Thursday, 23 August 2012

Rasta pasta

Right from the off, I should be absolutely clear that there is no Jamaican element to this dish whatsoever.  No secret ingredient of Reggae Reggae Sauce or a rogue scotch bonnet. Levi Roots isn't going to jump out of the woodwork, brandishing a yam (which is a darn shame, because he seems like a jolly sort of fellow).  You may have guessed that from the photo, but I feel I should point this out because - like any self-respecting blogger - I am obsessed with my blog view stats.  Through this I can see, for one, that I do actually have readers, quite a few in fact, even if I don't have followers (c'mon lurkers, give me a wave!), and I can also see what people type into google to lead them here. 

What leads a lot of people here, it seems, is a desire to be somewhere else.  So to all of you who were looking for something completely different, MEGA SOZ.  To name but a few: firstly, those who are here looking for a carby taste of the Caribbean - I'm afraid it's back to google for you, my friend. Secondly - and this is the most common wrong turn - those looking for the real Nigella.  Sorry again; less boobs, more swears, but if you can get past that there's still some food and stuff.  And lastly, to the two people who optimistically typed in 'fuck in supermarket' and ended up at THIS - well, you get my biggest sorry. Unless you enjoy spaffing-off over a well oiled penne dish, then you were probably severely disappointed.

Why rasta pasta then? Why the misleading name and subsequent apology? Well the colours, duh! I was besides myself when I came up with this.

Me: "I name this dish, RASTA PASTA!"
Ben: Silence
Me: "Did you hear me? I've called it Rasta Pasta! D'you get it?"
Ben: "Yes, I get it"
Me: "No, but, it's the Rastafarian colours AND it rhymes"
Ben: "Yes, darling, I get it".
Me: "Then why aren't you applauding?"


This is a great dish for me at the moment because...*drumroll* tomatoes have kicked off!  It's like they all went red when my back was turned  (to be specific, when my back was turned picking up a BOGOF deal of cherry tomatoes at sainsbury's) so for the past couple of weeks we've had tonnes of the fuckers.  And you know what? It breaks me to say it, but the ones I've grown don't taste any better than shop bought.  In fact I think the shop bought ones are better.  I feel totally cheated after the blood, sweat, tears and spider related freak-outs they've caused.  I don't know where I went wrong - too much sun/not enough, too much plant food/not enough - but is disappointing none the less.

If I were a less honest blogger I would probably just show you the photo and be all like "oh it's SO worthwhile, you all really SHOULD grow your own, yes it's effort but the payoffs, oh the payoffs, dahhhling!".....bullshit, mate.  Although, quite frankly, I'm amazed that I got real actual tomatoes in any form to grow, so swings and roundabouts. This recipe is actually very good for the bland little blighters, because they are basically so seasoned and pickled you can't tell they're below par. 

Rasta Pasta

200g linguine
Good slosh of olive/rapeseed oil
1 large/2 small cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of torn basil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or 2tbsp if you like a bit of zing)
1/2 tsp caster sugar
Good pinch of salt and pepper
300g cherry tomatoes (try and get red and golden ones for the full reggae effect)

Slice your cherry tomatoes in half and in a a bowl mix them with the vinegar, sugar, salt and garlic. Give them a good scrunch up with your hands, till you have a bit of a squashy tomato mulch. Leave them for about 15 mins.

In the meantime, cook your pasta.  Once done, drain and mix in the tomato mixture, oil and the torn basil.  Add a load of pepper, for kicks.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Apple sourdough cake (a.k.a. Herman The German)

Every month, my charity colleagues and I have a team meeting; the main purpose being to discuss how much we've kicked cancer's arse that month and how we're going to go about kicking it the following month.  The secondary purpose is to eat our own body weight in biscuits, discuss books we've read and whinge about how much we hate going to Birmingham for training. 

Last meeting, my colleague Lou handed me a margarine container of goo and introduced it as 'Herman the German'.  "What the fuck?", I said.  Actually I didn't, this was work and I at least try to maintain a modicum of manners and professionalism.  "Er, what is it?" I said.  "It's Herman the German!", she exclaimed, as if I was the one making no sense.  I open the container and my new mate, Herman, quite frankly, resembles a container of baby sick (I've never been in close contact with baby sick, but I have it on good authority that it's rank).  He also smells like the floor of a brewery that hasn't been cleaned for decades.  Or your mouth when you wake up with a very bad hangover. 

Herman, I come to learn, is essentially a sourdough starter, which you stir, feed and eventually divide, dispense to friends and bake into a cake.  Basically it's a chain letter for gluttons. You are thankfully given instructions on how to care for your Herman - pin these on the fridge, as above, to look like you've got a purpose in life.  Apparently you're meant to follow these rules religiously, but unfortunately I've never been very religious, not even when it comes to baking, so my instructions were more like the following...

Day one: Forget, leave in the car, then be met by an appalling stench the next day
Day two: Stir
Day three: Forget
Day four: Stir
Day five: Fuck have run out of milk, Herman will have to starve
Day six: And sugar
Day seven: Finally add ingredients
Day nine, ten, eleven - twenty: Keep stirring as don't have time to make bloody cake
Day twenty: Add extra ingredients, divide, realise is going to be ages till you see anyone who bakes
Day twenty one: See friend, Me: "I've got you a present!", Friend: "Oh god, it's not that fucking cake thing is it?"
Day lost count: See mother, "I've got you a present!", Mother: "Oh god, it's not that fucking cake thing is it?"
Yesterday: Ritually sacrificed Herman and baked him alive into delicious fancy
Now: Still have a portion of goo, realise have no friends, eat whole cake in state of depression

So, conclusive evidence is that as long as you don't put it in the fridge, this thing is pretty hard to murder.

For all the ball ache, it's actually a pretty nice cake.  Or it is as long as you ignore the recipe and take out the EVIL RAISINS FROM THE SEVENTH CIRCLE OF HELL. My only other tweak to the recipe was to add a maple drizzle; in a bowl mix maple syrup with icing sugar, bit by bit, until you have a good drizzling consistency (the same proportions you would use of sugar to water when making standard fairy cake icing), and, er, drizzle. You don't need much, so make it in a small portion, and don't get too gun-ho with the maple syrup as that stuff's freaking expensive.

If you're the only person in this hemisphere yet to be presented with your own container of baby vom, then the website also tells you how to make your own starter.  Alternatively, if you live in Norwich, then I have another batch bubbling away like the Sanctum of Slime, and will gladly give it to you - I've had enough of my flat reeking like a sicked-up tin of Tennants Super.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Anniversary breakfast pancakes

Firstly, before I get on to all the romantic shit, I need to update you on something.  Turns out, zebra tomatoes aren't meant to be green.  You guessed that right? Well I didn't.  They're all starting to go kind of red now, but still with green stripes, like some sort of Teenage Mutant Ninja Tomato. Terrifying.  Anyway, moving on.

On Sunday it was mine and Ben's 2 year anniversary. Actually, that's a lie, on SATURDAY it was mine and Ben's anniversary.  Or if you listen to Ben, on FRIDAY it was our anniversary.  Really neither of us has a shitting clue, because the original event, two years and 6  4  5 6 days ago, was a bit of a vodka redbull haze.  I probably owe a lot to alcoholism, because if I hadn't subsequently been too hungover to leave his house for three days I might not have been able to convince him how cool I am and encourage this longevity.  Anyway, whether it was Friday or Saturday, the little ratbag managed to book himself a gig on both of these dates and was in the shit either way.  SO, anniversary mark 2 became Sunday.

I really suck at romance. I used to be pretty good at it, but had it knocked out of me by a series of nonchalant suitors back in the day and now I've gone in the other direction.  I once longed to be taken to a fancy restaurant on valentines day, but now the idea of such a thing gives me hives. Ben isn't massive on the fluff either, but occasionally he'll pull a subtle little blinder of a gesture and BAM - I'm the arsehole who didn't do anything. 

He has now got me on both anniversaries, so I really need to up my game.  Next year I'm going all out - balloons, marching band, pinata - I will not be The Shit One again.  I mean, he didn't buy me a pony or anything, but it was one of those little gestures - totally free and unglamourous - that really punches you in the tearduct.  In this case, a card. A handmade card with words in it.  Ben doesn't do cards, with the exception of last Sunday (and also a year before last Sunday) so that made this tiny little thing a massive big thing.

Last year when this happened, I lived in London and he in Norwich, and in my surprise I had to resort to writing 'Happy Anniversary' on my boobs and texting him a picture. This year we live together, so that wasn't going to cut the mustard.  So I resorted to pancakes.  I know, I suck, he wins the battle, but I figure considering he wasn't even there for our actual anniversary I win the war.

As an additional complaint, there is NOWHERE open to eat on a Sunday evening in Norwich. Which bites the big one if your rescheduled anniversary happens to be then. We'd just seen Batman, I'd whipped myself into a ravenous frenzy of excitement, ready to eat something the size of Baine's head, and then a tumbleweed passes me by....and rolls all the way to Jamie's Italian, the ONLY place open, and 'oh sorry, we're fully booked'.  FUCK YOU, JAMIE OLIVER YOU POPULAR BASTARD, WE NEED ANNIVERSARY STEAK.  We had anniversary toast.

Breakfast pancakes

1 cup plain flour
1 cup milk
1 tbsp butter, melted, plus a little for the pan
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder

Mix all the ingredients together, till you have a batter the consistency of....I can't think of a good example....slightly thicker than single cream, thinner than yoghurt. Heat your (non-stick) pan and swirl a small bit of butter or oil around. Dollop a spoonful (I used about a third of a ladle) of batter into the pan and it should go into a satisfying circle.  Then you need to watch for when little bubbles appear on the surface.


Then you flip, and hopefully they'll be a nice golden colour on the underside.  Give another minute or two and you'll be done. Your first ones will be shit though, be prepared for that, it's just a fact.  The rest will be great.  Have the oven on a low heat to keep them warm whilst the production line keeps going.

Serve with maple syrup and other unhealthy things.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Balcony bounty goat's cheese salad

When Ben goes out of an evening, as a creature of habit, I tend to eat one of two things; cheesy garlicky spaghetti or a goat's cheese salad.  Cheesy spaghetti, being my ultimate comfort food, is something I could happily eat everyday, but when push comes to shove, doesn't seem to rate highly in the sophistication stakes according to anyone other than me. With salad, well - at risk of making a huge generalisation - boys don't like salad that much, do they?  They wolf it down in ten minutes and spend the rest of the evening rummaging around to see if you've hidden a sausage or a baked potato somewhere.  So I tend to have a bit of quality 1:1 time with these two dishes when Ben goes off to twiddle with guitars.

Neither of my single lady dinners would usually warrant documentation on this blog, but this particular goat's cheese salad, which I made this week, was bit more special than the usual, as I grew some of it!  Yes, my first balcony harvest is in.  Don't laugh....

I said don't laugh, haters. Yes, if I was self-sufficient I would die, no Charlie Dimmock isn't going to have to start wearing a bra and find a new job, but it's undeniably food! Actual edible food! Food which I grew! A few glorious peas, a tiny courgette, some purple radishes and a tomato.  You'd be forgiven for thinking that the tomato is hideously unripe, but it seems that I have, in fact, albeit accidentally, grown a zebra tomato. Yeah that's right, A MOTHERFUCKING ZEBRA TOMATO! They're meant to be green, and, well, look a bit zebra-ey as far as I can tell from google image searching. Turns out it also happened to be hideously unripe, but how the Bob Hoskins is one meant to know when a green tomato is ripe? I sure as hell don't know.

I was having a lovely time with my vegetables, stroking them and giving them all names, until some jerk came along and decided he wanted to get a piece of the action.


When you have a such a small select haul of produce it's kinda hard to decide what to do with it. Especially as the weather is so crappy at the moment that this is probably all I'm going to get. The great thing about homegrown (veggies, not the Neil Young album) though is that you don't really need to do much, it's a bit of a waste to cook it and cover it in stuff.  So I didn't. I threw it together with some leaves and some goat's cheese and some yellow courgettes from the market (check out Norwich market getting all vegetable trendy) and that was about it. Oh, and I topped it off with a pansy, to up the ponce factor a bit.

Unfortunately it turns out, that although very pretty, the radishes tasted of actual fire and I picked them all out.  So what with the unripe tomato and the radishes of Lucifer, I basically ended up with 20 peas and a small courgette.  Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Courgette, goat's cheese and balcony salad

The contents of this salad are kind of dictated by whatever nice, fresh, colourful veggies you can get hold of, but this what I did.  For one.

Two small courgettes, one green, one yellow (shave into ribbons with a potato peeler)
Handful of baby chard leaves
Sprinkling of fresh peas
Sprinkling of sliced radish, if you can take the heat
Dressing made with one part lemon juice, two parts rapeseed oil
About 80g crumbled goat's cheese