Thursday, 28 February 2013

spinach, tomato and chick pea curry

The holiday officially came to an end today as everybody is back to work/school, and aren't we all delighted?

Even better, Blighty's fab weather remains brilliantly on-message with persistent drizzle and fantastically bone-chilling temperatures. It's like a damp, cold welcome home cuddle from a depressive teddy bear. With tourette's.

What better excuse do we need to knock up a curry to inject some warmth into our bodies and much-needed mood-enhancing chemicals into our sleep deprived brains.

Thanks Waitrose! It's strange how a simple combination of earthy chick peas and spinach, plus sweet tomatoes and a healthy dollop of chilli can make somebody so happy.

spinach, tomato and chick pea curry - Waitrose Recipe Cards, Early September 2010

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

thyme-crumbed fish with turmeric potatoes

Back to life, back to reality. At least I managed to book a couple of extra days off. Poor the Ana's has to drag her barely lifeless carcass into school today, whilst me and Milo laze around the house and loaf around the parks.

We watch DVDs, make dens, climb trees and play monsters, before finally pulling ourselves together and going shopping/making dinner in time for the ghost that passes for my wife to fall through the door.

Given our recent high-protein, high-beer, diet we attempt to wean ourselves away from thrombosis with a hearty slab of fish. And chips, of course.

Interestingly enough when we tried this just before we went on holiday, certain sections of Team Barnes moaned about the "green stuff" in the breadcrumbs.  However, let him hack away at some twigs of thyme and mix it all together and he's happy as larry, and even wants more.

Wine Time
Last time we had this I went for a New World Chardonnay, but this time I'm going to go a bit avant garde. Not that we're drinking of course, but if we were I'd be all over a nice bottle of fizz - but go for Cremant rather than Prosecco. It's made in the same way as Champagne, so you've got all the lovely biscuity qualities and green apple fruit, but at half the price. Bargain!

thyme-crumbed fish - Delicious, February 2010, p25
turmeric potatoes - Bill Granger, Feed Me Now (I think)

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

bill granger's chickpea and chorizo soup, with a side order of jet lag

How does anybody sleep on airplanes? If it's not the people in front extending their seat right back, it's the noise, or the trolley serving random microwaved food just when you're dropping off, or the sudden realisation you really *do* need a wee, but can you be bothered to move everybody? At least Milo slept for most of it... actually you can add to the list, "having to adjust small people's feet/legs/head off your lap".

Our early morning arrival at Gatwick reminded me of John of Gaunt's speech in Richard II, if you swapped "precious stone set in the silver sea" for "one hour wait in customs, set in a countryside of grey drizzle".

Luckily jet lag soon kicks in and we spend the rest of the day asleep in a heap. This proves to be a bad thing for two reasons: 1. The shops are shut by the time we wake up, so we've having to make do with what's in the cupboard. 2. Ana has to go to work tomorrow, and now can't go back to sleep.

Still, she had some soup to accompany her in the dark watches of the night...

Must go shopping tomorrow. I wonder if they take Canadian dollars?

chick pea and tomato soup with chorizo and green chilli - Bill Granger, Delicious, February 2008 p68

eating for Blighty

The worst thing about coming back from holiday isn't having to return to reality, although after two weeks living it up in the Hammer with the amazing Harlocks, reality bit hard. As bad as that sounds, what's worse is coming back from the lovely Harlocks at least 400 stone overweight. In fact, after all the Timbits, brewskis and cake, Ana had to check me in as heavy luggage, and we paid excess on Milo.

Still, it was brilliant and this being ostensibly a food-blog, we'll focus on the culinary highs with a Top of the Pops-style countdown.

In at number five, it's Canada's Crazy Craft Brews
We're only just waking up to the whole craft beer movement over here in Blighty, but it's well-established over there. In fact one of the beers Dr John first introduced me to over 10 years ago, Sleeman's, is now a big boy, but still churns out a nice brew. Like all good surgeons, his medicine cabinet was well-stocked with an amazing range of craft beers as well as a veritable lake of IPA, which is the new craze sweeping the frozen north.

It was all delicious, but personal faves from the fridge were Creemore Springs UrBock, Steam Whistle, Hops & Robbers, a Pumpkin Ale (but I can't remember who made it), the brilliantly-named Dead Elephant Ale, and this bad boy:

I'm really looking forward to drinking Carlsberg and Stella again. Not.

Still hanging in there, Delia's Lime & Chicken Curry is a non-mover at four
Ahhh, it's tradition!

A surprise entry at number three, a BBQ, in minus 21C and snow
No seriously. It pretty much snowed most days whilst we were there, and the temperatures hovered around sub-freezing, so naturally John spends an hour outside barbecuing steak in the dark and sleet. I mean, obviously. It was delicious though, and I thoroughly recommend he does it again.

More Dr John at number two, with his amazing breakfast special
Turkey slices, green tomato, two sorts of eggs, and cheese in a sandwich - what is not to like? I had two...

And top of the charts for yet another year, CHICKEN WINGS!
This year featuring an amazing new Wings Up delivery boy...

Everybody loves those spicy, sweet and sour wings

Beers, wings, steak, pancakes, cakes, timbits, giant pizzas, wine, crisps, salsa, skiing, more timbits and breakfast BLTs - yet another diet is definitely starting once we've got over the jet lag.

I'll leave you with this final highlight of the holiday:

Yay Canada!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

jamie oliver's proper bloke's fusilli

T-minus one sleep until C-A-N-A-D-I-A! After two consecutive night's of tastings, and with zero packing done, tonight the food reins are firmly in the grip or Mrs Barnes - if only because she's already fully packed.

Even better, we've got some help, so whilst I'm wrestling pants into a suitcase and Ana is playing with sausage, Kayosaurus and Mikeledocus are wrestling a massively over-excited Milo into bed.

It's a great pre-flight meal: stodgy and meaty, with some lemony notes from the fennel seeds, so we won't need to be running to the toilet every five minutes/having to eat loads of pretzels.

Obviously it's the last fatty/meal we'll be having for the next two weeks, because Canadians are all about the healthy stuff.

T-minus six hours...

proper bloke's sausage fusilli - Jamie Oliver, Cook With Jamie, p72

Monday, 11 February 2013

chorizo, pea and lemon cous cous - recipe

When I posted last time we had this recently I got two responses; the lovely Sarah White asked for the recipe (find it below Sarah), and the lovely Ana Barnes moaned about the photo because she took a much better one, and why hadn't I used it, and where were the tomatoes?

It's a good question, and it has a simple answer: She took a brilliant photo but the reason I didn't use it was because it wasn't on the same day - she took tonight's photo. Behold!

The photo does it full justice as it was delicious - and as promised last time, we've jazzed it up with some tomtoes as we're fully intent on further emptying the fridge before we head off to Canada in four more sleeps!

Chorizo, pea and lemon cous cous
Ignore them, it serves 3 at a push

300g cous cous
450ml chicken stock
Olive oil
Chorizo, sliced thickly
150g frozen peas
Grated zest and juice of one lemon
Handful of basil leaves

1. Get the cous cous on the go in a big mixing bowl by adding the stock to the grains, and covering with a tea towel;
2. When the cous cous is almost ready, fry the chorizo slices in a pan until beginning to crisp, and then add the frozen peas and cook through;
3. Fluff the cous cous with a fork, stir in the lemon zest and juice. Add the chorizo, peas and pan juices, season well and mix in the basil.


chorizo, pea and lemon cous cous - Delicious, October 2012, p28

Sunday, 10 February 2013

roast chicken & a weekend at the taylor's

Christ, if I thought it was cold in London it's nothing to the bone-chilling weather in the wilds of Worcestershire! Luckily for all concerned, the Taylor's are not short on massive fires and with the added bonus our suite has now been insulated.

We do the usual thing: arrive late on Friday night, eat an amazing selection of defrosted left-over curries, go to the pub for lunch, watch rugby, read magazines, let the children fight, do intensive youtube searches about barefoot running and suffer the usual floods of tears when we have to leave early because our rear-lights have given up the ghost. Future plans are also hatched.

Scraping in just before rear lights become legally necessary, we placate with another movie night (popcorn, duvets, scruffy dogs, central heating) whilst a chicken roasts away in the oven.

At least I didn't burn the flock out of it this time, although the potatoes aren't looking too plumptious... The random veg selection bespeaks an empty fridge.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

chorizo and butter bean casserole

Me and Richie Roo are out at tasting in the City tonight, so for the second Thursday in a row Ana gets to wrestle with a spicy sausage in the kitchen for our viewing pleasure.

Given it's freaking freezing, windy and sleety, this hearty stew is the best thing to return home to: Spicy, warming, filling and stuffed with orange and oregano flavours, it's perfect for warming the bones:

She's the best wife and no mistake!

chorizo and butter bean casserole - The Black Book

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

thai pork vermicelli salad

Today is a full of unexpected culinary successes.
1. I manage to get up in time to make scrambled eggs for breakfast for me and Milo before he goes to school and I head out to Regency Cheltenham for the day;
2. We not only have a fab tasting at The Daffodil where the whites showed v well, particularly the Bourgogne Chardonnay, but we get shouted lunch which was divine. I had the beef fillet and oxtail pudding, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and an amazing platter of local cheeses. Everybody, go to the Daff immediately!
3. Tonight's tasting was cancelled, which meant Ana could go to book club and even better, given I had prepped the marinade and veg last night, we could both have dinner early.

Well early-ish, obviously I had to snuggle up with Milo and then eat it whilst watching Marple about an hour later.

I have to say this is another one of my favourite meals: it's fresh, zingy and surprisingly filling - especially if you max out on the veg. We had purple-sprouting broccoli tonight as it's so in season, mini sweetcorn, bean sprouts, carrot, herbs, although I missed the mange tout. I'll have to freeze them.

It's also very, very quick.

Wine Time
Wine-wise we're very much in the same zone as last night, albeit with less lime, so there's not as much acidity to balance. Even so, all of last night's suggestions - Vouvray or a New World Chenin, Riesling or Gewurtz - would go down a treat, but if you're looking for something different, why not go for a Viognier? Steer clear of the classic Rhone home as they are pricey, but if you get something from the Languedoc, you wont go wrong.

thai pork vermicelli salad - Delicious, June 2012, p115 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

vietnamese beef noodle soup

Oh look, another evening of soup! Actually, we're quite pro soup in this house, but only because we're fairly ruthless about switching recipes - relentlessly stick with roasted veg, and you'll soon get bored, flatulent or both.

We've got a few versions of spicy, zingy Asian soups to ring the changes, but this is one of my favourites, not least because it's super-quick, and really packed with flavour and health-giving good vibes from the ginger.

Sadly it's not quite as brilliant as usual; I think the lack of lemongrass tells, we didn't have any mint and I could've put in more lime juice this time. Still good mind.

Wine Time
Thai cuisine is bursting with aromatic herbs, spices, acidity and sweetness, so the basic rules of thumb are:
  • Avoid high tannins - they are not friends with spices;
  • Go for something with acidity and some residual sweetness.
Gewurtztraminer is a pretty trad choice, and would work here, as would an off-dry Riesling, but if you're feeling radical go with a Chenin Blanc. It has lots of fruit and some residual sugar even in the dry versions. If you'd like more tropical fruit, go with with a South African, or if you're feeling classic, Vouvray is your best bet.

vietnamese beef noodle soup - Waitrose Kitchen, Feburary 2012, p88

Monday, 4 February 2013

anjum anand's creamy chicken tikka

Back in the good old days of Wundy Wullington - and specifically whilst house-sitting in Jacqui and Tristan's flat, because they were definitely coming back - we got addicted to a Nigella chicken tikka recipe. Lord knows where I found it, but short of buying the book, I've never managed to find a copy. Consequently since our glorious return I've taken to filing away likely replacements to do nothing with. Until now.

With the left-over bits of the two chickens I cremated for dinner yesterday, the Owl Recipe Book steps up to the plate with this fabulously easy Anjum Anand version, culled from the Sainsbury's Magazine.

Of course that's easy in the sense who doesn't want to blitz up cashew nuts and slather chicken breasts in plastic bags full of marinade first thing in the morning before they go to work? It's completely worth it though:

It's a good job the Mango Powder was optional though, as I had just run out. Isn't that always the way with that particular pantry staple? Oh well, I'll pop down Mortlake's Mango Powder Emporia before we do the next batch.

Wine Time
I always say Carmenere is one of the best wine matches with Curry; It's Merlot-like velvety qualities and spicy finish perfectly complementing the heavy gravy-based dishes we love. However this a lighter, creamier style so you need to look for more acidity, and more aromatics. Viognier would work well, especially a New World style, as would a Gewurztraminer, but I'd favour a rosé as it has a great balance of fruit to tame the spice, but with enough acidity to cut through the creaminess. Delish!

creamy chicken tikka - Anjum Anand, Indian Every Day, c/o Sainsbury's Magazine, June 2003 - now the Owl Book

Sunday, 3 February 2013

bill granger's quick roast chicken with shallots and white wine

Overcooked and out-of-focus. I blame the start of the Six Nations, it's consequent re-introduction to beer as a hobby, and an extended Milo-MovieNight on the floor, wrapped in duvets and pillows: It's just too snuggly and warm to be bothered to get up and check on the dinner. Ah sure it's got enough wine in the roasting dish to ensure it doesn't dry out...

quick roast chicken with white wine and shallots - Bill Granger, Delicious March 2012, p57