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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Foodie Memories

Not much cooking going on in Neglected Cookbooks kitchen this week I’m afraid, I’ve gotten lazy in the run up to The Boyfriend returning home. I have far too much left over food in the fridge / freezer so I’m ploughing through that before I start to fill it up once he’s flown away to distant lands again. So, like a Friends compilation episode where they look back at funny/poignant clips from the year (you know the ones, you always feel a little disappointed when its these episodes and not Ross’s fake tan disaster or Rachel and Ross hiring a ‘manny’), here’s me reflecting on my favourite foodie moments. Sorry.

The One Where I Eat So Much I Am Nearly Sick: This pretty much happens whenever I visit my Aunty down in TOWIE land. She always cooks way too much for guests, but fortunately she is a great cook so it’s easy to help polish the lot off. When younger my brother actually was sick after a BBQ at hers, all down to gluttony, my favourite of all the sins. A weekend at hers will then result in avoiding the scales and repenting at the gym for weeks, but you know what? Its definitely worth it. Her homemade curry is amazing, I keep meaning to steal the recipe from her but no luck so far. Her favourite saying in the kitchen? ‘Its soooo easy”, and she’s right. Keep it simple and keep it tasty. And always serve with a chilled glass of wine.

The One Where We Ate Ice Cream On The Seine: Life doesn’t really get much better than eating pistachio ice cream with The Boyfriend on a sunny day, while floating on the Seine’s boat taxi between the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. It was definitely the best long weekend I’ve had, and the pistachio ice cream was divine. Not a lot of food stood out on that trip, we were a lot younger and just drifted around the city, popping into random places for food, but the pistachio ice cream stands out. The only other memorable meal from then was finding an Indian restaurant in the middle of a residential area where no tourist had clearly ever been before. They hunted around for the English menu for a good while, dusted it off and while the food was great (and very different from English curries) that uncomfortable feeling of being the only English people in a room full of snobby Parisians glaring at us was the pervading memory of that meal. Good times.

The One Where We Discovered Cheesecake Heaven: Have I mentioned my obsessive, compulsive love for The Cheesecake Factory here before? I’m fairly certain it might have come up at some point or another. When me and The Boyfriend first discovered the sheer amazingness of their Banana Cream Cheesecake, we’d been at Universal Studios in Florida and found a cafe there that served their cheesecakes. Needing a snack to keep us going until dinner (we’d done a lot of walking, alright?), we made the stupid mistake of sharing a slice. How we didn’t break up right then and there while passionately arguing over who should have the last bite, I’ll never know. Since then, we’ve had a love affair with the place and any visit to the States HAS to include a trip to the nearest Cheesecake Factory. Its another long distance relationship I’m happy to be in. I’ve never had a better cheesecake than the Banana Cream one, ever. It really is a thing of beauty. If I know anyone going to America, the first thing I say is “you have to go to the Cheesecake Factory”, and if you don’t then you have made a grave error of judgement. Moral of the story: Never share cheesecake.

The One Where Its Sunny And The BBQ Must Come Out: When still living at home with my dad and stepmum, it became very clear to me over the summer that the slightest hint of sunny weather would mean that the BBQ gets rolled out and its burgers ago-go. I’m not complaining, I love BBQ’s and sitting outside with a good book and a glass of wine while someone else does all the cooking is fine by me (when it comes to BBQ’s, I’m more of a spectator than a cook). Even the cat would become less antisocial and mingle with the inferior humans, hovering behind the BBQ for some dropped pork chop and begging at the table. Happy faces all round!

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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Food, Lunch, Puddings

 

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Hangover Breakfast

This week I seem to have turned into an all singing, all dancing version of myself. I spring out of bed in the morning, twirl the cat around and hum some delightful made up songs (“I don’t like tea, so I will make coffee” being just one of many examples) while boiling the kettle and pouring some fruit juice. My cameo in Glee is surely inevitable now, Hollywood- call me! You thought Gene Kelly could sing in the rain, well you ain’t seen nothing yet. Have I lost what little sanity I had left? Realised my true calling as a musical star? These could all very well be true, despite the fact my voice is a little rough around the edges, but in actual fact it’s because The Boyfriend is finally coming home and I only have 4 more sleeps to go until we are reunited! Very good reason to act like a cast member of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest without actually being sectioned. So yes, naturally I am very excited and impatient for Thursday to roll around. Being apart for so long is obviously very hard and not ideal, but it’s worth it to feel this happy and excited to see him in person and to act like a child in the week before Christmas. When your boyfriend coming home from work makes you this giddy, you know it’s meant to be. I’ve been telling everyone approximately every 20 minutes that he’ll be home soon, which must be very irritating, especially when I’ve had a few drinks and tell everyone every 5 minutes instead. So I’d like to apologise to the friends who had to put up with me acting like a lovesick puppy all night.
Speaking of last night, I decided I’d make myself a nice, filling breakfast to help recover from my hangover. Any normal person would have some bacon in the fridge and some fresh bread on the side to calm the hangover, but not me. Believe me, at times while making breakfast I was thinking why oh why hadn’t I just made a bacon sarnie like a normal, non cookbook obsessed person would? Apparently though, I don’t like to make my life any easier, but in the interests of new tastes and mixing things up a bit I persevered. Breakfast was haddock kedgeree from my cook book of the moment, Jamie’s Great Britain. It starts with boiling some rice and eggs, which is effortless, and chopping some garlic and onion, whose fragrance is a comforting way to clear the head of alcohol fuzziness. To be fair to the recipe, nothing in it is hard or taxing, but you need several pots and pans and the whole thing takes an hour to put together, which is a considerable nuisance when your tummies rumbling and your eyes are drooping with the lack of sleep. But ever the professional, I got it finished and impressively, cleaned some of the kitchen while waiting for the fish to poach. My favourite part of making the kedgeree involved peeling the shells off the hard boiled eggs, something about removing the crisp shell from the wobbly but firm eggs is very satisfying in a stress relieving way. I’m not sure what a psychiatrist would make of that, so let’s not ponder on that for too long, shall we? Although it was a faff to make first thing this morning, eating it really did the trick and was restorative and filling. Only the English would come up with a breakfast whose ingredients include curry spices, boiled eggs and smoked fish, but bless us for inventing it as its warming and tastes great. It also looks very pretty, with the bright yellow of the turmeric stained rice and near fluorescent orange from the egg yolks. In typical fashion, I made way too much so it looks like I’ll be having this for breakfast for the rest of the week. Life’s hard sometimes!

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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Fish, Food

 

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Salad for Summer days

Right, enough pussy footing around it weather, just give me, and the whole of sun starved Britain, some summer already. In a futile attempt to feel more summery and kick start the pitiful British summer (massively overestimating my abilities to change the weather), I cooked a summery salad of salmon and new potatoes from Jamie’s Great Britain. It’s getting plenty of use at the moment, I could lie and say I’m feeling really patriotic because of the upcoming Olympics, but actually this book is full of some good looking recipes which I’m more than happy to dive right into! But sure, bring on the Olympics too, I guess.

This salad is perfect for me because it’s pretty much as far removed from a salad one can be while still technically being a salad. No soggy lettuce, no shredded veg and no raw tomatoes (I hate raw tomatoes), just salmon, potatoes and a herby yoghurt dressing. Plus I L.O.V.E salmon, so extra bonus points for Mr Oliver. Now, I’m going to go off on a bit of a foodie rant here, I’ll apologise in advance for it, but if I can’t get a foodie rant out on my own food blog then where the hell can I? Basically, people who say they don’t like fish get right on my nerves. I’m sorry, I know plenty of mates who say this, and I love you all, but come on! You’ve ruled out an entire food source, and I’m willing to bet lots of money that they are basing this dislike either on a childhood hatred that they’ve never bothered to overcome as a grown up, or have tried one type of fish that they didn’t like and have assumed all fish taste very similar. Ridiculous. It’s like disliking cucumbers (which really are disgusting) and therefore deciding you hate all vegetables. So maybe salmon wasn’t your bag, fine, how about haddock/seabass/trout/bream/tuna/sole/eel/mackerel etc… Plenty of fish in the sea, as they say. Move on from your childhood dislikes,man up and try something new. If you try it and don’t like it, fine, but at least give it a go before ruling it out completely. It’s healthy, plentiful, light, tasty and apart from some farmed fish, you couldn’t get more free range, they’ve got the whole ocean! OK, rant over, although don’t even get me started on people who eat fish fingers but not actual fish.

Let’s get back to the salmon salad shall we? It was light and tasty, which is all you can ever ask from a salad, and for the first time in my entire life I managed to not over cook the salmon. This is a breakthrough, I finally took it out of the oven in time despite believing it needed another 5 minutes, and lo and behold, it was perfect. I should probably start taking on board the advice bestowed upon me in these books by professional chefs, rather than ignoring them and then wondering why the salmon is dry and tasteless. The yoghurt dressing added a good punch of mint and dill tang to the dish and complemented the salmon very well. Only problem now is that an hour after eating it, I still feel pretty hungry. Must. Resist. Chocolate.

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PS: Best way to learn to love fish is to do this: get on a boat tour off the coast of Portugal on a sunny day, with a tour guide who, while you’re swimming in the sea a mile off the coast, will cook sardines caught that morning on a BBQ, ready for you to eat once you’re done swimming. If this doesn’t convince you that fish is amazing, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for you as it doesn’t get better than that. It certainly worked for me as a fussy 10 year old, and I still remember it 16 years on.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Fish, Food

 

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Empire Chicken, round two

After yesterdays little excursion to France, our feet are now firmly back on British soil, eating British food. All that French food, it’s very rich after all! I delved into the cookbook Jamie’s Great Britain, and chose to give Empire Chicken another go after the last disastrous time. For my very first blog post all those months ago (so young, so naive) I chose this recipe, but after marinating the chicken overnight it turned out our oven was broken and by the time it was fixed the poor chicken had been ungraciously chucked in the bin. I promised myself and my future readers that I would return to this tasty looking dish again, so not wanting to break a promise, here it is. Jamie Oliver came up with this recipe to combine the two favourites of Brits across the country: roast chicken and curry. Correct on both counts, at least for me anyway. The smell of roast chicken on a Sunday makes my mouth water and I become extremely impatient for Sunday lunch. Ditto with curry, I’m so impatient to eat it when at a restaurant that I devour it in record time. Usain Bolt would not be able to keep up. And god forbid you get in the way of me, popadoms and chutney. You marinate the chicken overnight in a mixture of yoghurt, spices and chillies (your fridge will smell amazing every time you grab the milk while this is in it), then cook in the oven alongside some crispy Bombay potatoes and an Indian gravy. While cooking these three smell fantastic, although don’t do what I did and decide to wash and dry your bedding on the same day, as they now smell like curry. I’m all for curry, but not in my bed. I’m very pleased to say that this meal was perfect and worth coming back to. The chicken skin was crispy and spicy, meat soft and with a subtle taste of curry and lemon (you have to chuck a boiled lemon inside the chicken, which is quite a squeeze I can tell you). I LOVED the Bombay potatoes, they were so much better than your takeaway versions as these are flavourful and crispy, adding an element of the good old roast potato into the mix. The only downside is the gravy, which is cooked in the oven under the chicken, catching all the juices. That isn’t the problem, as it tastes great, but there was so little of it that I struggled to get enough for just me. If you make this dish, I recommend at the very least doubling the amount. I’m being picky though, as it tasted great, like a mild curry. Naturally, cooking for one means I’ve got a lot of chicken leftover, meaning chicken sandwiches for lunch and then a chicken and mango Thai salad for dinner tomorrow. Got to see the advantages of being alone!

After yesterday’s slightly disappointing macarons, I felt like I needed something more satisfying, sweet and most importantly, soft. Sticking with Jamie’s Great Britain, I made Coconut and Jam Sponge, which most people will remember from school dinners of the past. Whether this is fondly or not depends on how your school dinners were. Mine were forgettable aside from the puddings. Jam and coconut sponge was definitely a favourite of mine along with chocolate toothpaste, which no one outside of the county I grew up in seems to have heard of. It was just chocolate goo on top of pastry really, but ah, what delightful goo it was. The coconut sponge I made today was again delicious, and tasted just like I remembered. There’s no real skill to this cake, it’s just a plain vanilla sponge smothered in blackberry jam and desiccated coconut. I could have made the jam from scratch but that’s not my bag, so a Hartley’s jar sufficed. The only mistake I made was taking the cake out of the oven a bit too early so that when I cut it into slices, the centre was still liquid and collapsed. Luckily the majority of the cake was cooked so I still got plenty of slices out of it to take to work tomorrow. Raw cake mix really doesn’t bother me, I scooped loads of it onto my plate as cake mix is always better than the finished article, but I can’t imagine it would have been too nice tomorrow lunchtime in the office.
I’ve been impressed by this book today, we got off to a bad start with the rabbit bolognese, but Jamie’s redeemed himself with the chicken and the sponge. British food may not have the elegance of French cuisine, but it has the taste and the comfort factor, which is far more important. This book definitely reminds people that as a country we have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to our food.

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Vive la France!

Time for a quick hop across the Channel to France for today’s cooking task. Without even realising that it was Bastille Day today until about 10 minutes ago, I’d decided to make macarons and even wore this snazzy, on-theme tee. –

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Therefore proving that I am indeed psychic, nothing at all to do with watching Ratatouille or the last episode of Sex and the City to get my Paris fix. That is all purely coincidental. I adore Paris, and even though there is a touch of hostility between the ‘Frogs Legs’ and ‘Le Rosbifs’, I secretly (until now that is) love the French. Yes, on our first trip to Paris we experienced some seriously rude waiters and had many French people cut us up in queues, but this is part of the English person in Paris package deal right? They just do what they want, don’t give a toss and their food is outstanding. They’ve given us baguettes, croissants, duck confit, creme brulee, tart tatin, moules mariniere, to name but a few, so how can I stay angry at them? Plus Paris is beautiful, so if I have to put up with a bit of rudeness then fair deal. If it bothers you, fear not for when the French are in the UK, we give them a dose of their own medicine. While queuing at a petrol garage, a French man tried to cut in at the front of the queue, and there was uproar. Good old Brits, we put up with a lot of crap at times (Cameron, Osbourne, I’m talking about you), but mess with our queues and you’re for it. Suffice to say, Frenchie shuffled to the back of the queue looking thoroughly ashamed of himself (quite right too). Anyway, it’s a happy accident that I chose to make macarons on Bastille Day, and justifies the need to bake should The Boyfriend go “tut tut, more baking eh?”.

The recipe came from Marian Keyes book Saved By Cake, which is a delightful and cheery cookbook, which is a testament to her writing skills as she touches on depression and suicidal thoughts quite a lot in the intro. Don’t let this put you off, the recipes are great and covered in glitter, which definitely brightens my mood on a bad day. These macarons are different and incorporate the ingredients of the Italian dessert tiramisu, so the filling is made with mascarpone, coffee and Marsala wine. I’ve always thought its the case that when you enjoy sweet things that have coffee and/or wine in them, it means you’re grown up and sophisticated. Ergo, I must be a proper adult and sophisticated too. Don’t hate me, I didn’t make up the rules. Oh wait, that’s right, I just did. In reality, I’m far from sophisticated (I spilt coffee all down my nice French t shirt while making these. Proof if any were needed that I am not sophisticated) and have liked coffee chocolates and cakes since childhood. The macarons (or macaroons depending on how authentic you want to sound) are a piece of cake to make, and the mascarpone filling goes a lovely latte colour once the coffee and wine are mixed in. Once assembled they don’t look like the picture perfect ones you see in patisserie windows, but unless you’re planning on selling them to Laduree or Harrods, there really is no need to worry about symmetry. Marian calls them ‘bockety’ and I think this is the perfect description of mine. To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure I actually like macarons. I’ve only ever eaten home made ones, so maybe it’s just my cooking, but I find them too chewy and bitter. My teeth actually hurt after eating them, and I then ask myself why I didn’t just make some cupcakes instead. These macarons do really taste like tiramisu, and are a real grown up treat, but it makes me crave the pillowy softness of an actual tiramisu instead. No disrespect to Marian though, I imagine for fans of macarons these are a delight, but I think when it ones to a sweet treat, I’m more of a softy than a crunchy. Think cakes, crumbles drowning in custard, tiramisu and you are speaking my language! I’ll leave the crunchy macarons to the sophisticated French, who have done a great service to the world of good food. For this, Happy Bastille Day, and Vive la France!

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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food, French

 

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Taste of the Caribbean

The Chinese may have their holy trinity of garlic, ginger and chilli, the Cajuns onion, peppers and celery, but my personal favourite trifecta of deliciousness would have to be banana, chocolate and nuts. Oh my god, the 3 combined are so amazing together, plus give the eater such an immense feeling of comfort that it’s impossible to resist. Allergies aside, if you don’t eat nuts then you are really missing out on baking perfection. Get over hating on nuts, and embrace nutty crunchiness in your cakes! Yesterday, feeling tired and run down, I decided to bake Banana, Chocolate and Pecan Bread from Wahaca – Mexican Food At Home by Thomasina Miers, to help cheer me up. Having a blackened claw of too ripe bananas was all the encouragement I needed – fate was on my side! – to get the mixing bowls and wooden spoons out. You may be wondering to yourself what this bread has to do with Mexico, land of chillies, coriander and cheese. Well, it’s also the land where chocolate originates from, so naturally it is a Big Deal out there and Mexicans take the stuff very seriously (I’ve always liked Mexicans, such wise people) and include it in a lot of their recipes, even in savoury meals like chilli. Plus, bananas are a Caribbean fruit, and pecans…. Well I’m not too sure about pecans and where they come from, but they certainly belong in this recipe. It’s fairly easy to whip up, but it’s really pushing it to call this a bread. Make no mistakes, it is a loaf cake, and I would like to give Thomasina a big kiss on the cheek for putting this *bread* in the breakfast section of her book. “Oooh no, it’s far too early for cake…. Hang on a sec, this is in the breakfast section! I’ve no choice but to wolf down a big slice at 7am with a coffee”. So went my internal monologue first thing this Monday morning. This recipe really is delicious, the cake itself is moist and dense, full of banana flavour and with gooey melty dark chocolate chips, and crunchy toasted pecan nuts. I prefer milk chocolate normally, but the cake itself is so sweet that you need the slight bitter edge that 70% dark chocolate gives. This banana, chocolate and pecan bread is simply gorgeous, and also went down very well in the office.

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Not stopping there with the Caribbean theme, this evening I cooked up a dinner that originated in Cuba. Cuban food isn’t really well known, and even when I was in Cuba, the only authentic Cuban ingredient I tried was the rum,and very nice it was too. It was only in Florida that I tried proper Cuban food, at a restaurant called Columbias in St Augustine. Go, go, go, the food is good, the atmosphere vibrant, and the sangria strong. What more could you ever ask for from a Spanish-Cuban restaurant? At Columbia’s I had filet salteado, and this is what I replicated today after finding the recipe on the restaurants website. It’s not posh, fussy restaurant fare and this is what I loved about this dish when I had it in Florida, you can easily see this meal as being something a Cuban would cook at home while a hurricane is raging outside. It’s the Cuban equivalent of a stew in my eyes, and is made with beef chunks cooked with chorizo, vegetables and red wine. You can see the significant Spanish influence here, and the prevalent flavour here is paprika from the chorizo. It’s a very tasty, homely dish but absolutely not what you’d expect from a sun drenched country. When most people think of food from Cuba and the Caribbean, they think pineapples, mangoes, spices, rum and cocktails, so its quite nice to turn that preconception on its head and see that actually, British and Cuban tastes aren’t so different after all. We may be thousands of miles apart, but at the end of day no nation can resist the comfort of beef stews and banana bread.

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Rogue Red Hot Chilli Pepper

Phew, excuse me a moment while I grab some ice and cool myself down. Today’s dinner definitely knocked my socks off, but along the way it also managed to strip my tongue of a layer of skin and several taste buds. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Let me explain…

Dinner today was steamed Thai style sea bass from Cook by Jamie Oliver. I hadn’t cooked fish for ages and feeling like I’ve overdone it on the chicken lately, thought I’d give this delicious sounding meal a go. You know how I feel about Thai food (love it), and making it healthier with sea bass fillets seemed like the right and proper thing to do. Plus I really like Cook as its packed with great recipes and guides for things like shopping for meat and fish, and was one of the earlier additions to the cook book collection so it holds a special place in my heart! It also has a great ethos to it, which is ‘if you’re going to eat 3 meals a day for the rest of your life, you might as well enjoy them’.Here here, now there’s a sentence I can relate to. Cooking this meal is really simple, you cook some rice, coat it in a Thai paste, then chuck the fish fillets and some sugar snap peas on top and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. If only eating it was so simple… To be fair, the OTT spiciness is really nothing to do with Jamie Oliver or the recipe, and I can only attribute it to my complacency towards chillies. Taste wise anyway, I definitely wasn’t getting complacent about them when it comes to my eyes and chilli fingers. Word of warning from someone who’s been there and got the damaged retinas: wash hands thoroughly after cutting chillies. Getting back to the sea bass dish, my mistake was not de seeding the chillies for the paste, and then thinking it a good idea to garnish the meal with slices of (again, not de seeded) chilli. The result was an exceptionally hot first mouthful which left me thinking that my mouth had actually been set on fire by those bastard chillies. Quickly picking out all the slices of chilli garnish, I carried on eating hoping to eat away the pain. This tactic didn’t work, every mouthful felt like salt on a very sore wound so I eventually had to stop to let the pain go away. I’m really not a wimp when it comes to chillies and hot food, I’ve chucked slices of chilli on loads of meals in the past and never has it been that outrageously hot. I can eat hot curries and have polished off some seriously hot Mexican prawns in a restaurant which no one else could bear, but this chilli was something else. I foolishly underestimated the red chilli, thinking I had conquered it and made it my bitch to do as I please to my food, but the red chilli well and truly hustled me. But what of the rest of the meal, what did that taste like? I only wish I could tell you, once the pain had gone I carried on eating, but taste was still beyond me so I can only guess that the rice tasted like a green curry, and the fish delicate and fresh. It certainly isn’t the end of my relationship with spicy food, but I will definitely proceed with caution before chucking in chillies willy-nilly.

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Photo taken while blissfully unaware of the perils ahead!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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