30 October 2010

Channa Aloo ... perhaps

~ Menu ~ 

Crisply Fried Aubergine Slices topped with Greek Yogurt 

Chickpea and Potato Curry 
(Channa Aloo perhaps?) 
Various scraps of ice cream 


This was the last day in our caravan for the season; the site closes tomorrow. Now we start our strange annual meanderings, hopefully leading up to a few months in the Caribbean but possibly not. I have tried, and succeeded, to almost run out of food so today himself had a bacon and cheddar omelette and I had the remainder of a bargain aubergine (perfect and only 10p!) I bought the other day. I shallow fried slices till crisp, topped them with the last tablespoon of Greek yogurt and ate them with a small curry I cobbled together.

Channa Aloo-ish

The curry was very simple – half a medium onion and 2 small potatoes diced and cooked in 1 tbsp olive oil, covered, over low heat till tender and starting to brown. I added 2 tsp Patak’s Madras Curry Paste, fried it for a couple of minutes and then added about 225 ml water and half a can of leftover chickpeas I had found when defrosting the freezer. I brought the curry to a boil, turned down the heat, covered and simmered gently whilst preparing my aubergine, which was also very simple …

Slice aubergine about 1 cm thick, season both sides and fry in olive oil over quite a high heat till crisp and brown and, as it happens, meltingly delish inside. They do absorb oil so add more as needed. Drain well on paper towel and top with a dollop of yogurt which not only compliments it greatly but also goes well with curried dishes. 

 When I was young and spry I always I disgorged my aubergines by salting and leaving them around for a while to remove their bitter juices. Now I hardly ever do so and am not sure if this is because: a) the value of disgorging was an urban myth, b) aubergines are now sold younger and sweeter, or c) I am older and can’t be arsed. As a prime example I did not salt the aubergine mentioned in this post and it was perfectly fine. 

If, however, you fancy a bit of disgorging this is what you do … ~ slice aubergine ~ put into a colander suspended over a dish. ~ salt the slices liberally and turn to coat ~ leave for about 30 minutes ~ rinse with cold water to wash off the salt and any extracted bitter juices ~ pat the slices dry with paper towel and continue with whatever you had planned for them. 


For dessert we ate up various scraps of ice cream from my ice cream book experiments including a very alcoholic Cherry Bounce ice cream and Caramel Chocolate Semi Freddo. Coffee completed the meal which was sort of lunch, honestly, but was not eaten till almost dark due to our frantic packing away and cleaning. I don’t think we’ll be having much for dinner – probably just a brandy for me and maybe some chocolate. After all everything needs finishing off!

Every few months for the last 16 or more years we have packed up everything and moved on and it is both an interesting and an irritating life. Sometimes I will think 

“where is my … palette knife, for example …, oh yes, 4,000 miles away (or wherever)” 

So inconvenient. On the other hand I often think 

“ooh goodie, not long till I see … my sister, my brother, my nieces and nephews, my friends, the hills of Northumberland, the tropical sun, our boat, my palette knife etc."

PS. Research has revealed that modern growing methods result in virtually seedless aubergines with no bitter juices. Ha – not my aging process after all.
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25 October 2010

Fire Meat aka Bulgogi

~ Menu ~

Faux Bulgogi
Stir Fried Rice
Alcohol-free Fizzy Water

We woke to a thick frost this morning and went outside to play in the crunchy grass, leaving footprints. The sky was blue and stripy and our car looked prettier than it ever has before, especially the windows.

We are supposed to have rain coming in tonight, all of us, so perhaps that will be the end of this very acceptable stretch of excellent weather we have been having.

In this cooler climate a hot lunch was appealing so I made me a faux bulgogi with a small piece of steak leftover from preparing my man's dinner last night; a trimming, you understand.

Bulgogi (bul means fire and gogi means meat) is an Absolutely Delicious spicy, sweet, hot Korean dish comprising strips of steak marinated in a soy, garlic, spring onion, sesame goo and then seared in a hot pan.

About 10 years ago a huge friend of mine, Clarky (he’s 6’6”), and I ran the food and bar side of the Royal B.V.I. Yacht Club. I used to do a very varied menu so that hopefully the members didn’t get bored and were tempted to dine frequently. 

One day I had some steak trimmings and decided to go for the old bulgogi ploy. This was a private members club where we knew almost every customer so it was quite a surprise when a real bone fide Korean chap came in to lunch, a guest of one of our regulars. He ordered my bulgogi and I was nervous fearing that I may have taken quite a liberty with his country’s cuisine but, if the gentleman is to be believed, it was spot on. He did come back in the evening for a second serving so presumably, even if it was spot off, he enjoyed it.

Bulgogi ...

... as I made it then

500g steak – sirloin or something else good
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 spring onions – thinly sliced, diagonally is prettiest
2 crushed cloves of garlic
generous grind of black pepper
a little finely chopped hot red chili - optional but I like it

~  Thinly slice the steak across the grain.
~  Mix together all the other ingredients and marinate the beef several hours or overnight (and day).
~  Grill or pan sea the steak over high heat till brown and cooked to your liking – it doesn’t take long.

Bulgogi is often eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves together with rice and kimchi (pickled cabbage) but I prefer it with stir fried rice.

Easy Bulgogi

My “bulgogi” today was inauthentic; I made it by mixing together soy, sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil and some ginger syrup left over from making ice creams for my forthcoming (fingers crossed) book. I didn’t add sugar because of the already sweet ingredients.

I always keep a few bags of cooked rice in the freezer for emergency stir fries and I used up some bits and pieces of vegetable matter laying around – sadly no red or yellow pepper to bring a bright and happy colour to the dish but for which I apologise.
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23 October 2010

Extraterrestrial Pumpkin!

~ Menu ~

Simple Pumpkin & Roasted Garlic Soup
Organic Multigrain Bread
Glass of Merlot
A tasting of Toasted Sesame Ice Cream

It rained like a bastard last night and you know how rainy they can be. Nevertheless it is yet another lovely sunny autumn day. I am reveling in all the seasonal accoutrements; hot chocolate, socks, open fire down the pub, cosy nights …. and I have a pumpkin! A rather special one, as it happens, although it was only 75p from Tesco.

You’d think we’d be able to grow our own pumpkins rather than having to import them.


I made myself a quantity of lovely …

Pumpkin & Roasted Garlic Soup

750g diced fresh pumpkin 2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 medium sized floury potato
vegetable stock 3 pieces of roasted garlic
salt & pepper

~ Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC  fan/gas 6.
~ Toss the pumpkin with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season and roast till golden and tender which till take about 40 minutes.
~ Meanwhile thinly sliced the onion and toss with the other tbsp of olive till in a saucepan till hot. Turn down the heat, completely cover the onions with a piece of foil pressed onto their surface, put a lid on the pot and cook gently till utterly tender – 30 mins or so.
~ Peel and thinly slice the potato and add to the onions together with the tender roasted pumpkin and add enough stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer till the potato is soft.
~ Add the roasted garlic to the soup and purée the whole lot till smooth.
~ Dilute if you think it needs it with a little hot stock or you could add some cream although it is perfectly delicious without. 

~ Taste and season – a little sea salt sprinkled on top is a definite advantage. I garnished with a little fresh sage.

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British Virgin Islands salt

When making this soup (and lots of other things) I have the edge on you losers because every year I bring back Caribbean Seasoning from the BVI which is sea salt harvested from the waters of the appropriately named Salt Island, mixed with a perfect balance of herbs and spices.
There are no residents of Salt Island now, the last one, Norwell Durant, died in 2004 – his home was on the beach and he'd chat to visiting yachtsmen (and women) including us. Residents used to pay a token tithe to the Queen of England – a sack of salt a year, I expect she misses it.

After relaxing in the sun streaming through the window, enjoying some of this soup, good bread and wine I decided that I should really stop indulging myself and get on with some work on my book. As I have mentioned elsewhere I have almost written a book about making ice cream (see below - I've finished it!) and am living a fingers crossed situation in the hopes of publication.

I knuckled down and conducted a small test on my recently invented Toasted Sesame Ice Cream and can report that I am very pleased with the result.

Updates from the Future!


The ice cream book, Luscious Ice Creams without a Machine ...: ... or much time or effort or having to mash the stuff as it freezes! is now self published on kindle and as a paperback as No. 1 in a series of books on Genius Recipes.   


There are currently 4 in the series including SOUP (almost) the Only Recipe You'll Ever Need which gives 60 delicious soup recipes all based on one easy and flexible “genius” recipe. Also included are instructions for stock making, guidance on adding herbs, spices and other flavourings plus additional recipes for roasted garlic, pepper coulis, frazzled leeks, compound butters and other garnishes and accoutrements.

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22 October 2010

Balsamic Croutons

~ Menu ~

Smoked Pigeon Breast Salad with Balsamic Croutons
Small glass of Red Wine
A few Freshly Picked Strawberries

The other day I accidentally invented balsamic croutons and they were so good I invented them again today.

Last week I had a small dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar sitting around which I was occasionally dipping pieces of gorgeous bread into, as one does. I ran out of bread before I ran out of oil and vinegar. Later on, when making croutons to go with my soup of the evening, I reached for the olive oil but seeing the little dish thought what the heck (or similar), poured it over the bread pieces and croutoned on in my normal fashion.

balsamic vinegar

Balsamic Croutons

I always tear croutons rather than cut them. This way they are interesting shapes which look pretty and also tend to be crunchier as they have more points and edges. So - tear some bread into pieces, mix together a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the proportions of 3:1 or thereabouts. Drizzle over the torn bread, sprinkle with salt and pepper, spread on a baking tray and do in a hot oven till crisp and golden which will only take a few minutes.

I have written loads more about the how and why of making croutons with lots of other variations here.

Today, when I found I had two smoked pigeon breasts in the fridge (OK, I did know they were there!) I sliced them into a simple salad and added the balsamic croutons. For a dressing I made my standard honey enhanced balsamic vinaigrette, the sweetness of which compliments the smoky gamey taste of the pigeon and, well, you know – yum, though, to be honest, not very photogenic! 


Balsamic/Honey/Mustard Vinaigrette

1 tbsp Dijon mustard
50ml balsamic vinegar
1½ tbsp honey
225ml olive oil
salt and pepper

~ Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and honey.
~ Gradually whisk in the olive oil – it should emulsify – and then the salt and pepper.
~ Keeps ages – store in a lidded jar and if it separates give it a good old shake before using.

For lots more ideas and recipes for vinaigrettes see here.

Still glorious weather, a bit cooler and much colder at night but lovely. Not having experienced an English autumn for many years I'm really enjoying it now but is this normal, so late in the year? .....


I picked 5 strawberries from our pot outside the caravan and they were so sweet!

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13 October 2010

Pease Pudding from Up North - part 2

~ Menu ~ 

Pease Pudding Fritter 
Healey’s Cornish Rattler 
Bit of Chocolate

Remember I was talking about Pease Pudding the other day? Well writing about it reminded me to cook some as it’s one of the few things we both like. Usually I cook two completely different evening meals but, luckily, I don’t mind at all! 

Today’s lunch was made from the leftovers. I found I had one lonely asparagus spear in the salad tray together with half a red onion and also I had enough ham left to fill a manly baguette for my darling and still leave a tad for me. 

I thinly sliced the onion and the asparagus, tossed them together in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them for about 10 minutes in a medium hot oven. I then julienned (technical term for cut into sticks) the ham, added it to the pan and carried on roasting for a few minutes till the veggies were tender and the ham beginning to turn golden. Whilst doing that, being a woman, I was also able to fry myself a little cake of pease pudding. I assembled the dish artistically, drizzled over some honey mustard dressing, took a picture and then demolished it ...


... washed down with a bottle of cold cider – Healey’s Cornish Rattler to be exact. Perfect.

I didn’t take a picture of the cider today but here is a picture of a bottle I drank earlier!

Incidentally a friend of mine, Debs, fries up her leftover pease pudding and serves it with bacon and eggs for breakfast and I can’t fault her for that. 

Pease Pudding also makes a Fine Soup 

1 onion
1 tablespoon oil or, even better, bacon fat
chicken, vegetable or, best of all, ham stock (from cooking a ham) if possible
300g-ish pease pudding
a few slices of ham

~   Cook an onion my favourite way! In bacon fat if you have some.
~   When the onions are utterly tender stir in pease pudding and heat through.
~   Finely chop the ham and stir in (keeping back a little to garnish).
~   If you prefer to process or liquidize the soup, add the ham and process it in which will result in little flecks.
~   Dilute and season to your requirements.
~   Garnish with croutons which have been baked together with a few pieces of reserved ham.

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And dessert? Well it’s not compulsory you know but I did just eat 2 squares of Lindt’s absolutely gorgeous Excellence Chilli Chocolate – I felt I should as it is, apparently, National Chocolate Week. After lunch I took the bus into Padstow and here is a picture I took out the window as we were speeding along – Harlyn Bay.

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10 October 2010

Roasted Tomato Pancakes and Recycled Biscuit Cake

~ Menu ~

Roasted Tomato Pancake with Boursin
Glass of Shiraz
Recycled Biscuit Cake with a Black Coffee

Lovely, lovely day, isn't it? I have a great many friends living the Caribbean and they are all really soggy because they had 20.5 inches of rain in 36 hours and here I am in “rainy old Britain” with this sort of weather going on.


Before I get onto lunch I must explain that last night I made Roasted Tomato Soup which went something like this. 

Roasted Tomato Soup

With some of my Melba Toast experiments (French bread which I had hoped would make like a Pringle, but they didn’t), shaved Gran Padano and a glass of red it made a lovely not too fattening meal.

500g cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onion – finely chopped
½ teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons tomato paste
300ml vegetable stock
2 teaspoons Sweet Chilli Sauce

~ Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.  ~ Put the tomatoes on a lightly greased baking tray and roast for 20 minutes to half an hour till soft, squidgy and bursting. 
~ Meanwhile (as we recipe writers say) soften the onion in the olive oil on a low heat, covered, for about 20 minutes. ~ Stir in the tomato paste and the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
~ Add the roasted tomatoes, skin ‘n’ all, and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
~ Cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the Sweet Chilli Sauce and season to taste.
~ Smash up with a potato masher or liquidizer on a stick or purée in a food processor or similar.


Today, with about half a bow of soup left over I made myself some pancakes (too many actually) for lunch. All I did was leave out the sugar in my standard pancake recipe and use some tomato soup instead of milk to mix it.

Roasted Tomato Pancakes

This makes about five 3” pancakes.

125 g plain flour
a pinch of salt
1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder
1 egg
150 ml tomato soup
a little oil

~ Stir together the first 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl.
~ Male a well in the middle of the flour mixture.
~ Break the egg into the well.
~ Gently whisk the egg into the flour and, as it thickens, gradually add the soup still whisking, till you have a thickish pourable batter, if you run out of soup use a splash of water or milk. When all combined give an energetic whisk to aerate the batter.
~ Heat a medium sized non stick frying pan and oil lightly.
~ Pour a circle of batter in the pan and cook till the surface is pitted with little burst bubble holes.
~ Using a spatula or a deft flip of the wrist turn the pancake and cook till the other side is golden.
~ Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven till they are all done.


There is a strange shopping emporium in Liskeard, Cornwall called Trago Mills where wonderful bargains can be picked up. It is strange because the premises, which are set in deep wooded valley, all very attractive, are beset with sarcastic comments and statues such as these pictured below.


The premises are large and rambling and many years ago my sister and I would sometimes close our restaurant “for staff training” and take all the young people that worked for us (we were all of us well under 30 and several just over 16) to play hide and seek at Trago for the day. Can’t remember what we were training them for now!

Even if you don’t want to hide Trago is well worth a visit, selling lots of interesting things including very cheap boxes of broken biscuits either luxury all chocolate or slightly cheaper more basic broken biscuits. Unfortunately on our last hurried visit we bought the” wrong sort" and now can’t be bothered to eat them - we are keen to get into the box of the “right sort” that we now have thanks to our friend Carol. As a result yesterday I also made Chocolate Refrigerator Cake, or whatever it’s called, to use them up.

Recycled Biscuit Cake

I had 200g of broken biscuits to use up and this, therefore, is the recipe …

200g broken biscuits – mine included various “plain” types plus chocolate digestives
150g dark chocolate
100g butter
2 good tablespoons of golden syrup

~ Break the biscuits into small pieces, if necessary.
~ Over a low heat melt together the dark chocolate, butter and golden syrup.
~ When completely smooth pour over the biscuits and stir to mix completely.
~ Turn into a suitable container – I like to use a silicone loaf “pan” – and chill till firm, at least 3 hours.
~ Slice into sort of glorified mega chocolate biscuits and enjoy with a black coffee on the side.

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for easy reference?

I couldn't eat too much of this but I gave it my best and there’s always tomorrow! 

I thought of all sorts of things that could be added; pecans, chopped white chocolate (OK, I’ll be honest as the camera never lies, I did put a wincy bit of white chocolate in), dried fruit, cherries etc. If I ever have a lot of broken ginger snaps I think I’ll try ginger syrup instead of golden syrup and add some chopped up ginger from the jar OR (I’m thinking all the time, me!) how about a spoonful of instant coffee melted into the chocolate to make Recycled Mocha Biscuit Cake?

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7 October 2010

How to make Melba Toast and other recipes

~ Menu ~

Roasted Garlic Hummus with various Melba Toasts
White Wine Spritzer
Morsel of Alcoholic Marmalade Bread Pudding

In the last couple of weeks or so we seem to have had someone new in charge of the weather and they are doing an excellent job. Every night it rains, often torrentially, and every day is glorious. 

Yesterday me old mucker, Carol, and I were Ladies who Lunch, as we frequently are, and went to Fifteen – Jamie Oliver’s place at Watergate Bay. The restaurant was large and attractive and the welcome warm and friendly. We had a table by the window overlooking the wide sun, sea and sand filled view, dogs and people playing in the water, lots of surfers including a guy kite surfing. 

We were immediately served a big jug of iced water and a board of warm breads with peppery olive oil to nibble whilst we waited for our meal. We had been attracted to eat at Fifteen by their special fish-celebrating menu – a fringe event to the Cornish Food & Drink thing I went to last week.

I had warm mackerel over a salad of charlotte potatoes and herbs and Carol had octopus in a Mediterranean tomatoey sauce. We both had sea bream with roasted squash, red onions, and beetroot with garlic aioli. It was a nicely thought out dish, I have never had sea bream before; it had a very good flavour but - not a fault, just a fact – too many bones for my liking. Tio Pepé, a delicous house rosé, fresh berry pavlova and coffee, and, you know, in its way it was as good as lunching at home! I shall definitely eat at Fifteen again as soon as I get the chance.

So that was yesterday.  Today I was a bit low on leftovers, all I could find to play with was various bits of frozen bread. With the random shaped pieces I made bread pudding, not the eggy goo kind - the manly substantial stuff. 

Alcoholic Marmalade Bread Pudding

225g stale bread torn into pieces 
125g dried fruit plus 2 tablespoons rum or brandy or whisky (or, even better alcohol soaked fruit from your storecupboard) 
60g brown sugar 
180g marmalade 
1 egg

­~ Cover the bread with cold water and set aside half an hour or so. 
~ Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4 . 
~ Use your hands to squeeze the bread out as dry as poss and put into a mixing bowl. 
~ Add all the other ingredients and whisk or beat (or manually munge) to completely combined. 
~ Turn into a greased ovenproof dish and bake for about an hour till firm. 
~ Cool and cut into squares or wedges. 

Good with clotted cream but then what isn't?


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- please!
With the whole slices of bread I did some Melba toast research. I had one slice of organic multigrain bread, 2 slices of Mediterranean Sourdough, a crust of wholemeal, 1 slice of normal white sandwich loaf and the end of a French stick.

Results - they were all crunchy and delicious but only the close textured soft breads (the wholemeal and the white sandwich) curled properly as Melba toast should, the sourdough tried but wasn't very curly. 

I further experimented with brushing the toast with a little olive oil and sprinkling with sea salt before returning to the grill for a nano second or two and I seriously recommend this further step. 

Melba Toast 

Toast sliced bread till lightly golden on each side, cut off the crusts and lay the toast flat. Carefully slide a small knife between the two toasted sides of the toast to split into two slices. Toast the uncooked sides till golden and the slices (as research has shown, not all slices) have curled slightly. I ate this with Roasted Garlic Hummus which wasn't a leftover as I made a small batch specially.


Roasted Garlic Hummus

can chickpeas – drained 
1½ tablespoons tahini - sesame seed paste 
finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon 
60ml olive oil salt and pepper

~   Put the chickpeas, tahini, lemon zest and juice and roasted garlic into a food processor and process slowly whilst gradually pouring in about half the olive oil. 
~   Season to taste. 
~   Turn up the speed and process, adding more olive oil as necessary, till you have a hummus, chunky or a smooth, to your preference.

This was a popular item on my menu in the Caribbean (don’t know why, not very tropical!) with Seeded Pita Crisps and Black Olive Salad.

Seeded Pita Crisps

These are somewhat reminiscent of Melba toast now I think of it!

3 pita breads 
3 tablespoons of olive oil – maybe more 
salt and pepper 
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds – mixed black and white are pretty

~   Heat oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Cut pita breads in half and then use a small sharp knife to carefully open out the pita halves so they are only attached at the outer edge. Try not to pierce or tear the bread although it is difficult. 
~   Using scissors cut around the outer edge of each opened out piece of bread so that you have 2 half rounds each. 
~   Cut each half round into 3 wedges.
~   Arrange in one not-touching layer on a lightly greased baking tray. 
~   Mix together the oil, seeds and season to taste ~ Use a pastry brush to dab the oil and seeds onto the pita breads., if you run out of oil add more 
~   Put in the oven till golden and crisp - they don’t take long so watch’ em. 
~   Cool on a rack and when completely cold store in an airtight container at room temp – they will be fine for a couple of days.

Black Olive Salad

6-8 cherry tomatoes – quartered (or eight-thed) 
1 small red onion – diced 
10 or so stoned black olives – diced 
half a lemon 
2 tablespoons olive oil

~   Mix the tomatoes and olives together with the lemon juice and olive oil.

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