Monday, 27 July 2009

Another weekend of feasting

On Saturday I made pizza for breakfast. I had loads of tomato sauce left over from pasta left over from the night before, so it was mainly to use that up. Pizza dough got made quick as a flash. Who needs a 45-minute cycle on the breadmaker for that?

It was mostly sauce, with minimum cheese and it was very good. No pictures because I ate it all, over a few mealtimes. I also gave some to Anna when she popped round.

I had some chipotle chilli seeds leftover from the first time I used the dried smoked pieces of heaven which had been knocking around in a bottle for some time. I simmered them in some water and added the water to the tomato sauce I made for a touch of smoky heat and it worked.

Saturday was Sabbi and Jaydev's wedding. It was a marvellous day. My favourite food was the pani puri we got at the beginning of the afternoon meal; tiny little puri with the puffed up layer broken to accomomdate some yogurt and potato. Delicious. The rest was usual Hindu wedding fare, which I love; chana, potato and aubergine, rice and dhal, raitu, puri, dhokra, salad, carrot and green chilli pickles pickled in salt and lemon and covered in split mustard kernels and for pudding ras malai, which I'd never had before. It was a treat. I liked the weird sponginess of the milk powder cake in its moat of sweetly spiced milk.

At the reception I indulged in meat, wheat, cheese and a dash of Malibu- things which aren't the kindest of things to my gastro-intestinal tract, but I decided that one night wasn't going to do much damage.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Hugh F-W is useful for some things

...I suppose, like inspiring me to make this Roast Beetroot and Goat's Cheese tart.

He had a recipe in the Guardian Saturday magazine a few weeks back, but I no longer had and it did not occur to me that I could look on the internet. Which was a good; I like just being inspired by recipes and then going off and doing my own thing. It was similar, although looking at the recipe now, I omitted the red wine, the dill and the honey. I probably would have used garlic, had it been in the house, but I was forced to go without, which was fine. Garlic is so easy to overuse because it has a consistent and popular flavour. But sometimes you have to just let go and let other ingredients speak for themselves. Which they did, in volumes. Roasted beetroot is so good. Perhaps my favourite thing about beetroot apart from the colour is the stripes which you see in its flesh when you cut it into blocks.

I had bought a bunch of beetroot complete with long stalks and leaves. I finely chopped the stalks, added a finely cubed apple, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a dash of elderflower cordial. Which provided the salad that you see here with the tart:

I still have the leaves left. They may be too tough to eat raw, so I will either wilt them or chop them up and add them to a curry. In which case I will have to go out and get some garlic.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


There has been some good eating this weekend.

I made scones. Without a doubt one of the finest simple pleasures, eating one with jam and cream. Or with cream and lemon curd which also works very well.

Yesterday I went to a barbeque / bonfire in Todmorden. Hywel had brought skewered pepper and haddock pieces. The fish had been brushed with lemon juice, olive oil and crushed coriander seeds. How deliciously simple. Amy had brought some of her home-made haw blossom wine, which was a delicate pale pink and tasted a bit like rose. That was a joyful sip or two. I had brought some halloumi cheese as my contribution and then I wondered how well paneer- which holds its shape quite well- would take to being barbequed. It would have to be marinaded first of course. Amy said she had made her own paneer. We talked about making our own tofu. I omitted to tell her what a disaster mine had turned out, but failed to tell her that I tried to make it from scratch i.e. from soya bean. It was so laborious that by the time I had soya milk I was fed up.

Then today there was a feast to close the Manchester International Festival 2009. Five mini-courses all under one tent. Course 1 was a cold almond and garlic soup, a bit like a white gazpacho. Course 2 was some Rogan Chicken - basically a curry. Course 2 was Szechuan boiled pork dumplings, which, the programme said, had been boiled thrice. I speculated it might be to get as much of the starch out of the covering as possible, leaving it with a springy chewy texture. They came with a lovely dipping sauce of soy, garlic, chilli with sesame seeds floating in it. This was easily the tastiest thing, or maybe because it was what I was least likely to have tasted. Course 4 was Reggae Reggae Chicken, and I was surprised to find cardomom and rotli with what was supposed to be a Caribbean dish. Then my accomplice suggested that courses 2 and 4 got swapped round. Course 5 was a summer pudding with Chantilly cream. I know they used brown bread in the pudding because its bran content makes it sweeter than white bread, but I didn't really like that.

Anyway, it's given me some ideas, that's the main thing.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Even Courgetter than the real thing / Zucchini Kill

What can one do with courgettes? Anyone who grows them will know they produce veg (technically fruit) gluttishly and need using up. I was given some on Wednesday and I made Courgette Fritters:

I grated courgette, added beaten egg, polenta, cornflour, salt, pepper, paprika, mustard, crushed garlic and grated cheese. I had a drop of cream left over from making ice cream so I threw that in too. I also chucked in a handful of frozen sweetcorn. I then shallow fried patties of the mixture in a pan.

Verdict: a bit soggy in the middle. I may add more corn flour or polenta and then wait for the liquid to get absorbed. The addition of cream was a silly idea, making an already wet mixture wetter. Oh, and I couldn't really taste the courgette. The cheese and sweetcorn were great additions. Don't make your patty more than 7cm / 2 inches wide. They are good reheated the next day with butter. Serve with condiments.

Zucchini bread has never appealed to me much, as I don't particularly like making cake. Something which shows off the taste of the vegetable. My mother would sometimes use it as a replacement for doodhi, the huge mild milky-white radish in the dish doodhi chana, which is a chickpea lentil and doodhi curry. Anyone out there with a good recipe, the comments box is ready and waiting.

from the ex- U2 fan who doesn't mind a bit of riot grrl.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Dinner for one

I have been in Cambridge house- and animal-sitting for my sister and her husband since Wednesday. I tried to contact the one person I might know here but he hasn't responded to my e-mail, so what was I to but sit around cooking, eating and drinking? I can't get pissed though, I have furry and feathered responsibilities.

One is not fun, contrary to what Delia Smith said once, and it's even less fun in an unfamiliar kitchen. There are exciting things in the cupboards here such as pink peppercorns, slivers of mace, Amontillado sherry for cooking, hazelnut oil as well as some surprising ones (Oxo cubes? Come on! My brother in law is supposed to be something of an epicure, a gastronaut). However, I found no fresh ginger, no rice and no whisk. Not an electric one, not even a manual one. More about that later.

Since we've had a heatwave, I've continued on my ice cream tip and wanting to give Green and Blacks a run for their money made white chocolate ice cream with raspberries and meringue pieces. Here's a picture. Honestly, I need a food stylist and a steadier camera hand:

The ice cream itself tasted good good good, the tart raspberries provided a nice contrast to the sweet ice cream but they are little hard bits frozen raspberry - I did crush them first so they aren't whole blocks of raspberry-sized and flavoured ice. Note for next time: put raspberries through and sieve before adding, but definitely add them. They contributed such a delicious pink girly colour to the dessert.

I added meringue pieces to the mixture because I had four egg whites which I didn't know what to do with. I had to beat the whites using a fork and the strength of my arm, but I think my worn out arm gave up before the whites were stiff enough. My meringues were the palest brown when they came out of the oven and they were still squidgy in the middle. I broke the crunchy bits off and folded into the ice cream. The squidge I tried to recook in the oven. It changed the texture and not for the better, and tasted a bit like Sugar Puffs. Never mind.

This evening for dinner I had a splendid warm salad of brown rice, with tarragon, chopped tomato, onion and garlic fried in olive oil with some torn mozzarella pieces stirred in. Topped with Parmesan. It was lovely, the tomato had just the right tang to it.

I have never had tarragon before and in tonight's dinner it was just using up last scraps. I put it in a buttery lemony dressing for prawn salad the past few days. It has a nice pine-scented flavour. I'd use it again. If I had a big kitchen garden, I would grow it.