopping list, nor did I get a newspaper, just the wine. So I checked my order, then called the helpline to be placed in a queue for a while. Seems quite a few unhappy customers tonight. The lady who finally answered was very friendly and also called the driver to see if my missing bag was in his van, but turns out not and my only option was to cancel the order. She offered me a complimentary bottle of wine. Hm, no, got two of them already. So I've decided to stop buying from Ocado. Maybe I'm too demanding, but I've built up a routine of our grocery needs and it's hard to break.

So next week I'll try Sainsbury's. If they're as unsatisfactory, I'll have to start shopping again. Fingers crossed!

We were also thinking of getting a veggie box from Abel & Cole, Fred and Ginger have done that and Ginger spoke very warmly about it, but Lundulph wasn't too keen on a diet of turnips until new stuff is available in the Summer, so we're holding off for now. Besides, I don't have the time to come up with inventive things to do, which you need to with a seasonal veggie box. But I'm planning on trying our local pick your own in the Summer, now that's really something!

1 January 2009

Baklava for New Year's Eve

As long as I can remember we've had baklava on New Year's Eve and I have a suspicion that this is a Bulgarian tradition to have this wonderful dessert at this time of the year. This year we celebrated New Year in the UK and I finally got a chance to make this. Sadly New Year didn't quite work out. My Sister Bip came to visit and got a massive allergic reaction to the cat at Lundulph's parents' house and we had to go home and celebrate on our own. Lundulph and the others did try the baklava and said that it tasted as it should.


120 g walnuts
2 dl finely ground breadcrumbs
200 g filo pastry
1.5 tbsp ground cinnamon
100 g unsalted butter
300 g granulated sugar
4 dl water
1 tsp mastic resin nodules (optional)
half a lemon


  1. Coarsely chop the walnuts. Butter an oven-safe dish, about 2.5 - 3 cm deep.
  2. Lay a sheet or two (if very thin) of filo pastry, then sprinkle some of the walnuts, then some breadcrumbs and some cinnamon and another layer of filo pastry.
  3. Continue layering an finish off with two layers of filo pastry.
  4. Melt the butter on medium heat, until it bubbles. In the mean time slice the baklava with a sharp knife. I cut diamond shapes. Set the oven to pre-heat to gas mark 4 (175 degrees C).
  5. Drizzle the hot butter with a spoon along the cuts and also along the edge of the dish. Then bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes, until it goes golden brown.
  6. In the mean time, put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  7. I found mastic resin in a Turkish shop, it's not necessary, but adds a nice flavour to the baklava. Place it in a double piece of cheese cloth and tie in tight to a little bag or it'll go sticky and be impossible to remove from the saucepan.
  8. Add the mastic bag and the lemon and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, it'll be ready shortly after the baklava itself.
  9. At the end of the simmering of the sugar syrup, remove the mastic bag and discard. Fish out the lemon with a couple of large spoons and squeeze it out into the syrup as much as possible. Remove any pips that might have come out.
  10. Pour about three quarters of the syrup over the baklava and leave to soak in. Check after half an hour, if all the syrup has been absorbed, pour over the rest and leave to cool completely.
  11. Cover with greaseproof paper and clingfilm and store in the fridge.

I actually forgot to put the cinnamon between the layers and rescued by cooling the syrup to abut 40 degrees and stirring in all the cinnamon there before pouring it over the baklava. As I said, Lundulph thought it tasted as it should.

The baklava sold in Turkish shops is cut into smaller bite-sized pieces and also tends to be dryer, so can be handled with your fingers. The baklava that I made should be very moist from the syrup, almost swimming in it, so a knife and fork are required to eat. It's very sweet, so don't be tempted to cut into too large pieces.

Happy New Year 2009 to everyone!

Update 03.01.2009:
I finally got to taste my own creation and have the following observations to make. It was not as sweet a my Mum's and discussing this with her, I think adding the leftover syrup might have reduced the sweetness a bit. In addition, from the amount she normally makes (1 kg filo pastry) she'll use 1 kg sugar to 1.2 l water. Reducing to the amounts above, this wouldbe 3.5 dl water.
Another thing was that the syrup had gone quite slimy and I think this may be caused by the lemon flesh that came out when I squeezed it. Instead, the lemon juice shold be squeezed out before putting the lemon into the syrup. Squeeze it straight in, then drop the lemon in as well. This should be done at the very end of the syrup preparation, then just let it come back to boil again and fish out the lemon, shaking off any excess.
Of course these adjustments will have to wait to next year's baklava, because I won't be doing this any time soon, it's much too rich for that.