Thursday, 13 January 2011

Lost the will...

Wow. It's been a long while since I've written anything here. Things haven't been very settled at home lately and I feel in a kind of limbo. Maybe if we ever find a house to live in I might get my mojo back. It's not as if we haven't been cooking - we did a full Ukrainian Christmas dinner last weekend, teaching ourselves how to make borscht with vushka and other delightful things like that. Sadly I forgot to take pictures again.

Life has been pretty tough. Not compared to most people - we have a very nice life all in all - but relatively speaking. I feel like luck, in work, house-hunting and selling, has not been on our side recently. Not one little bit. I have all my fingers crossed, I work hard (ish) and yet nothing is going right. Sorry about this. I just need to moan a bit. I feel like hitting something really hard.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Remember this post? I promised myself to learn how to make these kind of dumplings myself, and last night, in our new kitchen, the husband and I made some using the recipe from the Veselka cookbook. I loved Veselka when we ate there in New York last year - such wonderful, homely food that was the kind of thing that the husband grew up eating. We made boiled spinach and cheese pierogi, and mushroom and sauerkraut (pictured). They were fantastic. Not fantastic to photograph, but fantastic to eat.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Vietnamese rice paper rolls

I have been wanting to make and eat something like this for YEARS now. I can't even remember the first time I saw this kind of thing, but I always knew I would love the crunch of the raw vegetables against the chewiness of rice vermicelli, livened up with a punchy, hot-sweet-sour-salty dipping sauce.

I kind of used this recipe for the basic idea and dipping sauce, but put pickled carrots in it like this recipe and used lettuce, cucumber, prawns, vermicelli, coriander. Gorgeously tasty, refreshing and healthy!

Would be good with crab cake type patties I think and other, probably heretical, things like crushed toasted peanuts, or other veg.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


From an article about carbon footprints on the BBC News today:

8. Getting cremated is likely to be less than a 10,000th of your life's carbon footprint, at At 80 kg CO2e. On this one occasion you can treat yourself to whatever form of disposal you prefer, safe in the knowledge that you have already done the most carbon-friendly thing possible.

Most carbon friendly thing possible? Do they mean dying? I'm laughing my arse off.

Monday, 7 June 2010


Do ALL babies have eyes this big? If so, I will never have one. A sentiment reinforced by THIS. Terrifying.

(Sorry, no offence to the parents of those small people, but really? You wanted one?)

Monday, 17 May 2010

note to self

Remember how amazing spinach is on a pizza. This was one from last week with artichokes, spinach and red onion. The wholemeal base we made (because we were out of white bread flour) was perhaps a bit heavy, but the spinach, oh the spinach!

Friday, 7 May 2010

you know it's bad when...

things that look like this:

taste really good.

It means I haven't had the will to make anything new, to try particularly hard to learn a new dish or anything of the sort. I have been a bit depressed and lost recently, only cheered up when more work comes in (I know, I'm weird). I should be celebrating the new asparagus, making spring-inspired dishes. I should have grown vegetables this year, but since we are selling the house I haven't bothered. Idiot - we will be here for at least broad bean season and well into the summer.

Those dumplings above were procured at Tesco on New Street in Birmingham. They have a magnificent Eastern European food section there and these pierogi were smiling up at us. There were two flavours - meat, and sauerkraut and mushroom. And they were surprisingly good, although the pork fat content of the former was a bit high and made you feel like you were killing yourself as you ate them. Nevertheless, they made an easy meal for a pair of tired people. We really must learn to make them from scratch... this was shameful.

Monday, 5 April 2010

oh dear

I have been lazy. I have thought very few thoughts for the past few weeks that merit mentioning here. I'll think of something soon...

Friday, 19 March 2010

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice

I love rice. I grew up eating it and occasionally hating it, but I never knew as a fussy five-year-old that so many wonderful and exciting things could be made with it, nor even that rices other than jasmine rice existed. We ate it every day, with steamed fish and vegetables, the occasional bit of poached chicken and various other things. We didn't eat a lot else and I fought against it sometimes, especially when the tough old pak choi leaves would get stuck in my throat and make me gag. If we were ill and didn't feel like eating, we would have plain rice sprinkled with sesame oil and soy sauce, which was a wonderful, comforting thing. Even to this day I love the smell of it. But in general I was a terrible eater up until the age of six or seven, and mealtimes could be difficult, especially if it only involved boring fish and Chinese greens.

These days we carry five types of rice in our house at the same time and cook regularly with each of them. There is a whole world of things you can make to eat with it. But what I like best, especially when I want something wholesome, is a gently cooked rice dish with lots of vegetables in it. When I see pictures of rice with things in it, especially green things, I am sucked in every time. I like it flecked with bits of spinach and herbs, or as a mixed vegetable risotto or paella style with any old veg from the fridge thrown in and served with a wedge of lemon. So when I saw the photo of this dish (much better than mine above), I was instantly taken. I had to make it. This is the second time I've made it and it was even better this time. I don't know why. It is just lightly spicy but fragrant, and utterly moreish with the spiced yoghurt on the side. You could try making this without the chicken - maybe add half a diced onion to the vegetables for a bit more flavour instead.

This is a dish from 'Falling Cloudberries' by Tessa Kiros, taught to her by her Peruvian friend. I have adapted the recipe to serve roughly 2 people. I have used a small amount (only three thighs between two people) of boned chicken thighs without skin instead of pieces of chicken with bones in (if you want to use the latter, which would be nice, use pieces of a chicken cut into eighths and serve one or two pieces per person).

chicken (I used three boned thighs for two people. You might want more.)
1 carrot, finely diced
1/3 red pepper finely diced
a big handful of peas, fresh or frozen
1 garlic clove, chopped
50g spinach (I used frozen, and I always use more than this. I probably used nearly 100g! :-))
a handful of fresh coriander
170g long grain rice (Tessa uses short grain rice)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or if you don't have any, use half and half chilli powder and paprika)
olive oil
salt and pepper

for the yoghurt:
50ml yoghurt (that's a guess, I used three big dollops without measuring)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper

Brown the chicken pieces in light olive oil over a moderate-high heat until they are golden on the outside and nearly cooked through (this is especially important if they are on the bone or they won't cook through later). You have a choice here and it depends on your pan. I'd recommend browning it in a non-stick pan rather than a regular saucepan or something - makes your life a bit easier not to be anxious about things sticking! If the chicken has skin on you might be OK with just a regular pan. Set the chicken aside.

Meanwhile, either roughly chop the spinach and coriander in a food processor with a splash of water, or if you are using frozen spinach, defrost it, chop lightly and add the chopped coriander to it.

Now put some new oil into the pan you want to cook the rice in - a deep saucepan is good - or if you were already using the saucepan, discard the oil and add a splash of fresh oil. Add the garlic, and as soon as you can smell it add the carrots, peas and red pepper and cook gently for about 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the cayenne pepper and season well, then add the spinach and coriander mixture and stir for another minute or so. Now return the chicken to the pan, add one and a half cups of water and bring it to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes (you can do it for 10 if there are no bones) until the chicken is cooked. Take the chicken pieces out again and keep them warm. Add the rice to the pan, give it a stir, add one more cup of hot water and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes until it looks like the rice has absorbed most of the water. Turn the heat down to the lowest point, cover the pan and continue to cook for up to 15 minutes. Stir it only occasionally to check that it isn't sticking to the pan. If it looks dry but the rice isn't cooked yet, add a splash of water from a kettle. Check and adjust the seasoning towards the end.

Whilst the rice is cooking, mix the yoghurt, cumin and some salt and pepper in a bowl ready to serve.

Because I like my food hot, I like to put the chicken back into the pan to steam over the rice for the last few minutes. It's up to you! Once the rice is cooked and there is no liquid left in the pan, serve it with the chicken pieces on top and a big dollop of the spiced yoghurt on the side. If you like things hot, add a drizzle of chilli oil to finish.

Monday, 15 March 2010

today I'm craving...

the taste of home. My parents and sister visited us last weekend. It was lovely to see them - we don't see each other often enough. My parents made Chinese dumplings and brought a big bag of them for the freezer - whilst I will love eating them, they will mostly serve to make me jealous of my Dad's cooking and access to things like Chinese (garlic) chives, and his superior seasoning skills. He is one of those chefs who will actually taste, by licking, his pork mince mixture whilst the meat is still raw. I haven't crossed that boundary yet, nor do I think I will soon.

They love to bring me food, as if I live in some backwater where things like fish and oranges are a rare sight. My mother has a way of slipping odd things into my cupboards whilst I'm not watching, so as well as a papaya the size of a house (presented to me with much pride by my sweet Dad), we have ended up with all the chocolate and biscuits that no-one at my parent's house will eat, two random boxes of cereal and some Chinese herbal junk that I will never consume (I think it's ginseng).

What I really want, though, is a big batch of zongzi. Even better, I would love to learn how to make them. Sure, I've wrapped them at home with my parents before, but I was never taught how to make all the bits that go in the filling. Zongzi are glutinous rice parcels stuffed with wondrous things like mung beans, chicken, pork belly, dried sausage, salted duck eggs... all manner of things. You wrap the parcels in fragrant banana leaves and boil them in batches, then stick them in the freezer for those important times when you want a huge lump of stodge that will make you (or me at least) weep with nostalgia and homesickness. Eaten with a good slug of both dark and light soy sauce, they are the perfect comfort food, if a little on the heavy side. Have one of these and you'll not want to eat again for a week. (Image from Wikipedia)

Again, I am delighted by the food parallels that can be drawn right across the globe: one of the foods that I would love to try, but simply can't be found easily in England, is Mexican tamales. I have watched and drooled over Jamie Oliver (the food, not the man!) in Los Angeles being taught how to wrap them by some Mexican immigrants, but they have never passed my lips. One day!

Posting has been light here - we've not been particularly interesting people, nor cooked anything mind-blowing. Just the usual assortment of pasta and rice things, and a bit of junk too.