Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hangover Cure - Rice, Eggs and Chili

I can suffer from crippling hangovers.  Crying, vomiting, doom and gloom hangovers where even lying in bed next to a bucket is more than I can cope with.
‘I suffer’, as if its an affliction I have no control over…. I just drink too much.

These tsunamis of hangovers are an entirely different kettle of fish to the more common feeling a bit rough, eating a shed load of junk and functioning on a considerably lower IQ than usual.  Unless you’re at work, these ones are alright. Controversially, I might even say that I slightly enjoy them. Having a fair amount of nervous energy, I often feel obliged to achieve stuff;  clean the flat, go on outings with friends, rearrange furniture or cook some fantastically elaborate new recipe.  All fine and dandy, but sometimes you just want to slow down and do nothing without feeling guilty you’re wasting the weekend.  
That’s where the milder hangover comes in.  You’re a bit sedated but not incapacitated.  Saturday morning (and Sunday come to think of it) I woke up feeling toxic with an insatiable appetite something strong, spicy and salty.  Even when fighting fit I don’t subscribe to bland breakfasts of muesli, dry toast or heaven forbid, nothing.  
The breakfast I made was dead quick compared to assembling a fry-up and didn’t require me shuffling to the shops for ingredients while avoiding eye-contact and taking 10 minutes to make 50p out of two 20ps and a 10p.

I always have chillies and garlic and usually have eggs. In the fridge was half a can of leaf spinach and left over basmati rice.  Fried eggs and rice are quite common for breakfast in China and Japan, and there are a fair few Mexican variants as well.  Shakshuka is middle-eastern dish where eggs are poached in spicy tomato and pepper sauce.  A hearty brunch indeed.  
My bastard mash-up of a breakfast only took a few minutes.  The rice was comforting but still had a smack-you-in-the-face kick of chilli.  Nearly healthy were it not for all the oil.   The runny yolk gave a beautiful richness and anyone who has never put Tabasco on their eggs, just do it.  Resolve downed in one and taste-buds well woken up. As if tequila never existed. 

Rice and Eggs – serves 1 greedy person

2 cloves garlic crushed
½-1 fresh green chili chopped finely
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 red onion sliced thinly in half moons
half a can chopped spinach with liquid squeezed out
cup full of cooked basmati rice
olive oil
1 egg
Tasbasco to taste
Salt and pepper

1)     Put a generous glug of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) in a heavy based frying pan on a high heat and add the sliced onions.  Keep moving them around with a spoon until they are translucent and slightly caramalised on the edges. Should take around 5 minutes

2)     Add the crushed garlic and chillies stir for about 30 seconds and add the chopped spinach and cumin.

3)     Stir in the cooked rice and again keep stirring.  It will stick to the pan put if it starts to burn add a splash more oil and turn the heat down a little bit.  Check salt and pepper.

4)     Heat another frying pan with another big glug of oil on a medium to high heat and crack the egg into it.  As its starts to turn opaque white use a spoon to ladle some of the hot oil from around the egg onto it so as to ‘seal’ and cook the top.  Using a spatula gently lift the edges of the egg until the whole thing slides around the pan easily and then lift it using the spatula and turn it over. 

5)     After about 10-15 seconds serve the egg over the rice, breaking the yolk so it runs. Sprinkle a few drops of Tabasco.  

6)     If you’re me and a bit weird, decide you want Caesar dressing as well cause Caesar dressing tastes good on everything.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Lady & The Tramp - Meatballs and Spaghetti

The most random of influences can trigger a craving.  As a child, The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe made me obsess over Turkish Delight.  Sounded gorgeous but when I finally managed to try it I was bitterly disappointed  - sweet perfumed soap. Urgh. Not the heavenly food of the gods I was led to believe.

In the Lady & The Tramp it was the famous meatballs and spaghetti scene that got me. The animation of the dish with its clearly defined swirls of spaghetti noodles is somehow way more appetising than the real-life red lumps on yellow lumps, even when said lumps taste fantastic.

I was at a loss for inspiration for dinner the other night and aimlessly wandered round Sainsburys until I thought of the Italian-American classic.  I pimped it up with few herbs I had left over, a teensy firecracker of a chilli from my mum’s bountiful crop and the ubiquitous splash of cream.

The result was pretty damn good. The sauce had a deep flavour and tang coming from the tomatoes, with the merest hint of richness from the cream and a subtle warmth from the dried chilli flakes.  A tablespoon of brown sugar and finely diced carrots gave it a sweetness that balanced the tomato sharpness. 

Although overall I was happy with the recipe, there are things I would change next time.  My purse was light on the coinage, so I used basics beef mince. Mistake. It was pretty coarse with the few the odd lumps of gristle.  I’m a hardnut and could cope with it but Alex couldn’t after a few dodgy mouthfuls.  Stay away from budget mince.

Further, the couple of sprigs of rosemary chopped finely in the meatballs were a bit overpowering.   In future I’ll either reduce the amount, or leave out entirely.  Don’t be alarmed at the length of the ingredient list; you’re likely to have most of it hanging around in your cupboard.

Ingredients. Serves 4 (or 2 very greedy people, with leftovers)

Enough spaghetti for 4 people
400g beef mince
1 egg yolk
Sprig of rosemary
1 white onion finely diced
1 medium carrot finely diced
Half a stick of celery finely diced
4ish cloves garlic crushed
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Finely chopped red chilli
About 6 tomatoes skinned (if your bothered) roughly diced
½ Handful of breadcrumbs (blend a piece of old bread)
300 ml passata
Heaped tablespoon of tomato puree
1 beef oxo cube
tablespoon brown sugar
handful of flat leaf parsley finely chopped (including stalks)
olive oil
beef dripping/butter
salt pepper

1)     Put the mince, breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl.   In another bowl mix the 1 crushed garlic clove, the diced chilli and chopped parsley stalks and teaspoon of olive oil.  Mush with a spoon or hand blender than add to the mince and breadcrumbs.  Add a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Add the egg yolk and mix well using your hands.

2)     Wash your hands well (it gets under your nails). Take around a heaped teaspoon of mince mix and roll lightly into a ball between your palms.  It should be around the size of a ping-pong ball.  Repeat with the rest of the mixture and it makes about 30 meatballs.  Put the meatballs onto a plate in the fridge to firm up a bit while you get on with the sauce.  Oh and wash your hands again.

3)     Put a deep frying pan or saucepan on the hob on a medium heat with a generous glug of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons).  Fry the diced onions, carrot and celery for 20 minutes till the carrots are soft and the onions soft and translucent. 

4)     Add the 3 remaining cloves of crushed garlic, dried chilli flakes, oregano and big pinch of salt and pepper.  Heat another pan till smoking and add the dripping or butter(if using splash olive oil first to stop it burning).

5)     After a minute add the tomato puree, then the chopped tomatoes.  Increase the heat and fry stirring well for about 3 minutes. Add the passata, the brown sugar, crumble in the oxo stock cube then the splash of cream (roughly 1 ½ tablespoon) Mix well the bring to the boil then reduce the heat to slow simmer.

6)     Heat another pan till smoking and add the dripping or butter (if using butter splash olive oil first to stop it burning).  Get the meatballs out of the fridge and fry in batches till their golden brown and crispy on all sides then add to the tomato sauce.

7)     Give it a stir and simmer for about an hour.  About 12 minutes before the end cook the pasta according the packet instructions and drain.

8)     Serve the meatballs and sauce on top of the spaghetti with some grated cheese and the chopped parsley.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Chocolate Cream Pie: SEX

My mum came over last weekend and stayed with me in London for the first time in about three years. That’s not to say that she hasn’t visited me in London….but the semi-squat-semi-condemned-rodent-bedbug infested party house I was living in at the time wasn’t quite mum-friendly enough for a sleepover…

As I now live in the most respectable of abodes…. and am approaching my first Christmas away from my family, it was time for her to visit Muswell Hill and be reassured her little girl is not sharing her house with mad-cat-man, cellar-dwelling crackhead and all manner of chemicals and Camdenites.

In true mother and daughter tradition, we got a chick-flick we’d been wanting to watch together for a while.  A food (and blog) film – Julie & Julia.   While the film focuses more on the characters than the food itself, it does have some pretty luscious food photography.  One of the first recipes Julie makes after a hard day is a chocolate cream pie.  A birds-eye shot of the graham cracker base being filled with oozing chocolate mixture is pretty sexy and the next morning Alex  (yes, he did watch it with us) asked for that pie. That exact pie. The pie that she makes in the film. 

I like a project and pleasingly a Google search provided a large number of chocolate cream-pie option.  Not being able to find graham crackers in the local Tesco I riffed with amaretto biscuits, and rather than using entirely chocolate chips, I did a ratio of dark chocolate to plain chips, hoping the cocoa butter in the cooking chocolate would work the cooking and setting process, while the dark chocolate would stave off that cheap chocolate taste.
The amaretto crumb base, while tasting good, was a bit overpowering and in a panic of it cracking, I made it too thick.  Next time, thinner, and with digestives.   A little less sugar if you’re a bit more grownup but otherwise the filling was sweet, silky and very sexy.

I adapted an American recipe, hence the cup measurements.  I don’t have an American cup thingy, so just used a smallish tumbler and used the same one throughout so as to keep ratios the same.

Chocolate Cream Pie


1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup corn flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
80g good quality chocolate, around 75% cocoa solids, broken up fine
1 ¼  cup plain chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks lightly whisked
teaspoon vanilla extract
150 ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon cocoa


2 1/3 cups amaretto or digestive biscuit crumbs (if using digestive use 2 cups digestives, 1.3 cup sugar)
7-8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 1)   Preheat oven to 180 celcius. Mix the melted butter with the biscuit crumbs.  Press using fingers into a buttered and greaseproof papered 20 cm diameter cake or pie tin till evenly around 3 mm thick.
2)   Put in oven for around 15-30 minutes then take out to cool.

3)   In a medium saucepan over low heat stir the sugar, corn flour, chocolate chips and chocolate pieces, and salt until melted then slowly pour in the milk in stages.

4)   It will stay runny for ages, but continue to stir and suddenly it will thicken. Continue to stir until it starts to bubble gloopily. 

5)   Pour half the chocolate mixture in into a bowl with the lightly whisked egg yolks and whisk furiously then add the whole lot back in the saucepan, again stirring well.

6)   Pour into the cooled pie crust. Put into the fridge for 5/6 hours or until set. Whip the cream to soft peaks and spoon on top, sieve the cocoa powder on top of the cream for decoration.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Porn - Man vs Food and Chilli Dogs

 Man vs Food is food porn of the dirtiest kind.

This show is presented a by Adam Richman a ‘food fanatic’ who travels America visiting all the best independent fast food and home cooking restaurants, diners and stalls sampling their signature dishes and taking on eating challenges such as enormous over-sized burgers and sides, gallons of milkshake and insanely spicy hot wings infused with habanero extract and ghost chillis. 


Vast racks of ribs, steaks the bigger than my head, donuts even bigger, roast beef subs with melted cheese dipped into meat juices necessitating it to be served in a bowl.  Chicken fried steak.  Wow.That’s a tenderised beef steak, battered and deep fried before serving with gravy and biscuits (b├ęchamel sauce and savoury scones in English).   Only in America.  When they do it wrong, they do it so right.   Where else would an British expat take fish’n’chips, add a battered frankfurter, pile on fried onions, American cheese and wack the whole lot in a sandwich.   


Aside from unadulterated excess, Man vs Food has removed any snobbery I might have had regarding American food.  The diner food showcases unpretentious cooking that takes elements from Americas melting pot of immigrants, smooshes it up and give it the all-American twist.

Rather than being ‘fast’ food a large proportion of the really good stuff was slow cooked  - piddling on my three hour roasts and taking it to the 24 hour mark.  A literal half a cow or pig slowly smoked roasted in huge home-made or custom-made smoke ovens.  Fiercely guarded spice rubs and basting sauces.  Carnivore paradise.  


Much as I can’t wait to give the slow-cooker a dust off, what we do is a ‘Do Like Man vs Food’.  Invariably that means adding more cheese and frying in shit loads of butter.  This is Alex’s recipe, I just encouraged the butter.

Chilli Dogs – serves 1

1 large frankfurter (we use Hertz brand)
Large handful of red Leicester cheese
Sprinkle of roughly chopped spring onions
Half a medium chilli finely sliced (if you don’t like heat leave this out)
Can of chilli (we use Stagg and you won’t need it all)
Large hotdog bun
Large nob of butter
Slug of vegetable/olive oil

1) Heat the stagg chilli till simmering on the hob in a small saucepan or in a microwave.

2) Heat the oil and and butter till foaming in a frying pan. Split the frankfurter and fry on a high heat for about 4 minutes, or until cooked through and crisped on the edges.

3) Slice the bun in half, but don’t cut all the way through. Assemble your hotdog as you wish, we usually put a tablespoon first, add the sausage, add another tablespoon, the cheese, chilli and spring onions. 

4) Get it everywhere. 

Cupboard Love - Lemon Meringue Icecream

Much as sheer greed fuels my urge to cook, I can’t deny the thrill when someone I’ve fed enjoys what I’ve made them.

I lean towards savoury and salty over sweet, but my boyfriend and flatmate love their sugar.  Wanting to crowd-please and also extend my repertoire I’ve been keeping my eye out for cake and dessert recipes that give me something new to cook and I think they’ll like.

I’ve recently become aware of the possibilities of ice-cream: not merely the realm of vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. Not that they’re bad, but reading about the sexy grown-up flavours of stem ginger or salted caramel to name a few…Chilli dark chocolate...  Of course this was all hypothetical as most of these recipes become redundant without an ice-cream maker.  I could do the whole whisking on the hour for a bout 7 hours but to be honest, I have better things to do. 

So, when I came across an ice-cream recipe not only didn’t require an ice-cream maker but appealed to both the man and myself, I got cracking on a small ‘tester’ portion.

Gosh. I liked it and he bloody loved it, giving me that warm fuzzy feeling of pride.  I do thrive on praise.  I was begged to make more, more and more.  I’ve made about a four batches in the last two months.  Each batch is over a litre and once I doubled the recipe to fill a large baking tray.  That’s a helluvalot of double cream.  Needless to say, this was a success.  

 Nigella Lawson’s ‘Lemon Meringue Ice-cream’ from her ‘How To Eat’ book is insanely easy, specially if you go down the shop bought meringues and lemon curd route as I have.  The hard work is the whisking (and only because I don’t have an electric whisk).  

1)     600 ml double cream
2)     3 unwaxed lemons, zest of 2, juice of three (or to taste)
3)     6 meringue nests
4)     225g Greek yoghurt
5)     320g lemon curd

Whisk the cream to firm peaks.   Fold in the greek yoghurt.  Mix the lemon curd with the lemon juice and zest (this makes it easier to mix into the cream and yoghurt), then fold in.

Crumble the meringues into fairly small pieces (you don’t want it to disintegrate) and fold in.  Taste it and adjust the tartness to suit you – more lemon curd or meringue if too sour, more lemon juice if too sweet.

Pour into a shallow container, cover and place in the freezer for a couple of hours till set.  Alex is too impatient to wait for it to soften before tucking in, I reckon about 5-10 minutes before eating is enough.  

Monday, 14 November 2011

meat no.1

I watch loads of TV, and generally keep it wittering on in the background.  My fear of being bored and hatred of silence means its on pretty much round the clock as I get on with other things, doing a similar job as a radio talk shows and music do for other people.  

Of the trash I watch, the majority is cookery programmes.  Digital TV and its plethora of niche channels means I can watch the metaphorically soft-focused lifestyle programmes 24/7 if I feel so inclined.  Twee kitchens and gentle banter comfort me in this cruel world. 

The side-effect of this choice of entertainment means I’m constantly seeing new things I want cook and eat, without the time to try them all.  One such dish was breast of lamb baked with onions from Simon Hopkinson’s BBC1 programme ‘The Good Cook’.  Although I found him a bit obnoxious, the recipes themselves really appealed to me and I eventually got round to it, spurred on when I saw the lamb’s price….

Being the ardent carnivore I do like a hunk of flesh. However, meat's also quite expensive so I’m constantly on the lookout for cheap cuts.  Pork belly became quite trendy when restaurants and gastro-pubs cottoned on to its low-cost but high-octane flavour and succulence and I dutifully followed suit at home.  The crispy, saliva-gushing crackling and juicy flesh was a hit and has become a popular weekend roast in my flat. Specially as it costs less than £5/kg - that ain’t small….  Brisket of beef, pot toasted till tender.  Hell yeah…

The theme of roasts in my flat is cheap and cooked for ages.  I think I like these cuts better than the posh ones.  They usually need that slow, low heat to break down the collagen in the sinews and render out the excess fat.  All the bits that are tough and gnarly when cooked quickly become incredibly juicy and flavourful when left to do their thing for a few hours.  Teaches me patience too.  

The breast of lamb I bought from Sainsburys was 660g, roughly half the amount suggested in the recipe, though I remembered he said in the programme to match the weight of the onions with the lamb, so I just halved them too.

Scarily vacuum wrapped in the ‘Basics’ packaging for a mere £3.60ish, the prevalence of fat and skin was a tad unnerving. However, the end result was beautifully tasty. Crispy on the outside, still fatty but deliciously unctuous on the inside, it was tricky to slice and far too easy eat.  The onions were mildly sweet’n’sour, cutting through the richness of the meat and I served mine with mash.  I imagine this isn’t for someone who gets fussy with fat and stuff, or if they don’t like strong meat tastes (this is pretty lamby).  For other carnivores you’ll find it addictive. Go on Simon, even if you’re well annoying. 

Other than halving the meat and onions I didn’t adapt the recipe any further and you can find it here

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Fish Finger Sandwich - My First Blog

Fishfinger Sandwich

I discovered food blogs a few months ago when searching for something harmless to while away the hours in my excruciatingly mundane office job.  Something that didn't cause the IT police to barr me and that didn't involve spending my (hard?) earned cash on tat.  Food blogs have kept me entertained and challenged me.  Mostly they make me hungry.

I obsess over newly discovered food stuffs such as Nduja - the spreadable sausage that I still haven't tried but oh so want to, or classics like chicken and mushroom pie and my first beef roast.  Mainly I cook a lot of pasta. Loads of pasta in varying shapes and flavours.  Obscene quantities of the stuff. Carbs are amazing. 

However, sometimes I don't want the garlicky cream dream of one of my pasta specials.  Sometimes I'm a bit skint, tired and want the simple nostalgia of a classic.  I know Jamie's already dared to do a recipe(ish), but there's a reason why. 

Fishfinger sandwiches are great.  On soft white sliced with a slick of margarine, not butter.  Inspidly green leaves bely the iceberg's sweet, fresh crunch contrasting with the firm heat of finger itself.  Sainsburies' Basics are good enough for me.  The familiar smell  wafting from under the grill as the impossibly orange crumbs toast then crack, releasing steam from the reliably perfect white fish. I'm not overly fond of the 'devils food' as my boyfriend calls it, and prefer a dollop of mayonnaise or salad cream to ketchup.  My nod to foodie-ville is a sprinkle of salt and pepper before shutting the sandwich and lightly pressing together.  Ridiculously cheap, easy and gorgeous. Perfect.