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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Reinventing The Roast

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Roast dinner is easily the most iconic of all the British foods. You could argue that a bacon sandwich or the full English should take the title, or that nothing is more British than a cup of tea accompanied by the perfect dunking biscuit (chocolate digestives, always), but for me, nothing says home like a big plate of roast dinner. It’s what the vast majority of us grew up on, its the one dish that I absolutely cannot wait to have if I’ve been somewhere abroad for a couple of weeks, and to sit down at the table with a roast dinner equals sitting round a table with some of your favourite people, whether that be your parents, relatives, best friends or significant other. Let’s face it, you don’t cook a roast for someone you aren’t fond of. I’m not spending my precious Sunday with someone I can’t wait to say goodbye to, end of.

The Boyfriend (I’ve gone back to boyfriend in writing only, I can’t stand the word fiancé, it sounds too pretentious, so until he’s The Hubby it’s back to informalities. Plus, I can only take the word fiancé seriously if I say it in the same tone Jay Z says “Beyonceeeeeeeeee” in his raps, which is not seriously at all. We are still very much engaged) is a big fan of the roast dinner and no doubt would be appalled at what I cooked for myself last night. Good thing then that he is thousands of miles away. Even as I was telling him what I was having for my dinner I evaded the truth by stating ‘oh just some chicken thing with potatoes’ because I knew to tell him the that I was making One Pan Sunday Lunch from a Nigel Slater cookbook would bring scorn down upon me! He is not a fan of Nigel Slater for some reason which I can’t quite fathom, and likes roast dinner just the way it’s been for decades, thank you very much. Admittedly, I find watching Nigel on TV a little cringe worthy but I can’t put my finger on why that is, considering that I love his writing and his recipes are pretty much always spot on. It’s not him, it’s definitely me, and I apologise Nigel because I think you’re brilliant.

If you haven’t discovered Nigel Slater yet then I really urge you to do so. I first stumbled upon his books when I checked out his cookbook Real Food from the library years ago when I didn’t want to spend all of my money on cookbooks. It’s an absolute classic and is filled with food you immediately want to eat. The chapters of the book are defined by his favourite ingredients, so you have one chapter dedicated to cheese, another to garlic, to sausage, to ice cream. This is a man whose books I can totally get on with. He also writes like an absolute dream about food and is a genius at conveying flavours, textures and smells as well as understanding just how significant food is in our day to day lives. Him and Nigella are my favourite food writers and both know that what people really want to eat at home is unpretentious, tasty and easy. So many food writers fail to recognise this. Considering how much I love him then, it’s surprising that I never actually owned one of his books until six months ago. I have the library to thank for saving my pennies for so long whilst continually checking out ‘Real Food’ every time I needed a fix. I bought his latest book Eat last year, flicked through it going ‘yum’ or ‘mmmmm’ every other page and then completely forgot about it. Until now! I’ve resurrected Eat from under the bed and after flicking through it again I’m in love.

Needing something soothing and filling I eventually plumped for the One Pan Sunday Lunch. It helped in my decision making that I’d just bought a cast iron shallow casserole dish that I’d been wanting for ages (not Le Creuset sadly, but a much more affordable alternative in the same volcanic orange shade) and was itching to use it. The dish is seriously simple, it takes the three best parts of a roast chicken dinner and you only need one pan. Basically, you brown some chicken thighs and potatoes, pour in a stock, cook for 20 minutes, then once you’ve removed the chicken and potatoes, add cream, milk, breadcrumbs and herbs to the stock to make a ridiculously gorgeous bread sauce. I LOVE bread sauce. I haven’t had a lot of it in the past, I’m an adult convert to the stuff, but when you get proper homemade bread sauce, it’s up there with sliced bread. This bread sauce in particular was perfect. Because it had soaked up all the chicken juices and the stock (I used a concentrated chicken bouillon that you can find amongst the Oxo cubes) the sauce was immensely savoury with a deep, meaty flavour as well as being smooth and creamy. Much as I am a fan of sweet foods I’m finding myself more and more compelled to the far more savoury foods and this dish is nirvana for savoury lovers. The potatoes had crispy edges but were soft and fluffy too from being cooked in the stock and the chicken was perfectly cooked, albeit with less than perfect skin. The skin had started out crispy but once I’d poured in the stock and let the chicken cook, all crispiness went out the window. The only downside to the dish. If you want an immensely chicken-y dinner without the time and work of a full on roast, then this my friends is the dish for you. I gave myself a little more washing up to do by cooking some broccoli to go alongside it and by all means you can pick and choose what vegetable you’d like to go with it if you’re a 7 a day minded sort. I only hope I can convey to you through words how delicious this meal was, and that although the photo makes it look quite bland, brown and boring you should never judge a book by its cover. I certainly can’t wait to try more of Nigel’s recipes.

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A Small Rant Before Normal Business Is Resumed

It’s not often that I get to make such a statement but the other day I was sat in McDonalds and I was in absolute heaven. Yes, there were children screaming at the next table and we were surrounded by baseball caps and track suits, and yes maybe I was aching from dancing all night and desperately in need of the extra hour of sleep cruelly stolen from me by British Summertime, but still I was in heaven. For after so many disappointments over so many years I’d finally been given the French fries of my teens- hot, salty and terrible for me. On these rare occasions McDonald’s makes the best fries in the world, and yet they are scandalously elusive. I blame those pesky health campaigners. I don’t get why McDonalds is so vilified to be honest. They use free range eggs! They’re one of the best employers to work for in the country! Their 99p cheeseburgers are insanely, addictively delicious! Where’s the love guys? I don’t claim to be an expert on world conquering fast food chains (although I’ve certainly done the research), I admit I don’t know enough about their business workings and food sourcing, and being hugely profitable corporations of course they need to be held up to the light and scrutinised, but when it comes to the ‘healthiness’ of their menus, please bore off. I find myself getting really angry when I hear the blame for obesity being placed at the door of fast food chains and chocolate manufacturers, as if no one had ever heard of free will and self restraint. I know that a meal consisting of a cheeseburger, fries and milkshake is ‘bad’ for me and has no nutritional value, but no one other than me is making me buy it. There are also some days where a cheeseburger may not be good for me physically, but mentally oh man do I need one. I don’t eat McDonalds all that often, it’s a treat and I want it to be as dirty, sinful and calorie loaded as possible. Put as much salt on those fries as is legally possible please! Health campaigners have made that a lot harder and I’m pretty pissed about it. If you want to eat fast food every day you are free to do so but don’t act surprised when you put on weight. That was your decision which you made of your own free will. Health campaigners are also very worried about ‘those poor children’ and how much fast food they eat. Last time I checked, children don’t have access to cash points and driving licences, so if children are eating a lot of fast food then it falls down to the parents.

I’m not defending McDonalds at all, they’re pretty invincible as it is and are more than capable of defending their selves, but we all know that fast food is a delicious guilty pleasure and I just wish the do gooders so concerned about the salt content of fries would just not go to McDonalds instead of tampering with the menu. If you find the idea of an extra value meal being supersized distasteful, all you have to do is say no. It’s not rocket science. I’ve tasted French fry heaven and I’m not giving that up without a fight!

I’ll be honest, I’ve not done a great deal of new cooking recently as I’m completely fed up with my retro throwback of a kitchen but I’ve more than made up for that by getting worked up about food advice and food tampering. These last couple of weeks I’ve become exasperated with the constantly conflicting advice on healthy eating and surely I can’t be alone in this? Things I’ve read about this week that are supposedly bad for you: red meat, brown bread, fruit juice, low fat products, over boiled vegetables, tinned fruit, sugar, smoothies, frozen fruit, fat, butter, margarine. Please tell me I’m not the only one completely confused? Once upon a time we were told eggs could raise our cholesterol and then a few years ago they retracted that advice as it turned out they had absolutely no effect and in fact eggs are packed full of protein and nutrients. We’ve all been told of the dangers of saturated fat and yet only recently have they found changing from a high fat diet to a low fat diet has no impact on our health whatsoever. Butter is actually a natural product and margarine has been pumped full of dodgy chemicals, yet how many people are too scared to use butter on a daily basis? Remember when we were told that fruit juice could count as one of our five a day? Well, now they’re saying its full of sugar and really we should be eating an orange in the morning instead of juicing it. Fuck. This. Does anyone know what the hell they are talking about? I’m fed up of being told what food is best for me and then after two years of incorporating it into my diet the advice suddenly changes and has turned into the devil incarnate. I’m now completely ignoring any advice about food and just eating what makes me feel good and puts a smile on my face. I drink juice in the morning, eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, snack on chocolate and crisps, eat fish twice a week, load my meals up with spices, chilli and garlic, choose brown bread over white, eat the odd takeaway, order dessert in a restaurant, and try to cook homemade meals from scratch as often as possible. That’s what makes me happy, makes me feel good and can turn a terrible day into just a rough one. It’s probably not the secret to receiving a telegram from the Queen and definitely isn’t the key to becoming a size 8, but to me that’s not what life is about. Use your common sense, vary what you eat and treat yourself. As someone who lives to eat rather than the other way around, I’ve made peace with not having a perfect diet, and like to constantly question what exactly would a perfect diet look like anyway. Life’s too short to blindly follow terrible advice on something so important as the food we put into our bodies and what makes us as individuals happy.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized