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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Crispy Duck Salad with Goat’s Cheese, Apples, Pecans and Sour Cherries


It’s been so hot, I can hardly think.

But then given that summer visits us, oh once in about 6 years, it seems terribly churlish to complain.

So I'm not going to.

Instead I'm going to tell you what I think are the very best-est things about this gorgeous summer...and it’s a long and lovely list…
… cloudless azure skies, golden beams of sunshine, the lazy breeze against your cheek - cool and clean, flowers, flowers, flowers - everywhere in rainbow bloom, birds chirping, children laughing, the rolling hills of England, lush and green and absolutely breathtaking...

And...

Cherries.

Yup.

Cherries. Those fat, plump, lively, burgundy coloured jewels of summer – they are my absolute favourite of the red fruits!

And now? At this time of year, when the English crop is ripe and rich, it’s just about as perfectly perfect a time to go on an all-out cherry binge!!

Which is exactly what I’m doing.
And suggesting you do too!

Because with their sublime aroma and intense sweetness and glossy good looks, I can hardly think of anything more bingeworthy!

And of course you can eat them fresh – there’s nothing ever like the fresh stuff, picked, washed and straight in the mouth, bursting with flavour and natural goodness – but if you’re whimsical like me and want some excitement in your life, try putting them in something different.

Like really different.
Like way out there.

Just to make life more exciting.
Which is always a good thing.
Or a great thing.
Depending on your perspective.
I’d personally go for great, but I’m optimistic like that.
And also very bored, if you haven’t figured that out already.

Anyhoooo, my cherries are going in a salad. Not a fruit salad (booooring) but a salad-salad.
See, its V. Imp. to make salads interesting. Especially in the summer when one craves the cool, fresh, lightness of a salad and you end up eating so much of the stuff, there's serious danger in getting mind-numbingly repetitive. And honestly I can’t think of anything more dull.

So yes – every self respecting woman (or man) (I don't discriminate) ought to be picky about their salads. Take me, for example:  I only eat salads where there are lots of different things going on: some kind of green stuff, something salty, something tart, something nutty, something crunchy. And always a little hint of sweetness.

So I’m doing cherries with game meat. In a salad.
Because its summer time and one must eat salad. Because the cherries this season are among the best I’ve ever tasted. And because game meat and cherries are simply meant to be.
I’m using dried cherries today – ruby red and tart, a perfect foil for the rich, aromatic, crispy, salty sins of the flesh…

Voila! this is my Crispy Duck Salad with Goat’s Cheese, Apples, Pecans and Sour Cherries.

Mmm. Mmm. So good that I want to marry this salad. It’s pretty much everything I would ever want in my life.

It’s funny actually that a lot of people I come across in foodie-land seem intimidated by the thought of cooking duck. I don’t quite know why? Perhaps there’s still some element of the exotic about it…but believe me - there's a world of intense flavor to be discovered when you choose duck instead of taking the tried-and-true path with chicken. Richer, darker, tastier – the complexity in texture and flavour you get with duck just doesn’t compare.

And if it’s flavour we’re all after, it doesn’t get much better than this – this is a beautiful, delightful, succulent and perfectly yummy dish, guys, one that you will really love.

It’s different.
It’s super duper simple to make.
It’s visually beautiful.
And well, of course it’s got to be yummy, else it wouldn’t be on yummyami, would it?

Btw – someone once asked me if yummyami meant that I was implying that I (ami) was yummy or that my recipes are yummy.

I refused to answer that.
Semantics. Sigh.

Oh by the way, if you’re vegetarian, you can leave out the duck.
But if you’re not, you can not.
I don’t mean you can not, as in you can’t.
You can.
You can do whatever you want – it’s a free world.
But more as in you don’t need to.
If you don’t want to, that is.

Anyway, here’s what you need:

-          ½ duck breast, sliced into thin strips
-          1 tbsp sesame oil
-          2 tbsp soy sauce
-          160g salad greens
-          2 green apples, cored and sliced
-          40g salted pecans
-          150g dried sour cherries
-          70g Goats cheese
-          1 tbsp dijon mustard
-          1 tbsp maple syrup
-          ¼ tsp paprika
-          1 tsp apple cider vinegar
-          2 tbsp olive oil
-          Salt and pepper, to taste

Here’s how you do it:

For the crispy duck, marinate the duck breast in sesame oil and soy sauce for 3-4 minutes. Then heat a frying pan until hot and fry the duck strips until crisp and golden-brown
For the dressing – mix Dijon, maple syrup, paprika vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake well.
Separately, mix greens, apples pecans, and goats cheese into a large salad bowl. Top generously with the sour cherries. Add dressing to taste, mix well and tuck in.

So good I can’t speak.
Which is why I write…
(if you’ve ever wondered)

Friday, 26 July 2013

Summer Bruschetta


Soooooo…
I have a confession to make.
You know the whole “I’m going to be a kinder, gentler, more patient person?”
Well...
That lasted all of one day.
Today, I’m back to being selfish, impatient and rude.
Life’s more fun like that, don’t you think?
Just kidding folks, just kidding!

I mean, you all know what a sweet, cherubic angel I am, the very picture of kindness and gentler than Grace herself…
But when the kid woke this morning and asked for “pasta” for breakfast, I had to seriously give it my all to stop from flipping like a pancake on a smoking griddle. Know what I mean?

Anyway, we’re making Bruschetta today. Which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe.
So if you’re looking for complicated cooking folks – come back later. Like in 3 months. Which is when it will get cooler. I hope. Because it’s 34 degrees and I can’t do complicated in 34 degrees. I can barely do anything in 34 degrees. TBH, the only place I like 34 degrees is on the beach with a Margherita in my hand. In London? Not so much. London, you see, is not built for 34 degrees. The trains are stifling, the buses are stifling, the supermarket is stifling. I hardly know how things stay alive in there. Not alive alive, but you know what I mean. Anyway, to make a long story short – if you’re wondering how all of this is relevant – I can’t step into a supermarket without feeling like I’m going to collapse in less than 5 minutes straight onto a bed of curly lettuce...
Which basically means I have no ingredients with which to cook the complicated stuff.  For supplies these days, I’m relying on my friendly neighbourhood Waitrose delivery guy, but then when I order online I do only the basic stuff – you know, bread, eggs, milk, tomatoes. The complicated stuff I gotto pick out myself. I just do. It’s written.

So therefore we’re making Bruschetta today. Which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe.
(Did I say that already?)

By the way, on a side note, I must tell you that while London can’t cope with 34 degrees, the British can’t really cope with 34 degrees either. They’ve all gone a little mental. I mean there are guys at work wearing hot pants and flip flops. And I am SO not exaggerating. I’ll take a picture one of these days, seriously, and show you. I can’t comment on the women, mostly because there’s like five women in the entire office. Which is why I work where I work. I like men. Yeah baby. Just kidding, just kidding. But yes, there are really only like five women on my entire trading floor. One of whom is me. And trust me, I’m not wearing hot pants and flip flops to work. Though maybe I should one of these days. Just for giggles. No? Bad idea? Ok, bad idea.

Anyway, another reason why we’re making Bruschetta today, (which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe) is that its gonna take me a bit of time to get back into the swing of things after my hiatus. And on that note – thanks TONS to the folks who wrote in about how much they missed this nonsense I spew. Seriously, thank you. I missed writing this nonsense I spew too, but I promise you my hiatus (I like that word, I think I'm going to use it all day) was for a very valid reason. Not the usual “I got busy” and “work’s been too hard” and “I’m so tired” stuff.  I had a truly valid reason. Which I’ll tell you later because I think we’ve already gone too much off track on this fine and sunny morning.

So, I think it’s about time to get to what we’re really doing here today.
The answer to which – if you had ANY doubt at all – is that we’re making Bruschetta. Which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe.

But stay with me. Some good things are about to happen to you very soon.
Because, Bruschetta is amazing.
Just amazing.
It’s the very essence of summer.
A mouthful of tomatoes and garlic and basil – all cool and fresh and utterly delightful.
Words cannot express how refreshing this is on a hot summer’s day.
NOT more refreshing than a Margherita on the beach…
Sorry.
But close.
Really. Try it and you’ll see how soon it becomes an integral part of your emotional well-being.

Here’s what you need:

- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 75g red cherry tomatoes
- 75g yellow cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- Handful of basil leaves
- Pinch of cayenne pepper, for a little kick
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 whole French baguette or Ciabatta loaf – basically any bread with a flattish, open surface and a crisp, floury crust.

Here’s how you do it:

In a small pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add crushed garlic and stir until golden and aromatic. I love garlic. I absolutely do. It's one of those things that can make anything taste good. Remember that, seriously. The next time you're cooking and you taste what you're cooking and go "ho hum, I think this needs a little something" - try garlic. Please. I'm telling you. 

Anyway, set it aside and allow to cool. And save the extra olive oil you've cooked it in please - we need it!

In another bowl, halve the red and yellow tomatoes lengthwise and combine with basil, vinegar, cayenne, salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil & garlic mixture on top and mix through thoroughly.

Now cut the bread into slices in a way that maximises surface area, like 1cm thick. Add some more olive oil to a pan and brown the bread slices on both sides. Yum yum yum.  There's really nothing on earth like the smell of baking or browning bread. It makes my head spin. Anyway, we're done. Mainly because now I need to eat. So, to serve, spoon the tomato mixture over the slices of bread and dig in.

Told you it was a super simple recipe. 
Low on effort, high on taste
No time prepping = lots of time eating
Just the way I like it!

Cheerio folks!
See ya soon xx

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese. Just Because...

Something happened to me today.
Something extraordinary.
And wonderful.
And permanent.
And yet it happened in the most ordinary of circumstances.
Which is probably why it’s worth writing about. Or maybe it isn’t. Let me know?
So, I was driving my son to school this morning as I always do. We were taking the same route, at the same time, in the same car. All perfectly normal. All perfectly mundane.
When suddenly a small voice from the back seat pipes up: “Mama, you’re coming back later? You’re coming back for me?”
And I almost crash my car.
Because momentarily I find I have lost control, hit, by the poignancy of the question; the sheer simplicity with which it is uttered.
My little boy, my child, this precious piece of my heart, doubts – actually doubts – that I will come back for him?
I choke back emotion and say quickly in my cheeriest voice: “Of course my darling. Of course I’m coming back for you – I want my Ranbir back!”
I take a peak then, secretly, in my rear-view mirror and see his little face, tense with anticipation, relax into a smile. He makes an almost inaudible happy squealing sound, and the knot in my throat just tightens further.
And it dawns on me – right then, right there, in the middle of the road, stuck behind a garbage truck – just how easy it is to be selfish in this complex and ever-evolving saga that is the parent-child relationship.
And when you strip away the nonsense, how easy I have it, compared to him.
I'm not, by any means, denying how hard motherhood - or parenthood - is. Of course it is. It’s the hardest thing most of us have ever done - the unending second-guessing, the self-doubt, the debating on end, over choices pondered and decisions made – and then that defining question: Am I a good mother (or father?) How do I really know? (You don't!)
And yet we do it, parenting, each in our own way.
For it is that one thing in life that is learned but can never be taught.
But still. Despite this. Despite all of this, today I realise how easy I have it.
How easy it is to view the world from the lens of an adult – all powerful, all-knowing.
How easy it is to stand in that position of power and demand that a child – innocent, ingenuous, all-trusting – obey you blindly.
How easy it is to underestimate their emotions and bark orders at them: “eat, sleep, go to the toilet, come here, go there, stop whining, do this, do that, play with your toys, tidy up your toys, we’re going out, we’re going back home.”
And how difficult. No, how utterly impossible, inconceivable even, it would be for me to be in this place that he is in right now.
This place where his entire existence rests on the trust he’s placed on me, his father, his little world, to be there for him, to look out for him, to protect him. This place where everything he does, his every action, is essentially out of his control. This place where he never really knows – with certainty – when he will be fed next, when he will be asked to sleep or wake or dance or play. When he will be left with the nanny, when he will be taken along. When he will be cuddled. Or kissed. Or shouted at. And why?
And – at the deepest, darkest core of it - this place he's at, where he is unsure, still – if I will, if I intend to, If I want to come back for him.
And I marvel at the essence of it all.
Because - old or young, three or thirty three - we are really all the same. And Ranbir - in his own way - has done nothing more than to have asked that eternal question, the one we grapple with from the day we are born to the day we die: Am I loved?
And so, with that, just those two simple questions posed to me by a three year old from the back-seat of my car, I find myself touched – profoundly. And I resolve to be a kinder, gentler, more patient human being.
Because that’s what this little person expects.
Because that’s what this little person deserves.
Because that’s what being a mother means.
And so it’s Spaghetti Bolognese tonight.
Because he loves it
And I hate it
I mean, face it – there’s absolutely nothing I can say to talk up the nutritional value of Spaghetti Bolognese. There’s  meat. And there’s carbs. Lots of it. And… ummm, yep, that’s it. Ok fine, I put carrots and real tomatoes in my version – but if you’re shaking your head and smiling to yourself right now, you’re absolutely right – who am I kidding?!
And so, it’s a dish I have vowed to keep out of my kitchen and off my son’s plate. But sometimes you have to reverse the roles and do what they love.
And really while nothing would make me happier than for my child to live on a diet of broccoli and green beans, nothing would make him happier than Spaghetti Bolognese.
And so Spaghetti Bolognese it is.
Just to see the sparkle in his eyes
Just to see the smile on his face
Just to hear the sound of his laughter
Because that’s what being a mother means
Because I love him
Because I want him to know it
Because...
Here’s what you need:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 whole red onion, diced
- 4 grated carrots
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 800g chopped fresh tomatoes (depending on the size of the tomatoes)
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1kg lean minced turkey (or lamb or beef)
- 2 large glasses of red wine (yes, yes, it’s really ok but if you’re that picky, just  skip) (don’t then be asking me how my child sleeps through the night…)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (2 if you like it spicy)
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp dried basil flakes
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- Drizzle balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 800g dried spaghetti
- Lots of freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Here’s how you do it:
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and garlic and cook until softened. Increase the heat and add in the minced meat. Cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the carrot mixture.
Now, pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third. Reduce heat and throw in oregano, basil and bay leaves.  Now add the fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire and balsamic vinegar and stir well while the mixture heats.
Season well with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer the Bolognese sauce over a gentle heat for 30 mins to 1½ hours, whatever you need, until it's rich and thickened.
Serve with Spaghetti and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Yeah – there’s a reason they love it J

Friday, 26 April 2013

Iron Man's Food


So I saw Iron Man last night. 

On screen that is. Not in the flesh. If I'd seen him in the flesh, I wouldn't be here right now. I'd be on some hospital bed in an ecstatic swooned-out state.

But no, quite sadly, I'm still here.

But I saw Iron Man.
A.k.a. Tony Stark. 
A.k.a. Robert Downey Jr. 
A.k.a. The peak, pinnacle and zenith of absolute yummyliciousness.

Marry me?
Please?

Seriously though. Men don’t come this sexy these days.
If you find ‘em, go grab ‘em I say.
I did :)
Ha!

Still. Despite an admittedly sexy husband, if you want me to bare my soul to you, I won’t lie: I do love Iron Man. I mean, what on earth is he doing with Pepper Potts? And who’s called Pepper anyway? Pepper belongs in my food blog, right up there with Salt. 
While I (IMHO) belong with Iron Man.

Ya falla?

Anyway, see I’m not one of those Superhero crazy types. You know, unlike Sexy Sid. Now, Sexy Sid would marry Batman, Superman, and all the Avengers put together if he could. Seriously.
Now, I don’t quite see the appeal in this motley crew. Besides Scarlett J that is (now, Scarlett J, anyone would be willing to marry). I mean, they’re cool and all. And they have 12-packs and 14-packs. And big, strong arms. Besides Scarlett J that is. Scarlett J has other things. Nice things. Anyway. So, yes they're all that. And they save the world. Which is most commendable, all of it. But have I ever wanted to marry them? Nooooo…

But Iron Man? A.k.a. Beautiful, Balbo-sporting Tony Stark? Famous, powerful, rich, heroic, arrogant, charming and oozing sex appeal like a bottle of Manuka honey turned upside down? I mean – come on folks!

Anyway, I won’t give the movie away - (I’m many things, but I’m not a spoilsport!) – but I will say that if there was one scene in the movie that endeared me to IM more than ever before (not that I really needed an excuse), it was the one where, presumed dead, he’s actually alive, taking shelter in somebody’s garage in snow-bound Tennessee. Jarvis has (temporarily) conked, despair fills the air, the snowflakes fall fast and furious and IM needs to pick himself up and get back on the horse (in a manner of speaking). It is in this – this moment of need then – that he asks for (among other less important things):

A TUNA SANDWICH.

Yup! You’ll heard me! A Tuna Sandwich. 
A Tuna Sandwich is what The Iron Man wants in his moment of darkness. 

And with that?
He has me at Hello.

Because the Tuna Sandwich is the bomb.
The Tuna Sandwich is a legend unto itself.
Nothing beats a Tuna Sandwich done right. And I mean, nothing.

Now, here’s the thing, people. I’m a straight-talking, direct kinda gal and I say it as it is. So, here it is, plain and simple:

America: While I don’t understand your gun laws and you speak funny, and you spend way too much time debating issues that are better left to people to sort out in their bedrooms (I mean, really), here’s the thing: No one, and I mean, No one does a sandwich like you.

I really miss your sandwiches, I do.
That wholesome, hearty bread, filled to the brim with any number of generously stuffed, delicious fillings, topped with fresh lettuce and tomato, and finished off with real condiments. My, oh my, oh my.

Seriously, I cannot believe how these places in the UK get away with calling those measly buttered slices of yesterday's thin white bread with half a slice of ham and 1/10 of a leaf of lettuce in them, a sandwich. Makes me laugh, always has. Except when it makes me cry.

Want to get a real sandwich?
It's New York City Baby!
Katz’s Deli? Now that’s a sandwich.
I challenge you to finish one of those babies on your own!
And I miss it, I do, I do.
Ask me 5 things I miss about New York and “a real sandwich” is one of them.
I dream about this stuff, folks, seriously.
And it's a real problem. Like I mean, think about it - England, the land of the Earl of Sandwich has no idea what a sandwich is.
See what I mean?

So, anyway, coming back to the point, when All American Iron Man, wanted an All American Tuna Sandwich, guess what happened?

I came home and made one.
And then I ate one.
And then I decided to make you make one.
So you can eat one.

And so there you go.
Thank Iron Man.
You don't need to thank me.
I do this for pleasure.
But you're welcome, anyway.

Right, there is nothing fancy about this, nothing glamorous or exotic or quaint. It’s just a simple Tuna sandwich – classic, traditional and timeless.

The most important thing here – which holds true for all food that doesn’t have the luxury of being embellished with 500 spices – is the quality of the ingredients.

Garbage in, garbage out. Capiche?

So, please! Buy the best tuna, some kick-ass Dijon mustard, amazing mayonnaise (none of that light stuff please) and GREAT bread. You need GREAT bread.

Here’s what you need:
- 2 (6 ounce) cans of high-quality tuna 
- 5 tbsp amazing mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp kick-ass Dijon mustard
- 1-2 tsp fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp cayenne. I love cayenne. Cayenne will change your life. Trust me.
- Salt to taste. And Pepper if you like. Though I'm not digging the word "Pepper" these days...just saying :) 

So that’s that. 

You can throw in about ¼ of an onion if you like, for some heat. I’m just not a huge fan of raw onion.

Mainly because I like to be kissed.

Life’s all about priorities.

Sigh.

Or you can do the whole celery thing. Say a quarter cup, diced. I hate celery.  Right up there with bananas. But you may love it. Nothing wrong with that. Celery, I mean. How can anyone love bananas? So anyway – want celery? Go for it my friends. Do what you love. That’s what it’s all about.

Right, last bit – the bread. The bread is really the main thing here, you gotta get the bread right. Now, I will only eat Tuna Salad on Pumpernickle. Only. That’s a rule. I’m weird like that. You of course can do anything you want, but please – if you can get some Pumpernickle, try it and see how beautifully it goes with Tuna. To put it romantically, Tuna and Rye are simply “meant to be”

Now, Pumpernickel to the uninitiated, is really German Rye bread. It’s slightly sweet, dark, dark brown, almost black coloured bread made from whole, coarsely ground rye. And it’s amazing. It’s hard to find here on my island, but it’s everywhere in America, you lucky devils!

Anyway, it goes really well with smoked meats, and fish fillings...lox, caviar, and Tuna of course.

Right, so I won’t tell you how to make a sandwich (basically because you're not five), but I will tell you how to eat it. Top with lettuce and a thick slice of ripe, red tomato. And eat it with ketchup please.
Wait. Wait. Don’t judge.
Try it.
And while I know it just sounds wrong to be eating a sandwich with ketchup, remember that your Tuna sandwich has a whole load of Mayo in it. And Mayo and Ketchup are Yin and Yang. The ultimate logic defying taste combo. Addictively, fantastically good stuff. And I’ll leave it at that…

Oh and while youre at it? Crush some potato chips (yes, just basic potato chips or crisps or whatever you want to call it) and mix it with ketchup and when it’s a all one big mess, eat this concoction as a side, along with your Tuna Sandwich.

Do it. 
And think of me.

While I think of Iron Man. And his Balbo.
Hmmmm…….

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Beautiful


“Mama, you’re beautiful”
My little boy says to me matter-of-factly, his face expressionless, save for the sparkle in his eyes - his one enduring trait.

I look up, stunned.
He meets my glance. And then again, as if to confirm. Or convince:

“Yes, Mama. You’re beautiful…” he says nodding his little head up and down, up and down.

To say I am surprised would be an understatement. Firstly, I have no idea where a 2 and ½ year old picks this word up from. Secondly, to have used me as an association for it's usage? I am filled with something warm and gooey inside me. It's threatening to drown me, and for a moment I can't breathe. I think it’s called happiness.

You see, the word “beautiful” is not just any old word. It is an incredibly special word. At least to me. It is perhaps my favourite word in the English language – the most “beautiful” word of all.

According to the Oxford dictionary, “beautiful” is  “wonderful; very pleasing or satisfying; delighting the senses or mind.”

And so it is something that rests on far more than perceived external beauty, something that penetrates the surface and reaches within. Like the light of the moon and the twinkle of the stars. The sound of church bells, the colour of that first Spring daffodil.
If the word “beautiful” could be felt, it would have a weight to it, a depth. A heartbeat, real and palpable. 
I love the word.
It takes my breath away.

When I sit back now – on this quiet Sunday morning, husband at golf, toddler asleep – and think, I realise that some of the most touching and memorable moments of my life, the ones that will stick forever and to the end, involve the word beautiful.

“You write beautifully” my mother said the first time she read my writing. I was 10.

“You look beautiful,” my father said, brimming with pride, when he first saw me dressed up as a bride. He couldn’t take his eyes off me that entire evening.

“You’re beautiful, Amu.” Sid said to me a few hours after I gave birth to our child. And  because, then, in that precise spectrum of time, I probably never felt less so - his words meant the world to me.

“He’s so beautiful.” My midwife Ebi said, when she handed Ranbir over to me, in his first few seconds of life. I remember the look in her eyes. The connection we made, over my just-born baby. My beautiful just-born baby.

And now.
“Mama, youre beautiful.”
From the most beautiful person in my life. 
For no rhyme or reason. No cause, nor occasion; no event nor celebration. Just because he felt like it.
And because it comes from the heart.

And so, to honour the word, here’s a recipe that’s just that – light, cleansing and utterly beautiful.

It’s my pear and walnut salad – wonderfully fresh with a delicious combination of flavours and textures. The slight bitterness of the leaves, the crisp juicy pears, the crunch of the walnuts, the sweetness of the ruby cranberries, and the soft tangy tartness of the dressing will leave you feeling refreshed and on top of the world.

Here’s what you need:

- 4 handfuls salad greens, washed and dried
- 2 pears, washed, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 cup roasted walnut halves
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 oz Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2tbsp light olive oil
- salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Here’s how you do it:

Divide the leaves onto 4 chilled plates and top with sliced pears and currants. Crumble the cheese evenly over the 4 salads, and top with walnut halves.

Dressing this salad is a simple affair. Combine the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and olive oil. Whisk together and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Drizzle over and enjoy!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

A Good Egg(plant)


How can anyone not simply adore these slender, elegant, glossy purple beauties?

I refer of course to that gorgeous nightshade vegetable – the eggplant (or the aubergine) (or the brinjal). (And I hope I’ve covered it all, because that’s as far as my vocab stretches.) (This by the way is after I generated much chaos and confusion in the ranks with my post on courgette muffins) (Which if you still don’t know (sigh) is the same as zucchini.)

Capiche?

Anyway, I’m going to ignore the calls of patriotism tugging at my heartstrings and stick to calling it eggplant in this particular post. Not because I’m pandering to the Americans. The British never pander to the Americans...

(Now, don't you laugh. That's NOT funny.)

No really, it’s because (rather unusually) I came up with the title for this piece before I actually sat down to write it and - even if I say so myself - I think its a rather clever title, no? So, nope. Even though I drive on the left side of the road, which of course is really the right side of the road, I’m not going to be changing my title to “A Good Aubergine” or  (heaven forbid) “A Good Brinjal.”

Though I totally reserve the right to change my mind at will for future posts.

I’m a girl in a whimsical land.

Anyway, as I was saying - now that we've got semantics out of the way - I am amazed, confounded and bedazzled by how anyone with any sense could not just simply adore the eggplant.
But there’s plenty who don’t.
My funny, freaky, wonderful, handsome, loving charming husband for one.
And (though it’s pinching me to admit this) he’s got sense. Quite a lot of it.

Thereby, leaving me amazed, confounded and bedazzled.

See, it's not as simple as - I like it and he doesn’t.
It wouldn't really make much of a story then would it?
No, no.
See - I love it and he’s scared of it.
Yup. Properly scared. 
So scared that he actually runs away from it. If you think I'm joking, people, let me assure you that I'm not. For if I so much as take an eggplant out of the fridge and dangle it in front of his face, my husband – a grown man – will turn on his heels and run. 
(I have to admit, it’s rather a funny drill when you’re bored and in dire need of entertainment) (Which is often the case with me) (So I do it for fun sometimes, even if I don’t have the slightest inclination to cook the thing.) (But don't tell anyone.)

Which brings me to the whole point of this: Not only will Sid not dream of ever eating eggplant, he is so terrified by it that he won't let me eat it in his presence. Some nonsense about the texture. Or something. 
Anyway, what all of this means for all practical purposes, is that for always and forever more, I am confined to eating eggplant in secrecy.
(Don’t ever be telling me I don’t make sacrifices in my marriage)

But today?
Aha! 
Today (and for the next five days for that matter) I have been released from the shackles of oppression and shall be eating eggplant wherever, whenever and however I wish.

Yes. That’s right.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment, while your unbridled imagination runs through every and all possible permutations and combinations.
And while you’re at it, don’t think - even for a single moment of presumed sanity – that I wont do that.

Damn right.

Ok, so I’ll give you another second to regain full and complete control of your imagination - yes the one that was so merrily running unchecked just seconds ago. And answer the question on the tips of all your tongues.

Which is (I think): How come?
And the answer, my friends, is: Because, my eggplant-hating husband has gone!!
Hip-hip, Yay, Whoopie. Etc.

Yes. He’s gone.
Gone for a whole five days on one of those dreadful business trips where they make you fly nineteen hours for a single, 30-minute meeting, under the illusion that the folks you are sent to meet are actually even remotely interested in listening to what you have to say. I’ve been there, you know. And they’re not. They’re usually sitting there in their Brooks Bros and Co. business suits and wondering what’s for lunch.

Still. One doesn’t argue with one’s superiors.
That would be a no-no.
So one goes.
So he’s gone.
And I can eat eggplant.
Un-secretly.

Not that I don’t miss him terribly. He is quite brilliant company you know. Apart from being the love of my life. 
(Awwww)
Well, it's true.
But then one must always strive to be positive.
And find silver linings around clouds and such.
And so I have.

Humour me please.

Now, life (as you well know) is just totally full of irony.
Which is what makes it all so interesting.
Really, what would life be without its playful little twists and turns?
(Boring is the answer, by the way)
(And honestly how boring, is boring)

So, life is full of irony. Oft referred to as cosmic irony. You know, those itty-bitty incongruities of fate - the ones that make you cock your head and curl your lips and wonder who’s actually sitting on the other side of the game board, amusing themselves by toying with your mind?
Yup. That’s it.

And so it is with this. See, because while I love eggplant universally, irrespective of whether its grilled, roasted, fried, mashed, steamed, baked or curried – my undisputed favourite recipe is the madly-addictive, lip-smacking, coma-inducing, utterly delectable – Spicy Sichuan Style Eggplant.

And in one of life’s great-little ironies, my eggplant-hater is spending the next five days in - wait for it - China.

So while he’s in the land of Sichuan, I propose we make some Sichuan.
What do you think?

Here’s what you need:

- 1 large eggplant, preferably the Asian variety (long and skinny)
- 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
- 200 ml hot vegetable stock
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 red chilli, chopped
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp chilli bean sauce 
- 2 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar, or balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped

Here's how you do it:

Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice each length into quarters. Cut each quarter in rectangular batons, and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the vegetable stock, chili bean paste, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok until smoking hot.  Add the eggplant batons and stir-fry for a few minutes until outsides become golden brown and the flesh inside begin to soften. Now add the garlic, ginger, chilli and peppercorns and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in the sauce mixture and mix well.  Blend the cornflour to a paste with 2 tablespoons cold water and stir this into the wok, cooking until the sauce has thickened. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the eggplant to cook fully and absorb all those gorgeous flavours. 

Remove from the heat, plate it, sprinkle with the spring onions – and tell me it isn’t worth it!

(Not that I don’t miss my husband or anything…)