Every so often I make a recipe and pop a pic up on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and despite me thinking it looks a bit of a mess, people seem to like the sound of it. READ MORE
Every so often I make a recipe and pop a pic up on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and despite me thinking it looks a bit of a mess, people seem to like the sound of it. READ MORE
These turkey Thai cups are inspired by larb, a Thai minced meat dish with toasted sticky rice stirred into it and often served with yet more sticky rice. Here, we’re forgoing the rice and instead spooning it into lettuce cups to save on calories and time without compromising on flavour. The combination of the sweet, sour and spicy minced turkey and the cold, crisp lettuce cups is moreish to say the least. READ MORE
Food takes me back to places I physically can’t get to anymore. A plate of corned beef hash with lashings of HP Sauce and I’m 8 again, balancing a slightly too hot tray on my knee of a Saturday evening, watching Blind Date and wondering when I might be old enough to ask clever questions to potential suitors.
Lemony roast chicken accompanied by a very cold glass of Jacob’s Creek Sauvignon Blanc and I’m 17, playing house with my boyfriend and studying Delia’s Complete Cookery Course with the attention my A Level texts never quite got. And then there’s sausage and mash with salted butter beyond belief and sticky onion gravy; that is the taste of my university years. A plate piled so high us girls would have a little break halfway through, just to pace ourselves.
I had dinner with a friend recently. She’s my Very Amusing Mum Pal. A VAMP if you will. We got to talking about our sons’ behaviour when eating out. Now the reason I love my VAMP is that she always says the things I want to. Not in an annoying ‘Oh I’m just one of those people who speaks my mind’ way, (which is just a euphemism for ‘I am really rude and have no filter’). Oh no, she says it like it is in a funny, observational fashion. In another life she’s have been a stand up comedian. As it is, her sons are just growing up with unrealistic expectations of how funny Mums are. Their future wives have their work cut out.
Anyway, I digress. Her observation was this, ‘Every time another parent comments in a slightly patronising manner that we’re just soooo lucky we can take the boys out for lunch and have a conversation with them and not rely on ipads/phones with apps/Nintendos/other Apple products, I want to shake them by the shoulders and shout WE SPENT YEARS SOCIALISING THESE CHILDREN. THEY DIDN’T COME LIKE THIS YOU KNOW – ABLE TO SIT AND COLOUR IN A HIPPO WHILST WE SHARE GARLIC BREAD. WE HAVE PUT IN HOURS AND HOURS OF HARD LABOUR. SNIPING AT THEM, TELLING THEM OFF IN HUSHED TONES, EATING AT GREAT SPEED IN ORDER TO LEAVE BEFORE A TANTRUM EVOLVES. THEY DON’T JUST COME LIKE THIS. WE JUST DIDN’T TAKE THE EASY WAY OUT.’
Can you see why I love her now? She’s always right about everything. But in an amusing way.
Onto the recipe! These fritters are great gobbled up as they are or with an array of dips. Or with some baked ham and eggs. Babies rather like them, though be careful how many they eat as halloumi is rather salty. Basically, they’re the most versatile fritter in the world. (Alert: over claim). And do feel free to substitute ingredients – like the jam or the cumin or even the veg. Halloumi is well worth getting hold of though as it’s a cheese that loves a frying pan.
Halloumi, courgette and carrot fritters
Makes about 16 though depends on how large you make them
Grate the courgettes and leave them in a bowl for 10 minutes. In the meantime grate the carrot and the cheese and mix together in a bowl. Squeeze the grated courgettes over the sink to release as much excess water as you can, then stir into the other grated ingredients. Add the cumin, flour and baking powder and stir until the grated ingredients are thoroughly covered.
In a jug, mix together the jam (this is optional, please leave out if you prefer but it does lift the cheese a little), milk and eggs using a fork. Beat for a minute then pour over the grated ingredients and mix to combine thoroughly.
Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan over a medium heat and drop heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil about 3cm apart. I managed 3 fritters in my pan – any more and it would have been overcrowded and the fritters may have steamed each other rather than fried to create crispy edges. After a minute or so use a slice to lift the fritter and check it has crisped and browned on one side. If it has flip it and fry the other side. If it hasn’t then carry on frying it. Once crisp on both sides remove to a plate and carry on frying batches until all the mixture is used up. You may need a little more oil.
You can keep these fritters warm in the oven as you wait for the rest to fry. Just put it on a low heat. You can also reheat these fritters from cold (keep them in the fridge if you can’t eat them all) in the oven or the microwave, though they do have a little less of the ‘crisp’ to them. They also freeze well, in between sheets of non stick baking parchment. You can bake them from frozen or indeed let them defrost overnight in the fridge and bake from chilled.
There are so many things I just won’t take advice on. Or warning. Labour is a classic example. Despite many a friend who had done her hard labour time warning me it was painful, I simply refused to believe it. “Pah!” I scoffed, “we’ll see about this labour malarky… these other women clearly have low pain thresholds! I however am made of sterner stuff. I will laugh in the face of pain relieving drugs! Come on labour, do your worst!” And… I totally couldn’t hack it and cried like a baby. Or rather a labouring baby.
Parenting. There’s another one. My friend Wise Annie warned me that I would start to dislike people I previously adored once I was a parent, purely because I didn’t approve of their parenting style. “No I won’t!” screamed my internal voice, “I shall remain open minded about parenting styles and remind myself that variety is the spice of life.” Oh dear. Epic fail. It’s my way or the high way.
Reusable nappies. I faithfully bought them, washed them, laid them out ready for my precious first born to use. My mother in law dared to comment that perhaps we might be a bit busy what with having a new baby. Perhaps we might not have time to wash and dry. Perhaps we might prefer to use spare time to sleep. “No siree! I am super woman” said my inner voice silently, “I shall use cloth nappies and I shall breast feed and I shall prove them all wrong.” We don’t talk about my husband being sent out to buy Pampers and Cow & Gate at 3am. We just don’t. And we especially don’t talk about it to my mother in law. For then she would have been right and we all know my parenting ideas are perfect, see previous paragraph.
So please, please, please, you’re going to have to trust me on this when I say that I know you’re thinking that scotch bonnet scones aren’t for you… I thought that too. And I bloody love chilli. But they are for you! Honest they are. This is one thing I am right about. Ignore the evidence above to the contrary. These are light with a tiny hint of an after taste of chilli, barely discernable. In fact, if you’re a chilli fiend then may I suggest that you add in some flaked chilli, or stir some chopped chilli into spreadable cheese to pop on the top of them. Or just eat them with a chilli chaser.
Comments, as always, welcomed!
Gentle infused scotch bonnet scones
Makes 6 or 7, but you don’t want any more as scones don’t keep… so make a batch and eat them. Then tomorrow do the same. Whatever you do, do not keep them. They are dry and not nice at all.
Pop the milk in a saucepan and add the scotch bonnet being very very careful not to touch it with your hands or any skin whatsoever. These babies hurt you. Then bring to a simmer on the stove, stirring the chilli about. Take off the heat, leave to cool and then pop in the fridge to get it icy, icy cold.
Once it’s very cold take the butter and cut into 1cm pieces, then pop the flour and the baking powder on the top. Stir with a knife then wash your hands in cold water before rubbing the butter in. If you have very warm hands and have managed to melt the butter, put the whole bowl into the fridge to re-firm up. (You can use a pastry cutter instead which I have to say I prefer but I know they’re not something everyone has or wants to buy.)
When you have a breadcrumb like consistency take the milk from the fridge, strain through a sieve and chuck away the chilli, then re-weigh. If you have lost any volume add more milk until it’s back to 135g. Then pour over the butter and flour mixture and bring together with a knife. It will be a little dry, then use your hands to pull it together. May need a few squeezes. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30 mins.
Pop the oven onto the hottest setting and check the rack is at the top of the oven. Mine goes to 200C but 210C would be better. Flour your work surface, then pop the scone dough down. Pat out to about 3cm thick then use a cutter dipped in flour to cut straight down, don’t twist or turn it. Then place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all the scones dough is used (you can re-squidge it but it won’t be as tender once you’re at second squidge stage.) Then brush the tops of the scones with the yolk (none down the sides please, stops a good rise!) then place in the fridge, uncovered until the yolky topping is dry. Once dry paint with yolk again and then bake immediately for 10 – 15 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the scones are well risen. Serve warm with cheese or chilli butter.
Quick? Tick. Spicy? Tick. Easy? Tick. Satisfies my need to put everything on a stick? Tick. Quick, easy, spicy prawns on a stick for festive parties across the land. Doesn’t everything taste better on a stick? I think so.
If you prefer to watch a little video of how to make these click below:
– 12 tiger prawns, cooked and peeled
– Juice of ½ lime
– Pinch of paprika
– Pinch of Cajun seasoning
– ¼ cucumber, deseeded and chopped
– 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
These are so quick and easy it’s very hard not to eat them as you work, but that wouldn’t do at all. Simply pop the king prawns into a bowl, then take half a lime and squeeze it straight over the prawns and when you’ve got all the juice out give them a little stir. Now add to that marinade by popping in a pinch of paprika and a pinch of Cajun seasoning and stir well.
Let all those flavours mingle and in the mean time, cut up a cucumber to thread onto the sticks, scooping the seeds from the centre of the cucumber, then chop the cherry tomatoes in half. To assemble, take a cocktail stick, thread a piece of de-seeded cucumber on, next thread a prawn into the middle. Lastly, a quarter of cherry tomato.
Recently I met a man, under 30, who used the word razzamatazz. He also used the word jeepers without irony or a hint of self indulgence. I was waiting for him to use ‘moreover’ within a sentence but he left me wanting more on that front. Something for another day perhaps.
It got me thinking about all those words that have fallen out of favour. Old fashioned names have become very popular though I have yet to meet a baby Deidre. A quick poll of Twitter tells me that skedaddle, spiffing, fiddlesticks, dash, smashing, hurrah, cripes, palaver, nincompoop, jolly, crikey and rather worryingly please and thank you are all words that are in danger of extinction. I suggest we all take responsibility for one word each, per week and aim to resurrect these endangered species before it’s too late. Please feel free to add yours to the pile.
Here are some razzamatazz ribs to start us all off. They’re sweet, a little spicy and really very agreeable. Spiffing even.
– 8 or so handsome looking pork ribs
– Bunch of fresh thyme, squashed up a bit
– 3 tbsp honey
– 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
– 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
– 2 chillis, chopped up roughly with seed
– 1/2 bottle Womersley raspberry and apache chilli vinegar or another white vinegar of your choice
– 1 tbsp cornflour
This is jolly easy. Place the ribs into a baking tray in the morning. Pop all the other ingredients into a jam jar and shake well. Then pour over the ribs, cover in foil and leave in the fridge until about 5 hours before you need them. When you’re ready to go preheat the oven to Gas 1/140C and place, still covered, in the oven, on the middle shelf. Leave for 4 hours.
Remove the grey looking ribs from the oven and turn up the heat to Gas 7/220C. Throw the foil away but keep the sauce. Place the ribs onto a baking sheet and pop at the top of the oven for about 20 minutes until they are crispy around the edges but not burnt. Do keep a good watch of your ribs.
In the meantime strain the marinade through a sieve into a small saucepan and heat on the hob. Once simmering remove a good tablespoon of the sauce and mix in a cup with the cornflour until really smooth. Then add back into the simmering sauce, stirring continually. The sauce should thicken. If it doesn’t do the same again with half a tablespoon more cornflour. If it goes lumpy worry not! Just strain through the sieve again.
Serve the ribs with this sauce either on the side of poured over the top depending which way your guests swing.
P.S. If you wanted to follow the man I mentioned then you would find him @gowen1
What do these things have in common?
They are all promised to help entice overdue babies out. And in my opinion none of them work. As anyone who’s ever gotten anywhere near their due date (and/or gone past it) will tell you, helpful people start to offer advice as to how to get the baby to make his/her appearance as you near 40 weeks. Go past 40 weeks and people fall over themselves to ask you highly personal information about how much sex you’re getting and gulp… if you’ve tried nipple stimulation. The lack of privacy starts before the labour ward.
My lovely, dear friend Alison is about to give birth to her second baby. She’s due this weekend. This one’s for you Alison. Though you need to add more chilli as I’ve heard that it might help induce labour… especially if you eat it whilst having sex and bouncing on a ball and with a pineapple chaser…
Heat a splash of oil in a large frying pan and fry the paneer until starting to sizzle and brown. Once it’s done scoop it out and set aside on some kitchen roll. Turn the heat down and add the peeled and chopped onion with the salt. Fry on a low heat until soft and almost translucent. Then add the spices including the chilli (finely chopped including the seeds) and the ginger and chilli. After another 5 mins add the tinned tomatoes. Fill the tin back up with water and add this to the pan. Turn the heat up and give it a really good stir. When it starts to thicken a little add the paneer back in and also the frozen peas. Leave to simmer away for around 15 minutes until you have a yellowy cheesy pea stew. (I think it might need to be renamed cheesey peas given that our local curry house would likely laugh at my interpretation of mutter paneer.)
Until recently I still hadn’t made my mind up about slow cookers. It seemed that everything I made in my handsome Crock tasted similar. It wasn’t a bad taste – quite deep and meaty and flavoursome, but frankly all a bit samey.
I was reading a blog the other day where a poster was moaning about beef being the nemesis of the slow cooker – left for any longer than 4 hours and it turns into a samey tasting stew. Therein lay my problem! I’d been overdoing the beef. So without further ado, I grabbed some lamb shanks out of the freezer and set to work. The results were a hot and wholesome stew fit for a cold, cold day. And we’ve been getting a lot of those lately.
As with all good slow cooker recipes you can’t just sling it in the pot and hope for the best. A little prep using regular pots and pans is required. So, begin by frying the onion in the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry until starting to soften then add the crumbled stock cube and the garlic. Give it a good stir and then whack the heat up and pop the lamb shanks in. Fry on both sides until they’ve browned enough to make them look appetising.
Add the tomato purée to the mix, then the red wine vinegar, honey and tinned tomatoes. Stir the lot and reduce the heat to about medium. Leave to bubble away for 10 mins, then pour carefully into the slow cooker. Add the chilli (chop using scissors – so much more finger friendly) and black pepper, then put the lid on and leave to cook on ‘SLOW’ for 10 hours. You can then put the stew onto the ‘KEEP WARM’ function and it’ll be fine. About half an hour before you want to serve it add the drained black eyed peas and give it a good stir then put the lid back on and leave on ‘KEEP WARM.’
Eat with nothing but a warm knee in front of the TV.
I recently spent the day with some of my lovely friends who I don’t often see these days. I dusted off my old Oyster card (and was relieved that it still works after 3 years in retirement,) I reserved my train seat as last time I had to stand for an hour and I arranged for Charlie to spend the day with my Mum, AKA Nan-neeee. This is no hardship for him as 1) he adores her and 2) her house is a kind of toddlers version of Alton Towers, though without the need to queue.
Spending the day without Charlie is a curious thing. I enjoyed choosing food because I wanted it, rather than because he might like it. I enjoyed having a conversation uninterrupted, without being presented with a small car or a book to read. I enjoyed going to the loo without an audience pointing and shouting ‘what’s that?’ Most of all though I felt like I’d lost a limb. I missed his sticky little hands gripping mine, his habit of humming nursery rhymes as he eats. I even missed his tantrum-face and vigorous head shaking every time I ask him if he’d like to help Mummy with something. Is it like this forever I wonder. Will I sit at home draining glasses of gin when he’s 25, feeling like I’ve lost an appendage and boring people with tales of what a beautiful baby he was?
Carrying on with the grown up theme, here’s a recipe with a hot chilli chicken kick perfect for the Sunday blues. Be more careful than I was when you handle the scotch bonnet chilli. The stuff is lethal. One brush on my index finger and it tingled for hours. I think sensible people advise wearing washing up gloves.
Put on some gloves! Cut the tops off the chillis and throw away, then throw everything except the chicken into a food processor and whizz for 2 mins until finely chopped and mixed together. Cover the chicken with the marinade, remembering only to use a spoon rather than your hands to mix it and then refrigerate for 4 hours or preferably overnight.
Depending on the weather, cook for either 20 mins each side on the barbecue or 40 mins at Gas 5 on a baking tray. Crisp the chicken skin if you used the oven, by finishing under the grill for 5 minutes. Serve with something mellow like a simple green salad or some steamed basmati rice.
NB: The chilli mellows with time and cooking so that your mouth doesn’t explode or tingle or do anything else unpleasant.