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Showing posts from 2012

The Christmas Bake Off

Well the Christmas preparations have started in earnest now. I've shaken off my bah humbug, which was mainly due to the miserable weather. I should be used to it by now ,you can squeeze a girl into ski pants but you can't stop an Ozzie one yearning for the economy-sized bottle of Hawaiian Tropic and a garishly printed sarong at this time of year.
I've mentioned it before, I don't do that much baking normally but it gives me real pleasure to do lots at Christmas time, whether it is to give as gifts or to eat with family and friends.
Here are some of my favourites.

Cocoa nibs are small morsels of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cocoa beans. Nutty, slightly bitter and very moreish, they work in both savoury and sweet recipes. And they are a major superfood, having more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea.This reci…

Merry Christmas, Baby

I've just come back from one of the largest shopping malls in the United Kingdom, mission; Christmas. I lasted 18 mins exactly before the first signs of a panic attack started. The overwhelming smell of polyester, the crowds and the piled up gift sets of nasty smelling bath stuff, how can anyone hope to buy a suitable token for the people we love the most?

Happily, I've now decided to make presents, not for the kids, they still need "stuff" but that will be books and paint and canvases, something to do and something to get them away from screens. I also love these kid's gardening sets from Hen & Hammock , there are also many great stylish and sustainable gifts for adults.

Today I am mostly making preserved lemons so that they'll be ready to use by Christmasand left longer, develop a more complex flavour.I think they are a wonderful gift even for non-food obsessed people. They're really simple to make and you can use it in so many ways. Not only traditio…

A is For Autumn, B is for Beer

  Autumn has certainly arrived in my part of the world, along with seemingly non-stop rain. But it does make it very cosy for cooking or as the Danes say, "hygge", which basically means the candles are lit, there is plenty of wood for the fire, we have chunky cream sweaters to wear, and the air is softly scented with cinnamon, marzipan and lashings of liquorice. So let's enjoy it cos it ain't going away any time soon.....

It's been soaking wet outside but I have been practically Prohibition personified this past month. A couple of pints of London Meantime lager  on a sunny day in Notting Hill and a bottle or two of the delicious lager from the equally delicious guys at the Camden Town Brewery has been about my lot.The resurgence of micro breweries and micro stills over the last few years has lead to an amazing range of beers and booze; Hoxton Gin, Sipsmiths et al, if you fancy having a crack at it yourself this might be of interest,The Great British Home Brew Ch…

Rosh Hashanah - Happy New Year

Last week I spent a very unplanned but fabulous 24 hours with my best mate. I hadn't seen her for over 2 months, neither of us really had the time to spare, we both should have been working on all the different projects we have rollicking around, but going the 200 miles to laugh, drink wine and catch up with each other's news was well worth the journey. She has also inspired me in the best way this trip. She is smart, chic, hard-working and hilarious. She writes about personal finance, amongst other things and she is a compulsive list maker. It's taken me years but I have started doing it too, kinda reluctantly but am getting enormous pleasure from making big ticks on my to-do list! The other thing which I have hardly paid much attention to over the 15 or so years we've known each other, is what happens to her come September.... The hair gets done, new copies of French and Italian Vogue are laying around,heavily post-it noted, the cashmere sweaters are lined up and checked …

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens............

Gentle reader.... I have been writing this blog for around 18 months now, maybe once a month, sometimes less. I would love to have a little person in my head that I could dictate my thoughts to, but alas it is only me being able to squeeze out a little of day to day life to opine when I get a spare moment. I have been doing loads of cooking, always time for that.

My favourite things this month ;

1. Laoganma Chilli Sauce

Available at most Asian supermarkets, this is an brilliant condiment. Fragrant sichuan peppercorns, chillies and onions, it has an amazing nutty, roasted flavour, lots of bite and perfect to add to stir-fries as well as using at as a dip for steamed gyoza.

2. Black Vinegar

I love this stuff!! Chinkiang or black vinegar is made from rice and aged for at least 12 months. It's kinda stinky and malty and full of umami. Again great to dip dumplings in, a splash added to chicken noodle soup lifts all the flavours. Mix a little with honey, minced ginger and a drop or two of se…

Child's Play

Time for school holidays again in the northern hemisphere, not quite the long hot summer we in the UK had been hoping for but I, for one, am getting quite excited about having time with the kids. As historic as having the Olympics in London may be, we will be avoiding London like the plague,I think it will be a bit of a nightmare getting anywhere and I'm sure we will manage to see the good bits on tv, no scary crowds, and eating bowls of rose petal and white chocolate popcorn.
My most memorable summers were spent in Cairns, in far north Queensland. We were five kids and basically got ushered out of the back door into the garden and left to our own devices until feeding time. It was wonderful. Chickens, ducks, abundant fruit trees, rainforest, homemade slingshots, building dams, making go-carts all low tech and lovely but not everybody gets to live like that and a lot mightn't want to anyhoo.
So activities need to be organised these days but I factor in a bit of "boring" …

Family Food

For the last week or so I have had the pleasure of feeding the family. Nothing compares, for someone who loves to cook, to sending out the love via the holy portal of the kitchen door. It's hard work, 3 meals a day, loads of washing up and loads of shopping. I have tried to stick to a budget and tried to keep it healthy so we could splurge a little on the wine for the grownups and indulge the kids in a few extra scoops of ice-cream now that the weather has finally gotten wonderfully warm.
We were very good and made a batch of our own ice-cream with rhubarb from the garden. Really simple, about 2 cups of rhubarb stewed with half a cup of sugar and a vanilla pod, allow to cool, then add a cup of whipped cream and a tablespoon or so of honey, check the sweetness, it should be slightly sweeter than you care for, combine and freeze in a shallow metal tray. No need for an ice-cream maker.
Breakfasts were a help yourself affair, made a double portion of this lovely pecan granola, I use unswee…

Fish Friday

I have a friend who thinks life is too short to eat fish, he's only half joking. I guess for some people, fish will always seem to be a little fussy, a little too light and not quite butch enough. I love fish,shellfish too and prefer to keep it really simple but I think these flavours are rather *butch*. We call this " Godfather" spaghetti at our house.

Spaghetti alle Vongole
500 grams of spaghetti  1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli, minced
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper Serves 4 as a starter, 2 for main
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente, then drain the pasta well. Meanwhile, in a large, deep frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and chilli and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is only lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the…

Self - Scented

It's May, it has been raining since the eleventeenth of January. I am struggling to keep my upper lip stiffened.  I am struggling to keep my pecker up. I am struggling not to stay in bed all day, gorging on lamb kofta wrapped in garlic naan dripping minted tzaziki on to the doona or snogging tonka bean ice-cream smothered in hot chocolate sauce topped with crackled pistachio praline and mini marshmallows. I have had more than enough of grey, miserable, end of days. The only thing that brings me solace is my compulsive purchase and embarrassingly overt sniffing both in public and private of highly scented, eye watering, soul quenching herbs and spices.
My holy trinity - my snap, crackle and pop - today - cinnamon, cardamom and chillies.
Cardamom, one of my favourite spices, see my recipe for West Pakistan Chicken recipe in my Zipless Munch post was also one of the most valued, along with saffron and vanilla beans.
Sri Lankan cuisine is aromatic, hot, and influence by it's proximit…

Wholesome Threesomes

Using 3 beautiful ingredients to showcase freshness and flavour means less shopping and chopping more time for planning the next meal! The two recipes below are my mainstays during this unsettling weather, sunny and springy one minute, arctic winds and snow the next!

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Caramelised Onions & Goat Cheese
Serves 4
4 large sweet potatoes, well scrubbed 2 large onions, sliced thinly 125 grams goat cheese a little olive oil salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 200C and place sweet potatoes rubbed with a some olive oil, on a baking sheet. Cook until tender, about an hour depending on size.
Meanwhile, slow cook the onions on a very low heat, stirring regularly and adding a little water to prevent them getting too "caramelised",in the oil, will take about 40mins.
Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthways and place them cut-side up on baking tray, scatter with onions, slice or crumble over the goat cheese. pop back into the oven until cheese melts.
Serve with a crunchy gr…