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Baking Up A Taste Of The Tropics

This weekend I finally got the opportunity to get in touch with my inner domestic goddess after a month of slumming it in the slow cooker and microwave. The urge to bake just got too strong so I was lucky to be able to pop out and borrow someone’s oven to scratch the itch and get something warm and comforting on the kitchen counter. There’s nothing like a bit of baking to counteract the stress of a busy week and to take your mind off of missing someone, which was the excuse I gave myself when I decided to bake two treats instead of one. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let yourself go. In truth, I have been working out hard most mornings and walked three miles yesterday while waiting for the car to be MOT’ed, so my greed has been well earned. Before I get to the joy of baking though I feel I must tell you about last nights dinner, mellow meatballs from Nigella Express. You’ve more than likely already got this book as it sold by the truckload when it was released a few years ago, and if you haven’t I strongly suggest you pick up a copy as it is quite simply indispensable. In my kitchen anyway. My copy is looking pretty sorry for itself, covered in food splats, its pages stuck together and spine close to falling apart – all signs of a much loved and reliable cookbook. Some of my favourite recipes from this include chicken schnitzel, flourless brownies, Mexican scrambled eggs, ragu and yesterday’s dinner. I adapted the recipe slightly to suit cooking in the slow cooker, so if you do the same then only put half the amount of stock specified so that you don’t end up with a watery dinner. The meatballs are cooked in a sauce made up of red curry paste, coconut milk, tomatoes and spices, alongside some chickpeas, sweet potatoes and butternut squash. It’s delicious. Spicy but not overly so, sweet, thick and with the goodness of sweet potato, squash and chickpeas. You needn’t make your own meatballs it you don’t have the time or inclination, but as I’ve said before (and it bears saying again what with the recent horse meat scandal) please buy the best meat you can afford so you know what you’re eating. I went for Tesco Finest Aberdeen Angus meatballs which might sound poncy but I only ate a quarter of the meatballs last night and the rest is in the freezer, so I’ve got 3 good quality dinners for the price of one pack of meat. So long as you are happy with the quality of what you’re eating, that’s all that matters. I know this photo doesn’t show the meatballs all that flatteringly, but take my word for it, they’re tasty.

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On to the baking! Flicking through Saved By Cake by Marian Keyes, my eyes were caught on the word ‘orgasmic’, as I’m sure yours would be too. Marian claims that her coconut milk cake elicited texts from friends raving about what an orgasmic tasting cake this is, so with such an appealing description what sort of woman would I be to not bake it? Word of advice for you though if you intend on making this cake or for that matter anything with coconut milk in it. Please do not buy coconut milk from the aisle in the supermarket where you’ll find all the big brand names for world foods, such as Blue Dragon, Old El Paso, Dolmio and the like. Buy it from this aisle and you’ll pay almost £2 for a 400ml can. Buy it from the aisle with all the Polish/Jamaican/Indian products that are typically covered in a foreign language and you’ll pay at the most 99p for the same size tin. There’s often an offer of two for £1 on these tins too. I don’t know what kinda swiz Blue Dragon and Amoy are trying to pull, the swines, but two quid for a tin of milky white liquid is excessive and if you need several tins for the week then its cheaper to get a Thai takeaway than it is to cook a simple curry. It might seem like a big rant over a saving of £1 but the big brands know most people don’t walk down the ‘ethnic’ aisle and charge double for the exact same product. And it really is the exact same product, there is no difference in quality or taste whatsoever. Don’t give them the satisfaction, go down the next aisle along and pick up a tin from a smaller producer that charges fairly. Look for Island Sun (green & white tins) or Dunns River (orange tin) and stick the middle finger up at the big brands. If you don’t shop at Tesco much then you’ll probably struggle finding these tins anywhere else other than Oriental supermarkets, but maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough. Waitrose naturally don’t stock them at all you’ll be surprised to hear. Anyway, that’s the pain dealt with, lets move onto pleasure. The cake doesn’t look like anything special to be honest, its very modest looking with its plain vanilla appearance. But vanilla can be surprisingly decadent and naughty, plus we all know not to judge anything on its appearance. The cooked cake is poked several times then is covered with the warmed, sugary coconut milk and left to soak up the milk overnight. Upon eating, the cake is very heavy from all the liquid but exceptionally moist. I’ve a feeling if you squeezed it the cake would ooze syrup from being completely saturated. While not entirely orgasmic, it is a very very good cake, filled to the brim with coconut which reminded me of a holiday in Cuba, and in the end leaving the eater very satisfied. I tried very hard to avoid any sexual innuendo with the write up of this orgasmic cake but to be honest it was just too easy. Sorry.

I also made a rather large batch of cookies from a much neglected cookbook, The Golden Book Of Chocolate. The Boyfriend bought me this several years ago from a fabulous shop we found in Notting Hill called Books For Cooks. Well you know me, I wasn’t going to walk right past that shop! If you are ever in the area and in the market for a new cookbook, don’t log on to Amazon and go here instead, it’s a great shop. I only wish I lived a little nearer London, purely so I could hang out in this shop on a regular basis. The cookbook itself has not seen any kitchen action for a long time which probably comes as a shock considering my love for chocolate and baking, but there are a lot of typos and ingredients missing which is a big mistake to make when it comes to publishing a cookbook. It’s a massive book though and covers a wide spectrum of chocolate based foods, even covering savoury dishes which I’ve not been brave enough to tackle. And it’s pages are gold. What more could you possibly want from a cookbook aside from accuracy and the correct list of ingredients? I mock, but in actual fact the chocolate and banana chip cookies I made from this book were sublime and not a typo in sight on the page. They were a cinch to make, and the banana flavour came from a mashed up banana and some dried banana chips. I buy bananas every week and come the end of the week I’ve maybe eaten one and the rest are all black and mushy. I know this will be the case and yet every week I can’t help but put another bunch of bananas in my trolley, convinced that this week I will eat all of them. Never mind, there are plenty of recipes that begin with ‘take one overripe banana…’
I hadn’t realised when I started making them that I would be left with 36 cookies but that indeed was the case. Unfortunately for me these cookies are right up my street, with melted choc chips, the crunch of banana chips and a super soft, almost cake like texture that makes them very easy to eat. I hate really crunchy cookies and usually this is what I end up baking, so to have a perfect cookie emerge from the oven was a dream come true. It also takes me straight across the pond to my favourite holidays in Florida with each bite, making them even more desirable. Luckily, The Boyfriend and I have a new baby niece, and if there’s one thing new parents need its sugar, right? I will be handing these over to someone who surely needs them more than I do, before I give myself full on diabetes by the time the week is out. I’m not a fan of peanut butter myself, but I can imagine this could be incorporated into the recipe somewhere somehow if you are suitably nuts about the stuff. The raw cookie dough would also make for a perfect home made cookie dough ice cream, I can see this stuff going beautifully with either vanilla, chocolate or banana ice cream. But it really is just perfect as a cookie, and something I will be whipping up as soon as possible for The Boyfriend once he’s home.

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Lamb Overload

Yes I’m back. I’m sorry to say that you can’t get rid of me that easily. The Boyfriend works away a lot and cooking then writing about it is what keeps me from long distance relationship insanity! So now he’s gone again its back to trying out new recipes and taking risks in the kitchen. And lucky for you, he’s gone for flipping ages so I’ll be blogging like no ones ever blogged before!

Yesterday for The Boyfriends last day at home for 4 long months, we rustled up a pretty scrummy roast lamb dinner. The trouble is, The Boyfriend, god love him, can’t just get a modestly sized lamb joint for the two of us, oh no. Instead, we ended up with an entire leg of lamb that could have easily fed 10 people. I should never let him into a supermarket without a chaperone. Sweetly, he did suggest he brought it so I could use the masses of leftover meat for dinners throughout the week, which would sound lovely if he didn’t know I don’t really like lamb all that much. Me thinks someone just wanted to pig out on lamb.

So what did I do today with some of the leftovers? Naturally I turned to the queen of leftovers, Nigella, and knocked up an Anglo-Asian lamb salad straight from the pages of Express. I’m finding myself more and more drawn to salads these days after a couple of very successful ones which regular readers may remember. I have some weight to lose for the summer so to enjoy healthy low fat food is now a complete and utter blessing. This fusion salad incorporates the Britishness of roast lamb and red currant jelly with the spiky flavours of Asia and while nothing ground breaking, is pretty damn tasty. The dressing is sharp, sour and spicy and includes chilli, spring onion, soy sauce, red currant jelly and rice vinegar. Coat the lamb in the dressing then toss through a plate of salad leaves. Rather poetically, I went for lambs lettuce as my salad of choice and I suggest you do to. You don’t want a leaf with a strong flavour as the dressing packs quite a punch. Nigella cooks lamb steaks fresh for this salad, but leftover roast lamb also works, making this a super speedy dinner after a long day at work and an excruciating legs,bums and tums class!

Now all I need to do us work out what else I can use that lamb for. 3 servings down, only 7 to go!

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Recipe by Dr Seuss…

Welllll maybe by Nigella Lawson actually, but when the recipe is called Green Eggs And Ham you have to hand it to Dr Seuss. His books were favourites of mine as a child, right up there with Roald Dahl, but apparently few of my friends have ever heard of his books which I find shocking! To me, thats like never having seen a Disney film as a child (and I happen to know people who didn’t, and also another person who believes there are sinister hidden messages in films like Dumbo. Lord knows what.), or being deprived of chocolate throughout PMT. Unthinkable. So as a fan of the his books, how could I not cook green eggs and ham from Nigella Express? Exactly, so I did. Its not often I get to eat luminescent green food that also doesn’t have chemicals or intoxicating amounts of sugar in it and I must say it certainly brightened up dinner time! The green eggs of the title are actually pesto pancakes which are ridiculously simple to make. You just whisk together flour, an egg, some pesto and milk and then fry it in a lightly oiled pan and you’re done. Pile them up on a plate, pop slices of ham on each pancake and fold, and you’ve got yourselves a very unique and colourful dinner which also happens to be exceptionally easy. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I also fried an egg to go on top of my pancakes to add some yolky goodness and a bit of moisture to the meal. Very tasty. I love pesto, and I’d definitely advise getting a good fresh pesto from the chilled section of the supermarket as it has a stronger taste which can stand to being diluted down by all the pancake ingredients. The bottled, unfresh pesto is still really tasty but better with pasta as a quick and easy meal. I couldn’t eat all of the pancakes in the end, but I was unable to halve the recipe due to it only requiring one egg in the pancake mix. I did my utmost but in the end I was defeated, five little pancakes are deceptively filling! Its supposed to be a breakfast meal, but in the mornings I really can’t face much more than either cereal or boiled eggs and have no cooking mojo whatsoever in the early hours. Making it an express evening meal makes much more sense to me and is filling, tasty, and above all, vividly green!

 

 

To end this post, here’s a snippet from the completely non-sensical but fantastic Green Eggs And Ham:

Say!
I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat…
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see!

So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Nigella Lawson

 

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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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