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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

a momentous week in the world of chew

Not only is our beautiful young Chew a year older this week, she is GETTING MARRIED ON SATURDAY! No wonder the woman looks startled. (Kudos to her wonderful man, Carters, for the flat stanley marble birthday cake.)

Thursday, 22 May 2008

TV Dinner

Ages ago I had a thing about reviving wartime food, but then I nosed around and it all looked so shit I gave up. Now, the most amazing thing has arrived on the iPlayer - a show about wartime food that is actually brilliant TV.

The Supersizers Go...

Taking the Supersize approach to a week living on wartime rations, the key players are:

1. Sue Perkins - In my mind's eye, every Radio 4 announcer is a greying academic. How amazing - one of the greatest wits of the station is but a bounding, young whippet!

2. Giles Coren - Great food writer, looks pretty damn natty with the Brylcreem and a 3 piece.

3. Allegra McEvedy - A Leon originator and champion of seasonal cooking, her style is cool and she bakes a mean hash fudge. Here, she is commanding.

Dammit, this is the smartest food show I've ever seen. It's a must.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

eatin's cheatin at atp

10 of us took a minivan to ATP on the weekend. We stopped at Tesco on the way and bought a fair whack of groceries; salad, eggs, pasta, veg, fancy cheese etc etc. Our plan was to cook at least four meals over the course of three days. I don't know what the fuck we were thinking. Our shop would have been far more productive if we split the cash on beer, pear cider, Pimms, vodka, rum, mixers, tobacco, papers, filters and Anadin Extra.

Today, still shagged but absolutely blasted full of good time vibes, I came home from work to a lot of eggs and a hankering for the tortilla. I am no tortilla expert by any stretch and I really am too buggered to spell out the shizzle but all I can say is go for the long, slow cook and I think the experts favour a small deep pan rather than the wide shallow one I have at my disposal.

All you need to do is skin and parboil some taters then cool and grate them. Soften some sliced Spanish onions and garlic with chilli flakes, stock and wine. Mix them with the grated tates, some chopped parsley and salt'n'peppa. Then beat the lot with four eggs (for 2) until it's all frothy. Pour into a med-heat pan. Let it cook slowly till the arse is tanned then pop it under a fan forced grill to brown the top. Serve with fresh coriander. Done darlin.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Monday, 12 May 2008

Coming to America: Day 4, La Quinta

During the festival, we call La Quinta home. Today we are cruising around for food in our hired convertible before heading into the festival - the Japanese restaurant is closed so we head over to this Mexican place with serves dangerously large portions of food and jacuzzi sized pomegranate margaritas. Yeah!

Las Casuelas
NW corner of Washington and HWY. 111
La Quinta

I am a huge avocado fan. I lurrrrrve the avo. I like Mexican food because there is always a little of my favourite pear shaped fruit on the plate - except at this place where there is a whole lot of it. Check it out! There must be at least a box of avocadoes in this Fiesta Guacamole alone! (try making your own at home: diced avocado, coriander, red onion and chopped tomatoes, squeeze lemon juice over the top and a few shakes of tabasco - don't forget the doily)
The food here isn't mind blowing, but it's a million times better than any Taco Bill experience I had as a child. As soon as you are seated, you are given a basket of fresh corn chips and salsa that is semi-frozen, kind of like a tomato Slurpee, which makes it very enjoyable to consume in the desert heat.
We end up visiting this place twice over the course of our stay in La Quinta. The first time, I had a vegetable Quesadilla that came bracketed by rice and refried beans. It is such a huge serving that I have to eat my way up the middle - leaving most of the rice and beans. I feel bad about this wastage, but I just can't force rice and beans down in 40 degree heat.
The next time (with Alyson and Halle, below) I order a salad in an edible bowl. The salad is much more refreshing, it is layered with a cooked vegetable mix of corn, corgettes and peppers on the bottom, then lots of crispy iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato, then some cheese, sour cream and a huge ice cream scoop of guacamole on top. The edible bowl is a little disappointing though, I expect it to be like a huge Dorito but instead it tastes like...fried.

Yay! The margaritas, the happy waiting staff, the cooling water mist spray things
Boo! Why do the servings have to be so big? Surely if Americans ate realistic portions it would solve the food crisis
Cost: A few margaritas and a main will set you back £12
Service: 4.5/5

the loveliest lump of clay

Back in February I dragged a huge tagine home from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Last month I cooked in it for the first time. Now I'm finally posting the results. Slow cooking indeed.

A couple of things I did manage to do way back when were prepare the tagine (by soaking and oiling it) and preserve some lemons. Lemon preserving is perfectly suited for my kind of attention span. I had no trouble dumping them in the back of a dark cupboard and forgetting about them for weeks on end and they taste an absolute treat for the neglect.

Preserved Lemons
There are probably more techie ways to do this but I went with the directions given to me in Fes. Essentially, cut a cross in the top of each lemon, stuff the fruit with sea salt, squash the lemons into a tightly sealed jar with some lemon juice, water and more sea salt. Then leave them well alone for three to four weeks. I am happy to report that this method proved successful in my kitchen (though stuffing the lemons with salt was a bit of a bastard).

What you'll need for the tagine
Whatever veg your heart desires. I reckon aubergine would have been lovely but I went with what was in the kitchen:

1 Sweet potato (chopped)
1 leek (washed and quartered)
2 zucchini (sliced fairly thickly)
3 fresh tomatoes
1 tin of tomatoes
1 onion
1 fennel
1 preserved lemon
Cummin seeds
Fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
Red wine
A handful of green olives
A handful of dried dates
1 tin of chick peas

Make a little veggie stock on the side
With so much veg getting skinned, chopped and grated, this is the perfect opportunity to put all the scraps and peelings into a separate saucepan and make some stock while your tagine is simmering.

Making the tagine
With an electric stove you need a rivet under the tagine to prevent the veggies at the bottom burning. If you are planning a real slow cook, it is advisable to do this with an open flame also.

Heat olive oil in your tagine on med-low heat then soften the onion slowly (I grated mine to make things a bit gooey). Add the chopped dates and a pinch of paprika.

Quarter the preserved lemon. Chop three quarters into small pieces. Toast your seeds in a separate pan, crush them then add them to the onion along with the chopped, preserved lemon. Stir through, followed by all the other veggies, the bay leaf and olives.

Cut your tomatoes in half and grate the flesh off the skin to pulp them. Add with the tinned tomatoes to the tagine. Pour in a generous splash of red wine, seal your tagine and let it simmer on a very low heat for hours on end (about four in this instance).

I think it's best to ignore the whole thing from here on in. If you open the lid too often you'll lose moisture. Just make sure the little bowl at the top of the tagine stays topped up with cold water so the heat circulates through. Twenty minutes before serving, mix in the chick peas. Cut out and discard the flesh of your remaining preserved lemon quarter then slice the skin into thin strips. Add this bit of tang to the cooked tagine to serve (along with some fresh coriander if you like or a few more olives).

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Coming to America: Day 2, Coachella, California

We are wandering around in a grassy polo field in the middle of the desert.
Jack Johnson is playing on the main stage, so we go for food as far away from him as possible. Sarah and I are on the lookout for corn on the cob, but corn of a different variety catches Carters' eye. Veggie Corn Dogs the sign says. And the picture below says everything else you need to know about this culinary curiosity.

I refused to try it, but decided I probably should for the sake of research. Like most faux meats it's just too accurate and too synthetic to be enjoyable. It is comforting to know that when the world eventually does run out of food we'll probably have these things to nibble on in our little futuristic huts.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Coming to America: Day 1, Beaumont, Los Angeles

It is 4pm local time and we are two hours into our drive to La Quinta after enduring a 10 hour flight. I'm so tired I can barely stay on the road, so we make a stop at the next available place for refreshments, which happens to be a Dennys. Carters gets excited and orders a heap of random stuff. Eggs with hash browns, grits and pancakes. Except for the egg yolks, there is a serious white and brown colour scheme going on. After tasting the grits, I decide I'd be pretty happy if I never had to eat them again.
Sarah and I opt for veggie burgers with fries - the only other thing on the menu that isn't exclusively brown and white, and doesn't contain meat.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Coming to America

Hi everyone! I'm back! Sorry for the lack of posting action - I have spent the last ten days eating, drinking and shopping in various parts of The U.S of A, and boy have I got the arse to prove it. Gotta hit the treadmill now, but watch this space for more culinary excitement, Americano style.

Wimping out

Watney Market, Shadwell

It is my last day at work for the next 10 days and to celebrate in style we are going to...Wimpy (my place of work doesn't present itself with many glamorous lunch options). All I know about this establishment to date is that its name intrigues me, but on arrival, intrigue soon turned to fear when I laid eyes on the Bender in a Bun.

It's pretty nifty when you think about it, a scored sausage bent in a round to fit perfectly into a burger bun. Five points for creativity, but if you want to know what it tastes like I'll leave it to Guy because he lives to tell the tale.
I had the Quorn burger and Carters had the Beanburger. If I was dying of hunger I would choose Wimpy over McDonalds anyday.
Give Wimpy a miss if you are after healthy wholesome fare, however if it's 1980s fast food and raw community spirit with a tomato ketchup sachet you're after, this is the place to be.

Yay! Junk food with table service
Boo! The horrible feeling in your gut afterwards
Cost: A burger meal will set you back less than a fiver
Veg friendly: 3/5
Service: 3/5