31/07/2010

Waste not, want not.

I was reading rather late into the night last night. Once you start on food blogs there are so many to choose from that you can get carried away. Okay, I can get carried away, and frequently do. There is something...warm about the way that people can connect via the sharing of food. When there is so little of it in parts of our world, to find people that appreciate it to the fullest extent is incredibly heartening. We know how lucky we are to be able to just buy what we need, when we need it, or even if we just want it. 

We have so much available to us, so much decent, quality produce that to spoil it with over-processing is shameful. Taking a basket of beautiful fruits, at their very best, and just eating them on their own to savour the true tastes is far preferable to processing it all down into a mush then squeezing the resultant paste into tubes and adding dairy. Frubes, I ask you. (These, in case you don't know what I am on about -  http://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Petits-Filous-Frubes-Yogurt-Pouches/30545011)

Is it any wonder that we get children who have a loathing of texture and of 'bits' in their food? It's not just fruit, how about eating meat off the bone? Learning how to just eat around a bit of gristle, working out how to get all the flesh off an olive and ejecting the stone? Why does everything have to be refined, and made easy? So much is wasted, and that is not how it should be.

29/07/2010

My 40th birthday cake

I keep meaning to post this and then forget. I saw Jamie Oliver make it on that there viewing tube and thought Oh yes, this shall be mine.

(why this recipe has mixed measurements I'm not sure but it worked very well, and it keeps in a covered container in the fridge for days)

Cake
125g softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbs finely grated lemon rind
2 eggs
2 tbs brandy (I used rum as that's what I had)
1 cup fine semolina
1 cup ground almonds
1 tsp baking power

Topping
1 pack shelled pistachio nuts
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Clear honey

Heat oven to 200C.

Cream butter, sugar and lemon rind together until fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Stir in the brandy.
Add semolina, almonds and baking powder then fold in to the butter mixture.
Put into an oiled tin (I used a silicone loaf tin)
Reduce oven to 180C, put the cake in and bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool and then poke holes all over it with a skewer.

Topping

Toast pistachios lightly in a dry pan.
Add enough clear honey to coat them all, then add the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
Heat gently to mix. Taste a bit of the syrup, if it is too sharp, add another spoon of honey.
Pour the warm syrup all over the cake.
Leave to soak in.

26/07/2010

Those strawberries that were in the fridge...

...are not there now.

I got home from work and remembered that I had strawberries that we'd picked up on Saturday from the local farm shop of joy. We'd eaten a fair few but the ones left were about to go over. Not a person to waste food (no, really, I can't) I thought "Oooh! A small pot of jam!"

It was a vain attempt to make a sugar free version but in the end I had to concede defeat and add pectin infused jam sugar. Not that much though, as I really didn't want it sweet and sticky. To about a pound of strawberries I added the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbs of rosewater and roughly 6 tablespoons of jam sugar. It thickened up nicely, but I am not fanatical about the mythical 'set' that obsesses British people. I like a good preserve you can spoon onto a scone, not have to slice or spread with a knife.

I now have a pot of dark, red jam sat happily on the side, waiting to cool before going in the fridge. Okay, waiting to go in the dishwasher with the next lot of dishes on a 65C wash to sterilise but hey...what's an appliance between friends?

I will make a sugar free jam, but I need some gelatin to do so and, well, I haven't got any right now. The farm shop has a glut of blackcurrants and they are calling out to be made into jam. Or cordial.

I like jam, me. Especially on mini oatcakes.

25/07/2010

Turkish Delight Brownies - a variation!

This is a recipe by the divine Gizzi Erskine.


Makes 16
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 40 minutes

  • 400g sweet potato, baked in their skins until soft, then cooled and pureed.
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 140g light muscovado sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150g dark chocolate 70%, melted and cooled (I used Divine raspberry)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp chickpea flour (I used carbsense flour mix)
  • 70g of good quality cocoa powder (I had Cadbury, but I want better stuff)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 150g Turkish delight, chopped (I used whole shelled pistachios as I had no TD, hence the rosewater)

Heat the oven to 160°C.
 Line a square brownie tin with greaseproof paper.
 In a clean, dry bowl whisk eggs, sugars and salt until they become really voluminous and pale. This will take about 5 minutes. 

Scoop out the sweet potato from their skins and mash with a fork. Fold in the chocolate, ground almonds, chickpea flour, cocoa powder and vanilla extract until it is incorporated. Add the Turkish delight or nuts if using.

Pour into the lined brownie tin and bake for 35 minutes or until the top is firm.

Lick the spoon and the bowl. Really. Oh god. 

Notes: next time I will use chopped up Fry's Turkish Delight and 1 tsp rose flavouring extract. 

14/07/2010

Warm Courgette Salad

My Finance Manager brought in a whole bagful of courgettes from his allotment. Picked this morning and I got to choose some to bring home.


Fresh courgettes, sliced, cooked in garlicky olive oil, with a touch of lemon zest and some thyme flowers from our garden. The garlic slices caramelised and made a nice, sticky base. The whole lot was mixed in a bowl with sliced grilled chicken and feta cheese.

Simple, good and very tasty.

11/07/2010

How a recipe morphs...

I started off with a Good Idea. I saw a falafel recipe done where the fresh broad beans were picked, removed from their cotton wool lined pods, cooked quickly, whizzed with a hand blender along with garlic, onions and spices, then fried off. I liked the idea of not shelling the beans as it reduced Faff time. After all, if it is going to get blended, the outer shell of each bean won't be noticed, it will be smooshed together with all the other ingredients, plus it will add bulk.

Huzzah! said I. I'm all for easy recipes. I said Huzzah! again just for the hell of it.

At the farm shop yesterday we bought large amounts of fresh peas and there, hiding shyly behind the peapod basket was a smaller basket full of lovely young broad bean pods. They were pounced upon, and hustled into our waiting trolley. (Yes, we need a shopping trolley when we visit the farm shop, no small basket for us!)

This afternoon I sat happily in the garden shelling all the peas. I did have to share one or two peas with tiny caterpillars that had snuk into the pods first but what's a pea or two among friends? In order to prolong my foray into the sunshine, I podded the broad beans too. No caterpillars in there! No, just a downy softness. The beans looked so comfortable nestled in there that I felt almost guilt to eject them, but I did anyway.


They were lightly cooked, and upended into a bowl ready for blending. Then I looked at how many there were. Not that many, truth be told. Not enough to make a decent batch of falafel and if I am going to go to the trouble of making the things and then frying them, I want a lot of them. Six just isn't going to do it. I am also not a small scale cook. I can't get my head around it.

After discovering that I do not have a tin of chickpeas *gasp* and remembering that I didn't buy any parsley, I spied the colander full of fresh peas. Three handfuls of those have gone in, along with some smoked sea salt, fresh mint and fresh thyme. Bulk was needed though. What on earth did I have that I could pop in to add bulk and help them hold together? Bulghur wheat, that's what I have. Fine ground, and now sitting absorbing a garlic spiced stock.

I'm not entirely sure this is going to work but I shall try.

08/07/2010

Just can't leave it alone.

Food, that is.

I cannot seem to just let ingredients BE. For example, tonight I had a pack of minced beef and a pack of minced lamb, with the aim of making burgers. Could I be happy with adding just a little sea salt and pepper and cooking them? No. I added some Ras el Hanout powder, onion salt and cinnamon. They were very tasty, slow cooked on a ridged griddle pan, but I couldn't not add spices of some kind.

Now, if it had been prime, aged beef then I'd  not have had any problem leaving it be, as the whole point of that is the flavour of the meat itself, but the usual, everyday stuff from the Co-op? Spice it up!

If I had a spice cupboard the size of one wall of my kitchen, I'd fill it. Along with pots of fresh herbs. I love having the little flashes of tasty colour to add in to dishes. A straight tomato salad? Perhaps a little finely shredded basil in there. Glass noodles with a sesame oil dressing? Hmm, needs a touch of coriander, or maybe some chives.

I just cannot let it lie can I?

I love the pile of emerald bright, fresh parsley, and the aroma as you chop it together with lemon zest and garlic. Basil torn into small pieces and scattered through a salad, the heady, wood musk smell of cumin added to a burger mix, or a vat of chilli. I remember making okra in mustard seeds for my mum and step-dad, not just because they loved it but because I adored the spicy, nutty scent of the seeds as they popped in hot oil. Mix those same popped seeds, along with their oil, into grated carrot and there's a side dish fit for a king.

Opening my cupboard doors is like stepping into a mini spice market. I have so many in there, and they all vy for attention.

Sharp, zesty, acidic sumac begs to be added to an onion salad or rubbed into lamb. Herbes de Provence fair clamours to be mixed into butter and slathered onto a free range chicken. Shy, earthy celery salt doesn't really stand out until you add it into flour with some smoked sea salt and coat chicken pieces with it. Fry that off and the scent hits you in no time.

Ras el Hanout, bejewelled with plush red rose petals, scented with cloves and nutmeg and warm cinnamon - oh she is a girl alright. Spicy, sensuous, reaching out with brown, bangled arms to tempt you into the world of Middle Eastern food. Dark eyed, luscious but with a hidden heat. Perfect melted into warm olive oil and brushed onto bread to be toasted.

Cinnamon. Where would I be without cinnamon? Neither sweet nor savoury, he adapts well to both types of dish. Mixed into softened butter with a crushed clove of garlic then spread under the skin of a chicken, or added to a rich, earthy red wine and beef stew to take it just that bit further.

Mixed with sugar to coat cookies, or sprinkle on a bagel before toasting. Such a heady, foreign scent, yet so familiar to me. Just a touch added to a moussaka or bolognese sauce will lift it, but not too much because he can be overpowering and pushy. A perfect bedfellow for apples and sultanas, the quintessential aroma of Christmas.

I'm going to need a bigger cupboard.

Joy!

The joy of Google Reader is that even though blogs are Verboten at work - boo - I can read them via Reader, though not comment.

This one has had me in stitches. He's open, honest, and very entertaining.

http://foodurchin.blogspot.com/

This one I adore. I love the way she writes, and she's a London lass so I even get to contemplate visiting some of the places she goes to.

http://tinykitchentales.blogspot.com/

I keep wanting to invite her over to run free in my larger kitchen.

06/07/2010

Use It Up salad

Tonight I needed to sit in the garden, in the fading light (boo to the light fading earlier and earlier) and eat something fresh and tasty and fast. So I did.

I am well aware that not everyone will these things in their fridge to use up, but I did and I am very glad  about it! The excitement when I remembered that I had the cheese and the mortadella* was possibly quite unseemly.

4 large slices mortadella, cut into strips
1 little Gem lettuce, quartered, then sliced
5 baby plum tomatoes, quartered
1 ball mozzarella di buffala, cut into chunks

Dressing
2 tbs shop bought pesto (Coop fresh brand)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
smoked sea salt

Pile lettuce into a bowl.
Add in the tomatoes, and the mortadella.
Pop on the cheese.
Pour the dressing over and give a twist of sea salt.
Mix well.

I ate this while reading an Antonio Carluccio book. Fitting, I thought.