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Saturday, 27 February 2010

Happy Birthday Mr Monkey

Today is my birthday! Yay! I was born in the Chinese Year of the Monkey and tonight my lovely friends Rick and Janette are coming round to share some Chinese takeaway. I'll report on it tomorrow.

I am also a Pisces, one of the most creative of the Zodiac signs and I do like fish to eat although I probably don't eat enough of it.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Friendship is the spice of life

My dear friend Janette came round this lunch time and very kindly left me with a whole load of dried herbs and spices, a tub of sea salt flakes and a bottle each of vinaigrette balsamique, chilli infused olive oil and red wine vinegar as well as a hachoire, spud masher and a thing that I don't know what to do with. She and  her husband Rick are very kind and I hope to make use of them all over time. Thankyou so much.

If anyone can offer suggestions for the herbs and spices I will do my best to make best use of them. They are:
  • Mustard seeds
  • Freeze dried chives
  • Dried oregano
  • Freeze dried tarragon
  • Ground fenugreeek
  • Season all
  • Saffron
  • Coriander leaf
  • Whole cardamons
My store cupboard also has:
  • Fennel seed
  • Caraway seed
  • Coriander seed
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Star anise (whole)
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Garam masala
  • Hot chilli powder
  • Seseme seeds
The bottles Janette gave me were:
  • Maille vinaigrette Balsamique
  • Chilli infused olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
Any suggestions for recipes for any of these?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

There are times when I just can't be arsed to cook.

I didn't sleep too good last night and so I was stirring about 5am and lay wide awake listening to a strange soft pattering sound on my bedroom window. The light filtering through the bedroom curtains  looked unusually bright for such early hours so I got up and pulled the purple drapes back to reveal flurries of large snowflakes and the garden below was already deep in snow. Mr Tumnus, the faun, was nowhere to be seen.

I have a better view from the bathroom window and so I went to get my camera to capture the magical image above. Then I had my first cup of tea and a home-made cake and pottered around my chilly kitchen in my dressing gown and bare feet. Last night's washing up stared at me optimistically from the sink. I ignored its gently accusing gaze, put the radio on and plonked myself down on the settee. It is a delightfully cosy spot and the arm of the settee has a comfortingly worn aspect. My tea steamed by my side. My cake gave off its citrus delights and a few naughty crumbs fell on to my lap.

lemon madeleines

Outside, a continuous pair of hoof prints tracking along the empty village High Street were being covered by fresh snowfall. Their owner had previously paused by the single wan-yellow beamed old street light and quickly fled at the sound of distant sled. Was it the wicked Snow Queen or Katy the grumpy teenage paper girl? The elusive Mr Tumnus didn't wait to find out.

It must have been around 7am when, through my kitchen window, 
I saw my neighbour Jo grinning at me in the backyard. She was dressed like a glamorous Russian, albeit with pink spotty wellies, and was very excited about the snowfall.

I stood momentarily at the partly open back door, a cold draft licking my boney ankles and venturing up my legs. We talked for a few chilly minutes and then she went off for an early morning walk in the local park. Later this morning she told me that she had encounted a substantial, russet coloured hare, bounding energetically across the fields, flicking up snowy grass tufts with its unruly back feet as it went.

Waking up so stupidly early has left me in a bit of a 'can't be bothered' mood today. So much so that I haven't sat down to eat a proper breakfast. I've been grazing on lemon cakes, soft boiled eggs, cooked meats, a handful of sweet blueberries and several cups of tea. As much as I like cooking there are times when I just can't be arsed...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

e.coli? is that like email?

Oooh, I am a very wise person now. I have just been on a four day Health and Food Safety Course organised through Nottingham's Castle College and Working Links. It was very interesting and may well help me find work.

I now know how to put somebody into the recovery position; can recognise shock; the symptons for a heart attack; deal with bleeding and make a very chic sling. We also covered burns (not Rabbie Burns) poisoning, diabetes, anaphylaxis (not a Greek girl on the course - Ana Phylaxis - lol) asthma, hypoglycaemia and we had a fun time exhausting ourselves practising CPR on a dummy. Thirty compressions! It was like going to the gym! We also did swallowed tongues and checking for breathing difficulties and the correct proceedures to follow in all of the above and had a good practice with various sorts of bandages. Judith, the tutor was very good. Our group was fairly small and we all got on. That was over the first two days.

There was a weekend break and we started the Food Hygiene course on the Tuesday and Wednesday and our little group of five had grown to twenty five. Unfortunately there were a few idiots who were there on sufferance, one who liked to tap his pen continually on the table whilst the tutor was talking, one other 'know it all' who worked for his family shop and was very highly qualified in immaturity and a chavvy girl who moaned in the breaks at how 'booorin'' it all was. The tutor managed to deal with it all in her own way by ignoring them and not letting the interupting folk have too much of a say. I just couldn't believe how ignorant they could be.

Over the two days we packed in a large amount of information and I learnt a whole new vocabulary in micro-biological terminology. We learnt about pathogens, viruses, contamination, cross contamination, spores, toxins, bacterial multiplication, mycotoxins and all ranges of food poisioning bacteria such as salmonella, campylobacter and clostridium perfringens.

We were taught about high and low risk foods and how the bacteria reacts to temperature and what is deemed to be the danger zone in temperature for encouraging contamination of high risk foods. All of this was new to me and I don't ever remember learning such things in the days when I was a butcher. In one of the tests I even put down that I thought that human body temperature was  63⁰ C. Considering that it is 37⁰ C, my example human must be very hot stuff!

As well as the micro - biological side of things we also learnt about human carriers and about pests such as rats and mice, flies, cockroaches and pharoah ants and the dangers their presence can cause in a kitchen area.  Each time she mentioned rats 'idiot boy' would go 'urgh, ratatouilles!' and giggle. I kept thinking "Only an afternoon to go now and I will away from this moron.

We concluded the course by covering methods of cleaning with sanitizers and the importance of proper cleaning schedules and then we had a thirty question - multiple choice - exam in strict exam conditions.

germs on hand

Hopefuly I have passed. I say 'hopefully' because some of the questions weren't that easy and it seemed that most of the given 'answers' on some questions could be the correct one. E.coli? Is that like an email that makes you sick?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Two Hairy Bikers

I am a big fan of The Two Hairy Bikers, Si and Dave, who present a food show on TV in Great Britain. So how I managed to miss the fact that they have a new six part show called 'Mums know best' on the telly I don't know. Thank goodness for the BBC iPlayer to catch up with all five of the one hour shows I'd missed. The last one is on next Tuesday. I can hardly wait. They are such fun and enthusiastic. For those who aren't aware of them I have copied the following from their website.

Simon King and David Myers have undertaken a nationwide search for Britain's lost recipes – those forgotten gems or secret scribbles handed down through the generations – to help create a massive database of tasty and achievable recipes. But it's also a call to arms; the series aims to bring together grannies, mums and daughters who love to cook, to ensure that these precious historical documents of our shared national cuisine are preserved for the future.

At the heart of each programme is the Mums Know Best Recipe Fair, an event suffused with nostalgia for village fetes of your childhood, crossed with the Hairy Bikers' extraordinary range of international influences. It's a space for mums to swap their favourite recipes, cookery anecdotes and tips. Curated by Food Historian Gerard Baker - a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme - all the invited guests are asked to bring along their favourite family recipes and cooked examples. He and his team compile them for the Mums Know Best Recipe Board for the other mums to copy down. In addition they are encouraged to bring along their indispensable, old- fashioned, dependable and sometimes unidentifiable kitchen gadgets: potato peelers, soda streams, meat mincers, pastry cutters...

Each week's Recipe Fair has a different theme such as Sunday Dinners, Show Off Dinners, Picnics, Birthday Parties, Family Favourites and Good Simple Suppers, and all the recipes fit into that theme. At the heart of each is the Mums Know Best Banquet, catered by three ''VIP Mums' who showcase a great family recipe that needs to be shared with the nation.

We open the show with the Recipe Fair in full swing, but before the banquet is served, we get the opportunity to learn about the Featured Mums and, crucially, the history surrounding their dishes.

By visiting each of their homes in turn, the Hairy Bikers delve into our VIP Mums' family recipe books and heirloom kitchen equipment, all the while learning the secrets that make their's the very best family favourite recipe, before sitting down with the Mums and their families to enjoy the food. Inspired by the VIP Mums, the boys visit historical kitchens and great outdoor locations around the country to cook up some of their own family favourites and favourites of mums that they have visited round the world. Meanwhile, back at the recipe fair, our food historian Gerard is on hand to give the historical context of some of the fascinating recipes and kitchen gadgets that turn up. Each Recipe Fair includes a bespoke Hairy Bikers cookery demonstration and, in keeping with the village fete atmosphere, the day is suffused with lashings of foodie fun.

The Mums and the Hairy Bikers cook up a storm: from Baked Alaska to Chicken with Brandy, Dressed Whole Salmon to Key Lime Pie, Jugged Hair to Fresh Ravioli, Si's Mums' Rice Pudding to Pan Haggerty, Piccalillis and Chutneys to Courgette Fritters, Sticky Date Cakes to Rumpy Pumpy Soup. Community groups also cook with gusto for the visitors to the fair; sharing their secrets with the bikers and visiting mums are members of the West African Ghanaian community, a Chinese Older People's Group, the Ghurkhas, the African Caribbean community, the Women's Institute and the Bradford Curry Project.

Si and Dave comment: "Well here we go! What a treat, food with a load of love! Great British food from the custodians of culinary traditions, our Mams, Grannies and Dads. We have rummaged in the bottom drawers, cupboards and memories of houses and families across the nation for their secrets, recipes and top cooking tips. It’s been a great party. We’ve been around the world, baked ourselves into a frenzy and nibbled and cooked some of the best food in the country. Now it’s time for something really special, truly delicious food from the people who know best."