I can’t really remember the first time I had hummus. Being raised in a Deep South commuter town, whose main highway was hemmed in with strip malls, Burger Kings and Dairy Queens, I seriously doubt it was there. We did have - and it is still there today – a lone Greek restaurant, but I only ever remember the ubiquitous but very pleasant Greek salad, with its starchy ‘garnish’ of yogurty potato salad as a sop to American tastes. But hummus? I don’t think so. This was the era of aerobics and low fat after all. If I had been more adventurous, and less figure-conscious, I would no doubt have found the hummus and been hooked from the get go. Restaurant hummus is always far superior to that we can make at home. Or, so I thought. Continue reading
Last post’s long and winding road to broth was probably a step too far for some of you. Although extremely gorgeous with the toasted Asian aromatics and the lightly seared vegetables, I have inserted into the post a welcome sentence, in bold: If you want to take a shortcut you may skip the first two steps and just pop everything in the pot as per a ‘normal’ stock. So, if you looked at the Really Useful Asian Broth recipe and thought “stuff this,” maybe I can persuade you to reconsider. Or at least read down to the tamarind meatball bit. Continue reading
Like you, I think I am pretty well up on world cuisines. This is despite being more of an armchair traveller these days – at least to on the pulse, exotic or slightly dangerous places. My favourite holiday destination is Cornwall. Not quite cutting edge. Or dangerous. Unless you count being bitten by a crab while dangling a pole over the harbour wall at Padstow. Ouch!
I am lucky that, over the years, my adopted city of Edinburgh has transformed from a culinary backwater of scampi in a basket (if you were lucky), overdone salmon (again, if you were lucky), and truly awful Chinese takeaways, to a capital city hosting not only a clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants, but also many affordable eateries, showcasing stunning Scottish produce (write to me if you want some names). Continue reading
As I write, Hurricane Sandy is set to bear down on the east coast of America. From coastal New Jersey to slightly more northerly Massachusetts, pretty much everything has shut down for the time being. This Frankenstorm, with its spooky Halloween timing, full moon and clash of warm and cold weather systems, has seen Presidential electioneering suspended (those annoying campaign phone calls will doubtless continue) and transport and public services halted. For goodness sake, even Wall Street has been abandoned. But I daresay, barring serious structural damage, trick or treaters will be out in force come Wednesday. Continue reading
There are some people who don’t like leftovers. That may even be you. It is sometimes me: as I am not a teen-aged boy I don’t understand the appeal of leftover pizza. But leftovers make sense. Make enough at one meal to do for another: whether chilled and eaten the next day, or wrapped, labelled and tucked in the freezer,
never to be seen again to be eaten later.
I do fight my irrational inner distaste of leftovers, tucking into leftover stew or curry (which admittedly always taste better the next day) and forking through salads made from leftover grains with added bits and bobs. All very worthy, time-sparing and cost-conscious. But, hmm, how do I put it? A bit dull? Yes, a bit dull, at least sometimes. I think I might not be alone in this. That’s where this recipe comes in. But first a confession of sorts. Continue reading
Remember when you were young and impressionable? When you would shriek in horror as your uncle presented you with ‘your nose’ between his fingers – aka his pokey-through thumb? Or, you would glibly give over all of your pocket money to your smirking brother to collectively buy something ‘really great’ for Mum’s birthday (because “two allowances are better than one. Mum deserves the best”)? Mum of course got what she always got, a sweaty box of Russell Stover candy and a hastily drawn card, while brother suddenly was in possession of a new skateboard.* Hmm. Or how about when, after an indulgent day at say, Florida’s Sunken Gardens, you would badger your exasperated parents for a $2 can of Florida Sunshine?
How could we have fallen for all that? I mean, really. Of course today’s children are far too sophisticated to be duped. Or are they? Continue reading
Recently, on a particularly dreary day, I found myself flicking wistfully through the travel section of a broadsheet newspaper. As I sat on the sofa, slumped in my none-too-glam trackie bottoms and fleece-lined Crocs I tortured myself with page after page of unobtainable ‘bourgeois’ – which I believe is Russian for ‘jealous-making’ – holiday destinations. I ogled double-page spread after double-page spread of nut-brown bodies frolicking on pristine, deserted beaches, drooled over photos of towel-clad bodies being pummeled by tiny ladies with big muscles, and scanned ads promising, variously, views of the Northern lights, ‘big game’ and Alpine meadows in bloom. All while sitting listening to hail zing off the roof. And contemplating the wind shredding more twigs and branches from our scarily-close oak tree.
Well wouldn’t you know, all of this holiday lusting and tree-paranoia made me hungry. Continue reading
I want to ask you something a bit personal: are you a snacker? The reason I’m asking is that I am, and I want to know if I am talking to likeminded people. I want reassurance that you are not part of a super breed of disciplined, shiny-haired, perfect, and frankly annoying people who are never hungry between meals. Or worse still (for me), get hungry but ignore and override the tummy rumbles that have lesser folk (that’ll be me) either grabbing whatever’s handy and not actually toxic, or fantasising about inhaling a family-sized packet of crisps/chocolate/yogurt-covered nuts/apples (okay, that last one is not realistic). If you are one of these perfect folk, I envy you. Now go and read my tofu recipes and come back later when I post a main meal. The rest of you Norma(n) Normals, I want to have a brief chat about snacking. Just brief, mind you. I get hungry after a few paragraphs and need to go for a forage in the cupboards. Continue reading
Here we are in the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Years’ Eve. Our wallets are light, our bellies are full and those of us not back to work are eeking out the days in a haze of sofa-slumped telly watching, bobbing in a sea of sweetie wrappers. Or so the newspaper columnists would have us. Perhaps on Christmas Day itself, or more likely Boxing Day (December 26), this might be true, but I seriously doubt many of us enjoy an extended wallow in the calorie and sloth-induced torpor of the festive season. If you are used to a good diet, modest alcohol consumption, and a bit of exercise you soon get itching to break out the steamer or whap on the running shoes. Or at least not eat your body weight in leftover ham and roast potatoes. Continue reading
As promised, I am here with the first of my healthy festive food ideas for sharing and keeping. Today’s little recipe is so tasty you will probably make it but end up keeping it for yourself. No shame in that. Even so, this more-ish, healthy treat is extremely easy to put together; a second batch to pop into decorated cellophane bags or cute jars will not be a chore. If you have a reasonably well-stocked wholefood kitchen you probably won’t even need to brave a trip to the shops. As a gift idea perhaps pair this Munch Mix with a batch of my Lower-fat Granola (add some dark chocolate chunks or chips to amp it up), or you could put it in a large Kilner-type jar with a vintage spoon. We are using a traditional Chinese spoon to self-serve out of our nearly depleted jar. Note to self: make a fresh batch soon.
And speaking of giving homemade presents. Some of you may be thinking it seems a bit cheap, that spending a bit of dosh is expected. Well, my feeling is that it shows that you care enough about the recipient to spend time and creative effort. I won’t give homemade gifts to everyone (I would if I had more time), and my family at least will get a few bought things too, but it feels good to put together an array of ingredients and produce something to share. Unfortunately I am no cop at decorating and packaging things, but I hope my modest culinary efforts will gloss over the lack of visual finesse. I don’t want it to look too slick and production-line, now do I?
Over the next few posts I will offer you my rhubarb and cranberry chutney, a Middle Eastern twist on chocolate bark, a fool-proof funky mayonnaise with accompanying wholegrain mustard, my favourite brownie recipe, and a few ideas on packaging up herbal tea and cocoa. I also hope to give you ideas for cookbooks to buy for yourself or a foodie friend, and fun but functional kitchen gift paraphernalia recommendations, including an exclusive peek at a very good friend’s great new textile range. But for now, here’s my take on an idea I got years ago from the American Institute for Cancer Research website. It was a keeper. I hope this one is too. Continue reading