I love colour. And I love baking. A couple of years back I decided that making rainbow cupcakes would be an excellent use of an evening. And it was. I used a regular cupcake recipe, then divided the batter in to 6 ramekins. (Yes, I know there are 7 colours in the rainbow strictly speaking). Using food colouring I dyed each tiny pot of batter a different colour of the rainbow. Then I set about filling the cupcake cases. A tiny amount of purple in the bottom of each case, put in and spread using a teaspoon. Then a tiny amount of blue, applied even more carefully so it doesn’t mix with the purple. Then green, then yellow, then orange and then red.
There is something deeply joyful about gathering food in that you were responsible (in part!) for growing. But up until recently I wasn’t living in a house big enough for doing things properly in the garden and, of course, there’s always the lack of time as an excuse. More reasonably, I feel that as a renter, I wasn’t too keen on ploughing (!) lots of time into setting up a garden when I wasn’t sure how long I’d be there.
However, I was given a ‘grow your own chillies’ set a few years ago, and so I did – and it was not just easy, but rewarding. You can grow chillies in small pots on a sunny windowsill, and they don’t need a huge amount of care either – in fact, one of the most common problems with chillies is overwatering them.
Right now it’s a lovely time of the year, with trees transformed by their new leaves and flowers popping up everywhere in the woods near where I live. And added to that, to see these new plants poking their way out of the soil and going on their way to becoming potentially big plants with lots of fruit is exciting!
This year I was given another set of chillies to grow. It’s possible to keep chillies alive over the winter, but not easy and this winter was a bit complex having moved around a lot. But anyway, we’ve got three different types of chillies – from left to right Cayenne, Jalapeno and Scotch Bonnet. I am aware that Scotch Bonnet in particular are very spicy, so that’s rather exciting! Clearly Cayenne aren’t doing so well, but we’ll give it time.
I’ll keep you up to date as to the condition of the chillies as they grow – and what sort of things I use them in. Right now, the plan is potentially for some chilli olive oil.
I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to food. Sometimes I just want to get meals out of the way, and eat really quickly – and I don’t care what I eat. This is often the case for breakfast on weekdays, where I just want to get on with work (but get properly fuelled) – so I usually go for an oatmeal-in-a-mug arrangement.
At other times I just want to take things slowly and put the meal together properly – and it doesn’t matter how long it takes to cook. This usually applies on the weekends and sometimes in the evening too; when I want something satisfying, tasty, and interesting to eat.
So there’s often a trade off between packet-sauces and ingredients-based sauces. A typical example would be a stir-fry sauce: a brownish-liquid with a claim to be oyster sauce or plum sauce or hoisin sauce. I honestly couldn’t identify them on a taste test.
However, putting them together from ingredients is much more satisfying. So yesterday my meal plan subscription (they provide fresh ingredients and you do the cooking – just not the deciding or the shopping) gave me what was essentially a stir-fry. It was a really complex affair with cornflour on the beef and all sorts of other preparation, but the key thing here was the sauce. It had a bunch of ingredients:
- Light soy sauce
- Chinese 5 spice
- Muscvado sugar
- Beef stock
- Squeeze of lime juice
How much better is that than a store-bought packet! You have good control as to what goes in (let’s face it, who has read an ingredients list and understood every single ingredient?), and there is more likelihood of having individual characteristics of each of the ingredients coming through. So rather than being a gloopy generic flavour, you get hints of lime and the five spices and saltiness and so on. And it taught me a little bit about sauces too, something I don’t know enough about. It was completely worth the extra 10 or so minutes it took to assemble the ingredients rather than open a packet.
So I resolve: next time I make a stir fry, I’m going to look into making it from scratch.
My friend is coming round for afternoon tea but she has recently gone gluten free. I can’t go to any of my go to recipes and I don’t have any gluten free flour in the cupboard. I have a scroll through some websites and come across a nice looking gluten free lemon drizzle cake. Scanning my eyes down the list of ingredients one thing jumps out at me – mashed potato! Mashed potato – in a cake – is this a thing?! When did this become a thing? Potato cakes as a savoury item, sure, but in a sweet cake? Well, always (or perhaps just sometimes) one for adventure I decide to give it a go.
“Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”
I remember the first time I realised the power of tea. I was thirteen and feeling sad. I made myself a cup of tea, sat down at the kitchen table and slowly sipped on it. As the hot liquid made its way to my stomach, something happened: I felt comforted; I felt calmed; I realised that maybe things weren’t so bad after all.
I think you are fabulous. You create two of my favourite biscuits: the chocolate hobnob with all its crumbly oaty chocolatey goodness; and the chocolate caramel digestive, which is decadently gooey, tasty and crunchy.
I have a suggestion for you, which I think could make you very rich indeed (richer than you already are, of course). Introducing the love child of these two most excellent biscuits: The Chocolate Caramel Hobnob. Seriously, why does it not exist?! What’s not to love? I’ve been talking about this for years (amongst other things) and I believe the time has finally come to bring this wonderful idea to your attention.
I would, of course, be willing to help out with any taste testings.
PS – everyone I have mentioned this to thinks it’s a great idea: the nation is right behind you!
I absolutely love Japanese food – when done properly. So when I am given food from Japan, I am usually excited, unless it’s Nattō. In this case I was given something I’d never had before – an aubergine-based meal. Literally the main ingredient was aubergine.
This may not sound that crazy to you, but until now an aubergine has never been an exciting thing for me – I’ll eat it, mostly happily, but it has a slight bitterness to it which is just a tad unpleasant and the texture can be a bit unusual. So all the better that I try it out and give it a chance to win me over, as I love doing things with ingredients that I’m not used to.
Today I tried some Tabasco flavour jelly beans, as made by what is probably my favourite brand, Jelly Belly. In fact, I was given these as a present for Christmas and, digging through a bag, happened to find them a couple of days ago. Being rather unusual I thought I’d record my thoughts on them. (more…)