Saturday, 5 August 2017

Ratatouille

Smooth jazz from The Manhattan Transfer
Nice!

The 1970s were great*. Cooking (since you're probably interested if you're here) was all about Fanny Craddock, The Galloping Gourmet and the new CILF on the scene, Delia Smith. Films mirrored these culinary giants of the small screen in the shape of Alien, Jaws and Princess Leia in Star Wars (or Star Wars Episode VII: A New Hope as it's known now).

Music had a massive shift also, with disco and, most significantly, the advent of punk happening in this decade. It needs stating, though, that while there was a revolution going on in popular music, there was still a major stream of less challenging fare flooding the UK top 40. There was a slew of easy listening and novelty songs throughout the decade, from the cliche-ridden Europop celebration of the package tour to Spain, Sylvia's "Y Viva España"; to the Rupert Holmes cheesy ballad telling the story of a bored married bloke who replies to an ad in a lonely hearts column in order to have an affair, but with an obvious twist, the Piña Colada song. Another one was Chanson D'Amour by The Manhattan Transfer as seen in the video at the top of the page. The latter is a piece of light jazz which includes the actual lyric "Rat-ta-tat-ta-tat". However, as anodyne as that song is, that lyric starts running untrammeled through your head as soon as you hear the name ratatouille. Less ear worm and more ear rat, or maybe it's just me on that. I can guarantee, however, that, if you know the song, the very fact that I've mentioned it means that the tune will now be in your head for at least the next couple of hours. You're welcome.

70s TV chefs and iconic 70s movies. The similarities are mindblowing!
Left to right, top to bottom Fanny Craddock; HR Giger's Alien from the Ridley Scott movie; Graham Kerr, the galloping Gourmet; Jaws; Delia Smith; Carrie Fisher as Star Wars' Princess Leia. Coincidence? I don't think so!

Ratatouille is a classic vegetable stew from Provence and is best described as pure sunshine in a pot. Fresh aubergines, peppers, courgette and tomatoes, they're all there. As a meat free meal it's a great way to use the fresh produce you get in the summer and it tastes fucking amazing, especially if it's with some fresh, crusty bread.

*They weren't. They were pretty shit. We had the Three Day Week. We had Baader-Meinhof. We had flares and wing collars (see here for my take on this). The Cold War was still quietly raging and virtually nobody in the UK had even heard of couscous, let alone eaten it.

TIMING
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 60 minutes

INGREDIENTS
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 aubergine, cut into 2cm dice
1 courgette, sliced into 1cm rounds
1 yellow pepper, cored, seeded and chopped into 2cm squares
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped into 2cm squares
4 medium-large tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
handful of basil leaves

Chopped and ready to cook

RECIPE
Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and garlic for 10 minutes.

Add the aubergine and fry for 10 more minutes.

Throw in the courgette and fry for another 10 minutes.

Add the peppers and fry for another 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, tomato puree plus salt and pepper to taste before adding 100ml water.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes (until the vegetables are tender).

 I smell a rat
And it smells fantastic

Makes plenty for a big bowlful each for two people plus a decent lunch with the leftovers.

Serve with fresh bread.

 Ready to eat
Just add bread

NOTES
Big, ripe tomatoes work best in this.

Other herbs would work well in this, like oregano or (sparingly) thyme. The fresh basil is sublime, however.

As I mentioned, this dish is from Provence which became the Nirvana favoured by the British middle classes in the late 80s/early 90s, thanks in main to the book A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle and the subsequent TV mini-series based upon it. It spawned a load of imitators as people with more money than sense followed through on their French rural wank fantasy, with often limited success and financial insecurity, the gullible cons de chez con, as they might say in France.

There is a little known incident on a teatime programme called Nationwide in the UK which had a cooking piece presented by Fanny Craddock in which she was making meringues. When this piece was finished, the anchor man of the programme, addressing the viewers, said "And I hope all your meringues turn out like Fanny's"

The most famous version of Chanson D'Amour is the one I put at the head of this post. However, this is not the best. That belongs to the version in the video below, as perfomed by the Muppets, which is actually sublime.

The Muppets do Chanson D'Aamour
They weren't only just about mna mna


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Pasta with aubergine, basil, chilli and pine nuts

Pasta is funny stuff. On the one hand, it's been the staple of student diets, in one form or another, for years. Often just served with grated cheese, as it's cheap, filling and quick. At the other extreme, it's the lynchpin of the cuisine of an entire country where it can be covered in all sorts of over-priced shit, like truffles or caviar for fuck's sake. Yet another example of the gentrification of what has been a peasant food for centuries, a subject I've already ranted about.

Let's face it, pasta is usually nothing more than wheat and water, pressed into some fancy shapes. Obviously this belies the long culinary history of pasta. all the way from Italy. There are estimated to be over 350 varieties of pasta, many of which named after a dizzying array of things. Body parts seem a common theme with ears (orecchiette), tongues (linguine), moustaches (mostaccioli, another name for penne) all having pasta shapes named after them. Invertebrates get a bit of a look in too, with snails (lumache), squid (calamarata), worms (vermicelli) and butterflies (farfalle) all having a starring role. Then there is the really odd like bibs (bavette), cooking pots (lasagne) and thimbles (ditalini). Sadly there aren't any obviously rude official regional pasta varieties, as would fit the nature of this blog, though, as I pointed out previously, the word penne is just one "n" too many away from meaning penis. Then, I consulted everybody's friend Google and found that there is actually a dick-shaped pasta variety.

Al dente

Anyway, moving back to the recipe in hand, when considering vegetarian dishes, pasta is a perfect base and the Italian love of fresh vegetables make for some delicious possibilities. This concoction is no exception and really is a cracking little recipe. Aubergines, garlic, chilli, basil and a few crunchy pine nuts mean it's stupidly simple and quick to put together. 

TIMING
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS
4 tbsp olive oil plus additional for pouring on
2 tbsp pine nuts
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large aubergine (around 300g in size), chopped into 2cm dice
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste
Handful of fresh basil leaves
150-200g dried pasta (penne or fusilli work)


RECIPE
Heat the oil in a large pan and throw in the pine nuts

Fry them for a couple of minutes, until they are golden brown before removing them with a slotted spoon

Add the garlic to the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes before adding the aubergine.

Fry for another 10-15 minutes until the aubergine pieces start to colour

Add the tomato puree, black pepper and salt to taste and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, adding the odd tablespoon of water if it gets too dry

Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain.

Turn the pasta into the pan with the cooked aubergine, mix, and add the pine nuts.

Finally, tear the basil leaves and add to the pasta and aubergines and stir, adding additional olive oil to give the dish a glossy look.

Serve up with some nice crusty bread.



NOTES
Probably because my pedigree is more factory-made by Clarks in northern England than hand-made in Milan, I don't have much time for the whole idea that a certain shape of pasta must be served with a certain type of sauce. In this instance, the dried penne and fusilli I used (there was half a portion of fusilli left so had to add some penne from a new packet) held onto the sauce well. I've also served this with fresh tagliatelli and it works just as good.

The basil and pine nuts really make this dish. Dried basil is not a substitute for fresh leaves as the taste is very different. Pine nuts could possibly be swapped for other nuts, perhaps peanuts or cashews, but the dish will be missing the subtle coniferous fragrance that they impart.

One rare problem with pine nuts is pine mouth syndrome. This can happen after eating some pine nuts when, as I found out one time, you end up with a bitter taste in your mouth for a few days after eating the kernel. It does fade, but you don't enjoy your dinners for a few days as a result.

Contrary to urban myth, pasta was not brought to Italy by Marco Polo coming back from China, but by Arabs from North Africa. Is nothing sacred? Next thing you know they'll be claiming Arabs gave the world mathematics like algebra or made early advances in astronomy. Oh, wait, they did.


Monday, 24 July 2017

Aromatic courgette curry

So it's another recipe for meat-free days. I went into some of the environmental arguments for going vegetarian in my last blog entry but one real advantage for eating vegie is that it's just much cheaper than meat. It's not that I'm pleading poverty, and I've no intention of giving up meat any time soon, but there is something great about knocking up something like this which costs next to fuck all and takes little more than an hour.

I've twatted on about courgetttes and how great they are in a previous post, but what I was unaware of is that this humble vegetable is another import from the Americas. So, along with peppers, chillies and tomatoes, which were also brought over from the New World, European and Asian cuisine would have been so fucking dull before the Conquistadors made it to America. They also brought back syphilis, so, I guess that's a case of swings and roundabouts. And let's not forget that chocolate also came from the New World, so, on balance, it's a win for white Europeans, in addition to the devastation they wreaked on the native civilisations and the population as a whole on the other side of the Atlantic. We got a whole new pantry full of ingredients, they got genocide.

Conquistadors
OK, we'll swap you horses, the wheel and Catholicism for the contents of your gardens

TIMING
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 50 minutes

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 whole star anise
1 tsp ground coriander
3 cloves
4 whole green cardamom pods
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp whole fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
1 10cm piece cinnamon stick
pinch ground black pepper
pinch  dried chilli flakes
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large courgette, topped, tailed and sliced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
100ml water
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt
More spices
(clockwise from 12 o'clock: ground cumin, bay leaf, tumeric, cinnamon stick, ground coriander, star anise, cloves, chilli flakes, black pepper, cardamom pods with fennel seeds in the middle)

RECIPE
Heat the oil in a pan and add the spices for 2 minutes.

Throw in the onion, ginger and garlic, and fry gently for 10 minutes.

Add the courgette and stir-fry for another 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and water, stir then add salt to taste.

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes

Serve with rice


Ready to eat 
(on right of plate with aloo gobi on left on a bed of plain, boiled basmati rice)

NOTES
 This is a great dish to serve with aloo gobi that I posted a recipe for recently. This uses more earthy flavoured spices which contrast well with the richly fragrant nature of this courgette curry.

Courgettes are members of the pumpkin/squash family, the cucurbit. It's not all about versatile vegetables, mind. This family also contains the penis gourd which has made an appearance in this blog in a previous post.I'm not sure who dreamed up the idea, but they must have had a pretty eccentric outlook.
"That's a funny looking vegetable. Does it taste nice?"
"Not really. Not sure what to do with it"
"Well, if you dry it out it would make a great cover for your cock"

A decorative penis gourd from Papua New Guinea

Monday, 17 July 2017

Aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry)

I have mentioned vegetarianism in previous posts, how I even tried being a vegetarian as a pretentious student. What I didn't mention then was that the reason for this was, in part, to get on the good side of a girl who was in the same student hall as me that I quite fancied. It's a scientifically proven fact* that most guys who perform a coup de theatre in terms of lifestyle in their late teens, like turning away from meat for instance, are generally doing it to get into the pants of someone they like. Anyway, at the time, my justification was the poor yield of protein per hectare from raising livestock for food compared to arable farming which was morally wrong when people were starving in the world. Using this justification I could then allow eating lamb doner kebabs as sheep were raised on scrubby hills that had no use in growing vegetables, and fish, since this was mainly gotten from out of water.The spell of vegetarianism lasted for a few weeks before I lapsed back into eating meat properly. A legacy of this time is the fact that I have absolutely no qualms about eating vegetarian food on a regular basis.

More recently, it has become well publicised that meat production leaves a far larger carbon footprint than growing vegetables alone. While it's true that most people in the west have larger carbon footprints than a sasquatch in snow shoes that are five sizes too big, and any change in diet would have a pretty minute effect on this, it still gives a chance to prevent the liberation of a tiny amount of additional carbon into the atmosphere. There are other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, like not flying, having children, having pets or driving a car, but who wants to stop doing any of that?

One of the main causes of the increased carbon emission through raising livestock is the effect of intestinal gas from cattle. Cow farts are making the world a warmer place as they release methane which is 23 times worse at causing atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide. One possibility to offset this might be to stop the cows farting in the first place and one way of doing this is using charcoal. Perhaps giving Ermintrude a load of charcoal tablets might help alleviate this source of pollution. It may even have the added bonus of the cows shitting ready-formed BBQ briquettes, so everyone's a winner. Well, apart from the cows, who would be producing the fuel by which they would be cooked of a nice summer evening.

Charcoal tablets
A possible solution to global warming

So where am I going with this? Well, it's another vegetarian recipe as I am planning a regular meat free dinner every week. India has more vegetarians than the population of most countries, so it's not surprising that some of the very best vegetarian cuisine comes from the subcontinent.

I have done a recipe for another potato curry previously, but this is a take on an aloo gobi, where the spud is partnered with cauliflower in one of the tastiest vegetable curries found on the menu of an Indian takeaway. As I mentioned before, potatoes have enough substance to them to make a decent main course in their own right, plus the lentils add extra protein and make for an even more substantial meal.

*It probably isn't scientifically proven, but I've not looked at the literature so it might be.

TIMING
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 70 minutes

INGREDIENTS
150g dried red lentils
200g cauliflower florets broken into bite-sized pieces
450g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-3cm cubes
1 medium onion, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp onion seeds
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground tumeric
pinch of chilli flakes
Salt


It's another spice picture
(from 10 o'clock: coriander, black pepper, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds with paprika in the middle)

RECIPE
Boil the lentils for 20 minutes, strain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a good, heavy pan and add the spices, onion and garlic and gently fry for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and continue to fry for another 10 minutes.

Throw in the cauliflower and keep stirring for another 5 minutes.

Add the lentils to the pan and add 200ml water and salt according to taste.

Bring to the boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes (until the potatoes become tender).

Serve with rice and/or naan bread, on its own or with another curry or two
.
 Aloo gobi 
(on the left, with a courgette curry on a bed of plain boiled rice)

NOTES
In contrast to most of my previous curry recipes, this dish uses lots of earthy rather than the more aromatic spice flavours and doesn't have a tomato base. It is a good contrast to these if you are serving more than one dish

I used floury old potatoes in this recipe as the texture works better than new potatoes.

A cow farts aren't the only trump that cause a stink and fucks up the world.

Traditionally, cauliflower has been a fairly unassuming vegetable, being boiled on its own or perhaps upping the ante a little with cauliflower cheese, the vegetarian staple of the 70s. However, cauliflower is currently having a bit of a surge in popularity as a "low carb" food and is finding uses as a substitute for rice, pizza base or even steak. Why stop there? How about cauliflower chocolate brownies, cauliflower yoghurt, cauliflower flavoured condoms? It's fucking cauliflower for Christ's sake. It's a lovely vegetable in its own right and doesn't need to be given superpowers. However, if you are using it in some other dish, I would say that aloo gobi is as good as it gets.

There aren't a huge number of songs that mention curries in general, let alone aloo gobi in particular. One that does, however, is this spoof of Kula Shaker's Govinda, by former Radio 1 DJs Mark and Lard performing as their band the Shire Horses.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Laksa (Leftover Symphonies 5)

The US sitcom from the late 70s/early 80s, Taxi, was a launchpad for several actors including Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Marilu Henner. It also starred established comedian, the late Andy Kaufman, who is widely regarded, amongst the comednicenti (ie those that know comedy), as a true genius. He played an immigrant from an unmentioned Eastern European country called Latka in the show. Otherwise, latkas are potato pancakes made as part of Hannukah celebrations in the Jewish community and are not to be confused with the subject of this recipe, laksa.


It's difficult to categorise laksa. Is it a soup? Is it noodles? Is it a curry? Fuck knows, but it's bloody lovely. It's southeast Asia in a bowl.

Comfort food varies around the world. As I mentioned in a previous post, in the UK it's usually soup (very often out of a can) or hearty stews. Laksa ticks many of the boxes necessary to qualify as the comfort food of the Malay Peninsula: noodles; rich, thick gravy; lots of vegetables; and a good bit of spice. It couldn't provide any more comfort if it was down-quilted and gave you a shot of muscle relaxant. Like this recipe for vindaloo I posted previously, the dish is another bit of natural fusion as the dish derives from ethnic Chinese people settling in the Straits towns of the peninsula and incorporating local ingredients. It's a staple of Peranakan food which is a particularly eclectic cuisine combining influences from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the European colonisers (Dutch, British and Portuguese).

This is yet another way of using up some leftovers, this time the remains of a roast chicken but you could do it with fresh chicken or seafood, particularly some big, juicy, shell-on prawns.

TIMING
Preparation:20 mins
Cooking: 1 hour 45 mins

INGREDIENTS
3 cakes of dried egg noodles
1 tbsp oil (neutrally flavoured like rapeseed or sunflower)
1 leftover carcass of a roast chicken (with plenty of meat, a good 150g or more)
4 small shallots, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, roughly diced
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stalk of lemon grass, chopped
1 thumb-sized piece fresh tumeric root, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
2 thumb-sized piece ginger, chopped
4 red chillies, whole
1 whole star anise
5 cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 stick of cinnamon (approx 5cm)
2 chicken stock cubes
200ml tinned coconut milk
1 lime,juiced and husks retained
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
10 cherry tomatoes
100g okra, topped and tailed and cut into 2cm chunks
3 large mushrooms, sliced

RECIPE
Cook the noodles according to the instructions.

Drain and set aside

Pick the chicken meat off the carcass and set both the meat and the bones aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan and add the shallots, carrot and celery and fry until soft (around 10 minutes).

Add the garlic, lemon grass, tumeric, ginger, chillies and dry spices and continue to gently fry for another 5 minutes.

Place the stock cubes and chicken bones into the pan, add 1.5l water, heat to boiling, cover and simmer for 45 minutes

Remove the chicken bones and blend the broth until smooth

Return to the hob and add the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and lime husks.

Throw in the remaining vegetables and stir

Boil and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Refresh the noodles by running them under cold water

Add the noodles to the soup and stir to warm through

Makes enough for a good working week's worth of lunches or would make a decent dinner for four people.


NOTES
Fresh tumeric is another wanky, foodie ingredient that is not usually that easy to come by in the UK. I used it in this dish as I had some left over, having bought some for another dish I had planned. Use dried as a replacement. The fresh root looks like the picture below.
Fresh tumeric root
Looks like ginger or maggots

image from http://foodfacts.mercola.com/turmeric.html

Tumeric is currently touted as a miracle food that can cure all sorts of shit, including cancer, heart disease and, aptly enough, diarrhoea. Though there is some evidence it contains some potentially active compounds, a recent scientific review suggests these claims are largely bollocks. Besides which, if it does to your insides what it does to a cotton T-shirt, it's actually going to fuck you up. The number of tops I've had to discard because of yellow stains from curry is nobody's business. Of course, feel free to take a good dose when you've got a cold and you'll feel much better, as long as you back it up with a Lemsip.

I used tomatoes, mushrooms and okra in this recipe, but these vegetables could be substituted for others like aubergine, green beans or peppers. You can also substitute light soy for the fish sauce.

Having mentioned Andy Kaufman, I really need to link to this song by REM:

Man in the Moon by REM

Friday, 16 June 2017

Toad in the hole with red onion gravy

Baron Silas Greenback
Famous toad and nemesis of Dangermouse and not featured in this recipe whatsoever
from https://comicvine.gamespot.com/baron-greenback/4005-85373/

Lying bastards, the lot of them. Recipe writers I mean. Shepherds' pie is not made from actual shepherds, hamburgers don't contain ham and devils on horseback are no more infernal than a stroll in the park. Likewise, toad in the hole. It's just sausages in Yorkshire pudding and has no actual amphibian content at all. Well, unless you manage to get hold of some toad sausages. This isn't as unlikely as you might think as sausages can be made from representatives of most of the animal kingdom. Personally, for example, I've eaten sausages made from squirrel and zebra, besides the usual domestic livestock. In fact, someone in Australia does make sausages from cane toads but they weren't actually for human consumption but to distribute around the environment as a form of aversion therapy in order to make other animals puke and stop eating the toxic toads.

In fact, a lot of amphibians have some truly interesting stuff weeping out of their warts. Cane toads are part of urban legend because of their supposedly hallucinogenic secretions. People have been actively looking for these little fellas and giving them a lick in an attempt to get high. Thing is, as well as having hallucinogenic qualities, the secretions are also actually quite toxic and this has made the toad lickers keel over, getting them less tripping off their tits and more shuffling off this mortal coil.

I've posted a few recipes for British dishes in the past but I have generally been pretty scathing about what passes for British (or, more specifically, English) cuisine. However, this is another rare example of a truly great dish that hails from this sceptered isle. 

INGREDIENTS
Gravy
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp plain flour 
1 vegetable stock cube
½ tbsp Worcester sauce
½ tbsp dark soy sauce
150 ml red wine
350 ml water

Toad in the hole
2 medium eggs poured into a mug
an equal volume of plain flour
an equal volume of milk
salt and pepper
1tsp coarse grain mustard
6 good quality pork sausages (enough for 2 or 3 per adult)
2 tbsp oil (not olive, something like rapeseed)

RECIPE
Make the gravy by first heating the oil in a medium-sized pan

Fry the onion and celery in the hot oil, gently, over about 15-20 minutes so it becomes soft and lightly caramelised

Add the flour and mix well, scraping any thing that catches on the pan bottom so it doesn't stick before adding the rest of the ingredients and stirring well.

Bring to a gentle boil and very simmer for 20 minutes or so, and keep warm ready for serving with the toad in the hole

Make the Yorkshire pudding batter by breaking the eggs into a mug, then adding the same volume of flour in a similar mug.

Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl to remove any lumps

In the same mug that was used to measure the flour, add milk to the same volume as the eggs in the other mug.

Make a well in the middle of the flour in the mixing bowl and pour in the eggs.

Add plenty of salt and pepper and the teaspoon of mustard and, using a fork, start to beat the eggs, gradually incorporating flour from the edges of the well

Begin adding the milk, a little at a time, again incorporating the flour from the edges of the flour

When all combined, keep beating the batter to remove lumps, ideally by switching to a whisk

Heat the oven to 220°C

To an oven-proof dish, add the vegetable oil and the sausages and put in the oven for 10 minutes

Remove the dish,  pour in the batter and bake for 30 minutes.


Serve with the gravy over a big mound of creamy mashed potato


NOTES
This recipe for Yorkshire pudding batter is one recommended by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (or, as I refer to him, Hugh Fearnley-Poshbloke) and also works for individual puddings to accompany a Sunday roast.

While I may poke fun at him for his Eton background, I do have a lot of respect for HFW as a cook, and do like his approach to quality food.

The better the sausages, the better this dish will be. Good, meaty ones work best.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Leftover symphonies 4: Goose Goan Vindaloo (which also works with chicken)

A bucket of vindaloo
Somehow it seem appropriate to include this shouty football song

Misappropriation was one of the buzzwords of 2016. It usually referred to things like white people wearing dreadlocks, white people wearing a bindi or white people doing yoga, apparently. I agree to a certain degree. Why do you need to wear a bindi? It's a mark of religious significance in the Hindu faith. You wear one as a fashion statement, you're a twat. Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility and can lead to a generally improved sense of well-being, but if you subscribe to the pseudo-mystical bullshit that accompanies it, you're a twat and you can stick your chakra up your kundalini . If you have ginger hair and wear dreadlocks, not only do you look like a twat, you probably act like a twat (go on, off you fuck. Those gaudily coloured fucking balls won't juggle themselves, you fucking waster) and almost certainly smell like an unhygienic twat.

The question, though, is when does the sharing and enjoying of other cultures become misappropriation? I've mentioned the fusion and adaption (or bastardisation if you prefer) of certain cuisines in previous posts (notably this one) and if it tastes good, do it. I mean it's not like you're taking something of deep cultural significance and shitting on it. You're not dropping off the kids at the pool in a font for example, it's only food. Besides, a lot of the time you can't make a truly authentic meal according to the recipe because the ingredients have never been seen within 100 miles of your town. You know, like that Yottam Ottolenghi recipe for veal that he insists only tastes authentic if you use the pickled foreskins of virgin aardvarks in the sauce. Thing is, whilst using lime juice instead of tamarind paste might not give the same authentic flavour you get from a street vendor in Kuala Lumpur, it will still taste great so do it!, Fuck authenticity, it's dinner. Even more importantly, where would the cuisines of the old world be without integrating the things grought over from the newly discovered Americas - things like chilli, tomato, potato - 500 years ago?

This dish is more of a double-reverse cultural assimilation/misappropriation though. In the UK, vindaloo curries are generally renowned as the hottest of the dishes in your regular curry house (apart from the notoriously legendary phaal). There is a potato element (the "aloo") in a lot of versions. In my experience, however, they tend to have sacrificed all the delicate flavour you expect in a curry to produce something that is merely "hot", mainly so that pissed dickheads can show their mates how tough they are at 4am after a skinful. A UK curry house vindaloo is not usually a great option for a curry. But, is this a culturally accurate version of vindaloo? Is it bollocks! It shares its name with the original vindaloo, but little else. This is the second occasion of cultural (mis)appropriation for the vindaloo.

Your typical UK restaurant vindaloo
 (apparently, anyway. These curries all look the same)
Image taken from http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/vindaloo.htm

The dish in this entry is a more authentic version of vindaloo, a curry originating from Goa during the time it was under Portuguese control. Its name does not come from the Hindi or Urdu word for potato, "aloo", but from the Portuguese for wine and garlic, carne de vinha d'alhos (literally "meat in garlic and wine") as this was a way of helping preserve meat, mainly pork, for long trips at sea. This Portuguese dish evolved further in the colony to use locally produced vinegar and spices to make this dish and the name became "vindaloo". So here's the first cultural appropriation of vindaloo and it's an example of a western idea being assimilated into eastern cuisine.

Anyway, onto the recipe in hand. Christmas has been and gone. In the sweary household we alternate year-on-year between turkey and goose for Christmas dinner. This year it was goose, but what the fuck to do with the leftovers? It had to be yet another curry.The problem with reheating roast meat still exists, but this is overcome by using vinegar to cut through the vaguely wet doggy smell and the inherent fattiness of the meat.

As I noted in the title, this also works for other birds, so is a great way to use leftover roast chicken

TIMING
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp vegetable oil (eg rapeseed)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp ground tumeric
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
3 green cardamom
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4-500g cold roast goose (or chicken!) meat, no skin, chopped into 2cm chunks
200 ml white wine vinegar
400 ml water
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp garam masala

 More spices than you can shake a stick at!
(From top left, 11 o'clock: fennel seeds, cloves, paprika, cardmom, onion seeds, tumeric, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cumin, chilli flakes, coriander, salt, pepper and a bay leaf in the middle)

RECIPE
Heat the oil in a heavy pan, add the onion and fry gently for a good 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 5 minutes

Throw in the spices (except the garam masala) and fry gently for another 5 minutes to allow the flavour to develop.

Add the green pepper and tomatoes, mix and allow to stew for 10 minutes to soften the peppers.

Throw in the goose meat, gently stir then pour in the tomato puree, vinegar and water.

Stir well and leave to stew for 30 minutes, stirring in the garam masala at around the 25 minute mark.

A panful of joy

Fill yer boots!
I don't actually know why you'd want to fill your boots with anything other than your feet, so it's a ridiculous phrase

Serve with rice or an Indian-style bread like naan.

NOTES
Only pretentious foodie wankers like me end up with leftover roast goose. This is why I need to stress that this dish works just as well with chicken but you could also use roast duck if you have any, as unlikely as that may be. I think I have also tried something similar to this with leftover roast pork so that would also work

I have tried a phaal curry on a couple of occasions. Once was an attempt at a prank, the other time was as a bet. The prank failed as I ate the curry without any problem and I also won the bet because I ate the curry without any problem. I did find, however, that on at least one of theses times I did need to spend most of the next day within close reach of a flushing toilet.

The use of vinegar means it's kind of a pickled curry. This is not the same as pickling your knees, and you're using vinegar rather than cheese. What the fuck am I on about? I refer you to the wonderful song below from the late Ivor Cutler on the subject:


This has some similarities to the recipe I posted for Hyderbadi chicken, which also uses vinegar.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Spicy tomato and pepper soup

Recently on the children's TV channel Cbeebies they started showing a new version of the classic 60s/70s animation The Clangers. It was pretty faithful to the original, even down to using the same traditional stop-motion animation technique over modern CGI. If you don't know what it's about, it centres on the adventures of a group of mouse-like things, the Clangers, that live on a planet in the middle of space. It's got a definite whiff of the psychedelics about it as, in addition to the Clangers there is also an iron chicken, flying cow things and a Soup Dragon. Not that I'm implying that there was consumption of any mind-altering substances on or around the set of the original series but, yes,  a Soup Dragon. A Dragon that makes and sells fucking soup. Furthermore, the Soup Dragon (or SD) is a lone parent with a baby or, a little Soup Dragon. An LSD, if you will. As I say, I don't mean to imply anything. Anyway, if the good old Soup Dragon produced something like the soup from this recipe, I can see why the Clangers were happy and well fed (they are quite portly, see below).

A Clanger and the Soup Dragon
It's kind of like Breaking Bad for toddlers
Image taken from https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC59ACN_the-soup-dragons-secret?guid=858f9ee6-89d0-4f96-9433-6d65ab0e9d32

I've really got into making soup recently. It's just so fucking easy, it tastes great and it saves shitloads of cash. You make a pan full of soup and it costs maybe a couple of pounds, then take a big portion to work the next day when it saves you three or four quid that you might pay in buying a sandwich. Then you take it the next day, and the next... Nothing can beat that first taste of your freshly made soup of a Sunday night you use to check if it's any good. Thing is, it's a good job if it does taste great because you're going to be eating it for lunch for the next three or four days. I admit it does get a bit boring by Wednesday. It shows you really can get too much of a good thing.

Thing about soup, though, is, what's not to like? Warming (usually, gazpacho is on my to-do list come next summer), tasty and filling. As I said in a previous entry, it is the ultimate comfort food, though usually in the UK that equates to something you open a tin to heat up or a sachet of dried gunk you add boiling water to. Tomato soup from Heinz is advertised as being the comfort food of winter. So much so that some twat they have on the advert is looking forward to the end of summer and welcoming the dark, damp, cold winter evenings so she can enjoy the tomato soup.Talk about over-egging the pudding. That's like looking forward to sleeping on the wet patch after sex, for fuck's sake. It hardly fits the image they peddle as being wholesome, either, as it's made by the megatonne in some fuck-off huge factory in Wigan and it contains, amongst its ingredients, modified cornflour, milk proteins, acidity regulator and herb and spice extracts. Just like mother used to make. Not that I have anything against industrial-sounding ingredients in prepared food. People whine about "chemicals" in their food, but food is actually nothing but chemicals, whether it comes from a wanky, organic delicatessen or from a huge factory. No, the problem I have is marketing this shit as something "wholesome" to give it the veneer of being made in an earthenware pot by some buxom farmer's wife when it's actually produced in a massive stainless steel vat in an industrial plant the size of an aircraft hangar somewhere.

While I really, really object to food fads and that kind of bollocks, tinned soups are rightly gaining a bit of a reputation for being very high in salt and sugar. Tinned tomato soup especially tends to be incredibly sweet and quite sickly. But, if you make your own, you know what's in it and it won't be as cloying.

TIMING
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 60 minutes

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium red onions, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughtly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
700g fresh tomatoes
½ tsp dried mixed herbs
2 vegetable stock cubes
1 tbsp tomato puree
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 litre water
2 tsp sugar

RECIPE
Heat the oil in a good-sized pan and throw in the onions.

Gently cook these for a good 10 minutes then add the garlic, carrot and celery

Keep these cooking for another 10 or so minutes, so it gets soft but not brown, and add the peppers and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well

Heat to a gently boil, turn down the heat and leave to gently simmer for 30 minutes.

Blend to smooth with a hand blender

It's a pan full of soup.
Not much to add, really

Serve with bread. Makes a great lunch or, I suppose, if you're into that sort of thing, a starter. A panful this size would make a good four to six hearty lunch portions.

NOTES
Pretty much all of my soup recipes are like this: onions, celery, carrot, other vegetables. Stew, blend, done. You can use any old crap you have in the fridge or vegetable rack, season it and there's your soup. You can put anything in it, tinker with the flavour with a few spices and other stuff and Bob's your uncle. I've done lots of different soups and they all tasted pretty good.

I'd be doing a disservice to pop culture and the very ethos of this blog if I didn't do a call-back to the Soup Dragon and post this piece of early nineties Madchester scene by the band of the same name


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Fish Head Curry

As any regular readers may have realised, I have a tendency to hark back to the 70s and 80s of UK TV, and this is yet another occasion. It might be hard to believe in this post-Brexit, "No Nanny State tells me what the fuck to do!" world, but back in the day, they used to show adverts made by the government. Public information films were made to advise people that doing certain things were a generally a stupid fucking idea to have thought about doing in the first place. They had ads about making sure you didn't leave your TV plugged in overnight because it could cause a fire. They had ads saying you should be able to swim. Then there was a different class of ads for kids. Many of them were about how to cross the road safely. We had the Tufty Club, which isn't a euphemism for a lady's private parts (well, not originally, at least); there was a pre-Darth Vader Dave Prowse as the Green Cross Man.

It wasn't all about crossing the road, though. By far the most memorable public information films for kids were the "Charley says...." adverts. For readers that don't know these, they were shit cartoons and featured a poorly drawn small boy (not to be confused with Badly Drawn Boy or the Viz character he took his name from) and his pet cat, Charley, about to do some stupid shit, until the cat meowed his apparently incomprehensible advice that was then interpreted by the small boy. The Charley ads included warnings to kids not to play with matches; not to bugger off without telling mummy where you're going; and even not to pull on table cloths in case you pull hot tea all over yourself. When the boy did the right thing, as prompted by the cat, the mother rewarded the boy and Charley. The boy received an apple (thanks a lot Mum, This is the 70s, they do sell chocolate, you know, you tight-fisted, joy-sucking bitch) and Charley got given a whole fish, which he proceeded to eat very noisily, as you can see from the video



So, what the fuck does this have to do with your recipe, you might be asking. Well, the point is, Charley eats the fish but leaves the skeleton, including the tail and, most relevant, the head untouched. This is a load of bollocks, since any self-respecting cat would relish the head of the fish as one of the best parts. The head might usually be only regarded as fit to make fish stock in the West, but go East and they are far more food-savvy and a lot less food-squeamish.

This is a dish that originates in the culinary melting pot of Singapore. Now, I know I have a tendency to take the piss out of Rick Stein for twatting on about when he first ate yak meat risotto in a Mongolian yurt, or how the best aubergine he ever tasted was this one time in Paris after it had been fermenting up a poodle's arse for a fortnight, but I'm going to do the same thing. No, not stick an aubergine up my arse (well, not right now, anyway, as it's more of a butternut squash kind of day), but reminisce about the time I ate fish head curry in a hawker centre in Singapore. I mean, yes, the curry was amazing, as food in Singapore generally is, but eating a fish head was an adventure in itself. Picking away at the meat around the neck and the cheeks, and the joy of discovering another little morsel here and there as you dissect it. Besides this, it's not every day you eat something that is looking back at you.

Recently I had bought a whole salmon which I cut into steaks and froze, including the head. I decided to reproduce the culinary experience of a fish head curry in the comfort of my own home. Now, as you may have gathered, Mrs Sweary is not actually that adventurous when it comes to food, bless her. She'd not touch a fish head with a pair of barge poles being used as chopsticks (she can't use chopsticks, anyway). Therefore I included some salmon steaks in the curry as well for her. In fact you could make this with just fish steaks, and do away with the head. You'd still have a great fish curry, but then you'd be missing out on the visual effect of eating something with eyes and a mouth gaping at you, and the fun and satisfaction of dissecting the tasty meat out from the rest of the head.

TIMING
Preparation:  20 minutes
Cooking: 60 minutes

INGREDIENTS
Curry paste
5 small shallots, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 red chillies (eg birds eye), topped and chopped
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 small piece of fresh tumeric (around the size the tip of you little finger), roughly chopped
half a stalk of lemon grass, sliced

Spice paste ingredients
Clockwise from top: shallots, garlic, ginger, tumeric, lemon grass, red chilli

Dry spices

3 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp fenugreek
sick of cinnamon (around 5cm)
1 whole star anise
3 cloves
3 whole green cardamom
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt

Other ingredients
2 tsp oil
200g okra, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
200g small (or 1 medium) aubergines sliced into 2cm pieces
200g cherry tomatoes, whole, washed and stems removed
20 curry leaves
400ml water
200ml coconut milk
1 tbsp tamarind paste, diluted in a couple of tbsp water and sieved to remove seeds
1 salmon head, plus two or three other salmon fillets

It's a salmon jigsaw!

Vegetables

RECIPE

Combine all the spice paste ingredients in a food processor and blend until they are a fairly smooth paste.

Add the oil to a heavy-based pan then add the dry spices.

Fry them for a minute then add the curry leaves for 2 minutes before adding the spice paste.

Fry for five minutes, stirring to prevent the mixture catching on the pan bottom.

Add the coconut milk, tamarind paste and water

Gently bring to the boil and add the vegetables.

Simmer gently for 5 minutes then place the fish into the liquid.

Allow to gently simmer for 20-30 minutes

Serve with plain boiled rice

Keep an eye on my dinner would you?

NOTES
Salmon is probably about the only fish you can easily get hold of in my locale that has a big enough head to make a meal of, compared to something like a kingfish or a large snapper that are more common in the far east. See the notes to get some alternatives.

On the other hand, while I enjoyed this dish, salmon didn't work as well as a more neutrally flavoured fish probably would. You could do away with the idea of the fish head and do the same recipe with a whole seabass or red snapper. It may also work with a more traditional cold water fish like cod, but I haven't tried it.

I used fresh tumeric and curry leaves which may be a little difficult to get hold of. Use a teaspoon of ground tumeric and perhaps a bay leaf as an alternative. Likewise, for tamarind paste, replace it with the juice of half a lime to give a similar sour flavour. You could also use red onion instead of shallots.

An interesting fact about the "Charley says..." adverts, which I only discovered in writing up this recipe, is that the cat was voiced by the late, great Kenny Everett

It would be remiss of me if, having mentioned the "Charley says.." adverts, I didn't post this:

The Prodigy
Putting the "E" in Charley

The range of UK public information films produced by the UK government is actually quite staggering and an archive of them, from 1946 to 2006, can be found here