24 July 2016

There is No Excuse for Discarding One's Banana!

Have you read the recent furore about banana wastage in the UK?  

Apparently we, as a nation, throw away 162,000,000 bananas annually. In many cases this is because they either a bit green or a bit brown, neither of which is a valid reason to discard one’s banana. 

Over Ripe Bananas

As bananas ripen and become sweeter they develop brown spots on their skin which merely indicated the degree of ripeness. It has even been argued that a riper (and therefore browner skinned) banana is the healthier choice.

Sainsbury's have been encouraging people to make banana bread or cake with overripe bananas and give a recipe on their site but as one of the ingredients is “sponge mix” I’d rather give my own here. 

Caribbean Banana Lime Bread ~ with optional rum!

225g soft light brown sugar
110g soft butter
285g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
generous pinch of salt
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas – mashed fairly smoothly although a few lumps are fine
85ml milk
an additional 45g light brown sugar
30g butter
1 tablespoon of rum – optional

~   Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Lightly grease a loaf tin -  20cm x 12.5cm is ideal.
~   Stir two teaspoons of lime juice into the milk.
~   Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
~   Sift together the next three ingredients.
~   Beat the eggs into the butter mixture together with a spoonful or two of the flour mixture (which should stop it curdling although it doesn’t really matter if it does!).
~   Add the mashed bananas, the lime zest and the milk and lime juice mixture and beat in.
~   Fold in the rest of the flour mix.
~   Decant the cake batter into the loaf tin an bake for about an hour till risen and golden brown.
~   When ready cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before turning out carefully.
~   Whilst it is cooling over low heat stir together the 45g light brown sugar, 30g butter, the rest of the lime juice and the optional rum to form a syrup.
~   Carefully turn the cake out and then sit it back on the cooling rack over a plate or a tray to catch drips.
~   Carefully spoon the syrup over the warm cake.
~   Leave to cool.

A sprinkle of toasted coconut is a lovely finish to this cake and if using desiccated coconut please see here for an easy way to make it much, much nicer!

Green Bananas

There is nothing wrong with these and here are two options for dealing with them …

1.   Wait till they ripen.  This can be speeded up by putting them in a brown paper bag together with a ripe apple or orange or a ripe banana.  The ripe fruit releases a gas called ethylene which will encourage the unripe fruit to get on with it.
2.   Cook them. Green bananas are very popular in the Caribbean (here’s a pic of some growing in our garden when we lived in the BVI) and a simple way is to boil them and serve as a side dish to savoury dishes.  Just peel (you will need a knife as they don’t peel easily when under ripe) and cook in boiling salted water for 10-15 minutes. 

Banana Chips

Peel under ripe bananas with a knife, cut into wedges or thin fries and and deep fry at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.) till crisp and golden.  Drain well, season with salt and maybe a little chilli powder and serve.

For more complicated green banana dishes look at some Caribbean food sites such as Caribbean Pot or Eat Like a Jamaican.

Now then, here is the Banana section of my book The Leftovers Handbook (sorry it's a bit out of focus - the real book isn't!)  ...

As it happens I cannot abide bananas (although I will work with them!) yet I came up with over 20 good ideas for bananas, including overripe bananas, in The Leftovers Handbook.  Just think of all the ideas I have come up with for the other 450 or so ingredients in the book.  For a great preview just click here.

Well, that’s about that for this post but here are a couple of pleasant banana related images.

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19 July 2016

My Definition of the Verb "to frazzle"

I have been frazzling things in the kitchen for years but whilst preparing this post I looked up “frazzle” in the dictionary for the correct meaning; apparently the primary definition is ...

“to put in a state of extreme physical or nervous fatigue”

I probably did frazzle some of the kitchen staff, including myself on occasion, but that’s not what I mean.

The other definition I found is ...

“cause to shrivel up with burning”

I might have done this too once or twice but I wouldn’t recommend it.

My own personal definition of frazzle is ...

“to fry shreds of an ingredient till crisp”

This sort of frazzling is a great way of using up and enhancing a little bit of this or that to create a snack, cook’s treat, garnish or component of a dish.

I was prompted to write post this by a couple of experiments we did in the pub kitchen where I am now employed making desserts – firstly we sliced a Chantenay carrot lengthways and deep fried it.  Drained, cooled and salted the slices were both pretty and delicious.  

Yesterday, as I peeled a whole case of apples to make loads of apple crumble (the season is upon us – yikes!), I wondered what would happen if we deep fried some of the peelings.  So we did and they were crisp and lovely with caster sugar and a pinch of cinnamon, I think they will be showing up quite a lot on the menu.

I don’t think I have frazzled either of these in the past and have no photos of the above experiments but I have frazzled the following ...

Sweet Potatoes 

To frazzle these I first peel the sweet potato and then using the potato continue peeling until I have a pile of sweet potato ribbons. More ideas for delicious sweet potatoes here.

These make a lovely crunchy garnish for creamy leek dishes (see a few ideas here). Cut a leek into long thin strips, rub a little cornflour (aka corn starch in the US) through them to help them go crips and deep fry for a few minutes till golden. Lift out of the oil with a skimmer and drain on kitchen roll. Sprinkle with a little crunchy sea salt.

Sage and Parsley

Just drop clean and dry sage leaves or parsley sprigs into hot fat for literally a few seconds, 2 or 3 will probably do it. Drain on kitchen roll and sprinkle with sea salt. Bacon and pork, savoury apple dishes, onions, butternut squash and blue cheese will all benefit from a sage garnish, and the parsley is a great garnish for fish dishes in particular and most other savoury dishes too.

Frazzled Onions which I usually call Onion Grass on menus. 

This is a quicker, easier and in my opinion nicer alternative to making onion rings. 
~   Peel halve and thinly slice onions into half-moons.
~   Toss together with seasoned flour – the easiest way to do this is in a bag.
~   Shake off excess and deep fry the onions.
~   Drain well and season.


Fry coarsely chopped, julienned or shredded (or any other shape) chorizo in a little olive oil till crisp.  Remove from the oil and set aside on paper towel to cool and crisp. Sprinkle on salads, soups, pasta dishes, fish and anything else that takes your fancy.

DON’T throw the oil away it will be infused with chorizo and great for drizzling on things such as soup or fried eggs, for instance.  Seehere for lots more on chorizo including purpose made chorizo oil. 


Pretty well the same goes with Prosciutto and here is one way I have used it. 

Chicken and Duck Skin – Grattons and Gribenes

These are delicious crispy morsels made from duck or chicken skin. See here for how to make them and use to garnish soups, salads, pâtés and general duck dishes or just to nibble on.


Leftover pancakes are great cut into strips, fried till crisp and used to garnish whatever you fancy.

This is just one good way to use up scraps, bits and pieces and leftovers – I have written a book containing literally hundreds of good ideas, suggestions, recipes and tips ~ click here to be taken to a great new style of preview by amazon!

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while, by the way, my computer has been having a problem but he’s OK now.

OK - that's all for now, enjoy the sunshine! Let me know if you think of anything else that could do with a damn good frazzling!

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23 June 2016

Oops Moments in the Kitchen!

How to Salvage Cooking Disasters and Other Tips

As you know I am dead keen on everyone in the Whole Wide World learning to cook (or at least those who have access to food, I’m afraid that many people have much bigger problems to cope with) and to that end I have written a book of over 500 handy tips containing all the useful information I could think of to help with every aspect of cooking.

Whilst obviously I am not going to reproduce the entire book here I thought it would be useful, as a taster so to speak, to post some ways to salvage a tricky situation in the cooking department.

So – taken directly from ...

Click here for a great preview!

... and in no particular order:

Cheese Problems

Too Salty?

Lumpy Mash

Dish too Spicy

Meat Overcooked

Overdone Rice

Cooked the Veggies Too Long?

Sauce Broken ~ instead of being smooth and creamy it is watery with bits of fat floating in it.

No Self Raising Flour

Melted Chocolate has gone all strange and lumpy aka has seized.

Sadly Sunken Cake

To read the other 490 or so tips buy the book, it’s only £2.82 for digital and bit more in paperback. The eBook has colour pics but the paperback has nicer fonts – tricky choice, I know!

“500+ Truly Useful Cooking Tips & Techniques” also contains absolutely essential information, good ideas you should do, things you MUST NOT DO, storage tips, kitchen equipment info, conversion charts and miscellaneous stuff such as how to separate eggs without resorting to the popular plastic bottle “hack”.

I even enclose one or two helpful suggestions from other people in the know, eg. ...

In Other News ...

Nothing I can think of.  I’ve just voted in the referendum, I wonder what will happen next! 

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18 June 2016

Potato Salad ~ Make it Your Own!

I think we are at about the middle of the New Potato season and, of course, salad season in the UK so I thought I’d give some ideas for enjoying potato salads.

New potatoes are ideal candidates for salad as they have a waxy texture (and therefore don’t fall apart) and their skin is tender so there is no need to peel them, indeed doing so would detract from the dish.

Some suggestions ...

~   Add some flavouring when cooking the potatoes – mint leaves, whole cloves of garlic (which can then be mashed into the dressing) or whole spices for instance.

~   It is a good idea to add some of the dressing to the warm potatoes or at least sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of cider or white vinegar and then finish dressing shortly before serving. This will be absorbed and make the salad even deliciouser that if dressed cold.

~   For more of a main course salad add cooked chicken or chorizo or bacon bits or perhaps some smoked fish.  In the latter case the addition of whole grain mustard to the dressing would be beneficial.

Mayonnaise Ideas ...

~   Mayonnaise can be lightened with a little yogurt, crème fraiche or sour cream and flavoured with garlic, herbs, spices etc. according to your fancy and the other dishes in the meal.

 ~   Include something crunchy – thin slices of celery, red onion or radish for instance.

~   A very simple but impressive dressing is made by puréeing a bunch of spring onions OR watercress with the mayonnaise.  

~   Classic American potato salad is drizzled with vinegar as above and contains celery, red onion, pickle (NB. in America “pickle” refers only to a cucumber that's been pickled as in dill pickle or sweet pickle and has nothing to do with Piccalilli or Branston etc.) and, crucially, boiled eggs. In fact, once or twice when feeding Americans, I have been excoriated for not included boiled egg in potato salad as if such a thing is unthinkable which, of course, it is not!

 Vinaigrettes ...

Potato salads dressed with vinaigrette are equally as good as mayonnaise based salads and are lovely served warm.  For instance ...

Warm Potato Salad with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette – serves 4

In two stages as the ingredients are somewhat repeated!

700g new potatoes – washed but not peeled
120ml good olive oil
2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

~   If the potatoes are large cut them into attractive bit sized pieces.
~   Cook the potatoes in gently boiling water for about 15 minutes till tender.
~   Meanwhile whisk together the rest of the above ingredients
~   Drain the potatoes, cool for a few minutes and then toss gently with the dressing and set aside for about half an hour.

2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 finely chopped shallot
a small handful of chopped parsley
a small bunch of chives.

~   When the half hour is up gently stir this through the potatoes and serve.

If making ahead just re-warm the salad slightly when serving.

Kartoffelsalat - German Potato Salad

700g new potatoes – washed but not peeled
4 rashers smoked bacon
1 small red onion, diced
60ml cider or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
 salt and pepper to taste
small bunch fresh parsley – chopped

~   Prepare and cook the potatoes as above.
~   Dice the bacon and fry till browned and crisp (you may need to add a drizzle of oil to the pan depending on what cut of bacon you are using).
~   Remove and set aside the bacon and add the onions to the residual fat in the pan.
~   Cook the onions till softening and starting to brown.
~   Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, bring to a boil.
~   Add the cooked potatoes to the pan together with half the bacon and half the parsley and when all heated through turn off the heat.
~   Serve warm garnished with the other half of the bacon and the parsley.

Inspired by writing this post have just had a lovely lunch of smoked salmon with new potatoes in a lemon and chive dressing with just a touch of Thai chilli sweet sauce.

Honey Mustard Dressing

This final recipe combines mayonnaise and vinaigrette to make a perfect dressing for potato salad to serve with ham.

60ml olive oil
60ml cider vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons of honey

~   Whisk all the ingredients together, taste and season and use to dress warm new potatoes.

Now it's your turn  make the potato salad of your dreams!

In Other News ~ Two Things ...

1.  I am back in whites – a bit! I have a part time job making the desserts for The Traveller’s Rest, a happy, friendly foodie pub not far from Newquay. Actually they are looking for a head chef and a sous chef (too much work for me at my age!) so if you are that way inclined get in touch with them. 

2.  I have just read another weird but fascinating book published by Legend Press. 

As I say on my review on both Amazon & Goodreads ...

I have just finished reading Wild Life, I read it very quickly, I was hooked from the start.
This unusual tale (Legend press seem to specialise in quirky different novels) tells the story of a guy who, down on his luck and desperate, is "adopted" by a group of similarly desperate and homeless men who live and survive together in a local park.
At first all goes well but things soon deteriorate and life becomes frightening, violent and barbaric, in some ways it reminds me of Lord of the Flies.
The book is well written, the characters are real, the story is believable and possibly serves as a warning of what could happen if society as we know it breaks down.
Go for it!

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3 June 2016

When life gives you Aubergines ...

Turns out there is such a thing as a free aubergine!

My real man works for Tesco and every month, to show their appreciation, workers are given a voucher for a freebie. Recently we received an aubergine! Now he doesn’t like aubergine (so far as he knows, I don’t think he’s tried it!) but I do.

If you work for Tesco and are the happy recipient of an aubergine or even if you have to purchase one here are half a dozen good ideas for enjoying it.

Before we start, many years ago it was considered a good idea to disgorge aubergine ie. salting to removed excess bitterness but this is really not necessary these days. I haven’t bothered for years to no detriment, perhaps “they” have bred the bitterness out.

1.   Crisp Aubergine Croutons with Feta Salad

Thanks to my friend Lynne (or Mrs. Gweenie as I call her) in Tortola for this.

Cut the aubi into crouton sized pieces.  Toss in a little seasoned flour to coat, then into beaten egg and finally coat with breadcrumbs and shallow fry in hot oil till crisp.  Serve with a salad containing crumbled feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, red onion and salad leaves in tossed in balsamic vinaigrette. 

2.   Aubergine Pizza

Here’s a lovely easy pizza dough recipe and the beauty of making your own is that you can have a thin and crispy or a thick crust or whatever you fancy.

The trick to making a good aubergine pizza is cooking the aubi a bit first. Cut the aubergine into 5mm or so slices, brush both sides with a little olive oil and season with salt plus anything else you fancy.  Spread in one layer on a baking tray and grill 3-5 minutes per side till tender and golden. Then continue with your pizza.  Good additions would be tomatoes and/or a rich tomato sauce, olives, feta cheese, basil and even, maybe, minced cooked lamb.

Another way to use these tender cooked slices is …

3.   Sandwich cooked slices of aubergine with cheese (feta or goat cheese are good) and something else delicious such a spicy tomato sauce, coat in breadcrumbs as with the aubergine croutons above and shallow fry on both sides till crisp out the outside and meltingly delicious in the middle.

4.   Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables

You need a mixture of aubergine and other aubi friendly vegetables such peppers (red or yellow taste best), red onion, courgettes and garlic. Cut the veggies (except the garlic!) into similar sized pieces so that they cook at the same rate.  Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe a little chilli and also the garlic. Roast in a medium hot oven, stirring occasionally, till all is tender and the onions and aubergines are beginning to char; they are delicious like that! Use as a side dish, a sandwich filling, with pasta or on pizza.

5.   Speaking of charring thinly sliced aubi is delicious if you brush lightly with oil, season to taste and grill or fry till soft and starting to blacken in places!  Serve with plain yogurt, garlicky yogurt or Tzatziki. OR as I have done here with yogurt and wild garlic oil (wild garlic leaves puréed with a little olive oil).

6.   Baigan Akari (aubi in the “pickling style”) – for 6

This was a real winner on our menu at The House on the Strand, a restaurant my sister and I owned in Cornwall throughout the 1980s. We got the recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking and after cooking it for years it may not be exactly as the original but it works really well.

2.5cm/1” fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 peeled garlic cloves
60ml water
500g aubergine in 1 cm - ish slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
350g aubergine
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
340g chopped tomatoes – from a tin or carton
2 teaspoons ground coriander
 ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
cayenne and salt to taste

~   Purée together the ginger and garlic in the water.
~   Heat the olive oil and brown the aubergine slices in a single layer cooking both sides, to a lovely reddish brown. If necessary, cook in two batches.  Lift the slices out of the oil and set aside in a sieve to drain off excess. 
~   Add the fennel and cumin seeds to the oil and when they darken slightly and smell fragrant add the chopped tomatoes, the garlic and ginger purée and the coriander and turmeric.
~   Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally till you have a very thick paste-like sauce.
~   Taste and season as you wish with salt and cayenne.
~   Add the aubergine slices and cook covered for about 10 minutes till utterly tender.

This is delicious served hot or cold.

Our free aubergine, it must be said, was very helpful as, I presume, is the one in the picture below.  I have no idea how I’d have coped with an uncooperative aubergine.  

In Totally Unrelated News ...

As a member of the Legend 100 Club I recently reviewed this book ...

When I read the blurb I was not particularly drawn in however as soon as I started reading I was delighted by the writing style and the great use of language which is, in fact, what the book is about; the protagonist, Miles Platting’s, quest for linguistic supremacy. Then, not far into the book, I was hooked!

Miles has established a company which promotes the regeneration of towns and villages by sponsorship from major companies in exchange for which the location changes its name so, for instance, much of the story takes place Birdseye which was previously Barrow in Furness. This, at first, seemed to me far-fetched but after a while I began to think that it is sort of thing that could actually happen!

The story is engrossing as Miles deals with the problems of corporate life and of promoting such an unpopular idea – I’ll say no more!

Legend Press seem to publish interestingly different books that really grab the attention and Lingua Franca by William Thacker is certainly of this ilk.

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