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Archive for September, 2009

Fresh start omelette

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Sometimes life can get in the way of food. This is something I try to avoid; even at the most traumatic points in my life I have been able to ravage a curry and ask for seconds. I am, perhaps regrettably, not one of those people who sheds pounds in times of crisis. I won’t even let a razor sore throat prevent the consumption of solids.

 

Recently I have been stressed, away from home a lot and forced to enter my 28th year on this planet. I have found myself eating a litany of soulless yo shushis and ping pongs rather than cooking something delicious myself. The result is a few extra pounds around my middle and a palpable feeling that something isn’t quite right.  I need a fresh start.

 

I know it looks like a mess, this dish is beautiful on the inside.

I know it looks like a mess, this dish is beautiful on the inside.

 

So this evening I rifled through the fridge and removed the mould from anything that could be saved. Two eggs were judged to be edible despite the box advising a use by date of the 8th September. If I’m dead in the morning please point the coroner in that direction. I also had some red chillies, an onion, garlic, yoghurt and frozen broad beans.

 

My egg phobia has been mentioned in a previous post and this fear does extend to omelettes which I have never loved. Does anyone really love omelettes? I associate them with leftovers and muscle men. The omelette I conjured up though was made divine by the garlic yoghurt and egg combination which is Skye Gyngell’s invention. The broad beans, red chillies and sloppy presentation however are mine, all mine.

 

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Having had thirty minutes to digest and with the garlic aroma still lingering on my tongue I am filled with a sense of satisfaction and calm that yo sushi can never deliver. For the first time I understand the point of omelettes and I think that makes me an adult…or a muscle man, I’ll let you know.

 

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Chilli Eggs

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On Sunday afternoon I went to see Julie & Julia at the Picturehouse cinema in Clapham. It was just me, a large glass of red wine and a room full of fellow moviegoers. When I took my seat and the adverts began I felt one of those sudden bursts of utter contentment which threatened to erupt from me in an uncontrolled yelp of joy. Does anyone else experience sudden waves of excitement when going to the cinema alone? Throw in a packet of Maltesers and my ecstasy hits levels I can only imagine is comparable to that of drug users.

 

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The joy I take in my unaccompanied cinematic experiences does give me a rather rosy view of many films since my overall bliss at being alone tends to bathe the feature in a reflected glow. Of course the odd horror of a flick can penetrate my cinematic ardour (The Proposal anyone?) but this is a rare occurrence. Sadly this means that I could never be a film critic despite feeling so at home in a movie theatre. As is so often the case with food I am unable to look at a film objectively and my experience of it is intrinsically tied to my mood.

 

Julie & Julia I am happy to say was excellent. I could be wrong of course, it might be an absolute stinker but I was feeling so happy how could it not be great? There wasn’t nearly as much food porn as I expected but perhaps I am used to things a bit more hardcore, so to speak. It was very funny, or at least the Julia Child sections were. Honestly I’d have happily done away with the sections based on Julie Powell but hey, I’m no film critic.

 

All of this leads me to eggs, sort of. The Julie of the film was a food blogger who had never eaten an egg before commencing her mission to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in just one year. This might sound like a travesty to any food-lover but, whilst I have eaten many an egg, I understand Julie’s reluctance.

 

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There is something about eggs (I’m talking poached, boiled and fried here) that makes me nervous. It’s not to do with eating embryo; I have not a shred of a principle when it comes to eating animal babies born or otherwise. It’s something about egg white, a substance with the potential to be quite revolting in an uncooked state. How can this gloop be married to the delicious and beautiful yolk? The white of the egg is the challenge and the yolk the reward. Don’t let meringues blind you.

 

The exception to this is my father’s chilli eggs. I like a runny yolk as much as the next person but I am ashamed to say I frequently sacrifice this to the greater good of a solid egg white. In this dish though I am always able to produce a runny yolk and cooked egg white.

 

Chilli eggs is a delicious mid-week meal. You can throw in any old vegetables you have knocking around the fridge. Speaking as an eggphobe I can vouch that this dish wins me over every time. Bon appetit!

 

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Pear and Malteser Crumble

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Everybody likes crumble. Well, maybe there are a handful of murderers, paedophiles and terrorists who aren’t keen on it but as a rule of thumb all right-thinking people love crumble.

 

Crumble reigns supreme over other puddings because it is so impossible to make a mess of. No matter how depressed, stressed or tired you are feeling. No matter if you are a child, elderly or infirm. Nigel Slater has written very movingly about his mother’s crumble in his memoir Toast and since reading this book the very act of preparing crumble always gives me a fleeting lump in my throat. Crumble was already a sentimental and bucolic pudding and Nigel Slater has now connected it inextricably with Mums.

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I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about possible crumble recipes, I tend to throw in some ginger, cinnamon or chocolate with whatever fruit is available. Maltesers however came to me in a flash of inspiration and I bought the ingredients with this recipe in mind. The result is a pear and chocolate crumble but with a gooey, slightly chewy malty taste which is delicious.

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Why I hate cupcakes

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14th – 19th of September is National Cupcake Week. While cherries only warrant one day (19th July) cupcakes get a whole week. This places the Yank impostor on a culinary par with sandwiches (10th – 16th May). Sandwiches! Which loony organisation or shadowy governmental body charged with the task of allocating food birthdays decided that cupcakes should be elevated to the sovereign-like status of a week-long celebration?

 

If you are anything like me you will have found the slow and steady rise of the cupcake to the summit of Baked Goods Mountain incredibly irritating. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with cupcakes but for the love of God why are they so popular? Sadly I can’t imagine there will ever be a similar surge in the popularity of, say, ribs. So that’s no three-tiered wedding cake made of ribs, no knitted ribs and no giant rib served up to bemused tourists in Covent Garden. That’s a shame.

 

The cupcake is essentially just a fairy cake on steroids. Someone clever at the Telegraph compared the arrival of the cupcake in this country to that of the grey squirrel but I feel this does not sufficiently convey the extent to which fairy cakes have been sidelined. It’s cake genocide. Cupcakes make the grey squirrel look like a charmingly apologetic interloper.

 

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that both cupcakes and fairy cakes are primarily meant for children. There is nothing wrong with indulging in a nostalgic treat every now and then. I know people who still like the odd party ring or bowl of angel delight and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. What frustrates me is the way cupcakes have been so completely embraced by otherwise sensible adult women. Glitter, heart shaped sprinkles, pink frosting: this is the most infantilised baked good imaginable.

 

Sex and the City has a lot to answer for the cupcakes current status as a fashion accessory. Eating a cupcake will not make you more like Carrie. Move to New York, start dressing like Zandra Rhodes, become utterly self-absorbed: all this will help but eating cupcakes isn’t going to do it. Realistically how many of these Sex and the City-style cupcakes are actually digested by their fashionable consumers?

 

Cupcakes are too big, there is far too much icing on them and they have usurped the already perfectly fine fairy cake. Come the 14th September I plan to make something that is the antithesis of a cupcake. Something simple and economical like a rock cake, a cake so ugly there is no mention of it on the British Baker Magazine website. This John Merrick of cakes deserves more recognition. I don’t expect the cupcake industry to fall over night but perhaps a National Rock Cake day in 2010 is an achievable goal.

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