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.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

just a link for today

I've been uninspired this week. Going through a busy/rough/tired patch. We have eaten lamb, celeriac mash again, some random pasta... It's not been anything to write about, anyway.

Remember I was waxing lyrical about the bánh mì we ate in New York? I've been on the hunt for good recipes ever since. I came across this site, Ravenous Couple, written by a young Vietnamese American couple, and they seem to have some good suggestions. I will try making something from this site soon, I think. I'm just being lazy!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Ricotta, spinach and courgette pasta with tomato

Well, there's no suitable short and snappy (or even vaguely Italian) name for what we made the other night. Our intention was to make spinach and ricotta cannelloni but upon discovering that we neither had enough spinach nor cannelloni tubes, I improvised something else. In order to replace the spinach I grated up a courgette and turned the whole dish into a kind of pasta bake with tomato sauce layered under the ricotta and vegetable-coated pasta. This is a travesty, a veritable joke, but my goodness it was a tasty joke. If you're going to be snooty and purist about Italian style food, look away now.

Serves 2
180-200g dried pasta (we used elicoidali - short fat tubes like rigatoni that crisp up nicely on top when baked)
125g ricotta
a good splash of milk
about 30g frozen spinach, defrosted
1 medium-large courgette, coarsely grated
a big handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
a large handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 25g
250ml tomato passata
1 clove of garlic, left whole but lightly crushed with the side of a knife
a pinch of dried oregano

Pre-heat your oven to 180C. Put a small splash of olive oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic clove. When you start to smell the garlic, add the passata, the oregano and some black pepper, and turn down the heat so that the sauce bubbles intermittently. Now put your pasta on to boil - cook it until just under-done e.g. 7.5 minutes if it says 10 on the pack. Meanwhile, defrost the spinach in the microwave, refresh it under cold water and squeeze it dry. (You can use fresh spinach, in which case wash it and place in a pan just with the water that is left on the leaves and place over a moderate heat, shaking the pan occasionally until the spinach has wilted. Cool and squeeze dry with your hands.) Grate the courgette and add it to the spinach in a bowl. Add the ricotta, most of the Parmesan cheese, a good grinding of black pepper and the torn basil leaves, reserving a few leaves for later. Mix it all together. Now add a little milk to let the sauce down a bit, just so that it's not too stiff to stir into the pasta. When the pasta is done, drain it and stir the ricotta sauce into it until they are well mixed. Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and take out the garlic clove. Now spread the tomato sauce all over the base of an oven-proof dish - a lasagne dish or something similar will do. Now tip the pasta on top of the tomatoes. Tear over a few more leaves of basil. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden and lightly crispy on top. That's it! Serve it with green vegetables or salad.

Sometimes the best things are the ones you make up in times of need. A variation on this would be to use some tinned tuna and a handful of peas, or blanched, chopped green beans, or sweetcorn if you like it. Or try cooked salmon and broccoli chopped into small florets and parboiled.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Risotto alla Toscana

It's been a sadly quiet food week this week - hence the lack of posting. And I've been super-busy with work so have had very little to say for myself. It is starting to feel like spring here - even though we woke today with a frost heavy on the ground. The sunlight has taken on a different slant, a warmer hue and I get the feeling that things, weather-wise at least, are on the up. It has been a long winter - I think all the snow we have had since December has made it seem even harder than usual.

A couple of weeks ago now, when the skies were leaden and it was freezing and wet outside, the husband attempted this meaty Italian dish - something really rich and wintery. The Tuscan risotto is a cold-weather dish and certainly not for the non-carnivore. It is pretty challenging even for meat-eaters - with liver and about three other meats (I think I'm exaggerating here), it tastes richer than it actually is but has a real meaty punch that means you won't want to eat a lot - but for that time of year it was perfect. The picture looks horrible - blame the unnatural lighting! Taken from the January section of Twelve, by Tessa Kiros, here is our version, adapted for two.

Risotto alla Toscana
(serves 2)
500ml stock (she recommends meat stock, we used a light chicken stock)
7g dried mushrooms
85ml warm water
70g chicken livers
olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
50g minced (ground) beef
1/2 Italian sausage, skinned and crumbled (OK, so we can't find stuff like this for love or money where we live, so we used a small garlicky sausage instead)
85ml red wine
170g risotto rice
20g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, reserving some for serving
a small handful chopped parsley

Make the stock and keep it warm over a low heat.
Soak the mushrooms in the warm water for about 10 minutes. Strain the water and set aside. Chop the mushrooms. Clean the livers and chop into 1cm cubes. Heat some olive oil in the risotto pan.

Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the garlic, beef and sausage meat and sauté until golden. Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add the mushroom water and mushroom together with the rice and chicken livers, and stir for a couple of minutes to coat the rice. Add a ladleful of stock and season with pepper (we don't add salt because the stock we use is salty, but feel free to add some now if you like).

Lower the heat and continue to cook, adding the stock gradually as it is absorbed by the rice. Keep stirring it to prevent it from sticking and to make the risotto creamy. It should take about 20 minutes to cook the rice - taste it after this time and see if it is ready - it should be soft but firm in the middle. When the rice is done, stir in most of the Parmesan cheese (Tessa adds 18g of butter at this point, we do not!). Turn off the heat, place a lid over the pan and let it rest for a minute or two. Serve it sprinkled with parsley and the rest of the Parmesan.

This is not for the faint-hearted, but if you want something really wintery, this is just the thing. Thanks again, Tessa!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

not much going on

The husband is in Italy, we have run out of the bottled gas that we use for our gas hob and I have been eating soup from the freezer (my old friend the jerusalem artichoke again), salad, bread, cheese, toast... all because, with my silly weak body, I can't safely lift a full bottle of gas. So there have been very few food adventures since last week. We were away at the weekend where we had some lovely wedding food (prize-winning bangers and mash! Wonderful!) but not much else of interest. Maybe I'll cook something once our hobs are back in use and I have a husband to cook for/with. Until then, I leave you with a proliferation of speech marks courtesy of the BBC News online last night. What's going on with that?

Plus I have noticed a proliferation of people, journalists that is, misusing the word phased when they actually mean fazed. God, are people educated at all these days? Spellchecker isn't infallible, you know. (Sorry to get all hoity toity but it pisses me off!)

Friday, 26 February 2010

Improvising: a kind of curry thing

I have made a few dishes from this book and found it quite accessible and easy to make things that not only taste good but aren't full of fat, like you find too often in restaurants and take-aways. The other night however, in the husband's absence, I decided I would improvise something because I couldn't be bothered to find a recipe to cook from. I just breezed into the kitchen, knowing that I had a drop of tomato passata to use up from a previous meal. I didn't intend to cook a curry or anything like that. I thought, indeed, that I would end up with some dull pasta dish, thrown together without thinking. I find cooking for myself a chore sometimes - I like to feed someone other than myself, and then the passion kicks in. However, whilst staring disconsolately into the fridge, I spotted some other things that needed using - ginger and fresh chillies. So I grabbed them and some other ingredients and started cooking with no plan in my head other than it would be a curried tomatoey thing to eat with rice.

This turned out surprisingly well. Proper Indian cooks would laugh their tits off at this, but it tasted rather good and was superb the next day eaten cold for lunch. This is what I made (serves 1 generously):

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 large clove garlic
1/2 medium onion, chopped
ginger - I used about 1/2 inch sliced off a regular sized root, peeled
1 green chilli, slit down its length
50ml tomato passata (for a more authentic ingredient, use one or two medium fresh tomatoes, not too ripe, puréed)
Some random vegetables of your choice, I used 1/2 carrot and a small handful of green beans chopped into short lengths
frozen vege (soya) mince (this is entirely optional! I threw it in for some protein)
50g frozen spinach, or a very large handful fresh spinach
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
1/4 tsp garam masala
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Chop the garlic and ginger finely and bash together in a pestle and mortar with a drop of water until it is a kind of paste. In a clean mortar, grind the fenugreek and cumin seeds into a coarse paste, add the ground coriander and turmeric. Prepare your vegetables and purée the tomato with the yoghurt (or if you are using passata mix them together). Set these aside. Chop the onion. In a deep non-stick pan, heat the mustard seeds in a little oil until they start to pop, then add the onion and cook until lightly golden. Put some rice on to cook. When the onion is golden, add the powdered spice mix and the ginger and garlic paste. Cook, stirring often, for a few minutes. Now add the tomato and yoghurt mix and a good slug of cold water. Throw in the slit green chilli. Cook over a moderate heat, stirring all the time, until the sauce (or masala) is reduced and starting to 'exude' its oil (you will see a faint trail of oil in the wake of the masala as you stir it). Now add a good 100ml water, the vege mince and the vegetables, but not the spinach. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, making sure that the sauce doesn't dry out. If you're using frozen spinach, add it to the pan after about 5 minutes. If you are using fresh, add it a bit later just to wilt it into the sauce. When the vegetables are tender, add the garam masala, some salt to taste and adjust the water in the sauce (boil some off if your spinach was particularly watery or add a splash of water if it's looking dry. You want enough sauce to be able to soak into the rice). At the last moment add the chopped coriander, stir through and serve on top of the cooked rice. If there are leftovers, stir the sauce through the rice, chill, and eat it cold the next day with a dollop of natural yoghurt.

Some notes: I have not been able to prevent the yoghurt I use from splitting in any of the curries I have made so far. This is not attractive or desirable. I think it is too hot or too acidic and my yoghurt is too low-fat or something. Any suggestions welcome.

The vege mince was not my first choice - I was looking for some Quorn pieces or something like that, not mince! It was OK, though. You can use meat in the dish, in which case add it after the masala is ready, and brown it a little before adding the tomatoes and water etc. Cook for longer before finishing the dish and make sure the meat is properly cooked.

Profuse apologies to anyone who is offended by my pidgin Indian cooking. I was only trying! :-)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Improvising: yakisoba

This is the yakisoba we ate in Japan, with red pickled ginger on the side. It was divine, if a bit greasy. I tried to make my own yesterday.

So it turns out that it is bloody hard to find out what goes into yakisoba apart from the obvious things - most recipes state that you should use shop-bought 'yakisoba sauce' in this or that brand, but the contents of which remain mysterious. Upon looking up home-made recipes for this sauce, I turned up a load of very different opinions and was all confused and annoyed. There are some funny recipes out there - this one annoyed me in particular, even though it didn't seem bad. So I ignored most of them, took what I had in the kitchen and improvised.

This is my very inauthentic and imperfect version of yakisoba sauce (enough for 2 servings):
1tbsp soy sauce
2tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 scant tsp light soft brown sugar
1 tsp tomato ketchup

Mix them together in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved. When you taste it neat, it nearly blows your head off, but it's fine in the noodles. It was very good, but not great. It didn't have the depth I wanted, and even with all those sauces, it wasn't quite salty enough (at least not enough to taste quite right. I think I would up the soy sauce content, knock back the worcestershire sauce, add a tiny bit of ginger, and add a tbsp or two of mirin and/or sake if I had either. Maybe this would be sacrilegious, but to add colour and depth some dark soy sauce might have been a welcome addition. I'll work on it. I was obsessing over it last night after dinner to the husband's bemusement. When something isn't quite right but I know I can make it better, I can get a bit funny about things!

As for the rest of this dish, there are plenty of recipes out there. I used soba noodles (they MUST be soba, not anything else!), onion, carrot, pointed cabbage, garlic. These are essential. I also added beansprouts and a little turnip because I felt like it :-) The turnip was great. Meat (thinly sliced pork or chicken) might have been a good addition, but wasn't essential. Sorry there are no pictures, they weren't great. Next time, eh?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The last of Japan

I kind of got distracted there... I had a few last things to write up about Japan. On our last day there, we travelled from Himeji to Kyoto where we stayed for a few hours before heading back to Tokyo. Kyoto was beautiful - with many more old buildings than Tokyo, there seemed to be a greater sense of history and tradition. I thought it was wonderful, with the surprise of a beautiful temple or row of old houses around every corner.

What did we eat? First up when we were struck by a pang of sudden pre-lunch hunger, there were three sticks of mitarashi dango which are little rice dumplings (dango) in a sauce. The sauce was both sweet and salty (soy sauce!), god help us, but quite nice nevertheless.

For lunch we ate a Kyoto speciality, nishin soba, which is a soba noodle soup topped with a piece of semi-dried herring which is again both salty and sweet and reminded me of lots of other oriental preserved fish snacks I've consumed before. It was delicious and light. The cooking in Kyoto is said to be more delicate and subtle than in Tokyo and I think this dish demonstrated the difference.

See those yellow and green things on the side dish there? They were horrible. I say that so infrequently about food, but my LORD, these were just too weirdy for me. I couldn't tell if they were dessert or what. One was mango flavoured, the other lime. In a weird sticky paste that was also savoury and salty and ricey with bits stuck on it and just plain yuck. I shudder to remember them. The husband didn't think they were too bad. I would run screaming if someone made me eat them again. OK, I exaggerate, I would eat them if they were the only thing left in the world, but that's it. That's it.

Back in Tokyo that evening, we ventured down to the famous yakitori bars that nestle beneath the railway arches near Tokyo Station. These are the places where trendy young Japanese come for a bite to eat and a drink after work. We found the noisiest, busiest place and went inside. It was raucous, cramped, and utterly delightful. The food was some of the best we had in Japan - a selection of yakitori including something like gizzards and some cartilage, a good tomato salad and the most beautiful yakisoba I've ever eaten. It was simple but wonderful. We are going to attempt to cook a home version of yakisoba tonight. I'll tell you how I get on.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Jerusalem artichoke soup (with a digression on celeriac)

Leg two of the jerusalem artichoke journey - I made soup. It's a classic - it's how I ate these vegetables the first time and I wanted to see whether I could make something as good as what I had. This soup should be earthy, creamy, nutty and infused with that unmistakeable aroma that only these little tubers have. It is the perfect winter soup - tasting much richer than it actually is and pressing all sorts of comfort food buttons. But I don't like my soups too rich, so I don't add cream and only use a little butter.

Butter is essential - even a little bit adds a depth and moreishness that oil can't bring to the dish. The other night we ate a celeriac and potato mash with some lamb - no cream, no seasoning, just two medium potatoes, a small head of celeriac about the size of my fist. Peel and boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes depending on your potato type; in a separate pan boil the celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks, for a good ten minutes until tender enough to mash. Mix the potatoes and celeriac together and add a large knob of butter (we used about 10g - or was it less? - for two people) before mashing. This would go wonderfully with some game or a good sausage too.

Here is the soup recipe, with some guidance from Nigel Slater.

Serves 4
a knob of butter
light olive oil
1 medium onion
1 medium leek
500g jerusalem artichokes (unpeeled weight)
2 bay leaves
about 1 litre light stock or water
a small bunch of parsley to serve

(changes I made: I use much less butter and add a little oil instead. Nigel Slater uses 40g butter. He uses two large leeks and no onion in this recipe. I used what I had in the house!)

Melt the butter with the oil in a pan over a moderate heat. Wash, trim and slice the leeks finely and chop the onion finely, then sweat them in the oil and butter for about 20 minutes over a low-moderate heat until very soft. Be careful not to let them brown, just soften them without colouring. Peel the artichokes, dropping the peeled ones into a bowl of cold water to which the juice of half a lemon has been added. This stops them from discolouring whilst you peel the rest. Once they are done and the leek and onion is soft, chop the artichokes into chunks and add to the pan. cook for a few minutes before covering with your stock (I used Marigold bouillon powder at half the recommended concentration) and adding the two bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then let it bubble over a medium heat with the lid slightly ajar for about 25 minutes. After this time, let the soup cool a little before blending it in batches in a blender or food processor. If necessary, reheat to serve and add lots of chopped parsley just before serving.

Some people would add cream to the soup just after it has been blended. I think it's completely unnecessary because the soup is naturally so rich and moreish. This was simply beautiful and didn't cause too many gut troubles afterwards (some people say that peeling them helps with this).

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year (OK, OK, a few days late, I know. Forgive me). Since we had a guest (my wonderful brother in law) on Sunday night, we decided to initiate him to the delights of the Chinese dumpling. I have said this before, and I'll say it again - I will write up a recipe one day. I'm just lax and because I improvise, they turn out differently every time. You might be better acquainted with the Japanese version, gyoza, which for some reason have made it into trendier eateries whereas the Chinese type remain largely the preserve of little backstreet places and of course the home.

Normally, and for the sake of our health, we just boil them and eat them with a dip made with vinegar and raw garlic (I like to make a Thai style sweet-hot-sour-salty dip too). The next day, though, because I made heaps and there were leftovers, I fried them for lunch (picture above - don't mind the weird shape of some of them). I cannot describe to you how great that was. Probably the best lunch I've had in months.

Monday, 15 February 2010

torta di limone e mandorle

I don't bake. I'm no good at it. That's what I've been telling myself for the last ten years. I think I was scarred by the screaming torture of school home economics classes where I made hideous Greek syrup cake, flat, dry sponges, godawful biscuits. Things have changed. I can now bake (or at least I can with the help of the husband).

For said husband's birthday there was chocolate cake from his family, but we also made an Italian lemon and almond cake from Twelve by Tessa Kiros (again!). It was beautifully moist and light, and the tartness of the lemons balanced wonderfully with the sweetness. We largely stuck to the recipe, only reducing the sugar to suit our taste. This is a great everyday kind of cake which could be dressed up with fruit and some mascarpone cream to make a simple dessert.

Lemon and almond cake, adapted from a recipe by Tessa Kiros.

125g butter, slightly softened
110g caster sugar (Tessa uses 125g but we don't like things too sweet. You may prefer to use the full amount of sugar as the lemon juice is quite tart)
3 eggs, separated
125g finely ground almonds
60g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
juice and grated zest of of two small lemons
icing sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour a 20cm springform cake tin (we only had a loose-based tin so I greased and lined it with greaseproof paper instead). Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Separate the eggs, then add the yolks one by one, beating the mixture well in between additions. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mix, add the almonds and beat in well. Add the lemon juice and zest, and again beat in well. In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then quickly and gently fold them into the cake mix. Don't worry too much if there are streaks. It's more important not to overwork it. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for a while before taking it out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

More pork!

We are having a porky week here. I don't really know why. We don't normally eat a lot of pork. Nevertheless, at the supermarket last weekend we were dithering near the meat counter and I spotted some pork shin or, as they called it, pork 'ossobuco' which is a name usually used for braised Milanese veal shin. Now I had seen a recipe for ossobuco in gremolata in Twelve, the Tuscan cookbook by Tessa Kiros so I thought I'd have a go at that.

Sorry, no photo. I was too greedy. There is a good picture here.

Part of the appeal of this dish is apparently the bone marrow that you can suck out of the bone shank. I used to love bone marrow, poked out with a chopstick from the bits of bone my parents used to flavour congee or soups with. It has been many years since I've eaten bone marrow. It has a very particular taste that I can't describe and a texture that some people might find offputting. I will eat, and like, nearly anything so this is just great. Sadly our pork bones didn't bear much edible marrow, but I managed to tease a little out of mine. I am such a carnivore sometimes, it's sick. Sorry if you're vegetarian or squeamish.

Here is my version of the recipe, with thanks.

Serves 2
2 thick slices of pork ossobuco (Mine were about an inch thick, but maybe a larger quantity of thinner slices would work better because I had to keep turning the meat in the casserole dish so it wouldn't dry out)
white flour for dusting
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
1 stick celery
125ml red wine
salt and pepper
zest of 1/2 lemon
one small clove of garlic (or 1/2 a regular clove)
a small bunch of parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. In a food processor, pulse the carrot, celery and onion until finely chopped. You can do this by hand if you haven't got a food processor. Heat a little oil in a sauté pan and cook the vegetables over a medium heat until softened.

Dust the pork all over with flour. In an ovenproof casserole dish, heat some more oil over a high heat, then add the pork and brown on all sides. Season with salt and black pepper. When the meat is brown, add the red wine and reduce until almost all of the wine has evaporated. Then add the sautéed vegetables and enough water to generously cover the vegetables.

Put a tight lid or aluminium foil over the dish and place in the oven. As I said above, my bits of shin were poking out of the top of the sauce so I turned them over every half hour or so. Top up the water if it is looking like it will dry out. You want it to have plenty of sauce. Cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, checking regularly. Check and adjust the seasoning during cooking. Remove the lid for the last half hour, but watch the sauce and make sure it doesn't dry out.

Towards the end of cooking, make your gremolata. Finely chop the garlic, chop the parsley and mix with the grated zest of half a lemon. Set aside.

Once the cooking time is over, serve the slices of meat with the sauce spooned over and liberally sprinkled with the gremolata. We ate ours with potatoes and kale. It is more usually served with a Milanese (saffron) risotto but I didn't know that at the time.

It was perfect, especially with the gremolata, and just the thing for a very cold and snowy day.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

last week

I made my first pie since 2001. I know, that's a long long time ago and I have no proper excuse for it. It's not that I haven't EATEN pie. I've eaten a lot of pie, but when it comes to choosing something to cook, I find it very hard to overcome my fear of pastry. But this was good. I forget how the taste of a pie can make me ignore the fat content. And since this was a top-crust-only chicken and mushroom pie, made in our lovely enamel dish from Labour and Wait, I can forgive myself. The recipe? I made it up and forget how I did it. It involved chicken, mushrooms, flour for dusting, fresh thyme, garlic, onions, some weak home-made vegetable stock and some luck - it turned out great.

I made oat cookies with cranberries and white chocolate. Ditto about the taste and fat content. They looked more like a cross between a cake and a cookie but that's probably a good thing.

God, these photos are ugly! sorry.

Monday, 8 February 2010

jerusalem artichokes

Taking a break from the Japanese food...

I have only eaten Jerusalem artichokes once before in my life: in a beautiful soup at some gastropub in London, around Christmas 2006 (yes, I have a scarily good food-memory). About an hour after I ate the soup, my troubles started. I know, it happens to everyone. The vegetable is famed for its flatulent qualities and I should have been prepared, but I have to admit it put me off eating them again until yesterday.

At the farmer's market in our little town, they have been selling a wonderful selection of local veg - celeriac, cavolo nero, beetroot, all sorts. And on Saturday they had a box of perfectly pale, smooth-skinned jerusalem artichokes, with the mud still clinging on to them. Like I have said before, I don't like not liking things. I feel like all food is worthy of a second chance even if it bothered me in the first instance*. These artichokes called out to me, nay pleaded me to try them, so we bought a few and put them in our Sunday lunch. Needless to say, the aftermath was, uh, windy. Was it worth it? Oh my lord, yes.

We made, from Tender Vol.1 by Nigel Slater (a great book especially if you like growing your own veg), 'a casserole of artichokes and pork for deepest winter'.

The smell of the dish was incredibly seductive - earthy, vital, sweet and aromatic. It was almost misleading - there was little hint of the lemons in its scent, so the bright zip of acid was a wonderful and uplifting surprise in the mouth. It reminded me of something Chinese, but I couldn't place it. Perhaps it was the fennel, combined with pork and that indescribable artichoke aroma. Seriously, now I would eat these despite any amount of wind they gave me. If I inflated and floated off into the sky, I would still eat them. I am a convert.

Here is a transcript of the recipe, adapted for 2 servings. Thanks, Nigel!

Jerusalem artichoke and sausage casserole
2 large good quality pork sausages (or use two regular sized per person)
olive oil
2 medium onions cut into wedges
1 clove garlic sliced
125g mushrooms halved or cut into chunky pieces
250g Jerusalem artichokes, skins on, well scrubbed
half a tsp fennel seeds
light stock or water to cover (about 250ml)
a small handful of parsley, chopped
half a large lemon, cut into wedges

In a deep casserole dish, brown the sausages well in a little oil. Set aside. In the same pan (adding more oil if necessary), soften the onions for about 20 minutes over a moderate heat until they are tender and can be crushed with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and mushrooms, then halve your artichokes lengthways before putting them into the pan (don't cut them before, or the cut sides will discolour). Let the artichokes brown a little bit, then add the fennel seeds and return the sausages to the pan. Tuck the wedges of lemon around the dish. Cover with stock or water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes uncovered. At the end, if there is too much liquid, turn up the heat and boil some off. Stir in the parsley. Serve with kale, tenderstem broccoli or anything that's very green.

Honestly, it's SO worth it.

*OK, I can do without cheese and pineapple together, emmental (does anyone else smell that ammonia whiff?), milk as a drink... they've had their chance. I can't be bothered with them any more.

Friday, 5 February 2010

then it got better

After the pizza low, things got better. We sampled odd Japanese pasta salads and salmon onigiri at breakfast alongside the usual bread and jam provided by our hotel in Himeji. It was odd but good.

I ate a lot of noodles for the rest of our time in Japan. I live for noodles - they are one of my soul foods - in soup, stir-fried whatever. I need them like other people need potatoes, bread, chocolate or caffeine. First lunch in Himeji I went to a place called Menme where the head chef hand-makes his udon noodles fresh every day. You can watch him making them in the corner of the open kitchen whilst you eat. The udon were amazing - just the right kind of soft, just the right side of chewy. I had kamaage udon, which is a big pot of plain noodles that you dip into a soy and dashi sauce with spring onions and ginger before you eat. Plain but tasty, and you can control how much salt you eat this way. In the photo you can just see the udon in their frothy water.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The List of Shame

I'm afraid the next couple of days in Japan were a gastronomic embarrassment. It was the salt, the evil sodium chloride that was to blame. Here is my list of shame:

dinner - ridiculously salty ramen noodles - nearly killed us.
breakfast - pastries and tea in the ubiquitous Doutor.
lunch - mediocre pizza and salad in Tokyo train station.
dinner - (we were both exhausted from jetlag and dehydrated) I raided the amusingly-named 'Natural Lawson' for buns with indescribable (but good) fillings, three tiny sandwich halves and fruit.
breakfast - pastries and tea again.
lunch - from Daimaru's wonderful food hall we shared a salmon bento box and half a fruit cream sandwich (that's two slices of bread with, you guessed it, fruit and cream inside - amazing!) whilst travelling on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Himeji.
5pm HIGHLIGHT: perfect green tea ice-cream.
dinner - slightly depressing vegetable curry and rice.

I know. It was bad, it was a waste, but that's all we could manage. It was utterly depressing to have to avoid certain things - both very salty and fried things were off the menu because our mouths were sore. Things got better from here, including a solo foray into the Bon Marché supermarket where they sell wonderful things like dandelion flowers and fish heads, not to mention the most amazing looking deli lunch selection.

They had a whole load of delicious looking things - bits of meat on skewers, aubergine stew, noodles and warm rice. I could have eaten it all right there if I weren't on my way to lunch with the husband!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Lunch on the same day as the sushi was in a brightly decorated okonomiyaki and monjayaki place, hidden behind an art gallery in Harajuku, a great shopping area in Tokyo. These dishes are both types of pancakes containing vegetables and meat that are brought to you raw in a bowl and you cook them yourselves on a hotplate in the centre of your table. The okonomiyaki is a heavier pancake made with eggs, and is more common than the runny monjayaki that you eat directly off the hotplate with a little spatula, burning your mouth as you go along. Of course the husband and I had absolutely no idea what these things were when we walked into this restaurant, but they had a vague English instruction sheet and we unsubtly watched all the other young people around us to see how they were doing it. It was definitely not the height of Japanese cuisine, but it's always great fun to play with your food. I would put a picture up, only the one that we took was woefully out of focus. The picture is from this cafe - every wall was hand-decorated by different artists and it was really quite impressive.

Monday, 1 February 2010

the things we ate...

I don't like not being able to eat things. I don't like to think that there is anything (apart from, say, domestic animals and primates) that I won't eat. But in Japan I hit a wall. A salty wall. I just couldn't do it - my lips and skin were like sandpaper, I wasn't sleeping right and I was thirsty all the time. After only two days of being there we had to scale down our Japanese food consumption and revert to Western breakfasts in a coffee shop and limit our choices to the less salt-laden items on menus. Dammit, we even ate pizza for lunch once. I know, I am purple with shame.

But that aside, we had a fantastic time eating our way through just one week in Japan. Even though we had salt troubles, we had them under control by the time we left and I think I could have kept on going. There were so many things we didn't get round to tasting and I was quite sad to leave.

Where to start? At the beginning, I guess. First meal, Sunday in Tokyo: lunch - minced chicken and shiitake mushroom kamameshi in some back alley in Ginza. It was a big pot of rice topped with stuff. It was tasty and good, and reminded me of Chinese steamed rice dishes. Dinner on Sunday - in some random restaurant in Nihombashi we ate a beautiful, if saltily dressed, salad, then fried tofu in miso soup followed by a chicken teriyaki dish with rice.

The highlight of the week, however, was on Monday. One of the top items on our list of things to do was to visit the Tokyo wholesale fish market at dawn to watch the auctioneering of the tuna, to see a myriad of fish and seafood for sale in this loud, bustling and frankly terrifying (watch out for the little trucks!) place, and most of all to sample the best and freshest sushi breakfast you can get. Anywhere.

So at 6am on Tuesday, full of jetlag, we were fully awake and eager to go. We squeezed in to witness the tuna auctions, and spent a long time wandering the hundreds of fish stalls, dodging trucks, being hurried along by impatient traders and wondering where on earth these famed sushi bars were to be found. Eventually we worked out that they were in a block just next to the main market warehouse. Each bar is tiny and only a handful do sushi. We didn't really know which one was the best, but we took the plunge anyway and joined a queue. Queues of locals are good. They usually mean the food is worth waiting for.

When we were eventually seated, elbow to elbow along a bar facing the sushi chefs, we simply went for the set menu. The chef at our end, who had mesmerisingly long eyebrows and a friendly, paternal smile, started to load the boards in front of us with food. I got the feeling that he likes to test people to see how far they will go, what weird sea creatures they are willing to put down their gullets. It was magnificent, bewildering, utterly gorgeous. I don't know the half of what we ate. There were tuna and salmon egg maki, raw prawn and raw squid nigiri, an assortment of unnamed fish nigiri, a little fried morsel of spicy shell-on prawn, raw octopus, eel, and a pile of wobbly, moreish roe (herring?) balanced precariously on top of rice. It was heaven. I love food which gives you little shivers of 'what on earth is this?' pleasure. It was like that, even though I've eaten my fair share of sushi before. I ate too much soy sauce even though I had told myself not to. It's not cheap at about £20 a head in the bar we went to but my LORD it was worth it.

More next time!

Monday, 18 January 2010


We ate another of my pumpkins last night, in a kind of yellow curry with chickpeas from Tender, volume 1, by Nigel Slater. OK, I messed with the recipe because we didn't have yellow mustard seeds, so you can see my substitute black mustard seeds speckling the curry instead, and we didn't use dried chickpeas because I can't plan ahead like that. Here is our adaptation of his recipe.

To serve 2
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
a piece of ginger about 2x2x2cm
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
3 green cardamoms
1 hot red chilli (we only had dried chilli flakes - about half a tsp)
a small pumpkin (he suggests about 250g prepared weight)
150ml vegetable stock
half a can of coconut milk (we used reduced fat)
half a tbsp black mustard seeds (he uses yellow)
coriander leaves - a small handful
a lime (we only had lemon!)

Saute the onions in a deep, lidded saute pan or casserole over a low heat until soft. Make a paste (using a food processor or chopping finely with a knife) of the ginger, garlic and lemongrass, then add to the onions. Crack open the cardamom pods and crush the seeds in a pestle and mortar; chop the chilli and then add both to the pan alongside the ground coriander and turmeric. Meanwhile, prepare the pumpkin, peeling and cutting it into bite-sized pieces, then add to the onion mix with the chickpeas and the stock (don't worry if it looks a bit dry - the pumpkin will give off water as it cooks. You may want a drop more water/stock during cooking). Cover with a lid and simmer.

At this point, we put some basmati rice on to cook. The pumpkin takes about 15-20 minutes to cook.

When the pumpkin is tender and your rice is ready, stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary (we used Marigold vegetable stock, which was salty enough without needing to add any more). In a separate frying pan, heat the mustard seeds in a splash of oil until they start to pop. Add this to the pumpkin, along with the coriander leaves. Serve with rice and lime to squeeze over.

Friday, 15 January 2010

foot in mouth

I seem to have a magical ability to insult certain people inadvertently and repeatedly, and last night my victim was the Master of Pembroke College. Now, the Master is the head honcho, the big cheese, the daddy of Pembroke College, Cambridge, where I studied my first degree. In my first year there, whilst hideously drunk at the Dean's Christmas party, I slurred something like 'I'm f***ed and the Master's f***ed too', whilst the man himself was standing right behind me. Oop!

I went for my first dinner at high table last night in college with the husband. Since I left, the old Master (whom I would recognise) has been replaced by a shiny new one, ex-MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove. During pre-dinner drinks I was talking to someone else, but was interrupted to shake hands with a grey haired, bespectacled, slightly solemn-looking chap. I said, 'Sorry, I didn't catch your name...'. He looked a tiny bit startled, even through his steady compusure, and replied, 'I'm Richard. Richard Dearlove. The Master.' I think I squealed with embarrassed laughter at that point. He turned away pretty quickly (after politely assuring me that it was OK!). Oh dear. We didn't speak again.

Otherwise it was a good do. Saw some people I haven't seen in years and got jolly drunk. Not really. I keep tabs on my drinking when the Master is involved these days. Not that it helps much.

Image from the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

home-made baked beans

I wasn't too sure about baked beans as a child, and only liked them if they were piping hot. As soon as they started to cool, I thought they were weird and gross. I still like them hot, but I do have a much greater fondness for legumes in tomato sauce these days. These home-made beans are nothing like the stuff from tins, but are just as good, if not better.

There are lots of recipes out there for home-made baked beans. I am sure mine is not the best, but I love eating these with anything. They are moreish, creamy, savoury and not too sweet. And I don't put bacon in mine like a lot of recipes do. This time I used two tins of butter beans and one of cannellini, but the bean choice is flexible. You could also cook the beans from dried, soaking overnight first and then boiling them for an hour with some celery and bay leaves, but this is much quicker and makes not too much difference. Anyhoo, this is what I made the other day, served with grilled sausages and broccoli.

3 tins beans in water, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp light olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
500ml tomato passata (or you can use a tin or two of tomatoes)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika (If your variety is hot, then maybe use less)
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp English mustard
a little pinch of ground cumin
a little pinch of ground cinnamon
a dash of soy sauce (because I can't help myself!)
salt and pepper
1-2 tsp red wine vinegar to balance the sweetness

Preheat the oven to 170C. In a lidded casserole dish, saute the onions, garlic and celery for about 15 minutes until soft. Add everything else except the vinegar, bay leaves and beans and bring to a simmer, stirring well. I like to taste the sauce at this point and I will probably add a little vinegar because I don't like it too sweet. Season the sauce and then add the drained beans, bay leaves and enough cold water to cover everything. Bring to a simmer then turn off the heat, cover the dish with the lid and place in the oven. Because we are using already cooked beans, this can be ready as soon as you like, but about an hour and up to two hours in the oven is best, I think. Check it regularly to give it a stir and top up with water - don't let the beans dry out! Taste at various points and adjust the seasoning/vinegar/maple syrup to your taste.

The random pinches of spice were added by me to an old recipe, just because I like to mess around with things. I think they add a bit of depth. I also use less maple syrup than others - you can use 2 tbsp if you like. And I sometimes add some chilli powder for a little kick of heat. Whatever works for you...

Monday, 11 January 2010


I have many weaknesses. Mostly for food. One of my greatest loves is the steamed bun, Chinese style. Generically speaking, we just call them 'bao', meaning buns, but they have lots of different names, including baozi, salapao in Thailand, or mantou if they are unfilled. The bread casing is always a little bit sweet and is especially good, in my opinion, combined with savoury fillings.

I've had some amazing baozi in restaurants and in Hong Kong. They remind me of eating breakfast with my paternal grandmother and family when I was seven years old, in a Tai Po restaurant that she still visits to this day to meet her friends and gossip. They remind me of the best home breakfast surprises (I had a pretty weird breakfast upbringing, sometimes even involving beefburgers or pie! Pizza featured once at breakfast too!). My favourites are filled with char siu (roast pork), meat and vegetables, or sweet things like lotus seed paste or yellow custard.

On Saturday, armed with a package of 'Tippy salapao mix' (buy it online here) from the Chinese supermarket, I attemped my first home-made baozi. OK, so I haven't got a clue how to make the bread casing - it involves wheat flour, raising agents of various types, sugar and some kind of magic. I think some other mixes include yeast, but this one did not. One day maybe I'll try making my own!

I filled them with chicken breast minced in a food processor, finely chopped spring onion, Chinese leaf, garlic, ginger, salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, coriander a tiny pinch of Chinese five spice and a dash of white pepper. The quantities, as with most of my 'made-up' cooking, were arbitrary. Basically, a mix of two chicken breasts, three leaves of Chinese leaf, two spring onions, three cloves of garlic, a 5mm slice of ginger, chopped finely, a small bunch of fresh coriander and the other ingredients to taste, was more than enough to generously fill the twelve buns that one package of flour mix can make.

If I were to make them again I would add some pre-soaked dried shiitake mushrooms or some chopped water chestnuts to the mix. You could also try making them with pork, adding chinese chives, or try a vegetarian version.

They were surprisingly easy to make - this flour mix only takes a few minutes to make up. Filling them without leaks is harder, but I think we were trying to cram too much into each bun! All the instructions are on the packet and they take only 15 minutes to steam, even with raw meat inside.

These are pictures of the ones we made and I was jolly proud of them for a first attempt. True fluffiness will probably always elude me, but they were tasty nonetheless.

EDIT: I just found a recipe for baozi dough here. I will try it some time, when I have a few hours to spare!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Feeling low

I'm having a really bad day today. Everything seems so futile and pointless. I'm crying my eyes out over nothing and can't shake the feeling that I am crap at everything I do. Or just not good enough. I struggle a lot with self confidence and conviction in my abilities and always look for the negative in everything. Some days it's worse and today is one of those. I feel like the biggest, most miserable, useless loser. Anyone else ever feel so desperately bad about themselves? I feel like I'm going nowhere.

God, I sound like a self-indulgent manic-depressive on this blog. I think I need to go and bake something, even though I can't actually bake.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Shiny and new

Happy new year! Well, I would be happier if I didn't have to work and could go somewhere with a sledge instead. With all this snow around, working should be banned. Sadly, the snow seems to have mostly missed our little patch here in Essex. We have only had about an inch, when everywhere else in the country seems to have had many more! Plus there are no slopes around our area for quality sledging.

What has been happening here? Not much. Christmas was lovely, but by the end I couldn't wait to be alone at home again. I like company but I get tired of having to be sociable after more than a week of it and just want to hide away not having to talk any more. Sounds awful, but that's how I am.

Food-wise, Christmas was pretty good - my first, proper, traditional turkey meal on Christmas day with my in-laws, then we had a wonderful Chinese steamboat or hot pot at my parents' house on Boxing Day. We ate out with family a lot in Birmingham so I'm craving normal food terribly. We haven't quite settled back into our normal routine, though.

I will try and be better at posting here. I keep making nice food and forgetting to photograph it! We made a spicy aubergine stew served with roast sweet potatoes the other day. Last night we were experimenting with the incredibly fatty Hungarian sausage that was part of the special Christmas hamper I compiled for the husband. We ate a traditional Ukrainian meal for Ukrainian Christmas last Saturday, and there was a lamb and green bean stew at some other point. Any photos? Any recipes? Not from me, sorry! I'll try to be better next time.