Absence makes the heart grow fonder …

at least I hope it does. 14 months and not a single blog entry. Ts ts ts.

Well, I’m back and I have a whole bunch of things to talk about.

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Waitrose Easy to Cook range

I spent too much time at the dentist yesterday and had no intenions of cooking, even though I had (still have) a big batch of minced meat in the fridge that needs to be turned into something delicious. I stopped at Waitrose on my way home and bought their  “Waitrose Easy deboned chicken with parmesan & tomato” from the Easy to Cook range.  On the back of the package it said “Succulent boneless British chicken gently marinated in olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, SunBlush® tomato, fresh rosemary & thyme”, which I thought sounded quite lovely.

It took 45 minutes in the oven and I served it with sauted leftover potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli. The chicken was indeed succulent, it tasted nice although I couldn’t really make out the sunblushed tomatoes other than that there was something red on the chicken skin which I gathered must have been the tomatoes. I was also a bit surprised to read that there was parmesan in it… no taste of it whatsoever.

It was £6.99, so definitely cheaper than getting a take-away but for £6.99 I could have bought a whole organic, free range chicken and I know I’d have leftovers for today from it. But I couldn’t have cooked a whole chicken in 45 minutes and I would have had to invest some time by cutting off excess fat and seasoning it and because all I wanted was to turn my oven on, open the door and shove the chicken inside I don’t regret having spent £6.99 on a dinner for two.

I have finally given in….

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…. and ordered myself a kitchen machine (you call it food mixer). After years of pondering shall I? Can I justify spending so much money? Which one? Do I really need one? How often will I use it? Can I afford it? and reading endless blogs and consumer reviews and asking on Facebook about preferences I have opted for neither a Kenwood nor a KitchenAid but a trusty Bosch. I say trusty because my mum has only Bosch appliances. In the beginning I think she bought Bosch because my uncle used to work for Bosch. But even after he left Bosch my mum kept buying their machines because they were so good.

It was almost a relief when I ordered it. I made a decision. And not an expensive one. Even though I saved up for a good kitchen machine for over a year now and could have easily bought an expensive one but once I have a bit of money saved up I get extremely stingy on what I spend it on. Usually I end up moving it from my savings account into my current account when things go wrong and I am cutting into my overdraft for when I’ve spent too much on champagne or a dress. So I am quite pleased with myself that I did spend my money on something I wanted for a long time. Good bye aching wrists and hello fluffy light sponges!

I think this is my most favourite one of all!

La Tartine Gourmande is the ultimate food blog for me. It’s so much more than just about food. It’s about pleasure, enjoyment, sadness, glorious moments and the celebration of life in a peaceful yet exciting manner. The photos are wonderful, the stories of their travels to foreign places, that are equally stunning as their home never fail to enchant me. This is a blog not to be missed.

La Tartine Gourmande

Hungry?

As you know I spend a lot of time in my kitchen but surprise surprise I am not just baking sweet things or making pork pies! I’m also cooking healthy things and love it even more when I can use fresh local ingredients like runner beans from my neighbour’s allotment (no, I don’t steal them) or my own tomatoes and of course strawberries and blackberries.
Although inevitably everyday I ask myself the same question: What am I going to cook today? What can I make that’s not just healthy but also quick and easy?
Along came innocent with their new book hungry? It’s aimed to get kids involved in cooking, keeping them busy helping their mum and dad and producing something that everybody likes and is proud of. I don’t have any kids I can involve, just my other half but as so many people point out how young he looks for his age I think it might be a good idea giving him this book to start doing dinner from now on!
While I’m still waiting for my copy of the book to arrive I flicked through one at the book store and was delighted to see that the book is entirely in the innocent spirit that I love. Funny, informative, great stories and drawings and filled with what looks like delicious recipes for all occasions.
You might have seen some of the videos for the innocent book but this one is my favourite:
And my sister’s sons are the living proof that involving kids in the kitchen will be rewarded when they’re older. They are both competent in the kitchen, love trying out new recipes and cook for their mother (on and off though, but you’ve got to be realistic, they are still teenagers after all!)
If you want to know more about innocent you can check out their youtube channel or of course their own website. I have been impressed by the company and their philosophy for years and I only wish there were more companies like them.
To make you hungry for more:
If you still have a local bookstore in your town go and get the book there. If not then you can order it here!  I’ll be following up with a proper review once I have my hands on my own copy and tried out some recipes, so make sure you come back.

Cooking yes, but baking?

I never had any desire to cook while I was at home but as soon as I moved out I had to learn how to cook and I did so by reading cookbooks. Well, not just reading, following the recipes, too 😉
I started working in the catering industry when I was around 17 years old and over the years have learnt an awful lot from work colleagues and also friends who happened to have their own restaurant. Eating out also helps of course and I don’t have a problem spending quite a bit of money in a fancy restaurant as long as the food is good. And yes, I am one of those people who sometimes take pictures of their food even though Giles Coren hates it (and I like Giles Coren).
Learning by doing has always been my preferred method and often my friends were guinea pigs for new recipes; I would “lure” them into my home with the promise of a six course menu and try out things like stuffed goose neck or young pigeons with sour cream or unusual flavour combinations and I’d say that most of the time it all turned out well. I cooked in unusual locations (in the great hall of a moat castle or at festivals for example) and I continued to entertain friends with my cooking when I moved to Fiji. Of course, there I had to deal with the challenge of finding certain foods but at the same time I learnt how to cook local stuff like duruka (dubbed the Fijian Asparagus) and ota (young wood fern). My kitchen utensils moved with me from Germany to Fiji and then to England, so some of them are over 20 years old and they still work.
And of course I’ve continued the trend of cooking for my friends in the UK and my blog title stems from one Sunday evening where my friend Paul thanked me for the frantastic food I cooked that day.

When it comes to baking however, that’s a totally different matter. I never baked because the women in my family were excellent bakers. Both my mother and grandmother, my sister, my aunts, they all bake and at weddings, confirmations, funerals etc. they would showcase traditional cakes that looked like out of a fancy bakery. They would taste wonderful, too!

Then last year I started to watch the food channel and came across some easy baking recipes and thought, why not try that out? The rest is history as they say. Baking is immensely satisfying. You see your cupcakes or your bread in the oven slowly rising and the smell wafts through the house… of course the real pleasure comes from baking for someone else, like I did for my friend Aggie, who when she saw the cake I baked for her daughter’s birthday went “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, look at this cake!”… that’s when you know you did a good job!

Plenty food…

I celebrated my 40th birthday on Saturday and luckily the weather was good after a week of fingers crossing, cursing the clouds, begging any Gods there may be out there and ignoring the weather forecast completely.
I didn’t take any pictures of all the food we had, mainly because after two days of running around and cooking and preparing I had other things on my mind.
Here’s a list of what Betti, Christine, Thimo, Philipp and myself put together:
Fried Courgettes brushed with garlic, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil
Green salad with rocket leaves
Hummus
Cucumber with fresh dill and sour cream
grilled cocktail tomatoes (from Faye)
Furthermore we had lamb kebabs, chicken in garlic butter kebabs and king prawn kebabs (marinated in lime juice, ginger, garlic and chilli) and small pita bread.
Unfortunately we also had plenty of leftovers the next day. But I rather have too much food than not enough. The lamb and the chicken is now in the freezer, most of the salads were eaten over the next two days and the rest went on the compost where it served as unexpected culinary delight for foxes, birds, cats and squirrels.

Veeraswamy

According to their website Veeraswamy is the oldest surviving Indian restaurant in the U.K, and possibly the world and offers dishes prepared authentically and freshly as in Indian homes with great attention to food presentation and wines which complement individual dishes.
We were greeted at the entrance by a very nice young man wearing Indian clothes and a turban and who turned out to be Latvian. He was very kind and showed us upstairs where we were warmly welcomed and seated at a really nice table at the window overlooking Regent Street.
The menu wasn’t very big which I liked as I can never make up my mind if there are too many dishes to choose from and we had help from our helpful waiter who explained all the dishes to us and which region they were from.
Sandra had Indian Chicken Stew

Richard had a lamb dish with a coriander sauce
And I had duck jalfrezi
All of our dishes were incredibly colourful, tasted simply divine and were just the right size. We had four different breads with our main courses and rice.
I can totally recommend this Indian restaurant and although I was quite shocked when I saw the prices I must say that it was worth it! Starters range from £8-12 and main courses from £17-23.

Keith Floyd – you’ll be missed!

“Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.”

From his 1989 book: A Feast of Floyd

Making pizza is fun!

Especially when you have your own pizza oven in the garden like my friend Pete has. We were lucky enough last Sunday to be invited over to make some pizza and it was one of my best Sundays this year!

Pete made pizza dough based on a recipe from the book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the art of extraordinary bread” , a wonderful book with lots of different bread recipes and suggestions.

All we needed then were some ingredients to put on the pizza and a helping hand to stretch the pizza base and we were ready to go! We used semolina and flour to make sure the pizza wouldn’t stick to the tray.

Once everything was on the pizza it went into the oven (temperature by then was around 700 degrees Celcius). It only took a few minutes for the pizza to cook.

Absolutely delicious!