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Monthly Archives: July 2013

How Do Ya Like Your Eggs In The Morning?

It’s been a while hasn’t it? So much has happened since we last spoke; monarchs have been born, rogue spies have hidden in Russian airports, pensioners have headlined Glastonbury and England has finally had a summer. And in more interesting news, I have done naff all in the kitchen. Naff. All. I’ve had what you might call a cooking ‘funk’. Cookbooks have gone unopened and chillies have gone un-bought. A serious case of funkery if ever there was one (it’s my blog and I’ll make words up if I want to). Could it be the heat? The fact that while The Boyfriends back for three weeks only I haven’t wanted to spend all my free time in the kitchen when instead we could watch New Girl over and over? Have I finally let my laziness get the better of me? Maybe, all I know is I went to bed the other night whining that I was in a cooking funk and upon hearing my dulcet, whining tones The Boyfriend eloquently came back with “well just do some bloody cooking then”. Not just a hat rack my friends, he was absolutely right. All that time I’d spent bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t up for cooking I could have spent cooking and getting back into the habit. No more oven pizzas/stir in sauces/fish fingers for us two, oh no. I’m back on it, ready to try the new and forgo the same old same old. This eureka moment has timed itself perfectly as his next work trip which was starting this Sunday has now been put back a month, so my favourite guinea pig has unwittingly walked himself right into a month free from chilli con carne and roast pork. Sorry dear.

So I started as I meant to go on, by cooking a breakfast that I knew he’d grumble at. While I agree with him that nothing is better on a Sunday morning than a bacon sandwich, I don’t agree that I should eat that every Sunday morning. Mix things up, and have an emergency packet of bacon in the fridge just in case. After falling in love with huevos rancheros earlier on in the year in Liverpool, I knew the time would come that I’d want to make it myself and try it out on The Boyfriend. Step forward Gizzi Erskine and the Weekend Feast section of her most recent cookbook. Huevos rancheros is a traditional Mexican breakfast which combines corn tortillas, tomato sauce, re-fried beans and fries eggs. And cheese, coriander and sour cream. You’re right, it doesn’t sound like breakfast, or at least it doesn’t sound like a breakfast a Brit would have. If every country had a full English as their traditional breakfast then travel would get very boring, very quickly.

Anyway, while cooking this I was fully prepared for The Boyfriend to soon be putting the grill on for that emergency bacon sarnie. Looking at the re-fried beans heating up in their gloop (refried beans are not pretty), I knew just what his reaction would be on seeing these on his plate. Hence why I sandwiched the beans in between the two corn tortillas in the hope he would tuck in with gusto while blissfully ignorant of the legumes hidden under their corn blankets. This is the more exotic version of hiding cauliflower under a river of cheddar sauce for a fussy five year old. Unfortunately, like I said earlier, his head is not just a hat rack so as soon as I handed him his plate he peered between the tortillas to find the stowaway beans. Busted. On the flip side, he’s of the opinion that you should always try something before announcing you don’t like it, which is how we discovered the one pastry item he loves (empanadas, which again he frowned upon before trying and now loves) and that he really can’t stand celeriac. To my amazement, he actually enjoyed the Mexican eggs and ate the whole plate of food, refried beans and all. In his concise summary (at which he is very good at) he stated that “they were good but it’s not a breakfast”. Fair do’s, next Sunday we’ll have a good, old fashioned bacon sarnie where no dispute is needed over its suitability for breakfast.

In summary, just because something doesn’t look to your liking or a meal contains an ingredient you’re unsure of doesn’t mean you should completely write it off. I know and love plenty of people who limit the types of food they eat and don’t really experiment with meals, and that’s fair enough, you can only do what’s right for you and if you’re happy with what you’re eating that’s fine also, it doesn’t affect me one bit. However, I just feel that by doing this people are missing out on so much. If you try it and then find you don’t like it, I respect that, but to announce you don’t like something before you’ve even tried it? What are you basing that on? There is literally a whole world of food out there just waiting to be eaten. Open your mind, but more importantly, open your mouth.

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Spice, Spice Baby

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Sometimes I think to myself what a world without chillies and spice would be like, and a cold shiver goes through me. Much like The Sixth Sense, Stephen King novels and Will.I.Am rapping, the idea terrifies me. So many foods would simply be at best adequate, at worst bland and dull without a little kick, and the worlds best cuisines would be nothing. A Thai green curry would be like dishwater, chilli con carne would just be minced beef and tomatoes. Don’t take chillies away from me, I depend on them far too much! Just a quick look in my kitchen cupboards tells you all you need to know about my spice addiction, I’ve literally got more spices than I know what to do with. Space consuming it may be, but the smell that greets me every time I open my spice cupboard and the fact I’m never too far away from a spicy meal or two makes it totally worthwhile. It smells amazing too, if only this blog had smell-o-vision.
Loving spice as I do, it was inevitable that a book titled The Spicy Food Lover’s Bible (by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach) would find its way into my life. I found it in the Notting Hill shop Books For Cooks, bought it and then realised it was only 10am and we still had a whole day of shopping in London to go. Fortunately, The Boyfriend has much better upper body strength than I do so he valiantly carried the book around all day to spare my poor, puny, non existent biceps. Isn’t he great? I love this book yet barely use it. Much as I like cooking, I want everything to be on one page and to only have to follow one recipe. This book often requires the cook to make up a spice rub or curry paste and then follow another recipe to include your homemade rub/paste. Admittedly, I can be quite lazy at times in the kitchen yet if you want authentic, boldly flavoured, spicy food you have to put the effort in and mix up something that would be exceptionally hard to find in your local Asda, and if you were to find it, would taste massively inferior compared to a homemade version. Good home cooked food isn’t always going to be easy.
One of the best things about this book is how hugely varied and geographically spread the recipes are. Of course you’ve got the obvious recipes such as massamann curry (Thai), Kung pao chicken (Chinese), tandoori murg (Indian) and fish tacos (Mexican), but its also filled with unusual, rare recipes from world cuisines you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see. So there’s stuffed Maghreb chicken from Libya, groundnut stew from West Africa, cucumber salad with mustard dressing from Germany and spicy garlic mushrooms from Spain. You’ve got the world at your fingertips. There’s also a fantastic section at the back with suggested feast menus using recipes from the book. Want a Deep South styled Independence Day, Hindi wedding feast, Brazilian barbecue or Trinidad carnival feast? Then this is the book for you. Not needing a feast myself I chose just the one dish and that was Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp. I made a creole spice mix which just involved me measuring out spices then grinding them up in my granite pestle and mortar for a couple of minutes until it became a fine powder. If you want to make your own spice mixes then you’ll need either a heavy duty pestle and mortar (I had a lightweight one from Tesco once and it couldn’t turn anything into mush so was totally useless. Go for granite) or a spice grinder. I marinated the prawns in the spice then went about making the sauce. Despite the name of the recipe, the prawns are not cooked on a barbeque and the sauce itself isn’t barbeque so why it’s named as such I’m not sure. The sauce is made using beer (Budweiser seemed the right choice what with this being an American recipe) that’s reduced down with some more spices, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice etc. Once down, throw in some butter to bind the sauce and give it a rich, glossy look and stir in your cooked prawns. Easy! The book compels me to serve this with white rice and buttery bread, and who am I to ignore such carb heavy instructions? It was Friday after all. This tastes ridiculously good. Not too spicy but with complex flavours from the spice mix (did I mention it was homemade? No? It was homemade) and coated in sticky, spicy sauce which was just fabulous for dunking bread in. One of our favourite prawn dishes ever came from Bubba Gump and was Cajun prawns with garlic bread. Every now and then one of us will just say out of the blue ‘remember those Cajun prawns?’ and a satisfied yet mournful silence will descend upon us, regretful of the fact that the nearest Bubba Gump to us is in New York. We’re 60 miles north of London, England. I’ve tried on so many occasions to replicate the sauce from this dish but have never managed to quite get it right. This recipe comes fairly close although is less spicy and more sticky than Bubba Gumps’ version. I would never have thought to use beer as the base for the sauce but it gives the sauce a sweetness once the alcohol has been cooked out.
Looking through this cookbook there are so many recipes that I want to cook, not just to give a neglected cookbook a much needed airing but because I’m curious as to what a groundnut stew would be like or Libyan chicken. Travel broadens the mind but as its unlikely I’ll be popping over to Libya anytime soon, I’ll have to travel vicariously through this fantastic cookbook.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in American, Books, Cooking, Fish, Food

 

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