Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tomato, red pepper, chickpea and chorizo stew

I returned to my house in York last week, after a rather longer Christmas break than I had anticipated, to find myself greeted with the kind of scene I imagine the most inconsiderate burglars leave behind. The saving grace, however, being that nothing was actually stolen. No, this was just the inevitable consequence of having a kitchen about 30% of the way through a glamorous makeover: a thick layer of dust adorning surfaces like snow, a lone fridge standing forlornly in the middle of the floor with a ghostly sheet draped over it, small nuggets of plaster and brick scattered like charming confetti o'er the sink and floor. Barely a trace remaining of the cosy place I had tried to make it when I moved in.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Apricot and ginger crumble slices

It's a time of celebration. A time to rejoice, cavort, frolic, caper, dance, jig. To make merry, pop open the champagne, utter gleeful exclamations with joyous abandon. To throw your hands in the air. To sing a small cheerful ditty or whistle a jaunty tune. To high five. Embrace. Jump up and down. Shriek. Shout. Grin. Guffaw. Chortle. Whoop. 

That's right, you guessed it. I have a new oven.

If you think I'm being hyperbolic, suggesting a new oven is cause for celebration, let me paint you a picture of my old oven.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Pomegranate glazed spiced chicken and fig quinoa salad

'Salad' is a funny word. I don't think there's any word in the entire realm of gastronomic lexicon so versatile as 'salad'. Originating from the Latin word 'sal', meaning 'salt', salads were originally assortments of raw vegetables liberally dressed with oil and salt. Today, the Italian word for salted - salata - is very similar to that for salad: insalata.

Yet in this modern day and age, the word 'salad' can be applied to pretty much anything. Without even thinking about it, I titled this recipe a 'salad'. It got me thinking a bit more about the word, and what sort of rhyme and reason lies behind the labelling of something as a salad.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Aubergine bruschetta with roasted tomatoes, mozzarella and pomegranate

I am heartily convinced that people who claim not to like aubergines have only ever experienced them in something like badly-cooked ratatouille or curry. If you don't treat a noble aubergine properly in such a preparation, it will be disgusting. It will be spongy and tough in the centre and slimy around the outside, watery and generally vile. An aubergine is not really a boiling vegetable. Stewing it in liquid will not do it any favours. The best way to treat an aubergine is to grill or bake it until its flesh turns from springy and spongy to molten, smoky and silky. Its skin will wrinkle and crisp, while its inside turns deliciously moist, full of rich, earthy flavour.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Spiced porridge with quince, apple and vanilla compote

Another breakfast recipe. I'm not going to apologise, though, because there are several reasons why this is the absolute best thing you could be making and eating right now (I mean 'right now' figuratively speaking, of course, because you might be reading this at night time, in which case it's probably not a great idea to indulge in a vat of hearty oats before lying down).

Firstly, I've read a few of those awful detox-related articles in various newspapers and magazines this week. Curse those publications, for contributing to JIGS, or 'January-Influenced Guilt Syndrome' (I have just invented this, but I think it should be a nationally-acknowledged phenomenon). They're pretty hard to avoid, and the worst part is I only read magazines and newspapers while eating, so invariably there I am, gorging on some giant bowl of carbs, reading an article telling me not to do exactly that. It's pretty depressing reading about ideal lunches based around salad, green veg and lean protein while you're tucking into their opposite.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Penang! restaurant, Westfield

I've had a lot of disappointing meals out recently. There's nothing in the world that will sap you of vitality quite like a meal that promised great things and delivered very little. There are various factors that can contribute to a poor restaurant experience, and naturally these will vary depending on the diner. Some people are extremely fussy about tablecloths, background music, or the availability of branded hand wash in the toilets. I, personally, am fussy about portion size, service, balance and the dessert menu.

That is, portions have to be generous, and this INCLUDES starters and desserts (one of my biggest restaurant bugbears is tiny desserts - some people save space for them, you know!); service has to be attentive and friendly, but not obsessively asking if everything is OK every five minutes, and it's definitely a no-no if I've booked a table and the restaurant claim to have no record of it; the dishes have to be well balanced, with enough carbohydrates to complement the meat/fish/vegetables or enough acidity to temper a very rich ingredient like duck or cheese; the dessert menu has to include proper desserts, like crumble, tart and pie - not like creme brûlée or panna cotta, which I consider a pointless waste of calories.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Pear, gooseberry and almond breakfast oat crumble

Although some of my more rant-led blog posts may encourage you to believe that I am a constantly angry and occasionally violent grumpy old woman, I'm actually quite a nice person. However, there are certain things that you just don't do if you want to remain on speaking terms with me ever again. 

For example, cook rice as you would pasta, in a vat of boiling water, draining it with a sieve. This is not acceptable behaviour and I will not tolerate it from anyone in my life. 

Secondly, you never, ever, mess up the froth on my cappuccino. Drinking a cappuccino is a ritual, revolving around the steady scraping off of the chocolatey froth from the top with a spoon and the inhalation of its heady cocoa-rich aroma before indulging in the actual coffee lurking underneath. The chocolate is the best bit. I once went on a date with a boy who flagrantly ignored this, leaned over the table and swirled his spoon vigorously around in my cappuccino (which sounds like a euphemism, but is not). I was actually rendered speechless with horror for a good few seconds. Needless to say, it didn't work out. A person who could do such a thing is clearly evil and therefore not boyfriend material.