Tag Archives: homesick Texan

Well, I’m Going To Texas

The trouble with being so in awe of such an enormous country is that you know you’ll never have the time, money nor inclination to get to grips with the entire place. I don’t think there’s one single state in the US that I wouldn’t deem worthy of a trip to, but with 50 states spread over thousands of miles and some states being worthy of multiple visits, it’s not going to happen without a pretty big lottery win. I’d like to believe that one day I really will win the lottery, but considering I always forget to buy a ticket each week the odds are pretty slim. This fascination with America then and my lack of millions goes some way to explaining the many cookbooks focusing on the country that adorn my bookshelf. To make the most of these books and get more mileage out of them, the theme running through my blogs for the next few weeks will be focusing on the Deep South of the States and the food originating from the region. Or until I get bored and move on, don’t be too shocked if the next blog is all about pasta. I’m fickle like that.

The Deep South apparently consists of the states Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. I thought it also included Texas and did so up until writing that last sentence, so for the purpose of this blog and to save my blushes, Texas is now part of the Deep South. In my defence it is right next to Louisiana. I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a good recipe. Today I cooked from The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain and is a collection of the foods she grew up with in Texas before moving to New York. The book is filled with classic photos depicting the Lone Star state – think cowboy boots, vast stretches of road and no mans land, cattle and great big slabs of meat- as well as recipes a true Texan would know and love. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that Texas is up there as one of the states I’d really, really like to visit compared to just really wanting to visit (it still has to contend with California, Maine, Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolina’s – stiff competition). I can’t even tell you why I want to visit it, it’s just so iconic and I think of it as the essence of America, if that makes any sense. When I think of America, two images come immediately to mind, one of which is the New York skyline and the other the cattle horns and cowboy boots of Texas. Get me on that plane to Dallas, please.

Fancy-pants king ranch chicken casserole is the dish I cooked, and yes, that is the title given to it in the book. Most magnificent a name. It’s certainly unique. Lisa tells me that this casserole is one of the most popular ones that Texans make but does not go into the provenance of the name. Even though there are a lot of ingredients for this, if you have a well stocked spice cupboard and vegetable drawer you’ll probably have no problem throwing this together. The chicken breasts are fried in a marinade of ancho chilli powder, lime juice and salt, then shredded and added into a homemade enchilada sauce which is then layered in a baking dish with corn tortillas and lots of cheese. To call it a casserole is pretty misleading as after cooking I would describe it more as an enchilada lasagna (lasagna like in structure alone, with the tortillas replacing lasagna sheets) and a really delicious one at that. It’s subtly spicy, creamy and very cheesy and the perfect antidote to the cold weather, the return to work and the endless diet adverts. Despite all the peppers and tomatoes in the casserole it’s not particularly healthy with all the butter and cheese but mentally it’s the equivalent of sitting in front of the fire with a cosy blanket and a good book – pure comfort. It got the thumbs up from The FiancĂ© too, which is a rarity when it comes to me experimenting with lesser used cookbooks. If you want to give this recipe a try have a gander at her website The Homesick Texan where you’ll find this very recipe.

It’s safe to say that this recipe has done nothing to dissuade me from wanting to check out Texas, in fact it’s just made me keener to visit. Better start buying those lottery tickets.


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Texan Pulled Pork Tacos

You don’t need to have been to the Longhorn state of Texas to know that Texans like it big, they like it meaty and above all they like it spicy. I am of course talking about their food. Tex Mex is big business over here in chilly Blighty, starting off in the 70’s with the hugely popular chilli con carne and now taking over our ‘world food’ aisle in the supermarkets. You can’t move in Tesco for people with a fajita kit, some guacamole or taco shells and most people I know now rely on fajitas for a speedy weeknight meal. We’ve taken it to our hearts, and who can blame us for wanting a bit of Texan warmth in our kitchens when the clouds are grey and the rain eternal. But with ease and familiarity comes boredom. Tex Mex will surely go the way of spaghetti bolognese, a tasty and satisfying dinner but nothing to get excited about and eaten with little fuss or fireworks. Something needed doing, and gosh darn it, I’ve done it, and got myself all excited over Tex Mex again. Having bought a book stuffed full of delicious looking Texan food and being unable to cook practically anything in it, I desperately turned to Google in the hope I would find something to sate my increasing appetite for authentic Tex Mex. What I found may well be the tastiest recipe on the Internet and easily the nicest recipe I’ve ever made using my slow cooker. Texan BBQ pulled pork. It’s unbelievably simple to make, all it requires of the cook is to chuck a few ingredients in the slow cooker and then leave all day so that the pork falls to pieces at the mere mention of a fork into the smoky BBQ sauce. It really is very good. The author of the recipe suggests stuffing the pulled pork into hamburger buns,which I’m sure is delicious but craving some Tex Mex I couldn’t think of a better way to show off the pork than with taco shells with all the trimmings. It’s a feast, for sure, but living alone for a few weeks doesn’t mean I have to resign myself to ready meals or jacket potatoes. My options are limited as it is with no oven, and the horrific stereotype of sad ‘Bridget Jones’ women eating their lonely ready meal for one really grinds my gears (as the Texans would say). Eating dinner alone needn’t be a dreaded event, and there are times when I really look forward to being alone at the end of a busy day or week and just taking time for myself to eat what I want and watch what I want on the telly. I don’t like being apart from The Boyfriend for so long and there have been some pretty tough times, but there have equally been plenty of amazing times with friends, family and just myself. Without the dark we can’t truly appreciate the light, and realising you can still have a happy, fulfilling time while missing someone like crazy is eye opening and makes you more independent and comfortable in your own company. In short, make the best of a tough situation and don’t neglect yourself.
With the pulled pork and tacos I also had sour cream, cheddar, salsa and homemade guacamole, possibly the only recipe from my new cookbook that I could actually make in my kitchen. Again, it’s very easy and just involves mashing up an avocado with some of my favourite ever ingredients, lime juice, coriander, garlic and chilli. How can you go wrong with a dish when its got those babies in it? The Homesick Texan, by Lisa Fain is all about a Texan who moves to New York and struggles to find the authentic foods she grew up on and loved. To overcome this she took to perfecting the recipes herself and started a blog which was so successful that this book now graces my shelves. I find it hard to believe anyone would struggle finding Tex Mex in the most restaurant crazy city in the world, but what do I know, I’ve never lived there?

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how outstandingly good the pulled pork tacos were, the photo tells you everything you really need to know, but I’ll say it anyway: they were epic. The strong BBQ flavour of the pork stands up really well to the salsa and guacamole, while the sour cream cools the mouth and prevents the BBQ from being sickly sweet. Add in the crunch from the tacos and you’ve got a perfect meal to end the weekend with. I highly recommend you make this. Be prepared though for messy fingers and cheeks covered in salsa and sauce, this ain’t first date food! I’m absolutely making this for The Boyfriend when he comes back, after nearly 10 years together we can handle seeing each others hands and face covered in food. If you make this meal and find you don’t like it, then I don’t think we could ever be friends. You can find the recipe here, and I urge you to try it to combat the familiarity of fajitas and nachos. Do it for the Tex Mex reputation!



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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Books, Cooking, Food


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Foodie Penpal Delights

To the lovely lady that came up with the idea of Foodie Penpals, I tip my hat to you. Being food mad and wanting to talk about it all the darn time can be a challenge if you don’t want to bore your friends into a stupor and eventually have them cross the street when they see you or let your calls go to answer phone. Nobody wants to check their voicemail and hear how upset you are with Jamie Oliver for fibbing about the time taken to make a quail scotch egg, or how thrilled you were to discover that actually Sainsbury’s does stock that hard to find Tahitian vanilla paste, phew. Know your audience people. Luckily for me, I have a blog to air my views and can waffle on to my hearts content about cooking and food, and now I have found a way to meet other like minded people – by sending and receiving parcels of food and food related gifts specifically tailored to personal tastes and likes. Genius. Sending to me this month was the lovely @KatieATolastadh who did a fantastic job of tailoring a parcel for me and wrote a rather sweet letter explaining the reasoning behind her choices. So what did I get? Well living as I do in a shell of a house I had to specify that I had no oven and hob so whatever was sent would need to be ‘saving up for a new kitchen’ friendly, and also that I love spicy Asian food. Katie really put a lot of thought into it and sent me some Palestinian Za’atar, Harissa paste, Hebridean sea salt and oatcakes and some damson plum tea. Receiving some genuine Scottish items from the remote islands that she comes from was a real treat and the reasoning behind the salt was that it was a kitchen warming gift to ensure my food would always be full of flavour. Told you she was lovely! Sadly the Harissa paste bottle got shattered by a heavy handed postman which was such a shame as Katie had made a real effort to protect the contents and the glass had shattered into such tiny fragments that try as I might, none could be salvaged. It smelt so good as well and I really love the sharp heat that comes with a spoonful of Harissa on an otherwise plain dish. Moroccan and Middle Eastern food is really having a bit of a moment and ingredients that may have been impossible to find only a couple of years ago are now sprouting out all over the place. It’s absolutely a cuisine I’d like to explore more, particularly as it appeals to the spice fiend within me.

I’ve not yet used much from my parcel but today I cooked some Palestinian Za’atar chicken using the spice mix sent my way. In truth the main reason for chucking this on some chicken was inspired by the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode ‘Palestinian Chicken’. I’m absolutely certain that anyone with the good sense to read my ramblings would also be fans of Larry David and the scrapes he gets into, but if by some cruel twist of fate you haven’t seen it, please please do. It’s inspired and unbelievably funny but also tackles comedy that others might shy away from, such as Jewish people having affairs where no one would see them…. in a chicken restaurant run by Palestinians. But hey, if the chickens good you can do away with the taboo.

I coated my chicken in Za’atar, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and let it marinate overnight before chucking it on the Foreman grill. Unfortunately I don’t think I put quite enough spice on the chicken as it was a little bland as well as over cooked, and I know the Za’atar tastes good as over the weekend I was dunking fresh bread into oil and the spice and it was tasting tickety boo. The good thing is there is absolutely loads of it left so plenty of chances to experiment and find what works. With the chicken I made homemade hummus from a recipe Katie sent me by Yottam Ottolenghi, although I was missing tahini paste which is an essential ingredient which I was convinced I had. It will come as no surprise I’m sure, but as well as a well stocked cookbook shelf, my kitchen cupboards are heaving with spices and exotic ingredients. I only use about 4 of them on a regular basis, but you just don’t know when a pot of mace will come in handy (turns out never, so far). While very garlicky and tasty, it just didn’t feel or taste like hummus so I will have to try again in the future but absolutely with tahini paste next time. Dinner then was too dry and not flavourful enough for me, and hammered home how much I miss having an oven. It’s now a top priority and makes me realise how crazy I am about baking and cooking, with all the therapeutic qualities it contains. I haven’t helped matters by buying another cookbook, The Homesick Texan, which tortures me with its pictures of enchiladas, ribs and baked goods. I’m going to do some serious oven shopping so I can really get back into the swing of things and cook the stress out of me!





Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Books, Chicken, Cooking, Food


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