Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Rice Salad

We've squirreled ourselves away to a microscopic and ever so lovely cottage for a week near Monmouth on the Welsh border. Apart from a touch of extreme relaxation, we've also been looking forward to getting a chance to cook together. The produce around here is good. Our closest supermarket is a Waitrose which is a treat though there are lovely butchers and greengrocers dotted about. Our home for the week is surprisingly well equiped for a holiday let with Le Creuset pans and good knives (though the Boy brought his own). As an evening off, we got the obligatory Indian take-away with fluffy naan bread, crispy poppadoms (a favourite of my boyfriend) and fragrant pilau rice as well as a few colourful curries.

The next day, faced with leftover rice (cardamom pods and cumin seeds buried like jewels within), I felt inspired. A very easy recipe - barely a recipe even!

Rice Salad

Makes: a tasty way to use up left-overs - an easy and fresh salad.

Ingredients: (enough for two)
a take-away tub (or thereabouts) of cooked pilau rice
2 peppers (one yello, one green)
1 red onion
2 or 3 tomatoes
1 carrot, peeled and grated
handful of raisins, soaked in apple juice
Fresh corriander

- Finely chop all of the vegetables and the corriander, removing the stalks from the peppers, etc
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with hands
- Serve with a burger, eat in the sun

This could be done with any kind of leftover rice - could go with a thai theme and add grated coconut.

Monday, 22 June 2009


Aaah, I'm free at last from the blasted cast! No more crutches too, which means that I can actually get back to proper cooking without hindrance. I never realised how much fetching and carrying is done when I cook. Being crutch-bound (Crutch-ful? Crutch-able? Crutch-some?), your hands are pretty much out of bounds when it comes to carrying. Very problematic. I've actually lost a lot of weigh in the last six weeks through not eating very much, decreased appetite due to the pain and the additional effort I've had to put in to getting about. I'm quite liking the new stream-lined me though I'm sure my loved ones will have something to say about it.

Now... what shall I cook first?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Best Before...

How much attention to you pay to 'Sell-by' and 'Best Before' dates? I tend to use them as more of a guide rather than a deadline, I'll admit. Some things are perfectly edible for weeks past their stated 'Use By' date while other things seem to have gone off before you've even left the supermarket so the whole thing is a pretty grey area. The whole subject has been brought to the fore-front of my mind by this article by the Telegraph. Hilary Benn, our environmental minister, would like to scrap the current 'Sell-by' date system to minimise food waste as she believes it creates confusion, meaning that usable food is being thrown away when it's still perfectly good to eat. Indeed, the figures used, quoted from the Food Standards Agency, make pretty shocking reading. An average UK home throws away about £400-worth of edible food a year, while everyday "five million potatoes, 4.4 million whole apples, one million loaves of bread and one million slices of ham" are disposed of when they could've actually been eaten.

That's a lot of waste. Boo and hiss to these nasty little numbers says Hilary. But they must be useful for something, right? It's all to do with shelf-life and I could go into all the different terms and their meanings but that'd bore us both and we can't have that. Needless to say, different kinds of products have different lifespans and while some merely aren't as tasty when they're getting on a bit, some become hazardous to eat. This is usually reflected by the relevant "Display Until" term on the packaging. The main thing is that products are stamped with a Sell-by/Display Until/Best Before/etc because it supposedly benefits both the retailer (or Supermarket) and the consumer (that's you!). Under European law, all products sold in supermarkets and the like need an indication of lifespan. This means that you can fill your basket knowing that the products you choose aren't past their best as the supermarket can tell for definite what is good and what is getting a bit Grandad. Once you get home, you can ensure that your food will be a certain standard when you eat it if you follow the advised date and the retailer has an expiry date on their own liability. The difficulty lies with the date itself - how accurate are they? I tend to eat things that are a little out of date but I'm careful to smell/look at them closely first. If something is going to be cooked all the way through, it should kill all the bacteria in it anyway. Still, I'm an impoverished and unemployed graduate (as of two weeks time!) and I hate waste...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

French Toast Dilemma

French toast, as my family call it, has been a bit of a treat breakfast since I was little. I remember sitting in my kitchen at home swinging my stubby legs and grasping the sticky maple syrup bottle while watching my Dad dip slices of bread into the creamy egg mixture before transferring them to the hot pan. We would eat them sweet with honey or syrup and a generous shake of cinnamon. However this entire academic year, it's been a topic of contention and ongoing research between my housemate and myself. He insists that "eggy bread" is savory and as such, should only be eaten with ketchup. Being the competitive types that we are, it's prompted random polling of our friends and relatives to establish exactly who is right.

Not one to be outdone, I've done a bit of research via t'internet and I can conclude that (drumroll please...) we're both right! Disappointingly. This is mainly because, it seems, that 'french toast' or pain perdu (en Francais) is usually sweet and is served with jam, butter, syrup, etc. Meanwhile, the more English 'eggy bread' is more often savory and eaten with marmite (yuck) or tomato sauce. If you're curious, give it a try!

French Toast, Gypsy Toast, Eggy Bread, Pain Perdu...

Ingredients: (enough for a hungry two)
3 medium eggs
a splash of milk or cream
1tsp caster sugar or a pinch of salt
5 slices of white bread
Maple Syrup
Tomato Sauce

- Whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar/salt. Add cinnamon if making a sweet mix. Pour mixture into a deep dish or large bowl.
- Dip each slice of bread into the bowl in turn until each side is covered and has soaked up a little of the mix.
- Fry in a pan with a little oil over a medium heat until golden brown and cooked all the way through
- Serve with your choice of condiment.

You can also use slice of baguette instead of bread. Slice thinly (about 1.5cm) on the diagonal. I tend to use white bread as it soaks up more mixture but you can use wholemeal if you wish.

Monday, 8 June 2009


I have spent the last twenty-two years of my life without having experienced the comforting stodge of rosti until my housemate kindly decided to educate me. He'd been waxing lyrical and looked up a few recipes so this is a result of mixing several. It's very simple though grating and squeezing the potatoes can be a bit tiresome and messy too but well worth while for the end result. We didn't have a spare tea towel to hand so we used kitchen roll (with limited success, don't bother!) and, eventually, a collander!


(A smaller more individual size!)

A tasty and rather stodgy carb-heavy main course - ideal for brunch! Deliciously crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Ingredients: (enough for two)
3 Potatoes, chilled from the fridge
1 White Onion
3 rashers of smoked bacon, trimmed of fat and chopped
Duck fat

- Heat about a tablespoon of duck fat in the pan on a low heat until it melts
- Finely chop the onion and add to the pan
- Sweat the onions until soft then add the bacon until cooked through
- While you wait, peel and coursely grate the potatoes.
- Put the grated potato into a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can
- Add this to the pan, season and press down to form a cake
- Turn the heat to medium and cook for five or so minutes until the underside is crispy
- Turn the rosti (we found the easiest way to do this is to turn it onto a plate and then slide it back into the pan), adding a little more fat and cooking the other side until crispy.
- Serve with a fried egg on top

I think this would be really tasty with mushrooms added with the bacon. Leeks could also be added with the onion to bulk out the mixture for more people.
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