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Eat, Drink and Be Merry…

May 21, 2011


I am unreliably informed that the world is due to end at some point today. I was not given an exact time, but hopefully there are still a few hours to go, as I really want to make cherry and chocolate flapjacks this afternoon and I’ll be gutted if I don’t get chance to eat at least some of them. Plus I promised my boyfriend flapjacks, and I’d hate for the coming apocalypse to get in the way of fulfilling a promise. Maybe if I make a few extra I can hand them out to the Four Horsemen (and their steeds of course) and they might be persuaded to hold off until someone next predicts the End Of The World. I still have a whole lot of stuff I’d like to do before I get cast into whatever fiery pit awaits those who engage in flapjack-related blasphemy.

So, with the end being nigh and all that, it’s probably a good time for a bit of feel-good blogging. Too many recent posts have been about foods I don’t like, or foods that need to be a certain way, or the pitfalls of vegetarianism, or general moaning. So let’s get positive. Because, let’s face it, food is awesome. I may not have (and probably never will) climbed Everest, or swum with dolphins, or driven on Highway 1 in a classic convertible – but I have had a lot of fucking amazing meals. I have a lot of great memories of the food I have eaten – the places, the people, and the conversations that went with it as well as the tastes, smells and textures.

So I think what I’ll do is take the opportunity to be self-indulgent and write about the foods I love most:

  1. Tomatoes

I eat tomatoes in some form pretty much every day. I don’t really understand people who don’t like tomatoes. I mean – surely at least 80% of all good recipes contain tomato in some form?

Fresh tomatoes are great, but they are totally their absolute best when they’re home-grown and eaten shortly after picking (ideally whilst still standing over the plant). I tried growing tomatoes in my garden last year – out of the five plants I originally planted I got a grand total of six small tomatoes. But God were those tomatoes worth it. Home-grown toms have a soft, hot tang that’s quite different from the cold, crisp taste of the ones you usually buy in the supermarket. They also have a certain texture – which personally I think is best described as “furry”. It kind of feels on your tongue like stroking a short haired cat feels on your hand. I definitely recommend trying to grow your own (my gardening efforts generally fail miserably, but boy is it satisfying when something does actually work!)

I also love tinned tomatoes – which are my go-to solution when I don’t know what else to eat (fried onion, add tin of toms, tin of mixed pulses, chuck in some herbs, serve with pasta.), and I really like passata (which is sieved, liquidised tomatoes, for the uninformed). My Mum taught me how to make the world’s simplest soup using passata – it’s barely more effort than heating up a tin of ready-made. Basically you pour your passata into a pan, and as it’s heating up, add a shake of paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a bit of oregano, stir it all in and that’s it – ready. You could also replace the cayenne and paprika with a spoonful of pesto for a more Italian, non-spicy soup.

  1. Chickpeas

When I was little, my Mum complained that I only seemed to eat food that began with “Ch” – I still maintain that the letters something starts with can be a good clue as to whether it is nice. It works with chickpeas, chocolate, chips, chillies, chestnuts, cherries, Chinese food… I sometimes think about doing alphabet themed menus actually – spending a day eating only food than begin with A, then a day on food beginning with B and so on (X would be fun).

Anyway, I digress. Chickpeas. I love all pulses and beans – as a vegetarian you kind of have to, because they’re your main sauce of protein, they add texture and bite to your sauces, and can be used to make solid things like burgers and roasts as well.

Chickpeas are my favourite; I can quite happily eat them straight out of the tin, and in fact, often do. I’ve been known to get in from the pub starving hungry, crack open a can of chickpeas and eat the lot with a teaspoon while sitting on the sofa. I know. I am odd.

Generally, however, I do like to cook with them. They go well just chucked into tomato sauce as above, with tomatoes and aubergines they make a lush stew (served with cous cous), and sometimes I have them mixed with pasta, spinach and just a bit of pesto for a quick meal. Then, obviously, there’s houmous. Shop bought houmous is generally not so bad, and I do use it a lot to add extra flavour to pasta sauces, stews and curries as well as for dipping and spreading – it also makes a good butter substitute, on toast with baked beans, on jacket potatoes, or even in mashed potato (especially if it’s sweet potato). Homemade houmous is a pain if you don’t have a proper blender/ food processor, but it is nice. A while ago my boyfriend decided to make some in his brand new blender (to my knowledge, said blender has only been used about five times…) tahini, the key ingredient was far too expensive, so he used peanut butter instead – he wasn’t convinced, but I thought it was quite nice. If you want to give it a go, and have a blender, you chuck in a can of chickpeas together with the water from the can, a few spoons of peanut butter, a drizzle of decent olive oil (you won’t need much, as there is plenty of oil in the peanut butter, it’s just to add flavour), some lemon juice, a couple of cloves of garlic or some garlic paste, plus salt and pepper – then whiz ‘til you’re happy with the texture.

  1. Chips

I fucking love chips. I really, really, really love them. They are my ultimate comfort food when nothing else will do. When I’m hungover, when I’m ill, when I’m fed up…

Also, obviously, from Dorothy’s chip shop onCaroline Streetat four o clock on a Sunday morning. (That may actually be my favourite part of a typical night out. I start looking forward to it before I’ve even left the house. How sad am I?)

And nothing tastes so good by the seafront when you’re dodging evil seagulls and gusts of freezing wind. Nothing.

Chip shop chips are still my favourites. But I also love chunky cut restaurant chips, and homemade chips. I try to avoid having the deep fried variety too often, out of respect for my arteries, but I do a slightly healthier oven chip at home quite regularly. It’s good with normal potatoes or with sweet potatoes for a bit of a change. Most recipe books tell you to boil the potatoes before you oven roast them, but frankly life is too short to create that much washing up. Chop them into chips (leave the skins on), put them on the plate off which you plan to eat, and stick them in the microwave for seven minutes to start them off. Then tip onto a baking tray and spray with oil (you can buy special spray oils, or make your own by putting your normal oil in a spray bottle. I just find it coats the chips better and you waste less than if you just pour it on). Then let them crisp up in the oven – which should take between 10-15 minutes, depending how well done you like them.

  1. Chocolate

I don’t need to explain this do I? So much has been written in praise of chocolate by so many people, that I think it would be futile to try and add to it. People express everything from sheer lust to divine worship regarding chocolate, so I think we can be pretty assured that most people agree that it’s good.

I’m a dark chocolate fan myself. The higher the cocoa solids the better. I also think vegan chocolate is far superior to most – I don’t see any reason why manufacturers see the need to take a gorgeous product like chocolate and then ruin it by adding milk. (Although I also think it’s crazy that people put milk in tea – tea and milk are so clearly two incompatible products. So I’m prepared to accept that I’m in a minority here.)

So – rather than wax lyrical – here’s a recipe for a lovely vegan chocolate mousse. You can play with the amounts of milk and chocolate to adjust the flavour and texture to suit you:

You need: A pack of soft silken tofu, a half pint of chocolate soy milk, a large-ish bar of vegan chocolate (Kinnerton do a good one), half a teaspoon of almond extract, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.

– Pour the milk into a saucepan, bring to a simmer and then set aside to cool slightly

– melt the chocolate (it’s easiest to this in a big bowl in the microwave, rather than mess about with pans of hot water.)

– add the soy milk and tofu to the melted chocolate (hence why I told you to use a big bowl!) and mash it up a bit with a spoon, before blitzing with a hand blender until it’s nice and smooth.

– Stir in the salt and the vanilla and almond extracts.

– chill in the fridge for as long as you can before serving.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. calista permalink
    May 21, 2011 12:38

    mmmm..Just reading about these foods made me feel good! I am also a massive fan of hummous and sweet potato it just works and is usually something you discover completely by accident when you run out of butter. I hope the world doesn’t end because there are still loads of foods I want to enjoy!

    • May 21, 2011 15:59

      Running out of stuff is the mother of invention in my kitchen to be honest! I discover all kinds of new combinations purely because I’m so disorganised about shopping. A bit of rosemary with houmous and sweet pots is lush too …

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