Monthly Archives: April 2007

Nutty Granola Muesli

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Granola muesli

The granola that favours our kitchen shelf is a reciped adapted from something I tasted years ago as a student at a healthy breakfast stall at an art and music festival held in South Africa’s Drakensburg Mountains. The rest comes from Nigella, the Barefoot Contessa and my store cupboard.

Indressa’s Granola Muesli

400g rolled oats
100g porridge oats
50 oatbran
50 dessicated coconut
50 sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sesame seeds
100g whole skin-on almonds
100g walnut quarters
3 tbsp runny honey
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp golden syrup
pinch of maldon sea salt
1 handful each of sultanas, dried cranberries and chopped dried apricots

1. Except for the fruit, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well for a few minutes. I use a large spoon and fold it all through thoroughly.

2. Line a deep roasting tin with grease proof paper before evenly spreading the mixture out in the tin. Bake at an oven preheated to 350F for about an hour, stiring the mixture around every 20 minutes or so. This will ensure the granola browns evenly thoughout, rather than just on the top, bottom and sides of the tin.

3. Once golden brown all over, remove from oven and leave to cool. Once it is completely cool empty the granola into a large airtight container, and stir in the cranberries, chopped apricots and sultanas. Store in a cool place.

A Raw Deal

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Life of PiCurrently reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, and roughly in the middle now, where the protagonist Pi, castaway on a survival raft with a man-eating Bengal tiger, describes at length and in vivid detail the killing and wild devouring of sea life – sea turtles, sharks, flying fish, algae, birds, mostly raw and unseasoned (well there’s salt) – in his bid to survive and one day be rescued.

The situation is so desperate that Pi doesn’t rule out ingesting tiger poo, if that staves off the sea-bleached hunger, even for a little bit. I gagged when he descibed this and speaks about drinking a generous helping of fresh, warm turtle blood – quickly before it coagulates, or feasting on the raw brains, lungs and heart of a seabird.

While I have eaten a few strange things in my life, like mopani worms, the caterpillars of the emperor moth, native to southern Africa, this by no means compares to gnawing at raw bird meat from a carcass, or drinking reptile blood (even if the story is fiction). I suppose you never know how far you would go until faced with two options: death by starvation or survival for a few more days if you eat your own foot.

Okay, okay, that’s getting a little bit too dark for a sunny London day, and I’m going to apply my mind to tasty dinner ideas. Nothing like thoughts of gamey bird flesh and reptile blood to make a mouth water.

Pesto and Chilli Chicken with Cauliflower au Gratin

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Chicken is almost a stable in our hacienda. While we often end up making similar kinds of things for weekday dinners, finding two chicken breasts lurking about in the fridge, I was determined to try something different yet make it as quick and painless as possible.

 

There was a half-used jar of green pesto from earlier in the week, and decided to marinade the breasts in this for a few minutes, with a few grinds of dried red chillie and black pepper before wrapping them in foil, scraping the extra marinade over the top and baking in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

 

Was also making a cauliflower au gratin, using up the pale-fleshed beast that has also been lurking about in the fridge, a few shelves below the chicken. Making the white sauce, or should I say Bechamel sauce, for this dish  I always think of my grandmother, seeing as this is one of the first things I ever made, following her instructions which she called out from across the kitchen, letting me arrive at a creamy, lump-free sauce all by myself. However, her technique was not as swift as the one I now use, courtesy of Delia Smith. Throw in all the ingredients – flour into softly melted butter, add milk; start to whist. Whisk constantly, turning the heat down once the milk heats up, and keep whisking until the sauce thickens. It’s almost like magic.

 

Anyway, I chucked in a generous handful of grated extra mature cheddar, and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Always white pepper. I poured this over the boiled cauliflower sitting in an oven proof dish, top this with more grated cheddar and pop it in the oven below the chicken. Seeing as most of it is already cooked, it just needs to be in there for about 15-20 minutes to bubble a little and brown on top.

 

 

A rant about meat

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Pork dinnerUnlike some members of my family, and hoards of folk who are more devout followers of their respective faiths, I attach no religious significance to what goes into my belly. I was brought up to respect the cow and not eat the pig. But what did the lamb and goat and sheep and chicken do wrong in the presence of the cosmos? How come we eat those without guilt?

The brahmin I stubbornly asked this burning question of my youth patiently explained that all other animals are holy too and hence, the true Hindu is meant to be vegetarian, which in all fairness, a lot of Hindu people are.

However, when those who see me biting into a juicy New Zealand beef cheese burger (well done, and accompanied by a potent garlic mayo and chunky chips) or buying pork chops give me the evil eye – or someone in my family purses their lips at any allusions to beef eating tendencies, I say [cow’s] bollocks to you. There are more important, and less hypocritical things in life, and it is pointless following the black and white without questioning, or just following. You may eat sheep and still be able to sleep at night without a nice cup of horlicks, but that does not mean you have to be one.

I believe abstaining from pork or beef does not bring eternal happiness and forgiveness from the universe, nor will it ensure the next life will be any better than a rat’s. It does not make one a better person and it certainly does not define one, or make one a more devout Hindu (I’m non-practising, by the way). It just means you’re a really fussy eater.

Now if you chose not to eat something because you didn’t like to taste, or not used to eating it and it made you gag slightly (like me with what is almost a Scandinavian staple – salt licorice), or are indeed allergic to it, then that’s a whole different story.

Anyway, the reason for all this word sprouting is that we had pork cutlets last night with a warm potato salad and fresh ribbons of lettuce, carrot and apple. Served the meat with a spicy garlic and red onion butter -it was truly delicious, and I slept like a baby.

Feeling Blue

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Broccoli, mushroom and blue cheese rigatoni.There are times in London when I miss my family and friends that used to live in London but have since moved back to SA or gone to live in other parts of the UK and the world. This makes me want to eat or cook or bake, or do all three at once.

Claire, a South African friend of mine, used to make a Broccoli and blue cheese pasta, and this is one of the most delicious things a pasta lover could eat, and I find  the dish intensely comforting and imbued with fond memories of a shared time in South London. So come Easter, when my family in SA had gathered for the weekend, and with the other half having had to work for most of it, I was craving some sort of company, and I realised this blue cheese pasta would be better than what any doctor or alternative health practitioner could order.

Broccoli, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Rigatoni
(2 servings)
100g creamy blue cheese (Dolcelatte or St Agur)
8 large broccoli florets, broken up into smaller florets
6 medium button mushroom, sliced finely
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
125ml fresh single cream
250g Rigatoni
Olive oil

1. Boil the rigatoni in generously salted water until al dente.

2. Fry the garlic in a little olive oil in a large pan or wok, add the bacon first, fry this a bit then add the mushroom and broccoli and fry gently until softened. If you like broccoli with a bit of crunch, only add this only once mushrooms have had a bit of a go in the pan. 3. Once these are done, turn the heat down, cube the cheese and crumble it into the pan.

3. As the cheese starts to melt, pour in the cream, and let it simmer gently on a very low heat for about 10 minutes. If it looking a bit dry, add a dash of milk, or hot water even to thin the sauce slightly.

4. Season to taste and enjoy with some crusty bread.

The Big Cheese

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camembert.jpgI was watching a re-run of a cheese episode of Nigel Slater’s Real Food last night where he described ricotta as being the new black. That was in 1998. If I had to answer that question now, I’d say goat’s is the big cheese and that since 1998, blue veined cheeses have had their moments of glory, marscapone even, surpassed of course, by buffalo mozzarella, and Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano or Percorino Romano. Or so it seems.

 I adore cheese. A work colleague of my husband’s recent returned from Paris carting three rounds of creamy white cheese, one very smelly, so I have been in heaven all Easter. Forget a chocolate and spicy bun binge. I have been gorging on cheese on crackers, cheese on seed scones, cheese on home baked poppy seed bread, cheese off the back of a knife… I’ve been sneakily breaking off little corners and savoring the decadent softness almost every time I’ve been in the fridge for anything, or just passing by the fridge. Thankfully, I am back in the daily grind and that means I will have to restrict my cheese habit to evenings only. I enforced the muesli-for-breakfast rule this morning and decreed the cheese will have to wait. 

Now what shall I do with a small round of camembert?   Contemplating making Camembert and Swedish Lingonberry pastries, using phyllo to make triangles or puff pastry, I remind myself I need to think of the waistline, and option B is probably a slightly wiser option! I like the idea of rubbing the top with garlic, pricking the surface, pouring over white wine, and baking it in its box in the oven; then dipping chunks of crusty bread or fingers of garlicky ciabbata or wedges of apple and pear into the rich gooey moltenness.

Seedy Cheese Scones

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Seeded cheese sconesWhile my other half and I are partial to sweet scones, but as part of some kind of ‘afternoon tea’, we are not that fond of the sweetness in breakfast scones, so I use this recipe from Rachel Allen, adapting slightly, by adding cheese (parmesan or a strong cheddar), and preferring poppy and sunflower seeds to her sesame and linseed.

 

Three Seed and Parmesan Wholemeal Breakfast Scones
(makes 10- 12 large scones) 

225g wholemeal flour
225g plain white flour
25g poppy seeds
25g pumpkin seeds
25g sunflower seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
25g butter
1 egg
400ml buttermilk (or plain low fat yogurt mixed with a little milk)
Large handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. In a big bowl, mix together the brown and white flour, seeds, salt and the bicarbonate of soda. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Now add the cheese and mix this through evenly.

2. Whisk the egg with the buttermilk, and pour most of the liquid into the flour mixture. Bring everything together in a soft, but not sticky dough, and turn out onto a floured surface.

3. With the palm of your hand, flatten the dough to about 4cm thick. With a sharp knife, cut into square scones, and, if you like, brush any leftover liquid over the top of each scone before sprinkling with extra seeds.

4. Place the scones onto a lined baking tray and place in a hot oven, baking for about 15-25 minutes (depending on the size). If the scones look as if they’re browning too quickly, turn down the heat a bit. Cool before serving.