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Food Memories & a Recipe for Black Sticky Rice with Banana & Coconut Cream

Black Sticky Rice with Banana, Coconut & Flaxseed

Black Sticky Rice with Banana, Coconut & Flaxseed

My life is peppered with food memories, I suspect most of our lives are. From crisp potatoes, boiled, peeled and then deep fried before being eaten with a sprinkle of salt, that I used to love when I was a child.

Marietta biscuits with butter, two biscuits pressed together so that the butter would squirt out of the holes like hair. Homemade fudge, buttery rich. I always tried to make it but could never work it out (I didn’t know about thermometers then). Stewed rhubarb and stewed apples, big bowls full, supplied by fruit from the orchard nearby.

Everything good or significant that I have eaten, I can remember. For my confirmation lunch, I remember the vegetable soup, and my shock as I watched my grandfather add white pepper to it. My first slice of pizza in Rome when I was 19, with potatoes and taleggio, I remember how bright it was outside the big window as I sat down and ate it. I remember how delicious it was, every last bite. I remember my first proper ice cream, and my childhood ice cream treat sliced and served with wafers.

I gather these memories all the time. They are scattered all over the world now and I fantasise about jetting back to Beijing for peking duck and egg yolk dim sum, to Hong Kong for delicate, gorgeous xiao long bao, to Bangkok for crisp divine chicken wings and to Seville for some jamon iberico.

Lots are restaurant based and one recent one that resurfaced was a black rice breakfast dish from Nopi (Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant). I craved it, and even more so as I worked on my Thai coconut sticky rice and mango dish. I couldn’t get it out of my head. So, off I went to Chinatown, and purchased a bag of black sticky rice for £2. I was set.

This is another terrific breakfast dish, like porridge but with more texture, reams of flavour, creamy and flaxseed provides a lovely texture contrast, as well as being absurdly good for you.

I can’t stop eating it. It felt only right to share.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Black Sticky Rice with Banana, Coconut &  Flaxseed
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Recipe: Banana, Coconut & Lime Bread

Banana, Coconut & Lime Bread

Banana, Coconut & Lime Bread

As with most children, I was a fan of cake. All kinds of cake, except coffee cake. That, to me, was a filthy abomination. I mean WHY would anyone put coffee in a cake, especially for children? I couldn’t understand it. Cake was a place for jam, cream, ice cream, lemon curd, chocolate, lots of things, but definitely not for coffee. (I get it now before you try to persuade me I should try it :)

When I heard that we would be making banana bread in school, I thought that we were progressing down a similar path. We had cooked mackerel, and I was starting to become suspicious that perhaps Home Economics would not be fun after all. Despite growing up almost on the Atlantic shore, as a child I hated fish. Or, at least I thought I did. So, mackerel, then banana bread, I was losing faith.

What does banana bread even mean anyway? It isn’t really a bread, there is no yeast or rising process, but then there isn’t for soda bread either. It is made with baking powder, sugar, eggs, bananas, flour. Doesn’t that sound like a cake? But it really isn’t one is it? It can be light or heavy, depending on personal preference, but it is sweet and fruity. I was converted immediately. For me, banana bread is a delicious confusion, and I think I have improved it a step here with my twist.

Stepping back a little bit again – I should explain that I have been travelling for over 24 hours and am writing my mini banana bread missive from Kyoto so forgive me when I inevitably ramble, as I am – banana bread was brought back to the forefront of my consciousness when I visited Vancouver. It was everywhere, and in many variations. They love it.

Then more recently, in the Caribbean, I started thinking about the versatility of banana as an ingredient, and I have quite a few new recipes for you now that I developed last week, although I will spread them out over the next few months for I have no desire for this to become a banana blog, that would be a different thing altogether. I could call it bananas for bananas or something similar, but I won’t.

Back to my banana bread. I love coconut as an ingredient too. Occasionally fresh when I have the patience, and maybe a hammer, more often I use coconut milk or coconut cream, and occasionally dessicated coconut. Coconut oil is a great cooking oil which I use a lot too, and it is a decent substitute for butter in baking when you are cooking for somebody that can’t eat it. I have a curd recipe which includes it, I really must blog it here. Lime goes especially well with it, as does banana. It was a no brainer really.

I used a punchy little wrinkly lime from my local Indian shop. It had such sweet strong perfume, if you are in London, seek them out. If you can’t get them, don’t worry, a normal lime will do, just be sure to get a good one, as you don’t want waxed rind in your lovely bread. Dessicated coconut gives extra coconut flavour and texture and also lightens the crumb.

I hope you like it as much as I do. It is nice and light and zingy. I realised after I made it that it is dairy free too (my first draft said vegan, jet lag is a beast! Thanks to those who commented to correct me :)

Enjoy!

Banana, Coconut & Lime Bread

Banana, Coconut & Lime Bread

Recipe: Banana, Coconut & Lime Bread

Ingredients

400g ripe bananas (over ripe work very well too)
juice and zest of 1 lime
160ml coconut cream (the small tins not the solid block, alternatively use the thickest part of a tin of coconut milk that has been allowed to separate by not agitating it)
100g dessicated coconut
200g flour
3 tsp baking powder
175g light brown sugar
generous pinch of sea salt
3 large eggs

loaf tin or cake tin (I used an 8 inch sandwich tin), buttered (or oiled)

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 deg C.
Whisk the eggs and sugar until they increase in volume and get a little creamier and thicker.
Sift the flour and baking powder. Mash the banana and mix with the flour, baking powder, and all remaining ingredients.
Pour into your prepared tin and bake until a skewer or knife comes out dry when pierced through. This will depend on whether you bake a shallow or deep cake but will take 55 – 60 minutes.

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Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings

Bajan pepper sauce chicken wings

Bajan pepper sauce chicken wings

So, you’ve made some Bajan pepper sauce, and you really like it. What next?

So many things! It takes a little work to make but lasts for ages and it is so flavour packed that it is the perfect base for lots of marinades and sauces. I have come with several recipes which I will share with you. Starting today, with Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings.

Chicken wings are fantastic. Boney, yes, but who cares? Those bones bring moisture and flavour. The ratio of skin to meat is deliciously high, and when cooked those wings are so crisp and juicy. They are relatively cheap too, even from the best organic free range birds.

I baked these ones. Baking them is healthier, you still get lovely moist flesh and crisp skin, although it won’t be as crisp as fried. They are still lovely though, I have just eaten a big bowl of them and I want more.

The marinade is very simple: Bajan Pepper Sauce (homemade, of course), natural thick yogurt (with no sugar), 2 cloves of peeled chopped garlic and the juice of a fresh lime. That is it. Marinade overnight for best flavour. I use one third pepper sauce to yogurt so that the heat is present but gentle and then use half and half for a more firey dipping sauce. Feel free to adjust to your taste if you want it punchier.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings[Read more]

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Antidote to Bacon Jam: Greek Yogurt with Berries, Toasted Oats & Pecans

Greek Yogurt with Toasted Oats, Pecans and Berries

By now, I expect that many of you will have spent a few days shovelling bacon jam down your gullets and are now anxiously clutching your hearts wondering, what if I have gone too far? I need more! What do I do? You little bacon addicts.

Here’s what you do. Make yourself a nice healthy breakfast. (Then more bacon jam)

This is simple and feels righteous. It tastes good too. Per person, spoon 2 tablespoons of greek yogurt into a bowl and add a tablespoon each of raspberries and blueberries. Toast a tablespoon of oats and pecans in a dry frying pan with a teaspoon of brown sugar, stirring as you do so they don’t burn, for a few minutes until the oats start to crisp. Serve on top of the fruit and yogurt.

Feel better? I know I do.

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Cosy, quick and healthy snacking

Toasted tortilla with manchego and tomato
Sometimes, with food, instant gratification is called for. As close to instant as is possible in any case. I am not talking about reaching for the haribo (although, that has been known to happen), but something flavoursome, healthy, crispy and super quick.

Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind and am not about to tout the health benefits of leftover pork belly or a bag of crisps. Tasty: yes. Healthy: not so much. The snack I am about to describe, is colourful, pretty and delicious and so easy, it’s ridiculous.

Take one tortilla (corn or flour), add a handful of chopped tomatoes, the best you can get, I like sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes. Top with some grated manchego (or similar cheese) and put in a preheated oven (180 degrees celsius should do it) on a lightly oiled tray. Toast for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil on top and season with salt & pepper. Serve with a handful of greens as a garnish, I used pea shoots but rocket would be good too.

Sit back, briefly admire your handiwork, for it will be pretty, and eat. Run back into the kitchen and prep another as you’ll probably want one. I almost always do.

butternut squash curry
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Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This has been a great couple of weeks for festivities. Diwali, Halloween, Day of the Dead last week, and Guy Fawkes coming up. It certainly takes the bite out of the impending Winter!

I always like to celebrate anything like this with food if I can, hey, I don’t need an excuse I know, even if it’s just for me, or, better again with friends. Last week was busy but I did sneak in a dish that would in some way cover Diwali and Halloween, well, kind of.

Diwali being a Hindu festival is all about vegetarian food, particularly curry, snacks and sweets. As for Halloween, well, Halloween is about spooks and scary things, but also pumpkins, so I thought, why not make a veggie curry with pumpkin in? Or, in this case, butternut squash.

I had an ulterior motive, I felt I needed a few veggie days, or veggie meals at least. I usually have quite a balanced diet but lately I’ve been buying lunch out alot more than usual, and as I work so near to delicious Brindisa, my diet has been leaning heavily on the meat side. So, beans, veg, tomato and coconut seemed like a good alternative to a chorizo stew!

It’s very easy and very light. I made this on a weekday evening and it was absolutely manageable. The measurements are loose as always, feel free to experiment, it’s more about the spices and the flavours in the sauce. I used a small butternut squash about 6-8 inches high. The spice blend is very basic. I just used what I had in my cupboard. It works, though!

This will serve 4. I served it with steamed basmati rice. It keeps well, indeed like most tomato based dishes, tastes better the next day.[Read more]