20 September 2018

How I Got Rid of Mouth Ulcers After 60 Years!


mouth ulcer relief image
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This is a strange post, completely irrelevant and nothing to do with food other than some people might be able to enjoy eating more if this works for them like it works for me!

Ever since I was old enough to say “Ouch” I have suffered very severely from mouth ulcers.  Sometime my whole lower lip would be one big ulcer, often I could count 15 or more separate ulcers throughout my mouth.  Tiny ulcers under my tongue sometimes stopped me eating - tragic! This sort of thing is a Real Bugger for a chef!

I saw dentists, doctors and specialists to no avail.



One day, googling away trying to find out what to do about it, I discovered an ingredient (I cannot remember or find the name of it now) which is in most toothpaste but not in Sensodyne Gentle Whitening, which could could mouth ulcers.

toothpaste that cured ulcers

So, I tried it (an extensive trial, I’ve been using it a couple of years now) and after about 60 years of pain I am now virtually ulcer free.  

I just felt I should tell someone because it really helped me, and it might help others. Worth a try?

I’d just like to say this post has nothing to do with promoting anything, Sensodyne are not aware of my writing it and I am not involved in any affiliate marking.

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28 August 2018

55 Delicious Ways to Garnish Food

Don’t worry, I’m not going to be waxing lyrical about tomato roses or butter sculptures!

Whether you are a brilliant chef, a good home cook or prone to buying in ready-made here are loads of cunning ruses which can make your food more attractive (and therefore some would say easier to digest), more impressive, more delicious and generally more enjoyable.

Two important points before we start.

1.   In almost all cases it is best to add the garnish to a dish immediately before serving but if I think of an instance where this doesn’t apply I’ll mention it.
2.   It might seem obvious but do make sure the garnish compliments the dish; as lovely as a vibrant sprig of parsley may look it is rarely suitable, for instance, on a chocolate mousse. 

Garnishing with Herbs


According to their nature and the dish to be garnished herbs can be used as fronds, scattered leaves, little bunches, sprigs, chopped and sprinkled, chiffonade (finely cut shreds, see below) or even fried.


a collection of herb garnishes

How to prepare herbs ...

~   Make sure the herbs are clean and dry. ~   Use a large sharp knife, gather the herbs together on the chopping board and with the tip of the knife on the board use a rocking motion to chop the herbs with the heel of the knife.  Change the angle to chop more finely. 
~   In some cases a sharp pair of scissors works well and a trick to this is put the stripped herb leaves into a deep bowl or measuring jug and snip at them.

~   Chiffonade – aka fine shreds. This is especially useful for larger leaves such as basil or sage. It is quicker if you pile up a few of the leaves and slice them all together or with big leaves roll them up before slicing.
how to cut chiffonade

Edible Flower Garnishes


The flowers of many herbs are edible and can make a dish look stunning, especially the blue ones!


edible flowers

~   Chive flowers – these taste as one would expect; mildly oniony. Whilst the whole flower is very pretty for eating purposes it is better to pull the flower apart, gently, and sprinkle your dish with the petals.

~   Borage – beautiful with a light cucumber flavour these are great added to salads, sprinkled on cucumber friendly foods such as, say, cucumber and also make a pretty garnish for Pimms.

~   Wild garlic – I love this stuff which grows wild all over the place in April and early May, depending where you live. The leaves are useful in all sorts of ways,  read all about Wild Garlic here. The flowers are very pretty and entirely edible.

~   Lavender has a wonderful colour and a somewhat perfumey flavour which goes well with honey, summer berries and the sort of dishes that are served in Provence!

~   When adding rosemary to a dish why not add a few of the flowers too, they taste like rosemary!

Other flowers such as nasturtiums are also edible but is too wide a subject to go into here.

Fruit Garnishes


Of course, most fruits are bright, beautiful and gorgeous with no help whatsoever; for instance, a slice of star fruit or kiwi fruit, a perfect strawberry, a fragile physalis or a cluster of redcurrants.

fresh fruit garnishes

If you use cut fruit brush the cut surfaces with a little lemon juice to stop it turning brown.

~   Try scattering pomegranate seeds on rice; looks good and adds great texture contrast.

~   A lemon, orange or lime wedge, slice or twist is a great garnish for seafood, desserts and drinks and if the diner squeezes them their juice can brightens the taste too.
grilled lemon

~  When grilling fish a cut lemon half grilled alongside makes an interesting and delicious garnish - the warm lemon juice is perfect squeezed over the fish.




Vegetable Garnishes


Vegetable come in all sorts of lovely shapes and colours and just the way you cut them can make them look even better.


various vegetable garnishes

~   Try slicing spring onions on a sharp diagonal.

~   When chopping parsley or other herbs mix in some very finely diced red and yellow pepper and red onion.

~   Using a potato peeler slice thin ribbons of, say carrot or courgette to swirl onto food (or use a spiraliser!).

~   Thinly, thinly slice red onion into half-moons and toss with freshly squeezed lemon juice, the onion will turn a stunning pinkish purple colour.

~   Grated vegetables such as carrot can add a shot of colour to a dish.

Some vegetables, cut thinly, will go interestingly curly if left in iced water for a little while, for instance ...

~   Carrot curls – using a potato peeler cut thin ribbons of carrot and drop into iced water.

 ~   Spring onion “flowers” – cut off the bulb end together with about 5cm of the onion. Using scissors cut into thin strips without cutting all the way through. Into the iced water they will curl like a flower.

 ~   Spring onion curls – after making the flowers cut the rest of the onions into 5cm lengths and then cut these into narrow strips and after a few minutes in iced water they will look like this.

 ~   Red and yellow pepper curls look brilliant but require a little more work. Cut the flat sides from a pepper and then carefully with your knife at a sharp angle remove the flesh from the skin (and save the flesh to use elsewhere – lots of ideas in my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers, just saying!).  Cut the skin into narrow strips and drop them into the iced water till curly.

~   A stunning garnish can be made using this method and a bright red chilli. Carefully cut the chilli into narrow strips from the tip to the stalk end without cutting through the end. Remove and discard all the seeds and be prudent about where you put your hands till you have washed them. The chilli will blossom into a lovely “flower” in the iced water.

If drained well and kept cold these garnishes stay curled in the fridge till you need them.


Cooked vegetables can also be decorative as well as delicious ...
frazzled leeks

~   Frazzled vegetables – strands or ribbons of an appropriate vegetable, such as parsnips, sweet potatoes or leeks, deep fried, make a wonderful crunchy garnish. See here for information on frazzling!

~   Crisply fried onions work well especially on steaks, burgers and so on.

~   Thick vegetable purée – say cooked peas (strained) or red pepper purée can be dotted about the plate – see dollops below.

~   Use a prime example of the main ingredient to garnish a dish as with these sautéed mushrooms on mushrooms soup (this is Mushroom, Garlic & Clotted Cream Soup from my book Soup (almost) the Only Recipe you’ll Ever Need).

mushroom soup with fried mushrooms and crouton garnish


Meat Garnishes


Meat isn't usually considered as a garnish(which is why I haven't assembled a collage of images) but why not? It can make a meal look more appealing, taste even better and is also a useful way of making a little meat go a long way.

bacon praline on maple syrup ice cream
~   Crumbled crunchy bacon is good sprinkled on all sorts of savoury things such as egg, chicken and fish dishes, into salads onto soups and on pancakes with maple syrup or maple syrup ice cream (and, ahem, there is a gobsmackingy easy recipe for Maple Syrup Ice Cream in my book Lush Ice Cream without a Machine).


~   Shredded meats of all sorts can be added to or scattered over salad, soup, pizzas and so on, but even better how about sautéing shreds of cooked meat (e.g. ham or chorizo) until crispy and then doing the aforementioned scattering.

~  Chicken and duck skin can be made into a delicious crunchy garnish - see here for details.


duck grattons


Cheese Garnishes


~   Parmesan cheese is a common garnish for pasta dishes but is good elsewhere too, or peel off slivers with a potato peeler. Here is some Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Soup with two garnishes - shavings of Paremesan and croutons (see below).


soup garnished with parmesan shavings and croutons

~   Blue cheese grates beautifully once frozen and is excellent shredded over risotto, for instance, or how about on steak?

~   Crumble crumbly cheeses over salads.


Crunchy Garnishes


I love to add something crunchy to a meal and it looks good too!

crisp and crunchy garnishes

~   Crunchy breadcrumbs - these are great sprinkled over creamy pasta dishes, some salads and anywhere a bit of crunch would be appreciated.  The easiest way to make them is to crumble (by hand, with a grater or in a food processor) some not too stale bread.  Season as you wish and then drizzle with enough olive oil to moisten the crumbs (but not too wet).  Preheat a dry frying pan and when hot toss and stir the crumbs in the pan till they are crisp and golden.  Drain on kitchen roll and sprinkle away. Take this one step further and make delicious Pangrattato

~   Panko crumbs work in the same way – just dry fry them in a hot pan few a minute or two to make them golden.

~   Crunchy shreds - flatbreads such as tortilla, poppadoms, wraps etc. can be cut into shreds (or wedges or other shapes) and fried briefly till crisp.  Drain on kitchen roll, season and use to garnish soups, salads, sarnies and what have you.

~   Croutons.  I have very firm views about croutons which are that they should be torn rather than cut. They are then interesting shapes which look pretty and also tend to be crunchier as they have more points and edges  Read all about making delicious croutons here.

~   Fairly plain cake, diced and fried in butter, can make a good crouton for adding to ice cream, fruit salad etc.

~   Croûtes are crisply fried or baked slices of bread.

~   Just chopped nuts, toasted or otherwise, can be a great flavour and texture counterpoint.


~   Seeds too!

Dollops!


Adding spoonful of a complimentary sauce or similar is another easy way to make a meal look and taste even better. 

a spoonful of ...

~   Sour cream goes well with spicy Mexican dishes and in appropriate soups.

~   Cream cheese (maybe slightly softened with the addition of a little cream) is great on tomato pasta dishes.

~   Plain, preferable Greek style yogurt is gorgeous with Indian curried dishes.

~   Mayonnaise for seafood, chicken and salads or try mustard mayonnaise with beef or, and I really recommend this, roasted garlic mayonnaise with salmon – see here for allsorts of flavoured mayonnaise ideas. 

~   Brightly coloured and flavoured salsas and sauces can also be dolloped to advantage.

 Drizzles and Swirls


A drizzle, swirl or even a few drips of a complimentary sauce or syrup can easily improve the look and taste of a dish.

garnishing with sauces

~   Balsamic Glaze – I used to make this long ago and far, far away but as it fills the kitchen with vinegary fumes, takes a while and is not particularly economical I now buy it from the supermarket.  It is excellent on all sorts of dishes; mushrooms, meats, polenta, hummus, salads, blue cheese being just a few examples. Just drizzle it over the meal with a gentle swinging motion et voila ...

~   Rich greeny/gold extra virgin olive oil looks and tastes good drizzled over many soups, salads and bean dips.

~   Honey and maple syrup are excellent on ice creams and over porridge, pancakes and many other dishes too.

~   Cream and sour cream can be used to make pretty patterns in soups. When I was chef at a yacht club where I knew all the diners I sometimes used to write the name of the punter or possibly a rude message in the soup!

~   Garnish a plate with a brightly coloured purée such as red pepper or green pea (or both - Christmassy!) or here’s a good idea – purée tog mango chutney and red pepper.

~   Thicker sauces such as chilled fruit coulis will hold their shape well enough to dot about the place effectively. 

~   Chocolate sauce of course!

~   To make heart shaped drops as with the Sticky Toffee Sauce in the picture run the tip of a toothpick through the centre of each drop.

Sprinkles


A suitable sprinkle is a quick and easy way to fancy up a dish and, luckily, sprinkly things come in a wide range of flavours and colours.

various sprinkle garnishes

~   Just a coarse grinding of black pepper (or, even better, a mixture of red, green, black and white peppercorns) can make a plate look good and a meal taste better. When I first started doing this the waitstaff used to clean it off the plate before serving but I educated them!

~   Crunchy sea salt is a lovely addition to most savoury dishes and some sweet ones too (salted caramel for instance). Take this one step further by using a flavoured salt such as smoked or chilli or a pretty one like the Himalayan pink salt in the picture above.

~   A pinch of chilli powder, paprika or smoked paprika, as appropriate, adds colour and oomph to a meal.

~   Sumac is a lovely deep red spice with a lemony flavour which compliments fish and chicken and makes a great sprinkle on hummus. 

~   Grated chocolate (or a crumbled Flake!) is a boon on many desserts.



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20 August 2018

Why I wish I was Fat and/or Hairy!


This, at first thought, might seem strange but I think it’s the best way forward if I am ever going to be taken seriously as a food writer.

Suzy Bowler cookbook writer
Sadly, I am normal size, normally hirsute, don’t ride a motorbike and I’m not even a lesbian, more’s the pity. (A straight friend once said to me that she wished she was gay as “that way at least you can have a sensible conversation at home!”, point taken!). 

What on earth can I do to grab the attention of people who might find my cookbooks helpful?

Useful Credentials for a Food Writer


The fact that I have been a chef for over 30 years, have run my own restaurants, have travelled and worked as a chef not only in England but in various other places including many years in the Caribbean, lived and cooked on boats, in camper vans, caravans and other odd situations and (this is the important bit) learned and picked up a huge range of interesting and truly useful ideas, tips and recipes just doesn’t seem to be enough to qualify me as a cookbook writer worth reading.  
I need a peculiarity. I don’t think being fat, hairy or gay is particularly odd, perhaps I could drink loads like Keith Floyd or, I dunno, have a nose extension; that might work – The Nosy Chef? Jamie Oliver was dubbed The Naked Chef although that wasn’t strictly true.

Suggestive Cookbook Titles


cookbook mentioning tits!
Some books use the F word (yes, I know, it’s fuck!) in their title and I recently saw mention of a book called Let’s Play Hide the Sausage although I'm not sure that one was genuine! When I first published my ice cream book (Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine) there was a book available called Tits and Ice Cream which is no longer available and, coincidentally, about the time my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers  (containing recipes, ideas, tips, handy hints, food pairings, jokes and anecdotes for every scrap of leftover food) was published, Pig Tits and Parsley Sauce, a book about eating frugally, was published in New Zealand. 


Whilst these titles are funny and do catch the eye I’m not sure this is thex way to convince people that I am a serious cook and know my subject.

Cookbook by Liberace

Celebrity Cookbooks


I think I am too old to start being glamorous like Nigella and I am no sort of a celebrity which is a shame as there does seem to be some natural connection between being able to act (e.g. Gwyneth Paltrow, Vincent Price – yes!, Yul Bryner, Gerard Depardieu and Miss Piggy – who even includes a recipe for bacon!!!.), sing (Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Ziggy Marley and Boy George, for instance) play the piano and more (Liberace) etc. and being able to write and sell cookbooks.  

Sadly, all I can do is cook and also write a bit! Any ideas for grabbing people’s attention?






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24 July 2018

Inspiring Food Boxes for Foodies!


I recently received A Most Wonderful Thing ~ a box of goodies from British Herb Kitchen.  Just look at this!

I blatantly stole this image from British Herb Kitchen's website, hope they don't mind.

The aim of Victoria McNeill of British Herb Kitchen is to re-familiarise us with the ancient native herbs of Britain that used to be the mainstay of our cooking but which seem now fallen out of favour. In addition to the herb of the month each box will contain a selection of artisan products from around the British Isles. If you want to discover new tastes, ideas and products this is the thing for you!

This is quite a long post because there was so much in that box!

I understand from Victoria that, so far, she has plans to feature Sweet Cicely, Lemon Verbena, Lovage, foraged Juniper Berries, Bay and Savory in forthcoming boxes but not sure which herbs when as, of course, much depends on growing conditions.

British Herb Kitchen's July box contained …


He's recovering well from his trip!


~  A sorrel plant


~  Some fresh sorrel leaves


The first thing I did, of course, was nibble on the cut sorrel leaves seeking inspiration; they have a bright, sharp lemony flavour. Having thoroughly digested this information I decided to make a cream sauce to go with the cod I had luckily bought that very afternoon.






Sorrel Cream Sauce


100g fresh sorrel – stems removed and leaves shredded
30g butter
splash of dry white wine
125ml double cream
salt and pepper


~   In a small pan cook the shredded sorrel in the butter till it has wilted and lost its bright colour.
~   Add a tablespoon or so of dry white wine and then the double cream.
~   Bring to a boil and cook till the sauce thickens slightly. 
~   Taste and season with the salt and pepper.


Because I love crunchy textures with creamy textures I coated my cod in panko crumbs before pan frying in the rapeseed oil which has a delicious toasty flavour.




~  A pack of mixed lettuce seed 

Quite wonderfully, see these instructions on the back of the box that all the goodies arrived in …



... so that's what I'm going to do.

~  A jar of British Herb Kitchen’s Tomato and Lovage Passata 


This is a fresh tasting tomato sauce with notes of anise and celery from the lovage. Apart from a quick taster I haven’t done anything with this yet, but don’t worry I definitely will, probably involving fish. Watch this space.

Incidentally I understand that the word lovage is derived from the medieval name for parsley, meaning love-ache!



You can just see my reflection
in the spoon!


~  A bottle of Hillfarm extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil.  


I normally dress my salads with extra virgin olive oil but after trying a little of this on my finger tip (nutty and delicious) decided to drizzle it on my lunch (tomato, red onion and chorizo salad with garlic and herb Boursin and homemade sourdough) together with a little balsamic vinegar.



~  A bag of whole blue peas from the wonderfully named Hodmedod’s 



These look and taste like a refined version of the dried marrowfat peas  that I use to make my Geordie lad his mushy (aka sloppy) peas. 



Mushy Peas ~ so much nicer than they sound!

This  makes about 6 portions.

~   Soak 275g dried peas overnight (or possibly during the day) in copious cold water (actually, there are soaking instructions on the packet!).
~   Drain, rinse and put into a saucepan.
~   Add 600ml cold water, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer. If you are a bit picky check after 10 or 15 minutes to remove any skins that have been shed.
~   They take about 45 minutes or a bit more!  Check and stir occasionally and top up with a little extra water if necessary.  They are ready when they have broken down and are soft, aka mushy. 
~   Give a brisk stir to improve the mushiness, add a knob of butter and season to taste.
Traditionally served with fish and chips but also with many manly meaty dishes!


Blue Bean Dip


For lunch today I made myself a bean dip.  My basic recipe for these is here - Hummus & Other Bean Dips + how not to tell lies! I replaced the olive oil with the rapeseed oil, added a couple of leaves of fresh sorrel and folded in some of the roasted pumpkin seeds (below).  I also drizzled it with balsamic glaze because I always do that with bean dips!


~  Roasted salted pumpkin seeds from Simply Seedz 


These came with the serving suggestion that they be nibbled whilst drinking “a glass of something cold” which I naturally assumed meant white wine. So that's what I did with the seeds that I didn't fold into the bean dip above.

~   A box of Flower & White’s lemon meringues

  
There were 2 seriously large meringues in the box, both sadly broken but delicious. Here’s a picture of the not too damaged meringue with the evening sun streaming through it – romantic or what?

For dessert last night we had half each of one meringue with Cornish clotted cream and I quickly made a little blueberry coulis with some leftover blueberries.  Lemon and blueberries go surprisingly well together.



I am also going to make a sort of Eton Mess Ice Cream using my lovely no-churn ice cream method and a little lemon curd.

~  A couple of recipe cards.



So this is what I have done so far with all these goodies.  I will be re-potting the sorrel plant and sewing the lettuce seeds soon and have lot of ideas for the sorrel!

As you can imagine this is an exciting thing for a food obsessed person to unpack – one of British Herb Kitchen’s boxes would make a superb gift for any foodies you might know.





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