Category Archives: Spicy

Peanut chicken stir fry and food glorious food!

peanutturkeystirfry

Memories are triggered by different senses:  Smell (olfactory memories), sound (echoic memories), sight (iconic memories) and touch (haptic memories). For me, without wishing to plagiarise Proust and his beloved madeleine, there seem little doubt that my memories are triggered by food (perhaps known as gluttonous memories).

By far the most vivid recollection of my first visit to the East Coast of the US when I was seven is not, delightful though they were, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty or The Guggenheim, but a generous portion of sublimely tangy lemon meringue pie – the first I’d ever come across – in a drugstore in Manhattan for breakfast one morning. Clams on the beach in Westport, Connecticut come a close second.

My frequent visits to Scotland as a child were punctuated by fish so fresh it crumbled the second it glimpsed a fork. Crucially, it was always served with a side order of pure, bracing, iodised air. School food was obviously a low point in my gastronomic narrative; the less said the better, but I will just point out that I was properly traumatised by spam fritters at a very early age, and the words ‘Angel Delight’ still set off a Pavlovian gag reflex. I think the better you eat at home, the more potential for grievous bodily harm the food you eat – or try your hardest not to eat – at school presents. This was certainly true in my case.

The highlight of my trip to the Italian Riviera in the late 80s was not the picturesque, colourful and much revered Porto Fino, but a plate of the most exquisite home-made pasta stuffed with walnut paste and dripping with gorgonzola sauce served to me in a simple family-run restaurant in the backcountry. I could easily have eaten several helpings and it’s just as well I wasn’t given the chance, because that wouldn’t have made for one of my finer, more elegant moments…

My memories from the two years I spent in the US in the early 90s? Wilhelm’s dark chocolate and raspberry cheesecake and the 6cm thick chargrilled steaks at The Hyde Park Grill. Do I remember dancing at my wedding? No I’m not sure I do, although I suspect I didn’t as my husband was sporting several broken ribs and a fractured sternum, having being thrown off my engagement ring (a Lusitano stallion). There’s a sentence that’s probably never been written before. I do remember the guinea fowl in apricot sauce though, and believe me, I certainly wasn’t the sort of delicate, blushing bride who had lost her appetite to nerves. We honeymooned in Burgundy which is famous for its many Michelin starred restaurants.

Randomly, the most perfect, simple green salad with walnuts after a day on the ski slopes in the Pyrenees about five years ago left an indelible mark. Usually after skiing, you’d think that a rich and satisfying fondue or raclette would be called for. But no; I have never, before or since, experienced such a rush from eating what was essentially a plate of rabbit food.

rabbitseatinglettuce

I suspect Léo’s childhood food memories will feature carrots and broccoli quite heavily because they are just about the only vegetables that don’t motivate a lengthy speech on nausea-inducing unpalatability. I try to avoid serving him other vegetables unless I have my earplugs to hand.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 tablespoons groundnut oil

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 mushroom, peeled and sliced

1 broccoli (I used romanesco), cut into florets

4 chicken breasts, cut into strips

3 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons soya sauce

1 tablespoon honey

100ml chicken stock

1 teaspoon fresh or ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Handful of crushed peanuts to garnish

Brown the onion and garlic in a wok, adding the other vegetables and chicken pieces gradually. Cook for a few minutes more before adding the peanut butter, soya sauce, honey, stock and seasoning. Stir fry over a medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and the carrots and broccoli are tender. Serve with noodles, rice or quinoa, garnishing with the crushed peanuts.

Chicken and sweet pepper tagine and cowboys on bicycles

tajine

HugojournoandJava

Somebody is going to have to give me a crash course in human logic, or lack thereof, because there are things I’m currently struggling to understand. First of all, I thought that the main function of a butcher was to provide you with an endless supply of slobberingly succulent meat. Not so apparently. The Tall One believes our butcher to be of unparalleled counsel when it comes to his own joints, cartilage and bones and takes his advice over the doctor’s when it comes to treating his dodgy knee. So, since the butcher told him that cycling was the way forward, he has had his bicycle surgically attached (have you noticed that I’ve mastered the metaphor?).

The Tall One and Bossy sometimes take Texas, the very old horse, and Bijou, the very young, insufferably silly horse to a field where proximity to a river and shady oak trees means the grass stays lush year-round. Taking them there is one thing, bringing them back quite another. Bijou has a tendency to pinch the head collars from their ‘safe place’ and hide them. So, bearing in mind that humans are meant to be of superior intelligence, this is what I don’t understand: Why don’t they just find another place to store the head collars? Bijou gets the better of them every time which means that, as he’s quite good at hiding things, they invariably come back ‘au natural’  (the horses, not the intellectually-challenged humans). The sight of Bossy and Tall trying to round them up on their bicycles makes it all worthwhile though.

So to conclude, if you’ve got dodgy knees, the butcher’s your man. And if you want to outwit your animals Bossy and Tall are most certainly not…

bikeshorses

I have to say that Bossy outdid herself with this dish, although I might only be saying that because I feel a bit mean inferring that she and her husband are ‘intellectually-challenged’. I’m not usually a big fan of spices, but this was subtly fragrant and the tagine dish was a pleasure to lick clean.

Ingredients (serves 4)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

8 chicken thighs

Juice of half a lemon

4 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut

1 red pepper, washed and cut into strips

1 green pepper, washed and cut into strips

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon coriander

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bay leaf

Two tablespoons of honey

200g dried prunes

150ml chicken stock

Fresh coriander to serve

Gently brown the onions, garlic and chicken in the olive oil in a medium-sized casserole dish (or a tagine if you have one). Once golden brown (after about five minutes), add the lemon juice, carrots, peppers, seasoning and spices and continue to brown for a further five minutes. Add the honey, prunes and chicken stock and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for about half an hour with the lid on and then remove the lid to allow the sauce to caramelise slightly. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander. Delicious served with couscous.

 

Red and green beans and a four-legged clown

greenbeansredpepperbasil

I’ve long suspected Bijou, our five-year-old gelding, to have a highly-developed sense of humour. (One of his first jokes was to chuck me in a ditch and then tread on me. That was a real howl.) He’s also a non-smoker with a lean, muscular physique and indisputably good looks; really quite a catch. Always happy to be of service, he opens field gates to allow the other horses to come and go as they please, although he has yet to learn to to shut them. And he picks up buckets in his teeth and flings them against the wall, which is great fun I suppose as long as you’re not a bucket. He clings on to his bit with his teeth when his bridle is removed, like a baby refusing to give up his dummy and chews on freshly-washed clothes drying on the line.

Bibiclothes

His latest trick though was quite the most audacious, even for him. Luc, who had been working in the field, stripped off his t-shirt and put it over the tractor door as it was very hot. Bijou, who had been hanging out with him (he loves to socialise), didn’t miss a beat: He reached up and seized the t-shirt between his teeth, turned on his hooves and took off at a gallop, dust flying in his wake. When he finally stopped, he turned around defiantly with the t-shirt hanging from his mouth as if to say ‘well aren’t you coming to get it?’ There followed a lengthy negotiation before he would unlock his teeth, but the t-shirt was eventually retrieved sporting several chew holes and large grass stains.

bijoutshirt

Green beans are more nutritious than t-shirts and contain substantial amounts of chlorophyll, which can block the carcinogenic effects of meat grilled at a high temperature. In barbecue season, green beans make the perfect accompaniment. Green beans are also a good source of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, choline, vitamin A, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1kg green beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 spring onions, peeled and sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 tomato, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon piment d’Espelette or paprika

Handful of fresh basil, chopped

Precook the beans until ‘al dente’, strain and set aside. Gently heat the olive oil in a large frying pan adding the onions and cooking for a few minutes. Add the sliced red pepper, tomato and garlic and continue to cook until the red pepper and tomato soften. Add the green beans and seasoning, gently combining and cook for a few more minutes. Add the basil and serve.

Chicken and coconut curry and gastronomy courses for dogs

coconutchickencurry2

hugotypewriter2by

I seem to remember Bossy writing a post about my food preferences recently. I don’t always read what she writes because I often find her anecdotes too irritatingly trivial for words. Unfortunately I did read this and my response is: I’m not a whingeing fusspot, I’m discerning. Please learn the difference. My palate is refined and subtle and I won’t be fobbed off with any old food, unlike some dogs I know whose names begin with ‘J’. I’m currently looking into gastronomic appreciation courses for ‘J’ because her lack of taste is beginning to depress me.  It’s difficult to live with someone with so little culinary culture, or any other culture for that matter.

Bossy and Noisy went on holiday for a few days recently, not that I’m familiar with the concept of holidays, never having had one *woeful and exploited doggy sigh*. The Tall One is easier to manipulate negotiate with than Bossy and the leftovers are far more appealing as he doesn’t eat anything green or strange when she’s away. Also, he doesn’t know that I’m supposed to have vitamins added to my food, so that’s one less battle to fight. All in all we had a very peaceful time and even ended up by agreeing on the best camembert to buy. Result!

I’d better go now – Bossy is uttering very naughty words because she just unloaded the washing machine to discover that one of Noisy’s pockets was stuffed full of popcorn. I’ll leave the state of Bossy’s nerves and the inside of the washing machine to your imagination…

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

2 red onions, peeled and sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1kg chicken legs and thighs, skinned

1 red pepper, sliced

4 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1  stick cinnamon

2 teaspoons curry powder

3 kaffir lime leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

400ml coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized casserole dish or dutch oven and soften the onions and garlic. Add the chicken pieces, frying for a few minutes on each side and then add the pepper and carrots. Add the spices and seasoning and continue to brown for a few more minutes. Finally add the coconut milk, bring to a simmer and cook in the oven for at least an hour. It may be left for longer, in which case you may need to add a bit of water or stock.

Barbecue sauce and fried neurones

BBQchicken

My nerves have taken a hit this week. Léo, in a bid to make up for lost time after finally having his plaster cast removed, thought that running with bulls, swinging from trees on ropes and bumper cars would all be excellent rehabilitation techniques. His schemes, each more horrifying than the last, had me rushing to enquire about the possibility of having hand brakes and airbags installed on the horses.

camel

Java befriended a hedgehog and has a permanently bloody nose as a result. Without wishing to cast aspersions, I think she’s yet to make the link between her bleeding nose and new-found love. Even the eminently wise Hugo has become self-appointed Inspector of Wasp Nests and has a nasty sting above his eye to show for it. It seems that the long-lasting extreme heat has got to us all – hopefully our neurones will fall back into place in the next few days, although I’m not holding my breath…

hedgehog

I made this barbecue chicken dish for Léo’s birthday – he’s a big fan. It is made with fresh tomato sauce which makes it relatively healthy, and it’s deliciously tangy. I cooked it in the oven, but I’m sure it would be excellent barbecued too.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

150ml fresh tomato sauce

100ml apple cider vinegar

Dash of worcester sauce

50g cane sugar

3 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for about five minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken. Coat the chicken and cook for about 25 minutes or until the coating begins to caramelise.

Crab gratin and if it looks like a dog and barks like a dog…

crabgratin2

 

…but eats like a human, then it’s probably Hugo.

HugojournoandJava

I’m in splendid shape, but every year Bossy insists on taking me to visit the vet. She knows that I’m a force to be reckoned with when it comes to socialising with other animals, but she seems adamant on putting herself through the trauma. Upon arrival, I willingly led her – perhaps even dragged her if I’m entirely honest – to the door, which I only had to headbutt once to open. I then efficiently ushered her (again, if we’re being pedantic, ‘hauled her’ might be more accurate) to the reception desk, where I planted my front paws on the desk in a business-like manner. By this time, for some reason, Bossy was very red in the face. The vet is a nice lady and I gave her a big lick on the face to show that I felt no ill will towards her, even though she spent rather a long time prodding my private parts. When we were ready to leave, she told me that I had been a good boy (yeah, whatever) and gave me a dog biscuit. I mean, really? A dog biscuit? Who does she think I am? Camembert? Yes. Foie Gras? Yes. Dog biscuit? Err, not so much. Does she not know that I’m a foodie? Anyway, I spat it out onto the floor because I think it must have been a joke. Bossy by this time was even redder in the face and really quite flustered and tried to explain that I was off my food. What a liar! I’m not off normal food, just dog biscuits…

Ingredients (serves 4)

250g new potatoes, peeled, sliced and cooked

2 leeks, sliced and cooked

250g crabmeat (I used tinned)

150g sweetcorn

1 large spring onion, finely sliced

150ml pouring cream

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)

100g hard cheese, grated (I used Comté)

Fresh parsley to garnish

Preheat the grill. Place the potatoes, leeks, crabmeat, sweetcorn and onion together in an oven-proof dish and then add the cream and seasoning. Mix well and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Cook under the grill until the cheese is bubbling and golden (about eight minutes). Garnish with the fresh parsley before serving.

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.