Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Here is the latest in our Why I Love Food series. This week, the wonderful Romany Meehan tells us how illness has shaped her love for food and how it means she spends more time with the people closest to her.

I don’t just love food, I adore food. I think it’s fair to say that I’m rather fond of the wrong kinds of food given that over the past decade I’ve slimmed down and beefed up more times than Claire from Steps. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to brainwash myself, a stick of celery is never going to taste as nice as a slice of cake and anyone that claims otherwise is a liar.

In all seriousness though, I love food because it helped save my life. Apart from the obvious nutritional side of things, food gave my life purpose when everything else went belly up, (no pun intended). Last year, soon after my 25th birthday, I went into renal failure. I’d known it was coming since I was 19 so being ill wasn’t a surprise but how everything else changed was shocking. When my boyfriend Richard and I finally made things official after several years of friendship, I was the main earner in the relationship. All of a sudden I had to give up work and become completely reliant on him. I have always been fiercely independent and it was devastating to have to adapt to a new way of life.

I started to see myself as a bit of a burden but then I found my way into the kitchen. It started with cupcakes and has culminated in all sorts of things poached, pickled, roasted and en croute. Back when I was working I didn’t have the time to do everything from scratch and most things came out of packets or jars but now I had all the time in the world to experiment.

It wasn’t just finding something to occupy my time, I was able to live vicariously through other people. So many foods are banned whilst a person is on dialysis and for over a year I lived on very basic foods such as bread and pasta. By cooking fabulous meals for Richard and the rest of my family I not only felt like I was contributing something back to those people supporting me but I was able to get enjoyment by watching them revel in things they had never tried before.

My love affair with the contents of the kitchen started to influence other changes in my family. Until now the only time we would all sit down together to eat would be when my mother cooked a roast dinner but suddenly we were together every weekend to consume my latest concoction and it has helped bring us all closer together. My dad is a stern man with very little time or patience for anyone on the planet other than my mother but he will drive over 100 miles to be at home if he knows I’m cooking my chicken pie. Even the dog lives a more blissful existence as he happily devours any bones or scraps that get thrown his way.

Thankfully I had a kidney transplant in July this year and I’ve been able to welcome many old friends back into my life. I cannot tell you how glorious it is to be able to have soup, fruit, potatoes, chocolate and cheese again even if it does mean my figure currently lies beaten and bloodied at the side of the road having been set upon and attacked by a slice of pizza.

Autumn has many (if not all) of us longing for some serious comfort food. Pete Bouvier, from Hotel Los Berchules in southern Spain, has very kindly given us this delicious recipe for chicken in almond sauce, one of the hotel’s most popular dishes. As Pete tells us: “It is cooked to an utterly traditional recipe by our prep chef, Alejandro”. Personally, I cannot wait to try making this at home later this week, once I’ve stopped drooling onto my keyboard. 

¡Buen provecho! ~ Rae

******************************

Pollo en Salsa de Almendras (Chicken in Almond Sauce)

Ingredients (to serve 4)

250ml sunflower oil

1 chunk of day-old crusty bread

a large handful of almonds (still with their skins on)

1 whole chicken cut into portions

3 cloves of garlic

1 glass of white wine

water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pimentón dulce (smoked paprika)

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large frying or sauté pan and once ho,t fry the bread and the almonds until the bread turns golden brown. Remove bread and almonds with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Fry the chicken pieces in the same oil until the skin turns a golden brown colour. Turn them over and fry again for the same length of time on the other side.

3.  Now take the bread, almonds, 3 cloves of garlic, a glass of white wine, 1/2 a wine glass of water and using a hand-blender or food processor, blend until it forms a fairly smooth, creamy paste.

4. Place all the chicken; the oil in which it has cooked; the bread/almond/wine blend; the same amount of water as the almond/bread blend; and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, in a large pan with a well-fitting lid. Bring to the boil and then add the pimentón dulce. The pimentón gives the dish a darker, richer colour and a slightly smoky flavour. If you can’t find it in your shop then use ordinary paprika; not as good but better than nothing.

5. Lower the heat and cook, covered for a further 20 minutes. Then it’s ready. Serve it with potatoes or rice or just with a green salad. It makes an excellent dinner at any time of the year, but especially on a cold winter’s evening.

For more information about Hotel Los Berchules, go to http://www.hotelberchules.com/

As a child of the ‘70s my food memories would today be the food nightmares of many. Vesta chow mein, Findus crispy pancakes and Mr Brain’s faggots were all regulars on the Provost family menu and let me tell you there were no complaints from any of us. Ready meals, despite their lack of healthy ingredients, were a staple for many families like ours and acted as an introduction (albeit a poor one) to different and sometimes international cuisines. Don’t think however that we never had a home cooked meal. My Mum cooked wonderful traditional meals and I still crave her chicken casserole, especially the treat of blending the leftovers into a hearty soup served with a chunk of crusty bread.

But it wasn’t so much the meals that I ate that led to my love of food, it was the experiences surrounding them. I have vivid memories of preparing food for family gatherings with two of my Grandmothers (I was lucky enough to grow up with four sets of Grandparents) and even now the smell of cucumber instantly propels me back to my Grandma’s kitchen where I would have the job of preparing the salad and shelling prawns. In fact I’m fairly certain the act of removing the heads, shell and roe from a kilo of cooked prawns stopped me from becoming one of those squeamish children, unable to cope with food still presented in its ‘live’ state.

Food for me was, and continues to be, an opportunity to spend time with my favourite people; to break bread, tantalise taste buds and fight for airspace in the chatter and discussion that usually provides the soundtrack at our table. And as with everything in my life, once I had a home of my own and could take responsibility for feeding the people who visited it, I turned to books and research in a bid to cook the best meals possible. Having been a bibliophile from a young age, the time came to expand the section of my library devoted to culinary alchemy and soon Mrs Beeton, Delia and Jamie took their places alongside beloved copies of Irving, Heaney and Orwell. It was through these pages I learnt, that in cooking, sometimes less is more and perfection isn’t always possible, or indeed necessary. I discovered that even as a meat lover the combination of red pepper, tomatoes, garlic, anchovies and basil created the most delicious vegetarian supper. Whilst I will never be the sort of cook that watches Masterchef and thinks ‘I could do that’ (I’m more painting by numbers than impressionist in the kitchen), I’ve developed a confidence that means I’m willing to try pretty much any recipe, providing it’s well written.

By the time my daughter was born in 2004, I would describe myself as a proficient cook, but once I started weaning her that’s when my passion for food really kicked in. The knowledge that I could influence and shape the dietary habits of a person, and stimulate their own passion for food sat comfortably, and only a little heavily, on my shoulders. It transformed the meals we all ate and I can honestly say I’ve never looked back. Whilst many people scoff at cookbooks for children, my view is that if it introduces developing taste buds to a diverse range of flavours and the meal is eaten by the whole family, it’s no different to using any other recipe. Almost seven years later I still cook a chicken, sage and butternut squash risotto, originally from a Gina Ford cookbook, which we have without fail the day after a roast chicken using the leftover meat.

My love of food hinges completely on friends and family and it’s a joy to sit with my daughter thumbing through a Rick Stein or a Nigel Slater deciding what we’ll eat that evening. Whilst I may never be a talented chef, I’ll always be a happy cook.

Piedmont Roasted Red Peppers (from Delia Online)

Serves four as a light supper

Ingredients:

4 large red peppers (green aren’t suitable)
16-20 baby plum or cherry tomatoes
8 anchovy fillets (tinned in olive oil)
2 cloves of garlic
8 dessertspoons of olive oil
Freshly milled black pepper
Fresh basil (to serve)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (or Gas Mark 4, 350°F)

Begin by cutting the peppers in half from stalk to base, leaving the stalks intact and removing the seeds (the stalks aren’t edible but they look nice and help the pepper halves to keep their shape).

Lay the pepper halves in a lightly oiled roasting tray. Use a solid, shallow tray as if the sides are too high the peppers won’t have those lovely nutty, toasted edges.

Slice the tomatoes in half and place 4 or 5 halves in each pepper, depending on the size. (Delia recommends removing the skins from the tomatoes but if you use baby plum or cherry varieties I find you don’t need to do this).

After that, roughly chop the anchovy fillets allowing one fillet per pepper and lay these over the tomatoes.

Peel the garlic cloves, slice them thinly and divide the slices equally among the tomatoes and anchovies.

Now spoon 1 dessertspoon of olive oil into each pepper, season with freshly milled pepper (but no salt because of the anchovies) and place the tray on a high shelf in the oven for the peppers to roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

When you dish up the peppers make sure you use all of the delicious juices and add a few leaves of basil to each pepper half.

Serve with good bread; focaccia or olive bread is perfect.

Enjoy!

How ’bout Them Apples

One of the nicest surprises about moving to the small market town where my family and I live was the fruit, there’s tonnes of the stuff. From the apples, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries we have growing in our garden to the big fig tree on the way to the pub, (I’m not sure why that description leapt to mind). Charlbury is the man from Del Monte’s dream, although he’d be wise to wear more than a white linen suit and a Panama hat if he’s going to visit at this time of year.

One thing we have discovered is that November in Charlbury means free apples. People leave boxes and wheelbarrows full of the things at the end of their driveways with signs telling you to ‘help yourself’. Some kind souls even provide bags to take them away in. Normally we wouldn’t need any apples. The tree in our own garden last year had such a plentiful harvest that we too were doling out the freebies. However, for reasons best known to people with more of a green finger than me it’s been a terrible year for anything other than gooseberries in our garden. As a result we have been grabbing the excess apples of others and making all sorts of things. From apple and blackberry pies, (made with berries we’d foraged for locally too) to apple bread and crumbles, it’s all been there. The only problem is that we’ve still got loads of Bramley apples to get through and this is how we’re dealing with it. Apple sauce.

Apple sauces and chutney are a great way of preserving the fruit that is on the edge of going bad. Whilst not being a huge fan of chutney the apple sauce has been a great addition to meal times but is also used in a number of delicious cakes and bars. I’m going to take this opportunity to share one of my favourites. It would help first though if you knew how easy it was to make apple sauce.

Bramley Apple Sauce

450g or 1lb of Bramley cooking apples

2 teaspoons of water

50g or 2oz of sugar, (you may need more depending on the tartness of the apples). Note: If you are making apple sauce for the bars recipe below, unsweetened sauce is best.

Peel, quarter and core the apples then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron pan. Add the sugar and water, cover and cook over a low heat.

As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and taste for sweetness.

That couldn’t be easier and you now have a key ingredient for any number of delicious treats!

This next recipe is a now a family favourite. Our daughter claimed not to like these bars only discover that perhaps they were rather nice. Sadly for her my wife and I had scoffed most of them. You snooze, you lose.

Apple Sauce Bars

(For the Bars)

250g of plain flour

300g sugar

2 tsps of baking powder

2 tsps of ground cinnamon

1 tsp of baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

200ml vegetable oil

400g Apple Sauce

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. In a bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in the eggs, apple sauce and oil until combined. Spread the batter into an ungreased 40 cm x 25cm x 2.5com, (15 x 10 x 1 inch, in old money) baking pan.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for two hours, spread with cream cheese frosting, (recipe below) and cut into bars.

(For the frosting)

115g of cream cheese

50g of softened butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

350g of icing sugar

In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in icing sugar to reach spreading consistency.

Here we are, two weeks into the Dough Rae Me blog project, and I think it’s fair to surmise that we all love food and we all love eating food. Better yet, many of us also love cooking food for ourselves, or even for family and friends when we’re feeling magnanimous.

This is where we want DRM to help anyone and everyone who cooks or wants to cook – or even just likes to think about cooking – find ideas and  inspiration. To that end, we’ve decided to bring you a series of recipes from all over the world to tempt you into trying something new. We hope to surprise and delight you – and you never know, you may just surprise yourself.

So, from this week on, keep an eye out for new Amuse-Bouche items as well as our fantastic Why I Love Food posts. Feast your eyes, exercise your tastebuds and eat your way around the globe with us one dish at a time!

 

 

 

 

**************************

Got a recipe that’s a culinary wonder? Want to share it? We want to hear from you, be it via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Food, glorious food. It is a phrase that seems to have played a part in my life at various stages. From learning the ‘Oliver’ song at school and Cubs, (it led to me getting into a lot of trouble, but that’s another story for another time) to generally summing up how I feel about one of life’s necessities. It wasn’t always this way though. I had a perfectly lovely childhood but to say that it revolved around the kitchen and cooking might be stretching it a little. My mother’s attempts at baking were often greeted with stifled laughter by the rest of the family. One of her cakes was christened ‘The Cat Killer’ as it would have been possible, had you been able to prise it from the tin, to fling it down the garden like Odd Job’s hat and decimate the local feline population in one fell swoop. In fairness I should point out that Mum’s cakes are now absolutely delicious and that the CK was a temporary aberration.

Whilst the kitchen at home might not have been the hub of the family, growing up I was incredibly fortunate in other ways. I can remember being taken to some great restaurants as a child. We tried Indian and Chinese food and I always enjoyed the occasional visit to the wonderful Brown’s in Oxford. My favourite though was a visit to another Oxford eatery, The Mongolian Wok House. The premise was simple, you collected your raw ingredients from a buffet and then took them to a giant circular hot plate where chefs cooked in front of you and then handed them back. I was utterly amazed by it.

I don’t remember any of these experiences particularly inspiring me to cook my own food though. It is really only as an adult that I have begun to enjoy pottering about in the kitchen. A catalyst, perhaps was the time I spent living around Hounslow and Southall in west London. During this time I had a lot of friends with Indian backgrounds. Their parents or grandparents had moved over from Asia in the 50s and 60s and Southall in particular had become a Little India. The London suburb was, and still is, one of my favourite places in the capital, it’s absolutely crazy. From the Glassy Junction pub to Rita’s Curry House and hundreds of little places in between, there is always something going on.

Living in west London taught me that my early forays into Indian cuisine as a child had barely scratched the surface. Being lucky enough to be invited to an Indian family’s house for a meal is hitting the culinary jackpot. The simplest ingredients are turned into the most amazing dishes and I was utterly thrilled to be taken aside on various visits and shown how to prepare food that up to this point was a bit of a mystery.

My fascination with Indian cuisine has continued to this day but thanks to my wife there is now a competitor for its affections. Jen grew up close to Los Angeles and anyone who has visited LA will know one thing, Mexican food is king in Southern California. Trips to visit our family in the US are always special but the one thing I look forward to as much as anything else is a meal at our favourite restaurant, The Latigo Kid in Agoura Hills. My first trip there was also my first experience of Mexican cooking and I loved it. There are many parallels to draw between Indian and Mexican recipes too which I think is one reason I am such a huge fan.

The change in my work life gives me the time to explore my love of Indian and Mexican dishes. Since I became a stay-at-home Dad I cook every day. I am always trying to think of interesting ways to feed the family and try new things, my daughter is a huge part of this. She loves to help with making bread, (she knows all the separate ingredients for focaccia already) and is very interested in how things are put together, as Dolly’s interest grows so does my own.

There was never a ‘Eureka!” moment in time when I suddenly realised that food was a hobby as much as a requirement for living. However, I do know that I spend more time in the kitchen than I do watching sport and that came as a surprise when I realised it. I love food because of its capacity to inspire you to learn, to make others happy, to meet interesting people and above all, spend time with the people who really matter in my life.

Now, where’s that hot sausage and mustard?

If you would like to write a piece for Dough-Rae-Me’s ‘Why I Love Food’ series, or on any other food topic, we would love to hear from you. You can either email us at doughraeme11@gmail.com or contact us via Twitter & Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you.

Romanesco cauliflower

Fruit and vegetables have become a contentious issue these days. To go organic or not? Is your banana fair trade? What about the carbon footprint of air freighting? Is your produce of choice seasonal? And what about the spiralling prices of our weekly favourites? Then there’s the whole “are you getting your five-a-day?” bandwagon that continues to clatter around the nation. I could go on, but you catch my drift.

I struggle with supermarket produce. My discomfiture started as a niggle, and now it’s practically full-blown armed conflict. It all looks so uniform: tomatoes all the same size, big glossy apples all the same size, plastic nets half-full of clementines on buy-one-get-one-free, tiny figs clustered in fours in plastic boxes, scrubbed potatoes and bleached salad greens in their polythene bags. It’s all so shiny and convenient…

And yet so regimented and sterile and bland. Those mass-produced, hydroponically-grown tomatoes taste of… well, not very much at all, never mind tomato. Leafy things that remain an improbable shade of bright green for a week or more, and taste of water regardless of whether you pick up an iceberg or a cos lettuce. And the selection doesn’t vary seasonally: shoppers seemed to be offered exactly the same range of fruit and vegetables throughout the year – and that’s regardless of whether they’re organic. I shudder to think of the food miles, I really do.

Ok, I’ll stop beating round the bush: I loathe supermarkets, I really do. I try to limit my food shopping at such establishments to cat biscuits and tins of baked beans. I do my best to spend my money at independent stores and cash-and-carry outlets; local butchers in Tooting whose shops also seem to double-up as greengrocers and purveyors of boxes of mangoes for under £10. We don’t eat a huge amount of meat – chicken, turkey, fish and (less frequently) pork – so my main concern is fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, cheeses and so on. None of this is made any easier by the fact that I’m a nosey old moo and want to know where my food has come from and who has produced it.

Thankfully, the latter task is getting easier with the emergence of home delivery services offering organic produce. Got veggies? Check. Got fruit? Check. Got milk? Aye, that too. Think of an organic product, and one or other – or even all – of the companies vying for customers will stock it and deliver it to your front door.

Deciding on a delivery company can be as tricky as choosing your products. Nearly all seem to follow the same model: choose a box of produce from a range that caters for families of all sizes. Don’t like potatoes? There are boxes sans pommes de terre. The wonderful thing about these boxes is (a) the produce is seasonal and changes every week; (b) it’s sourced from small-scale producers and farmers who are local to you (i.e. in counties neighbouring urban centres), so fewer food miles; (c) the fruit and vegetables are fresh, gorgeous and high-quality; and (d) the delivery system is convenient, with your order placed where you ask if you’re not at home when the delivery (wo)man comes to visit. Oh, and when you sit and do the maths – and believe me, I have at some length – the prices are very competitive when compared with those set by the supermarket behemoths.

So, in my quest to escape the clutches of the soulless corporations (which quest is, I admit, much simpler when you live in a city), last week I placed an order with Riverford for a roots-and-greens box and a fruit bag.

The box is priced at £12.95 and, on this occasion, contained potatoes, onions, Savoy cabbage, green cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, kale and four enormous beetroot – and a ‘mystery item’ which turned out to be a romanesco cauliflower. I was in utter paroxysms of glee.

The fruit bag is £6.45, the contents of which last week were apples, pears and kiwis. The pears are firm and will need to ripen a little in the fruit bowl, while the apples are sweet and juicy (and I usually don’t eat apples unless they’re in pie or cake or bread form). I have yet to try the kiwis.

All in all, I’m wildly impressed by this first delivery – impressed enough to sign up for further fortnightly boxes of produce. It’s an extravagance, I know – and I really can’t imagine spending £20 every week on veggies. There’s only so many spuds a girl can consume in a lifetime.

So I found myself with a veritable bounty of fresh vegetables, herbs in the garden and sausages in the fridge. What to cook? Well, I made this, a tinkered version of yet another recipe found on BBC Good Food:

Italian sausage stew with garlic and rosemary mash (serves 4)

Ingredients for the stew

1tbsp olive oil

8 sausages

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed (I hate having smelly garlic fingers so use a press)

2 sprigs of rosemary, one chopped

3 carrots, diced

1 tin butter beans, drained and rinsed

1 tin chopped tomatoes

700ml chicken stock

handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced

Ingredients for the mash

1kg potatoes, peeled and diced

150 ml milk

butter and pepper to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or (better still) a stockpot over a medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside to drain on kitchen roll.

Keep the pan on the heat; add the onion and 2 cloves of garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the carrots and cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, until soft.

Add the tomatoes and chopped rosemary and stir before adding the mushrooms. Cook for another couple of minutes ’til the mushrooms look cooked and then add the stock and the butter beans.

Put the sausages back in the pan, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 mins. Remove the lid and simmer uncovered for a further 15 mins. Season to taste.

In the interim, make the mash. Place the potatoes in enough salted water to cover and boil until cooked (about 15 minutes). While the potatoes are cooking, place the milk in a small pan with the second sprig of rosemary and the remaining crushed/chopped garlic and bring to near-boiling point. Turn off the heat. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain, return to their pan and strain the milk over them. Mash to your preferred texture (I don’t mind lumpy mash, Him Indoors can’t stand it), adding butter to taste. Season.

Then… A couple of dollops of mash; sausages, veggies and and gravy over the top. Eat and enjoy.

**************

Note: If you’re interested in ordering organic produce from Riverford, their website is lovely and super user-friendly. Go to http://www.riverford.co.uk

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.