Category Archives: cooking

I hate avocados

There. I said it. It’s probably food blogger death to admit this, right? But I’ve tried them SO MANY TIMES and I just haven’t found an avo dish I liked.

And avocado isn’t the only food that I dislike but that I also feel I’m missing out on. I mean, I don’t like offal, but I don’t feel the need to like it, so I’m OK with ignoring it on menus. But there’s certain foods that I don’t like which I’d really like to like. And I know it’s possible to change your tastebuds, I hated olives till I was in my 20s, now I can think of nothing I’d rather eat than a gigantic plate of nocerella olives and a glass of something white, cold and fizzy. Not lemonade. This list includes courgettes, squashes, onions (as the main ingredient, rather than for flavour), game, tomatoes (mostly the ones you get in the UK, the ones I’ve had in sunnier climes are usually totally fine), veal, pate, and until last night, aubergine (or eggplant for you Yanks). There’s more, but I’m getting a little embarrassed about it now. IMAG3095

Now as a good Sri Lankan, there’s a dish that’s served at every Lankan party called kathirikai poriyal. It’s small diced, spiced, fried aubergine. Even this couldn’t tempt me in, just no. But my other half loves the filthy emoji, so I bought some the other day, to be a good wife. And then they sat in the fridge, taunting me. Until yesterday, when Nigel Slater and The Guardian made a suggestion that ticked all the right boxes for me – salted, floured, fried, served with cheese and honey. And you know what? It was bloody delicious.

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So now, I’m on the hunt for recipes that will make me reconsider foods I’d given up on ever liking.

What foods did you once hate but now love? And how did you start to love them?

 

Eating down the freezer…

Did I tell you what I got for Christmas? I don’t think I did. Anyway, I got an ice cream maker. It’s not one of those that freeze on the counter top, it’s one that you need to freeze the bowl and then churn like a churning ocean of emotions (nb, I found a poetry book I wrote when I was a misery teenager today, so forgive any ridiculous turns of phrase…) 

The ice cream maker looks amazing but I haven’t been able to use it as our freezer is permanently full. Full like a bean bag, before the woes of the world drowns its liveliness with hugecrushing asses. Yeah. I’ll stop soon. It’s currently sitting on the shelf, next to the deep fat fryer that we also bought for Christmas, which we love. But more on that in another post.

So in the spirit of my new year resolution to spend too much money on stuff, I have made a plan to eat down the freezer so I can start making ice cream. Today I have taken three chicken legs, chorizo and some chicken breasts out of one of the overstuffed drawers and I’m making a chicken and chorizo stew. Admittedly, I’m making enough for about 14 people and I’m currently home alone (the wino is in Spain for “work” which has so far involved a five course lunch and a lot of fun) so that there’s the fear that I’ll simply cook a shit tonne of stuff and then refreeze it but luckily my sister is doing up her kitchen so can’t cook at the moment, so I’m taking this to her and her family tomorrow. I’m good like that. 

It’s a lovely simple recipe so I’m sharing below. I’ve put the amounts that I’ve used to clear out my freezer but you can make it bigger or smaller. Obviously. 


Chicken and chorizo stew

  • 3 x chicken leg joints
  • 3 x chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 x chorizo sausages (the type that need cooking not the ready to eat type) 
  • 3 x red peppers 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced 
  • Olive oil and salt and pepper
  • One tin of tomatoes
  • One tin of chickpeas

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chorizo and slice into chunks. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the chicken and brown it on all sides.

Remove the chicken and leave to one side. Add a little more oil (not too much though) and throw in the garlic and chorizo. 

Let the chorizo brown for a couple of minutes then add the cubed peppers and let that cook for a couple of minutes too. Throw in the tin of tomatoes and then fill the empty tin with water and add that too. Stir the chunks of chicken breast in to the mix, then place the chicken leg joints onto the top. Bring the mix to the boil, cover and leave to simmer for around 30-40 minutes. At around 25 mins, add the drained chickpeas. For a thicker sauce, remove the lid from the pan around 20 mins in to the cook. 

Once it’s cooked, chop up some parsley and sprinkle on top. 

Serve immediately, with some crusty white bread. 

The trouble with crumpets…

I’m British ergo I love me a crumpet. Delicious, bubbly, yeasty crumpety goodness, covered in butter and jam and with a cup of earl grey. What’s not to love?

I went to visit friends in France a few weeks ago – and I was challenged to make crumpets (the French do not love crumpets and my British mates were missing them). Now, I’d never made them before, but hell, I love me a challenge so off I went to my best friend Google who gave me a Paul Hollywood recipe.

We found most of the ingredients in Sue’s cupboard and subbed in some others and started the batter which was supposed to rest for a couple of hours. So we tested it after a couple of hours and whilst they tasted crumpet-y, they did not have that well known bubble top. So we left it another couple of hours. Still no bubbles. We finished the batter the following morning. Still no bubbles.

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See? Bubbles when in the pan…

We did however, see Hagrid in one of the crumpet tops, so any Harry Potter fiends out there, hit me up for your next Potter pilgrimage location.

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Hallelujah/Hagrid

So I’ve been wondering what went wrong (I blame the French ingredients. Obviously. Never my fault) and this weekend, we had a friend over for brunch so I decided to make them again. On my fancy new cooker.

This time, Jamie Oliver was my go-to recipe (thanks Google, I don’t know what I’d do without you). The batter was supposed to rest for an hour and then you make a call based on the bubbles in it. There were NO bubbles in my batter. Well, some but not crumpet levels of bubbles.

So I left it overnight and there were a few more bubbles in it and I cooked it and there were bubbles in the middle but again, there were no bubbles on top.

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Everyone was terribly polite about them and they looked more like crumpets than my french attempt (and tasted just like crumpets) but I need help, bakers, what am I doing wrong?  I think I’m turning them when they’re too wet, needs to be a low temperature for a long time so it’s basically dry on top and you’re just colouring the bubbles?

(I am very sorry for overusing the word ‘bubble’ and ‘crumpet’ but there are very few synonyms for them).

So no recipe yet, I’ll be remaking them again (third time’s a charm?) and if those actually look like  proper crumpet, I might yet post it. But in the interim, HELP ME GET MY CRUMPETS TO BUBBLE. (thanks)

Here’s a picture of the plate of carbs I served for that brunch. Not all bad. Eclairs and pancakes saved the day (PS remind me to tell you about the first batch of eclairs I made that my mum ruined some other time…)

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Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.

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As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

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See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

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You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 

 

Pretending fridge soup is roasted duck with cherry sauce

One of my favourite things to do apart from eat and cook and eat more is go away on holiday. And as we’re off on holiday tomorrow, I’ve been playing my favourite cooking game; what can I make for dinner tonight using only the contents of my fridge?

It’s a fun game to play and the rules are simple. Open your fridge, get out all the fresh veg, check the dates on things like cream or yoghurt or stock and get combining.

My available fridge ingredients were: Carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, chicken stock, Greek yoghurt, fresh coriander and galangal. Coupled with the four slightly sprouty potatoes I found in the veg basket and garlic and onions, a broccoli, mushroom, coriander soup was born.

It’s a really boring soup but as I’ve got a husband down with killer man flu, it’s the perfect thing to shut him up make him feel better. And I can pretend I’m keeping to my slightly rubbish version of a bikini diet by eating soup. Given that my bikini diet has involved buying a shit load of kaftans and kimonos, I’m really not doing very well at being beach ready. Apart from the bit where you’re absolutely exhausted and the only thing that’s getting you through is the thought of being on a beach in less than 24 hours. That’s beach ready, right?

Whilst I’m chowing down on a bowlful of soup, I’m going to reminisce about the dinner I made this time last week and share that recipe with you.

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I’ve never cooked duck before. Not sure why, I like eating duck and I like ducks in the park, but had never made it at home. So with a free day, I decided to roast duck legs and make a cherry sauce. The roasting duck legs bit is fairly straightforward so I won’t pretend to know better than Nigella and simply share her recipe for roasted duck legs and potatoes that was on the Food Network site.

I’m totally sharing the recipe for the cherry sauce though, as I’ve honestly never made one this good before. Or cared enough about it to do things like strain the shallots out of it. I don’t know what’s happened to me, I’ve changed.

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So here’s the recipe, I reckon it’d go with all sorts of roasted poultry, I’m planning on trying it with goose at some point in the future.

Cherry sauce recipe – serves four

  • 2 x shallots finely diced
  • About 2cm of grated fresh galangal
  • 1 x small glass of red wine (about 200ml, I think but that could be a generous pour)
  • 250ml of chicken stock
  • A generous squeeze of runny honey
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 225g cherries, halved – this is their weight with stones in, I forgot to weigh them after I stoned them (I blame the generous pour)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 20g butter
  • A splash of olive oil

NOTE: I got a crunchy skin on my duck legs by starting them off in a frying pan till the skin went crispy then moving them into a roasting tin with the potatoes and some of the duck fat. I then made the sauce in the same frying pan to get the duck flavours.

  • Over a low heat, warm the pan that you’d cooked the duck in, adding a little bit of olive oil if there isn’t much duck fat remaining
  • Add the shallots with a small pinch of salt (stops them browning, clever, huh?) and fry till the shallots soften
  • Add the red wine and let it come to the boil, after it comes to a boil, add the galangal and cook for about a minute after that
  • Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil – let this mix reduce a little but after about 3 mins cooking time, add the cornflour paste
  • Let this cook a little further, you’re looking for a glossy, thick finish
  • Once it’s got to the right consistency for you, add the red wine vinegar and the honey and stir in
  • Take off the heat and pour through a fine meshed sieve so that you remove all the bits of shallot and galangal and any bits that were in the stock
  • Return the liquor to the pan and once it’s warm again (but not boiling) add the halved cherries
  • Stir to warm them through, season then pour onto your duck and enjoy

Here’s the final dish – I wish I was eating that tonight instead of fridge soup!

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My food youth

My parents came to Britain from Sri Lanka in the 1960s and for as long as I can remember, my family has been made up of those related by shared ancestry and those who are as close as blood relatives simply due to the fact that their surnames have a lot of letters and cause no end of fun when you’re spelling them for the 17th time to a call centre employee who inevitably asks “oooh, how long did it take you to learn that then?” And then they ask you to pronounce it, to which my standard response is ‘how it’s spelled, obviously’. Because that’s just it.

Anyway.

Because of this large and sprawling family unit, food and feeding people has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Weekends in Peterborough meant all the Sri Lankan families within my home town getting together at one person’s house, bringing a dish each, shoving all the children into a TV room upstairs whilst the women gossiped and the men folk drank whisky and solved all the problems “back home”.

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Wherever these dinners took place, the format was always the same.

The grown ups would be of similar ages, brought together by a shared heritage.  Within each family unit, there’d be at least one kid each, usually two. My sister was often the oldest, I was often the youngest. As there’s only four years between us, as grown ups that’s hardly anything, but as kids it was a lifetime apart.

The kids would always get shoved into a room together to ‘play’. If we were lucky, the house we were in would have a TV in a bedroom so we could all watch something together – Blind Date or Noel’s House Party (TV in the 1980s left a lot to be desired) and not have to play but if we did have to play something, it inevitably ended in tears for someone.

You’d be given a bowl of crisps or peanuts, a bottle of Coke or Fanta and left to get on with it. When dinner was ready, you’d be called downstairs and because no one had a table big enough for us all to fit around, we’d sit on the stairs because it’s weird to eat a plateful of curry in a bedroom, right? Whilst there were always variants, the basic meal was always the same – rice, a few vegetable curries, always paripu (dhal) and at least one meat curry – and if the meat curry was perceived to be too hot, one of the aunties would have roasted some chicken with milder spices ‘for the children’.

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Desserts were also much the same every time: someone would have made a traditional Sri Lankan pudding – wattalapan was the worst (like a sludge coloured, spiced baked caramel pudding – I realise this doesn’t sound that weird, but my god it was disgusting). Or biscuit pudding – Marie biscuits soaked in milk, layered with chocolate mousse (actually not bad). Or pineapple fluff – sickly sweet and weirdly pink. The best of all dessert options was if someone had bought a Vienetta for the kids because it was the 1980s and that was the best dessert ever.

Whilst those regular gatherings stopped for me after I moved to London for university, it’s still incredibly lovely when the whole clan gets together for meals or events. The men’s conversation hasn’t changed – still solving the problems of the world, and the women continue to cook and feed us all. And I’m often still considered one of the kids – refreshing when you’re too old to shop at Forever 21…

For the last few months, I’ve been looking to do something that nourishes my soul and I’ve realised that cooking and entertaining is ingrained in me and energises me. I love to gather together groups of people I love and feed them until they are close to exploding, then forcing another small morsel down their throats. In a nice way. So that’s what I’m going to do. But more on that later.