Wednesday, 25 June 2008

What's in a name...

I'm not meaning to post once a month, it's just turning out that way. I've been tagged and awarded and I have a list of people that I need to reciprocate and I will... I have a little project going on which is very exciting but it takes up brain space... we all know what that means. Anyway Aidan tagged me to "list one fact, word or tidbit of information that is somehow related to your life for each letter of your first or middle name". It was fun and quick so here it is...

A - Amused - I like to be amused, it's not difficult to amuse me I laugh at most things, even perhaps when it's not appropriate occasionally.
M - Married - happily, to the most amazing person I know. Take your fingers out of your throat - please!
A - Adoring mother - the children come before everything. Shall I get you a bucket now?!
N - Northern in body and soul but not verbally - I was lucky enough to spend two days in the North East of England the other week, staying with my Mum and Stepdad. Although I speak with a few plums in my mouth nowadays and I've lived in the South since I was a young child, the North East is definitely in my soul. When I arrived at Newcastle airport, there were marketing signs up saying Passionate people, Passionate places and it's SO true.
D - Dizzy - sometimes on purpose, sometimes because it comes naturally. If people think you're a bit dizzy their expectations go down and you can just be yourself. Makes life much simpler.
A - Amusing - comedy genius that's me. I just missed my vocation!

I also liked what Aidan did so I've done a food one too...

A - Asparagus, white, cooked like this... This boy is going to be a super star, I've said before he already has Super Hero status in this household!
M - Married food - Got married, flew to Bali, days later on a certain famous beach - Jimbaran Bay, the best seafood dinner I've ever eaten. In a shabby shack we chose the fish we wanted from big water tanks, they then cooked it while we sat drinking at tables and chairs sunk into the sand, oil candles burning, sand between our toes, the sound of the sea, a bottle (possibly two) of chilled white, watching the sun go down. Perfect.
A - Avacado, made into any type of dip like guacamole or cut in half, then baked in the oven with a spicy tomato sauce and mozzarella on top.. or with prawn cocktail on top for fond memories of my 70's childhood.
N - Noodles, any sort, rice noodles, egg noodles, pasta noodles.... Oodles of noodles.
D - Damp cake is what sprang to mind first of all... haha! Then I changed my mind... Dark roast coffee cupcake.... maybe two - fat cow!
A - Aubergine, made into a dip like baba ganoush. I loves me a dip I do!

I will tag others but will have to come back to do it... Later, or sometime soon, I will also load the pics from the Lebanese bbq... May even write some words about what we made, including the flat breads from scratch.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Rock Cakes - cinnamon and raisin

The lovely Pig in the kitchen (who incidentally writes a rather splendid blog) made rock cakes here. I saw them and immediately wanted to make some... and eat them of course. They looked fabulous and would have taken a very good picture, but this is all that's left...

Cinnamon and Raisin Rock Cakes
Makes enough for a family of 4 to enjoy over a few days with enough to let the next door neighbours (family of 3) have one each.

200g unsalted butter
450g plain flour
100g raisins
100g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons of milk

Preheat oven to 175C.
Grease 2 baking trays with butter or oil.
Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well using a wooden spoon or your hands...
Using your hands, get some dough, about golf ball size for small ones and half a tennis ball size for larger ones. Don't work it too much they look better when cooked if they haven't been smoothed over.
Place each ball (or blob) on to the baking sheet as you go, leaving space between each one as they spread when cooking.
Cook for between 10 and 20 minutes. 10 minutes for the smaller ones and up to 20 minutes for the larger ones. They should be a light golden brown and if you insert a skewer into the middle it should come out clean. Don't let them get too dark or they really will be like rocks!

If you want to you can sprinkle golden granulated sugar over them before cooking. That's how I had them as a child and having not put sugar on these ones I will do next time...

We're continuing with Middle Eastern food today with our favourite way of having lamb, butterflied and bbq'd. Today served Shawarma style - can't wait!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Doing a Delia - will this now mean something different?

Delia's Cheating Banana Bread Pudding

I meant to post this some time ago... but then I'm at my most relaxed when I'm late.

I'm not a huge Delia fan but I think she's okay. I can cook and I'm confident with food, probably because I was taught from a very early age. I've mentioned before the whole family thinks they're experts when it comes to food. Nicknamed a chemist in the kitchen from very early on is maybe why I wasn't bought any Delia books when I first moved out of home and why I didn't then become a lifelong fan. If I'm honest I didn't really understand when people used to say that she'd taught modern day Britain to cook, I assumed that everybody could cook, but some people just chose not to.

Where am I going with this? When Delia's new book and TV series came out it was earlier in the year when things were difficult here. I SKY +'d the series and then was a bit surprised when Hubs bought me the book as one of my birthday presents. I thought he was taking the proverbial **** out of me. But then I watched the series and I read the book and I thought - What's the big deal, why are people so cross? So she's brought out a book that lists shop bought ingredients that we can assemble. Sometimes I like to cheat, putting something on the table that isn't a ready prepared microwave meal but something that hasn't taken me hours of preparation and cooking. especially some things which require more exotic ingredients.

I actually like Delia's new cheating book because somebody else has tested all the things which are available to us which are going to make life a bit simpler SOMETIMES, not every single day but sometimes. Okay I would never buy a tin of mince, the thought makes me want to heave, and there are other things which I wouldn't buy, but I have failed where a jar hasn't. I've not been able to make a Thai Green Curry from scratch that compares to some made using one of the very excellent jars of paste that you can buy (admittedly I haven't tried that hard on this one, but it's because I know I can put a great result on the table using a jar of paste!). It's nice to know which products came out best, it saves me wasting money on some which are inferior or wont give the best result.

I don't like is how we love to bash people, we seem to make it personal and I just don't get that. Gordon Ramsay, I think he's great, I like his wife too, I didn't join the band wagon of people who said she was just cashing in by bringing out a cookery book. So what, so what, so what. If she wants to do a cookery book or two and people buy them, then all well and good. He's there on TV saying that Delia has sold out or something along those lines but then I go to my book shelves and pick up a book by Jo Pratt that has a fair few assembly recipes in it and across the front is a quote from Gordon Ramsay saying 'Jo's food is vibrant and fun' - Now Jo Pratt looks vibrant and fun, but one of the recipes is for a tin of Heinz tomato soup with a bit or cream or sherry added, okay so it also gives a recipe for ham and cheese croutons to go with it. She also lists Banoffee Fingers which are another assemly recipe, they sound delicious too, but you can't tell me it's that different from what Delia has done, she's just taken it a step further.

How many people own cookery books but have only ever cooked one or two things from them? How many people own a cookery book that they've cooked every single thing from? I've cooked two (correction three) things from Delia's cheating book so far. That's two more things than I've cooked from a lot of my cookery books. The Pananag red seafood curry is excellent and as for the banana bread pudding well I'd make it any day and if I don't feel like cheating then perhaps I could whizz up some breadcrumbs from some stale bread instead of using a packet, either way I'm sure it will taste great. I also made the lemon tart in a hurry, 30 minutes before leaving the house to take to a BBQ party at the weekend. It went down very well and was still warm when we served it.

I know some women (some of them stay at home mums) who do not cook, they say they can't cook, wont cook, don't have the confidence to cook. Delia's cheating book would be ideal for them because surely it would be better for them to take some of the ideas/recipes and put meals on the table that are not totally pre-prepared/packaged, laden with salt and goodness knows what else, maybe giving them some much needed confidence to then go on and cook more things. Unfortunately we live in a world now where you have to be SUPER brilliant at everything. You can't just be thin you have to be super thin, you can't just be a mum you have to be a super mum, you can't just cook, you have to be a super foodie, you can't just have a car, you have to have a super car - it's all a load of hairy round things!

Delia - your books more than alright with me. If anything it's turned me from a sitting on the fence Delia fan to an outright Delia fan.

Monday, 2 June 2008

We interrupt with a small toe in Little Foodies India

I'm waiting on the arrival of some sumac and other things before we continue with Arabian days and nights. In the meantime we've had a very small glimpse of India. Not strictly true as we eat Indian food at least once a week, but it's the first time that we've really done it in a learning experience sort of way.

Our neighbours have a daughter, Little is very good friends with her, (she's a year older) and I think it's really lovely that they get on so well. Anyway her class is looking at India at the moment. I'd said that during the half term we could cook some Indian food together. We did this on Friday last week, I had planned on doing a lot more but earlier in the day while out walking in the woods with other friends, we got lost and were out for a lot longer than we'd originally planned. It's the first time ever that I really regretted watching series 1 and 2 of Lost before it went to Sky.

So, after rushing home and changing muddy clothes we began... I got most of the spices out on the table and we started by smelling all of them. Black cardamons smell woody and smokey. Green cardamons smell sweet and spicy, Cloves smell of Christmas. It was really good to see them smelling and describing what the various spices were like for them. We also compared the smell of the uncooked spices to how different they smell when cooking and cooked.

We then made a simple meal of fish tikka with basmati rice, salad and poppadoms.
The children mixed the tikka spices with yogurt, garlic and lemon juice before coating the fish with it. I then dry fried the fish before putting it in the oven to finish off. I got the children to wash the rice before cooking and explained why we do this. I then cooked some poppadoms. We also talked about why in England we automatically assume rice is served with all Indian food when in actual fact most Indian households would only serve it with a handful of things and be more inclined to serve chapati to mop up the dishes with sauce.

The verdict on the food. Our guest said it wasn't really to her taste but I give her lots of credit for trying everything and not just trying one mouthful and then leaving it, actually trying a few mouthfuls of each. She was also a very enthusiastic helper. Little and Small loved it and want to make it again. Great, as it was very healthy and dare I say slimming. No I dare not and take that bit back.
I also explained that most Indian families would have a spice holder like this one (can't get picture to load will try again) in their kitchen. Our guest will take it to school at some point this term when I've cleaned it and filled it with freshly ground spices to give the most impact to their nasal passages.

We'll re-visit India for some more in-depth learning and then we'll share some of the many Indian foods we cook on a regular basis and I'll also try to come out of my comfort zone and try cooking some new things. There are plenty of blogs that I can draw inspiration from Foodies Hope in particular, and also, Meeta's What's for lunch honey,also One Hot Stove, Fun and Food, Malabar Spices, and Saffron Trail. A lot of these ladies write for the Daily Tiffin, a good read but for all sorts of things, family and food among other things.


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