Thursday, 29 January 2009

The funniest food related letter of complaint ever

I am currently in tears at my desk at work because a friend had linked to this letter on facebook. I have only got as far as the following lines:
Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it's Christmas morning and you're sat their with your final present to open. It's a big one, and you know what it is. It's that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.
Only you open the present and it's not in there. It's your hamster Richard. It's your hamster in the box and it's not breathing. That's how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this

Read more here, but youre probably better off doing this in the comfort of your own home where nobody can see you crying with tears.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

New York Choc chip cookies

When I was in New York one of the many places I was dying to visit was Baked especially after reading about how they were both working in high profile jobs before leaving to setup a bakery. As I only had a few days in the city and it wasnt the easiest place to get to I never made it but I did get to a bookshop and found their cookbook which I have been dying to make something from since coming back early in December.

Everything was a bit crazy before Christmas in the household with the impending trip to India, unpacking from New York and all the usual Christmas festivities so I didnt get around to making anything from the book until this weekend. Where better to start than some chocolate chip cookies?

This is a slightly modified version of theirs being that I didnt have all the ingredients in the house but yummy all the same.
New York Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 180g butter
  • 165g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 200g chocolate chip cookies - I used milk chocolate but think I will try with dark chocolate ones next time.

Measure the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and place together in a bowl

In a mixer with paddle attachment beat the butter and eggs together until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully combined. Add the vanilla extract and beat for a few seconds

Add half the flour and beat for 15 seconds. Add the remaining and beat until just combined

Fold in the chocolate chips. Cover the bowl and put in the refrigerator for as long as you can, overnight ideally. You can leave it just an hour or two but it will be harder to form the cookies.

Scoop the dough out into 2-tablespoon size balls and shape into perfect balls with your hands. Place on linked baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12-14 minute at 200C until the edges are goloden brown and the tops starting to get dark. Remove and cool for a few minutes or do like I did and eat straight away!

Along with a big glass of milk, theres no better way to round off a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Kitchen lessons learned

I love my kitchen and all things food but will admit to being slightly distracted from time to time and getting things completely wrong. Last night I had two cases like this and figured that I really couldnt be the only one. Here are some of the idiotic things I have learned the hard way - please tell me Im not the only one:
  • When a recipe calls for greasing a tin then do it, in fact always do it even if your housemate is talking to you and distracts you.
  • Some recipes are very exact and you need to follow the measurements exactly. The recipe on the polyfilla box is not one of these (this weekend was a DIY one)
  • Do not listen to the radio when measuring things, you will only get distracted. Doing quarter measures but putting in the full amount of salt/sugar/chillies makes for interesting food
  • Things that should not be microwaved - Jeans, tinfoil, porridge (at least not without watching) - trust me on this one.
  • Exploding balsamic vinegar will leave a stain on your ceiling that will take more than 5 coats of paint to hide.
  • Adding more booze because you like booze isnt the best solution in ice cream or sorbet - it may never freeze.

I'm sure I will think of more but these are the ones from the top of my head today.

Monday, 26 January 2009

in a bit of a stew

So the doctor called me the other day to tell me that I dont have anything strange growing in me after my trip to India and then proceeded that lovely sentence with the word "yet". As a result I have been sticking away from anything my Grandparents would have deemed strange food and decided to go all wholesome and make a stew.

Now a few things should be noted here about said decision to make a stew:
  1. I gave up eating pork, beef and lamb when I was 16. Much as it pains me to mention this thats a few more than 5 years ago. The last time I ate a significant amount of red meat I was fairly ill for 2 days.
  2. Im not vegetarian, I dont even pretend to be, so dont go giving out to me. I just stopped eating meat because I didnt really like it and was back from a trip to France where I saw far too much blood for my liking on plates. Ive decided that 2009 is the year to be a bit more adventurous and try it again. Im no longer 16 so maybe my tastes can be changed?
  3. When I did eat meat I hated stew, hated it with a passion. I didnt like the barley, the sinewy lamb, the half boiled carrots, the smell, anything about stew.
  4. I have no idea what made me think that making stew was a good idea, theres sometimes that it just feels like the right thing to be eating. That time just happened to coincide with me being afraid I had a parasite living in my stomach so its worth documenting.

This recipe is very much one that I pulled together by googling stews and realising that there was nothing on the Interwebs that exactly matched what I had to eat in my house. The weather has been miserable so I really didnt want to leave the house to go to the supermarket.

Im not saying this is the best stew in the world, just that its easy to make and if you are afraid you might have something living in your stomach then you may just feel adventurous enough to give it a try. Of course even if youre not afraid of a non existant parasite which you have already named then you may feel like some stew anyway.

The everything in my fridge stew

The measurements are in handfuls as I didnt weigh anything. You dont need to be too accurate.

  • Handful of chopped chicken breasts (2 breasts will probably do the job)
  • Handful of chopped pork
  • 2 smoky bacon rashers
  • Handful of chopped mushrooms
  • Handful of chopped carrot
  • 2 Handfuls of baby potatoes or large potatoes chopped small
  • 1 large onion quartered
  • 1 Handful of chopped leeks
  • 1 Handful of chopped mushrooms
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 pint of vegetable stock (or meat stock if you prefer)
  • the leftover bit of a bottle of white/red wine (this was probably one very large glass)
  • Some oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour/ground arrowroot

Heat some oil in a frying pan and brown the meats slowly. While you are doing this you can be chopping all the veg. Remove the meat to a casserole dish.

Throw the veg into the pan for a few minutes and then remove to the casserole dish aswell.

Pour your wine and stock into the casserole dish (mine is an 18cm Le Creuset dish which is about enough for 3 hungry people). Season with some salt and pepper and add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.

Cover with lid and put into an oven pre-heated to 180C. Leave for an hour or so, or until the carrots and baby potatoes are no longer rock hard.

Remove from the oven and strain as much as possible of the sauce from the casserole dish into a saucepan and put it on a lowe heat. Mix up a few teaspoons of cornflour or ground arrowroot (only found this in the supermarket recently when they had no cornflour but works great) with some water into a paste and then add to the saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil whisking all the time. This should give you a nice thick gravy which you can then add back to the casserole dish before putting into bowls and eating.

Friday, 16 January 2009

How to cure the post India blues?

India was amazing, so amazing. I saw loads, met hoardes of very friendly Indians who treated us like superstars for our incredible whiteness of skin, sang in the cinema watching Bollywood films and enjoyed every morsel of food I ate. The food was fantastic and not even a bout of Delhi belly held me back from the street vendors, curries, breads....

Unfortunately however that bout of Delhi belly didnt leave Delhi with my flight last Saturday morning and Im now on a course of antibiotics which has left me avoiding food altoghether this week until the words from the doctor yesterday said I had to take the tablets half an hour before food implying that Id better get back to eating.

So what to make to feel better other than soup? Much as I would love a curry right now I think something a bit calmer for my tummy might be better. I do have a list of recipes I want to try from India though so there will be plenty of curries to come.

This soup is dead easy to make and has so few ingredients that you cant possibly go wrong. That and blue cheese is fairly cheap in the shops right now. It also tastes like it is doing wonders for you which is a good thing on a bleak January day when you are counting down far too many days until you will see the sun again.

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup
  • 800g Broccoli -
  • 2 pints of vegetable stock - I used fancy Marks and Spencer one from a jar but Ive found Oxo cubes do the job for this nicely
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 -3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 100g blue brie or a much smaller amount of strong blue cheese such as stilton

Wash the broccoli and chop into small florets. Chop the stalks up into very small bits as it will all be mushed up so no point wasting it.

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and lightly fry the onion and garlic until soft but not too brown.

Throw in the 2 pints of stock and all of the broccoli. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer covered for about 5 minutes or until the broccoli is soft enough to chew without making a crunchy sound.

Chop up the brie/stilton and mix through the soup. Add some salt, pepper and the chilli powder to taste. Be careful on this one as the blue cheese can be quite salty and the broccoli very peppery!

Throw it into a blender and liquidize and you should have 4 good sized bowls of winter cheer.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Back from India

India was probably the most crazily intense place Ive ever been, so much so that I currently feel a bit hungover (despite it being a very dry holiday). It will probably be a few days before I get a chance to update but for now a few food photos which make me want to book a flight right back, well right back after my stomach has settled after the last 2 weeks of eating.