Wednesday, 14 September 2011

In the 'zone.

Whoever said Necessity is the Mother of Invention clearly didn't consider Boredom.

Last week I invented the couscous omelette. Cooked couscous in an omelette. One third cup couscous, flavoured and cooked. Two eggs, beaten and seasoned. Couscous mixed into egg and fried in a pan, finished under the grill. Now all I need is a catchy name. Admittedly, it did meet some specifications (i.e. needs) of mine. Sometimes I really hate how couscous is so tiny and bitty and how it flies everywhere whenever you're trying to serve or eat it. The egg solves this problem whilst retaining the texture you get from the processed wheat grain. Protein and carbs in one tidy meal. Sweet.

Inspired by an episode of Seinfeld called The Calzone, Dan and I made calzones last night. I fussily complained about there being too much dried herbs in the tomato sauce, but actually it all worked out just fine. The sauce had onion and wilted leaf spinach in. What else went in: black olives, cubes of fried eggplant, very firm tofu strips, chorizo-style wheat protein 'sausage' slices and vegan melting cheese substitute (which was rendered invisible in the cooking process). Jo brought basil leaves to garnish them. The calzone casing - white bread dough- was light, fluffy and just perfect. Calzones are so good! And now I want to go to New York City.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Middle Eastern Bible

A bit of a strange name for this small recipe book by Fiona Hammond, and I need to take it back to the library now, but here are the things I will explore  further:
- use of samneh (seems similar to ghee)
- dukkah ( a dry "dip" for bread used with olive oil made of seeds, nuts and herbs)
 - a dip made of soaked fenugreek seeds, tomato, garlic, coriander, lemon juice, chilli and onions
- and the spice mix baharat which is made from peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and sweet paprika. mmm...

Fiona Hammond, eh? I wonder if it's my high school alumna.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Important Ingredients

The best and most important ingredients for anything are, in no particular order: love, passion and salt. This even applies for non-edible and non-potable items. Except, perhaps, the salt. As a child who was never given convenience food at home, I was fed equally abundant portions of love and salt, so when food lacks these two things, its bland pitifulness screams out to me like a banshee.

Note: This post was sponsored by Schneide Weisse Tap 6.

Get me to the 'greek

My first fenugreek in what feels like donkey's years:

(on the side, white rice and something resembling raitu/tsatsiki/cacik because I miss being in Turkey.)

Chop it up fine and add it to dry potato curry, to pea and/or aubergine curry, to curried fish, to an omelette. Chop it up and cook lightly with chopped tomatoes and cumin and cook lightly for a lovely warm chutney you can add to a grilled cheese sandwich. It's great in moothia too. I love fenugreek. It's the smell of curry which isn't garlic that comes out in your sweat. Mraoowww.

I bought the fenugreek from a shop, about 6 inches in length is the bunch. It's not as good as the stuff my dad grows because he harvests it when it's dead tender, only an inch and a half long before the third leaf grows. You can eat that stuff raw and when I was a child, we did, all of the time.

NOTE: This post was sponsored by Schneide Weisse Tap 6

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Turkish ice cream is kind of chewy. Yeah, you read correctly. As if it has some kind of gum. Not so much that you could blow bubbles with it, but still. I couldn't get used to it.

Also! Max the Lion is alive and well and living in Turkey. Max the Lion was an ice cream lolly you could get here in the UK, possible late 1980's to 1990's. There he is known as Aslan Max. Yeah! I know!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

şarap a ya face.

Dan and I spent this last week in Turkey. We stayed near Ovacık and Hisarönü, very anglicised resorts on the Western Mediterranean, where a full English breakfast, egg and chips, liver and onions and Sunday roasts were the most advertised dishes on offer in restaurants. Curiously, an English breakfast was often cheaper than a Turkish one.

Rather than strive to experience The Real Turkey (for does it even exist? And if it did, would we even enjoy it?) through food, we just tried to eat well. Luckily this was in our control as we stayed in a self-catering apartment and I had brought with me a bulb of garlic, a lime, salt, pepper, chilli powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and a self-blended mix of herbs. Next time I will take turmeric and some soy sauce.  On our first day there, we bought a Turkish breakfast from the small restaurant in our apartment complex: bread, butter, tomatoes, cheeses, jam, honey, some very salty black olives and some oily green olives which seemed to have no salt added to them at all. They tasted weird, metallic perhaps. I wondered how common it was to have unsalted olives.

A loaf of Turkish bread, regardless of where you bought it was 0,5 Turkish Lira (about 20p), as if by some government decree. Crusty outside, fluffy, white and soft inside, it was perfect for breakfast or lunch. We bought a bottle of olive oil for our bread as well as for cooking; lots of tomatoes because they were cheap and had nice dense flesh; yogurt; cheese and honey, cartons of cherry nectar and apricot nectar (sugary juice drinks you can pretend are pure juice if you suspend your disbelief). The pack of olives we bought remained mostly untouched because they were so salty and we had our fill of saline from swimming in the sea.

We didn't dine out much, but one time we did had what they called "balloon bread" to go with our meal, a huge puffed up flatbread. It was served with garlic butter which also had chopped dill in it. I was very fond of the pide (I think it means "pipe"), the Turkish pizza, which looks like a slipper or a lady part with stuff in it. My topping of choice was minced lamb which also had green capsicum, onion, tomato and parsley with it. Meals that weren't pide came with copious amounts of bread. My favourite meal out was at Paşa Kebab in Fethiye which was the nearest big town to us. Lots of oil. Lovely. I drank lots of ayran, the savoury yogurt drink, which is like a thin salty lassi, but with a froth on top. The most refreshing ayran I have ever had was made with fizzy water, not still. Sadly, I can't remember where I had it and when. It could have been Dalston in London, it could have been Berlin.

From left to right: imam bayildi, a salad of chopped walnuts, cucumber, onion and tomato in vinegar, oil and pomegranate molasses; barbunya (beans) and carrot in a tomato sauce; and vegetables cooked in garlic and tomato. 

In our apartment we made cacık, thick yogurt with garlic, mint and salt like the Greek tsatsiki, I suppose. I added cumin. We fried halloumi slices, adding chilli and mint to take on our beach picnic. Knowing neither wine nor Turkish, we a bought a horrible cheap white which Dan had to turn into cocktail by adding lemon slices and apricot nectar to make palatable. On the last day, I made lemonade to use up the lemons and honey then shoved a bunch of mint into the water bottle. And a teeny pinch of salt. I shook it all thoroughly to dissolve the honey and bruise the mint leaves, then shoved it in the freezer box until it was time to go out. Very refreshing. 

We went to Fethiye for the weekly market which happens on Tuesdays. There were many stalls selling just melons. Mainly watermelons. Rows and rows of them. We bought fresh figs, cherries, more tomatoes and nuts. The peanuts coated in honey and sesame seeds were perfect for snacking on. There didn't seem to be as huge a variety of vegetables as I thought there might be, even in the market of a big town, rather than a touristy resort. But maybe I expect too much, and who knows? Some stuff may just be seasonal. And at least it was all cheap and none of it seemed to be imported.There were many aubergines in the market; "regular" ones, white ones, purple mottled with white ones, small ones and long snake-like ones. The vegetarian dishes on offer relied too heavily on tomato, aubergine and capsicum - a chronic arthritis sufferer's nightmare, I should imagine. One stall had some dried branches and what looked like a solitary bright orange bitter melon (karela).

The most common flavours used seemed to be tomato, onion, parsley and mint but not a lot else.  However, I did pick up a strange condiment said to be made from fermented purple carrots which was vinegary and had chilli added to it. It dyed one's food a bit pink. I missed the taste of spices and herbs this week. Then again, maybe I'd get more choice in a throbbing heaving metropolis like Istanbul. If not, I'd say it was time to move on to experience another country's flavours.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Late afternoon snack

Dan fed me some of his lunch leftovers early this evening. Nice of him really, because I had so brusquely refused his offer of lunch:

- Ciabatta from Barbakan with olive oil
- Harissa olives - gorgeous!
- Broad bean and dill hummus from a Nigel Slater recipe
- Fresh tomato slices sprinkled with salt and sumac
- Sweet potato wedges

Again, no pictures, but essential mention because it was yum.

If the way to someone's heart isn't through their stomach, they're not worth knowing. 



This is a dry stew, traditionally cooked in an earthenware pot turned upside down over a fire lit in a hole dug into the ground. The idea is the vegetables cook in their own steam produced by their own water content. I did mine on the stove and it would therefore have less of a smoky taste than I imagine the real stuff would. People sell it on roadsides in India. I want to go there and try some.

I was inspired to make this because I found some lovely-looking peas at the local vegetable shop.

May add quantities if I can be bothered.


Sweet Potato
Fresh peas, in their pods OR mange tout and frozen peas
Peanuts, bashed into coarse pieces (food processor is good for this)
Sesame seeds
Ajwain seeds (get them from South Asian grocery stores, they look a bit like celery seed)
Asafoetida (hing)
Mustard seeds
Vegetable / sunflower oil
Fresh garlic and ginger, minced
Turmeric powder
Chilli (red powder or green fresh and minced)

Chop aubergine, potato and sweet potato into roughly even sized pieces. Shell some of the peas, remove some of the more fibrous parts of the more tender pea pods Heat sesame, ajwain, mustard seeds in oil in a large pan with a lid. When seeds start to pop, add asafoetida. Then add the peanuts, all of the vegetables, spices and seasoning. Put on moderate heat with lid on pan and make sure none of it sticks to the bottom of the pan.  You may need to add more oil so nothing sticks, but don't add water. Cook for about 30 minutes until potatoes and aubergines are tender and cooked.

Serve with a flat bread like roti or naan or paratha or with rice and dal or khuri (yogurty soup which I will write about soon).

The idea with the pea pods is that you can chew all the tenderness out of them until you are left with the fibrous stuff which you leave on your plate. It's a lot of fun to eat.

Once again, I ate it all, so a picture next time. It's not much to look at anyway. But it tastes great. I'm wary that records of things online won't last, so I'm going to write recipe down this in my diary so I don't have to ring my mum again to ask her. I knew most of it anyway. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Ful of Beans

I don't have an article yet, just a title I really like. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Africa Cavern, Newton Street, Manchester, Friday 20th May 2011

The word "Cavern" in the title was a lot smaller than "Africa" so for quite a while I thought it was called just "Africa" and made lots of jokes about going to Africa (for dinner).

James and I had the curried goat and jollof rice; Jo had vegetables in sauce with plantain. Jo and I had half -and-half of each other's accompaniments.

I loved the taste of the curry. Some of the pieces of meat were lovely and tender, but some were bit big and tough, one so much so, that I couldn't finish it. Sadly, the bone I got had no marrow to suck out either. But the sauce was delicious;  tomatoey, rich and spicy. Our chef and host gave me some extra chilli sauce on the side in case I wanted it hotter. I didn't need it, but tried it anyway and somewhat regretted it as it set my mouth on fire. I had to wash away the heat with lashings of this:

Ting. Jamaican grapefruit soda. A little too sweet for me, but a nice change to other sodas.

I get the feeling that the African and Caribbean food with the most flavour has meat or fish in it, which is a shame, because it's often too rich and heavy for me. I'd like something with more of a mix of flesh and veg. I enjoyed the food but can't compare it to anywhere else doing similar food in Manchester, so: open verdict.

What I did like about the place:  the very genial host / chef from the Ivory Coast; the man who was playing a drum that everyone dismissed in a friendly but offhand way as if to say, "Oh, he's always in here" ;  the telly showing Ghanaian pop videos, and take-out food costing more than eat-in, presumably for the cost of the packaging.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Reminder - Imbolc

I saw a recipe in The Restaurant Magazine for a cocktail created for the Imbolc festival in Marsden, which takes place in the early part of the year. Here it is, so that I can remember it for next year when I hope to go:

Shake the following ingredients with ice:

Triple Sec
Lemon Juice

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Last Meal

What would you choose as your last meal? Please add your comments, I would love to hear them.
I think I would have celery baked in cream with cheese on top. I made some last week. It was the perfect balance of salt and sweet, rich and clean. And unlike in this picture, I wouldn't leave a single scrap.

Here are the answers I have got so far:

"A buffet with Thai food, sushi rolls with avocado, mini-burritos and mezze."
"A plate of something sour and dry, if I was to be executed."
"Spam fritter and chips from the chip shop."

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Food: The Musical

My friend Jackie is discovering vegetables, I think, for the first time in her life. She has been making soup with them and has recommended tracks to listen to whilst making them. Why don't more recipes come with recommended listening?

  • Carrot and Coriander Soup (suggested backing track: My Sharona, The Knack)
  • Roasted Red Pepper and Courgette Chunky Soup (suggested backing track: Rock Lobster, B52s)
  • Garlicky Vegetable soup (suggested backing track: America from West Side Story)
  • Sweet Beetroot Soup (suggested backing track: 99 Red Balloons, Nina Hagen)

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Eat the Rich

That is the slogan Dan's placard bore for the anti-cuts march in London yesterday.

Whenever I go on a demonstration or march, the essential question is: what am I going to eat? For there is lots of travelling, standing around waiting, marching (or shuffling), getting cold and sometimes wet. Then there are feelings of uncertainty, frustration and exhilaration. You need good food to soften the physical and emotional blow of it all.

In the past I have made pasties, sausage rolls, stuffed peppers. Relatively dry and portable. I made absolutely nothing for yesterday, but it was all so wonderful that I feel compelled to describe it here.

Dan made pasties filled with chunks swede, tempeh, and peppers, which I ate for breakfast. The pastry had a very good texture.

Our coach stopped at a service station halfway between Manchester and London. Col and Sundeep produced a huge wad of kitchen paper, roll of breads somewhere between paratha and roti (Col called them "parothi") and Tupperware full of aloo methi (potato and fenugreek) and the most charming two-tiered tiffin; one tin had pickles and the other had aubergine with toowar dal  and tamarind. The tamarind tasted just  like these sweet lemon pickles my grandmother used to make.

Humaira had made an array of burritos and cakes. I love how wheat tortillas seems dry, dull and hopeless, then they absorb some of the moisture of their filling and become soft and palatable. Like the best burritos, every bite was delicious and different. I filled my face with burrito as I marched. It was  crammed with refried beans, avocado, rice, tofu bakes in chopped onion and adobo sauce (which seems to be made of smoked chipotle chilli and tomatoes). I may be wrong but I also detected cucumber and coriander.

Then we had afternoon tea. Well, beer. And these gorgeous cakes which had almond, dried fig soaked in fig liqueur and chocolate chunks:

And these: it's a badly cropped photograph, I know, but the rest of the picture does not do this raspberry cheesecake any justice. Individual portions baked so beautifully in their own cake cases. Oh, the taste of the vanilla!

This was accompanied by a lovely garlicky guacamole which Mike had made and some tortilla chips. And more beer.

I didn't go on the march thinking that the government would make a U-turn on their decision to butcher public services because of our actions. I went to publicly show my dissent and to join with others who felt similar to me, so it is fitting to share food with these people. Food that tastes a million times better than something from a chilled warehouse, shop-bought and over-packaged. Food where you know what's gone in. Food made by people you love and trust, and not by some massive profit-driven corporation. 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

To be cooked for

I say without a scrap of hesitation that one of the nicest things in the world is to have someone cook for you. The quality of the meal is irrelevant, but a tasty one is a bonus. The people who cook for me regularly I can count on one hand. I hardly help myself, though. I can't remember the last time I fed someone who wasn't one of the people in that list. So I take some responsibility. You have to give some love to get it back; but love is energy and I have been devoting my energies to things I want to succeed at, but in some ways enjoy much less. Cooking yields instant results and that holds massive appeal for a very impatient person like me.

Being cooked for yields instant delights for all five senses, if you are there while the meal is being cooked, as was the case last night. John is notorious for his weekend post-pub cook-ups, and I was invited to dine with John and Lee rather spontaneously, at this late sodium-lit hour. John didn't want my help, so I sat and read, getting hungrier and hungrier. I could smell cola, strangely enough, I could smell turmeric, and after a while it was done.

A delicious lentil, fish, and green pepper curry with brown rice. Tomato for tang, ground almonds for mildness. John recommends stirring in ground almonds and yoghurt if you want a creamy texture and don't have cream or coconut. The curry had cloves, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon - that was the cola smell- and I landed all three bay leaves. One of my final mouthfuls had me chewing on a bit of fresh chilli. I loved it. I never buy fresh chillies any more, sadly, because I always let them get past their best. Whatever opiate-like substances chilli produces in your body coursed through me as I cycled home at 2am, in control, but high as a kite.

Thank you John Dennison.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Put your pastry face close to mine, love

I had two pasties this week. One was from the canteen at work and it was brilliant. It just had mushroom in it. That's all. Genius.

I just made some pasties filled with onion, potato, Quorn mince, reconstituted chanterelles, sauerkraut. Also added, garlic, rosemary, cinnamon powder, clove powder, yeast  extract, mustard, dash of soy sauce, water and cornflour for the "gravy" and of course my beloved salt.

It gave me a sudden craving for liver.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Onions and other friends of mine.

Kind of pissaladiere. Caramelised onion on puff pastry. Veganised. Had no olives sadly, slung some tomato slices on top instead.

Served with the thing I seem to post the most pictures of on this thing: potato gratin. The only seasoning I used was salt, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Dee-licious:

Also served with the crunch of red cabbage, carrot, apple and radish. I have ignored radishes for too long, because they were too sharp, but you can reduce the sting by slicing them thin, and adding some vinegar.

And continuing with the caramelised onion tip, on Friday, Dan put onions on brown lentils and rice.

We had it with a salad of shredded spinach, and lightly fried butter beans, dressed with lemon and olive oil....

The leftover onions and some chopped preserved lemon....

And finally, this. Aubergine scorched on the hob, skin removed, pulp chopped up and thrown into  tahini, along with some cherry tomatoes and pomegranate seeds. I cannot stress how much nicer organic pomegranate is than cheaper ones. The colour and flavour is so much more intense. Possibly pomegranate molasses went into this as well. I would have to check with the cook.

And altogether. Yummy.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Winter Fodder

The snow has gone, for now. I didn't do much good cooking when my world was a crunchy sugar-coated doughnut, the only thing I did make was some sage and onion stuffing for Mike and Dan's Christmas dinner. I added bits of chopped apple to it, which worked rather well.

There were plans to mull some beer at said dinner, which never materialised. It's still not too warm to mull drinks, I hope to quaff some of this wassail (yes, mulled booze) before the cold spell is out.

Christmas was spent in the West Midlands with my parents. My mother made this while I was there. 

Cheesy, oniony mashed potato in a pie crust. Very comforting indeed. The only thing we were puzzled about was what kind of sauce to serve it with. Would gravy be acceptable here? I'm not too sure. 

Dan gave me this for Christmas:

Niki Segnit's Flavour Thesaurus. With this to consult, I no longer have any excuses for making bad-tasting food.

The taste of citrus salt (sea salt baked with grated orange, lemon and lime rind) to me tastes of the sea. The preserved lemons are ready and are perfect to nibble on alone. But I should really use them in a recipe.

There are still rinds of cheese in the fridge, which will be perfect for soup, but most of the rest has been scoffed down with crackers and fruit.