My Foodie Adventures

Making up healthy recipes as I go along...

Month: January 2016

One Man Tea Party: Loyd Mulled Wine with Plum

Let’s get this mother flipping party started!

I am about to review this tea into next week.

The first tea in my weekly blog is a wonderful Christmassy number from a Polish company called Mokate Loyd Tea.

I found it using the Google translation app, which is amazing! You hold your phone’s camera over the text you want translating and it does it on the screen in real time. It’s so much fun! And, you can download language packages for offline uses. This means that next time I go on holiday I don’t have to rely on my rudimentary language skills and strange gestures and waves. So I’ll look like less of an idiot.

Back to the tea at hand.

Using the app, I scoured the Polish section of my local shop, found the tea section and used it to find the caffeine free ones. This is because of the sheer volume of tea I drink on an evening. If I didn’t get caffeine free tea I would be bouncing off the walls.

I grabbed a couple of them in different flavours and brought them home.

The packaging for the Mulled Wine Tea with Plum wasn’t anything to scream about. It’s blue, has a mug on it and a plum. Pretty succinct really. But I’m not offering a critique on design. I’m here to book a one-way ticket to flavour town and, damn it, that’s where this tea is taking me.

The first thing you notice when you pour your boiled water in is the smell. It is incredible. It smells exactly like the mulled wine we had in Hamburg., to the point I had to double check I hadn’t just blanked out and actually made mulled wine.

After a couple of seconds, my kitchen smelled like Christmas. Cloves, orange, dried fruits, et al. It was permeating through my kitchen and into my face and I couldn’t wait to get sipping.

I let it brew for about 3 minutes (as well you should) and just basked in the intoxicating smell of a God damn winter wonderland. After those 3 tense minutes of impatience, I took a tentative sip.

The flavour isn’t as powerful as the scent, but it is not without its potency. The tea actually tastes alcoholic, which I guess is a bonus? And the flavours are amazing. Whoever crafted this wonderful beverage, I tip my cap to you.

I managed to get hold of the full English translation on Amazon and I checked off the flavours I could easily taste; such as apple, orange peel and blackcurrant. However, I have no idea what a chokeberry is and I don’t really know what rose is supposed to taste like, but they were in there too.

The spices comprised of your usual mulled wine fare of cloves, cinnamon and ginger but there was also hibiscus flower and liquorice. Nothing was overpowering and it all balanced really well.

In conclusion, this is a great winter tea and if I had some spiced rum and honey, I would be pouring them into this delicious hot beverage and getting drunk like bible times.

Hey Everyone, Look at my Bean Balls!

Balls is an inherently funny word. But for some reason, prefixing it with the word “meat” gives it a real sense of honour. No one laughs at “meatballs”. They nod their heads in approval and stroke their chins as they assess the gravitas of how you delivered that word into their earholes.

“Beanballs”, however, sounds like a weird insult a 5-year-old would shout at you. And you couldn’t get mad because you know damn well they have no idea what it actually means.

Anyway, I made beanballs.

Don’t worry people, I’m not going vegan. I’m not a vegetarian and if you dare to tell me you’re a “flexitarian” I will be forced to stunt you emotionally with some extremely cutting words. It’s not a thing. You’re either someone who eats food or you’re an idiot who’s trying to fit in with vegetarians without actually committing to a damn thing. So pack it in.

The reason for the change in meatball M.O. was due to the fact that my younger sister has decided to take up vegetarianism. I disagreed with her entire worldview at this point. Later on, I realised that I may have overreacted. It doesn’t affect my life in the slightest what she eats, as long as she’s happy. Unless she comes home again and I’m forced to eat vegetarian lasagna, which is just wrong.

I felt it would be prudent to test out a few vegetarian recipes for her, in case I end up entertaining a veggie or if she comes for tea. I didn’t want to go diving headfirst into this strange meatless world, so I opted for a recipe that would ease me in gently. A way to dip my toe in, but not get wet.

Suffice it to say, it bloody worked! These balls are amazing. I’m really proud of my balls. When I cooked them, I took them into work and unveiled my balls with a flourish as though shouting “look at my wondrous balls!”. Some may say that it’s slightly overzealous, but to those ignorant few I say, balls to you.

They had a really meaty texture and I love beans anyway, it really was win-win. It wasn’t enough to convert me, but definitely something I will be making again later on.

Ingredients:

Red Kidney Beans (You can buy tins of these, but I have loads of dry ones so I’ll include the prep for those)

Red Onion (unless stated otherwise, I blitzed this)

Garlic (same)

Parsnips

Celery

Rosemary

Oregano

Breadcrumbs (I don’t normally but these in meatballs, but the bloody things just wouldn’t stay together without it. I recommend going to Lidl, getting some of their incredible bread and blending it)

Salt

Pepper

Double Concentrate Tomato Paste

Olive Oil (or any cooking oil. I’m not fussed)

For the sauce:

Tinned Tomatoes

Fresh Basil

Garlic

Lemon zest

Salt

Pepper

Method:

  1. To prep the Kidney beans, you need to put them in water overnight, unless you’re using tinned ones. I covered mine with water the night before (discard any that float to the top because they’re gross) and then strained and re-covered them in the morning to soak while I was at work
  2. When it comes to cook them, put them in your pan, cover with fresh water and a bit of salt. Bring it to the boil for about 10 minutes, turn the heat down as low as you can, cover and check back after 40mins to an hour. They’ll take some time, just check them every now and then
  3. Once they’re done, strain them and leave them in the strainer to make sure any excess water has gone
  4. Blend the parsnips, onion, garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper
  5. Fry all of these off. It should take about 10-15minutes. You just want to soften them up a little
  6. Once they’re soft, spoon in about 2 teaspoons of the tomato sauce and give it a good stir, making sure everything is covered
  7. Cook this on low for about another 10 minutes, stir constantly
  8. Take it off the heat and let it cool down sufficiently enough that you can pick it up out of the pan without screaming in agony (NB This will become relevant in a moment)
  9. Make your breadcrumbs and pour them into a big bowl
  10. Roughly mash your beans, don’t make a paste out of them. You still want some half beans and stuff like that, but give it a good wallop
  11. Pour the beans into the bread crumbs
  12. Pour the vegetables in
  13. Stick your hands in there. You know how I feel about balls. Roll up your sleeves and really get tactile. There’s no point shying away, they’re just balls
  14. Once the mixture is… mixed? Combined, I’ll go with thoroughly combined. Once the mixture is combined thoroughly, start to shape it into balls.
  15. Don’t worry about the size of your balls. Even if you notice that one is slightly larger than the other, that’s just fine. They’re your balls, be proud
  16. Once all of your balls have been shaped, heat up a little bit of oil and fry them off. This seals the outside edge and, hopefully, stops your balls dropping to pieces
  17. While that’s cooking, blend all the ingredients for the sauce
  18. When your balls are sealed, put them in a baking dish, pour on your sauce and cook on a medium heat until the sauce is piping hot. This isn’t like meatballs, you’re not going to get salmonella from a bean, but keep one as a test ball so you can tell when they’re hot in the middle

I served mine on courgetti because, occasionally, I’m pretentious. But you can just serve it on regular spaghetti if you would so prefer.

Tuck in, enjoy and don’t ever be too ashamed to show your balls to new houseguests, your friends at work, Hell! Even strangers should know about your magnificent balls.

Just don’t show your family. That’s just wrong…

 

What the Pho? My Vietnamese Chicken Pho Recipe

Before I begin today’s episode of “throwing stuff in a pan” I would like to clear something up.

It’s pronounced “fuh” not like “faux”. I didn’t make that happen, it’s just how it’s pronounced.

Obviously, I understand that when you tell people you’ve made a “fuh”, they look at you as though you are just making up euphemistic swear words or you were just about to finish an actual word but, for some reason, you stopped yourself.

So when you tell them, stare them dead in the eyes and really enunciate the “fuh” so they understand, or back away slowly. Because that just means that you won the conversation.

Anywhoo… A Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup which is normally made with beef, but I found a massive pack of chicken drumsticks in my freezer and thought “what the hell”. Technically, this is a Pho Ga (due to the chicken). If you use beef, it’s a Pho Bo. Just a little education for you there. You’re welcome.

This recipe is really, really easy. The ingredients are easy to find and prep takes about 15 minutes. There’s no preamble, it’s just a case of chop, crush, slice, pour, cook.

I’m assuming you have a slow cooker for this one. If not, why the hell not? Do you know what you can do with a slow cooker? No? Oh, sorry. I’ll throw in a few more recipes using one, because they’re incredibly useful.

Back to what exactly a Pho is.

As I said up there, it’s a Vietnamese dish which comprises of a flavoursome stock, big ole’ hunks of meat, loads of fresh vegetables and a great load of herbs and spices. You put them all together, cook it for ages and then spoon it over rice noodles.

It’s a really clean tasting dish and I’m pretty sure it would be incredible for a hangover. It’s got enough body to it to fill you up and the broth, with its soy sauce, ginger and whatnot; it would also be a great way to balance those pesky electrolytes (I think you want to be doing this) while settling your stomach. I have no practical experience to back this claim up as I made the dish on a Tuesday and I’m obviously not going to get hammered in the middle of the week to provide a little verisimilitude to a food blog. Just trust me.

Ingredients:

Chicken legs, or beef (depending on Ga or Bo. Just make sure you’ve got the bones because they’re your passport to flavour country)

Spring onions (just the white bit, chopped into chunks about half a centimetre long)

Half a red onion (threw this in the blender because even with a simple dish, I will find a shortcut)

Celery (Usually, you would put in bean sprouts but I didn’t have any beansprouts. I did have a load of celery, so voila!)

Garlic (crushed and lightly chopped)

Fresh coriander, stalks and leaves (as much as you want, really. I love the stuff so I just went to town on this dish)

Fresh mint, just the leaves (same as above)

Red Bird’s Eye chilli (yeah, this is the same as above too. If this is going to be your hangover cure, take it easy on the chilli. Don’t add insult to injury)

Star anise (you can find this everywhere, just ask)

Cloves (2-3, you’re making a Pho, not trying to smell like Christmas)

Stick of cinnamon

Fresh ginger (sliced, but not into tiny pieces. You want the flavour to get into the broth, but you also want a sense of danger with every mouthful. Is this bit a massive piece of ginger? Who knows! Chew on it and find out!)

Fish sauce (put a few splashes in to begin with, don’t go insane. As my mother says “when adding ingredients, start with a little bit and then taste it. Remember, you can always add more seasoning, but you can’t take it out”. She’s so wise. I should call her more. If you’re reading this mother, hello. I am well)

Soy sauce (again, don’t go crazy, throwing it around like you’re trying to put out a fire in a really aromatic way. This is meant to be a light broth, not taste like sea water)

Lime zest (grate a lime, it’s easy)

Lime juice (the lime you just zested, cut in half, squeeze)

Black pepper

Thai basil (if you haven’t got any, go to any Oriental supermarket and ask. If you’re in or around Scunthorpe, go to Tradewinds. They have all the stuff you need and the lady behind the counter is incredibly helpful)

To serve:

Rice noodles

More mint leaves(optional)

More lime juice (optional)

Hot sauce(optional, if you’re a pansy)

 

Method:

  1. Chop the onions and garlic, throw it in the slow cooker
  2. Crack the bones a little, if you’re using chicken. If using beef bones, good luck with that. Just throw them in
  3. Chop the celery and throw it in
  4. The latter half of all these instructions are going to be “and throw it in” so just assume that from here on out
  5. Chop and bruise the coriander and mint and Thai basil
  6. Roughly chop the chilli
  7. Grate the lime zest into the lot of it
  8. Squeeze the lime in
  9. Chuck in the star anise, cinnamon and cloves
  10. Give it a big old stir
  11. Pour over some water. Not loads, just so it’s all covered
  12. Splash over your fish sauce and soy sauce
  13. Give it another stir
  14. Put it on a low heat for at least 6 hours, but you can’t really overcook this. Especially in a slow cooker
  15. After about 6 hours, give it a taste. Add whatever is necessary and give it another hour or so
  16. When it’s cooked, serve it over noodles* and garnish with a little extra if needs be

*If you’re taking this into work or heating it up later, don’t cook the noodles beforehand, they’ll just go mushy and awful. When you’re putting it into your lunch box, just put uncooked noodles in and spoon it on top. When you microwave it, the noodles will cook

Good luck with it all, but I honestly can’t see how you can go wrong…

One Man Tea Party: An Introduction

This is, hopefully, going to be my most regular feature here on my blog.

A review of tea.

When I just typed those words, I nearly closed my laptop through boredom.

“A review of tea”.

“A review of tea”?

God, that sounds as though it will be the most banal set of words ever set down or a pretentious musing on the many layers of flavour that steeped leaves can bring to your palate.

Well, guess what. It probably will be!

Actually, the truth is that I have recently become quite taken with tea. Mainly herbal, fruity, non-caffeinated ones. This is because of three reasons:

  1. From Sunday evening to Friday I don’t really drink
  2. I don’t really like soft drinks. The main problem I have is that they are too easy to drink. A pint glass lasts me an inordinately short amount of time and then I’m sat there without a drink and I can’t be bothered to get up and get one
  3. I have to drink something. Heaven forfend, I sit on my sofa feeling parched

With this in mind, I tend to sit in my flat watching entire series of shows as though someone is going to take them away from me, drinking about four pints of different flavoured teas.

It’s actually much more enjoyable than it sounds.

So, if you find yourself in the tea section, baffled by the superfluous choices of flavoured teas, take a look through my reviews and you should be able to find the mug for you.

Or just read it and wonder, at what point in my life I thought “Hmm, a tea blog. People will definitely want to read a tea blog”. Whatever works for you…

*The mug in the image up there has been in my possession for over 10 years and will act as the constant in my tea tasting sessions. It has the capacity of over two and a half normal mugs because I really don’t know how to do things to a normal level*

Return to Form: Sri Lankan Roast Beef

Now that I have displayed my contrition for not updating a blog about food, how about we put all of that mess behind us and continue?

Excellent.

So, as I mentioned before, one of my gifts this Christmas was a subscription to The Spicery. It is an online service whereby you sign up (or your brother signs you up, dependant upon your circumstance) and they send you a recipe with the necessary fresh herbs and spices every month.

My first foray into the entire endeavour was with a Sri Lankan Beef Smore.

If you aren’t aware of what a smore is (I wasn’t) then I shall elucidate. It is, essentially, a combination between a beef roast, a stew and a curry. And it is quite delicious.

It became a perfect start back on my blogging track, despite the fact I don’t like following a recipe.

The instructions were clear, the spices were pungent and I bought too much beef. All in all, a resounding success.

You may have noticed from my description of The Spicery that I didn’t mention anything about ingredients. The subscription only supplies the spices and recipe, but that shouldn’t be a turnoff for anyone considering taking it up. If I were to buy the whole thing from scratch, the spices would be the hardest thing to find and I had most of the ingredients in. In fact, I think I only had to buy:

  • A cabbage; because, let’s face it, why would I own a cabbage?)
  • Some more red onions; as I had, only the day before, used the last of mine to make fajitas)
  • A large piece of topside beef; the recipe called for 1kg so I bought 3kg as I am often wont to do

The other ingredients such as garlic and rice, I already had plenty of.

With my ingredients in hand, I set to work. Diligently following the instructions, I: marinated my beef, cooked my spices, chopped differing sizes of onion and so on and so forth. It was quite an experience to be actually following instructions. It took a lot of the pressure off.

The preparation of this particular meal took around 15minutes and the meat took over 2 hours to cook; which, if you have been following my blog at all, you will notice is my perfect amount of time and effort.

Once cooked, I served it with the sides that they had supplied the spices for and enjoyed an extremely tasty, authentic taste of Sri Lanka. One which I probably would have never tried of my own accord.

I took the leftovers into work to share my Christmas gift with everyone and to show my brother I was actually using the gift. Turns out, I hadn’t cooked the beef for long enough…

*Quick note about the picture* I attempted to take a picture of the dish as a whole but it is essentially a stew. Have you ever tried to take a good picture of stew? I honestly don’t think it’s possible. It’s just a thick brown liquid with meat in it. So I opted for a dazzling image of the (under)cooked beef because that is magnificent.

First, an Apology. Then Food…

Before I return to sharing my dietary habits with you all, I feel I should apologise to the handful of you who were even mildly put out by my lack of blog updates. Suffice it to say, I am aware that an explanation is probably in order.

The first straw that didn’t quite break the camel’s back was the fact that my phone broke. That may not sound like much of a big deal, but the camera on that thing was/is amazing. I couldn’t afford to fix it for a while and every other attempt I made to take pictures with another device were met with sentimental cynicism. Yeah, they were all right, but my phone would have been  better.

I later realised that this was the closest thing I had to a salient reason for giving up. The truth is…

…I had an existential crisis. I had set up this blog as a “Foodie Adventurer”, despite the fact that I hate the word “foodie”. I felt as though I was living a lie, who am I to call myself such a thing?

“Why call it that then?” I hear none of you asking.

Thank you for asking, imaginary person I just invented. The truth is that I didn’t. This blog was a gift from my brother who knows that I have always enjoyed cooking and can form a sentence when pressed. I don’t feel like a “foodie”, I feel like a hungry person who wonders what happens when I cook random thing A with whichever spice I end up grabbing hold of.

I am not even close to a “foodie”. I don’t much care about food on a day-to-day basis and I only really eat when I’m hungry. I am the definition of a lazy chef.

I can’t remember the last time I actually chopped an onion. I peel it and blend it. Same with garlic.

 

I regularly set rice at the lowest cooking temperature so that I have longer before I’m forced to get up and sort it out.

I have my toast lightly warmed because I’m too lazy to stand and wait for it to be crispy and golden brown.

But recently, a few things seem to have struck me.

My laissez-faire attitude towards the culinary arts is my forte. I may not be a “foodie”, but I can cook. I’m a lazy chef who somehow manages to make pretty decent meals. I like flavours from around the world because I’m curious as to what they taste like, I just don’t feel like putting a lot of effort in.

Also, I am an adventurer. In one evening I have overthrown a dictatorship in Kirat, brought justice to the streets of Gotham and rescued a kidnap victim from the slums of Brazil. Later on, after a couple of drinks, I brought down The Empire with little more than a lot of rage and a shiny stick.

I am an armchair adventurer. I have traversed entire worlds from the comfort of my incredibly cushioned sofa.

This realisation gave me a new lease on life and a new passion for cookery.

As though they had heard me, my family met my new found vigour with appropriate gifts. My brother bought me a subscription to something called The Spicery. Which is a company that sends you spices and a recipe from some far-flung corner of the world every month and you simply follow the instructions. It is amazing and I highly recommend. (I will do a review every month of the recipes)

My Mother bought me a spiralizer (so everything I said about that in a previous blog, discount it as the ravings of a lunatic) and a recipe book for it.

My Grandmother bought me a mussels pan. Despite the fact that I’m pretty much certain that I’ve never even mentioned shellfish in front of her, I was still very touched.

So I resolved myself to returning to form in the New Year. I have since fixed my phone and recovered some of the joy I felt cooking.

I will return to form. I will be the [lazy]Foodie [armchair] Adventurer once more….