Sunday, 29 July 2012

Cherry clafoutis

I've been trying to write one of my threatened 'lifestyle' posts for the last two weeks, but got to a stage where I was even boring myself with it, so I've given up and gone back to edible stuff. 

Now I'm not going to rabbit on about this one, because you just need to get on and make it, yeah?  Don't sit there thinking, 'Ooh, yes, that'll be something nice for when X and Y come round for dinner'.  Because X and Y probably won't come round for dinner; X will get flu, or Y will pretend that the babysitter's cancelled, as they really just want to stay in and watch Britain's Got Talent and get a curry, which is completely reasonable seeing as the last time they came round you burnt the mashed potato.  Then you'll forget about making this and suddenly it'll be November and cherries will cost £27 per kilo, and 'OH FUCK, I DIDN'T MAKE THAT CLAFOUTIS'.

The above advice comes from experience (with the exception of burning mashed potato, who the hell burns mashed potato?), because I bought a delicious slice of this stuff last Summer from a deli on the Chatsworth road, then a whole year passed before I made its acquaintance again.  It's stodgy, and cakey, but not too much because there's some healthy, healthy fruit in there to cut the sweetness.  No, on the whole it's not very good for you, but I've mainly eaten cream today and I'm still alive, so I'm sure you'll get over it. 

So quit fannying around and hop to it, OK?

Cherry clafoutis
This will serve about six, I made it a third of the size for Ben and I

500-600g cherries (depending on how fruity you want it), stoned
20g butter plus some for greasing
75g caster sugar
225g plain flour
3 eggs, separated
350ml milk
Couple of tbsp of brandy (optional)

Firstly butter a good sized gratin/casserole type dish (the sort of thing you'd use for a large quiche).  Then put in the cherries and dab them with a bit of brandy (if using) and sprinkle on 25g of the sugar.  Mix together the flour and remaining sugar and make a well in the centre, then add your egg yolks and a bit of the milk.  Beat together and gradually add the rest of the milk, until you've got a smooth batter. Whisk your egg whites until they form soft peaks and then fold them into the batter.  Pour the batter over the cherries, so they're just slightly poking out at the top. Dot the rest of the butter on top. Bake at gas mark 5 for about 30-45 mins, checking after the first 30.  You want the batter to be set,but not solid, and golden on top.  If the top is starting to brown but the middle is still runny, cover with tin foil until done. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with creme fraiche or ice cream.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Indian chicken slaw

The other day I witnessed a conversation between two acquaintances that went a little bit like this:

One silly person: "How's the diet going?"
Another silly person: "Oh you know, kinda hit a wall now, been thinking I really need to cut back on fruit, it's SOOO sugary, really calorific"
Original silly person: "Oh yeah, totally, those bananas are a killer!".

What the actual fuck? Have people other than Paris Hilton/cast of TOWIE/Barbie actually started talking like this? I hear these conversations and I want cry/shout/laugh/shove a mars bar in every orifice.  I want to shake them, I want to feed them, I want to run and hide from the attack of the Stepford wives, but I can do nothing but stand there with a gaping fish mouth.  Why am I bothered? I shall outline my annoyances and disbelief in more detail below.

1) I can no longer be friends with these people.  It's slim pickings on the potential friend front in Norfolk, so I don't take this decision lightly, but I'm a feeder; without luring people round for dinner I've got nothing. 

2) I find ruling any type of food stuff out of your diet, as part of a weight loss technique, a completely ludicrous concept.  Unless you are going to stick to it for the rest of your (resultingly miserable) life it is entirely pointless, because as soon as you come to your senses your body is screaming, "Hooray, bread, my old pal! I'm going to keep a nice reserve of you right here on X's arse because she'll probably give you up again next week". The lobotomy that is known as The Atkins Diet is one thing, but ruling out a naturally occurring foodstuff, unprocessed and full of vitamins, well the joke's on you. I am particularly entertained by people's umbrage with avocados. I've seen customers in pizza restaurants refusing to have it in their side salad because "Oh no, it's too fatty".  Yeah, because it's the avocado that's gonna do you in, not the stuffed crust quattro fucking fromagio. 

3) And this is the main crux of the issue; I despair that we live in a society where these two people feel a need to go to such measures.  Because, let's face it, if you're getting to a stage where you're considering giving up fruit then the chances are you're already pretty thin and more than likely have an eating disorder.  Been there, done that, got the size 6 t-shirt - it's no fun, it's not healthy, it gets you nowhere but miserable and it's an entirely vicious cycle to break out of once you're in it. On the whole not a good place to be, I wouldn't choose to go back again (see also Corfu).

But who's fault is it that we feel this need for emaciation? Now, I would love to blame the XY chromosomes in the room - after all, if we listen to the evolutionary argument we're doing it all to impress boys right? - but I'm coming to the reluctant conclusion that that argument is in fact balderdash, because I am yet in life to meet a man who likes his ladies skeletal.  And if you have, then hey, here's news for you, that guy's a dick! He'll probably also want you to adopt a childlike level of waxing and will buy you an iron for your birthday.  No, the unfortunate truth is that these expectations come from within our own ranks. 

We live in a world of constant comparison with our peers; we look at people who can genuinely pull off a pair of skinny jeans, who look thinner two weeks after having a baby than we do on a good day, and feel that life would be a lot better if we could be like them. And, whilst this feeling of imperfection did exist ten years ago, it's undoubtedly a million gazillion times worse thanks to the utter bile-strewn-arse-rags that are Heat/Closer/OK magazine, who slag off every single publicly successful (granted perhaps only successful for shagging someone, but they're richer than me anyhow) woman out there because they're too fat, or too thin, or too sweaty, or too god damn normal.  The older I get the more I fail to see how these magazines are legal. As my good friend Heather commented, "it's bullying, pure and simple". 

I hope you will forgive me for the tirade, but whenever I see women (or indeed men) acting this way I want to take them under my wing and, firstly say a massive "you look awesome, relax, have a cornetto", but also give them a bit of a lesson in what healthy eating actually is. Because most people seem to think healthy eating = eating as little as possible.  Here's a revelation for you: diets are not sustainable, diets are for getting you to a healthy weight if you are an unhealthy weight, you are not meant to stay on them until you disappear.  The rest of the time it's all about the buzzwords - 'moderation' and 'balance' and 'cake'. It's time we stopped looking at eating as A Bad Thing.  Eating keeps us alive, that's not something we should feel guilty about.

This is not to say I don't have days where I wail, "OMIGOD I am such a lard-arse, carbs be gone!", but I have become very good at taking it easy for a couple of days and then having a stern self-loving word with myself.  I desperately wish that I could impart this feeling of 'that'll do, you're not so bad' on my 15 year old, 6 stone self, but without a DeLorean I will have to make do with imparting it on you.  Dear reader, if you are currently considering giving up fruit then don't - you look great, you need vitamins and I can promise you it won't make anything better.

Which brings me to the point (yeah there was one), which is this: a recipe I consider healthy in a good, sensible way, and it doesn't taste like straw.  In fact, Ben actually notes this as one of his favourite things which I make.  I have never been sure whether to be ecstatic or distraught at him describing it so, seeing as it's so simple, but it's nice to know someone likes it.

I will leave you with the lovely Josie Long, who I feel concludes this post quite well.

Indian chicken slaw

Shredded leftover roast chicken (or cook two breasts however you like and shred them)
Two carrots, grated
Half a red cabbage, shredded
Half a red onion, finely sliced
One red chilli, finely sliced
Handful of peanuts chopped
Handful of torn mint leaves
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp mango chutney

Mix it all together!

Sunday, 8 July 2012


I have decided that I should include a bit of 'lifestyle' in this blog.  People like that, don't they? And it seems pretty easy, you just take a load of instagram pictures of the tidy bits of your house and your adorable children and splendid parties.  Then everyone thinks you have a perfect life and gets very jealous. 

The only problem is, I don't have a tidy house, or adorable children, and I can't remember the last time I went to a party.  And in truth, all those people who look like they have all these things probably don't really.  Well, OK, if they feature their children then chances are they're not lying about that bit, but they're undoubtedly little shits most of the time. So perhaps, rather than making you jealous, I should show you a glimpse of what the day-to-day Sod Nigella house is really like.  That way, when I start showing you little, carefully photographed insights of my occasionally quaint and pleasant life, you know that it's all LIES and can feel a jolly lot better about yourself. 

1. One of many piles of books around the house, as we can't be bothered to buy/construct more shelves

2. Hole in the kitchen ceiling, which the shower leaks through everyday.

3. Kitchen cupboard sans door, as it keeps falling off (poly filla apparently not permanent solution to everything)

4. Omnipresent ironing pile, with omnipresent unhelpful feline.

5. Pile of post which is too important to throw in the bin and risk identity fraud, but we are otherwise unsure of what to do with. 

6. An OCD picture of my hair straighteners.  I do this quite often on leaving the house, to stop myself flipping out when I get to the end of the road wondering whether I remembered to switch them off.  OCD seems to be quite fashionable these days though, so I don't feel any need to address the fact that I have more photos of my GHDs than I do my boyfriend.

So, as you will see, behind the lens of each blogger's iphone lurks a shit-tip of admin and un-done chores.

Anywho, some aforementioned 'lifestyle' for you.  Last week, Ben and I went to a wine tasting.  As you may have guessed from Ben's guest post, he knows a lot about wine. He's in the booze business after all.  I, on the other hand, know sod all, other than that Lambrini is generally considered a bad thing. This is not through lack of trying on Ben's part. Whenever we have wine (quite often) I am told all about it, nod intensely, and then a few glugs and hiccups later I have forgotten almost everything. 

Ergo, wine tastings aren't really my thing.  Mainly because I have a terrible fear of being That Sort of Person.  In my head, wine tastings are full of ruddy cheeked, booming chaps in corduroy trousers, and timid women who play bridge and go to the hairdressers because they actually enjoy it, rather than because their fringe is about to take over the Universe.  These couples almost certainly have a pair of Bang and Olufsen speakers, go on holiday more than once a year to their own villa in France or Italy and have been on the brink of divorce for the last three years. 

This perhaps wasn't true of the crowd we were with, but I'm not sure I entirely fitted in.  In the first ten minutes I had been told off for looking bored during the talk, snorted Rioja through my nostrils when Ben described something as tasting like 'a summer meadow', and on being asked what I thought of Number 11, I slurred to one poor gentleman, "God knows, I'm a bit shitfaced now to be honest".

If you would like more, or perhaps less, info on the 12 wines from Spain which we tasted, then I have helpfully included for you mine and Ben's notes from the night (yes, they made us take notes).

1. 2011 Herederos del Marques de Riscal, Verdejo, Reuda (£9.50)
Ben: Light and zippy, lots of grassy lemony flavours, not quite to the extant of a Sauvignon though, with a touch of under ripe melon.
Morgan: Necked it. Too busy trying to concentrate on the talk

2. 2010 Mariona, Moscatel de Alejandra, Alicante (£8.00)
Ben: Really interesting wine, extreme nose of apricots, fresh and dried, and jasmine, taught palate with a hint of bitterness underlying the rich peach and grapes.
Morgan: Tastes like Schloer, but with alcohol, bonus!

3. 2010 Izadi, Rioja Blanco, Rioja (£11.25)
Ben: Well balanced, good length, but ultimately quite uninteresting.  Unoaked.
Morgan: Very lemony.  I like lemons, but apparently not in wine.

4. 2010 Valminor, Albarino, Rias Biaxas (£13.75)
Ben: Broad, prawny, yeasty nose, incredibly precise lemony palate, much more focused than the sesame-toast-like nose would suggest.
Morgan: Crab? Distinct aroma ofThai cuisine.

5. 2010 Ailala, Treixadura, Ribeiro (£10.50)
Ben: Muted peach aromas.  Well balanced and Rhone-like, but not as sweet or rich.
Morgan: Nice label...

6. 2011 Mas Amor Rosado, Massard, Catalunya (£9.25)
Ben: Nose of Campinos, strawberries and vanilla, palate of bright red fruits.  Nice, but a bit girly and silly.
Morgan: Werther's Originals and rare veal (Rose, of course)

7. NV Brut Cava Rosat, Castillo Montblac, Catalunya (£10.50)
Ben: Brilliant.  Incredible spicy nose, red orange skin, clementines, grass, and a long palate of red fruits and tangerine.  Methode Traditional.  Lively fizz in the glass, but the bottle lost its bubbles quite quickly.
Morgan: Fizzy Ribena

8. 2010 Mariona, Alicante Bouschet, Alicante (£8.00)
Ben: Very light but full and fruity - raspberries, lime, nettles on the nose, soft but inky and dark fruit palate. Great length.  Interesting wine as it's made from the only grape variety to have red flesh.
Morgan: Meh

9. 2010 MasDelmera, Monastrell/Tempranillo, Jumila (£7.75)
Ben: Quite young.  Strawberries and blackcurrant aroma, with a little cheesy feety sort of overtone, carries over to the palate with plum skins, fresh blueberries and a hint of Edam...
Morgan: Really quite drunk now.  Why is nobody else this drunk?

10. 2006, Lezcano - Lacalle, Vino de Reserva, Pago de Valetaima, Cigales (£19.00)
Ben: Like arriving at a hay-filled meadow with your loved one, unfurling your blanket under the nearest oak tree and unpacking the picnic basket only to realise the strawberries have bruised in the heat and the raspberry and almond trifle has all but melted away.
Morgan: Whiff of rotten bananas. Taste of cotton wool.

11. 2008 Pago de los Capellanes, Tinto Crianza, Ribera del Duero (£22.00)
Ben: An incredible wine of precision, power and potential.  Pencil shavings, straw, dung, fresh red fruit and a palate of black fruit, roses, globe artichoke and lemon.
Morgan: You know when you've had asparagus and then you go for a wee? Yeah, that smell. Or artichokes.  Definitely green stuff.

12. Finca Santa Sabina, Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon, Somontano (£14.90).
Ben: Slight come-down after the last wine, but still good.  Clean, inky nose of red fruit and strawberries.  Rich tannins and dark wood mingle with summery fruits.
Morgan: Mr Muscle furniture polish. Don't know how I know this, never polished anything in my life.

Then we had steak and chips and all was right with the world.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Macerated strawberries

I meant to add this to the end of yesterday's post but blogspot was being an arse and I gave up.  If the idea of strawberry risotto totally grosses you out, then just try the macerated strawberries as a dessert.  Take about 300g chopped strawberries and cover them with 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar.  Leave to macerate for 20 mins then serve with vanilla ice cream. Yum yum.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Gardening and strawberry risotto

I've taken up gardening.

Although I'm not sure it can be called gardening in my case - more 'balconing' as we don't have a garden, just a large walkway/balcony - but it's true what all those irksome TV chefs with 7 acres of land say; you can still do a lot with a small space.

This year's balcony crop rotation is:
Mini Carrots
Salad leaves
Various flowers which I don't know the name of

None of this is because I enjoy it you understand.  I am merely preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.  Whilst you suckers are all having your faces gnawed off, I will be sat up on the first floor, tucking into a grand crop of approximately seven tomatoes, three courgettes, a few peas and more mint than you can shake a stick at, which will hopefully tide me over until it's all calmed down.  Or at least I can have a nice meal, get smashed on mojitos and take the 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' approach.

The sad fact is that I do actually quite enjoy growing stuff, but it all comes as part of the gradual, sinking realisation that I am turning into my mother.  Obviously I knew this would happen one day, but I thought I could at least hold out till 30.  Nope.  I garden, I wear stripy tops, I like blue and white crockery and spend a lot more time talking about the size of my bottom than I do trying to rectify it.  And, most worryling, the other day the Archers came on and I didn't turn it off straight away (you may ask what I was doing listening to Radio 4 anyway - I was listening for news of zombie apocalypse, duh). SOMEONE PUT ME IN A BOOB TUBE AND TAKE ME OUT FOR TEQUILLA SLAMMERS, RIGHT AWAY.


Anyway, whilst we've not actually eaten anything from the garden yet I am very proud of the little space.  Almost verging on obsessive; I sometimes find myself just staring at the plants trying to work out if they've grown, or standing there in amazement, mouthing 'Would you look at that, there's tomatoes on my tomato plants!'. The overlooking neighbours must think I'm barmy.  Probably doesn't help that I'm usually in my pyjamas.

Strawberry Risotto
I don't grow strawberries on the balcony, but if I did I would certainly use them to make the below.  Seamless link, I'm sure you'll agree?  Yeah, strawberries in a risotto, bit out there, might not be your thing, but I think it's pretty swell.  I first tried tried it last year at 15, Jamie Oliver's restaurant, and mainly ordered it because I hoped it would be disgusting and then I could go on about how stupid and deluded Jamie Oliver is. Unfortunately for my cynical side it was really nice, and so I've tried to recreate it. 

Serves 2

1 small white onion, finely chopped
Slug of oil or butter
200g risotto rice
1 glass of white wine
200g strawberries, chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (unfortunately you need the fairly decent stuff - by which I mean more than 99p a bottle - otherwise it's too acidic)
Stock cube (chicken or veg)
Handful of torn basil
Large handful parmesan

Firstly, put your chopped strawberries in a bowl, cover with the vinegar and allow to macerate for about 20 mins.  In the meantime, fry your onions in oil until softened. Add in your rice and stir till coated, then slosh in your glass of wine.  Once the wine has cooked off, add your stock cube then add water bit by bit and let the rice gradually absorb it. About half way through the cooking process add your strawberries.  Once the rice is softened and has absorbed all the liquid, throw in a handful of torn basil leaves and most of the parmesan. Season. Give a good stir then serve with more parmesan.