I never did love ketchup. I know everyone does. It is said to be the perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty and savoury, and tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients, but I just find ketchup to be wanting, and something that is used to blanket other flavours not actually add to the dish. The flavour profile feels a bit two dimensional and dull to me, so I don’t have it in my pantry. Not out of snobbery, I love proper Asian instant noodles and all sorts of other things. I love good eating, and that comes in many forms, I am completely open when it comes to this.
Sunshine rice! Cheesy, isn’t it? But why is cheesy a bad thing when cheese is just so good? Shall we try and reclaim that? Like I was doing with Like a Girl when I decided to title this blog Eat Like a Girl . Which is now the subject of a viral advertising campaign, I notice, which is a very good thing. As Like a Girl is, and it is something to be proud of. Now, lets work on cheesy. Or, maybe we have other things to do? Like finish books and things. (Yes, nearly there with Project: BACON, and more on that soon!).
I looked at my breakfast this morning and thought, oh, that looks like a gorgeous perky sun, within another one peeking cheerfully from inside of it. And so, a sunshine breakfast was declared, and devoured.
The rice was leftover from my dinner the night before (pan fried mackerel with habanero, curry leaf & lime butter sat on top of it, that recipe soon, once I have tested it again). It is fairly speedy to put together though, and you should cheer your breakfast table with it so I will share the rice recipe here too.
I like to use short grain brown rice which is tense, fat and nutty, but really any rice would do here, so go with whatever you have in the cupboard. Turmeric gives it the underlying golden hue. I use turmeric because it is delicious (in small amounts though, and especially when using fresh turmeric), but also because it is so healthy. With anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, I hope that turmeric can somehow offset some of the more unsavoury habits of mine. Sweetcorn gives it further acute pops of yellow, spinach, finely shredded and added just as you turn the heat off, freshness and texture. I freshened it up by frying it in some extra virgin olive oil with some lovely diced ripe tomato and chilli. When hot and toasty, I cleared some holes, and fried some eggs in each. One egg per person is enough for me, but if you need more, go for it.
Singapore was great. My first visit, I was greeted by a vibrant and very friendly city that is obsessed with food. I ate what I could, but never enough. There are so many different dishes to try. I am heading back quite soon on a stopover to complete my list. Which is lost, but more on that in a minute.
As great (and brief) as the trip was, it didn’t end well. My phone, with so many of my photos, all my notes and recorded interviews was MIA. I left without it and have had no luck tracking it down. When I got home my flatmate asked if I had a cold and I realised, fark, I do! I had put it down to hay fever the previous days. I don’t like to moan – especially on here – but after a night of absolutely no sleep and a stonking head cold, with a missing phone, and falling behind with work as I can’t think straight, I feel like crap.
But, there is a solution. There always is. Cosy pjs and a cupboard raid rendered a lunch that I could actually taste, and one that is healthy too. My first thought was turmeric, I need to have it, it is so good for many things, being anti-inflammatory and great for all things intestinal like stomach pain and bloating. It is particularly good for colds too and one of the annoying things about a cold is not being able to taste anything, so I decided that a good, simple and bolshy homemade curry might sort me out. Or ease the torture for fifteen minutes, at least. My second thought was eggs. Eggs are brilliantly comforting and speedy too. They are also terrific in a curry.
Hello everyone! Are you enjoying the sunshine? Yes? No? It is a little hot isn’t it.
Not that I am moaning about the heat, I am not. It is mainly joyful except from oh, 10am to 6am, when I drag myself around like a sloth, but this is not the fault of the heat. It is the fault of my rental apartment which has no air con. For when do we ever need it except for a week or so in the summer.
I need it now, and I don’t have it. I don’t even have a fan (I am working on that). So without all of this, what am I to do but to obsess on ice cream, icy drinks like granita and allow myself an occasional snooze, just so, you know, I can deal with it all.
Lets start with ice cream. Frozen custard, that is all it is. The custard is proper custard, home cooked, and not the Birds variety which as a child I used to adore (and is simply coloured and flavoured cornflour).
Real custard fills me with fear. Fear and dread and a mild panic. Why so? Well in school home economics it was communicated to me that it was very easy to screw up and curdle the eggs, and that it should be done slowly in a water bath and that it would take approximately a very long time. I remember stirring anxiously with a wooden spoon, terrified of a yellow fleck of curdled egg (my world was much smaller then). It was delicious but I vowed to never do it again and went back to Birds.
No more, the fear is gone (long gone, I have been making it happily for years now). It is a little painful in that you must take great care, but it is very do-able. The first ice cream I will share with you is one of Nigel Slater’s, his Vanilla Ice Cream, a classic egg custard with some lovely vanilla grinning through. The ice cream is perfect and as a classic vanilla ice cream should be, rich, cool, sweet and aromatic. I think it is the perfect start for a week of ice cream exploration.
I also have recipes of my own, several in my book, lots enriched with cream, some with no eggs at all. One with bacon and another with honeycomb, one with both. I will share a few more with you here this week. I will share the custard love. Bring on the granita and sprinkle the sorbet for summer here and it is freaking hot. So lets deal with it. Here we go.
Note: I use an ice cream machine for these recipes. A worthwhile indulgence if you are an ice cream fan. I use the Gaggia Gelateria because I can make ice cream without planning or without need to freeze the bowl. I have been using it for a few years now and, yes, it is £££ and large and a little noisy, but it is a great home machine and also, speedy. I recommend it.
I hate confusing spellings and names. Why the world can’t agree to spell and name everything the way I do, I just don’t know. University was a high point of this, not only can’t the US and UK agree on spellings, they give the same thing different words at times: adrenaline meet epinephrine. Oh! We look the same? Well, you are the same. The very same, but people like to call you different things. Gah!
It haunts me still in my world of cookery. Sichuan or Szechuan? I’ve seen both in print from reputable sources. What’s haunting me today is the most perplexing of all: Dal, Daal, Dhal, or Dahl? Again, all are online and in print. These last two we can only blame ourselves for. We can’t seem to agree how these words should appear in English. I want someone to tell me! Do you know?
For now, I am sticking with dal, I’ve been told that the correct pronunciation is with a long a. So daaaal could be our new spelling. However you spell it, it’s a great dish. Pulses are so very underrated, and when you add spices and other accoutrements, they absolutely come to life and sing. It’s a fantastic budget dish too and a great illustration of what can be produced with a little time, effort and a lot of love.
There are many versions, and most cooks have their own. I traditionally make a Tarka (also called Tadka) Dal where the pulses are cooked with turmeric with some tempered spices added at the end (these are the tarka). This is a delicious way to do it, the spice flavours are really bold and fresh and the dish is really zingy. Sometimes, when I prefer something a bit more gentle, I add the spices at the start and cook the lentils with them, adding other items like tomatoes and fresh coriander with some lemon at the end. I also like to put a few eggs in for the last ten minutes and serve the dal hot over halved peeled boiled eggs.
A vegetarian friend was visiting in advance of her move to India. We were going to eat in the sunny back garden and I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to cook. Golden yellow dal with sunny egg yolks peeping out from behind chunks of red tomato and flecks of green coriander, begging to be eaten, as we basked in the sun under the lovely blossoms.
Recipe notes: The chana dal can also be bought as yellow split peas. They’re my favourite for dal as they have a lovely texture and retain their shape. Some people soak them, but there’s no need, unlike other pulses they won’t poison you, they will just take longer to cook (about 35/40 minutes, depending on their freshness). I added the tomatoes before the end as I had spashed out on some delicious English heritage tomatoes that were big, juicy and meaty, and I wanted to retain that flavour & texture in the dal, and not have them become mushy with longer cooking. If you can’t get tomatoes like this, I would recommend getting some small juicy tomatoes, if you can only get water bombs, add them earlier but try not to use them – they’re awful.
A note on the spices. You get much superior flavour from fresh whole spices that you toast and then grind. It seems like a lot of effort, but it’s not really and the return for that little bit of time and effort in flavour makes it a great trade. Try it – I am sure that you will agree.
Dal Recipe – makes enough for 4
500g Chana Dal
2 red chillis, finely chopped (enough for a bit of a kick – use one if you want mild)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seed
I tbsp turmeric
2 big tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped or a handful of small ones, diced
1 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped (best to chop jyst before you serve for colour and freshness)
a fresh lemon
one egg per person – the best you can afford, I like Old Cotswold Legbar which have a gorgeous big yolk. Burford Browns are good too.
Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds for 30 seconds or so over a high heat in a dry frying pan to release the oils and therefore the flavours. Once you can smell the spices, they’re ready to grind, take care not to burn them. Grind them to a powder using a pestle and mortar (my preference) otr electric spice grinder.
Fry the garlic, chilli and ginger in some light oil (groundnut or sunflower work) for a minute or so, taking care not to burn the garlic as it will become bitter. Add the ground spices and fry for a further minute.
Add the chana dal, turmeric, red pepper if you’re using it and enough water to cover the chana dal with an inch to spare. Bring to the boil and cook for 25 minutes at a lower heat ensuring that it cooks at that tenperature but doesn’t explode all over your hob! Add water if it looks like it’s getting dry.
Add the tomatoes and your eggs and cook for a further ten minutes. If the dal is cooked it will be tender, it may need another few minutes if it’s a little old.
Add the coriander and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Serve the dal over the boiled eggs, shelled and halved.
I love a good brunch, nay, I adore it. Lazing and grazing are the key ingredients for my perfect weekend morning.
The local newsagent opens at 9am, and I am usually there shortly after, purchasing the paper and any other accoutrements required for a successful weekend brunch. I have to have good coffee, I get very upset if I run out. The last time this happened, I found myself rushing to Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, buying an extremely large bag of ground coffee, for fear it should happen again. Good eggs are also important, and these my local shop does not stock, so I try to keep a surplus of Burford Browns for this pleasure. Often, I like to include the wonderful but humble potato.
Like much other things my weekend mornings are routine. The first step, following such an exertion as a trip outdoors early on a weekend morning, is to head back to bed with a cup of fresh coffee, black with a little sugar, and the paper. First stop, the food pages to read the recipes, reviews and wine pages. Bliss. Then the tummy starts to rumble, and I start to think about breakfast, but I am lazy, and absorbed in my paper, so it’s inevitably a brunch, a little later, washed down with a second strong coffee.
What is the brunch? I experiment frequently, but I do adore a good hash. Fried boiled potatoes, with something porky, bacon or chorizo in the main, some onion, some herbs, and a fried egg. A simple pleasure, but one that keeps me very happy.
Today’s was some Gubbeen salami, brought back from my recent trip home, some fried onions, slightly over-boiled potatoes with just enough extra moisture to make them squishy while still holding their shape. I squished them some more with a fork and roasted them with the fried onion and salami for 10 minutes, just long enough to crisp them. As they were crisping, I fried the egg, bright white with a perfect golden yolk. I dashed to the garden for some fresh chives, snipped them into the potato hash and served it with the glorious fried egg on top.
Diets? Who needs them?! Weekends? More please!
Sounds very elegant doesn’t it? Brunch. Baked. Eggs. It evokes luxury and comfort, and yes, it had both of these. But, It had something else too.
I christened this dish Irish Huevos Rancheros when I made it last Sunday, but when writing this thought, as titles go, I might be going too left of field, and I don’t want to offend any Mexicans ;-) I did your dish proud, honest, but I gave it an irish potato-y twist.
Like most of my recent dishes, this doesn’t have strict measurements. In fact I didn’t measure anything. It’s very simple, and in truth, you can’t go wrong. Now, people don’t believe me when I say this, and believe me to have some inside culinary knowledge or secret power, but, this is not true. It’s easy.
I started by roasting some very sweet and delicious cherry tomatoes (about 3 handfuls) in olive oil with a finely chopped green chilli and some good extra virgin olive oil at 180 degrees. While these were roasting I parboiled some diced potatoes until tender, then roasted them for about 20 minutes until becoming crispy. At this point your tomatoes should be looking, and tasting, delicious, all mushy and full of flavour. Time to add some fresh coriander (a handful) to your tomatoes and season. Pour the tomatoes over the potatoes and crack in some eggs, 2 per person. Bake until the white is set and the yolk is runny, no more than 5 minutes. This is the only tricky bit, it’s very easy to overcook the eggs so keep an eye on them.
That’s it. Dish up and get back to your Sunday paper. Enjoy!
(I hope you’re still in pj’s – I was ;-)
It seems silly to write a post about scrambled eggs, maybe I am having a silly day (possible), but, I am sure that it’s more that there’s few things as bad as badly scrambled eggs. Ok, there’s lots of things worse, but when you only have two eggs left and are too lazy to go to the shop, it can screw up your morning. Like it did mine last week, when I overheated the oil accidentally and the eggs turned into an instant omelette whilst splattering and burning me at the same time.
So, determined to redeem myself, the next day I went out and bought some lovely golden burford brown eggs, some smoked salmon and chives. I like my scrambled eggs simple, very simple, this is as a result of a discussion I had some years ago with a friend where I maintained you could put anything in scrambled eggs. I quickly proved that the results of such experimentation can be monstrous so, now, it’s only friends are tomatoes, herbs, smoked salmon and cheese. Maybe some shallots.
This doesn’t need a recipe, just a conversation :-) You need, per person: 2 eggs, a couple of slices of smoked salmon, some butter, some chopped chives and some nice bread for toasting. Toast your bread, heat the butter until foaming, beat the eggs lightly and season with s&p. Add to the butter over a low heat. The eggs will slowly start to cook, stir with a spatula or something similar taking care to pull it in from the sides. Just before the eggs are at the consistency you like them, take them off the heat, for me this is quite fluid. It’s important to do this as the eggs will continue to cook, even off the heat. Stir in most of the chives and half the smoked salmon. Serve on top of the toast with the remaining smoked salmon and chives. Eat immediately.