July 30, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 3:37 pm

Undeterred by the witty and cutting insult :wink:  left for his previous culinary effort, Goon has agreed to go ahead with my plan to help him learn to cook. This is a great step forward for someone who has flatly refused to make anything more complicated than an omelette for the last six months.

Now, it is clear that Goon and I have completely different cooking styles. I never learned to cook at home as my parents had me on low calorie ready meals through my teenage years. Then, all of a sudden at age 22, when I finally got a long term boyfriend, I just started making simple things but without any recipe books. Those came later, when I got bored of making basic things and wanted ideas for new meals. I never followed a recipe as such, just got an idea of the ingredients and improvised. I find that I’m so impatient, I get bored reading instructions and just get them wrong.  Things are much more reliable when I make stuff up, which is why I’ll probably never be a good baker.

Goon is completely the opposite. He can follow a recipe really well but if there’s a typo (or the chef writing the recipe is a bit mad) Goon can’t make adjustments. He has no idea of how to compensate for things going wrong…. at least not yet.

So we’ve formulated a plan. Once a week (or more if he feels like it) I will go through my recipe books and find a recipe that I think will suit Goon’s cooking ability. Goon will try it with as little help from me as possible, then we’ll blog it. It should be a good way of reviewing basic recipes as well as being great for teaching Goon to cook.

For the first experiment of this kind, I found an exciting looking recipe by Nigel Slater from his book Real Food. It is a stir fry of pork fillet and cashew nuts with strong vibrant flavours of lime, chilli and mint. Since it is a stir fry, there wasn’t anything involved that was too scary for Goon. However, I didn’t agree with the recipe completely, so I adjusted the quantities to what I thought would work. There was a decrease in chilli, as Goon doesn’t like too much heat in his food, and I reduced the amount of lime because it just seemed totally ludicrous.

Of course, we need to go one step at a time. Goon can’t cook two things in parallel yet, so I made some fried rice to go with the pork and some wilted pak choi in oyster sauce, but he made the meat dish entirely on his own.

Pork with Lime, Cashews and Mint (Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Real Food)

  • 400g pork fillet
  • flavourless oil for frying (vegetable, groundnut, etc)
  • 75g cashews, roughly chopped (90g was suggested, but I ate some before we started. I think 75g was plenty and I prefer the nuts chunky, so I changed the ‘finely chopped ‘ stated in the original recipe to roughly chopped).
  • zest of 2 limes plus the juice of one (the recipe suggested 3 whole limes, we used 2 and it was still a bit much.)
  • 3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped (maybe go for the suggested 4 red chillies if you like heat.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 inches of ginger, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (the original recipe suggests 2, but I knew this would make it too salty for me)
  • handful mint leaves, finely chopped
  • handful basil leaves, torn to shreds
  1. Cut the pork into 2cm thick rounds, then cut each round into thin strips.
  2. Put the oil into the wok, get it really hot and then brown the pork by quickly stir-frying it until it is golden brown in places. Pour the pork onto a plate with its juices.
    [Goon observation: It says to use a wok for a good reason. If you use a big saucepan like Goon did, not much of the pork will be in contact with the pan surface and it will take longer to brown. Since it doesn’t seal as quickly, it may lose more water than it should. It’s not the end of the world. Just pour off excess liquid and carry on.]
  3. Turn down the heat a little and add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chilli to the pan. Fry, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. 
  4. Return the pork to the pan and add the cashews and continue to fry these, whilst stirring, for another minute or two.
  5. Add the fish sauce, lime zest and juice and stir through.
  6. Finally, add the mint and basil.
    [Ros observation: The original recipe stated ‘add the herbs.’ This confused Goon as he thought there weren’t any herbs in the ingredients list.  Sometimes it helps to really spell things out.]
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    [Goon doesn’t like doing this. In fact, he tasted it and just said, ‘it tastes weird’. It turned out he meant ‘the lime is a bit strong’. In compensation I added some more mint and garlic, which seemed to help in balancing it.
  8. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve immediately with some fried rice.

***

So how did it turn out?

 Pork with lime cashews and mint

Not bad I say! With the minor adjustments I made, this turned out to be an excellent recipe, with wonderful bold flavours and a refreshing citrusy-heat that wasn’t too much for Goon. The lime wasn’t so overpowering by the time it reached the table, although I would stick to the quantities above rather than using 3 whole limes as Slater suggested.

So I think we have a success! :) Hopefully in time, Goon will be able to do the rice and vegetables too.

July 28, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:09 pm

Many of you who are resident in the Midlands and the South of England will recall a Friday not long ago when it rained very, very heavily all day. With such weather (which happened to catch me umbrella-less as I was wandering around Borough) it wasn’t too suprising that I was encouraged to buy and cook some proper cold weather food. And so this was born.

boar casserole with rum and orange

Even though it is late July, here in the UK it is still casserole weather. This particular one is made from wild boar, rum and orange and was inspired by this recipe (last one on the page) for a roasting joint. I’ve adapted it to suit little pieces of slow cooking meat.

Wild Boar, Rum and Orange Casserole

(plenty for two when  served with mashed potato and perhaps a green vegetable)

  • 400g diced casseroling wild boar.
  • zest and most of the juice of 1 orange
  • large sprig of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of pancetta (optional- we had some spare, so I used it)
  • 4 small tomatoes, peeled  and chopped
  • 1 medium carrot chopped
  • substantial splash of rum ( I used a dark navy rum because we happened to already have some, but any would do really)
  • a large glass of white wine
  • vegetable stock to cover the meat in your casserole dish

Brown the boar in a hot frying pan. Transfer to a casserole dish.

Fry the onion, carrot, herbs and garlic gently in a little butter in the pan until the onion is soft and the carrot partly cooked. Add the pancetta and cook it through.

Add this mixture to the casserole along with the tomato and grate in the orange zest. Season with salt and pepper

Cover the meat with white wine and stock and place the casserole in the oven. Cook this, covered, for about 1.5 hours at 140C, then remove the lid, add a generous splash of rum and cook for a further 30 minutes. By this point the boar should be tender.

If the gravy isnot thick enough, pour it off into a saucepan and let it boil vigourously until it reaches the desired consistency, then return it to the casserole.

Taste the dish and add the orange juice (and maybe more rum) to taste  Serve over mashed potato.

***

 

This has been my favourite way to have wild boar so far. In the past, I’vefound it hard to balance the ‘nuttiness’ of the meat, but this casserole solved that problem. I think that letting the boar cook in white wine is what did the trick.

Goon really liked the dish but he said it reminded him of school dinners. Obviously, this really worried me for a second, but it turns out what he meant was ‘he’s not had a stew with carrots in since he stopped having school dinners.’ :roll:

Slow cooking really seems to be the best way of preparing boar. The frying steaks are expensive and no amount of tenderising seems to do them much good.  This casseroling boar cost me a mere £3 for just over 400g. I do seem to be getting a small discount for  being a regular customer at Sillfield Farm, but you’d still pay less than £4 for that amount. It’s a very good deal! :D

So, if your local farmers market has boar in stock, I thoroughly recommend trying it. It has a fantastic flavour and is excellent value for money.

July 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:56 pm

A few months ago, my Dad brought me a few bargains from Borders. Among them was a £3 book on Mexican Cookery. Whilst I’m always up for trying new cuisines, I thought that this particular one was a bit out of my reach. The book described a lot of ingredients I’d never heard of before. For a start, it mentioned more types of chilli than I knew existed, strange vegetables like sliced cactus leaf paddles and a few cheeses I didn’t think I could find.

The book lay unused on my shelf for months. Then, two weeks ago, I was reading the BBC food boards when I saw that Charlotte (from Great Big Vegetable Challenge) had been looking for some cactus and had been pointed in the direction of an interesting company called Cool Chile, which imports a lot of Mexican ingredients and storecupboard items.

The next Friday I visited their stall at Borough Market, hoping to get my hands on the most common items mentioned in my book: tomatillos, corn tortillas and nopales (cactus paddles). The very helpful gentleman running the stall sold me the last two, but he didn’t stock the tomatillos at Borough. Apparently no one bought them. I couldn’t help wondering why.

However, he did point me in the direction of Cool Chile’s Taqueria, which happens to be reasonably close to where I live. So the next morning, I set off, eager to get my hands on the elusive ingredient. I was in for a bit of a shock. This was the can of tomatillos I found.

tomatillo can

I don’t think that picture does it justice. I think this one puts things in perspective.

huge can

Apparently tomatillos are only imported into Britain in cans about twice the size of my head! No wonder they weren’t sellingfast at Borough. These things weigh around 3 kg. Still, I was determined to have my tomatillos, so I bought them anyway. Then the shop assistant told me they didn’t have any carrier bags. :roll:

So I walked the three miles back to my flat with my tomatillos cradled in my arms like an oversized baby, getting some very strange reactions from passers by. A few people pointed and laughed. Someone even tried hitting on me. Apparently the thing to do if you’re single and really desperate in London, is walk around with a large can of tomatillos. You’ll attract Goldhawk Road weirdos by the dozen.  :roll: By the time I got back home, my arms really ached and my throat was a bit sore from yelling at the weirdos to get lost.

The irony is that I still haven’t used the tomatillos. For my first attempt at Mexican cookery, I fancied beef enchiladas and, from what I saw in books and online, tomatillo wasn’t the best accompaniment. I’m saving them now for chicken and tomatillo burritos.

So, what did I make for my first Mexican style meal? Well, beef enchiladas like I said,

beef enchiladas

a salsa made from mango, finely diced white onion, lime juice, lime zest, green chilles and coriander leaf,

mango lime salsa

nopales and red pepper salad,

nopales salad

and sweet corn with fried onions and cream.

creamed corn

It was an interesting meal to make. Each particular dish was easy in itself but co-ordinating the lot was a bit challenging. I started early by making the beef.  I sweated off one finely diced onion with 2 cloves of garlic and 3 chopped green birds eye chillies. Then I added 500g of chopped braising steak and browned it. I put the lot in a casserole dish with a about a level tablespoon of  ground cumin, ground coriander, dried oregano and paprika,  then covered the meat with beef stock, added salt and pepper and let it braise slowly at 130C for about 5 hours. While it was in the oven, I made the the creamed corn and let my tinned nopales soak in fresh water to remove the salt from them.

After that I took the beef out of the oven, poured off most of the liquid and shredded the beef. It had picked up the flavours from the spices very well so I didn’t add any more. I just put a dollop in the middle of each of my 8 corn tortillas and rolled them up into enchiladas. These went into a baking dish and were topped with sour cream and grated mild cheddar (as a substitute for Monterey Jack) and baked until the cheese bubbled.

While the enchiladas cooked I quickly assembled the salad and salsa. The salsa was literally just the ingredients mentioned above, mixed together in a bowl. The salad was made from grilled, skinned and sliced red pepper, thinly sliced red onion and the nopales slices in a dressing made from a chile and garlic oil and white wine vinegar. The nopales had an interesting flavour that’s hard to describe. They were very slightly bitter and quite leafy but had a bit of a salty tang from being pickled. Their texture was like cooked runner beans. We liked them a lot.

I’d have liked to submit the tomatillos to Weekend Herb Blogging this week, but since I haven’t yet cooked with them, I’ll have to talk about the nopales instead. Nopales are the paddles of the prickly pear cactus. Over here they are sold pickled in brine. Apparently these things are full of vitamins and fibre, which is very useful as they are very tasty too!

For more information on nopales, see the Wikipedia entry.

mexican dinner

This week, Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Anna from Anna’s Cool Finds. Head over there to see the round up on Monday. 

July 21, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 5:03 pm

It’s a miracle!

 Goon is Cooking

Yes, Goon is cooking! I think it has been at least 6 months since he last tried cooking properly and, even then, I had to take over.

The reason for this suprising occurence is a rather nasty bug that hit me on Tuesday. It really was horrible. I ended up spending most of the day on the sofa in pain. By the evening I was in pain and hungry. Goon’s first suggestion was take-away but there was no way I wanted junk food then.

Goon wasn’t too keen on the idea of cooking. He likes to have precise, failsafe instructions for preparing food and not many of my cookbooks are very good for that. They are mostly a collection of Borders £3 bargains (great for inspiration rather than reliable recipes) and  more difficult material that I like to use to challenge myself.  

The only option was for me to invent something for him to cook. In the end I adapted some instructions for a UKTV lobster dish to make an easy recipe ofr linguine with tomato based seafood sauce.

He followed it pretty well! If he hadn’t kept getting distracted by the TV, he might have managed it all himself, but I had to run in, stir and add liquid a few times to save it when the crummy cop show on telly got too exciting for Goon. :roll:

Simple Linguine with a Crab and Prawn Sauce

Ingredients (for one Goon and one ill and hungry person)

  • 1 tin (approx 175g drained) crabmeat
  • 200g shelled, cooked king prawns 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 or 3 green birds eye chillies, roughly chopped
  •  a thumb sized piece of ginger root, crushed
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • 1 Goon sized handful (it’s a BIG hand) of coriander leaf, roughly chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes in their own juice
  • Olive oil (quite a lot)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 225g dried linguine
  • more coriander to garniish

Put the pasta to boil in plenty of salted water. 

Fry the garlic gently in about 1 tbsp of  olive oil. When it is soft add the crushed ginger, the chopped green chillies, the tomatoes and the white wine. Let these simmer for a while. 

If a Goon is cooking this, make sure you turn the TV off at this point, or disaster may follow.

Once the pasta has cooked, toss it in just enough olive oil to coat it and set it aside.

When the tomato sauce is thick, stir in a large handful of chopped coriander. Taste and add salt, pepper and more coriander and tomato puree if necessary. (I had to do this bit- Goon doesn’t trust his tastebuds.) 

Stir in the white crabmeat and the king prawns. Mix it up thoroughly with the linguine, warm it through, and serve, garnished with more coriander.

 ***

And the result?

crab and prawn linguine

It tasted very good indeed! 

The best thing about this, is that it has encouraged Goon to cook some more. This could be really useful because I’ll probably need a few nights out of the kitchen when my job starts. My plan is to try and make Goon cook something simple once a week. I’ve already found that some of the recipes in my Nigel Slater books might be suitable for him. If those work out well, I might even go and pick up Delia’s cookery course and see what he makes of it.

July 18, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:40 pm

Haggis is a funny thing. Providing you lie (or at least avoid saying anything) about what it contains, you’ll find that almost everyone who tries it absolutely loves it. However, mention the list of ingredients, and you’ll find most people run away from it, screaming.

I’ve always loved the stuff and, since I started buying it from Borough Market, I’m enjoying it even more. Goon is a recent convert too, so I frequently pick one up on my Friday shopping trips. The only problem is that my eyes have always been bigger than my stomach and I’ll inevitably buy a haggis that is far too large.

This happened to me last week. I picked up a big haggis which we had that evening in the traditional style with creamed potatoes and swede (I couldn’t find any turnips.)

 haggis, mash, swede

That left about a third of a haggis to use up. It could have been enough for just one for dinner but, since Goon is now a permanent resident of my flat, it made much more sense to combine it with something else to create a meal for two. I thought of haggis stuffed chicken breasts but there was one problem with that. Chicken breasts are usually sold skinned and the skin is my favourite bit.

Luckily I found that Whole Foods in Kensington is one of the few places around that sell supremes of chicken.  When I was at school, I always thought that a chicken supreme was a dish of chicken gristle coated in a dodgy ‘white wine and mushroom sauce’ that was more like milk thickened with cornflour. I didn’t find out it was also a cut (the breast plus the wing with skin attached) until  I started visiting farmers markets and came across supremes of guinea fowl. I haven’t seen this cut of chicken anywhere except in Whole Foods, which is a real shame.

My supremes came from nice plump corn fed birds and were a good thickness for stuffing. I cut a pocket in each breast and stuffed it with my haggis (and a little black pudding because I like it). Then came the fun bit.

I wanted to wrap my supremes in bacon so that the meat would encase its stuffing tightly. But how could I do this without  covering the skin?  I decided to use my trick for stuffing the skins of whole birds.

The skin on the supreme could in theory easily be removed by just cutting it off with a sharp knife. Instead, I used my knife to loosen the middle portion of the skin whilst leaving the left and right sections attached to the meat. Then I slipped my finger under the skin to lift the middle bit of the skin away from the meat, then pushed the bacon between the loose skin and the meat. After that, I could carefully wrap the bacon around the supreme so it covered the opening to the stuffing.stuffed supreme 

The dark bit on the right hand side is the now very crispy chicken skin, still on the supreme, with the bacon wrapping beneath it. I suppose I could have roasted the skin seperately, but that wouldn’t have been so much fun, would it? ;) The liquid over and around the supreme is a whisy cream sauce (just single cream and whisky reduced with a touch of worcestershire sauce) . There are also some steamed green beans and a porcini mushroom risotto.

And just in case you didn’t believe me about the haggis and black pudding stuffing, here it is inside the chicken breast.

inside my supreme

This meal was rather too much food for two people so we had leftovers from our leftovers meal. :/  But I enjoyed the meat in a sandwich the next day and the risotto will probably be made into arancini. That is, if it lasts that long!

July 16, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 3:25 pm

Of all the commonly eaten food creatures, shellfish and cephalopods seem to be treated with the greatest trepidation. I suppose that, in today’s world of sanitised chicken breasts in plastic wrappers, the sight of eyes, tails, legs and tentacles is a harsh reminder that you’re actually eating something that was a living and breathing creature.

Then there is the fact that, when it comes down to it, these creatures do look rather bizarre. In fact they look so alien that the horror writer HP Lovecraft seems to have based his designs for ancient evil Gods on them.

cthulu looks like a big green squid

Picture from www.paleos.com

Doesn’t the evil God Cthulu look like an overgrown squid on legs? I’m glad that is all fiction, or I’d be in a lot of trouble with all the tentacles i’ve eaten in my time. ;)  

While I can partially understand a slight hesitation in wanting to try these rather odd looking creatures, cephalopods can make some really tasty meals. Here is one of them.

Spiced Octopus with lime and coconut rice and curried beans

This is octopus, dressed with a spicy oil and coriander served with coconut and lime rice and some curried green beans. Personally I think that, in this form, the octopus looks rather appetizing. But it didn’t start off looking like this.

If you’re of a squeamish disposition, you’d better quit reading this post here. The more adventurous among you may prefer to click on the ‘more’ button to see my octopus on the way to becoming this tasty meal. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

(more…)

July 12, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 5:43 pm

The problem I’ve found with being a foodie is that, the more you cook, the more sensitive you become about your cooking and the more particular you become about what you eat. At least this is true of me. I’ve discovered that there’s a part of me that can be quite a ridiculous snob. My ‘inner chef,’ as it were, seems to have developed the temperament of a certain sitcom character from the early 90s. *  

Last Saturday, flatmate Mike and his girlfriend, Christina, arrived at home while Goon and I were tucking into our dinner.

“What’s that you’re having?” he asked, “Steak and chips?”**

Vension au poivre and homemade chips with damson wine reduction 

A perfectly reasonable question given what he saw, I’m sure you’ll agree. But for some reason the small voice of my inner chef in the back of my mind greatly objected to this description of our food.

“Steak and chips! STEAK AND CHIPS?! This is a venison fillet au poivre with a damson wine reduction and HOME MADE maris piper chips!” it screamed silently at me.

Fortunately my conscious mind recognised how utterly daft this statement was and  managed to keep my inner chef under control. Not many people have encountered this side of me. This is probably for the best. It’s outbursts have been reserved for Goon, (when he gets the shopping list wrong), my parents (whenever I go into their kitchen) and the manager of a particularly rubbish and expensive gastropub.

If my inner chef starts escaping on a regular basis, I might need to seek psychiatric help. ;)

The venison fillet au poivre came about after I learnt about the origins of Steak Diane. Apparently the dish was originally made with venison and was named after the Greek goddess of hunting. I’d only ever seen the dish made with beef so I wondered if I could adapt the modern recipe to suit the rich flavours of deer. 

But, when I got home, I remembered that I’d finished the last of our cognac (the key ingredient in the Steak Diane sauce) on the day we moved flats***, so I needed a new plan.  I had a flash of inspiration and decided to make a reduction of the damson wine I had bought the previous morning on my trip to Borough Market. When the wine reduced, it turned out to be sweeter and more fruity than most red wine reductions but not quite as rich and syrupy as port. It was a perfect balance for the venison! The only problem was I needed to reduce about half a bottle to get enough sauce for the steaks. 

Apart from the chips, this meal was very easy to make. First I took about a tablespoon of back peppercorns and cracked them using a pestle and mortar. Then I crushed a clove of garlic and mix it with about two tablespoons of olive oil. I used the oil to coat the steaks and pressed the cracked peppercorns into the steak so the steak was lightly coated with the peppercorns.  The steaks were left covered for about an hour.

In the mean time I made the chips. I think maris piper potatoes are great for this. They have the best texture.  

I peeled six medium sized maris piper potatoes (which made a few too many chips, but we still ate them) and cut them into inch thick chips. I brought a pot of salted water to the boil and placed the chips in it. Once the water came back to the boil, I let it bubble for five minutes then drained the chips well. Since I don’t have a deep fat fryer, I had to cook my chips on the hob. I got a saucepan of sunflower oil hot then deep fried the chips until they were golden brown in batches of 8 at a time. It only took a minute or two for each batch to cook.  

As each batch finished cooking, I drained them on kitchen towel. Then, when they were all done, I seasoned them with salt, pepper and garlic granules.

Of course, we had our venison rare. The steaks went into a hot frying pan for just over a minute per side (basically just long enough for the outside to be properly cooked) and then were wrapped in foil and left to stand for about 8 minutes. As the steaks were standing, I literally just let half a bottle of the damson wine bubble until it was concentrated and slightly syrupy. I did’t feel the need to use any herbs with it, the flavour of the reduced wine was perfect on its own. 

Rare venison

It would have been totally successful if Goon hadn’t objected to the steak being peppered. Personally, I liked the combination of pungent peppercorns, rich meat and sweet wine sauce. The flavours were fantastic together.

We had our steak and chips venison fillet au poivre and home made maris piper chips with a rocket salad, coated in a simple dressing made from olive oil, rasperry vinegar and a touch of balsamic. I’d say it was a notch above your average steak and chips, but probably not enough to merit the daft fancy name my inner chef gave it! ;)

* Or perhaps a certain currently successful real celebrity chef. 

** Please note that when you imagine Mike talking, it must be with a very strong Coventry accent. It’s not the same otherwise. 

*** Well, it have been a nuisance to carry it all the way to my flat, right?

July 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:45 pm

That Whole Foods supermarket is going to bankrupt me. I keep finding cool things like these that I want to try.

 l'il green eggplants

Picture borrowed from nandalaya.com, until I remember to photograph my own eggplants.

The market actually has a good selection of eggplants, from the normal aubergines we see all the time here to little yellow, white and blue ones. These tiny green ones caught my eye because I remember eating them in a green curry I had in Thailand. I was ill that evening with a horrible heat migraine and had stayed behind in my hotel room. Dinner was from room service and, after I’d finished, I tried asking the porter what the little, sour vegetables in the curry were. I’d assumed they were peas but the flavour was different and they had a harder texture.

Unsuprisingly, the porter was clueless and it wasn’t until I was visiting Saran Rom several years later that I encountered the little vegetables again. The staff here were much more well informed about the ingredients in the green curry and the maitre’ d even brought out a raw one for me to see. Apparently these eggplants are considered to be good in a green curry because of their slightly crunchy texture.

When I came across the plants in Whole Foods I made a mental note to make my own green curry with them. Then, on Thursday, I was planning to make a red curry with a twist but the key ingredient was unavailable. I thought it was a good time to make a green chicken curry instead with the exciting eggplants.

The curry was more difficult to make than it should have been. While i was getting my spices together, flatmate Ken came to ask me how to make a green curry from scratch. I started to tell him, and then realised that I wasn’t making a green curry at all. For some reason I’d gone on autopilot and was making a red one. :roll: I clearly need more sleep.*

So, I told Ken roughly how to make both a red and green curry paste and proceeded to make my red curry. Then I ran into problem 2. Somehow, during our move, we lost both our pestle and mortar pairs (i.e. Goon forgot to pack them). Fortunately Ken came to my assistance and did a pretty good job of pounding the spices in a bowl with a rolling pin.

Once the spices were roughly ground, I made my red curry paste and then the red curry in the way I normally do, except this time I threw in my eggplants roughly ten minutes before I was ready to serve.  

 

red chicken curry with small green eggplants

Those eggplants really look like large peas, don’t they.Fortunately they were just as good in a red curry as they are in a green one. We had our curry with jasmine rice and, on Schmoof’s recommendation, I tried stir frying some choi sum with garlic, ginger, chilli and oyster sauce. I threw some mushrooms in for good measure too. 

I’ve decided to enter Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging this week with this post, so I’ve done a little bit of research on these eggplants**.  Apparently eggplants are native to India Sri Lanka but are cultivated all over the place now. The wild plants produce small vegetables, like the ones I had in my curry. They were only half a centimetre in diameter. Cultivated plants tend to produce much bigger vegetables, like the purple ones we are used to seeing in our supermarkets.

The name ‘eggplant’ comes from the first growers of these plants in Europe and North America. The aubergines there looked a lot like Goose or Duck eggs since they were white and round.  

This week, Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Chris from Mele Cotte. Head over there on Monday to see the other exciting submissions for this week’s WHB.

*Or less alcohol. I’ve had a fair few bottles of champagne since I found out about my new job.

**Ok, you got me, I just looked them up on wikipedia.

July 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:27 pm

I avoid writing posts that aren’t about food, but these last two weeks have created a rather interesting turning point in my life that I’d like to share with you, my fellow bloggers and foodie readers.

I’m not a superstitious person in any sense, but over the last two weeks it really has felt like the hand of fate has been working in my life. It all started when I handed in my last thesis draft. My supervisor apparently was off on a conference so it would be a while before he read it. Since it is the summer holidays I don’t have any students either, so I had a bit of time to put my feet up.

As I sat at my desk wondering what the hell to do with myself, an e-mail arrived in my inbox advertising positions to teach A-levels at various independent schools in and around London. From the tone of the e-mail, it sounded like they were after part-timers for sixth-form  and crammer colleges. Goon and I both agreed this sounded like the perfect way for me to keep myself in cash while I figured out what to do with my life. After all, I really like teaching and my current income from private tutoring is pretty unreliable.

So off went my C.V. and, a week later, I got a phone call saying that a school wanted to interview me. The HR lady on the other end of the line sounded quite excited about it. Apparently this was one of the best schools in London.

However,when I went into the agency the day before my interview, I was not amused at all. I had the following, very irritating conversation with the HR agent that had been in contact with the school.

ME:What do you mean, ‘I’ll be teaching year 7s’?! That e-mail you sent out was talking about A-Level!”

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with the British schooling system, year 7 is the first year of secondary school. The pupils are 11 years old and usually taught in groups of 20-30, whereas the e-mail had specified small classes of 16- 18 year olds.)

HR: Relax! But whatever you do, don’t let the school think you’re just applying to teach A-levels!
ME:But I WAS just applying to teach A-levels!
HR:You need to make them think you like teaching the younger children.
ME: I DO like teaching younger children but you can’t send me into an interview tomorrow when you’ve only just told me what the job is!
HR: Don’t worry. They’ll just get you to teach a class of year 7s for an hour or so tomorrow.
ME: WHAT!!? 
HR: It’ll be fun!

I really wanted to punch her at this point.

ME: I can’t just go in and spontaneously teach a class of 20 young children. I need time to think!! The job advertised on the e-mail is nothing like this!

Throughout  this conversation, Ms HR kept smiling cheerfully at me in the way only very persuasive HR types can. I was holding my head in my hands and scowling.

HR: You know, if you go in there looking all grumpy like that, you’ll never get the job!

I resisted the urge to bang my head against the desk. After a pep-talk that lasted an hour, I realised that there was no way I was getting out of this one.

So on a rainy Friday morning, I turned up at the school, rather fed up and pretty sure I didn’t even want to be applying for this job. I couldn’t have anticipated how things would change over that day.

Meeting the other members of the maths department, and in particular the very charming head of department, was almost enough to change my mind on its own. I’d never have expected to find a bunch of such talented and keen mathematicians teaching in a school. These are people with whom I could actually discuss advanced topics in my subject.

They weren’t mean enough to throw me in on my own with a class of year 7s,  but I did get to assist in one class. The kids were a nice, well disciplined bunch who were friendly and polite.

On the Monday I was invited back and this time I did teach a class after having the weekend to prepare. It was great! These kids were around 12 years old but were more enthusiastic and asked more intelligent questions than any undergraduate I’ve ever taught. I found myself wondering why I was considering teaching at higher level, when I was getting such a great response from these children.

The only downside* of the two day visit was the continous stream of phone calls from my HR ‘friend’ with more encouraging pep-talks. I’ll never understand how anyone can spend so much time saying so little. In fact she spent so much time on the phone to me, she singlehandedly drained my phone battery over the course of one afternoon.

Anyway, this week I was delighted to hear that the great school I visited has offered me the job and, although this has been so unexpected, I’ve decided to take it. So, as of September, I will no longer be a student but a full time maths teacher at Highgate School, one of the best schools in North London.  I am very excited and a little overwhelmed but luckily I have two months now to get used to the idea.

I have no idea how this will affect my blog. I guess there’ll be plenty to read during the holidays and just a few posts per week during term time. Then again, the school’s Head Master seemed to suggest I might do some extra-curricular cooking things with the students, so perhaps that will feature. We’ll find out in 8 weeks or so.

And, now that I’ve finished my excited rambling, we can get back to the more important topic of food. Tomorrow, I will take my promise of future earnings and go mad at Borough Market. In the meantime, below is a post about some monkfish I cooked on Sunday. Enjoy!

*Well, there was one other downside. School dinners still suck, even at a posh school like this one.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:17 pm

Have I mentioned before that I hate Sundays?

Since I’ve had so much time on my hands in the last week, I have had lots of opportunity to think about exactly what I want for dinner. I can create and recreate dishes in my head to my hearts content and, very occasionally, I get a good idea.

On Sunday I had some of this inspiration. I knew they had some good looking monkfish tails at Whole Foods so I thought of marinating one in lemon and pernod, crusting it with lemon thyme and roasting it with fennel.

So far so good, but since it was a Sunday I had to sprint to the market before it shut. I got there just in time, selected my monkfish and gleefully carried it over to vegetable section to find, to my horror, that there was no fennel.

I couldn’t believe it! Whole Foods had let me down! But I don’t give up that easily. Even on a Sunday at 6pm, surely somewhere would have fennel. So I started walking. I checked out the little shops on Gloucester road, then I walked to the little Iranian shops on Hammersmith Road, then I walked to the Sainsbury Local in Shepherds Bush. No fennel anywhere. My last port of call was the big Islamic shops on the Uxbridge road. They have EVERYTHING and they never seem to shut.

Well, everything except fennel. By this point it was 7:30pm and I’d walked about 6 miles. I decided this whole thing was ridiculous, gave up, bought some asparagus and headed home. Then Goon said he didn’t like asparagus any more. :roll:

We both had our monkfish as planned, with saffron flavoured roast potatoes.

 monkfish with lemon and pernod

The monkfish was marinated in a mixture of lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and pernod. Just before putting it in the oven, I stripped the leaves off some lemon thyme and lightly coated the tail with it, then roasted it on a bed of sliced lemon and star anise. The marinade certainly gave the fish a good flavour. The lemon dominated but there was still a subtle presence of the aniseed, which was exactly how I wanted it.

As an accompaniment, I had roast asparagus and Goon had buttered broad beans.  I made a quick white wine reduction with a splash of cream as a last minute sauce.

I think this is the second time I’ve made saffron roast potatoes. They’re really growing on me. Whilst I still prefer goose-fat flavoured roast potatoes, they don’t suit every meal and this saffron version is a nice, interesting variant. 

One day I might actually learn my lesson and shop for my Sunday dinner on Saturday when all the decent shops are open. Or, more likely, I will continue to swear and curse at the Sunday trading laws for ever, or at least until I get out of Britain.

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