Friday, 21 December 2012

The Christmas Bake Off

Baking at Christmas, I wish...
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 Nib Florentines

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 recipe for  Cocoa Nib Florentines is really delicious, and would make the perfect pressie for the chocolate lover in your life.

Girdlebuster Pie
Now I seriously don't have much of a sweet-tooth, you're more likely to find me fanging on duck fat ,triple- cooked chips dipped in bearnaise sauce than truffling in a bagful of candy, but I saw Nigella on TV the other night making this Girdlebuster Pie and although not really baking as such, thought genius! Ice-cream, buttery biscuits, bourbon and butterscotch sauce, what's not to love?? This will be our Christmas dessert and I'll try making individual ones in mini -muffin tins for New Years Eve treats.

Orange Popping Chocolate Chip Cookies
For the last couple of years Santa has popped an Über British,Terry's Chocolate Orange with Exploding Candy into our stockings and this year shouldn't have been any different except Santa's helper didn't factor into them not being readily available in the shops and being a bit to late to order online.... so in the the spirit of make do and mend, these cookies make a pretty good substitute. You can buy popping candy at the bigger Waitrose stores or online but they're just as good without.

Orange Popping Chocolate Chip Cookies
250 grams plain flour
175 grams butter, cut into small cubes
50 grams sugar
1 large orange,zest and juice
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of orange essence (optional)
100 grams of chocolate chips
25 grams popping candy ( optional )
Pre-heat the oven to 180C, butter a baking sheet
Put the flour, sugar and bi-carb into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until you have a breadcrumb texture. Add the orange zest, juice, vanilla and orange essence, mix to combine, add a drop of milk if mixture too dry. Add the chocolate chips and popping candy and squish through evenly. Roll into a sausage shape, approx 30cm by 5cm, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for a minimum of 10 minutes. Slice into rounds about 2cm thick and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. This mix freezes well and I'll be giving these away uncooked in their sausage-shaped wrap, bon-bon style so they can be sliced off and cooked when needed.
Cornbread with cheese and jalapenos

Cornbread, not very British but I love it all the same, rich but light and spiced up with jalepeno peppers or chorizo served with the left-over turkey or with chunky guacamole and red cabbage coleslaw, makes great comfort food. I use the Barefoot Contessa's recipe as a base, but substitute buttermilk or natural yoghurt for the milk. Adding whole corn kernals and chopped up coriander works really well too.
Well we're coming to the end of a pretty challenging year for many people, many countries. Maybe we'll be a little more kind, a little more thoughtful and better humoured over this Christmas time.I send you all the best for the holidays and wish you a bright and love-filled 2013.
Love Food X
Ps. Some great, green, last minute gift ideas from Inhabitat, free and next-to, perfect for the kids to make!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Merry Christmas, Baby

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.

Children's gardening kit
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 traditional North African tajines and soups but in salads and cocktails, delicious in a gin and tonic too. Experiment with them but don't make the same mistake as I did when I first made them 10 years ago and used the flesh as well as the rind- bleh! 

This preserved lemon recipe from BBC Good Food is fine. I usually make a few jars without any spices to use in drinks.
See Scheherazade Shake
Preserved Lemon Cocktail
50 mls vodka
50 mls dry vermouth
50 mls limoncello
25 mls lychee liqueur
1 teaspoon preserved lemon brine
Soda water or lemonade
2 slivers preserved lemon rind
Combine all the ingredients except the soda water with lots of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake like a rattler
Put a sliver of lemon rind in the bottom of four large tumblers. Divide the vodka mixture between them, add more ice and top with lemonade or soda. Serve with turkish delight on a chaise longue while telling never-ending stories. Your life could depend on it.

There are lots of wonderful recipes using preserved lemon in one of my favourite chefs- Yotam Ottolenghi's books  and also in the stunning books of Lebanese-Australian, Greg Malouf. And not to leave the Brits out if you have book giving in mind, I would say that the warm, stylish and simple recipes in Margot Henderson's You're All Invited, is the bees knees.
Music Bread
The week before Christmas I'll make this wonderful music bread and parcel it up with some Stilton . And for my bestest food loving friends I'll get some traditional gravadlax on the go to give with some home-made rye bread and hand-made Scottish butter from the Sandford Dairy.
Music Bread
This crispbread is very moreish so I usually double the quantities, as it is, it will make one present-sized portion. Don't worry if you do not have a pasta machine, a rolling pin and elbow grease will give you nearly the same result.
220 grams of plain flour
1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon of castor  (fine) sugar
100mls ish of water
50 mls of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Maldon salt + extra for finishing
1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary + extra for finishing
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, using a fork or your fingers add the water and olive oil to make a crumbly dough. Work dough until it come together, wrap in plastic film and rest at room temp for an hour. Pre-heat  the oven to 160 c. Cut the dough into 8 pieces then roll each piece through the widest setting of a pasta machine and roll until each sheet has passed through the finest setting, flouring to prevent sticking. Cut into rough pieces and arrange gently on a baking tray, sprinkle with some salt and rosemary. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden a cool on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.
If you've never the made gravadlax before this recipe will give you detailed information and a pictorial. I use organic farmed salmon, big waste of money to use wild salmon unless you've caught it yourself of course! Once you've made it successfully the first time, you can go on to experiment with different herbs, add some beetroot, vodka etc. It's fun and delicious and I think it makes a wonderful present.
Love Food and have a Cool Yule X

Thursday, 25 October 2012

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 Challenge , a partnership with Thornbridge and the biggie, Nicholson's.

I actually came to beer drinking quite late in life but my dad has been making his own home-brew for over 40 years and an excellent drop it is too. As a kid, I used to help him brew-up, it involved spooning sugar into bottles and squeezing hop juice through mum's American tan pantyhose. He has now gone very modern and if anyone chanced to peep into his shed these days they would be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled onto the Breaking Bad meth lab, bless him.

The positives of my semi-sobriety have been losing a few pounds, sleeping better and discovering new things to drink. My latest crush- Horcharta, pronounced or-CHAH-tah.
Originating in Spain where it is made from the chufa nut or earth almond, something I've never seen in the UK but I'm sure you could substitute cobb nuts which are in season now.
I make mine with almond milk. Heat a cup of almond milk (Alpro make it) with a cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, a spoonful of honey or agave syrup. Delicious on a frosty day...with a glug of Frangelico, it makes a lovely nightcap too, so I've heard...

One beverage I managed to avoid for ages was the chai latte, the idea of weak, milky spiced tea was less than appealing. Curry-flavoured dishwater sprang to mind when Starbucks brought it to the fore quite a few years ago but after trying some from Jing Tea I am a blown away convert. A heady mix of spice, quality black tea with a splosh of milk and a spoonful of honey, there are loads of different chai tea products available but if you fancy making your own try to use really fresh spices. You'll need a teapot and a strainer or use a coffee press.

Chai Tea Mix
100 grams of Assam or my favourite, Gunpowder tea
6 cardamom pods
3 star anise
3 whole black peppercorns
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 vanilla pod
A lot of chai is ground to a coarse powder so that you can use it in an espresso maker but I prefer mine chunky and just give them a good bash with a rolling pin in a metal wine cooler. You could use a coffee grinder or a food processor. A couple of tablespoons in a teapot with boiling water and leave to steep for at least 5 minutes. With milk or without, but honey, even a little, works magically with the spices.
As regular readers will know, I'm a big soup fan and have been making copious quantities of "brown" chicken stock recently. Roast a kilo of chicken wings at 180c until nice and golden,about 40 minutes, put the wings into a large saucepan and deglaze the roasting tin with a litre of cold water, scritchin' off all the brown bits. Add to the saucepan with another litre of cold water, one onion, cut in half but not peeled, same with one carrot. Gently simmer for an hour, never letting it boil. Strain it all through a fine sieve, chill and skim off any solidified fat.You should end up with a lovely clear golden stock. You can then add whatever you fancy. A few drops of sesame oil, a slice of ginger, a pinch of chinese five spice and couple of prawns; chinesezy. Porcini, truffle oil and a few basil leaves, go Italian.
It's the polar opposite of the way you make stock for the soup-noodle dish, Ramen, where you boil the bejeezes out of it to make a super fatty cloudy stock.Ramen, " The only thing between 500,000 Americans and utter starvation".The ubiquitous student food, comes in a brick with a "tasty" sachet of flavouring, so cheap, so filling, and has really kept the wolf from the door for millions of people all over the world.
If you live in London, you are about to be introduced to the real thing. Fellow Queenslander and chef extraordinaire, Ross Shonhan is opening Bone Daddies in Soho early next month.
That man knows his noodles, ex-Nobu and ex-Zuma , he knows his bones too, having grown up on a cattle farm in an area of Queensland not well known for it's haute cuisine. He is knowledgeable, passionate and believes in the power of stock! Can't wait to try it.
Love Food X

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Rosh Hashanah - Happy New Year

Honey, have a sweet 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 for flaws, the Balenciaga boots, re-heeled and polished, the make-up switches - she selects from a more alpha palette and the to-do lists are racked up in formation on her pin-board.
But the main thing is that her entire attitude to life is re-born at this time of year, not just the "no white after Labour Day" stuff, though she is from New York after all, but she has a new and fresh determination, a spring in her step and a heart full of gratitude! Oh and perfectly de-bobbled sweaters.....
So now her New Year has become my New Year and I'm excited to start afresh,tilting towards grace, bobbly sweaters notwithstanding. But I'm not the only one, on the 16th of September, it's Rosh Hashanah, a wonderful coincidence and a great excuse to cook something a little special ( I'd wasn't on the list.. ).
Rosh Hashanah is Jewish New Year, a time of repentance, praying for renewal, prosperity, and the wish of a sweet life. Traditionally symbolised by apple dipped in honey often served with challah, a sweet yeast bread similar to brioche but without the butter. 

I don't have a huge experience of cooking Jewish food, in fact one of my first encounters food-wise occurred when I arrived in London, first day of work at a fashion house close to Petticoat Lane, fresh-faced, keen and my boss asked me to go to Marks and Spencers to get him a kosher B.L.T...And I looked for one..sheesh! It was kinda like we do in restaurant kitchens, send the newbie out with a couple of quid and tell them to buy some mise en place , cruel, cruel.

My next encounter was a lot more sobering. A good friend asked me to look after his elderly mother for 2 weeks while he was out of town. She was not very mobile, she needed help with bathing etc and she kept firing the nurses he hired. He thought my Ozzie naivety and "sunny disposition" would be an asset in this case; he was a lawyer and ridiculously handsome, you can imagine, I got so so talked into it.
She lived in Golders Green, a big house where she used to take in boarders, one was still in residence when I moved in. An accountants clerk I think, I can't remember seeing him much other than in the kitchen eating sardines  (canned) on toast every morning, eek! with tomato ketchup, double eek!
She was, in equal parts, difficult, belligerent and impossible to please. We got on great.
She had survived the camps. She told me that story only once, she told me many more joyful stories over and over again. She taught me to cook perfect latkes and how to clear chicken stock. We had a wonderful Christmas together, midnight carol service at St Paul's followed by bagels in Brick Lane, believe it or not and if she was still with us, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

My knowledge of Jewish cooking has grown since then, thanks in part to the wonderful Claudia Roden, whom I've mentioned before and a Jewish ex-husband, himself a fabulous cook. So many dishes to choose for Rosh Hashanah, a wonderful problem to have from such a rich and varied cuisine.

To be lush but healthy, for part of my New Year's feast. I'll be making Ludmilla's soup, Ludmilla was our Transylvanian aupair in France. She was quirky in manner and dress, an ardent vegan. She used to jog through the forest every evening until one night the wild boar or the feral deer chased her, she didn't like children much but this soup is good.

This is not quite a recipe, more an assemblage of end of summer vegetables with a clean sweet and sour flavour. We were lucky to be able to grow our own veg in France, buy organic if you can.

Ludmilla's Borscht

Water or clear vegetable stock, about a litre to serve 4
Beetroot, 4 medium sized ones to serve 4
Red Pepper (capsicum or bell pepper)
Cider vinegar
White sugar
Sour cream
salt and white pepper
The key to making this fancy for a celebration is making a fine perfect cheffy dice of the vegetables.  Blanch the beetroot, allow to cool, peel, use latex gloves if you have them and dice into 1/2 cm cubes. Do the same with the potato and carrot and keep in a bowl with some cold water. In a large saucepan, add 1 litre of water, an onion, peeled and cut in half and the diced beetroot. Bring to a gentle simmer, when the beetroot is almost cooked,reserve a couple of spoonfuls for garnish, remove the onion and add the diced red pepper and the carrot. Add a spoonful of sugar and 2 of cider vinegar and leave on a gentle simmer until carrot is cooked but still has a little bite. Cook the potato in a separate saucepan and when almost cooked, plunge into iced water, keeps it nice and white. Taste the beetroot soup, adjust flavour to your liking with cider vinegar and sugar, salt and pepper. Should be that lovely mix of tangy and sweet and earthy from the beetroot. To serve, large white bowls, ideal, add a generous ladle of soup and tumble a little pile of potato into the middle of the bowl, a few cubes of the reserved beetroot and a dollop of sour cream.

Will follow that with a lamb tajine and a pomegranate champagne jelly, those recipes next time. I've blethered on enough.....

Love Food and have a  Happy New Year! X



Tuesday, 21 August 2012

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 sesame oil to baste duck.

3.  Mawson's Sarsaparilla Cordial.

The Marmite of the cordial world if such place exists, probably only in my head, would have to be sarsaparilla. I have been drinking this all "summer" long with fizzy water. Makes a wonderful jelly for liquorice lovers.

4. Figs

Cut in half, splashed with Stone's Ginger Wine , topped with a crumble of finely diced dried figs, demerara sugar and crushed pine nuts, hot oven for 10 minutes, serve with clotted cream, heaven.....

5. Barwhey's Cheese

A delicious hard, cow's milk cheese from Scotland, reminds me of a great parmesan, nutty, slightly crumbly but creamy. Makes the best welsh rarebit and I use the smoked version in quesadllas.

Would love to hear what favourite ingredients you are using at the moment and hope you are having a wonderful summer.

Love Food X

Sunday, 22 July 2012

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" time, no screens, no phones, give 'em a compass, a leaky pen,a paperclip and an apple and send them off into the wilderness, even if that's only a tiny terrace or the local shopping centre.

Of course we'll do a lot of cooking but some other things will be in the mix.
I'm looking into a little bit of circus training, in Manchester there's Skylight and in London,Albert and Friends .
We'll be doing some flagrant guerrilla knitting,for Yarnbombing , watch for changes on a bridge near you, coming soon..
A website I use a lot is Lifehacker , they "curate ideas for life ", although not a kids site, there are some brilliant ideas using everyday things to make cool AND useful stuff.

Also loving these playing cards designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1952 ! If you wanted a project, you could make your own with your favourite family memories.

White Chocolate Rose Petal Vanilla Popcorn
serves 2-3
3 tablespoons dried rose petals ( available )
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1-2 tablespoons milk
200 grams high-quality white chocolate, melted
pink sugar for sprinkling
A few hours (or at least 30 minutes) before popping, pour oil in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of rose petals, allowing it to sit at least 30 minutes. Remove petals with a slotted spoon, then heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add oil. Once hot, add in a few kernels, and as soon as they pop, add in the rest, covering the pot. Slightly shake the pot and reduce heat to medium, shaking the pot every few seconds until all of the popcorn pops.
In a bowl, whisk together sugar, vanilla bean paste, 1 tablespoon of milk and 1/2 tablespoon rose petals. If the glaze is too thick, add more milk a few drops at a time. If it is too thin, add in more sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.
Drizzle popcorn with rose vanilla glaze, then melted white chocolate, and immediately sprinkle with remaining rose petals and pink sugar. Spread on a baking sheet in clusters and pieces, allowing to sit for 15 minutes or so until the chocolate and glaze firm to room temperature.

These vegetable dumplings are great for the kids to make, this is a "properish" recipe but it is also a great way to use leftovers from the Sunday roast, a kinda enrobed hash. Skip making the dough and buy some ready-made wonton wrappers from the store if you don't have the time. Serve with homemade tomato sauce and we usually listen to a story on the iPod, this summer I'm gonna force feed/ ear them To Kill a Mockingbird and maybe some Huckleberry Finn, always reminds me of summer,nostalgic sigh.....


Himalayan Mo-Mo's

The Wrappers 
4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon oil
water, as required
1 pinch salt
The Filling
1 cup sweet potato, cooked and cubed
1 cup potato, cooked and cubed
1 cup red onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup spring onions, finely chopped
1 cup ripe tomatoes, finely chpped
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder, or momo masala if available
2 fresh red chilies, minced ( or to taste, leave them out if your kids don't like them, but try adding a dollop of sweet chilli sauce to get them started on the spice route)
3 tablespoons cooking oil
salt and pepper
Dough: In a large bowl combine flour, oil, salt and water.
Mix well, knead until the dough becomes homogeneous in texture, about 8-10 minute.
Cover and let stand for at least 30 minute.
Knead well again before making wrappers
Filling: In a large bowl combine all filling ingredients. Mix well, adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow all ingredients to impart their unique flavours.
This also improves the consistency of the filling.
Give the dough a final knead.
Prepare 3 cm. dough balls.
Take a ball, roll between your palms to spherical shape.
Dust working board with dry flour.
On the board gently flatten the ball with your palm to about 6 cm circle.
Make a few semi-flattened circles, cover with a bowl.
Use a rolling pin to roll out each flattened circle into a wrapper.
For well executed MOMO's, it is essential that the middle portion of the wrapper be slightly thicker than the edges to ensure the structural integrity of dumplings during packing and steaming.
Hold the edges of the semi-flattened dough with one hand and with the other hand begin rolling the edges of the dough out, swirling a bit at a time.
Continue until the wrapper attains 8cm diameter circular shape.
Repeat with the remaining semi-flattened dough circles.
Cover with bowl to prevent from drying.
For packing hold wrapper on one palm, put one tablespoon of filling mixture and with the other hand bring all edges together to the center, making the pleats.
Pinch and twist the pleats to ensure the absolute closure of the stuffed dumpling.
This holds the key to good tasting, juicy dumplings.
Heat up a steamer, oil the steamer rack well.
This is critical because it will prevent dumplings from sticking.
Arrange uncooked dumplings in the steamer.
Close the lid, and allow steaming until the dumplings are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Take dumplings off the steamer and serve immediately.
Alternatively, you can place uncooked dumplings directly in slightly salted boiling water and cook until done, approximately 10 minutes. Be careful not to over boil the dumplings.
You may also slightly sauté the cooked dumplings in butter or gee before serving.

Have a wonderful summer, plant something, sing something, start that novel, kiss a stranger. And cook!

Love Food, Love the children, everyone's children X 

Friday, 25 May 2012

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 unsweetened coconut and for the fruit I use dried sour cherries.
Heaps of fruit and yoghurt available and a couple of times I , with the help of the kids, made breakfast burritos.

Breakfast Burrito
serves 1
1 large soft flour tortilla wrap
2 large eggs
Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, grated
sour cream
jalepenos, sliced
fresh red chilli, if you have any
loads of coriander (cilantro)
1 tomato, sliced thinly
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
a little viniagrette, or just some vinegar
Tabasco, Jamaican hot sauce, to taste
( I was lucky to be given as a present a trio of Blind Betty sauces from the Virgin Islands, all amazing, try them if you can get hold of some)
Pre-heat oven to 200c

Warm the tortilla in the oven. Make a little tomato,onion and jalepeno salad, splash of viniagrette. Beat the eggs and make them soft scrambled, add the cheese. Assemble,wrap the eggs in the tortilla, along with the fresh chilli if using,some chooped coriander and serve
with sour cream, loads of hot sauce, salad and more coriander. Great hangover cure too.

Lunch was lots of salads most of them featuring some kind of pulse, check out my recipes from Lentil Chic.  Baked sweet potatoes stuffed with garlic butter, toasted pine nuts and wedges of iceberg lettuce with tomato and basil viniagrette were popular.

Dinner was BBQ central but on one of the cooler nights I served good ol' roast chicken.
Good quality chicken, stuffed with the usual suspects, half a lemon, an onion, smeared with butter, seasoned with salt and pepper .
But when the chicken is resting, I throw in a couple of cups of cooked brown rice into the roasting pan to soak up all thejuices instead of making gravy. Works a treat and the kids love it. Quinoa, pearl barley or lentils work well too. Oh and add the juices from the rested chook too.

Hope you are having wonderful weather where you are and have a great weekend.

Love Food X Love Family X

Friday, 18 May 2012

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.

"Godfather Spaghetti"

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 clams and wine, cover and simmer until the clams open and are just cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Discard any clams that don't open.

Add the spaghetti and the chopped parsley to the clams in the frying pan and season with pepper. Toss over moderately high heat just until the spaghetti absorbs some of the juices, about 1 minute. Transfer the spaghetti and clams to warmed, shallow bowls and serve right away.

Fish with Salsa Verde

Fish with Salsa Verde

4 fillets of fish, your choice, I used grey mullet for this, sea bass great too.
a couple of tablespoons of flour
unsalted butter
olive oil
salt and pepper

Salsa Verde

Salsa verde traditionally has garlic, anchovies,capers,cornichon or gherkins, olive oil, parsley,basil and lemon juice, pounded to a saucy consistancy in a pestle and mortar.
I use soft herbs that I have to hand, always parsley, sometimes dill, basil or a little mint.
I skip the anchovies and add more capers because I lurv them so.
You need 2 cups of herbs to make a good portion of sauce for 4 people.
1 cup of parsley, chopped
1 cup of basil, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 fat anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tablespoon of capers, chopped
couple of gherkins, chopped
4 or 5 tablespoons olive oil
1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard

Use a large mortar and pestle if you have one,all ingredients in and bash away! Use a stick blender/ blender  but try to leave a little body in the sauce.Season to taste.

Add salt and pepper to the flour and and lightly dredge fish fillets. Heat a good knob of butter and a splash of oil in a large frying pan, when gently bubbling , add fish and cook to perfection! 3 minutes on both sides is usually enough, just be careful no to overcook.

To serve, I go big on the greens, usually spinach or kale and tiny new potatoes, lavished (sic) in salty butter.

Love Food X


Astrid's gorgeous herbs.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

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 proximity to southern India and the Arab, Moor, Dutch and British traders that passed through.
My brother recently moved to Sri Lanka to do an engineering job. He hasn't said much about the move other than to tell us he has put on 5kg in a month and the Sri Lankan's can't drive, no way no how . Kinda thinking he must be eating pretty well though.
This mix I love, this mix flexes big flavour. This mix is hot, punchy and fragrant. Use judiciously. For 2 kg of cubed lamb shoulder I use 2 tablespoons. Chicken, 1 tablespoon, dust over fish mixed with a little fine cornmeal. Add a teaspoon to your spinach/silverbeet when you make hunza pie.

Sri Lankan Curry Powder

2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
1 tablespoons of cumin seeds
half a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
2 sticks of cinnamon
5 cloves
2 black cardamom pods ( green fine  but doesn't have the smoky flavour of black)
15 dried bird's eye chillies
1 teaspoon of black pepper corns

Dry roast the spices over a gentle heat until lovely and aromatic and dark
but not burnt! Allow to cool and then grind to a fine powder using a  mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.

The Sri Lankan's love their sambals, I usually serve sliced bananas coated in coconut, a bowl of icy cold chopped cucumber mixed with mint, sweet mango chutney and this green mango pickle.

Green Mango Pickle

2 large green mangoes, washed well
2 fresh bird's eye chillies, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
100mls of fresh lime juice
60 grams of palm sugar, shaved ( substitute brown sugar)
20 mls coconut vinegar  ( substitute red wine vinegar )

Cut the cheeks from the mangoes and slice very finely into strips using a sharp knife or a mandolin if you have one. Mix with the rest of the ingredients and allow to stand for a least
2 hours in the fridge. Can be kept in sealed container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

உணவு நேசிக்கிறேன்amo comida aiment la nourriture elsker mad

Love Food X

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

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 green salad with balsamic dressing.

Thai Thighs

12 boned and skinned chicken thighs
1 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons red curry paste
salt n pepper
a lime if you have one

Mix the curry paste with the coconut cream in a small bowl. Place the chicken thighs in a non-reactive casserole dish, cover with coconut cream mix, leave to marinate as long as you can, preferably 2 hours but can go into a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 40 minutes.
Serve with basmati rice, a squeeze of lime and some coriander if you have any handy.

I'm heading to my local market now,I have set myself a £10 challenge for this weeks shopping, so will be  using lots of veg and trying to find the best deal on meat. Will keep you posted on how I do.

Love Food X




British by Google There's always an avalanche of articles published in the new year with predictions of the food and drink that...