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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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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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Rogue Red Hot Chilli Pepper

Phew, excuse me a moment while I grab some ice and cool myself down. Today’s dinner definitely knocked my socks off, but along the way it also managed to strip my tongue of a layer of skin and several taste buds. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Let me explain…

Dinner today was steamed Thai style sea bass from Cook by Jamie Oliver. I hadn’t cooked fish for ages and feeling like I’ve overdone it on the chicken lately, thought I’d give this delicious sounding meal a go. You know how I feel about Thai food (love it), and making it healthier with sea bass fillets seemed like the right and proper thing to do. Plus I really like Cook as its packed with great recipes and guides for things like shopping for meat and fish, and was one of the earlier additions to the cook book collection so it holds a special place in my heart! It also has a great ethos to it, which is ‘if you’re going to eat 3 meals a day for the rest of your life, you might as well enjoy them’.Here here, now there’s a sentence I can relate to. Cooking this meal is really simple, you cook some rice, coat it in a Thai paste, then chuck the fish fillets and some sugar snap peas on top and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. If only eating it was so simple… To be fair, the OTT spiciness is really nothing to do with Jamie Oliver or the recipe, and I can only attribute it to my complacency towards chillies. Taste wise anyway, I definitely wasn’t getting complacent about them when it comes to my eyes and chilli fingers. Word of warning from someone who’s been there and got the damaged retinas: wash hands thoroughly after cutting chillies. Getting back to the sea bass dish, my mistake was not de seeding the chillies for the paste, and then thinking it a good idea to garnish the meal with slices of (again, not de seeded) chilli. The result was an exceptionally hot first mouthful which left me thinking that my mouth had actually been set on fire by those bastard chillies. Quickly picking out all the slices of chilli garnish, I carried on eating hoping to eat away the pain. This tactic didn’t work, every mouthful felt like salt on a very sore wound so I eventually had to stop to let the pain go away. I’m really not a wimp when it comes to chillies and hot food, I’ve chucked slices of chilli on loads of meals in the past and never has it been that outrageously hot. I can eat hot curries and have polished off some seriously hot Mexican prawns in a restaurant which no one else could bear, but this chilli was something else. I foolishly underestimated the red chilli, thinking I had conquered it and made it my bitch to do as I please to my food, but the red chilli well and truly hustled me. But what of the rest of the meal, what did that taste like? I only wish I could tell you, once the pain had gone I carried on eating, but taste was still beyond me so I can only guess that the rice tasted like a green curry, and the fish delicate and fresh. It certainly isn’t the end of my relationship with spicy food, but I will definitely proceed with caution before chucking in chillies willy-nilly.

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Photo taken while blissfully unaware of the perils ahead!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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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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