RSS

All The P’s

20140914-202228.jpg

The type of food that each of us class as comfort food no doubt varies wildly between all of us, but I’m willing to bet there are a few classics that come up time and time again. Any form of fruit pie or crumble smothered in custard must pop up on millions of Brits comfort food wish list, as must cheese on toast and roast dinner. For me, comfort food needs to be carb packed, whether that’s a shepherds pie topped with fluffy mash, a crunchy baguette smothered with butter, or pasta sheets layered up in a lasagna. Or it must be sweet, but again there needs to be an element of stodge from pastry, sponge or crumble. Eton Mess is delicious, no doubt, but when I’ve had a shocker of a day the last thing I need is a light fruity dessert. I need something heavy that will then leave me feeling so full and tired that the only thing left to do is drift off to sleep and wake up in the morning to a more promising day. Nothing cures a bad day more effectively than comfort food induced sleep.

Being heavily pregnant and with The Boyfriend on a far away continent for another 11 days, comfort food has played a big part in recent weeks. Combine this with not having to concern myself with fitting into my normal wardrobe of skinny Topshop jeans and beloved tea dresses, and you’ve got one sure fire way to cheer me up. I’m lucky to have supportive family and lovely friends too of course to keep me busy and spend quality time with, whilst the great thing about pregnancy is that you find yourself no longer tolerating flaky or terminally ill friendships. If you ask someone if you’ve done something to offend them and they say no, then they continue to make thinly veiled comments on social media, create awkward atmospheres and ignore invitations, then I really can’t be bothered. I have to pee every 20 minutes and spend most of my free time either eating for two or being in bed by 8:30, I really don’t have the time, energy or the will to work out what’s going on. After my antenatal class yesterday, believe me there are bigger things to worry about!

It was after this antenatal class that I knew I was in need of something comforting. There’s nothing like a midwife doing a demonstration with a doll and a plastic pelvic skeleton to have you running for the nearest bowl of carbohydrates. Especially when the midwife’s exclaiming how ‘isn’t nature wonderful’ and all you can think is that no actually, nature is not all that right now. I’m down with nature when it involves penguins or sunsets or daffodils, but there are some things that nature really messed up. Thanks nature.

Luckily I have just the cook to turn to for a carby comfort meal – Miss Lawson of course. Her Nigellissima book is my least used of all of her books, I don’t like being constrained by one country’s recipes in a cookbook, but the recipes do look tasty, what with them being Nigella-fied. I went for the alliteratively pleasing pasta, petit poits and pancetta risotto which promised all the comfort and starchiness of a risotto without the 30 minutes of constant, mind numbing stirring which can be useful at times but not when in need of quick comfort. This is achieved by using orzo pasta which looks very similar to rice and absorbs the water quickly, leaving you with a dish not all that different to a rice risotto. It’s a very simple dish too, all you do is crisp up the pancetta in some hot oil, chuck in some frozen peas, pasta and water, then once all the water is absorbed stir in butter and Parmesan until melted and you’re good to go. It’s a one pan job too, there’s no chopping and most importantly no constant stirring, so for a mid week meal it’s simplicity itself.

Taste wise, it’s not up there with Nigella’s greatest hits. Her recipes usually pack in a lot of flavour but this one misses the mark a little. It’s still comforting, the pasta is starchy and silky and there’s a faint tang of salt from the pancetta and Parmesan, but it’s just a bit too subtle. Nigella warns not to over salt the dish because of the already salty main ingredients, but it still wasn’t enough to bring out a lot of flavour. The flavour would probably be improved with the addition of a stock cube to the water, it might take the sodium levels up a bit higher but I’d imagine the taste would be much better. In fact, just adding a little more of all the salty ingredients would improve this dish, and perhaps half a glass of white wine. Maybe the short cut of using pasta instead of arborio rice means that the intensity of flavour that normally accompanies a risotto is sacrificed, because you’re not investing the time to gradually build up flavours. Still, if you’re in the market for a quick, easy, comforting dinner that takes next to no effort and would probably keep the kids happy, you could definitely do worse. Certainly not comforting enough though to get the image of that plastic pelvis out of my mind.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Books, Cooking, Food, Italian, Nigella Lawson

 

Tags: , , , ,

A Heavy Little Pick Me Up

20140819-193127.jpg

I’ve many favourite desserts; depending on the time of day that you ask me the answer could be different every time. But one of my favourite favourites is tiramisu, that heavenly Italian dessert which never fails to pick me up. That’s probably got a lot to do with the strong coffee, dusting of chocolate and pillowy gorgeousness of a mascarpone cheese and fluffed up egg white mixture. When done right, tiramisu is like a gift from the heavens. The only problem with said dessert is that it contains an impressive amount of sinful ingredients and yet inexplicably gets away with it and tastes light as a feather. I can’t order tiramisu in a restaurant because the calorific sliver presented is never enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and yet I know just how bad that tiny piece is for me. I once ordered tiramisu at Jamie’s Italian and was almost inconsolable at the tiny smear on a plate that was supposed to constitute dessert. I guess this is what happens when chefs who campaign against unhealthy eating and obesity serve dessert – judgement on your lifestyle choices. “Sure, you can have dessert but you did have a big bowl of pasta and some polenta chips, so this tiny portion is all you’re getting for dessert. You greedy pig”. Never mind the fact I’M OUT FOR DINNER AND TREATING MYSELF, Jamie knows best. Regular readers know about my mixed feelings towards Mr Oliver, and safe to say recalling this unfortunate run in with his tiramisu has put him back in my bad books.

So I save tiramisu for when I can eat lots of it, preferably behind closed doors and with the curtains fully drawn (the Waitrose Essential tiramisu is a favourite of mine, and yes, it does qualify as an essential item in my eyes). I’m not proud of it, but it’s the only way I can satisfy the craving for it without ordering four portions in a restaurant and feeling thoroughly judged (as I rightly should be).
But hold on a second there Hayles, I might have come across a solution, for I have found a tiramisu recipe that not only contains sinful amounts of everything but also tastes as if it does too. Problem solved! The recipe I found was for tiramisu brownies and combines two great loves of mine. A warm, gooey brownie topped with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle of chocolate sauce is another favourite favourite dessert of mine after all, so how could this combination let me down? Well, as it turns out it did a little, although with a bit of tweaking it has the potential to be stunning.

It’s a fairly simple recipe, you throw together a basic brownie recipe, top it with coffee soaked sponge fingers then smother it with a mascarpone, cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and egg white mixture. Bake in the oven and then voila, tiramisu brownies at your service. I should warn you now that the cheese and egg white mixture was absolutely divine raw and would be perfect simply on its own as a milkshake with only a straw to accessorise. Of course, the problem with this advice is that were you to take it up, your arteries would fur up instantaneously and your trouser buttons would pop off within seconds, but taste wise you can’t really knock it. Tis the way with mascarpone, it’s insanely good in a dessert but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s cheese and therefore loaded with saturated fat. Decadent. And before you ‘tsk’ me at the notion of a pregnant woman eating a mixture containing raw egg, let me tell you I’ve done my research. When someone tells me I can’t eat something, believe you me I want to know why. So I’m definitely keeping away from the pate, the stilton and the wine, but when it comes to raw eggs I’m a little more cavalier. The reason pregnant women are advised not to eat raw or undercooked eggs is because of the risk of salmonella (which by the way does not harm the baby but can make the woman very ill), which it turns out has practically been eradicated from eggs in the past decade. Check your box of eggs and if you see a red lion stamp on the box or the eggs, it means the chickens have been vaccinated against salmonella and the risk of catching it is extremely small. Turns out the UK has the safest eggs in the world (but don’t take my word for it, get the lowdown here: http://www.egginfo.co.uk/great-british-success-story) and you are more likely to get food poisoning from your local takeaway or imported eggs, yet no one tells pregnant women to avoid a chicken chow mein. Obviously don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with doing, but if you buy British eggs with the red lion stamp on them, you’re probably not going to get salmonella. I’ve been eating cake mix and dipping soldiers into runny yolks since I was tiny and I’m still here!

These brownies once out of the oven are just OK. The brownie itself is more cakey than it should be, and the lack of chocolate chunks that I’d normally throw in a brownie are really noticeable for their absence. The cream cheese mixture loses a lot of taste once baked (I was gutted, the raw mixture promised so much more) and I needed a much stronger and better quality coffee to soak the sponge fingers in. Saying all that, I think with a bit of tweaking I could really improve these. The brownies need to be cooked for a lot less time to ensure they’re gooey not dry, as well as needing some white chocolate buttons to give it a bit more texture and complement the creamy cheese topping. In fact, I’d probably use a completely different brownie recipe for the base next time, a Nigella one. I definitely need to be more generous with the coffee as well as possibly adding a splash more vanilla extract to the cheese mixture to really boost the flavours. Whether I will actually ever make these again I can’t say, all these brownies made me want to do was eat a really good tiramisu followed by a warm brownie and ice cream. Perhaps there is something to be said for sticking with the classics and leaving well alone. Still, there was no danger of me eating four portions, these are heavy little things, so if you also have willpower issues these will nip that in the bud. Like I said earlier, problem solved!

If you’d like to give these a go, you can find the recipe here, hopefully you’ll do a better job than I did: http://eat-drink-love.com/2013/09/tiramisu-brownies/

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Totally Tropical Curry

20140807-195937.jpg

Once an idea has wormed its way into my head and lodged itself in there, there really isn’t much more I can do about it except act on it as soon as circumstances allow. It’s how I end up baking cookies on a stiflingly hot day when really I should be reading in the garden, how I end up putting that tub of Ben and Jerry’s in my basket when I’d only popped in for milk and cat food, and how I ended up heavily pregnant in the midst of an uncharacteristically hot British summer. Of all the miserable, rainy, chilly summers that we’ve had over the last few years, and yet of course this year was the one I decided to get broody in. Once my mind is made up on something though, that’s it, it’s happening.

That bloody minded-ness is what led me to cook up a Jamaican classic, curry goat with rice and peas (admittedly, I didn’t go out of my way to find goat meat and settled for using up some lamb I had in the freezer). A colleague had been raving about some Jamaican food she had had from a local takeaway at the weekend, it sounded delicious and therefore I knew that I had to have some. At first I was determined to get this food to go from this haven of Jamaican deliciousness but then thought I should give making it a go myself. I’ve never been to Jamaica, have very little knowledge of the place and the closest I’ve ever come to eating the nations food before was from a Tesco jerk seasoning blend and a can of Lilt. Not exactly what you would call the most qualified of cooks to try and knock up some authentic Jamaican food, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

I trawled the internet for some decent looking recipes and decided to pair it with another Jamaican classic, rice and peas. Here’s how little I knew about the famous dish: I thought it was made with garden peas when in fact authentic versions use kidney beans. Luckily being the chilli addicts that we are there is always a tin of kidney beans in the cupboard. While on the subject of kidney beans (a thrilling subject!) am I stating the obvious when I say what is the point of buying any other tin of kidney bean than the supermarket value tin? I will admit I can be a terrible snob when it comes to food, and I’m fortunate enough in this world of food banks and benefit cuts to be able to afford to buy brand names and not walk around the shops with a calculator working out every penny spent, but if you can tell me how a ‘brand name’ kidney bean is in anyway shape or form better than a value bean I will give you a prize. It’s a bloody kidney bean. Cover up your value tin with a big fillet steak if it makes you feel any better. I’ll put my 50p saving towards a nice big tub of Haagen Dazs thank you very much.

The recipe itself is pretty simple to follow. I was a little taken aback at the amount of curry powder needed and only just had enough but if you give this a go yourself there is no need to be alarmed. The bulk of the heat in the dish comes from the scotch bonnet chillies, which I deseeded because I’m not a masochist. When I cut them open my eyes quickly started watering, I don’t think my eyes have ever recovered from their previous close encounters with chillies and the mere sight of a cut open scotch bonnet got them weeping. It took me a good few hours and several very thorough hand washes before I felt confident in taking my eye make up off, I can tell you that. The lamb needs a good couple of hours bubbling away in the curry before it’s ready to eat as you want the meat meltingly tender and falling apart when touched. Much like a Thai massamann curry, potatoes are added for the last half hour which bulks up the curry and helps to thicken the sauce with their starchiness. The rice and pea element of the dish is ridiculously simple, you just cook the rice in coconut milk, allspice, garlic and thyme and chuck in the kidney beans for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Could not be simpler.

For a first time attempt at a Jamaican dish, I don’t think I did too badly. While the curry wasn’t particularly hot or complex it had a good flavour, if a little bit simple. It was creamy from the coconut with a little bit of spice, although next time I might add one more chilli to the mix just to give it that little bit more heat. The curry isn’t that dissimilar from an Indian curry, although a little bit more mellow and less fiery, surprising considering the inclusion of a scotch bonnet chilli. I had the leftovers for tea a couple of days later and like any decent curry the flavours had intensified. This would be really good to cook a couple of days before you actually wanted to eat it, if you’re more organised and efficient than I am, anyway.
I drowned the rice and peas in the curry sauce so unfortunately can’t really comment on them, next time I make them I’ll accompany them with a dry dish like jerk chicken so they aren’t swamped in curry flavours.

I’d imagine the curry goat at the local Jamaican takeaway puts my version to shame (or at least I hope so). I will have to give it a shot one day, perhaps passing off my takeaway splurge/greed as a ‘craving’. I’m definitely more interested in Jamaican food now, and with the weather being so pleasant recently it’s fun to cook up something with a Caribbean flavour so you can at least pretend you’re in the tropics and not in an English market town, keeping your fingers crossed that that dark grey cloud hovering over you passes without incident.

PS- you can find a lot of different versions of these dishes online, but these are the recipes that I tried: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/jamaican_goat_curry/

http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000000523888,00.html

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Taking A Walk On The Veggie Side

The idea that I would ever become a vegetarian is completely laughable. There is no food that I would rather give up less in this world, and I include chocolate in that assessment. My life without chicken wings, beef burgers, steak, roast pork, bacon sandwiches, meatballs and the like would be a miserable existence, one I wouldn’t like to think about. I’m coming out in a cold sweat just writing about it, so help me! However, that doesn’t mean that I have to be lean, mean, meat eating machine (no worries on the lean part right now I must say) who shovels meat into my mouth without considering the consequences. I’m aware that raising cattle for meat production and the amount of grain we have to feed them with are causing huge problems globally and that this is just not sustainable forever. I’m also uncomfortable that chicken processing factories aren’t doing enough to prevent chickens contaminated with the lethal bacteria campylobacter being sold in supermarkets. And if I’m honest with myself, I don’t really want to see or know about the process in which animals are killed so that we can eat them. In the developed world we’ve gotten too used to having meat every day and I don’t believe that in 20 years time it will be affordable as an everyday item. The cheapness of meat right now (you can buy a whole chicken in Tesco today for £2.48- at that price what sort of life will that chicken have had when its 6 months of existence are equal to the cost of a vanilla latte?) comes at a price to the welfare of the animals and the quality control in the factories that process it. How long this will be allowed to go on for I don’t know. I don’t believe for a second that meat should be the preserve of the middle and upper classes, everyone should be able to eat meat, but we as consumers definitely need to change our shopping and eating habits so that we can demand better from the big supermarkets who’ve driven prices so low that corners are cut. How else did horse meat get into ready meals last year? We and the animals deserve better.

Bearing all this in mind, I thought I should try and do my bit to lessen how much meat I buy and start having a couple of vegetarian meals throughout the week. Being pregnant I’m also very conscious of how many of my 5 a day I’m getting, and was getting a little bit bored of my ‘go-to’ veggie sides of peas, corn on the cob and broccoli. All good for me, but I needed more variety. Step forward Gwyneth Paltrow! If you’re looking for some healthy or veggie alternatives, she’s your gal. She might get on my tits at times with her ‘conscious uncoupling’, love of quinoa and that goddamn perfect skin, but I can’t really knock her cookbook ‘Notes From My Kitchen Table’ which my auntie bought for me as a housewarming present. I opted for her portobello mushroom and slow roasted tomato burger, which, let me be clear is tasty but is in no way a burger. It would be far more honest to label it as a sandwich, which I believe in the past both Nigella and Nigel have done. Portobello mushrooms are juicy and meaty – as far as vegetables go at least – and suit being slapped in between a burger bun but it’s definitely not a burger. For a decent vegetarian meal though, it’s handsome.

I roasted the tomatoes in the oven for 3 hours earlier in the day until they had been sapped of all moisture and the edges had begun to caramelise. The mushroom was left to sit in a marinade of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice for 20 minutes before being placed under the grill. Once the mushroom was cooked, I topped it with the tomatoes, some grilled onions and some liberally applied cheddar, then placed back under the grill for just a minute to melt the cheese. It smelt heavenly, although it needed very careful watching as it wouldn’t take long to go from perfectly cooked to burnt to a crisp. The mushroom was delicious, juicy and garlicky with a nice meaty texture, with some sweetness coming through from the tomatoes and onions. And anything topped with melted cheese is a winner in my book. Gwyneth suggests using smoked mozzarella but I made do with the extra strong cheddar I already had in the fridge – it is the best cheese in the world after all, you can’t possibly go wrong. Gwyneth most likely would not approve (nor indeed would many of my friends) but regardless I served my ‘shroom burger with potato waffles and randomly, some beetroot. What can I say, I just needed that waffly versatile taste of childhood alongside my rather grown up burger. Pregnancy means you can eat what you want, no judgement. As satisfying as it was, I did feel a little short changed afterwards and not as full as I’d like to be – perhaps a psychological effect of missing beef maybe? Still, on an upcoming weekend in London I will be going into full on carnivore mode with the intent of trying out the London Shake Shack. I’ve had the New York Shake Shack and deemed it the best and most addictive burger in the world, so I’m keen to see if its just as good over on these shores. Absolutely worth missing out on meat in my so called burger this time around.

Vegetarian meals don’t have to be boring or virtuous, they can still pack a flavour punch and be incredibly more-ish. I really will be planning on having a couple of meat free days a week and experimenting a little more with vegetarian dishes – perhaps try and give it a go yourself? After all, supermarkets and food producers won’t change if we don’t.

*There’s no photo of this burger I’m afraid because there really is no way to make a mushroom in a bun look remotely appetising, especially when accompanied by Birds Eye’s finest*

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Curry Cravings

20140723-191515.jpg

If you asked me to count how many times I’d attempted to make an Indian curry at home that even came close to replicating the taste of a restaurant curry, I’d be here all day. I’m not stupid, I know that I will never make a curry that could fool a hard-core curry lover into thinking that I’d ordered it from my local takeaway; all I ask is for a recipe that will be tasty enough to stop me spending £15 every time I get a craving for some Indian spice. Because really, it’s getting a little ridiculous how much I want Indian food these days. I am becoming that hard core curry lover.

I’ve tried so many times to knock up a banging curry but up until now it seemed like it was completely beyond me. I’ve found in the past that homemade curries of mine tend to be bland and watery or just taste of tinned tomatoes no matter the sheer quantity of spices involved. I’m not one for subtle tastes either, I like to be slapped around the face with flavour, none of this ‘pinch of cumin’ nonsense, give me a tablespoon. For me, a perfect curry would be strong, spicy, a little bit sour and if I’m in the mood have a little bit of sweetness. And the sauce must be thick. You can see how I’d struggle to replicate something at home that I’m so specific about when even a lot of curry houses let me down on these points. It’s a burden I must bear, having such high standards.

Well the other week I finally broke the curse of the homemade curry, and the curry itself didn’t even tick all of my ‘perfect curry’ boxes, for it was that well loved British classic chicken tikka masala. I’m partial to a CTM but only on the rare occasion I’m not in the mood for something with a bit more spice. You know what you’re getting with a CTM, it’s got a strong savoury flavour and an unctuous thick sauce that’s perfect to mop up with a massive naan bread. Snobs can shove the “it’s so inauthentic” argument where the sun doesn’t shine – sure, maybe it isn’t authentically from the Indian subcontinent, but what it is authentic of is British and Indian cultures and tastes mingling as well as a reflection of the multiculturalism of Great Britain and how we embrace that which is different to us. Things to be celebrated, surely? Every dish is authentic of something.

I found the perfect recipe by way of The Guardian website, which unbeknownst to me up until two weeks ago has a resident food writer who on a regular basis writes up how to make the perfect version of a particular dish. Imaginatively, the series is called ‘How To Cook The Perfect…’ and goes back a few years so there is a jackpot of cooking expertise to delve into. As you can imagine, once I’d stumbled upon this I was in recipe nirvana. What the author (Felicity Cloake) does is cooks several different versions of the same dish from a variety of cookbooks and chefs, then picks out the best ideas, techniques and ingredients from each version and uses all this information to create The Perfect version. It’s genius. It also demands a tremendous amount of patience, I cook one version of one recipe and if it doesn’t turn out perfect then I condemn it, being the fickle, impatient person that I am. Felicity does all the hard work so that I then don’t have to.

In the ‘How To Cook The Perfect’ section, you can find 225 recipes, ranging from a simple blueberry muffin, to fiery jerk chicken, squidgy chocolate chip cookies, cheese soufflé, pizza, salad Niçoise, hollandaise sauce, chocolate cake, dhal, strudel, pancakes, gravy, shortbread, pesto, burgers, guacamole….. You get the idea. That is an awful lot of recipe testing, it would be nothing short of criminal not to lap up all that she has learnt and put it to practice in your own kitchen. Which is just what I did with her recipe for The Perfect Chicken Tikka Masala.

What I like about Felicity’s writing is that she explains what she found didn’t work and why, and what steps can be left out or are to be missed at your peril. She breaks it down so that you have a better understanding of the dish, which I think gives the cook a lot more confidence in what they are doing when following the recipe. The ingredient list for the CTM is lengthy, but if like me you have an entire cupboard filled to the brim with spices, you shouldn’t need to buy too much other than the fresh stuff. The Boyfriend is none too pleased with my spice collection, which takes up a lot of cupboard space in an already cramped kitchen, particularly when he is home and all he sees me cooking is chilli, meatballs and roast dinners. Hey, it’s what he wants to eat if he’s only back for a week. Loneliness and boredom is a great motivator to get in the kitchen and experiment, not so much companionship and precious time together!

The chicken is marinated in a simple yoghurt and spice mixture overnight, then the next day when you want to eat it you make the sauce and grill the chicken. You have to grill the chicken under a high heat so that you get a little bit of char, which helps add flavour and goes a little way to replicate the tandoor oven effect. The sauce isn’t as complicated as the ingredient list makes it look, and I really appreciate that she advises pureeing the sauce so that it is silky smooth, as I’ve seen and attempted many recipes that did not state this – if it has lumps of tomato and onion in the sauce, it’s not a true CTM, amiright? So you do need a blender, otherwise I can’t guarantee your version will turn out as well as mine did. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this version is equal to or better than a curry house CTM (not having a tandoori oven makes that impossible anyway), its easily the best tasting curry I’ve ever made at home. Not that the competition was stiff to begin with. Creamy, rich and full of the flavour of tomatoes and mellow spices, it put the devil on my shoulder always whispering in my ear “why don’t you just order a curry when you get home, you’ve had a long day, you deserve it” firmly in its place. I do deserve a decent curry some days, but with a bit of time and inclination it’s fantastic to know that I can make one without the guilt and the inevitable regret that always comes from a takeaway pig out. Felicity does her research and puts the work in to deliver recipes that you can rely on, so for that I’ll absolutely be using her Perfect recipes again.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Bittersweet Treat

I am a bit of a nut for the combination of sweet and salty at the moment. I realise this marks me out as someone slavishly following food trends, running with the crowd, baaing with the sheep, yada yada yada, such is the popularity of this flavour combination right now, but I don’t care. It all started with that demon, salted caramel, which has its claws in me good and proper. As a cookbook addict and regular Delicious reader, I’d like to think I was way ahead of the curve on this trend, remembering the days I’d drop salted caramel into the conversation and people would not get why this would ever be a desirable combination. Now it is everywhere, I can barely remember the last time I saw the word ‘caramel’ without ‘salted’ preceding it. Cadburys Caramel bars really need to start moving with the times. The wonderful thing about adding salt to sweet foods is that it magically stops the sickliest foods becoming too much and yet the contrast of sea salt flakes and sugary sweetness only makes you more aware of the sweetness. This must be what makes it so unbelievably addictive. I know a few lovely people who still think it’s nuts to add salt to caramel (or indeed any sweet thing) and I’m undecided yet as to whether they are monumental idiots, or actually geniuses for avoiding the inevitable addiction that swiftly follows that first taste. The jury is out on that one.

I love now to add a teaspoon or two of sea salt flakes (and I urge you to only use sea salt in sweet foods, don’t even consider table salt) to any sweet treat that I may be cooking. It’s particularly good in a really rich, dense brownie or sprinkled over the caramel before pouring over the melted chocolate to millionaires shortbread. I also love finding new recipes that play on the sweet ‘n’ salty relationship. I was drawn to today’s recipe of Choc Chip Cookie Pretzel Bars after realising how similar they were to a hard to find special edition pack of M&Ms that I found in America. These chocolate M&Ms were combined with salted peanuts, tiny choc chip cookies and miniature pretzels and obviously were absolute heaven. My fear is that during this pregnancy I’ll develop an insatiable craving for them that I cannot overcome due to the rather large, immovable, and uncross-able at 6 months pregnant Atlantic Ocean. Let’s hope this baby craves something inherently British for my sanity and everyone around me’s sake, although after a bit of Googling I’ve discovered you can buy a pack in the UK for the completely insane price of £7.50. But still, what price can you put on ones sanity?

I found this recipe on Pinterest (where else?) which seems to specialise in unique bakes that you’d struggle to find in any cookbook. God bless the internet! There’s not much work required other than a bit of stirring and mixing so perfect if you are rushed for time. Expectations were high, and unfortunately I was left a little disappointed. Not that they were bad, because they weren’t, but because the flavours didn’t quite live up to the M&Ms pack. The pretzels needed to be a little bit saltier and I think it could have done with a bit more chocolate to really amp up the flavours and turn it from a decent treat into a fantastic one. Still, with a little bit of work and some tweaking I reckon this could eventually be amazing, perhaps with the addition of some peanuts and actual chocolate M&Ms rather than plain chocolate chips. The cookie bar itself is soft and gooey with a slight crunch on the outside, as well as the crunch from the pretzels. You can find the recipe here should you want to give it a go, but I advise you do a little bit of tweaking if you can to maximise the flavours: http://www.justataste.com/2013/12/pretzel-chocolate-chip-cookie-bars-recipe/

20140615-175553.jpg

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Go Coconuts

20140610-204805.jpg

The cookbooks’ days are numbered. Or at least the days of the ones currently taking up valuable storage space in my middle bedroom anyway. Much as I’d like our future child to grow up in a bedroom surrounded by Nigella, Jamie, Gizzi and the like, dreaming of the amazing dinners they will cook their wonderful parents as soon as they’ve mastered hand eye coordination, reality dictates that instead it will grow up surrounded by cuddly toys, Play Doh and Very Hungry Caterpillars, dreaming of The Tiger That Came To Tea. Much as I am sad to bid adieu to my beloved cookbooks, I’ve become even worse at neglecting them over recent months and if I really want to cook something specific nowadays I just turn to Google and Pinterest for inspiration. Not all of them will go mind, there are some cookbooks I just can’t do without, but the majority are going. Sorry books, it was fun while it lasted but our time in the sun has come to an end.

So let’s start as I mean to go on; with a recipe culled from Pinterest, off of a much neglected board of mine (some habits just don’t change do they?) rather imaginatively titled “Things I’d Like To Cook”. Poetic in its simplicity, right? (And if you’d like to follow me on Pinterest or have a browse of my boards you can find me under hayles13. It’s basically just food, cities and cakes I’ll never have the skill or inclination to make, but if that’s your thing, I’m your girl).

I chose Coconut Prawn Curry because I love curry and cannot get enough of anything smothered in a sauce right now. It could be an Indian curry, roast chicken drenched in gravy or enchiladas with a smoky tomato sauce, doesn’t matter as long as it’s a saucy little devil. Dry food is the enemy. No matter how many times I go out for a curry and seriously consider having some tandoori chicken, in the end a proper saucy curry will always win. I also remember as a child that if there was any gravy leftover on our plates after a roast dinner, stew or sausages, we’d get a slice of white bread each, soak up the remaining gravy and savour the flavour of meaty bread. I can totally get on board with Red Ross and his fury over his beloved leftover Thanksgiving sandwich being pinched. If I had a sandwich with a layer of ‘moist maker’ stolen from my works communal fridge, I’d be just as mad. Moral of the story, both Ross and I are a little bit overprotective of our food, some would say unreasonably so, so best not to even contemplate touching our food, OK?

So, Coconut Prawn Curry. This recipe combines the creaminess of a Thai curry with the flavours of a mild Indian curry, and really works for it. I don’t normally go for a mild curry as I’m addicted to a bit of heat but if a curry can offer plenty of flavour without bringing me out in a sweat, then I’m just as happy. I didn’t completely follow the recipe, as I couldn’t really be bothered to make my own prawn stock and didn’t want my house stinking of fish for days. Instead, I used some chicken stock with a dash of Thai fish sauce (known as nam pla) stirred in. To ensure the curry wasn’t too watery I also used a sachet of coconut cream (I use Pataks creamed coconut which is really thick, the sachet needs soaking in hot water for a good 10 minutes before you can squeeze it into the curry) and half a tin of coconut milk, and the result was perfect. Creamy, intense without being overwhelming and full of the flavours of India, it was absolutely a curry I’d make again. Most importantly, I was able to absolutely smother the rice with the delicious and plentiful sauce. Normally if I see a curry recipe that doesn’t stipulate the use of chillies I’ll completely dismiss it, but this recipe goes to show that sometime you should just let the flavours do the talking and give the chilli a night off. I’m trying to eat more vegetables these days so find myself adding whatever veggies are in the fridge/freezer to curries, hence the baby corn hidden under all those prawns. When you’ve got coconut milk and cream in your curry, you’ll find yourself far more able to justify your dinner if you’ve popped in a portion or two of your 5 a day, take it from someone who knows.

(If you’d like to give this curry a go – and with it only taking half an hour, why on earth wouldn’t you? – you can find it here: http://simply-delicious-food.com/2012/08/22/coconut-prawn-curry/

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized