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Friday, 30 November 2007

Expect the unexpected

Last Sunday we went to the farmer's market and then went home to cook lunch for what Carters told me would be a few people. With celeriac and butternut squash in abundance, I decided to make Lily's Celeriac soup and a roast butternut and sage risotto. Whilst making the soup, I noticed the doorbell buzzing a few more times than I had anticipated and we soon had more guests than chairs.

Mental note: always press Carters for details

I decided to change my risotto plans (bulk risotto always seems to end up gluey), and after a quick scrounge around in our overstuffed pantry, made a salad with Orzo pasta instead.


What you need
2 small butternut squash de-seeded and cut into cubes (I left the skin on but you might prefer to remove it)
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
good olive oil
feta, cubed
6-7 cloves of garlic
walnuts, roughly chopped

The do
Throw the cubed butternut squash into a baking dish with few sprigs of thyme, the garlic (whole, unpeeled) and a good splash of olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake at about 200 degrees Celsius until the cubes are soft and golden.
Boil the pasta and drain.
Using your fingers squeeze out the baked garlic from their skins into a big salad bowl. Toss with the drained pasta, butternut squash, celery, feta, walnuts and spinach. Dress with a liberal amount of good olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Take your apron off, pour yourself a glass wine and join in the party. We all had a lovely afternoon (except for the kitten who struggled with her first encounter with a boisterous child), great food, great booze and great conversation. That's what it's all about, innit?

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The sweet taste of defeat

Nice call with the bubbly Chew. No more Mister Evil! Woohoo! What a thrill to lie in bed this morning, watching and listening as the old dog was given a fine kicking, never to be Australia's big boss man again. Even my recently apathetic heart danced with a lovely, sweet, sugary, jam and cream sort of joy. Which segues nicely into a much more appealing topic: high tea. My little sister visited in August and it became a sort of unofficial high tea tour of London. I've never come across someone so obsessed with a daily 3pm scone.

First stop, the very conventional Kensington Palace as I'd read many an enthusiastic review of the Orangery. Their scones were nice enough - generously proportioned, heavy, not overly dry, with a big glob of strawberry jam and thick cream. The fresh mint tea was also super but the atmosphere was stifling and glum... a blue rinse would have looked positively lively in this joint. Still, the post-scone stroll through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park made the location pretty choice.

At the opposite end of the scale was Sketch Gallery, a Mayfair mash up of art, design, dining, drinking and intergalactic toilet pods. We took tea in the Parlour and I couldn't bring myself to scone it when there were so many delicious looking cakes on offer. I chose some sort of blueberry macaroon thingy. Absolutely divine, as was the pretty china it arrived on. And, if choosing just one sweet proves too difficult, Sketch will do up a pretty little take-home box of laters for you.

Finally to Trafalger Square and the National Portrait Gallery's roof-top restaurant. Its view takes in all London's heavy hitters, like Nelson's Column, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and London Eye, which is just as well because you'll need something to feast on while you try and make the two miniature scones on your plate last more than two bites. More ridiculous is the fact that each comes with its own teeny weeny pot of jam. My tip is to bypass the dough in favour of a glass of wine.

Celebrating the Ruddslide

...and back in London, a domestic cat eyes off some veggie sausages.

Friday, 23 November 2007

the blood thirsty vegetarian

I'm a little out of the groove here at Lily & Chew HQ so excuse me if I step back to October for a tick. Adam and I went to Tanzania and were lucky enough to stumble across this feast in progress. Watching (and listening to) this lion rip the skin off a zebra then clean and crunch its bones near dry is one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Lazing on a gingery afternoon

It is Sunday morning and the plan is to meet Lily for lunch on Columbia Rd. Only problem is, it is very cold, dark, wet and windy and I don't really feel like leaving the house.

As if on cue, I receive a text message from Lily:
I'm not sure I can make it out today

me: I was thinking the same thing. That's fine. I'm all roasty toasty reading Xmas recipes in the food monthly.

L: Me too!

So onto plan B. With a whole afternoon to myself I decide to have another crack at baking. My tendency to freestyle when following a recipe is usually a good thing with savoury dishes, but almost always spells disaster in the land of cake. I'm going to try really hard with this one and resist the urge to meddle.
I've chosen to bake the double ginger cake from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries (a book that all self respecting food lovers should own) But if you are waiting for it to turn up in your Christmas stocking this year, here is the recipe

The cake turned out springy, wonderfully moist without that greasy, fatty feeling. And above all it is really, really, really gingery (just between you and me, I threw in a few extra teaspoons of ground ginger and used soy milk. I just couldn't help myself). To keep with the ginger theme, I decided make ginger milk tea, which I first tried when I was in Singapore. It partners beautifully with this cake.
Mmmmmm. Soooo warm. Thanks Nigel.

Indian/Singaporean ginger tea
This is a simple variation on normal black tea, it has a lovely gingery kick to it and it also settles the stomach.
Using a mandolin or a sharp knife slice a few slivers of ginger into a mug or teapot, I used about five slices for a a mug but you might want more or less depending on how you like it.
Make tea as you would normally, leave it to brew a little longer to allow the ginger to infuse. Add milk or soy milk, and sugar if you like it.

Friday, 16 November 2007

If it's good enough for a drunk woman

Some of my best cooking has happened while drunk. It's a crying shame when I wake up with a sweet memory of the tastiest early morning supper ever but no recollection of how it happened or what it was. So after returning from Ben and Kara's going-away bash a couple of Sundays ago I made a determined effort to record the meal that followed. I even left clues for myself, like a smashed plate, crumbs in my hair, a fridge ajar and half a blog post that I have only just found again. This really was bloody delicious (I think.)

What you need for a Smashed Bread and Caper Bake sort of thing
Whatever's in the kitchen (in my case baby potatoes, avocado and tomato)
A couple of eggs

How you make it
Pour yourself yet another glass of white wine. Finely chop the onion and soften it in a pan with the capers (if you accidentally tip your wine into the pan at this point it can only be a good thing for you and your dinner). Preheat your oven to 200. Oil a porcelain baking dish well and line it with bread. Top the bread with your stuff -- in this case, sliced avocado, halved par-boiled potatoes and slices of tomato mixed with the cooked onion. Break the egg over it all then top with crumbled or grated cheese. Bake for around 20 minutes (so the egg white isn't gelatinous anymore) then grill to brown the cheese. Serve drunk.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Bonfire night

Over the weekend, I trekked out to Wells in Somerset to attend Joseph's 2nd birthday party, part of which involved many fireworks, a bonfire and a lot of food.

Sitting in front of the outdoor fire with my face roasting and my back freezing, I was reminded of my first bonfire cooking experience on a school trip when I was 10. We were ordered to hunt around in the dark for a stick, shove some damper dough on the end and then cook it over the fire. Admittedly, I was more concerned about the hygiene of the stick (an animal could have peed on it!) but once we chowed down on those hot dampers with some honey and butter I soon forgot all about bugs, dirt and animal pee.

So back to the weekend. Carter's sister, Coo, put on a delicious spread - hearty tomato lentil soup, vegetarian sausages and baked potatoes. Perfect bonfire fare.
A few of the potatoes from the oven were a little underdone, so we wrapped a few up in some tin foil with a generous chunk of butter, a good sprinkling of mixed herbs, salt and pepper.

(TIP: When wrapping the potato, gather the tin foil at the top and twist, so it looks like a Hershey's kiss chocolate - this will make it easier to pick up after you have kicked it out of the fire.)
We then placed the wrapped potatoes on the embers on the outskirts of the fire, forgot about them ... then removed them after a few glasses of Cava and half a dozen fireworks.
The end result is a delicious soft, fluffy potato encased in a crunchy smokey skin.

Instead of mixed herbs you could also try a crushed clove of garlic, or fresh herbs if you have some. But it will always taste better with the smell of gunpowder lingering in the air.

ps. I would like to add that I am also a bit shit. I have to post more often. So that's my new years resolution ... six weeks early.