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.

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Baked Chicken and Rice

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There is something very satisfying about putting a whole load of things in a dish and popping it in the over to discover, about forty minutes later that not only is it all cooked, but the alchemy of the food blends so beautifully together that you have something very gratifying to eat.  And so it is with baked chicken and rice.

Here’s how I do it.

Grease a dish with a little butter.  Add rice, chopped chicken pieces, red and yellow pepper, sultanas, nuts, chicken stock, salt and pepper.

Put it in the oven, gas mark 5.

Make a cup of tea.

Wait.

Look in the oven after around twenty minutes as it might need a bit of a stir.  My oven tends to cook things round the outside of the dish quicker than in the middle, so I give it a gentle swirl and sometimes add some more hot water.

Twenty minutes or so later, take out of the oven and serve.

It’s a little bit like savoury rice, but the sultanas add a touch of sweetness that I find irresistible.  Of course, you could, should the feeling take you, just bake the rice with the peppers etc and cook the chicken separately.  Either way, the results are always enjoyable.

And, as a little aside, it looks beautiful.

Red Thai Curry

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I do believe we are officially experiencing summertime.  It’s glorious.  And with this season comes a whole array of foods to eat which compliment the heat.  In my head I have time to flick through recipes, buy new ingredients and potter in the kitchen, presenting my boys with yet another piece de resistance.  The reality is, there is never really enough time, and I end up, most of the time, falling back on old faithfuls. Things which I have the ingredients for, that don’t take too long to cook, and that I know everyone will enjoy.

When I was growing up, the summer staple was always some sort of food, with salad.  And every time we had salad, big Dave would exclaim something along the lines of,

‘Rabbit food again then?’

As a friend of mine once said, ‘I don’t do greens.  I don’t do anything with fibre’

There’s nothing quite like the soul destroying feeling of someone’s dinner disappointment.

So, with this in mind, I have incorporated a red Thai curry into my repertoire, which I believe ticks all the summer food boxes, without instigating the ‘summer salad’ conversation.  And it’s a doddle to make.

I usually use either a meaty fish (cod), pork or chicken strips, but sometimes I break the mold and just use vegetables.  Oh yes, living on the edge.  Anyway.

What I start with is a teaspoon of Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste, bought in a tub from my local supermarket which cuts out the faff of mixing together all the things I don’t have, and it keeps in the fridge for an eternity.  I think.  I add this into a wok with a splash of oil, a teaspoon of soft brown sugar, a splash of fish sauce and a dash of lime juice.  Mix together, warm through and add the meat.  If you’re using fish, skip this stage and add the fish in with the coconut milk as otherwise it breaks up too much.

Cook for five minutes or so.

I then add sliced red onion, orange, red and yellow peppers if I have all three, if not I put in whatever I do have, stir around for a wee while, and add a tin of coconut milk. Next I add mange tout, sugar snap peas, green beans, (once again, whatever I have in), and let them all cook in the milk until they look as though they’ve seen some heat**.

And that, my friends, is it!

If we’re eating it with noodles, I also add them, if we’re eating it with rice, I cook that alongside the curry and serve the two separately on the plate.

I do like to add some fresh chopped coriander right at the end, but more often than not, if I haven’t bought some that day, the stuff I have has either wilted or been semi frozen by my temperamental fridge.

It may not be totally authentic, but it tastes devine.

** Just a final thought, the peppers, beans, whatever you fancy veg really could do with having a crunch to them otherwise it does taste like ‘old people’s home’ food.

Time

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There are some days, actually, many days, when I just seem to be chasing time, which constantly takes me by surprise.  Today, for example, I didn’t wake up later than usual, I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary or try and fit in an activity that took me away from the tasks in hand, and yet, I still managed to be completely unprepared for the shock of the clock, and it’s perpetual movement.

Consequently, we were late setting off for our morning destinations, and, surprise, surprise, late for the arrival of aforementioned destinations.  Why is this?  The strange thing is, once on the wheel of playing catch up, every minute that you steal back becomes a minor victory.  So I end up congratulating myself for achieving something quicker than I had allotted the time for.  ‘Well done you’, I hear my inner voice saying.  What’s that all about?  And come to think of it, why is it so important?

Well, others rely on you to be at a certain place, at a certain time.  And actually, I am more disappointed in myself than anything.  But then, today, at least I managed to make myself look presentable, because I took the time to make sure my clothes hung the way they should, layered over each other without a surreptitious tuck in the wrong place.  I also took a little time to put my make-up on before getting into the car as opposed to trying to do it whilst the traffic lights are red.

But at the end of the day, nothing has been gained by berating myself over a few lost minutes, and no-one has suffered as a consequence.  The only thing that has been lost is the small amount of time everyone should have, daily in my opinion, to reflect.

On arriving home, later than usual, my mind has once again drawn a blank over what to have for dinner.  There is silence in the space where there should be food combinations.  So I revert to the default setting.  With guilty overtones I mention the idea of a take away.  And then something extraordinary happens.  Having chosen the preferred take away menu, I telephone, and reach an answerphone message, telling me the take away shop of choice is not open on Tuesdays.

I reflect, and decide that, actually, by the time we make another decision on what to order, order it, and wait, I could have rustled up something edible.  And so I do.  Rice, boiled in a magical Knorr vegetable stock pot, with red pepper and broccoli added just in the last minutes, followed by the wonderful soy sauce.

Finally, I have managed to save both time and money, as it is not only edible, but exactly what we fancied eating.

Amazing what you can do with a little time.

Being Healthy

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Today has brought some interesting developments.

I managed to not even entertain breakfast – a combination of having no food plan, and desperately trying to be places on time. However, I did manage to slot in a cheekie bit of potato salad, made by my own fair hand, but in all honesty, it’s not difficult.  Potatoes and mayonnaise (Helmans, not mine).  Not really that impressive, but fantastic eaten in sunshine, with my wee boy.

So, we are driving from one destination to another, chatting about what we should have for dinner, and the wee one suggests the following:  rice, broccoli, cauliflower, chick peas and soy sauce.  Hmmmm.  He has this for lunch every Thursday and has decided that it would be a great idea to have it again.

Of course, alongside the general la di da of the day is the usual dysfunctional goddess scenario which panned out something like this.

I parked my car in an extortionately expensive spot, for one hour only, then completely forgot that I needed to feed the machine until approximately two hours later.  So, tentatively, I make my excuses and fly down to the machine, buy more time and creep around the corner to where the car is parked, fearing the worst, hoping for the best.  I figure, even if I have a parking ticket, I will write a letter explaining the circumstances.

I approach the car and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

No ticket.

Now some may be thinking at this point, ‘What is your problem?’, ‘Why is this such an issue?’  Well, although I would love to park, pay and casually stride off, bag draped beautifully over my perfect for the day outfit, what happens in reality is that I’m usually late, and find myself, knowingly, not getting it right.  Consequently, I have probably had more parking tickets than I’ve had seaside holidays.

We buy the ingredients and once home, cook the rice in chicken stock, steam the vegetables, then put the other ingredients in with the drained rice, add the veg (crunchy) and, bingo, dinner is served.

You know what, it’s really tasty.  Nigella watch out, there’s a 4 year old who may be small, but definitely has his eyes looking towards the culinary stars.

And me?  I feel I have ticked, in pencil, an ‘I’ve eaten healthily today’ box.  Job done.