Potatoes for cold toes

Over the last week or so there has been snow in England. We English are well aware that it is not ‘real’ snow – not like American snow, Canadian snow, Alpine snow or Russian snow. It is not deep enough to bring the Trans-Siberian Express to a creaking halt, bright white enough to send a polar explorer mad or blind, or make a grizzly bear think twice about popping out for a bite to eat. Nonetheless, much like all the other snow it is somewhat cold.

As the proud owner of an energetic lurcher I do not get to stay in when it snows. It’s wellies on and up the field for the same walk as normal – only with colder toes.


Due to an administrative error my wellies have steel toe-caps. In ordinary damp, muddy weather this is unfortunate because the toe-caps are heavy and when combined with a good coating of mud on each boot it can become quite difficult to walk. I have on occasion ground to a halt in the middle of a particularly muddy field, weighed down by the¬†accumulation of mud. In winter weather the steel toe-caps are a disaster because they radiate the heat of my toes out of my boots and into the snow. I’ve tried successively warmer and thicker pairs of socks but it doesn’t help. And I’m not upgrading the wellies till they spring a leak. So the toes continue to freeze for a solid hour, twice a day, every day.

After this evening’s walk my toes had reached a new level of icy agony. Other parts of my body were cold too. Most of them to be honest. I warmed them up with potatoes, bacon, leeks and cream. This is so simple it barely qualifies as a recipe. It’s more of a therapeutic remedy.

For each person you will need:

Potatoes –¬†It’s not for me to tell you how many. If you’re really cold and really hungry I suggest you have as many as you like.
Splash of olive oil – just enough to stop the bacon sticking to the pan
Leek – 2 small or 1 medium-sized
Streaky bacon – 4 rashers
Salt & pepper
Generous splash of single or whipping cream

Peel the potatoes and put them on to boil. If they’re big cut them into chunks about the size of eggs or slightly smaller.

In a frying pan heat the oil.

Cut the bacon into little squares. For goodness sake use scissors. It took me years to realise how stupid it is to cut bacon with a knife. Throw it into the pan.

Cut the leek into rounds. When the bacon’s cooked but not yet crispy add the leeks to the pan. Add pepper but no salt yet – you don’t know how salty the bacon is. Stir and put a lid on to soften up the leeks.

When the potatoes are done drain them. Take the leeks and bacon off the heat. Add enough cream to just moisten them and stir it through. Put the potatoes in a dish and crown with creamy, leeky, bacon.

Eat immediately for maximum heat gain, with a bit of salt if you need it. Feel the warmth spread from your belly to your happy, warm toes.

Man harvesting potatoes with long row of sacks running down the field

Just potatoes…

Women in a field packing leeks into boxes


Woman feeding large sow with piglets in foreground


Cow being milked with historic milking machine.

…and cream.


Vegan surprise

The surprise was more exciting for me than it is likely to be for you, so I’ll spill it straight away: to my absolute astonishment and entirely by accident I have just cooked, eaten and enjoyed an entirely vegan dinner. No butter, no bacon, not even a bit of egg.* What a revelation.

The combination of ingredients was determined by:

1) the fact I had a strange craving for pak choi at lunchtime today and bought two in the covered market

2) things I already had in the cupboard

Serves 1 greedy person

100g basmati rice
half a vegetable stock cube [I was cooking for myself, it was late and I was hungry. Under these circumstances shortcuts are allowed.]

sunflower oil [I would have used olive if I hadn’t run out.]
about 80g shelled unsalted pistachios
1 teaspoon dried crushed chili [or less if you are of a delicate disposition]
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 small pak choi
1 clove of garlic
mirin [don’t really understand what this is but it makes everything taste better]

Put the rice on to cook with the stock cube crumbled in. I do it lid on, with twice as much water by volume as rice. All the water gets absorbed by the rice so when it’s done you don’t have to faff around with draining it.

If you have a pestle and mortar give the nuts a gentle bashing to break them up into halves and quarters. If not bundle them up in a tea towel and batter them with a rolling pin.

Meanwhile put 1-2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan and heat it up to medium-hot.

Wash and chop the pak choi. Cut away and reserve the greens. Cut the white parts into two or three pieces. Crush the garlic.

Put the nuts, chili and mustard seeds into the pan. Stir them round till they’re hot and coated with oil but not burning.

Add the whites of the pak choi. Cook for about three minutes, until the whites are cooked.

Stir in the greens and garlic and cook for another two minutes or so.

When the pak choi’s done stir in the cooked rice. Add a few splashes of magic mirin and eat. Probably on the sofa in front of the television.

pak choi rice garlic mustard seed crushed chile garlic pistachios

It’s not a small bowl, it’s a big fork