“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finally, An Anti-Stress Diet

This is a specially formulated diet designed to help women cope with the stress that builds during the day.

Of course, there are different ways to combat stress.
  1 grapefruit
  1 slice whole-wheat toast
  1 cup skim milk

  1 small portion lean, steamed chicken with a cup of spinach
  1 cup herbal tea
  1 Hershey's Kiss

  The rest of the Hershey Kisses in the bag
  1 tub of Häagen-Dazs ice cream with chocolate-chip topping

  4 bottles of wine (red or white)
  2 loaves garlic bread
  1 family-size Supreme pizza
  3 Snickers bars

  1 whole Sara Lee cheesecake (eaten directly from the freezer)

REMEMBER: "Stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts".

It Ain't Easy Bein' Cheesy

Oh my. Three posts in one day. 'Has the boy no social life?' I hear you cry. Well, let's not get into that. I just wanted to make mention of yesterday's lunch. After Sis and I went and did some errands at Waitrose, Tesco and the bank, we stopped by Planter's restaurant again inside Tenterden Garden Centre. This place has excellent food and service and yesterday was no exception. I plumped for the cauliflower cheese. Oh, good choice! It was huge, almost hanging out of the large oval dish it was served in, and cooked with leek and onion in a divine cheese sauce. As if that weren't enough, along came the side dish of veggies which was almost as large and contained peas, carrots, Savoy cabbage, green beans and potatoes. Oh my. As I polished off my latte I thought, 'could life get much better than this?' and pretty much fell asleep as soon as we got home and had a three-hour nap. Wow.

Here's a recipe to try:

500g fresh cauliflower
2 leeks, chopped
2 onions, cut into quarters
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
100g Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas Mark 6.
Cut the cauliflower into florets and cook in a shallow pan of water with the leeks, onions and stock cube. Make sure the cauliflower is still fairly firm. There's nothing worse than mushy cauli.
Drain well and pour into an ovenproof dish.
In a saucepan, heat the milk to near boiling. Mix the cornflour with a little extra cold water, then whisk the cornflour into the hot milk along with the mustard and two-thirds of the cheese.
Simmer until the sauce has thickened, then pour the sauce over the vegetables.
Mix the remaining cheese with the chives, then season with black pepper and sprinkle over the vegetables and sauce.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until brown and bubbly on top.

Hopefully, what you now have is something like this:

Genieße das Leben ständig!
Du bist länger tot als lebendig!

A Proper 'Nana

They say that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. Well, that may be true, but I know one thing for sure -  when life gives you bananas that are really ripe, you should make banana bread.

Why? 'Cause it's delicious, that's why.

My recipe that I use for banana bread comes from a fantastic cookbook that I have had since the early '90s, given to me by Joanne, my then mother-in-law and grandmother to my son Charlie. The book is called The Alice Bay Cookbook and was written by Julie Wilkinson Rousseau, who owns the Alice Bay Bed and Breakfast on Samish Island, near the town of Bow in Washington State.
To the left is my well-worn copy. Oh, and it's a signed copy. How cool is that? Please note that that isn't a full stop after the word 'Valley', merely a crumb. See, I told you it was well-used. In fact, I have used this recipe so often that the book naturally falls open to the page on which this recipe is written, and the page is dotted with stains and smudges from the batter dripping onto the paper. The paper even feels like it has a thin layer of flour on it. Here's the completely foolproof recipe:

See, I told you it was well-used.

Anyway, every so often you'll find that you'll have some bananas that are almost completely brown and soft. If you've got 3 or 4, this recipe is the best! Oh, and for those among you with allergies, the nuts are optional.

After cooking, you should end up with something like this:
Happy baking!


A Heavenly Dessert

Well, chaps, it's Thursday and you know what that means. Or do you?

That means, if you've been paying attention, that it is time to reveal what this week's Name This Food! food actually is. So what is it? It's...

Eve's Pudding!
Correctly identified by Marie, from The English Kitchen. Well done Marie!
What is Eve's Pudding? Well, according to Wikipedia, the Oracle of all human wisdom, Eve's pudding is a type of traditional British pudding now made from apples and Victoria sponge cake mixture. The apples are allowed to stew at the bottom of the baking dish while the cake mixture cooks on top. The name is a reference to Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The earliest known version, in Mary Eaton's 'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' of 1823, predates baking powder and therefore uses a breadcrumb-and-egg sponge. But no matter. Here's a recipe:

600g cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
75g light muscovado sugar (we covered this last week)
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
100g butter
100g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
100g self-raising flour

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/ gas 4. Put the apples in a large bowl and combine with the sugar, lemon zest and juice and the cinnamon. Transfer to a round, 2-litre ovenproof dish and set aside until needed.
2. Beat the butter and caster sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix in the vanilla, then sift in the flour and gently mix to make a dropping consistency.
3. Spread the mixture over the apples and bake for 40 minutes or until the topping is cooked through and golden. Sprinkle with extra caster sugar and serve with custard.


So what to test your grasp of cookery with this week? How about this?

Name This Food!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Glamorous Life

Saturday night and here I am, all alone in the house, sitting in front of the old 'puter in my devilishly handsome skivvies. That's right, the 'rents are away for a week in Devon and so I can cavort around the place in me underkeks if I feel like it - and after the day I've had, believe me, I feel like it.  Just me and the cat in an empty house. Ah, yes, Jimmy Stewart, it really is a wonderful life.

It's been three whole days since I last yammered on like an idiot on the blog - so what's new in food, eh?

Last night I was visited by two old school chums, James, my old buddy who lives in Folkestone, and Lucy, whom I hadn't seen in probably 20 years. We were famished after she picked me up from work and so we headed to the local Indian restaurant (Badsha Indian Cuisine) for a bit of takeout. James and I had a pint of Kingfisher each while we waited for our order (being a Friday night they were busy, but it still didn't take very long) and then we got our food and headed home.

By golly, their food is still good after all these years. I used to go there with my first wife when we had a chance to go on a date, and it brought back some serious memories. I had two of my favourite items, Sag Paneer (spinach with cheese in a mild sauce, sometimes known as palak paneer) and Aloo Gobi, an Indian and Pakistani cuisine dish made with potatoes (aloo), cauliflower (gob(h)i) and Indian spices. It is yellowish in color, due to the use of turmeric, and occasionally contains kalonji and curry leaves. Other common ingredients include garlic, ginger, onion, coriander stalks, tomato, peas, and cumin. A number of variations and similar dishes exist, but the name remains the same. With this I had some coconut rice and peshwari nan, an Indian flatbread filled with nuts and raisins. Delish!

This morning on the way to work I ate one of the new Marmite cereal bars. (Big thanks to Sam for my Marmite bar!) Billed as 'the world's first savoury cereal bar' these things rock, and at only 93 calories a bar, what's not to love?

Hang on, Jeff, you say. What the heck is Marmite? Marmite, my American friends, is... well, it's... okay. I need help here. Anybody?
Well, it depends on where you're from what it is. It was first produced in 1902 in England and it is a dark brown sticky spread made from yeast extract which is a by-product of the brewing industry. It's got a distinctly pungent flavour with a sorta-kinda soy sauce thing going on and it is one of those things that you have to actually experience to understand its taste, which is unique, and one of those flavours you either love or loathe. I used to hate it when I was a kid, because, well, it was such a strong flavour. However, I have grown to love it over the years. The bar itself is great, but the poster ads for it are kick-ass funny.

In New Zealand, however, the product has the same name but a slightly different flavour. There ya go.

Anyway, on to tonight. I went to the Honeymoon Chinese Restaurant in Tenterden and picked up some choice Chinese tucker, Sis had some Chicken & Mushroom, I had Honey Roasted Pork, Colin had some Duck with Pineapple and Chicken Curry. We ate these with some Special Fried Rice, Egg Fried Rice and plain rice and the obligatory but oh-so-worth-it prawn crackers. Yum-o!
Prawn crackers (again this is directed to the Colonials whose version of Chinese food is somewhat different to the version served here in the UK, even down to the names of the dishes - they don't know a Moo Goo Gai Pan from a Mu Shu Pork here in Blighty) are a side dish served with just about every Chinese dish, and are made by mixing prawns, tapioca flour and water. The mixture is rolled out, steamed, sliced and sun dried. Once dry, they are deep-fried in oil (which must be at high heat before cooking). In only a few seconds they expand from thumb-sized semi-transparent chips to white fluffy crackers, much like popcorn, as water bound to the starch expands as it turns into steam. If left in the open air for more than a few hours (depending on humidity), they start to soften and become chewy and therefore are ideally consumed within a few hours of being fried. Storing the crackers in a low humidity environment or an airtight container will preserve the crispness. Packets of unfried prawn crackers may be purchased in oriental stores, or stores that specialise in Asian cuisine. So now you know.

Night all. Slainte!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Biggles Goes Børk Børk Børk

Betcha don't know what gjetost is.

It is the absolute best cheese ever.
See how it looks like caramel fudge?

The name derives from the Norwegian for goat - Gjet.

Norway's mountainous landscape, in which only about 3% of the land can be cultivated, made goat's cheese the more common in the past, but now the milk is often mixed with cow's to give a more varied taste. The result is a semi-hard cheese with a fat content lower than most (about 30%). However, it can be made with goat's milk alone, which is known as Ekte or genuine Gjetost.

It is made by boiling the leftover whey of cow's and goat's milk until the lactose caramelises (which gives it its light brown appearance). The cheese is then poured into rectangular moulds and left to cool. The outer surface is similar to that of a decorated cake.

The taste resembles a slightly sour but sweet caramel with a smooth texture similar to fudge. It is, quite simply, the best cheese I have ever tasted. I first had it in Ballard, a suburb of Seattle largely populated by Scandinavians (unsurprisingly). Along with Jarlsberg, another Norwegian cheese, it is my favourite cheese.

Yummy crunchy!
I found it the other day in Anderson & Campbell deli in Sayers Lane, Tenterden. I had to buy some. It is absolutely fantastic. I had some of it today for lunch on top of some lovely Ryvita Crispbread with Pumpkin Seeds and Oats. Good stuff.

The Spice Of Life Deli
Yesterday I had a wee excursion down to New Romney with my sister. We chose New Romney as it always seemed like a nice little town but it's the sort of town we'd only ever gone through on our way to somewhere or other, usually Dymchurch, Greatstone or Littlestone. We parked the car and decided to go up one side of the High Street and down the other. We looked in some shop windows and then came to the Spice Of Life Deli, which has a website at http://www.speciality-foods.co.uk/. Inside were all sorts of exotic foods, lots of jams and preserves, cheeses and olives ahoy, snacks and drinks. There were also racks and racks of large jars filled with spces behind the counter. We ended up buying some juices from Chegworth Valley who grow their fruit for their juices near Leeds Castle in Kent, and have some love varieties including Apple & Raspberry (pictured), Apple & Rhubarb, and the one I picked, Apple & Beetroot (which I haven't tried yet but I'll tell you all about it when I do). We also bought a box of rather decadent cookies by Border Biscuits, some lovely Butterscotch and Pecan Cookies, which went down a treat with my afternoon tea.
These are toooo good.

After trolling around town a little more and looking in all the shop windows, the butcher, the florist, the shoe shop and just about every real estate agents, we stopped at St. Nicholas church in the centre of the town and went in, looked at the old flagstones and stained glass windows, then continued on our merry way.

Let's go see Biggles, old chum
It was getting near lunchtime and so we went for lunch at Lydd Airport. Now, it may seem like an odd choice of venue for lunch, but trust me on this. Lydd Airport's restaurant and bar, named after Capt. W.E. Johns' fictional flying ace Biggles, is a great place to get a good lunch at not too outrageous of a price, and sit and eat while watching light aircraft take off and land. Now of course, due to the recent flying ban (because of volcanic ash) there wasn't a lot of air traffic as the ban had only just been lifted, but we did see a couple of Cessnas coming in and taxiing. I chose the special,which was roast turkey, roast potatoes, veggies and Yorkshire pudding which was a plateload of food at only £4.95. Super. A resounding four and a half yums out of five for Biggles!
Biggles Bar all decked out for a function.


Name This Food! results

What was the Name This Food! food?

Gypsy Tart

A gypsy tart is a type of pie made with evaporated milk, muscovado sugar (though some varieties include light brown sugar), and pie crust. The tart is extremely sweet and is, for many people, associated with school dinners.
Although most will know the version of gypsy tart made with evaporated milk, it can also be made with condensed milk in place of evaporated milk. This makes a firmer and even sweeter tart, with a darker colour.
Originating in Kent, the story behind this pie is that during the early part of the 20th century a lady regularly saw undernourished gypsy children playing in the fields next to her house. One day she decided to feed them but had nothing more than a pie crust, evaporated milk and brown sugar. She made the sweet tart and henceforth the tart has been a Kentish tradition, present in many Kentish bakeries and of course, a regular on school dinner menus during the 60's, 70's and 80's. And it's hella good.

Here's what you need:

1 400g (14oz) Tin of Evaporated Milk

340g (12oz) Dark Muscovado Sugar (sometimes known as Barbados sugar or moist sugar, muscovado is very dark brown and slightly coarser and stickier than most brown sugars. Unlike most other brown sugars, which are made by adding molasses to refined white sugar, muscovado takes its flavor and color from its source, sugarcane juice. It offers good resistance to high temperatures and has a reasonably long shelf life. It is commonly used in baking recipes and making whiskey). The phot at right shows the difference between Muscovado (L) and normal brown sugar (R).

1 10inch Pre-baked shortcrust pastry case

Pre-heat oven to 200°C: 400°F: Gas 6.
Whisk evaporated milk and sugar together for approximately 10 minutesuntil light and fluffy and coffee coloured.

Pour the mix into the pastry case.
Bake for 10 minutes.
The surface will appear slightly sticky but will set completely when left to cool.
Serve cold.

Serves 6

As usual, my mother and sister both knew the answer but declined to comment as they feel that this is becoming a one-horse race (well, two-horses, but you know what I mean).

So... what's the Name This Food! food item this week?

Come on, you know it!

UPDATE: Wow! Mere hours after this was originally posted, my old school friend Sarah correctly guessed the new Name This Food! food was Bubble & Squeak (see comments below). Well, in an upcoming post I will tell you all about Bubble & Squeak, but hey, well done Sarah! See? If you'd gone to Lanzarote you likely wouldn't have seen this! But hey - the thrill of being correct probably doesn't even come close to meeting Meat Loaf in person like you did the other day, does it?

OK.... new Name This Food! food coming up.

Name This Food!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brewing Up

I'm just sitting here with a steaming mug of Twinings Echinacea and Raspberry Tea, and pondering. Pondering all the weird, wild, wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful varieties of teas there are in the world. At work today I had a couple of mugs of Organic Peppermint Tea made by Taylors of Harrogate, and later, a Raspberry Vanilla. The mint was fantastic, just really refreshing and soothing. The raspberry vanilla was OK, just OK, not special. I had this Echinacea Raspberry a couple of weeks ago and it's really good. The other night I enjoyed a cup of Dragonfly's Moroccan Mint, which was good, and recently, a nice aromatic Chai by Twinings (again).

I find I'm getting more back into teas since I've been back in the UK. There's something essentially British about tea, and the practice of drinking it. Certainly the customers that come into the restaurant at Sissinghurst Castle where I work seem to appreciate it. We sell gallons of the stuff.

The one I've never really been able to get my head around is Earl Grey. To me the stuff just tastes nasty. It's got bergamot in it, you see, which makes it taste like cheap perfume.

Who is this Earl Grey bloke and why did he like perfumed tea? Well, here's all the guff about who he was: Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC (13 March 1764 – 17 July 1845), known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834. A member of the Whig Party, he backed significant reform of the British government and was among the primary architects of the Reform Act 1832. (Source: Wikipedia, the fount of all human knowledge).
But the tea? Evidently he was given this blend of tea as a gift, a perk of being an 18th Century PM. He liked it and gave the recipe to Jacksons of Piccadilly who began to produce it with his official signature on it. From there, it just took off.

What is bergamot? It is a citrus fruit. Sometimes called the bergamot orange, it is a native of Southeast Asia but it is grown commercially in Italy. Earl Grey tea is tea leaves that have been flavoured with oil of bergamot (taken from the rind of the fruit). There are many permutations of the original. For example:

Twinings has a proprietary branded tea variety called "Lady Grey" made with lemon and Seville orange in addition to bergamot. Twinings' Earl Grey and Lady Grey packaging bears the official endorsement and signature of Richard Grey, 6th Earl Grey.

Snapple, always one to spot potential bandwagons upon which to jump,  produces a tea beverage based on Earl Grey called Earl Gray Black Tea.

Many boutique tea stores sell a similar blend with added rose petals known as French Earl Grey.

A beverage called "London Fog" is a combination of Earl Grey, steamed milk and vanilla syrup. (Yuk!)

Australian tea company T2 produces several blends: Earl Grey (traditional Earl Grey tea), Girlie Grey (traditional Earl Grey with botanicals, orange and lemon), Earl Grey Jasmine (traditional Earl Grey blended with Jasmine Green tea), Earl Grey Royale (traditional Earl Grey with cornflowers), and French Earl Grey (A variation on Earl Grey that replaces bergamot with hisbiscus, sunflower, rose and mallow flower). (A resounding bleee! to all of those).

But the question I ask is - why? It still staggers me how popular this stuff is. I am a man who has very little in the way of dislikes food and beverage wise. But there is no way on earth I can abide this tea.

How does one make a proper cup of tea? This is a question I have been asked on occasion. What follows now is the correct method.

For a cup of tea, well, we all know how to make that. Put tea bag in cup. Pour on boiling water. Steep to preference. Take out bag. Milk and/or sugar. Drink. Easy. But for the true experience one must use a teapot.

There are many articles out there on this very topic but all are in agreement on one thing: for a truly magnificent pot of tea, teabags are a no-no. You must use loose leaf tea. Familiarizing yourself with mesh tea balls and strainers and such would probably be a good idea about now.
As to what type of tea leaves to use, there are several really good ones out there. But you can't go wrong with Twinings English Breakfast Tea, and if you look on Amazon you can order it and several other loose-leaf tea varieties for fairly reasonable prices. Most big grocery stores should have at least one brand of loose-leaf tea, but play it safe and go with a brand you know, like Jacksons, Taylors, Twinings etc. because a no-name or oddball blend might be bloody horrible, not to put too fine a point on it. Oh, and guess what? You can buy a tea ball from Amazon too.

You must pre-warm your teapot. Try to make tea in a cold pot and what happens? It gets cold faster. Pre-warm it by filling about one-third of the way with hot water. Shortly before you make the tea, you empty the warming water out.
You'll need approximately 1 teaspoon of loose leaves per cup of tea. This is where your tea ball comes in handy if you have it. Place the tea in the teapot, either loose or in the ball, and pour on just-boiled water which of course you will have boiled in your kettle using fresh, cold water from a reliable source. What I mean to say is, if you wouldn't drink water from your tap, don't make tea with it either. If you have to use filtered or bottled water, that's fine. Expensive, perhaps, but better than drinking skunky tea.

After 5 minutes your tea should be about ready. If you aren't using a tea ball, use a mesh strainer to pour your tea through. This is so much easier than dealing with all the tea leaves in the bottom of the cup.

Add milk if desired, either before pouring or after, but I prefer doing it after as it is easier to judge. If you absolutely must sweeten it, do so, but don't get crazy. You want to taste the tea, don't you?

Now, for the true English tea experience, first, be sitting down. After all, this is supposed to be enjoyable, and you are already committed to making the effort to make the tea, so you might as well give yourself a well-earned rest. So get your cup in hand, a Digestive biscuit in the other, dunk, bite, sip, kick back and relax.....

Oh yes, dunk. I said dunk. I am sorry, all you Americans and others who find that dunking is a bit yucky? Yes, you're perfectly content to dunk doughnuts, aren't you? But a cookie - ewwww. This is weird behaviour, Yanks. Biscuits are more perfectly suited for dunking. They hold up better under pressure. And they still have a bit of crunch to them when dunked.

But of course, I'm referring to the nation that calls biscuits cookies and thinks biscuits are a kind of bread.  No, not that kind of biscuit.

This kind.

So, now you know. Happy dunking!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Days' Worth of Food

I wanted to make a little mention of today's eats, and then I thought about yesterday's eats, which were a bit interesting, as yesterday was a bit of an odd day. I slept in as it was my day off and so I didn't sally forth until about 11, ostensibly in search of haircutting establishments, which I have talked about in the other blog, so I will not bore you with details here. Suffice to say that after I had a haircut, I was a little peckish, and was going to look for a place to eat, but first I had to stop in a little shop that sells handmade chocolates, called, appropriately enough, Chocolate. Or so it would appear. All the signage outside says is the word Chocolate.  However, once inside, all the chocolates on display say "Truffles@Coco". Indeed, a quick look on Google maps confirms that Truffles At Coco is indeed the name of the place. But no matter.

Inside is a veritable chocolate wonderland. On the entire right side of the small shop are shelves groaning with handmade chocolates guaranteed to make your mouth water. There are chocolate bars of varying sizes and flavours, bags of handmade chocolate chips, chocolate mice, lollipops, and the like. You've heard of chocolate covered espresso beans? Fuhgeddaboutit. How about giant chocolate bars covered with a layer of dark roasted coffee beans? And then at the counter is a display case full with truffles with just about any flavour you could possibly want or need. On the left side of the shop are shelves with some seriously good vintage wines, cognacs, Jeroboams of good champers, and on the wall, a rack of high quality ports that made my head spin, including a bottle of Dow's 1971 for about £125, and a Warre's Tercentenary 1970 for £150. Darn fine chocolate and durn good wines and ports in one little shop. What more could one require? I purchased three Dark chocolate Cointreau truffles and three white chocolate champagne truffles and two chocolate mice. Mmmmm.

I was rooting around for a place to eat and after investigating several possibilities (Peggoty's, Ozgur, Zest, Seasons, The Whistlestop Cafe, Prezzo etc.) finally came to the conclusion that I couldn't make a decision. After bumping into my co-worker Gavin the sous chef and chatting with him, I wandered into Cook, a shop that sells gourmet handmade food frozen for the hurried and harried and found it to be quite busy in there. They were dishing out samples of both Coronation Chicken and Eton Mess. I plumped for the latter and sampled away to my heart's content.

Okay, okay. I realise there are probably some of you who are not sure what Eton Mess is. To clarify:

Eton mess (sometimes called Eaton mess) is a dessert of English origin which consists of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream. It's traditionally served at Eton College's annual cricket game against the students of Winchester College. It's been known by this name since the 19th century. An Eton mess can be made with many other types of summer fruit but strawberries are regarded as more traditional.
A similar dessert is the Lancing mess, served throughout the year at Lancing College in West Sussex, England.
The word mess may refer to the appearance of the dish, or may be used in the sense of "a quantity of food", particularly "a prepared dish of soft food" or "a mixture of ingredients cooked or eaten together". But I digress.

I stopped in to the very wonderful Anderson & Campbell again for one of their fabulous lattes, and sampled the delights of some lime pickle which was on the counter with some mini poppadoms... wow! The lime pickle was really tasty, but as those of you who have sampled a proper lime pickle will confirm, it blows your bloody head off for a couple of seconds! I then sampled the papaya chutney which was sweet and delicate and really nice.

Anyhow... I ended up at good ol' Waitrose and proceeded to dig around for bargains. Stopping off in the produce section first, I found that small containers of cherry tomatoes were reduced to clear, as were packages of fresh basil. Grabbing one of each, I then headed over to the cheese section and found some fresh buffalo mozzarella from Laverstoke Park Farm at the reasonable price of £1.99. I purchased my bargains, and headed home in the knowledge that I was going to have to make my own dinner because Mum and Chris were headed out to an appointment. I had an idea to make a salad with the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with some black olives and olive oil and balsamic drizzle - that would have been good, but I still had a little bit of  fresh pasta left from the other night and so i cooked that up. In a wide saucepan I drizzled olive oil, added fresh garlic, all the tomatoes, whole, and let that sizzle for a while. Then when the pasta was nearly done I added chopped basil and some chopped coriander to my tomatoes and garlic, drained the pasta, put it in the bowl, slung the whole mess of tomatoes etc. on  top of the pasta and added the mozzarella in big chunks, which then slowly melted onto the rest. It was lovely and fresh and with the addition of coriander, very lively and slightly unusual.

After that I went for a pint with my old buddy Andy. We reminisced in The White Lion in Tenterden over a pint of Marston's Dragon's Tale, a fine brew if I may say. After that we repaired to an old haunt, The Three Chimneys in Biddenden. The place has hardly changed since the days of my youth and it is one of the few places that still serves beer straight from the keg as opposed to a hand or electric pump. Unfortunately the beer I chose, a pint of Adnam's Stout, could have benefited from being chilled, because as it was at room temp it was just sort of warm and sticky and it impaired the flavour somewhat.

Today we went with my Grandad Eric to Tenterden Garden Centre. This is located at the bottom of Reading Street Hill on the way to Appledore. Eric needed a few things for his garden, and we went for a spot of lunch at the Planter's restaurant located inside. Mum had a baked potato and Eric went for the Liver & Bacon casserole which looked and smelled delicious and came with a mass of potatoes and mixed veggies. I had not long had breakfast but that still didn't stop me from eating a Ploughman's Lunch. What is a Ploughman's Lunch, I hear my Colonial cousins cry? It is usually a hunk or two of cheese with a large piece of crusty bread, and some salad-type stuff, and usually a pickled onion and maybe some Branston to go with it. I chose mine to come with a piece of Brie, which was lovely. The salad part was nice and chunky too, just what I look for in a salad. I am not a fan of lettuce overkill. I need crunch! Anyway, mine was great, and Eric and I shared a pot of tea which was just lovely. All in all, a good place to eat with really nice service, let's say... four and a half yums out of five.

Dinner this evening was a lovely doctored-up Tesco pizza... it's not all glamour and high livin', you know.
À votre santé!

Another One Bites the Pie

Well, another week has come and gone and nobody knows what the Name This food! food is. So I shall enlighten you. It is... wait for it...
Kent Lent Pie!
Sometimes known as Lenten Pie.
In the days when Lent was strictly observed, many cooks became very ingenious at thinking up new dishes to break the monotony of their abstemious diet. This recipe, sometimes called Kentish Pudding Pie, is rather like a baked cheesecake and made a pleasant change; it was particularly popular in the area round Folkestone.

serves 4 - 6
175 g (6 oz) plain wholemeal flour
pinch of salt
150 g (5 oz) butter
300 ml (1/2 pint) fresh milk
25 g (1 oz) ground rice
50 g (2 oz) sugar
2 eggs
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) grated nutmeg
25 g (1 oz) currants

1. To make the pastry, put the flour and salt in a bowl and rub in 75 g (3 oz) of the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in 45 - 60 ml
(3 - 4 tbsp) cold water to bind the mixture together into a dough.

2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a greased 20.5 cm (8 inch) fluted flan dish or tin. Bake blind at 200°C (400°F) mark 6 for 10 - 15 minutes, until set.

3. Meanwhile, put the milk and rice in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.

4. When the mixture is cold, cream the remaining butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the lemon rind, salt, nutmeg and the rice mixture. Mix thoroughly together and pour into the flan case. Sprinkle the currants on top.

5. Bake at 190°C (375°F) mark 5 for 40 - 45 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. Serve the pie warm.

Now then, can you name this week's food?

Easy peasy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pass Da Pasta

Whenever I use a store-bought pasta sauce, no matter what kind it is, I have to doctor it up. I just can't leave it as is. It's got to have a home-made feel to it, and try as they might, no-one has yet come up with a sauce that tastes like you just cooked it yourself. I'm not knocking store-bought sauces, and I'm certainly not suggesting that no-one buy them. They have their place and I naturally understand that sometimes people do not have the time and sometimes the skill in the kitchen required to make a decent sauce. Whap that jar of Ragu in the pan and heat, by all means. But it is fun to mess with them and add your own tweaks.

I remember back in the day when DiGiorno first came out with the little tubs of sauces in the US supermarkets. They were handy little stopgaps and a cut above the jarred ones. Then Buitoni got in on the act, and pretty soon the world and his uncle were making their own, small batch handmade ye olde marinaras and alfredos.

DiGiorno had one a few years back that was a garlic & olive oil sauce. I made some vegetarian calzones one time which were filled with that sauce, a few mushrooms and some mozzarella. Good eatin'.

Then there was the Alfredo, which was rich and creamy and just as perfect an Alfredo as you were ever likely to eat for the price. I used to go to a Lake Stevens eating establishment in Washington State that went by the name of Ixtapa. Yes, you guessed it, it was a Mexican joint, and not only that, it was the best Mexican joint for miles. Their Camarones A La Diabla were phenomenal. But I used to order the Veggie Fajitas which was a veritable mountain of food, and I would usually end up taking half of it home in a to-go box. The following night, I would crack open a tub of DiGiorno Alfredo sauce, put some pasta on the go and mix in the fajita veggies with the sauce over a low heat. Top the pasta with the sauce and BOOM! Out go the lights, baby!

Tonight was no different from those old days. I purchased a family pack of Cheese and Smoked Ham Cappelletti recently which was only £2.99 and was a whopping amount of pasta. Mum had bought a tub of Tesco's Tomato and Mascarpone Sauce to use, and tonight while she was out solving the world's problems (or Tenterden's, at least) I cooked up a pasta feast for Christopher and myself. I took some EVOO and drizzled it in a pan, and over a medium heat, added some chopped red onion and two chopped cloves of garlic. Then I sliced up half a red bell pepper and about 6 or 7 mushrooms and tossed them in too. When the onion started to get translucent I added in the tub of sauce and a splash of water, and a liberal splosh of that old favourite, Worcestershire Sauce. I let that lot simmer, covered, about 15 minutes while I got the pasta water going . When the pasta was cooked (I only needed about two-thirds of the pack, and Chris and I were stuffed full) I ladled the sauce on top and that was it.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Birthdays, Beers and Knickerbocker Glory

Alrighty then! First of all I have two nights' worth of food to report on, today being my Mum's birthday and all that. Last night I cooked for her a nice piece of salmon which was purchased at Bloomsbury's in Biddenden, on the Sissinghurst road. I cooked it in a 200 degrees C oven with a balsamic-redcurrant glaze and some baby red onion on top. I served it with a salad of lambs lettuce, watercress, red cos, tomato and spring onion with an accompanying cucumber vinaigrette and some Exquisa potatoes from jolly old Tesco which were a steal at just £1 for a kilo. Lovely little potatoes that I cooked whole and served with a little butter, they didn't need anything else. Tonight I cooked another risotto which was pretty nice also, this time Mum had bought some Tiger prawns and Rye Bay scallops just for this purpose. Fresh from the sea at Dungeness. Lovely!

I need to report on three beers. I was highly impressed with one of them, and kind of liked the other two but not as much. Here they are, in order of  how much I liked them:

  • Wells & Youngs Waggle Dance. A honey brewed beer, very nice. Difficult to describe the taste, but just try it for yourself. It's lovely, and would have been even better if it had been cold.
  • Another Wells brew, this time it was Bombardier Burning Gold. Nice, but a bit ordinary. 

  • Fuller's London Pride. This is just okay. If someone offered me one I wouldn't turn it down, but I wouldn't cross the street to buy some.

Now, the next part of this little post concerns the Name This Food! portion of the blog, which, despite her apparent inability to get the comments post to work, was won by my sister, who informed me on Facebook. Well done, sis, for correctly guessing that the answer was in fact Knickerbocker Glory! Now we see it can be done, here's the next one to tantalize your tastebuds and exercise your grey matter...

Can you Name This Food!?

Hopefully we'll get a correct answer from someone who isn't directly related to me, but no matter. Correct answers are correct answers. Thinking caps on, folks!


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