Sunday, 26 July 2015

How to make (chicken) stock

Very short summary: after a roast, throw the carcass, some onion, any veg peelings, and maybe bay leaves and peppercorn into a large pot, cover with water, and simmer gently until you go to bed. The next day, drain it, simmer some more to reduce it if you want, done.

Stock cubes are to homemade stock what packet soup is to homemade soup. I hate foodie snobbery so if you don't have homemade stock and some recipe's insisting on it, whatever, use a stock cube - but that is the difference. A considerable one. (Whereas the difference between fresh tomatoes or tinned is generally very minor. Provided you're making a sauce, not salad.) Some recipes are very insistent on homemade stock - the recipes that really need it are the ones that rely heavily on the flavour of the liquid, eg risotto, a broth, French  onion soup, without much else (as opposed to bolognese, which has tons else). But sometimes the recipe writer is just demanding, so if they're also insisting that something has to be pancetta and bacon won't do, or that you must specifically use gorgonzola and no other blue cheese, then take their advice with a pinch of salt. They are living in their own, rainbow-filled unicorn-populated magical ideal world. Bless.

ALL THAT SAID - stock is very, very easy to make, especially if you don't forget about it and nearly burn the house down. Three times, people. Three times.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Garlic pickle elixir of life

There is nothing* better than friends who like the same sort of food that you do, but have different recipe books. We invited said friends (not knowing this about them yet) for dinner. Did they like curry? Yes, they said. And if it was quite hot, chilli-hot? Um... some of it really quite hot? Yes, they said. But we were nervous. It used to be, English people would say they liked really hot food, and then you served them really hot food, and then they died, and it was your fault they were dead, but you'd asked and they said yes. (If you're not born and bred here, it's very hard to know when English people don't like things. Because asking doesn't work, and there are no visible signs, but apparently there are minute signals with which they communicate with each other. I've done my best to go native since I started living here, but some of the finer details still elude me, to my frustration. At times I've suspected some of the information is passed on chemically, as plants do. Anyway.) So we prepared a wide range of curries, a veritable feast, all the way from the mildest up to a Balti phal, and I added fine green beans to the Balti phal, and thus by accident camouflaged the whole green chillis, which added an unexpected Russian-roulette dimension to that part of the dinner. They seemed very happy, though I always wonder if I'm missing chemical signals, even with people I know well.

THEN: they invited us around to theirs for dinner, on their boat. And prepared us a veritable curry feast! Of splendidly hot rich and various curries, a marvel of food joy, and totally different recipes to the ones we know! And they fed us garlic pickle. And only courtesy stopped me eating the entire lot out the jar with a teaspoon.

Green tapenade

I was going to share garlic pickle next, with a bit of story-time, but let's complete the dips triumvirate first, of black-olive tapenade, hummus, and green-olive tapenade. Some people might put taramasalata into the mix, but in case you haven't noticed, I don't much like fish. (I deeply regret this and am trying to work on it, slowly; so far I can actively enjoy mussels, oysters, shrimps, and salmon, and can eat other kinds of shellfish, but no actual fish besides salmon, and I will swill my mouth with sour milk to get rid of the taste of anchovies.) So, green-olive tapenade it is!

Hummus: it's not middle-class, it's chickpeas.

I get alternately baffled and a bit harrumphy when perfectly innocent food-stuffs get designated as being a particular class. Lentils as middle-class bewilders me especially - lentils? Seriously? The incredibly cheap, nutritious staple eaten by most of the subcontinent? Likewise hummus. It's not middle-class, it's chickpeas. With some other stuff. You could call it Greek fairly accurately, if you wanted, but not middle-class. And yet despite its now being very widespread and familiar, the 'orrible little label persists. So: sod that. It's not middle-class, it's chickpeas.

Nachos to share

A great big bowlful of nachos, dumped squarely between you, eaten with your fingers, oh joy joy joy! Memories of Panchos in Obs, sharing a towering mound of nachos with Nikka, while the Gipsy Kings played... I used to make this loads, then forgot about it for years, and it's burst back onto the menu recently. This is part of the vat of bolognese meal cascade, so if you haven't made a vat of bolognese, you should start here.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Socca pizza: prepare to be AMAZED!

When I'm not eating wheat for whatever reason, the thing I miss most is pizza. Even pizza restaurants can't seem to manage a wheat-free pizza, it's always something a bit soggy and disappointing. My current food hero is Jack Monroe, so when she posted a recipe for socca pizza, made with gram flour (chickpea flour) I leapt to it. It was brilliant! ...ish. Almost there. Not quite... crispy. So I started experimenting. And refining. And tweaking. And obsessively measuring every detail. Happily, Will's fallen in love with it too, so me repeatedly making us pizzas with tiny variations on a theme (science tip: you can't change two variables at once), is fine. And when I burn my hand again, he's very happy to take over, while I sing Aranjuez with my hand under the tap. So: after extensive, tasty research, here's how to make perfect, crispy gluten-free pizza. After the recipe I'll go into all the ins and outs, because not everything has to be perfect all the time, but it can be if you want it to be, and then toppings ideas.