A Year Round Dish

Tom and Daisy arrived early this afternoon.  They had a good flight.  As always, Daisy was ‘randomly’ searched, slightly more exciting than usual though in that Tom was also searched.  As Tom once said, it’s always interesting flying with Daisy.  After that, they had an uneventful flight, slept a wee bit, had no problems at all with US Immigration and are already out exploring T J Maxx for socks for Tom!

We are awaiting thunderstorms here in NYC and to be honest I wish they’d hurry up and arrive.  I have had a headache since Sunday and I need the pressure to change soon.  The warmth is lovely though and bits of me have a great tan.  The weather forecast says that we have a 100% chance of storms at 8 pm, so I have decided to cook tonight.  I really can’t be bothered to deal with the inevitable New York puddles or to ruin a pair of shoes.  I am making a dish which whilst it reminds me of summer can be made year round.  It is ridiculously easy providing you are organised and marinade the meat for at least two hours (overnight is fine too).  I am making them with chicken but they are wonderful with lamb or pork.  The only thing to remember when cooking, whether grilling, griddling or barbecuing, is that the heat should not be too hot so that the meat inside is cooked, not raw, and not to dry out the meat too much.  Today’s recipe is for souvlaki!  The best souvlaki were in Two Brothers in Angistri or in the late, much missed Hellenic on Finchley Road.  They both managed to cook the meat whilst maintaining its succulence.  I think that if you’re using lamb or pork, you should keep a wee bit of fat on as that helps.  Also I think that fresh oregano is better than dried and there is heaps of that in the garden in London, and you can pick the bay leaves from the garden too!

Souvlaki – Ingredients

  • 3 lb meat (chicken/pork/lamb) – cut into even-sized chunks
  • 200 ml / 8 fl oz dry red or white wine
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Method

Put all ingredients into a bowl.  Mix together well.  Cover and leave for at least two hours.

Put the meat onto skewers, and grill under or griddle/barbecue over a medium heat.  Turn every ten minutes and baste with remaining marinade.  Cooking time depends, of course, on the size of the chunks of meat, but for roughly 1 inch cubes I would allow at least 20 mins.

Serve with tzatziki and a Greek salad and most of all

Enjoy!

Missing Summer?

Dad and I met Fr Andrew and Stephen today for brunch.  The weather is a rather lovely 28 deg here in Manhattan and we went to 230 5th where we basked in the glorious sunshine and amazing views.  We then came back here and went on to the roof where we again basked in the glorious sunshine and amazing views until it became too hot and we were worried about getting fried.  In the course of the conversation, the horrendous winter and spring that you guys in the UK have had was mentioned more than once.  Whilst we read your temperatures, saw the comments on Facebook, heard the complaints, and said to many people such things as ‘oh they’re having a terrible weather spell in London – Andrew’s had the heating on for over 6 months’, I don’t think we really have taken on board what the lack of sunshine does to you.

The winters here are certainly colder than in the UK, but we didn’t have a really sustained cold spell.  There were only a couple of snow storms.  The summers also are hotter than at home – that’s what comes from being on the same latitude as Madrid, I suppose, and from not being a small-ish island – but it’s a dry heat.  (Ignore the people who say it’s terribly humid – they didn’t spend five years in Hong Kong).

So I have been trying to think of a dish that makes me think of warmer places; that is easy to make once you’ve prepared the vegetables; that is easy to adapt if you have dislikes or allergies; and that is quick when you’ve trudged down from Finchley Road in the rain wondering why on earth you aren’t in South Africa, or Australia, or Virginia, or even New York.

Today’s recipe is a Thai dish, the very name of which will cause Hallie and Ellie to think ‘this is no use to me’, but hang on, substitutions can be made, omissions are ok too (particularly if you’d die if you ate the ingredient).  Today’s recipe is Prawn and Peanut Noodles, a classic Thai dish which for me conjures the sticky heat of Bangkok, the beautiful beaches of Phuket and the clear mountain air of Chiang Mai.  The recipe originally came from a Thai cookery course that I did in Hong Kong and I haven’t changed it other than to suggest a substitution for the prawns, and to add a comment at the end.

Prawn and Peanut Noodles – Ingredients

(Serves 2 as a main – 4 as a side dish)

  • 2 spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 50 g / 2 oz roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 125 g / 4 oz medium egg noodles
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 15 ml / 1 level tbsp sugar
  • 2.5 ml / 1/2 level tsp chilli powder (I use medium heat but it’s up to you)
  • 60 ml / 4 tbsp oil (I use corn oil)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g / 2 oz bean sprouts (I have to confess that I have never actually weighed the bean sprouts.  Since they go off so quickly, I tend to add the whole bag)
  • 125 g / 4 oz king prawns cooked / 125 g / 4 oz shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 level tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Method

Soak the noodles for 4 min in boiling water then rinse and drain.

Mix together the lemon juice, nam pla, sugar and chilli powder and put to one side.

Heat the oil in a wok (or large non-stick frying pan).  Add the crushed garlic and cook until they are just turning brown.  Break in the egg, and stir to scramble.  Add noodles and mix well.  Add the lemon juice mix.  Keep stirring.

Add spring onions, peanuts, bean sprouts, prawns/chicken and coriander.

Heat through thoroughly.  Serve immediately.  I don’t season this at all.  The recipe includes salt and pepper as an ingredient but doesn’t say what to do with them!

Enjoy!

I Have Consulted a Higher Authority

Most of you have heard of my friend, Jimmy, who lives in Philadelphia (Philly).  Jimmy and I bonded on a Bruce Springsteen forum not really because of our admiration for The Boss, but from a mutual love of travel and food.  We have encouraged one another to try foods that we might otherwise never have tried, and we (for this really you should read ‘I’) have mocked on occasions when we (for this read ‘Jimmy’) have been very wussy about trying unfamiliar ingredients (i.e., pigeon).  Jimmy took me to my all-time favourite cheese shop, Di Bruno Bros in Philly, which has an amazing selection of cheese from all over the world.  I was so entranced that I didn’t even look at their selection of salami.  That’s for my next visit.  In return Jimmy got to taste some of my favourites, brebis de Corse/brebis aux herbes, a true Cheddar and if I remember correctly a brie de nangis.  After a spirited discussion about mozzarella and the lack of truly good mozzarella in the US, when I came to the conclusion that it was the milk, I was delighted to find my favourite Italian mozzarella here and take some for him try.  He approved.  Jimmy also took me to try my first (and to date only) Philly cheesesteak.  He told me how to order ‘With/Without’ onions and the type of cheese – American/Swiss/Provolone.  I enjoyed the cheesesteak while I was eating it, but it lingered rather too long and I certainly won’t ever emulate Matt in eating 9 cheesesteaks in 8 days!

Anyway, Jimmy is my higher authority on crab cakes.  He makes them for a local deli and they sell out.  He gave me the spices when we first met in Philly, and now he has given me the full recipe.  He’s also given me his recipe for the sauce to accompany the crab cakes.  So for Sue who asked so nicely – good luck with finding jumbo lump crab in New Zealand – and here you go.  The quantities are US imperial cups and I have left the recipe exactly as Jimmy gave it to me, except to say that I think the vegetables for the cakes should be chopped quite finely.

Crab Cakes – Ingredients

  • 1 lb lump crab meat
  • Butter
  • Salt & Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 shallot
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
  • ½ tablespoon Creole Seasoning
  • 2 cups Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • Squirt of fresh lemon juice

Method

Heat skillet over medium high and then add butter, shallots, peppers, and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté shallots and peppers until translucent.  Add to bowl and leave until cool. To the peppers add mayo, Tabasco, Creole Seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, half of the Panko bread crumbs, mustard, eggs, lemon juice and mix to make slurry. In a separate bowl add crab meat. Add slurry to crab meat and fold together.  Fold (Do Not Mix) slurry and crab meat together. You want to gently coat crab meat without breaking it up.

In another bowl add panko bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon of Creole seasoning and mix together.

Form crab cakes into balls and squeeze out the moisture.  Roll crab balls in seasoned bread crumbs and then form into cakes.  Repeat until done.  Store crab cakes in fridge for at least one hour and up to overnight.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Place crab cakes in skillet and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side turning just once.  For thick crab cakes finish them in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Crab Cake – Sauce

  • 1 cup Mayo
  • 1/2 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (this will be American mustard)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Creole seasoning
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients together.

Enjoy!

Fire Up the Barbie!

OK, I finally decided which recipe I wanted to share.  The combination of summer here in NYC and Callum’s gastronomic tour of the city got me thinking about what we Brits think is American food.  In less than two years here, I have realised that the dishes change as you traverse this vast country.  Southern cooking legendarily has a lot of fat, but the food we had in New Orleans was without exception fantastic and I lost a couple of pounds.  We’ve all had TexMex and that phrase encompasses a multitude of sins, but we all ate well in Texas.  There is the more authentic Mexican food found in Arizona or California, but Mexico too is a large country with regional variations.  Florida has an abundance of Cuban restaurants.  The North East is famous for its seafood – oysters, clams, crabs and lobsters – cooked or raw.  Any one of these regions is both distinct and different from the others.  There are of course some dishes which are eaten everywhere.  My own view is that the crab cake is the single greatest contribution to world cuisine made by the United States.  From my first taste in Norfolk VA, I order them pretty much whenever I see them on a menu and I am intrigued by the variations of spices and density of crab.  I have even bought a cookery book called I Love Crab Cakes with over fifty versions of the dish.  The book could have been written just for me.

When I told a friend here my opinion on crab cakes, he thought for a moment and said that no, the hot dog is the greatest contribution to world cuisine.  We discussed this at great length with me contending that the hot dog isn’t a totally original dish, deriving from the German wursts served in buns.  He, however, feels that I’m wrong.  I suppose that because I’m not a great fan of hot dogs (although not averse to one of Nathan’s finest if I’m in Coney Island), and I do love crab cakes, then I’m rather biased.

Anyway, enough of this!  Today’s recipe is for something that everyone recognises as being a quintessential American dish, although, as with the hot dog and partly because of its name, it was most probably German in origin.  However, there seems to be no doubt that its world-wide popularity is due to this country and the many fast food chains which serve it.  Today’s recipe may horrify Hallie because my recipe doesn’t simply mix meat with salt and pepper like most US recipes, and I apologise but I do like my meat more seasoned.  It is of course the Hamburger.   Callum and Tom went to Shake Shack, allegedly NYC’s best burgers.  Their verdict as with all friends and family who’ve eaten them is well, they’re very nice, but the best?  In the interest of fairness we all feel we need to try more.  Umami Burger is soon to open here – a transplant from the West Coast.  In the interests of research, we will try one and let you know what we think.

Now I need to point out that if you don’t toast the burger bun, then according to Wikipedia it won’t be a true hamburger and will just be a sandwich.  I like Bacon Cheeseburgers – British smoked back bacon and real strong Cheddar – so you can see I don’t often get to eat them here the way I like.  If I’m feeling wild, I like to add avocado or guacamole.  Being me, I never add tomato or pickles, but I do like some raw onion and lettuce.  That’s the great thing about burgers though, you just build your own.  Remember that the patties will shrink so make them larger than you think they should be.   As I typed the above, I was thinking about Dad griddling the burgers and then building them for us.  I don’t remember a single family argument while we were eating these for dinner.  If I’m wrong, don’t tell me – I want to keep that memory intact even if it is flawed!  This recipe originally came from the very useful Dairy Book of Home Cookery, but I’ve tweaked it slightly over time.

Hamburgers – Ingredients

  • 500 g / 1 lb lean minced beef
  • 50 g / 2 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 small finely chopped onion (the original recipe says to grate finely, but I found that too wet and the pieces weren’t vaguely uniform, but you can try if you wish)
  • 1/2 level tsp English mustard (not powder, made mustard)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste (honestly adding pepper doesn’t make much difference – we’ve left it out when Big Andrew’s been visiting – the salt is crucial though)

Method

Mix all the ingredients together.  The recipe says that this will make 8 burgers.  Simple maths will tell you that if you want quarter-pounders then it’ll only make four.  It’s up to you.  Try and get the burgers to be equal sized so you don’t have to concentrate too much when cooking.

You can either grill or griddle these.  Whichever you choose don’t cook them on too high a heat unless you want them to be medium rare.  If you cook on a barbecue, let the flames die down a bit or again you’ll have charred on the outside and raw inside.

Enjoy!

A Pause to Catch my Breath

I have been trying to think of a suitable recipe for days.  I arrived back from New Zealand at 1.45 am on Monday and having finally emerged from that jet lag/crushing tiredness/fog that happens after such a long journey, I wanted to get back to my blog.  But the recipe had to be perfect, appropriate and apt, and I couldn’t think what it should be.  So I asked Tom (who is here at the moment), ‘What recipe would you like me to do?  What would you like to cook?’  Tom helpfully replied ‘Dunno, Mum, whatever you want’.

So I thought I’d post some pictures which Daisy and Ellie sent to me showing their creations and see if inspiration strikes.  If not, you’ll at least get to see some nice pictures.

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Daisy’s spaghetti sauce which looks scrummy

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Daisy’s madeira cake which looks very enticing with the addition of icing

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Ellie’s pavlova – I love the combination of red and green – looks amazing.

I wish I knew how to put these photos into the comments section of the relevant recipes but I don’t!

Tom is here with a friend, Callum, and they have been doing a bit of a gastronomic tour of New York.  It is Callum’s first visit to the States and he has a list of things that must be tried.  Last night we went to Lombardi’s Pizzeria in what today is called NoLiTa (North of Little Italy).  Lombardi’s was the original pizzeria in New York and is still thought to be one of the best.  We all ordered our own pizzas and I have to say that they were very good.  The crusts are thin and crunchy, but I felt that the toppings stopped too far from the edge.  Tom and Callum disagreed.

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I chose the Clam Pie.  It’s a white pizza with olive oil, lots of garlic, parsley, parmesan and at least ‘two dozen freshly shucked clams’ on it.  I thought it was delicious, but was quite glad that the toppings didn’t go to the edge so that I could legitimately leave quite a lot of the base.  I am still trying to avoid carbs so a pizzeria wasn’t the best restaurant for me.

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Callum had prosciutto on his.

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Tom had pepperoni and Italian sausage on his.

The French couple on the next couple were quite disconcerted by the quantity of pizza we ordered, but I told them that we were taking the balance home for breakfast.  (Actually Tom and Callum had two pieces each left and ate them whilst watching the basketball last night).

Today we have been to Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side and we all ordered the classic pastrami on rye.  It really was very good and not quite such stupid portions as the Carnegie Deli.  The pastrami is cut thicker too which I definitely prefer.

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Our waiter was quite surprised that we ate everything (with the exception of my bread), and even more surprised that Tom and Callum then ordered a piece of cheesecake each…  which they both finished.  Again, the portion of cheesecake wasn’t as large as in many NYC restaurants, and the boys hadn’t had breakfast in expectation of this meal.

While wandering to a shop I passed this sign

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Tom and Callum were too stuffed to even think about a cupcake but I know where the shop is for future reference!

So all these photos have been posted and I still haven’t thought of a recipe for today though I have an inkling for my next post.

Enjoy!

Barbara’s Brew

I arrived safely in New Zealand on Monday morning and surprisingly have not suffered from jet lag.   The cold in Christchurch wasn’t unexpected but was still a bit of a shock to my system.  Last night it went down to -2 deg C – thank heavens for electric blankets!  The warmth of the welcome from my Christchurch aunt and cousins has been amazing.  We have never stopped talking and laughing.  Auntie Jan told me a story about Grandma the other day which made me laugh a lot.  Gag (Grandma’s grandmother) hadn’t been well and it was decided that Grandma would stay overnight to keep an eye on her.  However, the family was going to the theatre first, and so Grandma had an overnight bag with her in her seat.  At some point in the play, Grandma’s alarm clock went off in her bag, and she couldn’t open the bag to turn it off!  I suppose Grandma was ahead of her time.  I keep thinking of the havoc she would have caused with a mobile phone…

The food has been lovely here.  We ate in on Monday and Tuesday at Marjorie and Ken’s; lunch out on Tuesday in Akiroa where Marjorie and Ken have bought a new house.  The views are even more amazing than the old Akiroa house.  Yesterday we went to Barbara’s house in Kirwee, had afternoon tea in Oxford and went out for dinner in Prebbleton, all the Allen cousins and wives/husbands plus Nolan, David’s son.   My only complaint about The Bridge was that there was far too much food for my main course and that I wasn’t able to finish it.  For anyone interested, I had blue cod with bacon wrapped round it, which was put on a salmon and asparagus tart with dill aioli – it was beautiful and the dill aioli is something that I am going to try to recreate at home.  I am eating a lot of really lovely fish and seafood.  My lunch in Akiroa was a salad with scallops and I was thrilled that they were served with the roes.

Today’s recipe is the soup that Barbara made for lunch.  The herbs and spices used made me think immediately that this would be something that you would enjoy, George.  Nico, I didn’t notice the apple so you could easily take it out and I don’t think the flavour would be harmed.   Hallie, the coriander leaves are only for decoration and can easily be skipped.

So today’s recipe is Curried Kumara Apple Soup.  (Kumara is sweet potato).  A lovely thick tasty soup that was perfect for the weather over here.  Barbara served it with home-made whole grain bread and it was perfect.

Curried Kumara Apple Soup – Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 2 large kumara/sweet potatoes, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin (doesn’t matter whether whole or ground)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 500-750 ml chicken or vegetable stock

Method

Heat the oil in a pan, and gently fry the onions and the apples until lightly browned.  Add all the other ingredients, except for the stock,   Cook for about 5 mins over gentle heat, and until the spices ‘are aromatic’ (Barbara’s instruction).

Add the stock and bring to the boil.  Simmer and cover.  Cook until the kumara is soft.

Blend.   Serve with cream/Greek yoghurt/creme fraiche and coriander leaves.

Enjoy!

Visiting the Shire

I am going to be away for the next couple of weeks, visiting family and friends in New Zealand aka Middle Earth.  I am not sure whether I’ll be able to blog from there or not.  Actually I’m hoping that I’ll be far too busy to blog!  My uncle and family immigrated to New Zealand in 1958, with his sister and her family following in 1973.  As a result all my first cousins are over there and it’s a truly beautiful country to visit.  Gran visited several times and would have loved to live there – unfortunately NZ immigration rules were against her, but she always had a book of photos of New Zealand next to her chair, and talked about her visits with great longing.  Her love for that country and how everything was better there almost made me avoid visiting, but our first visit in 1990 confirmed that it does indeed have spectacular countryside.  For me, it is one of my four favourite countries ever since I am a lover of mountains and water.  (The other three are Canada, Norway and Scotland, since you asked nicely).

Today’s recipe is a classic New Zealand dish, in fact, it is New Zealand’s national dish.  Grandma used to make it and even had a special plate for it.  I wouldn’t necessarily go that far but it is always a lovely dessert on a summer’s day and you can change the topping according to the fruit available.  The classic topping is of course the kiwi fruit, but I have to confess that I prefer it with raspberries – I prefer the aesthetics of the red and I prefer the taste.  If you do use raspberries, don’t soak them, clean them with a damp piece of kitchen towel so that they maintain their shape and put on just before serving.

So today’s recipe is Pavlova, a dish created in Wellington, New Zealand in honour of the dancer Anna Pavlova on her visit to the Antipodes.  Australians have tried to claim the dish but a wee bit of research shows that it was indeed a NZ creation.

Pavlova – Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 3 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 250 ml double cream
  • sliced soft fruit – type, shape and quantity is up to you

Method

Put all ingredients into a clean mixing bowl and whisk until stiff.  Cover a baking tray with baking parchment and put mixture onto the parchment.   Make it the shape you require – round is the most conventional!  Bake at 120 C for two hours.  Turn off oven and leave meringue to cool in the closed oven.

Transfer shell very carefully to a plate.

Whip cream until stiff and spread on the pavlova.  Top with the chosen fruit.

Enjoy!