30/08/2010

Following on in the waste not, want not vein...

I bring you...cake!

Yes, cake. I had some sour cream left over from a chili night, and it needed using. It worked out to a cup's worth. What can I do with that? I asked myself, whilst being determined to use it. Then I found some gluten free Dove's Farm flour in the cupboard.

I googled a bit, and this caught my eye:  


I added grated lemon zest, and vanilla extract. It is now sitting cooling with a lemon glaze soaking in and smells divine.

I love using stuff up in creative ways. If it involves cake, so much the better. Photo later.

Great British Waste Menu

Someone with a fairly entrenched hatred of wasting food should not watch this.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00tkr88/Great_British_Waste_Menu/

Programme following four of the nation's top chefs - Angela Hartnett, Richard Corrigan, Matt Tebbutt and Simon Rimmer - as they journey deep into the heart of Britain's food waste problem, exploring how and why the nation throws away and reject huge quantities of perfectly edible food.

I've just sat through it, horrified. The amount of waste from our markets, farms, restaurants and especially supermarkets is scandalous. Vegetables and fruits thrown away just because they are not uniform in appearance. Whole paladins full of bread thrown away just because no-one wants to buy 'stale' bread. A farm that has ploughed 30,000 heads of lettuces back into the soil because the supermarket wouldn't take them, as picky people won't buy them if there's a tiny bit of blemish. Hundreds of strawberries at one producer thrown away because they were too small - or too large. Eggs never even sent to the stores because housewives apparently only want large eggs. Mini eggs? For goodness sake - market them as Child Sized Portions. It's not difficult! I'd buy a carton of mini eggs, how cute? Quail eggs are sought after, and they are tiny. Come ON Britain.

We've become a nation that has no idea what to do with leftovers, or even food that isn't sanitised and packaged beyond all recognition. What's happened to making a big bread pudding out of stale bread. Using up all the veggies from the roast to make bubble and squeak? Pots of vegetable soup, stocks made from leftover bones?

The cooking of offal makes people turn their noses up these days because they don't like the idea of eating it. A strawberry with a soft bit? Oh no, not good enough for us any more.

If you take food from a retail premises' bin, it's stealing. Even though it was being thrown away and discarded. That is utterly pathetic. There should be a freecycle for food. Places like Pret a Manger distribute all their leftover food to the homeless at the end of each day, and bloody grateful they are for it too. Why can't others do the same?

Everyone so scared of litigation and "oooh people might get ill!" It ties in with the whole Screaming Bacteria Fear that's going on.

Somebody get me a cluebat.

Recipes to use up leftovers - Love Food Hate
Waste campaign


19/08/2010

Bread.

I love bread. There, I admit it. The stuff is like crack to me. Bread with everything, bread on its own, bread to be chunked and dunked into creamy soups or to sop up the vinegary juices left in the bottom of the salad bowl. Crusty Italian bread to drizzle with green as grass olive oil and darkly glossy aged balsamic. If you really want to push the boat out, roast a bulb of garlic and squish those soft, caramel coloured cloves into the bread first. Then watch your work mates avoid you the next day.

Home made pita used as a scoop for houmous, papery thin lavash to wrap around a pile of grilled meat and salad, a fresh baked, malty seeded loaf, thick cut and sandwiched with ham off the bone, a French stick still warm in the middle, torn into pieces and spread with unsalted butter and apricot preserve, focaccia with its sheen of olive oil and fluffy insides that seem to hug the fillings you put into it. Greek village bread, made bouncy with μαστίχα (mastic - is also used in Turkish ice cream so stop it melting in the fierce summer heat) simply eaten with sharp olives and slices of cheese.


Even the white slice has its place. Usually in a Breville Sandwich Toaster or for that quickfire bacon sarnie when you have little time and even less energy, though I will say now that it's not often that I turn to that kind of loaf.

So many breads, so little time. So many carbohydrates, so bad for me!

The act of baking bread for people makes me feel absurdly competent, and very domestic. It's a Mother Earth thing I suppose. Being able to produce a loaf of quality and with serious heart, so people will fall on it with glee and leave nothing but the crumb and a feeling of contentment.

Talk to me of your bread loves.

Today someone sent me a link to this recipe, and it seems that I may have to try it when I am next in my house - and kitchen - for a weekend. I rather like the writing the accompanies it too.

Here's to my next Staff of Life project. When I get around to it.


http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/kitchen-hack-one-minute-ciabatta-bread.html

17/08/2010

Of Meat and Men.

This house is a meat-eating household. Always has been, always will be. My husband is half South African and I am half Greek so between us we span two great meat eating nations. Don't get me wrong, I am a vegetable nut as well. There aren't many vegetables that I dislike, and will happily sit down to a meat free meal. Husband makes interesting "Bleurgh" noises if I mention things like Brussels sprouts, or broccoli and Boyfriend pulls funny faces at greenery but....pffft. He doesn't like meat on the bone either so I'll just have all the spare ribs for myself thank you!

I grew up eating at Gujurati friends' houses and they certainly cemented the belief that vegetable and pulse based cooking is not, in any way, boring. How I loved their cooking. (Indian home cooking, to die for.) Husband is not a great eater of vegetables, though he is a fan of all kind of salads. and death to a bushel of sweetcorn. Give him a plate of raw runner beans and white cabbage and he is in heaven. I am proud to say that he is also one of the best barbecue cooks I know. Over charcoal mind, no gas here.

I'm not one of those people who insists on meat at every meal out of some misguided principle, but I cannot eat a lot of carbohydrates, so it is probably just as well that I really enjoy eating meat and leafy greens. And enjoy it I do, very much so.

Whether it be a simple steak, griddled on a cast iron pan 'til smoking and still pinkly juicy on the inside, beef and spinach curry, or a dish of beef casserole with red wine, garlic and cinnamon, cooked for hours until the entire house smells delicious, I'm there. Roasting a chicken is one of my most favourite things to do, even the smell makes me feel better. I cooked two at the weekend (two? at once? In the same roasting pan? Oh my, how decadent!) stuffed with fresh thyme and garlic - and the warm, savoury smell was driving everyone crazy. It's like having a hug diffused through the air. When they were ready everyone fell on them with a passion, and when the crowd cleared, there were just two carcasses looking slightly surprised. I would have made stock but I have zero freezer room at the moment.

Last night was lamb shanks. A lovely cut, which used to be extremely cheap until La Goddess Lawson used them, and now they are highly sought after. Thankfully they are still fairly cheap at my local butcher. Two large chickens, 4 goodly sized lamb saddle chops and two equally good sized shanks came to £20. Just over a fiver for the two shanks is fine by me. F J Caring of Harold Hill, I salute you.

Fresh rosemary from the garden tucked in and around, a couple of garlic cloves, a grind of Maldon sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil is all that was needed. 1 1/2 hours at 170C, with one turn, and they were done. If I had time I would cook them at a lower heat for longer, but it was a work night so I didn't have time. They still tasted very nice though.


14/08/2010

So embarrassed!

Guess who didn't think she had any comments because she didn't get any email notifications?

*blushes* *blushes even more*

Sorry everyone, I wasn't ignoring you!

09/08/2010

Spice it up!

As I have mentioned before, I am a bit of a spice addict. Not chilli spices, as I am not a great fan of the old searing heat, but the herbs and spices that can add so much flavour to every day food. I have a great deal of time for Middle Eastern flavours, and so, knowing this, my lovely colleague gave me a present from the Real Food market that was held at the South Bank this weekend. I am now the proud owner of a jar of wild sumac, and a jar of the most fragrant Zat'ar spice mix from these people: http://shop.arabicafoodandspice.com/products/zatar-special-blend

Zat'ar won the coin flip to decide which one got used tonight. I took some chicken breasts, cut them into big chunks, then added 1/2 a small tub of Greek yoghurt, a drizzle of olive oil, plus 3 tsp of the Za'tar and 1 tsp of Ras El Hanout. ( http://shop.arabicafoodandspice.com/products/ras-el-hanout )Mixed it well and left it to sit while I heated up a cast iron griddle pan.

The chicken was just cooked on the pan until it was done, and had gained some tasty griddle marks as well.

The olive oil was looking at me (I'm nearly out! Noooo!) and so I mixed a teaspoon of the zat'ar in with some oil, then brushed it over a slice of white seedy bloomer. I set that to toast under a medium grill. When it was done it got cut into squares and then I served that as a garnish on the chicken and salad.

I have been won over by this spice mix. Really. It's salty, and mellow yet with a goodly whack of herbs that sent a beautiful perfume wafting through the kitchen as it was grilling. Perfectly wafted, I might add, by the warm breeze that was coming in through the open window.

Snack toasts, Middle East style.

01/08/2010

The early bird catches the, er, pig?

Today started off quite early. 5am in fact, if I am honest. One of my neighbours was loading up their car and they were trying to be vewwy, vewwy quiet. Sadly when the items you are loading up are metal clothing rails on metal wheels, this can prove to be vewwy, vewwy difficult. Because we have been sleeping with the windows open (oh the heat, the damned heat I tell you) of course I woke up. Ping! There I was.

Thing the First: ascertain what on earth is going on outside that sounds like the Iron Chicken meets Godzilla.
Thing the Second: fail abjectly to go back to sleep.
Thing the Third: get up and wander about a bit with added fresh cinnamon coffee.

2 x triple shot espresso lattes later, I was rather more awake than I had been. I may have tidied and swept the sideway. I went into the garden and sat, enthralled, watching the bees in the lavender. I smelled the thyme, having already smelled the coffee a fair bit.

Then I remembered the piece of pork belly in the fridge that had to be dealt with as there was no room in the freezer for it.

Cue one piece of pork belly, rubbed with lovely olive oil and sea salt, and spiked with freshly cut thyme popped in the oven on a very low heat to cook gently away to its heart's content. It filled the house with lovely smells.

There is something rather satisfying about pork belly. Yes, it is a cheap cut and it is fatty but if, like me, you are into low carb and abjectly not low fat, then it is ideal. It is also one of the most flavourful cuts of all. For the last half hour turn the oven to grill, and let the crackling crisp up. Be smug that you have not set the thyme stalks aflame. Take a photo of your porcine triumph.

*squeaks*

I have a Follower! My very first one. Colour me happy. :)