Coconut crab risotto and bathroom devotion

crabcoconutrisotto

Admittedly an unfortunate juxtaposition for my risotto, but I spent today mixing concrete. Never let it be said that I don’t lead a glamorous life. For the uninitiated amongst you, cement mixing is not dissimilar to mixing a very large cake, which I suppose doesn’t say much for my cakes. It’s very therapeutic though, concrete; I now better understand Winston Churchill’s passion for building walls. There was a bit of a low point this morning when I tripped and fell flat on my face, leaving 25kg of sloppy concrete mix to ooze in my wake, but other than that I think I did quite well. Although I’m obviously no expert, one top tip would be to keep the dogs well out of the way, because they will be tempted to come and ‘help':

pawprint

We’re in the process of building another bathroom – my husband is a big fan; adding on bathrooms is a hobby of his. If publications such as ‘Bathroom Weekly’ or ‘Faucets and Drains Today’ existed, he would certainly subscribe. In our previous house, last count, we had ten bathrooms. This is why we had to sell really – we had exhausted its bathroom potential. We’ve been in our present house for seven years and are now on our fourth. Hopefully we won’t break through the bathroom ceiling any time soon though because I like it here…

This is a recipe for a quick, easy but nonetheless delicious risotto. It never fails to please. And if ever you need advice on mixing cement, I’m your girl.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

3 shallots, finely chopped

1 red pepper, sliced and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated

280g rice (I used whole basmati)

120ml white wine

700ml chicken or vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chilli powder

150g sweetcorn

200ml coconut milk

300g tinned crabmeat

Handful of fresh basil, shredded

Heat the oil in large pan over a low heat, add the shallots and cook for five minutes until softened. Add the pepper, garlic and ginger and cook a little more. Add the rice and stir until it’s well coated with oil. Pour in the wine, stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the stock little by little and stir until almost completely absorbed. Repeat this process, adding the stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly until all the stock has been used up (about 20 minutes). Add the seasoning and you can add more water if the rice isn’t cooked (this will be the case if you’re using whole basmati, as I did). Add the sweetcorn and coconut milk, stirring until the coconut milk absorbs. Add the crabmeat, cover and leave to heat through for about five minutes. Add the shredded basil to serve.

Vegetable fritters (gf) and visually-challenged Setters

courgettefritters hugotypewriter1by

I think that Java needs glasses. Either that or a new brain, but I’m going to be charitable and go with the glasses theory. (As an aside, she also needs to learn which holes she can and can’t stick her nose into, because it’s looking a bit mangled at the moment. Still, we can’t all be hole experts.) Even allowing for the fact that she’s not the brightest, I’ve noticed her a few times recently rather proudly ‘marking’ plastic bags. I know plastic bags can flap in the wind a bit and do very fine bird imitations, but still: Really Java? You’re a dog with a supposedly superior sense of smell. I’m not sure how to broach the subject with her though; it’s a tricky one. Apparently English Setters are extremely sensitive to criticism, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for tipping her over the edge by pointing out her mistake, tempted though I might be. I think I’ll just leave it to Bossy and her finely-tuned diplomacy skills to explain her error. Watch this space for one horribly humiliated English Setter *wicked dog chuckle*.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 eggs, beaten

75g chickpea flour (although any flour will work)

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

125ml water

1 potato, peeled and grated

2 courgettes, peeled and grated

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

4 leaves fresh mint, cut into strips

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon of ghee for frying (you can use butter or oil)

Combine the beaten eggs, flour and bicarbonate of soda, gradually adding about 125ml of water to achieve a fairly thick pancake batter consistency. Add the grated vegetables, onion, garlic, fresh mint and seasoning and combine well, making sure that the vegetables are well incorporated. Heat the ghee in a large frying pan over a medium heat until melted and create several two tablespoon-sized fritters. Fry until golden brown (roughly 5 minutes), turn and repeat until all the fritters are cooked.

Coconut cake and Hugo’s scuppered plans

cococakestrawcoulis HugojournoandJava

I would like to set the record straight about my recent excavation venture, because I thought that Bossy portrayed me as a bit of a halfwit by suggesting that I was stuck down my magnificent hole. I admit that I did let her haul me out with a rope (there was lots of swearing on her part), but only to shut her up. The plan was, once I’d finished what I’d set out to do (we won’t go into details to spare any squeamish readers), I was going to create a tunnel back to the top at a gradient of about 30%. Of course, this would have taken quite a long time and I’m not sure where I would have ended up, but anything that gets me away from Bossy’s incessant blabbering and Java’s stubborn insubordination can only be a good thing. As an aside, are you impressed at how my vocabulary is becoming more and more sophisticated? Bossy says that I must be careful to avoid becoming too verbose, although she’s a fine one to talk. Anyway, the upside was, she was so convinced that I had been traumatised by my adventure, when we got home she gave me an extra-large piece of camembert. Sometimes it pays to just go with the flow…

Thank you Hugo for telling your side of the story, although I think we could have done without the reference to my ‘blabbering’! This wonderfully light cake is inspired by ‘Love, bake, nourish’.

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

175g spelt flour

120g desiccated coconut

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

75g cane sugar

1 egg, beaten

200ml coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Combine the flour, coconut, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a  large bowl and then add the egg, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly and transfer into the prepared tin. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool and serve with strawberry coulis or Greek yoghurt (or both!).

Chicken with bacon and white wine and the latest dog horseplay

chickenwhitewine2

As I have absolutely no wish to linger on last weekend and Léo’s ‘totally cool skis that go backwards as well as forwards’ (this, according to the man in the rental shop, was a selling point), I’m going to talk about the dogs and their latest antics. Hugo and Java are a generation apart in dog years. While Hugo certainly isn’t averse to a bit of television (Scooby Doo being his favourite), he doesn’t really ‘do’ computers. Java does, and she apparently has strong opinions on graphics; yesterday she took unusual and hysterical exception to the screensaver that Léo had installed. I don’t blame her really – it was a sort of Grufallo monster menacingly yielding a leg of lamb. Anyway, she was ear-splittingly inconsolable until the offending image was replaced with something more serene. Meanwhile, Hugo was outside digging the World’s Biggest Hole. He was gone a couple of hours and, after frantic searching, I found him stranded 2m below ground level, covered in mud and sand trying to ‘liberate’ an unidentified, and no doubt petrified, small animal. He looked quite relieved to see me and my sturdy rope because I think he realised there was no way he was getting out on his own. In future Hugo: When you’re in a hole, stop digging!

This dish is quick and easy to make, but no less delicious for it. It is adapted from ‘Nigella Express’.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 leek, washed and cut both ways

1 onion, chopped

4 mushrooms, sliced

4 rashers bacon

4 chicken escalopes (approx. 125g each)

100ml white wine

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the olive oil in the frying pan and heat. Add the leek, onion, mushrooms and bacon and fry until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside. Fry the chicken until cooked through (a couple of minutes on each side). Put the bacon back into the pan, add the wine and cook until the wine bubbles. Season to taste and serve with rice and a salad or green beans.

A handful of salt

salt

Salt is essential to life. Sodium is one of the seven macrominerals (along with calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur) and is used for a multitude of biochemical processes such as fluid and acid-alkaline balance and electrical signaling in the nervous system. It is also necessary for adrenal gland function.

All salts are mainly made up of sodium chloride. Table salt is manufactured by cooking to 1200°F, which removes the other trace minerals. Chemicals and anti-caking agents are then added and it is bleached to make it white. This type of salt has almost no benefits and plenty of drawbacks; in many cases it is positively toxic, causing high blood pressure, kidney problems and impaired muscle and nerve function. It should be avoided at all costs.

While sea salt is a far better option than table salt because the other minerals are still present, sea pollution means that producers are having to refine their products, meaning that some of the natural goodness is taken away. Probably the purest sea salt available is from the salt marshes in Brittany where it is still produced using ancient methods.

My favourite salt is Himalayan crystal salt. Not only is it a pretty pink colour (shallow? Moi?), it contains 84 minerals and trace elements in ionic state, meaning that they are tiny enough for the body’s cells to absorb them easily. Its benefits include :

  • Water regulation
  • Healthy pH balance
  • Healthy blood sugar
  • Generation of hydroelectric energy in the cells
  • Food and nutrient absorption
  • Respiratory health
  • Prevention of muscle cramps
  • Sleep and relaxation
  • Blood pressure regulation

Not only is Himalayan salt an excellent choice for use in the kitchen, a few handfuls added to warm (but not hot) water makes a wonderfully relaxing and detoxifying bath. Soaking in a Himalayan salt bath provides an effective treatment for dry skin and psoriasis, soothes insect bites and relieves muscle pain or cramping, as well as easing arthritis. Finally, it reduces stress and promotes a good night’s sleep.

Pear cake and an exhausting email exchange

pearcake

I engaged in a slightly surreal email exchange with a ski instructor recently. I wanted to reserve a skiing lesson for Léo for this weekend – a lesson in which he would hopefully learn a) how to leave the other mountain users vertical and intact, and b) that posts, signs (particularly ones that say ‘slow down’) and barriers are there for reasons other than to be uprooted while flying past. I asked for a one hour private lesson on Monday morning, Mr Ski Genius replied that he could offer a two hour lesson on Sunday afternoon. So I enquired about a two hour lesson on Monday afternoon, which he was afraid he couldn’t do, but he could perhaps fit in a one hour lesson on Sunday morning, assuming that I was the person that had originally wanted to book for Tuesday afternoon. There were numerous other variants discussed far too tortuous to go in to, including, if I remember correctly, the possibility of a one and a quarter hour lesson from midnight on Sunday, which was obviously very tempting. Anyway, the upshot is that I lost the will to live and conceded defeat. We’re just going to wing it and give him a call when we get there to try to arrange (although frankly, the thought of a ‘phone conversation with him brings me out in a cold sweat). I just hope that his lessons are less convoluted than his emails. Failing that, we can pray that the other skiers and signposts are more robust than last time. It could all prove to be very interesting…

I bought a variation of this ‘moelleux aux poires’ in a patisserie when we were last skiing. Anything tastes good after a day on the slopes, particularly with Léo, but this was still delicious when I made it at home.

Ingredients

3 pears, cut into eight

1 tablespoon rum

1 vanilla pod

100g cane sugar

50g butter

50g coconut oil

3 eggs

75g rye flour

75g buckwheat flour

50g powdered almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Poach the pears in a little water with the rum and vanilla pod. Blend the butter, coconut oil and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one by one, and then the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and almonds and combine well. Add the drained, poached pears and gently incorporate into the mixture. Transfer to a pre-buttered medium-size loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Apricot and ginger muffins and drug-free pharmacists

apricotgingermuffin

A few years ago, I wrote an article about a much-revered institution in France: The Pharmacy. Yesterday, having popped into our local one for some toothpaste, I found myself in the incongruous position of dispensing advice to the pharmacist on how to treat her debilitating cold. She was quite adamant about not wanting to use ‘nasty chemical drugs’ that made her feel drowsy and dried out. I found her resolve amusingly disloyal in view of her job – rather like a butcher promoting a vegetarian diet – but I was even more astonished when she went on to say that she tries to avoid pharmaceuticals at all costs: Talk about doing yourself out of work! Anyway, I spent so long dealing with her fervent drug phobia and streaming orifices (I set her up with a concoction of herbs and some essential oils to sniff and rub on) that it was only when I reached home that I realised that I’d come away empty-handed… Natural remedies: 1, pharmaceutical profits: 0.

Ingredients (makes 12)

60g salted butter, softened

60g coconut oil, softened

150g spelt flour

2 organic eggs

60g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

80g cane sugar

50ml milk

200g apricots, cut into quarters and lightly poached

2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and coconut oil for about four minutes. Add a spoonful of flour, beat again, then add the eggs, beating further until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add a little more flour to prevent curdling. Gently fold in the remaining flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cane sugar, and milk. Lastly, fold the poached apricots and grated ginger into the mix. Spoon into muffin trays and bake for 25 minutes.
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