Roast Potatoes

roast potatoes

I love potatoes, their versatility never ceases to amaze me.  And did you know the Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C.?  No, me neither until I looked it up.  We have a lot to thank them for. Moreover, they didn’t just use them for cooking, oh no, they were masters in the art of potato versatility.

They also did the following *:

Placed raw slices on broken bones to promote healing
Carried them to prevent rheumatism
Ate with other foods to prevent indigestion
Measured time: by correlating units of time by how long it took for potatoes to cook

Then there were various potato remedies:

Treat facial blemishes by washing your face daily with cool potato juice
Treat frostbite or sunburn by applying raw grated potato or potato juice to the affected area
Help a toothache by carrying a potato in your pocket
Ease a sore throat by putting a slice of baked potato in a stocking and tying it around your throat
Ease aches and pains by rubbing the affected area with the water potatoes have been boiled in

A pretty comprehensive list, I think you’ll agree.

However, tonight, we enjoyed our potatoes, roasted. Now I know everyone has their own way of roasting potatoes, but for me, there is nothing like a crisp crunch on the outside, with a soft, fluffy warmth on the inside.  I always par boil my potatoes, then drain them, put the lid back on the pan and give the whole thing a good shake.

I then sprinkle some semolina, a little tip I got from Nigella, and add a little salt before popping them into a tray with vegetable oil that has been heated up in a hot oven.  Gas mark 8.  They take about 50 minutes in my oven, yours may take less time.  Either way, if you don’t overload the tray, and turn them every so often, each potato comes out gloriously golden and crispy.

What more could a girl wish for on an autumnal Monday evening?

 

*Taken from http://www.potatogoodness.com

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Rice

plain rice #2

Today has been the most glorious of days, a no nonsense autumnal piece of perfection.

Coincidentally we had arranged a stroll and afternoon tea date with some lovely people and so it was, with a spring in our step, that we pottered off to our agreed destination.

Having just got into our stride of balancing good conversation with an ambling walking pace, the wee boy enquires whether we can go back yet.  I explain to him that as we are not yet there, we can’t possibly start to go back.  It’s one of those interesting conversations small people instigate.  We eventually compromised by us all sitting right in the middle of a set of steps, so as to cause as much obstruction as possible, for a small breather, before continuing.

Inevitably, further along on our stroll, we find ourselves on the way back heading towards the cafe, and after some light ice cream van negotiation, land at destination ‘afternoon tea’.

The wee boy decided that he would like a bowl of rice, and so with considered aplomb, I approach the small crowd of waiting staff huddled together as though planning the Great Escape, to enquire whether I may order a small bowl of rice for the wee boy.

A look of incredulity passed across the group, like a Mexican wave.  Anybody watching may have suspected that I’d asked for the plans for said Great Escape. The question was passed from one person to another, and although one of the group pointed to a large bowl of rice amongst the chilled counter, huddled in-between other salad type affairs, there seemed to be some confusion and befuddlement as to how a bowl of rice could be served.

‘You can have the rice as part of a salmon salad’

‘I’d just like a bowl of rice, please’

‘You could have it as part of any combination of salads’

‘I’d just like a bowl of rice please’

More discussion ensued and then I was shown an eggcup.

‘Would you like this much rice?’

‘Do you have anything bigger?’ (my wee boy is 4)

I was then shown a ramekin dish

It was at this point, that with some desperation, I signalled to the Great Escape group, a bowl shape with my hands.

‘Do you have anything this size?’ knowing full well they did as they are a fully functioning, busy, on the lakeside, CAFE

And at last, the penny dropped and a bowl of rice was produced.

Now I don’t want to come across as a grumpy old mare, but please, if you’re going to work in a cafe, have the nous to understand that any combination of food available, is possible.  It is too much to ask?

Of course this didn’t ruin our afternoon, it only provided metaphorical food to dine out on.  And as a short N.B. the rice was actually delicious.

Hummingbird Cake

pecan brittle

Sometimes a recipe just catches my eye and and I think to myself, ‘I’d like to have a go at that’.

Hummingbird cake is such a wonderful name for a cake I just had to try it.  Today, having spent a lovely few hours with a friend tackling a mountain of damsons and jamming them up, I came home and decided the moment had come.  So, I assembled all the ingredients and set off.

Everything was going wonderfully well, step one was accomplished with absolutely no hiccups, ingredients combined and mixture divided into the cake tins. Step two: making a brittle topping.

Now I have often seen people on the television heating sugar in a pan, and to be honest, it never looks that difficult, so I duly measured out the sugar, added a splash of water and waited.  As explained in the recipe, I shook, and did not under any circumstances, stir the sugar until it began to melt and go a golden brown.  All good.  I added the pecans and a pinch of salt, using a spoon to coat the pecans, and poured the concoction out onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Once again, it seemed fine.  And then I made the mistake of scraping out the last few bits and a small globule of molten sugar jumped out of the pan and landed on my thumb knuckle.

Mistake number one.  Blimey, it’s hot hot hot.  I now have a glorious blister emerging despite shoving said knuckle under warm water.  Yes, warm water.  I always thought it should be cold water, but, as someone explained to me not so long ago, warm water takes the heat out of the burn.  And do you know, they’re right.

Moving on, I prepared the zesty cream cheese icing.  Which brings me on to mistake number two.  The recipe states 400g of icing sugar.  It turns out I only had 359g so decided that this wouldn’t be a problem, I’d adjust the other ingredients accordingly.  Which I promptly forgot to do.  This left me with a slightly liquid zesty cream cheese icing.  No problem, I’ll pop it in the fridge to solidify slightly.  It should be fine.*

And then I hit mistake number three.  My oven is not big enough to take two round tins on one shelf.  Normally I squeeze them together and hope for the best.  This time I decided to put one on the shelf underneath the other.  Good plan, I hear you cry.  Well yes, in theory.  However, I hadn’t factored in the cake rising, so when I looked in the oven, cake number two was beginning to seep over the edges of the tin as it had nowhere else to go.  In my attempt to rectify the situation I had to move tin number one from the upper shelf to the bottom of the oven, put tin number two onto the upper shelf, and move shelf number two down, before placing initial tin number one back onto it and closing the oven door.

I managed all this juggling, but singed both forearms in the process.

It can be quite hazardous this baking malarkey.

 

*I ended up having to go out and buy more icing sugar

Apple Rings

apple rings

Today’s food idea is brought to you by my wee boy.

Him: Today at Kindergarten we made apple rings in the garden

Me: Ooo, how did you do that?

Him: Well, you put a hole in an apple and then you make them into rings

Me: Then what happens?

Him: Well, then you leave the rings to dry.  Inside though, not outside.

Me: Oh, why’s that?

Him: Because it’s too windy

Delicious.

Peppers

peppers

The wonderful thing about food is that it brings people together.  It doesn’t matter how you got there, (metaphorically speaking) for that moment in time you are united by the preparing and sharing of food.

I am a huge believer in setting, sitting and eating around a table.  I never request it, I expect it.  The exception is not sitting round the table.  Or ‘at table’ as my auntie Shelagh used to say.  How can you possibly converse if you’re sitting in a line with some distraction or other in the corner?

What I find incredible though, is the way setting, sitting and eating affects the spirit. Having spent the last few years observing what it’s like for people to not have the privilege of sitting around a table to eat food with others, it has become my firm belief that those who don’t adhere to this ritual, for that is what it is, lose a part of themselves forever, to something else.  It remains to be seen whether that something else is for the good or not.  But if I were a gambling man, which I am not, I know where my money would be.

Hang on a minute, I hear you cry, what is all this pontification and, quite frankly, what on earth has it got to do with peppers?

Well my lovely friends, today I roasted some peppers, warmed some pitta, bought some hummus, and shared it with a group of people who don’t often have the pleasure of setting, sitting and eating.  And I have to say, I felt honoured to share such genuine joy, appreciation and fulfilment not only of the body, but of the soul.

Sometimes it’s the little things which have the biggest impact.

Omelette

photo (100)

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs – Robespierre (c. 1790) in relation to the French Revolution.  An epigram acknowledged to Robespierre who was, amongst other things, a quirky little short man (5’2″) with a small-pocked face, and an unfaltering arrogance.   Apparently.

Well, despite breaking many eggs, on many occasions, it seems I can’t make an omelette.  Just a pan full of over friendly eggs, which today enveloped some cheese and mushrooms.

I’m not, however, going to stop trying, as one day I may just crack it.

That is all.

Chocolate and Cherry Brownies

photo (98)

Well, well, well, what a weekend.   Guess what.  I have made an extraordinary discovery which I would like to share with you.

Gluten free cakes do not have to taste of cardboard.

Really?

Yes.  Really.

And I know this because I have spent the afternoon behind a table full of the things persuading people to eat them, and let me tell you, no-one left that table without wearing the relaxed cake face we all sport having bitten into a great piece of cake.

And that was when they were on their third piece.

To be fair there was one cake which I just couldn’t bring myself to champion and, as a consequence, it remained forlornly isolated from the other cakes displayed.  I think we’ll just brush over that one.

Now I realise that not everyone is confident when it comes to making gluten free stuff and prefer to make things that wouldn’t have flour in them anyway. But if you fancy giving it a go, may I recommend chocolate and cherry brownies?  They are, without exception, delicious.

Furthermore they are an absolute doddle to make.

Melt 185g of both dark chocolate and butter together, allow to cool.  Whilst that is going on, whisk 250g of caster sugar, 3 eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  You will need to whisk in a machine for about 10 minutes so that it’s fluffy and light.  I have a fabulous retro Kenwood Chef which although many years old having once belonged to my mum, does the job perfectly.  I’m guessing a hand held electric whisk would do just as good a job but it would then mean that you were slightly debilitated in terms of being able to do anything else.

Mix 110g of gluten free flour, I used the Dove brand as it was recommended*, with 200g of washed and halved cherries.   Now the recipe I followed said use sour cherries, but my local supermarket didn’t have any sour cherries so I bought glace ones instead which seemed to do the trick.  I am going to try the recipe with sour cherries next time.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

Meanwhile, when the whisked egg mixture is soft and fluffy add the chocolate and butter combo, then the flour and cherries.  Pour into a greased tray, put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at gas mark 4.

Bring out, and leave to go cold.  Cut and serve.

One thing to note, although this is the first time I have made them, I didn’t expect them to be quite as crumbly as they were, so popped them into the fridge for half an hour to solidify them slightly, which seemed to do the trick.

What with partying, baking and generally all the other doing things which have happened over the last few days, it is time to take a slight pause.

So I am going to spend the next hour or so, staring into space…

*how2bglutenfree