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The trouble with eggs

Oh mayonnaise, what are we going to do with you? You taste very nice in your little jars, but so many cookbooks and chefs tell me that homemade mayonnaise is even nicer that in the interests of tasting delicious food I feel it is my duty to make some. Trouble is that these same chefs and cookbooks also tell me how darn difficult it is to make it from scratch, hence our reliance on the good old Hellmans. In the book I’m reading at the moment, Lunch in Paris (not a cookbook but a true story about an American falling in love with a Frenchman and food in Paris, peppered with a few recipes here and there -right up my street) , the author describes meeting her new beaus family and mother who, calmly in the middle of conversation, whips up a bowlful of mayonnaise to go with lunch. She made it sound so easy, the swine, that I just knew right then that I had to try myself. The meal it revolved around was supposed to be pan fried salmon with lime and coriander mayonnaise and crushed potatoes again with lime and coriander from my new book French Brasserie. Unfortunately my attempt at mayonnaise went disastrously – I added the oil too quickly to the egg yolks so instead of a bowl full of pillowy, creamy mayonnaise I ended up with oily egg yolks that had the same consistency as grease. And I had no extra eggs to try again, so I ended up grilling the salmon in foil with lime, ginger, chilli and coriander and accompanied the fish with the potatoes described earlier. While tasty, it lacked the je ne sais quoi that I had anticipated from the homemade mayonnaise, and in my bad temper I’d seriously over cooked the salmon. Bugger. So to say it wasn’t the most successful evening spent in the kitchen would be an understatement. Nigella quotes in one of her books that she grew up making mayonnaise and never knew it was difficult until someone commented on her ability to do it. This is why I love her, so unfazed, so blasé at the tricky side to cooking, and encouraging you, as she would phrase it, to feel the fear and cook it anyway. True for life outside the kitchen too, just do it. One day, homemade mayonnaise, I will return to overcome your tricky ways.

Despite what the rather misleading title of todays blog would have you believe, I’ve also had a successful crack at the eggs this week. This success came from Nigella Bites, which is one of my favourite offerings from The Lawson. When a cookbook has chapters like ‘TV Dinners’ and ‘Trashy’, you know you’re going to be eating well. Favourites from this include the chocolate fudge cake (simply amazing, if you only make one recipe from Bites, this is the one) and the meatballs and pasta. I got Bites from EBay secondhand when I first moved out of the parents home and I really love that there are splashes of food on some of the pages. The Boyfriend thinks its gross, but being the dreamer that I am I just think of the happy meals a family or couple had using this book. Or maybe they weren’t such great meals if they ended up selling it on eBay. Hmmm. Dinner tonight from this gem was masala omelette with coriander chutney and chapatis, which is in the breakfast section but between you and me, this ain’t no breakfast. What it is though is tasty with a big chilli smack in the face which I very much appreciated after a tiring day of work. The omelette is taken up a notch with chopped spring onion, chilli, garlic and some Indian spices, and eaten wrapped up in chapatis with a big dollop of coriander chutney. So easy and ridiculously tasty. The chutney provides most of the spice, which is sharp and nasal clearing but not the sort of spice that turns your mouth into a volcano. It’s manageable. The chutney just involves chucking a few chillies, herbs and coconut cream in a blender with some lime juice so is very simple, and likely to not even be a chutney at all. It contains my two favourite herbs which are mint and coriander. God, I love them. They smell glorious and transport me to tropical shores every time I get a whiff of them. They also taste stunning, alone or together, and I’m rather partial to eating them on their own while waiting for something to cook. What a freak. The time/flavour ratio for this dinner is off the scale, it takes no time at all yet delivers a really flavourful meal that wakes your taste buds up. The perfect recipe then, to get me amped up and excited about the release of Nigella’s new cookbook next week. This is an obsession I’m happy to continue for a little while yet!

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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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Mexican eggs, Thai salad

Well the boyfriend has gone away for the next 6 weeks for work, which whilst having many, many, many downsides also has some positives. One of the few positives is that I can cook recipes that he would never even entertain the thought of eating or would instantly hate, so for him to be away is quite handy when a lot of the recipes on my challenge list he has already snubbed!  (I’d still rather he was in the same country though). I also now have a bit more time to cook these recipes while he’s away, so cooking and then writing about it may become a lot more frequent, you lucky things!

After working up a bit of a sweat this morning at the gym (I’m on a mission to be able to fit back into my pre-Florida jeans) , I knocked up some Mexican scrambled eggs from Nigella Express. I’ve used this cookbook a LOT and I mean a lot. When I first got it it was practically the only cookbook I used for weeks on end so finding a few recipes from here that I hadn’t tried already was a challenge in itself. Its a really good cookbook with food that is easy to cook, takes no time whatsoever and is very satisfying to eat. Probably isn’t all that healthy though, its a good thing I moved on to other cookbooks in the end, else I could be the size of a car by now! The Mexican eggs were very nice, you fry strips of tortillas until crispy and then add beaten eggs, chilli, tomato and spring onion. It could have been a little hotter so next time I’ll be adding another chilli to make it a bit more interesting and tastier. Its a good substantial breakfast to have after exercising, and probably even better after a big boozy night out. Definitely a nice change to boiled eggs or Coco Pops, although its not much to look at, as you can see.

 

Dinner tonight was something that the boyfriend had already completely ruled out and to be honest, I put it on the list with some trepidation as it asks things of me that I normally wouldn’t tolerate. A- it is a salad and B- it combines fruit and meat. Let me tell you, salad is not a meal, it is a side dish that you eat to feel bit healthier but never really enjoy, and fruit should never ever meet with meat. Then this little salad came along and blew my mind. Yes, it’s that good. The recipe is Sticky Thai Chicken And Mango Salad and is from Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic which is a beautiful book with some amazing recipes in it. If you see this in a bookshop, pick it up and have a flick through, and I bet your mouth will be salivating by the time you’ve decided you must have this book. Recipes include rosewater and cardamom creme brûlée with pistachios, lamb massaman curry, sticky barbecue chicken wings, and Earl Grey chocolate fudge cake. And it all looks gorgeous. Anyway, I digress, back to the salad. It was seriously good, and my mind is now open to the idea of fruit and meat combined. The chicken thighs were crispy skinned and covered in a sticky spicy glaze, the mango had absorbed the lime and fish sauce dressing and become super juicy and the chilli gave everything a big kick which I loved, but if you’re not a chilli fanatic then you should avoid this recipe. I would never have put mango, coriander, fish sauce and shallots together, and yet it was so good, so tasty and so moreish that I wish I’d tried it years ago. It’s also really refreshing and in the summer would be a perfect way to end a hot day. So many peoples only experience of Thai food is green / red curry, and while they are delicious there is so much more to it. I’ve only just started to branch out with Thai food but already its taught me that salad can be a delicious main meal, who knew? Perhaps next time you’re out for a Thai meal, have something completely different instead of your usual and you may be pleasantly surprised.

 

 
 

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Goan prawn curry with hard boiled egg – Everyday Indian

Friends have called me a food snob. Personally I don’t know what they mean, I just like to shop in Waitrose, eat at nice places and only buy cookbooks by either famous chefs or acclaimed food writers. So maybe I’m a bit of a food snob. But before you judge me you should also know that I love McDonalds and fairground doughnuts, so how much of a snob can I really be?! Anyway, the cookbook for todays recipe is not by a chef or acclaimed food writer, indeed has no author at all apparently judging by the front cover. It’s from Everyday Indian, a book I admittedly would never have bought myself in a million years. I always feel that if there is no one who wants to put a name to this book, what is it that they don’t want to take credit for? If you’re proud of something then you put your name on it. Plus, while I am  a huge fan of good Indian food, I have never been able to replicate a good Indian curry at home. It always tastes either of onions or tomatoes and the reaction it tends to get is ‘meh’. Doesn’t matter how many recipes I try, the curry will always end up being bland, too watery and nowhere near the deliciousness of a proper Indian curry, I just don’t have the skills. Anyway this book was given to me by someone as a stocking filler present, and it went onto the bookcase on Boxing Day and has remained there for over 2 years, until today.

So, would this cookbook be the one that gave me the recipe, nay, the secret to an amazing, authentic, tasty, spicy, complex flavoured curry? Well, no. Sadly it did not. I’d like to say I give up on cooking Indian at home, but unfortunately I have another Indian cookbook to cook from as well as two more from the authorless book to complete the challenge. Bummer. The curry was alright, it tasted a little bit like the spices (ground fennel, ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder), the egg surprisingly went well with the curry (probably because the egg had more flavour than the sauce), and the prawns were nicely cooked. But there was really nothing there to make me want to cook it again, and a few hours after eating I’ve completely forgotten what it tastes like. The boyfriend commented that the nicest bit of the curry was the coriander sprinkled on top. It tells you something about a curry when the condiment / garnish tastes better than the curry (although we really do love coriander, I used to eat leaves by the fistful when I was first introduced to the herb!). Whether this is the books fault or is down to my incompetence as a curry cook, I cant really know. But because I’m a food snob, I’m going to place the blame with the non-author of this book. No name  = not proud.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Indian

 

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