Wednesday 30 January 2008

Curry And A Hurry

Alright, so I may be a bit short on photos today, but this was such a nice (and healthy!) meal I thought I'd whack it up here anyway. I had an English exam this afternoon, so in theory that should mean I have some time tonight, but in fact I have homework and ironing to do anyway (and it's Torchwood at nine!). So rather than wax poetic... have a curry.

'Have a curry' sounds like it should be a saying, or a catchphrase or something. It isn't.

At least, I don't think so. I think the English exam made my brain melt.

Egg & Lentil Curry
Adapted from The Detox Health Plan Cookbook by Maggie Pannell

Serves 4. Vegetarian.
202 cals per serving (not including rice)
Takes about 35 mins

75g green lentils (you could use proper lentils if you wanted to simmer them for 15mins with the stock beforehand, but I used ones from a tin. Huzzah)
750ml hot vegetable stock
4 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 fresh green chillies, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1in piece of fresh root ginger, peeled & chopped
2 tbsp curry paste
400g can chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garam masala

Serve with about 200gish of basmati rice, and mango chutney if you like (I recommend the mango chutney, seriously)

1. Put the eggs in a pan and cover with tepid water. Slowly bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 7-8 mins. Get to your chopping and whatnot here (onions, chillies, garlic etc).

2. Remove the eggs from the pan of boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of cold water to cool. When they're cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthways.

3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, chillies, garlic and ginger. Fry the mixture for 5-6 mins, stirring frequently. Stir in the curry paste and fry for another 2 mins, stirring constantly. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar and stir in 175ml water.

4. Simmer for about 5 mins until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Add the boiled eggs, drained lentils and garam masala. Cover and simmer gently for 5 mins, then serve with basmati rice.

Saturday 26 January 2008

More Tea, Vicar?

Sometimes, just the name of something is enough to persuade me to make them. This is particularly the case in older cookbooks, where you don't have pictures to talk you into it; if I come across something called English Monkey, I'm writing it down for later. These biscuits are from my Gran's old, handwritten recipe books - Parson's Pleasure.

I'm fighting back that old urge for innuendo, here.

I only found out what the name was about when I took them out of the oven; my mum came into the room and got all excited (yeah, we have that in common), asking, 'is this your gran's recipe for Parson's Pleasure?'. When I nodded, she settled down on the end of the kitchen table (we have that in common, too) to tell me where the name had come from. Basically, she told me, my Gran had come across these biscuits at a Church Fete or something - yes, this is back in the good old days when we British did that sort of thing more often. I'm adding 'more often' as a disclaimer, as I actually live in the sort of village that does hold Church Fetes - when a friend of hers had made them. Everyone was sipping their tea, discussing their knitting and the like (I'm using creative license here) and sampling each other's baking, but the vicar, Mr Wooldridge, was in my mother's words, 'a greedy man', and upon trying these biscuits, had to have another. And another. And another.

I realise I'm retelling some mild gossip from about fifty years ago, here.

Anyway, my mum said, by this point all the old ladies were getting 'all twittery', and elbowing each other, muttering. And so when my Gran got the recipe from her friend, she rechristened the biscuits 'Parson's Pleasure', because she was all cool like that, and had a knack with alliteration and wicked irony. And sure enough, when I looked back at the handwritten recipe, she had written 'Mr Wooldridge!' in brackets at the side of the name.

I'd have called them something like 'ginger crack!biscuits', but this is probably due to the generation gap. Or whatever.

Parson's Pleasure
Recipe from my Gran ^__^
Makes about 16.

150g/ 5oz self-raising flour
120g/ 4oz butter
90g/ 30z caster sugar

A little bag of crystalised ginger
Ground ginger & caster sugar in roll dough in.

1. Mix together the flour, butter and sugar into a dough. Roll into balls with damp hands, and dip them into the mixture of ground ginger & extra sugar (sorry I can't give a proper quantity- just sort of 'flour' your surface with it and roll the balls across.

2. Press the balls onto a greased baking tray, squashing them down a little (they do spread though, so don't flatten them out or anything; I think they look nice small and fat). Put a small piece of crystalised ginger on top of each and cook....

...ah. This is where I introduce you to my Gran's method of recipe writing. She says, 'in a moderate oven', with casual disregard for temperature or timing. I put them at about 190C for roughly ten minutes. Keep an eye on them, cause I take no responsibility for something going wrong as a result of my Gran's scorn for specifics.

Thinking of inviting the vicar round for afternoon tea? Put these out, and if he's anything like Mr. Wooldridge, you're going straight to heaven.

Tuesday 22 January 2008

It's An Illuuusion!

I get very excited by when food looks like something else (I'm aware I come across as very excitable on this blog. I ... am). Whether it's shaped birthday cakes - that's a whole other post, which I'm sure will come up at one point - or those little cupcakes baked in ice cream cones (you know, the sort that people look at and wail 'BUT WHICH ONE IS IT??')... it's like playing edible mind games. And the best mind games are the sort you can eat.

This, for example. It may look like canneloni.

But AHA! Look close! That's not pasta! It's not even chicken skin, though the further one looks a bit like it o__O. Yeah, look at the one nearer the camera. Rather than use canneloni tubes, this recipe makes little omelette rolls, and fills them with spinach and soft cheese. Easy, but very exciting if you have nothing else to do at the weekend.

I've been revising for a Psychology A-Level, okay? (Yes, it went fine, thankyou). I've not had anything any more exciting to do at the weekend.

I would serve this with a nice salad, but we had nothing vaguely green in our house. Sad. So I improvised a tomato salad instead, if by 'making a tomato salad' you mean 'cutting up a tomato'. And I do.

Omelette Cannelloni with Spinach Filling
From Vegetarian Supercook by Rose Elliot
Serves 4, 340 calories per serving

150g washed spinach
125g low-fat soft cream cheese
8 tbsp parmesan cheese (okay, I heard a rumour parmesan wasn't vegetarian. Can anyone clear that up? If it's the case, use vegetarian parmesan, which I'm certain exists).
grated nutmeg
4 eggs
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Put the spinach with just the water clinging to the leaves into a GIANT saucepan, cover and cook for 6-7 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and don't burn your finger in the process.

2. Add the cream cheese and 4 tbsp of the parmesan to the spinach. Mix well and season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Set aside.

3. Whisk the eggs with the water and salt/pepper to taste. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, then pour in about 2tbsp of the egg to make a small omelette. I considered the first one a practice, haha. Cook for a few seconds, until it is set, then lift out onto a plate. Continue in this way until you have made about 8 small omelettes, piling them up on top of each other.

4. Spoon a little of the spinach mixture onto the edge of one of the omelettes, roll it up and place in a shallow dish. Fill the others in the same way, until all the spinach mixture is used up, and place them snugly side by side in the dish. Sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and baked at 190C for about 20 - 25 mins, until bubbling and golden brown on top.

Not as high labour as it sounds, I promise, and worth it. Besides, you'll find you're surprisingly willing to do pretty much anything if the alternative is revising Bandura's work on Social Learning Theory.

Saturday 19 January 2008

Blondies - 1. Indy - 0

I don't have a good track record with brownies, that's important to know. If they cook round the edges they don't cook in the middle, and I end up leaving them in the oven an hour longer than they say. Or else I leave them in the fridge, hoping they'll set, and end up with a pan full of goo. I've stuck them in the freezer overnight before now, and still ended up with a pan full of goo. I've tried recipe after recipe, I've changed recipe after recipe, I've blamed every cooking utensil I own, I've shut my own head in the oven in despair... but no kebab. Or even brownie.

The last time this happened, I was reduced to eating the semi-cooked brownie chocolate mixture straight out of the pan to make myself feel better.

Yes, I did eat an entire tray of brownie goo.
Yes, I was then copiously sick in the toilet and had to lie in a dark room for the rest of the afternoon.
Don't follow my example.

The point is, when I came across this recipe on Feed Me! I'm Hungry, the thought struck me that blondies could succeed where brownies failed.

Look at the blondie on that post. Then look at my blondie.
It turns out I have no more talent with white chocolate than I do with regular chocolate X__X.

I'm recommending the recipe anyway, because the ones on Feed Me! I'm Hungry look SO GOOD, and my 'blondies' did at least taste fantastic. The problem was, as always, the outside overcooking, and the inside NOT COOKING AT ALL. EVER. PERIOD. I might try it again though, perhaps splitting the mixture between two smaller pans in the hope it'll cook more evenly, or maybe covering it with foil at about the forty minute mark to prevent the outsides burning.

Anyone got any ideas why my brownies/ blondies ALWAYS ALWAYS fail? I've hit a wall. It's a gorgeous, chocolatey, fruity, nutty, gooey wall, but all the same. I've been outwitted by a tray of chocolate gunk.

This does nothing for my self-esteem. I'm consoling myself with the fact that if this all becomes too much, at least I can eat my challenger. Bite me.

Thursday 10 January 2008

Completely Unprepared For 2008...

Alright, so as you might guess from the distinctly low-labour-intensive photographs, I'm not exactly starting 2008 on a great note, food-blogging wise. But as we're over a week in now, and I'm officially back at school and everything (D=) I thought I'd throw myself at your feet here, completely unprepared, just to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope that 2008 is going as planned, so far.

Obviously it isn't going as planned for me, seeing as I haven't planned anything. At all. Ever. It's not that I'm not eating anything at the moment (or at least, so my thighs tell me), it's just that -in the after-Christmas slump - my family is mostly eating up the freezer at the moment (not literally, although I hear they're high in fibre). So no one's been doing a lot of cooking or baking round here.

But things are set to change! And since one of my New Year's Resolutions is to be a more regular blogger (okay, I probably shouldn't have told anyone that; now I have no excuse for forgetting), a real recipe will be coming soon. Probably in place of Psychology revision, for me. Hm.

PS: The photos? Yeah, I know they're only jelly beans, but I was pretty happy over them. By way of explanation, I was practising photography with reference to this great tutorial at Kitchen Wench. Thankyou Ellie!