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Category Archives: Lunch

Getting Back On The Horse

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I’m not one to make New Years Resolutions – after all, why make January even more miserable with failed promises to better yourself? – but I’d like to think that this year the least I can commit myself to is getting back in the kitchen and back to the blog. My cooking mojo recently has been somewhat lacking and the mere thought of venturing into the cold, miserably dated kitchen which we’re saving our pennies to renovate leaves me feeling less than inspired to be totally honest. But as it happens, I’m only human, and upon being asked by several friends who I’d never dreamed would find my blog remotely interesting “what’s happened to your blog?” over the last few months, my head found itself becoming rather large, and so here I am, getting back on that horse. I wouldn’t want to let my adoring public down, after all.

I couldn’t start a new year of cooking without falling back on my trusty old faithful, Nigella Lawson. She’s had a terrible year and I for one am backing her all the way. I find it abhorrent that the press have gone after her as savagely as they have, while Saatchi, the man who publicly grabbed, humiliated and subsequently tried to destroy her seems to have faded into the background without a flicker of interest from the press about the ‘intimate terrorism’ he subjected his wife to. It makes me feel really uncomfortable to see people so gleeful and revelling in the fall from grace and humiliation of a successful woman who has been the victim of some form of domestic abuse, while the real criminal fades into the background. I don’t care what drugs Nigella may or may not have taken, to me she will always be my favourite food writer and a prime example of triumph through adversity. I will always buy her books. Us girls have got to stick together.

Anyway, to the food. I cooked yellow split pea and frankfurter soup from Nigella’s Feast, a cookbook I don’t actually use all that often. It sounds like an odd choice of soup and not one I’d normally cook, but it’s packed full of symbolism and if you can’t cook for symbolisms sake alone on New Years Day then when can you? The yellow from the split peas symbolises gold whilst the roundness of the peas and the pound coin sized circles of sausage symbolises wealth, so the dish itself is supposed to wish you a year of happiness, wealth and prosperity. Who doesn’t wish for that on the 1st January, the warmth and tidings of Christmas now fading to a distant memory along with your pay packet and perfectly fitting skinny jeans? I’m not superstitious, but it can’t hurt now can it?

The soup is simplicity itself to cook, all the fine dicing of the vegetables is done by the food processor and from there it’s a simple case of throwing everything in a saucepan for an hour until the split peas are soft. I substituted frankfurters for some smoked sausage as The Fiancé is none too keen on them, I’m sure this had no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the soup. Before eating I had some trepidation as at some points during the cooking it smelt to me -and sorry if you’re eating- like vomit and as you can see from the photo, didn’t look all that far off it either. I had some back-up tins of tomato soup in the background should it turn out to be disgusting. However, it wasn’t too bad. Comforting and warm on a cold, rainy day with a touch of spice from the mace and surprisingly filling from the peas, it’s a pretty satisfying lunch. Let’s hope it gets me that winning lottery ticket too.

So, Happy New Year to you all, and thank you to those people nagging me about blogging again – it feels good to be back.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Books, Cooking, Food, Lunch, Nigella Lawson

 

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Skinny Saturday

Every time The Boyfriend goes away I make a decision that at the time feels like a brilliant idea but in the end turns out to be a completely idiotic one. And the decision is always the same one, every time he goes. I know, I’m an idiot. You’d think I would have learnt by now, after all The Boyfriend is regularly working away and has been for two years now. Yet still I think that by spending my first weekend sans Boyfriend all by myself doing solely what I want to do and being completely selfish is the best idea since sliced bread. It isn’t. Oh, it’s all good up until about 7pm on the Saturday, when a quick glance at Facebook reminds me of all the happy couples spending their evening together, or groups of friends getting ready for a night out and makes me go “huh, I probably should have made plans for this weekend”. Obviously, being apart from the person you’re crazy about isn’t tough in the way that cancer is tough, or your house being burnt down is tough, but it still has its challenges that at times make me feel pretty sorry for myself despite the fact that one of the things I dislike most on this Earth are people who feel sorry for themselves. If he’s only back for three weeks like he was very recently, we have an absolute whale of a time. We cram in trips to the cinema, meals out, our favourite foods, catch up with all the friends and family he hasn’t seen for months, have a ridiculous row that we always laugh at a few hours later (the last one of these was fuelled by me drinking a tad too much gin and turning into a huge drama queen), work on the house, plan holidays and spend a lot of time in fits of giggles. In short, it’s awesome. So obviously when he goes away its a pretty spectacular comedown and I think my reasoning behind spending time by myself is that while he’s home I haven’t had any time at all to bake, read, blog, watch Disney films or Sex and the City and I crave some downtime. Maybe next time I’ll just give myself a day of no plans.

My self inflicted misery however has done wonders for this blog though. Every cloud! Not content with just one recipe to try out yesterday, I decided to really test Gizzi’s Skinny Weeks and try three of them: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m aware I should be using more neglected cookbooks and believe me this week I will be using them, but I wanted to have a virtuous Saturday without denying myself that vital component, flavour, and I knew that Gizzi could deliver. Breakfast consisted of what Gizzi likes to call Elvis toasts, which is a far more heart friendly version of The Kings 2000 calorie mammoth fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Gizzi’s come in at a much more reasonable 284 calories, although as it was Saturday I used normal white sliced bread instead of sourdough rye, and a whole banana instead of half so that must bump up the calories a little. Still, for a healthy breakfast it’s scrumptious and comes with the added bonus of half a square of dark chocolate grated over the banana. Half a square may not seem like a lot but it really does go a long way. Who can argue with a chocolate fix at 9am?

Lunch, which came along pretty late after a Primarni binge, was pancetta, farro and bean soup and like most recipes in this book, was completely delicious. I couldn’t find farro in Sainsburys so had to substitute it with farfalline, which are tiny pasta shapes designed to be added to soups. You might look at the pancetta and think this soup shouldn’t be billed as healthy, but in addition to the pancetta the soup also contains onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomatoes and cannellini beans so you’re getting a considerate amount of goodness from the hefty amount of veg and beans. I didn’t add quite enough stock so my version turned out more like a stew than a soup but tasted no less divine for it. Pancetta is the star flavour shining through, but you also get the sweetness of the tomatoes and plenty of crunch from the mirepoix. To make this soup even better, you’re allowed to sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan over your bowl of soup and you don’t need me to tell you that this takes the soup to diet perfection. I’m very please that I have three portions to take to work with me for lunch this week.

Last but by absolute no means least, for dinner I went with yoghurt chicken curry bowl. Well, it’s just not the weekend in my book (which this sort of is) unless a curry is included somewhere. Looking at the ingredient list it’s impossible to find an ingredient that’s bad for you (normally an ominous sign in a recipe) and yet this curry was one of the best I’ve ever made. You make a paste out of spices, chillies, onion, ginger and garlic, mix it with fat free yoghurt then marinade the chicken in the spicy yoghurt before baking in the oven. Paired with some brown rice and topped with a zingy mango salsa, this was the perfect dish to lift me out of my lonely blues (self inflicted, I must add). The curry on its own packed in lots of flavour and would have been perfectly acceptable without the salsa, but boy is the salsa immense. Don’t make this curry without it! The pairing of sweet yet sharp mango with mint, alongside onion (I should have used red but only had white), tomato and lime juice is phenomenal and made my tongue do a little jig in my mouth. Gorgeous. I want to put it on everything.

The real strength of these recipes is that regardless of trying to lose weight or not, I would cook them all again. And not just for myself either, I see no reason why these dishes couldn’t be served to guests, they are that good. Healthy food has long had a reputation for being dull, uninspiring and bland but Gizzi has completely turned that upside down and filled a cookbook with mouthwatering food that just so happens to be good for you. I’ve barely ventured into the naughty side of the book, and for a woman who likes a good pig out, that’s no small feat.

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Soup And A Sandwich

Day three of Snowmageddon and it turns out that becoming a hermit in my warm flat means a massively increased appetite. Having spent the last two weeks eating small portions and snacking on fruit and unsalted nuts (the inferior kind if you ask me) my body has finally cottoned on to my new ways and seeing the snow and ice has gone into full on panic mode. Snow = winter = fat needed to keep warm. No matter how many times I’ve told my body that I have layers, scarves, gloves and a coat (lies, I have no gloves but what it doesn’t know doesn’t hurt) and excess body fat is no longer needed in the battle against the cold, I find myself reaching for the foods that are good for the soul but most definitely not the waistline. Stupid body and its greed that evolution can’t seem to phase out despite the invention of long johns, Ugg boots and hot water bottles. Should probably stop talking about my body like its a separate entity too, before everyone thinks I’ve developed schizophrenia or multiple personalities. This prehistoric greed is what led me to a distinctly American approach to food and that is why have one lunch when you can have two? If you’ve been to the fast food chain Panera in the States you’ll know what I’m talking about as they offer the ‘Soup & Sandwich’ deal, and very good they are too. Maybe in England a tin of Heinz tomato soup and a cheese sandwich isn’t that outrageous, being quite modest in size, but in America just the soup would suffice for a hearty, filling lunch. Justifying my decision to go down this path by reasoning that I wasn’t having a big Sunday lunch like most people in Britain would be today, I set about my gluttonous task. From this months edition of Delicious magazine (Feb 2013) I made leek and potato soup and from French Brasserie by Daniel Galmiche I made the classic Croque Monsieur which you can find anywhere in Paris and is most delicious. I was hesitant about returning to Daniels book after a pretty disastrous and watery attempt at French onion soup which was completely tasteless but this time around the boy done good. The slices of bread are soaked in whisked egg and milk and then fried in butter (music to my ears), eventually becoming topped with cheese and ham and sandwiched together with more bread until the cheese is just beginning to melt. You don’t really need a recipe, but its reassuring to follow the lead of a Frenchman who knows what he’s talking about. Heston Blumenthal rates him on the cover quote, so if its good enough for Heston then it’s good enough for me. You’ll be unsurprised to hear the sandwich was freaking delicious. The bread was moist and eggy with a crunch on the outside (I did slightly burn it, my timing was a little off) and the Comte cheese melting with a nutty taste that complemented the salty ham. All in all, it was a banging cheese and ham toastie with a touch of French decadence thrown in. Dunked in the soup, it was even better. Soup just seemed like the right thing to cook on a day like today, and having picked up the new edition of Delicious earlier in the week I decided to put it to work. I’m a big fan of Delicious, it has a great mix of easy weekday meals but also throws in some fancy dishes for special occasions, and a lot of my standby dinners hail from my archive of these magazines. I don’t buy one every month but every now and then it catches my eye on the shelf and I have to have it. Other food magazines don’t elicit the same reaction, they aren’t quite as adventurous or interesting, or look as elegant. Favourites from previous editions include a gorgeous Morrocan lamb stew, a spicy sausage pasta, a beautiful rum and banana soufflé (still the proudest I’ve ever been in the kitchen) and a rich Baileys rocky road. It’s cheaper than a cookbook every month too. The leek and potato soup doesn’t particularly live up to these delights but was tasty, thick and rich and went perfectly with the Croque Monsieur. The recipe states that this makes enough for two, but you’d have to be a very generous host for that to be correct, this will provide me with lunch for at least two, maybe three days. Again, it was very simple to put together and had me getting my blender out, which I love. It wasn’t a patch on last weeks sweet potato and squash soup, but when the cold needs to be kept at bay any soup will do. Suffice to say after today’s extravagance it will be back to small portions and healthy snacks, nowhere near as fun but its got to be done. After all, you earn yourself a few treats by being good in the first place.

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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Books, Cooking, Food, French, Lunch

 

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A Load Of Rhubarb

Todays cooking endeavours started out so miserably that I was almost tempted to give up by 10am. My attempt to make a rhubarb compote without a recipe to hand didn’t end up as I expected – with me pulling it off perfectly and then feeling like a domestic goddess with no need for cookbooks ever again – but with a burnt tray of rhubarb and black sugar that, needless to say did not make it to my breakfast of banana and Greek yoghurt. Safe to say it was a very boring breakfast without that sweet – sour tang of rhubarb, and the cookbooks are staying. That’s what happens when you ignore the smell of burning wafting in from the kitchen! Luckily for my tummy (and for the blog) I picked myself back up and carried on undeterred with my planned cooking, as once The Boyfriend is back my weekends will be spent DIY-ing, moving and doing a whole lot of cleaning, so lets cook while we can!
While I’m not on a diet (because I hate them, don’t believe they are sustainable and don’t want to spend January starving) I am eating a lot more healthily and downsizing my portions in a slow burn attempt to drop a dress size by the end of April. I’ll never be able to stick to any eating plan that denies me chocolate and cake, so lets just be healthier. Bearing this in mind, for my lunch I blended up a soup from Nigella Christmas, sweet potato and butternut squash. It may not be Christmas anymore but there are plenty of winter friendly recipes and this one happens to be full of goodness, plus the golden orange colour peps up an icy day. The Boyfriend is not a fan of either sweet potato or squash which I find pure madness as I love them and they are exceptionally good for you to boot. It’s a really simple soup to make and tastes ridiculously good. There is a warming edge to it from the nutmeg and cinnamon, and the unusual addition of Marsala wine cranks the flavour up a notch. It’s sweet like you’d expect from a sweet potato soup but while the Marsala adds sweetness, the taste of alcohol stops it from being too much. If you cook a lot then a bottle of Marsala is an essential, you can use it in desserts like tiramisu and trifles, stews, soups, chicken dishes…. It’s indispensable and because its a fortified wine it lasts ages in the store cupboard. Get some now! In the cookbook, Nigella also recommends making a blue cheese sauce to swirl over the soup but this would turn lunch from healthy to indulgent. It helps my weight loss that its the week before payday too, otherwise that blue cheese may well have just accidentally found its way into my trolley.

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As I’m sure you all remember, Sunday used to be my baking day but with The Boyfriend being back for three months that got shelved. Well, its back for one day only! Thankfully I hadn’t burnt all of my rhubarb this morning and still had plenty of stalks left to bake a cake. Trawling through my Delicious magazines I found the recipe for rhubarb, vanilla and sour cream crumb cake in the March 2011 edition and knew I just had to make it. Rhubarb deserves more than crumbles, delicious though they are. It may come as a surprise to those of you who I haven’t been out drinking with, but I’m a big fan of hip hop and my preferred choice of music to bake to is always rap. I’m terrible at rapping myself although give me a few mojitos and I soon forget that, but what can I say, in the privacy of my own kitchen (and car, shower, bedroom….) I pretend I’m Azealia Banks or Lil Kim. This is how I found myself chanting “I guess that cake getting eaten” while spooning the cake and rhubarb mix into the tin (for those of you with a sensitive disposition, sticking with my cake lyrics to 212 is probably for the best). The cake itself is supremely yummy, but how could a cake with a vanilla sponge, tangy yet sweet rhubarb and a crunchy topping made of sugar and butter ever not be? I kept my portion to a small slice and resisted having any custard with it, but that would be a heavenly combination. The rest will hopefully be dished up tomorrow when friends are over for dinner, although I am now wondering if they are all as fond of rhubarb as I am? It’s so beautiful and pink though, how could anyone dislike it? Anyway, the cake is moist, sweet, sour with a tasty crunch from the topping, and in my eyes is the perfect cake to chow down on on a cold Sunday afternoon. In the words of Azealia (well, sort of) “Imma ruin you, cake”.

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Last but by no means least, for my dinner I made Malaysian satay chicken from Gizzi Erskines Kitchen Magic, which is one of my favourite cookbooks. I marinated the chicken in some Asian ingredients, left it all day then cooked and served with rice. The chicken was really tasty, with sharp, almost Thai tastes and kept me going back for more even when the rice was starting to fill me up. It was probably a mistake to serve with rice as although the marinade seemed plentiful when I started cooking, by the time the chicken was cooked through it had evaporated massively with just enough clinging to the chicken but not enough to stop the rice being dry. In spite of this though it was delicious and will be a tasty cold lunch tomorrow too. Another success from Kitchen Magic, which I can’t recommend enough as everything I’ve ever cooked from it has been a total success. You really should buy it.

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Been around the world and I, I, I….

Italy, Thailand, America, it’s like a round the world plane ticket in miniature, all in my kitchen. But not to worry that I (I, I, I) can’t find ‘my baby’ as he’s back next Saturday, nice and early first thing in the morning on my birthday. What more could I want as a present? I would just like to assure you all that I would never really call The Boyfriend ‘my baby’, I do have some standards when it comes to nick names, but when a song title fits, it fits! So to make the most of what free time I had this weekend, I got my ass in the kitchen and made the most of my last solo weekend for a while. Believe me, I can’t wait for him to be back and am desperate to not wake up alone every morning, but I do enjoy the ability to potter about in the kitchen all day and cook what ever my heart desires on a Sunday. It’s making the best out of a bad situation. So to celebrate my last lonely Sunday morning for a while I took some inspiration from Jamie’s America to knock up breakfast. I’ve said it before about the Americans and how they have the knack for breakfast and I would say it again but I don’t like repeating myself. So I went with the New York section as surely New Yorkers are the Kings Of Breakfast (I’m not sure why I’ve come to this conclusion but it just seems right to me), and made myself Omelette Gordon Bennett, which is a twist on the classic Arnold Bennett omelette which was apparently created by a very fussy customer in a top NY hotel. The twist being that Jamie replaces smoked haddock with smoked mackerel. As twists go, it’s not exactly up there with the polar bear in Lost but its Sunday morning, i’ll let it go. It’s a very simple dish to make and easy enough to halve (recipe gives enough for two, but 5 eggs even for me is a bit much), the only tricky bit is making sure the bottom doesn’t burn while you make sure the egg on top of the omelette is fully cooked. Because of the chunks of fish it’s not advisable to flip the omelette as the weight would collapse it, so you need to keep a close eye on the omelette and adjust the heat accordingly. Incredibly I managed to cook it perfectly and it tasted pretty wonderful. I love smoked mackerel and being advised to top the whole thing off with grated Parmesan at 9 in the morning makes this a winner for a filling breakfast. You probably won’t even need lunch. If you’re a fan of American food then Jamie’s book is great, he covers several different states and a huge variety of food, including Native American recipes. The best sections though are definitely Louisiana and Georgia, with some good old fashioned Southern recipes. Delicious.

On to Italy, and before you ask, no this recipe did not come out of Nigellas new book. Or any book at all actually. I made some focaccia using a recipe given to me by a chef at a cookery course I attended. The course happened to be about French food, but this did not stop us making Italian bread and for that I am very glad. This focaccia recipe is bread perfection and totally and utterly foolproof. As long as you’re prepared to do ten minutes of kneading then this is really easy and after all that kneading all you need is patience while the dough proves. If the kneading sounds like too much work for you, wait until someone has really pissed you off to make it, and then 10 minutes of pretending the dough is that persons face won’t seem long enough. Violence against flour is fine, less so against people. My favourite part of making bread (after eating it of course) is poking the bread once its ready to go in the oven as the feel of it is bouncy, pillowy and lighter than air. Do this once and you’ll completely understand my wish to one day sleep on a bed made entirely of dough. Heaven. When the bread is ready to go in the oven, poke some dimples in the bread and push some ingredients in said dimples. I went for chillies today, but feel free to go with rosemary, olives, sun dried tomatoes…. Whatever takes your fancy really. When this comes out of the oven it will be all but impossible to dive right in as the smell is amazing and it looks so inviting. It says something about the quality of this bread that I can eat it solely on its own without even a smudge of butter on it. (Bread and butter is one of my favourite things to eat. Good bread though). The crust is crunchy with sprinkles of sea salt and the middle is soft, bouncy and utterly divine. It does go stale really quickly, which shows just how many chemicals must be pumped into supermarket bread to keep it fresh as long as it does, but slice it up and pop in the freezer if you won’t use it all up straight away. I’ll post the recipe for this later as any budding bakers should give it a go, and its not a copyrighted recipe so I’m free to share the goods!

I’ve also been cooking some Thai food after the success earlier in the week with Rick Steins book Far Eastern Odyssey, so tried yellow stir fry curry with prawns from the same book. This version is a bit different from the other Thai curries I’ve had as it contains no coconut milk and uses stock instead. It is ferociously hot and this was without the dried Kashmiri chilli that I could not find in the shops, so I was actually quite relieved I only included some regular red chillies in the paste. I’m not entirely sure I would make it again as while spicy which I like, it didn’t have anything else much going for it. I’m not one of those people who eats spicy food purely for the sake of it, spicy food has to have more flavours to it than just pure hot chilli heat. Not that it isn’t funny watching someone sweat when they order the hottest curry on the menu in front of their mates, because it really is. Still, despite being blindingly hot, I managed to finish it without an audience so I suppose I’m no better than the show offs, sweating without the congratulatory pats on the back from the men on the table.

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Rainy Day Cooking

Rain, some days I do love it and today has got to be one of those days. After nearly 27 years of living in England, I’ve gotten fond of the stuff, more out of necessity than anything else, otherwise one may go mad. Plus it gives me an excuse to get in the kitchen to cook something warming and satisfying to counteract the drizzle of the weather. It’s been a busy weekend and I’ve not had much time to cook, spending my time instead on downing shots and trying to drunkenly befriend the police force, so some rainy day cooking was called for. Note to readers by the way, the police aren’t impressed when you stroke their high vis jackets and try to sympathise with them by despairing at all the drunken idiots preventing them from doing such a fine job. Irony not being my strong point after a few cocktails. I do not remember this incident but unfortunately my friends do.

What food then could help soothe such humiliation? I took a gamble on Baked Potato Soup from America’s Most Wanted Recipes – Favorite Restaurants. Not exactly a snappy title and let’s not even get started on the misspelling of favourite, but a great cookbook nonetheless. I bought this on holiday in Florida a few years ago after having a dawning realisation that once I was home I wouldn’t be able to eat the food I loved on holiday. It doesn’t matter how much you may love sophisticated French food or the traditions of Italian cooking, American food dishes up meals people really want to eat. After all, a great burger is the stuff of dreams and impossible to turn down. There’s no pretension, just tasty food that may also give you a heart attack or embolism if eaten on a daily basis. If you don’t believe me, then you clearly haven’t been watching Man vs Food. This cookbook takes classic recipes from some of Americas biggest chain restaurants and tells you how to make them. So if you want to know how to make Red Lobsters cheddar biscuits, Subways sweet onion sauce, or even KFC’s original recipe chicken then this is the book for you. Unfortunately there is no guide on McDonald’s cheeseburgers or fries, although this is more likely a blessing in disguise. This soup recipe comes from The Hard Rock Cafe, which I’ve been to but did not have this soup. It’s pretty straightforward to make and I can happily say that baked potato soup, despite sounding pretty boring, is delicious and very comforting on a rainy day. However, with comfort comes a big calorie hit, and this soup is no exception. Bacon, potato, cream and cheddar, this soup certainly isn’t good for your waistline but what it lacks in nutrition it makes up for in taste. It’s creamy, thick from the potatoes and has deep salty crunch from the streaky bacon. If you wanted to make this soup a tiny bit healthier you could leave out the cheese as still tasted gorgeous without it, but really, it would be like getting a Diet Coke instead of full fat alongside your Big Mac meal. The damage has well and truly been done. Don’t get up on your English high horse either, stick to American style streaky bacon as you won’t get the super crispy ribbons that shatter under your fingers with English style bacon. Overcome your patriotism just this once, and leave our bacon for glorious weekend bacon sarnies. If you see this book around and love eating out in America I urge you to give this book a go, everything I’ve cooked from it has been very, very edible. Do check out the website as well where you can find this recipe and many more: http://americasmostwantedrecipes.com/h2.html

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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Lunch

 

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Southwestern Sunrise

I know that us Brits are very proud of our breakfast legacy what with the fry up known around the world as an English breakfast and most people being partial to a bacon sandwich at the weekend, but I’ve got to be controversial and say the Americans do breakfast better. You can get your fried goods there, sure, but on top of that they can also offer pancakes, waffles, muffins, hash, Florida orange juice, fruit platters, smoothies, proper coffee, granola, bagels, and a ridiculous amount of options for the humble egg. Even the cheap places to grab breakfast avoid instant coffee, such is the culture there for a decent, strong cup of Jo. They know what they’re doing when it comes to the most important meal of the day, that much is clear. I had planned on having today’s recipe for breakfast, but by the time I’d cleaned the house and gone to the gym it was early afternoon, so we’ll call it lunch. My lunch then was from USA by Sheila Lukins and is called Southwestern Sunrise and is one of the many options for eggs in the book. It’s definitely the tastiest thing I’ve eaten that only takes 2 mins to prepare and also packs a pretty healthy punch. You just chop up some red pepper and avocado, pop them into a ramekin, top with a raw egg and grated cheese then pop in the oven until the egg is cooked. Dollop with some sour cream, sprinkle on some coriander and you’re done. Totally delicious and extremely simple. The only tricky bit is getting the egg cooked to the point where the whites are cooked through but the yolk is still runny, a point that I missed and ended up with solid yolks. It still tasted good though, and I’d rather that than runny egg whites which have the same consistency as snot. The flavours of this make me summon up an image of New Mexico and the name of the dish really does have me thinking about a beautiful orange sunrise over the water starved landscape of the Southwest. I’ve never been mind, but I’ve seen enough movies and read enough books set in the USA to get those images. And Man vs Food has shown me that this is the sort of food you’d find in this part of America, although my portion was certainly a lot smaller than the ones Adam Richman gets served! The recipe called for Monterey Jack cheese but cheese is something the Brits really do do better, so I stuck with cheddar. All this recipe needs to make it perfection would be the addition of salsa to give it a spicy kick to really get your morning going with a bang.

The other night for dinner I delved into my new book The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo. If you saw her on TV a few months ago, then you’ll know that as well as being a cracking cook, she’s also adorable, has lovely shiny hair and knows how to pull off a pretty tea dress. Fine qualities in a woman! For my first attempt from this book, I made meatballs in spicy sauce with Alsatian pasta, which sounds much more like a French dish when you replace the word meatballs with boulettes de viande. According to adorable Rachel, the Alsace region of France is well known for its pasta, hence this suspiciously Italian looking recipe. Luckily, the spicy sauce is very French, what with it containing red wine and a bouquet garni, as well as cornichons, which are really just tiny pickled gherkins. The meal was really flavoursome with plenty of crunch from the gherkins, and the sauce had a deep wine flavour that went well with the meatballs which were made from beef mince and sausage meat. I think this book is going to quickly become a favourite of mine, the pictures of the food are beautiful and I love that she cooks these gorgeous looking creations in her teeny tiny kitchen in her teeny tiny Parisian flat. If she can create culinary delights in a kitchen the size of a broom cupboard, then what excuse do I have for not trying with my nice spacious kitchen? French food is looking to be the way forward for me.

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Books, Breakfast, Cooking, Food, French, Lunch

 

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French Fancy & Nigella Naughtiness

Thanks very much weather. I had some lovely plans today to do a bit of foodie exploring in London and check out a pickled shark at the Tate (for art, not food. The Chinese craze for shark fin soup makes me sick to my stomach) but the miserable rainy weather put paid to that idea. Not that I can complain too much as it just gave me a rainy day opportunity to try out my new French cookbooks and do a bit of baking. Over the last year I’ve fallen hard for French food and I’m starting to come to the conclusion that deep down I’m actually French. After all, I adore the smell of garlic, eat a lot of cheese and bread, and most importantly, have complete and utter contempt for the general public. But then Saturday mornings in Tesco will do that to a person. I make exceptions of course, but only really for Beyonce, Nigella and the entire cast of New Girl, although it may be a bit of a stretch calling those guys ‘the general public’. So you see, clearly I must have some French ancestors somewhere in my family tree,explaining my love for all things French right now. Lunch today then was that classic, quintessential French recipe, French onion soup from my new cookbook French Brasserie by Daniel Galmiche which is a gorgeous book full of recipes that are easy to cook at home. The ingredients for this soup consist mainly of onions, wine, cheese and baguette, so you couldn’t get more Gallic if you tried. It takes a little while to cook as you have to sweat down the onions to make them soft, golden and release all their flavour but despite this it’s really simple as the most it requires you to do is chop and stir. I have to say, I wasn’t all that won over by this soup which is a real shame as I loved it when I ate some in Paris. However, Daniel does advise getting the best quality onions, preferably the Provence variety, which I must admit I couldn’t be bothered to hunt around for so just bought bog standard onions from the supermarket. Not very Parisian of me I know. Perhaps a better quality onion would have given the soup more taste and taken away the blandness. The one saving grace of this soup is that you top it with cheesy slices of baguette which add some texture and the deep taste of a mature cheddar. The recipe recommended using Comte cheese but the last block was taken right in front of my eyes by some sodding member of the general public (see why I feel such contempt?) so I stuck with some tangy mature cheddar, which always tastes good. I’d definitely like to try this recipe again but not until I’ve sought out some decent onions from a farmers market. I should have known they wouldn’t taste that strong, I didn’t cry once while cutting them into slices. A sure sign of dud onions that is, still having perfect mascara.

It’s been a little while since I cooked a Nigella recipe, but today she is back, and with a bang I must say. I read this article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/aug/19/nigella-lawson-confessions) the other day and it was as if this woman was me. Nigella has inspired so many people to get in the kitchen and she is such a fantastic writer that you feel you know her through reading her books. It’s not just women she’s enchanted either, I know men who love her books too, although how much of this is owed to her womanly figure and food double entendres rather than her recipes, I wouldn’t like to say. I too fantasise about owning her red chilli fairy lights and stunning Kitchen Aid mixer, but unless I win the lottery it’s unlikely I’ll have £600 spare to buy one. Anyway, the author of the above article references the snow flecked brownies recipe from Feast, and kindly includes the recipe for those without the book, so naturally I had to cook them. This has to be the definitive brownie recipe, because they are an absolute knock out. If a murderous alien race came down to Earth and asked for one good reason not to destroy the entire human race, these brownies are what I’d present them with. You’re welcome Earth. Rich, chocolatey, gooey, soft, warm…. In a word, heaven. I’ve got no problem whatsoever with brownies filled with nuts, cherries etc but the simplicity of these and the sole filling of white choc chips (the snow of the recipe title) is all that is necessary. I used Maldon salt flakes in this recipe, which I highly recommend you do too instead of the salt in your grinder, as the subtle saltiness you get from these flakes cuts right though the richness of the goo and stops it being too sickly sweet. I wish I could describe better the taste of salt in a brownie, but please just take my word for it that its really good. I would not lie to you guys. So once again Nigella justifies her place at the top of the pedestal, and she came along when I needed her most. This week has been an absolute bitch, what with The Boyfriend going and the highs of the last month coming to an end, but at least with a chocolate brownie the world starts to seem right again and with the current weather October really doesn’t seem so far away. The power of The Lawson!

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Tastes of Paris

Bonjour mes amis! I’ve been neglectful of the blog for a little while, but can you blame me, I’ve been in Paris? Whisked away by The Boyfriend upon his return home, we’ve been eating our way through Frances food repertoire and working it off by a lot of walking around The City Of Lights. And I did this all for your reading pleasure, selflessly taking the calorie hit so you, dear reader, don’t have to. The things I do for my “craft”. So clearly I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking, but what is the point of travelling and eating good food if you can’t brag about it upon your return to patient (but ultimately bored) friends?

Now, in four days we obviously weren’t going to get a chance to try every famous French meal, but we absolutely gave it our best shot. Frogs legs, snails, horse meat, all missed opportunities, although I really will draw the line at eating snails. I’ve heard they are delicious, but I can’t get my head round the idea of eating the slimy things so am happy to leave the snail eating to others. I’d much rather try horse meat. I know that might be a bit controversial over here, but I have as much emotional attachment to horses as I do cows and chickens, which is nil. They may have been one of my mums favourite animals, but she also loved ducks and I have eaten a lot of that so if she would ever have disowned me it would have been on that fateful day I had a Chinese crispy duck pancake for the first time. Hooked. Some animals just taste too good. Speaking of delicious animals, one of the highlights of my Parisian meals was the steak frite meal we had at Relais Les Entrecôte on a street just off the Champs Elysees. The Champs Elysee isn’t known for good food, generally being full of tourist traps serving average food, but venture off it and you’ll find this gem. The guide book described it as possibly serving the best steak frites in town, which i think may be pushing it and gives you unreasonably high expectations, but it certainly was delicious. If you go, arrive early as its a badly kept secret and we queued to get a table (they don’t take reservations) but I felt its worth it. They don’t give you a menu, they only serve steak frites, and give you a pretty tasty little salad and sourdough bread while you wait for your main. Its a bustling restaurant and if you like your space this isn’t the restaurant for you as the tables are claustrophobically close together. The steak itself was perfectly cooked, pink in the middle and super soft, covered in a delicious sauce.The recipe for this is apparently a closely guarded secret, but between us we could detect some curry powder, mustard, cream and er, that was about it! Definitely not the best food detectives around, but who cares, it tasted good and was a good dunking vehicle for the french fries. They were also pretty good. Best thing about this restaurant though is that once you’ve cleared your plate, the waitresses come round with trays of steak and chips and pile your plate up again with seconds. Forget stuffy restaurants with teeny portions and over inflated prices, this is the sort of French food that totally satisfies. Even though we had seconds, we found space for pudding (unlike the mains, their dessert menu is extensive!), The Boyfriend had raspberry sorbet and I had profiteroles, which were filled with vanilla ice cream and covered in a gooey, rich and utterly gorgeous chocolate sauce. Total chocoholic heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other French foodie highlights include eating more ice cream under the Eiffel Tower (we both pigged out and had 3 scoops in a cone – mint chic chip, banana fudge and my old favourite, pistachio), crepes while sat in cafe on Place des Vosges (mine banana and rum, The Boyfriends filled with Nutella), French onion soup, and mussels in  a creamy parsley sauce. The French onion soup was seriously good, but should have been renamed cheese soup for the sheer scale of the amount of cheese contained underneath the croutons. I’m not complaining, it was flavoursome, filled with caramelised onions and gooey, stringy, melted cheese, and topped with crispy, cheese covered croutons. How can one complain about that? There were some disappointing foods, mainly the croissants I had for breakfast in the cafes which blatantly just came out of a packet. For the life of me I could not find a bakery near our hotel that sold croissants freshly baked which is really annoying when you’re very aware that the city is full of good bakeries but you can’t sniff them out. Plus, if you don’t like anything heavy for breakfast good luck finding somewhere that doesn’t force feed you baguette and croissant as soon as you sit down. The breakfast menu at this cafe said that it did eggs/bacon/omelettes, but when The Boyfriend asked for this he was told ‘non’ and subsequently given croissants (which he dislikes) and baguette, no sign of fried eggs and bacon. It was no use arguing, this waiter had it in for us tourists and decided to go all Dictator on our breakfast and pretended to not speak English, which was unfortunate as our French is pretty appalling. Very good reason to learn French if you’re planning a holiday to France, to get one up on the rude waiters (of which there are a lot of in Paris, it’s as much a part of Paris as the Eiffel Tower and the Seine) and get the breakfast you want, nay, deserve!

 

Lastly, how could I got to Paris and not try my cooking nemesis, the macaron? Unsure of what they should taste like and what their texture should be, I finally got to see what these tricky little devils should be like. Surprisingly, I’ve not actually been that far off when making them myself, which is a bit of an ego boost for me – I’m not as bad at making them as I thought, wahoo! Of course, I could never make such picture perfect macarons and the flavour combinations on offer at Pierre Herme were a million miles more ambitious than I could ever attempt, but I’m taking this as a victory over the tricky French meringues. Well, you take your victories where you can. I’ve not tried all the flavours I bought, I don’t want to wolf them down too soon as they were not cheap, but when they look like such perfect works of art you can see why they are such a delicacy. I went for salted caramel, chocolate and passion fruit, mint, pistachio,peach with apricot and saffron, and finally, lemon. So far, so delicious, I just need to take my time with these babies and savour the moment instead of just shoving them in my mouth like cheap toffee. Paris is absolutely a destination for food lovers, and while it’s tricky to avoid the tourist traps and disappointing food, there are still treasures in every district and, in the wise words of Chef Gusteau in the fabulous cartoon Ratatouille, “good food will always come to those who love to cook”. He sure knows his stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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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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