Saturday, 27 November 2010

When life gives you lemons...

... preserve them. Lemons, salt, peppercorns, bayleaves, star anise, water in some preserving jars.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A Boozy Stew

It started off with thoughts of red wine and red wine alone. This was to be my main ingredient.

A kind of Mediterranean stew

red wine
brown lentils
cannelini beans
1.5 cans of tomatoes
black olives (pitted) 
sundried tomatoes
onion and garlic cooked in olive oil
a dab of mustard
fresh roughly chopped parsley (added at the last minute)

No salt was added to this dish, as the sundried tomatoes and olives had plenty. The fresh parsley is important as it cuts through the richness and the salt.

No dumplings, potatoes or bread for this stew, just grilled polenta squares, to which I had added smoked paprika, bouillon powder and chopped sundried tomato pieces while it was in the porridge stage.

I used the stove-top to cook this, not realising that I could have made it as a casserole.

I have realised the food I cook is "feminine". Its function is not to bedazzle upon first glance, but to satisfy. It also tends to warm, comfort, nourish and sustain. I do sometimes wish the food I made were more "masculine", e.g. make fancy stacks of things with skid marks of sauce, or beautiful tiny things jewelled with even tinier feathery dewy things and painstaking detail, but the appearance of food is not my passion. The first bite may be with the eye, but where I can, I try to give the nose a head start.

One other thing before I go, it was Eid-ul-Adha recently. It reminded me of a Sudanese colleague an at old workplace of mine telling me that for Eid where she was from, a sheep or lamb is killed and cooked out in the street. The resulting food is given out to any passers by who aren't fortunate enough to have their own, and I thought how nice it was that people share their food without making such a big fuss about doing it. It has more Christmas spirit than Christmas in this country seems to have where we are all holed up, only interacting with a small group of people as we stuff our faces with mince pies and Quality Street.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

This Space Has Been Left Unintentionally Blank

Well, it's been a while since my last update.
A few weeks ago, before it got cold, I made my very first bagels. Here they are all piled together like a bunch of multi-racial supermodels all posing nude for some top designer:

They are crusted with dried onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and salt crystals.
A pleasure to make, if a labour-intensive one. Talking of bread, Dan got me a rye sourdough culture after mine failed so badly and became very sour and too smelly. I hope to use it soon.

Two weeks ago, I was most pleased to find recently that the rosehip syrup I made  3 years ago fermented into something drinkable. And alcoholic!

I have been overdoing it a bit lately, and subsequently fell foul to a spot of depression. It's been very calming to slowly chop and cook vegetables to make some soup. It's a very symbolic slowing-down gesture. And a warm and tasty one too.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


The potato gratin / dauphinoise is aeons better if you make it with double cream and a little sprinkling of paprika. It's so good that it doesn't even need cheese.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Top of the Pops

I do love popcorn and all its lovely flavourings and toppings, from sickly sweet toffee popcorn with its indestructible crust, to salty buttery microwave popcorn which has never been near a cow.

Yesterday Dan flavoured popcorn with palm sugar, salt, Chohula chilli sauce and sweet mixed spice. He had to put a bit more oil over the popped corn so that the flavourings would stick.

My God, it was good. It was not unlike Spicy Tomato flavouring you get on crisps, especially those cheap little bags of maize snacks. 

It is now my favourite flavour. 

Prior to this, I also enjoyed: 

- Salt, turmeric powder and chilli powder
- Most indulgent melted butter and grated Parmesan
- dipping a piece of popped corn into a cup of hot tea. It made a quiet squeaky sigh as the fluid pushed the air out. Not so good for eating, but a very satisfying sound. 

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Bake for good

The oven has returned! Welcome home, my friend.

Today I attempted Potato Dauphinoise today, one of them vegan. And if you're not going to use cheese, you better add a helluva lot more flavours to compensate. I didn't use vegan cream, having had a bad experience with the sweetly chemical Alpro stuff not too long ago (I've since been told oat cream has a lot more of a neutral taste*), I made a white sauce using soya milk instead. Into it I put:
- salt and pepper
- many cloves of roasted garlic, smashed
- a bay leaf
- light tahini
- grain mustard
- paprika
- dried onion flakes,

topped it with sesame seeds and more onion flakes and hoped for the best. I haven't tried it yet, but the whole thing shrunk nicely during cooking. The onions on top burned a bit, sadly.

The dairy one was a roaring success and was eaten swiftly with a salad of grated kohl rabi dressed in lemon juice, and watercress in a light film of olive oil and lemon.

*this in itself can also be a problem

The dairy one:

and the vegan one:

take your pick, I won't be offended.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Bloody Heaven

Why make a spicy tomato juice cocktail using vodka when you could make one with tequila (Bloody Maria) instead? Or better still, gin! (A Bloody Margaret) That one was our favourite. I suppose a vodka Bloody Mary would be good if you could get good vodka. Actually, vodka infused with black peppercorns works very well.

I love the seasoning ingredients for these Bloody cocktails: pepper, Worcester sauce, wasabi, chilli sauce lemon juice, lime juice and plenty of salt of course. Celery salt if it's available. Then again, I love tomato juice and tomato juice drinks, whether they have booze in them or not.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Apricot, Fennel and Feta Salad

Guest Contribution from Nosh!

I haven't tried it yet, will give you my verdict if I do. Also, if you try it out, let me me know how it goes.

You will need:

Apricots (fresh or reconstituted dried ones) cut into chunks / slices
Fennel bulbs sliced, brushed with olive oil and grilled
Nice green salad leaves (washed)
Feta cheese, cubed / cut into chunks

Mix ingredients together and serve with Balsamic vinegar dressing.

If I make it, I might garnish it with fennel fronds.

My favourite thing at the moment is slightly stale crusty white bread and tomatoes all shallow fried in olive oil. Even better with sweet chilli sauce. This is what I had for breakfast on my recent holiday.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Birthday Feast

I had a birthday party, so this is an entry about what we had to eat.

I had lots of plain corn tortilla chips to serve with the following dips:

monkfish ceviche - a Nigella Lawson recipe, available on the internet. This was good. The dried oregano in it gave it a really nice taste. My friend Fintan liked it and he doesn't like any kind of seafood. That's what I call a result. WHEAT FREE

cannelini bean dip - this is my own invention and the nearest thing to hummus which was seen at the party that night. cannelini beans, lemon juice, oil, possibly some sugar, chilli, powdered cinnamon blended until smooth. It was nice but I still have a lot lefT. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

roasted tomato salsa - as with hummus, I sometimes get a bit bored of tomato salsa so decided to roast the tomatoes, onion and garlic before making a dip out of them. I liked this a lot and would make it again. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

roquemole - yes, another Nigella dip of mashed avocado, roquefort, sour cream and chopped pickled jalapenos. This tasted good, apart from the fact that you couldn't actually taste the avocado and then because of the lack of lemon, the avocado went brown very quickly therefore losing aesthetic appeal very rapidly. WHEAT FREE, GARLIC FREE

guacamole - thank you Nazmia for making this for me when I was rushed off my feet. You really can't go wrong with this. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

skordalia - I made way too much of this creamy Greek garlic dip made of potato and olive oil. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

Also, there was:

brown basmati and black beans - my own ad hoc invention just to provide a contrast to the very strong tasting food which was on the menu. With the rice and the beans was chopped fresh parsley and lemon. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

vietnamese dumplings- These had a filling of spicy soy mince and cabbage. Dan offered to make these from the book Another Meal is Possible by Isy Morgenmuffel. He made them for me once and they were very addictive. However, they were time consuming to assemble so I bought ready-made, ready rolled dumpling wrappers. He piled them altogether in a beautiful rose shape, but they all stuck together and were ruined. They could not even be saved by shallow frying. VEGAN

spring rolls - very labour intensive and a bit rubbery because too spring roll wrapper was wrapped on top of each other. Maybe make them bigger next time. The filling of fried spiced tofu sticks, fried oyster mushroom, pickled bamboo strips, carrot / red or yellow pepper / cucumber stick, fresh mint worked very well.These were served with dipping sauce. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

mango and fried halloumi - this was something of a centrepiece. I shallow fried halloumi with cumin seeds, adding lime juice to the pan as it cooked. Then Naz arranged it with thin slices of sweet mango e.g. alphonso variety, sprinkling with chopped chilli and fresh coriander. VEGETARIAN, WHEAT FREE

roasted peppers slices stuffed with herby cream cheese and capers on sticks - yummy and worth the fiddlyness. VEGETARIAN, WHEAT FREE

roasted aubergine rolled with artichoke dip on sticks yummy but not worth the fiddlyness. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

mojo verde and rojo with babas aggrudas- Dan and I made this a month or two back. Mojos verde and rojo are very garlicky vinegary dipping sauces -parsley and red pepper respectively- for very salty baby new boiled potatoes. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

salad leaves - I won't bother with so many next time. No-one ever touches healthy food. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE, A WASTE OF TIME AT A PARTY

potato salad - Alpa says potatoes can take a lot of salt, so thorough seasoning has been highly recommended. Dressed with vegan "mayonnaise", chopped capers, chopped gherkins, and chopped chives. VEGAN, WHEAT FREE

Thank you Mike, Jo, Victor and Helen for making cakes and cheesecake. And of course to super trooper Dan for realising the cherry chocolate gorgeousness which was my birthday cake.

I was left with excessive amounts of skordalia ad cannelini bean dip and there was too much to just eat. The skordalia is also too vinegary and garlicky to eat lots of, so here's what I did.

Soak some stale bread in water. Wring the excessive water out. Mix wet bread with skordalia, a bit of plain flour and a beaten egg / egg replacer. Shallow fry the patties until crisp on each side. Serve with leftover dips from party.

I'm not going to put in a picture because it looks a lot like the other things I have made and pictured, and I'm sure you get the idea. In the second batch I threw in some of the leftover cannelini bean dip and that also worked well.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Ignorance is not Bliss

...when it comes to cuisine.

These are the countries whose food I would like to know more about at this moment in time:

- Greece
- Mexico
- Wales
- Sri Lanka
- Nigeria

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Kitchen of a Stagnant Mind

Well, it's been a while since I wrote anything here.

About three weeks ago I made some cheese using some vegetable rennet I bought. I added chives and here it is. It not as firm as the firmest bits of cottage cheese but not as wet. It was good on crackers:

I'm not having much luck in the kitchen of late. I tried to make some coconut cream-based ice cream. I needed arrowroot, which I didn't have so used cornflour instead. It thickened the coconut cream but made my iced dessert a bit grainy in the mouth. Not good, especially since I spent age hand cranking it. YOU NEED ARROWROOT FOR THIS. DON'T TRY AND SUBSTITUTE IT. I'm going to defrost it and use it up in milkshakes and stir fries.

I bought a box of mangoes on Monday and thought I would try to rescue the ice cream by pulping one and streaking it through the ice cream. The fruit was a bit sour so I added too much sugar which totally robbed any mango-ey flavour from the pulp. I couldn't go in so instead used it to make a marinade for my tofu. Thank you Jo for the idea (someone - it could have been you - said that you used mango on tofu ages ago).

- mango pulp
- sugar (I had some palm sugar knocking about) OR if mangoes are out of season you can buy sweetened mango pulp in a can from South Asian grocery stores but it IS very sweet
- crushed garlic cloves
- soy sauce.
- grated ginger root (good with the mango)
- chilli powder
- chinese 5 spice mix

I think that was all. I left my tofu to bathe in this mixture for 2 days, hoping all the papain in the mango would tenderise the bean curd. I used it in a stir fry afterwards and the tofu pieces had a delicious delicate fruity flavour. But it was still tofu. I wonder what this marinade would be like on some kind of meat or whether the taste of the meat would simply over power it. Chicken would probably work best. But chicken is so boring! It's less boring than tofu, though.

In other news, Dan made a spinach, red pepper and white asparagus risotto here the other night. Ooh, I've just realised, all of the colours of the Italian flag! He used a can of tomatoes in it which I thought would be culinary suicide but it wasn't. It was lovely. I like tomatoes a lot. I've though of using them in stir-fries to bring out their flavour.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A guest contribution at last!

Thank you Nabila Suriya, extremely talented poet and cook-on-the-go for stepping up with her short and sweet recipe:

Lazy Housewife's Prawn Curry

Olive oil, pinch of salt, chilli powder, cumin powder, ground coriander. Add prawns (and frozen veg. if like) and leave for 20mins to cook. Done.

She says to serve it with boiled rice, but it's nicer with roti.

Monday, 19 April 2010

I kid you not.

Today, I went to Woo Sang oriental supermarket in Manchester, peeked in the freezer and saw CHEESE FLAVOURED ICE CREAM. It was made by Selecta which had the same logo as Wall's in the UK and is therefore part of Unilever's Heartbrand frozen desserts. It was made in the Philippines.

Thinking about it, I don't know why I'm so shocked. After all, I did encounter blue cheese ice cream in when I went to an ice cream parlour in Vancouver BC in 2006.

This is different, though. That parlour had all kinds of wacky flavours like porcini mushroom. I must have tried them and as I recall, they didn't taste too strongly of their names. The ice cream I saw today, however seemed garish. It looked like it was flavoured with cheese very orange, salty and bland, like American cheddar.

I wished I'd had my camera with me, but I did not. I'm glad I didn't have my camera, because I tried to find an image online of the product I saw today, and found out find that several companies make it, and someone loves them enough to dedicate web space to it. See it for yourself here.

I would try some of this quezo ice cream, because I am a bit sick in the head, but it only comes in 2 litre tubs. Does anyone want to go halves on it with me? Or maybe quarters. Eighths?

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Made summat!

Finally made something off my list in previous entry:

Mung bean pancakes. They are Korean in origin, just like the kimchi which goes into them.

Soaking, hours of soaking. In fact so much that they started to sprout a little. Laborious removing of as many of the skins as possible. Whizzing up with a little water using a blender. Adding drained, wrung and finely chopped kimchi, a finely chopped shallot, one clove of crushed garlic, finely chopped spring onion, salt and pepper. Shallow frying in a generous amount of oil. Patting dry on kitchen paper, scoffing down.

Aren't they cute? They didn't taste very strong (more seasoning next time? a dipping sauce? more kimchi in the mix? There are many options) but the unusual taste of mung bean was very welcome. The recipe I adapted it from also used chopped Spam in the mix but for some strange reason I gave it a miss. I'm sure it will dawn on me.

Oh yeah, I'm back in the saddle.

I can't quite work out how to use the Crop tool in GIMP, which is why you see a lot of plate in the picture. I'm sure I'll work it out.

Friday, 16 April 2010

No innovation

Nothing much to report, what a bad little blogger I am.

Our oven has been out of action for about 3 months, and somehow I think this is licence to not experiment with and make good food. This is of course nonsense.

Here are some things I would like to make in the near future which require no use of an oven:

- Oreo and malted chocolate ice cream
- Mung bean pancakes
- Kimchi
- Sourdough bread - True, I don't have an oven, I have nearby neighbours with ovens and a bread maker with a bake only function.

Yes, Kimchi, a very recent discovery (thanks Dan for introducing it to me) which deservedly gets my attention.

It's Korean pickled mostly cabbage but may have other vegetables like carrot or radish. Not just any cabbage, it uses the Napa variety, which I imagine is available in oriental grocery stores. Spicy, sour, fermented and oddly sometimes tasting like curried prawns, it gets a bit addictive. I'd like to use it in a recipe, rather than just eating it as a side accompaniment.

I have had one and only one sandwich for lunch this week: on buttered light brown bread, cheddar, home made tamarind sauce (thank you Humey) and plenty of iceberg lettuce. It's really rather good.

Another discovery made just last night is how good chips (from the chip shop) are with baked beans. Wow, wow and wow. It doesn't take a lot to please me.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


I have made this mistake before but it didn't stop me from making it again.

I tried to make deep-fried seaweed and tofu balls but I added dried reconstituted mushroom to them and they hit the hot oil and spat everywhere. Also the balls started to disintegrate and lose their very ball-yness.

I ended up having to bake them instead, which was pleasant enough but without the excitement of deep fried tofu and crunchy crispy sesame seed.

That'll teach me.

Did I not get the oil hot enough? It did spit onto my hand but it didn't burn me.
Should I use the mushroom just dried next time? Part of me doesn't want to risk finding out without the safety of a deep fat fryer.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Get Stuffed

I curently do not have use of an oven. This can lead to inventiveness in cooking methods or sloppiness, where you just end up making slop.

I had some vague idea of Persian / Middle Eastern / North African food in my head when I did this.

I stuffed some green peppers and hollowed out aubergine with a mixture of
the aubergine flesh, crumbled firm tofu, garlic, a smidge of miso paste, harissa paste, mint, orange oil, vinegar, roughly chopped carrot, pine nuts, almonds, and the scooped out aubergine and minced ginger. I cooked them in a heavy bottomed pan which had been heated up with a bit of oil. Lid on pan. A Dutch oven. I
had to finish them off in the grill so that the stuffing would brown a little. I couldn't turn them over in the pan because the filling would have just fallen out.

I ate it with basmati rice which had lots of stuff in: fried some onions in oil with cardomom pods and cinnamon stick pieces in it. I added grated orange zest, almond slivers, garlic, saffron, vegetable stock, chopped dried apricots and raisins. Added ground cinnamon and ground cumin to the mix. Maybe if I had some pomegranate seeds, it might have become some kind of jewelled rice.

I was particularly pleased with the rice, because many flavours were presen without drowning each other out.

I like saffron. It tastes really weird, don't you think? It's almost like the antiseptic TCP but manages to claw its way back into your heart before you spit your food out.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Grub for pre-gig nerves and Party Food

On Friday I took part in an open mic. I was generously offered some food by Aliki, a friend of a friend, who I hadn't met prior to that day. It was the most delicious simple food I had eaten in a long time. t was basically boiled haricot beans (so nice! and not at all like baked beans!), with a fresh pesto made of lots of of olive oil, fresh parsley and raw garlic to go on top. As well as some lemon juice and some boiled greens. Lovely. The sauce is a Spanish thing. I am going to make some. Her five year old son had spaghetti, tomato sauce and sausages. He sure was missing out.

I've been thinking about party food and party drinks for a summer occasion and I am getting very excited indeed.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Things to do in Denver when you're Stale Bread.

My mum used to make this curried rotli (rotli / chappatis) where she would tear up stale rotli, temper some cumin seeds in oil, then add the pieces to the pan with spices and yogurt and cook it all up. It was lovely and a good way of using up food which had lost the appeal of freshness.

I tried a variation on this recently with some stale bread. It doesn't work as well with the crusts on, as they are less absorbent, but lack of waste was my priority.
I wish I had recorded this on the day. I can hardly remember what I did.

I fried a bit of chopped garlic in a little bit of oil. Then I added cubes of stale bread and chopped mushrooms, letting them cook until the oil had gone.

Now comes the amnesiac bit. I think I added water, but depending on what kind of flavour you want, you could add milk. I think I did choose water over milk because I added some creamed coconut, tamarind paste and chilli. As well as salt and pepper, I might have added other vegetables. I'm sure you could add stock for the liquid. It's variation on pasta, grain or even a sandwich, so use your imagination.

I would cook this down until all or most of the liquid had been absorbed. It should look quite amorphous, and be almost in one lump, like a thick porridge.

You expect me to be so organised as to have pictures?!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Filled and filling.

The filled boiled wheat paste food item is a pan-cultural phenomenon; the Chinese have their wontons, the Italians have their tortellini and ravioli and Eastern Europeans have vareniki, which I attempted to make on Sunday for a Russian-themed party:

Those which you see are not the ones I made. They are supposed to look like that. The skill with these and wontons is getting the pastry rolled out thin enough without it tearing. Also I was very impatient and didn't let the filling cool, which melted holes in the pastry and caused some to burst whilst cooking. I had to improve their taste and appearance by shallow frying them once they had been cooked.It was a not uncommon and good call.

I filled mine with chopped cooked sweetened apple. I did a few savoury ones filled with mushroom. The beauty with these is you can fill them with almost anything (edible).

I also made a very good bubble and squeak a few weeks ago. Here it is:

As I recall, it had onion, red cabbage, beetroot, white cabbage and an orange-fleshed sweet potato which I microwaved (tut tut) for speed. There were also some vegetarian sausages which were mainly potato, cheese and small pieces of vegetable. Fried it all in butter. Shame you can't see the lovely crusty burnt bits.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ricer Dream and fake amphibians in baked batter

There's a fine line between love and crime, as Neil Tennant sang in "In the Night". There's also a fine line between genius and stupidity. The fine line of the former can make you tread the fine line of the latter as I found out yesterday.

I was watching Saturday morning cooking TV on BBC1 and saw someone making gnocchi, so I decided to make some. (genius) Even though I had more important things I should have been doing (stupidity). I steamed potatoes but they were huge baking ones, so I got impatient and hauled them out. They were a bit undercooked in the middle which meant there were bits of potato which I could not mash (stupidity), so I thought I would find them, isolate them and pulverise them (genius). Using a garlic crusher (genius). But it turns out there were a lot more hard-to-mash bits than I realised so it took ages and I was covered in potato starch (stupidity).

I think I did this because I am hankering after a potato ricer. I wonder which came first and whether one led to the invention of the other? If anyone reading this thinks I am hinting you buy me one, I assure you, I don't want one. At least not yet. I don't have enough storage space.)

Most upsetting of all, while I was doing this, I had Halo by Beyonce playing on repeat, and it did not occur to me to press stop as I was so intent on getting the task done, so now it is the soundtrack to my potato-based frustration rather than the song I like to pretend I'm a contemporary kitchen dancer to.

I boiled a few of these dumplings up for my lunch. There was far too little flour, so they were basically potato lumps. I turned all the remainders out into a bowl, worked in more flour and reshaped. So my sermon for today is: follow a recipe when making gnocchi (the woman on the telly didn't seem to) and make sure you properly cook your spuds first.

I shouldn't have left them out overnight uncovered because this morning they looked all grey. They tasted fine, though, but were aesthetically unfit to serve to others. So I cooked 'em up and scoffed 'em for breakfast with butter.

In the style of a spin doctor, I have a picture of a delightful toad in the hole I made a few Sundays ago to distract you with:

(Made using Linda McCartney veggie sausages with a few baby button mushrooms thrown in. I put so much grease in the pan to ensure some of the batter went crispy that I had to pour a good deal out of the tray before serving.)

and the cross section of the base of a red cabbage which I fell in love with a little on the day I made the above: