Archive for April, 2008

A RECIPE: Spicy, tangy and herby chickpea salad

I think that for most people, chickpeas are one of those foods that fit into the category of take them or leave them. Certainly my taste buds always take them but my digestive tract would rather wish I’d leave them. My view is that, digestive problems aside, chickpeas are rather like tofu. All on their own they lack panache but they benefit from being flavour-leeches, tossing them with the right ingredients makes them taste, well, tasty. They also have an uncanny ability to undergo metamorphosis…chop them, bash them, mash them or puree them and they’re like caterpillars turning into butterflies. Although, I’m not sure that caterpillars should ever be used in the same paragraph as the word food, so I take that comparison back. Anyway, you get the point.

Far too frequently they are overlooked as simply the main component in hummus. And though I credit hummus rather highly in the rankings of culinary inventions, it’s really just the starting line for these beany numbers. There are plenty other ways to use them-salads, falafal, burgers, curries, soup and ground into flour they can be used to make baked goods* and breads. And unlike other ingredients, such as let’s say: Marmite, they actually take on other flavours rather than taking over. That’s not a diss against Marmite, which also holds a place very close to my heart and a jar of natural crunchy peanut butter.

I’ve used tinned chickpeas rather than dried in this recipe because during the week I’m not a very organised person when it comes to planning dinner at night- let alone the night before. On the weekends though, I would opt for the dried ones. Not because I think it really effects the flavour of the chickpeas (of which we’ve already established there’s not much of) but because it’s rather fun watching shriveled-up dried things grow into plump juicy things (feel free to make your own joke). But you can take your pick, bearing in mind that what you weigh out in dried will double in volume once soaked. What is true though is that this tastes even better after it’s sat around at room temperature sucking up the flavours of all the other ingredients. If when all is said and done these still don’t excite you then I suggest you throw in some cubed feta.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Spicy, tangy and herby chickpea salad’

Welcome to the UK

Welcome to the UK, please enjoy our 30 minute sky tour circling London.

Welcome to Heathrow airport, please enjoy the 20 minute tour of Terminal 3 and feel grateful that you didn’t land in terminal 5.

Welcome to Terminal 3, the escalator is broken but lugging your bag up the stairs will be a good warm-up for the 3.6 miles you still have to walk to get to immigration.

Welcome to Heathrow immigration, now that we are so friendly with Europe you can enjoy bonding with your European counterparts in the half-hour queue. If you are from outside the EU carry on through!

Welcome to the London Underground, when traveling, please purchase an Oyster card to avoid imminent bankruptcy and be thankful that you still have money in sterling.

Welcome to the Piccadilly line, please ignore the 10 minute unexplained pause in the middle of the tunnel- this is a perfect opportunity for you to put your makeup on.

Welcome to London Liverpool Street station, going somewhere? Who needs their life savings anyway?

Welcome to Ipswich, actually you’re probably not welcome around these parts, so get out quick

Welcome to Levington, Suffolk- take big cleansing breaths on a long march through the couuntryside in your wellies and then dunk digestive biscuits into the finest-made cup of PG-tips in the world and realise that you really do miss home after all.

A RECIPE: Smoked salmon & cream cheese spirals

What I adore about smoked salmon is that you can buy it and eat it the whole year round. There’s no need to fret about its availability or that it’s not the right time of year to serve it because it’s always the right time to eat it; hot summers day, Christmas Eve or other wise- it just works. Which is more than can be said for the average tomato. It’s reliable- easy to buy, easy to freeze and easy to serve and nothing gives me more pleasure in life than the use of the words reliability and easy. And as if these two delightful words weren’t reasons enough for you to rush out and buy some- there really are more ways to serve it than on buttered brown bread with lemon wedges (no offense, mum).

The recipe below is of course just one way (which still involves a bread-substitute and lemon) but there are multitudes of variations you can play around with. Try using mascarpone, change the herbs up, swap the tortillas for nori rolls or bake them as spring rolls (mmm- now there’s an idea I might have to try!). Perhaps the best part of this variation on the traditional is that they look far more beautiful than scraps of smoked pink fish on brown bread (again, no offense, mum).

I have given quantities for the recipe below- but it’s likely that you will want to make more or less so the best rule of thumb is that for every tortilla wrap (which makes roughly 5 spirals) you will need 50g/2 oz of salmon and 50g/2 oz cream cheese and in terms of amount of herbs, lemon and seasoning to add to the cheese- i’m leaving that part up to your taste buds.
Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Smoked salmon & cream cheese spirals’

Give up your seat or you might not get dinner

If your life’s calling keeps you stationed in a kitchen then chances are that you work long hours starting or ending in the wee early hours of the morning. The only time that you’ll sit down is when you get home and launch yourself onto the nearest chair/sofa/bed and demand a foot rub from the nearest breathing being. Burns and finger nicks may be the most distinguishable hazards of the trade but they’re most likely on the lower end of your long-winded list of daily maladies. Rather, it’s your swollen feet, aching back, calf pains and your ever-expanding collection of spider veins that your spouses/flatmates are most accustomed to hearing about. Sure, there are shoes and rubber mats that can to help ease some of your afflictions but these seem to lose their effect after eight hours of standing- and eight hours constitutes a half day for most kitchen queens. There is a reason why all cooks have vodka in the freezer.

And thus is why I’m appealing to all non-standing professionals, who spend most of their sedentary days sat crunched over a computer screen to have a look around on your commute home for bleary-eyed cooks hankering for a pew.  Flour prints on a backside, a lingering aroma of garlic and onions,  particles of food in the hair, particles of food on their face, a burn mark on the wrist or plasters on a finger are all visual signs that the person eying-up the same seat as you- deserves it more than you. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that as well as the standard handicapped and elderly seats- their ought to be designated chefs seats on the subway with a placard reading “give up this seat or you might not get dinner”. Just something to consider.

A RECIPE: Turnip soup

Smooth and creamy

I was a little late off the mark this year. All winter I complained bitterly of the cold, longed for the days when I could pluck tomatoes off the vine again and yet for the first winter in the history of my memory I didn’t make soup, at all, all winter, no soup. What was I thinking?! I don’t even know what I ate for lunch all these months in the back of the garage-style work kitchen, with the doors wide open and the cold air blazing in- but i’m sure it wasn’t soup. Of course last Saturday presented the first true day of spring as far as the sun was concerned (running outside in a tee-shirt- hurrah!) and there I was finally making a decision to post a soup recipe.

So, I’m feeling rather short changed because it was really only a mere three weeks ago that my soup craze started and very swiftly onwards I’ll be putting the pans away and searching my cupboards for a salad bowl. In truth, it wasn’t even me who kicked off the soup mania but a colleague of mine, Allen, who happens to be quite masterful in soups and sauces production. We had ordered turnip greens for a cooking segment and had ended up with a bag of turnips (and when I say bag, I mean 50 some turnips). And so we made soup. Lots of turnip soup, and then this led to potato, corn chowder, chicken and vegetable, cream of asparagus and wild mushroom- just to name a few. I’ve been slurping soup everyday- sometimes twice a day, trying to make up for all this lost time and I still have stacks of containers in my freezer!

It was the turnip soup out of all of them though, that really caught my attention- mostly because I’d never eaten it let alone thought to make it. I was instantly captivated by it’s pure creamy white colour, it’s delicate smooth texture, it’s indisputably alluring scent of butter…..

You see, Allen trained in France and so his soups tend to be of the more luxurious genre and less of the weight watchers. When I stood, mouth gaping at the block of butter he was about to add to the pan he looked back at me quite officially and said: “If you want to eat a salad, eat a salad.” I suggested as kindly as I could muster that maybe, he could cut the amount in half-“I’m not too keen on making a trip to the morgue today for death by butter. Reluctantly, he removed a small part of the butter and so it was, turnip soup a la buerre- and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Turnip soup’

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