Friday, 24 February 2012

Indian Chai Latte without leaving Kingston

I love buying chai latte when I go to Stabucks, but it is so expensive! Luckily, the internet exists, and I was able to track down a much cheaper, make your own recipe.

1 Spiced Chai flavoured teabag (I find Whittard's is good)
1 cinnamon stick
1 cardamom pod
half a cup of milk
2 teapoons of sugar.

Boil about 1 1/2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Add the chai teabag, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod and the sugar. Simmer for 2-3mins depending on how strong you like it. Strain into a teapot and add the milk. Serve into pretty little cups and dream of warmer climes :)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ethical Eating

  This week is a week for cheap food shopping, and as such I have gone for some supermarket own brand products. Whilst spreading Smart Price peanut butter on my toast this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that in looking for a good bargain, I never checked to see if the peanut butter had palm oil in it. Palm oil, I have been told, is bad because palm plantations encourage deforestation. Therefore we must not buy it. At any cost, apparently. We in the West are the biggest food consumers in the world and as such we have something of a responsibility to consider the ethics of our eating. But is it too much of a responsibility?

                The problem is there are numerous ethical issues when it comes to food. Be it in supermarkets, restaurants, butchers or patisseries, when you are shopping for food, you are shopping in a minefield. To be perfect, our food must be fairtrade, yet organic; sustainable and seasonal; locally sourced, yet have enough space to be free-range. Our food must be non-gm, non-artificial, non-packaged. Our leftovers must be composted. And for our health, there must be no additives, no fat, no sugar, no dairy and it must be low GI. Our perfect food in non-existent. This is nothing new to those in the know. It has long been agreed that the ethical eater must either pick their battles or be completely self-sufficient.

                But then, if we were all self-sufficient, that would take our money away from the lagging economy. And with our economy so low, job loss so high and inflation rising as quickly as fast-action yeast compared to salaries, we can't ethically do that, can we?

                On the battlefield of ethics, it is difficult to find peace. But I savour the little victories. I always buy free-range eggs; I can eat at Carluccio's and Leon with a clear conscience; and the Smart Price peanut butter uses sunflower oil, not palm oil.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Another Celebration: Another excuse to eat!

With it being the start of the Chinese year of the Dragon today, I feel the need to celebrate with a feast - what else! But Albert and I are having some rather low key celebrations tonight. In place of the full blown takeaway from the Chinese-come-fish-and-chip-shop down the road, is homemade egg fried rice and chicken chop suey from a can.

I have done homemade Chinese dishes on several occasions. Chinese five spice crispy chicken; mirin sauce; prawn stir-fry with satay sauce (okay, from a packet. Satay is difficult!) But the only thing I have managed to make taste like an authentic Chinese takeaway dish is egg fried rice.

I first learned to make egg fried rice during my gap year travels. Not, as you may expect, in China, but in New Zealand. I was working at the Waipoua Forest trust for six weeks with three other volunteers and the project leader, Stephen King. (Not that Stephen King. But when I first walked into Stephen King's house, I saw stuffed animal heads, axes and saws. I kid you not.) Myself and the other volunteers spent our mealtimes sharing recipes with each other. One day we had some leftover rice, and my friend Hannah taught me how to fry it up with egg. Below is the recipe she taught me.

1 portion of cooked white rice (quite dry and all separated, not sticky. Long grain rice works well, I find.) 
1 egg
some frozen peas
soy sauce

First, defrost the peas in boiling water.

Next, heat up a dash of oil in a wok. (This can be done in a frying pan, which is how Hannah did it, but whatever you use it needs to get very hot.) When the wok is smoking, add the rice and stir continuously.

Once the rice is warmed through, add one whisked egg and stir, stir, stir! If your wok is hot enough and you stir quick enough the egg will cook through and form nice little chunks throughout the rice. Once this has happened, take off the heat, add the peas and serve with soy sauce to taste.

Albert was born in the year of the Dragon. People born in the year of the Dragon are to be honoured and respected. But I won't be telling him that!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Free Food is Free Food

It's been a long time hasn't it? Let me explain where I've been...

I started a summer job two weeks ago. I'm working with foreign students who are staying at my university for the summer. I run sports activities, take them on tours around London and dress up as a detective from the fifties. It is tiring. But it is good. Not least because I get all my meals included.

But after nearly two weeks of cafeteria food, I now know why Jamie Oliver began his campaign against school meals. For two weeks, I have had pasta so over cooked it melts on the fork. I have had cheese sandwiches that tastes of butter. I have had chips everyday. One day, I got given three chicken nuggets with those chips for lunch. After being up since 6.30am. And running up and down a playing field all morning...

But it must be worse for the kids. After all, these are children who have come from the countries of Pizza and Ratatouille, and they have been ordering Domino's for the past week.

Tonight, I'm following their lead. Tonight is my night off and I'm making the most of it. Tonight, I'm ordering Chinese.   

Monday, 9 May 2011

Comfort and Food

It is my opinion that there are two types of stress in this world – the kind that makes you want to eat and the kind that makes you feel sick. Recently, I have been experiencing both. I won't bore you all with the details of what I am stressing about. But I will tell you about the food that has been getting me through.

Last week, Albert and I hit the 1 year mark – truly amazing for both of us I think  – and to celebrate, of course I made a meal. A meal he is still raving about might I gloat! And here's the secret – it was one of the easiest things I have ever made...

When we went to Carluccio's for Valentine's day, we ordered the antipasti platter and it was beautiful – Prosciutto; focaccia; a beautiful aubergine and tomato salsa and (our favourite) green beans with garlic and olive oil. No olives – I know it's a travesty for a foodie to hate olives. But there you are. I do.

For our anniversary, I was inspired by Carluccio's simple menu. So I made my own antipasti, with prosciutto, garlic tear and share bread, beautiful Somerset camembert and green beans saut̩ed in olive oil and garlic. It took very little effort РI simply arranged it on the plate nicely. And yet I have had requests for the details of the garlic green beans.

For mains, I did turkey escalope in Parma ham, with a little more camembert and potatoes with chives.  The chives were from my garden. That isn't as posh as it sounds, because for some reason we have chives growing as weeds in our patio. God knows why.

It wasn't the healthiest meal ever. But it was, quite possibly, one of the best. And it took surprisingly little effort to make it.  And I earned some brownie points as well.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Get out in the sun - The British are Barbequing!

Bees fly into my skirt thinking that the flowers are real. Blossom petals fall on my head as I walk through the university halls on my way to work. The smell of charred sausages drifts across the air accompanied by Elvis Costello's unique voice. Summer is officially here; the British are Barbequing.   Of course, in true British weather style, a week later it is now grey and cold. But that snippet of sunshine saw the air hazed with cooking smoke.

Last Saturday, I used the last of my money to buy a couple of disposable BBQs and some frozen lamb burgers from ASDA. With a little help from my friends, we had a feast of burgers, sausages and chicken, all suitably charred, and smothered in a variety of sauces, from mint to mayonnaise. Albert manned the BBQ – something I usually like to do myself, but he saw it as his manly duty to cremate a couple of sausages. One of the BBQs decided to bite the dust after about ten minutes of flickering feebly. The other needed constant wafting with a BBC Olive magazine to keep it alight. And even though the evening was far too chill to enjoy and we ate the food inside, the smell of smoke clung to our clothes.

Despite the somewhat unnecessary work and fuss, I love BBQs. I love them because they are social. This is not a meal for one, made quickly to fill the stomach – this is a meal for many, sweat over and made better by the wait. It is one of those times that we British celebrate food in the same social way as they do on the continent: by inviting neighbours and friends over and arguing over each family's cooking tradition. Should the burgers be just done? Slightly charred? Burnt to represent coal?

I have several recipes for the barbeque: Garlic and rosemary vegetable skewers; chilli and lime prawns; my sister's lemon and thyme lamb (often requested by my friends). Last year for my birthday, I had barbequed mahi mahi fish in olive oil and chilli. Yum!

But a good Porkinson's banger, burnt black, in a white bun with ketchup? Well, that is beautiful too. Imperfect perfection.     

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Savoury Salutations


Hello and welcome to all you kind people who are reading this post. In all honesty, I am not certain what this initial post should be about... Pancake Day has been and gone, Easter is still a little way around the corner. We are in the austere season of lent when there appears to be little to celebrate – and little chance to feast.  But when a holiday is not being pushed down our oesophagus, it leaves plenty of room for food and we can make a commonplace meal a cause for celebration. 

As a kid, I snipped spines in special hedgehog bread; as a teenager, I learnt to make Polish pierogi to my grandmother's recipe; and as a young woman, I make cooked breakfast with my boyfriend on a Sunday morning. 

Albert and I don't currently live together, so it is actually quite rare that we eat together. But lazy Sunday brunch gives us a chance to do so – and often results in a friendly bicker over then amount of oil we use and the lack of (or surplus of) vegetables on the plate. I quite enjoy eating healthily. He enjoys greasy spoons. Our Sunday breakfast can range between a crumpet soaked in egg and lemon thyme,  griddled for a few seconds and served with a little bacon and tomato sauce (one of my recipes, loosely  inspire by a Jamie Oliver recipe)  and a full on fry-up consisting of eggs, bacon, beans and a fried slice (one of his recipes, loosely inspired by a Madness song.) Last Sunday's breakfast was somewhere between the two.

With very little money between us at the moment, I'm having to start getting inventive with my cooking. This morning, I had mushrooms, sausages and eggs from earlier in the week. But unfortunately, I ran out of bread on Friday. And a breakfast without some kind of carbohydrate seemed a bit redundant to me. Hence the invention of the cheesy pancake fry-up. I had eggs. I had flour. I had milk. Pancakes seemed the logical solution. Here's the recipe:

1 egg

½ pint of milk

About 150g of flour (I guess. It was a bit thicker than English pancake mix.)


Wisk up the ingredients, cook in a really hot pan with a little bit of oil. Add the cheese before the first flip.


The original plan was to wrap up the other ingredients in the pancakes, but my non-stick frying pan appears to have learnt how to stick, so we just had it as a side order. It was really quite lovely – like an English crepe.