Damn! I was going to post something about dahl

And Sybaritica

http://sybaritica.me

beat me to it.

Damn

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… of cabbages and kings… (Apologies to Lewis Carroll)

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Spring cabbage. Spring greens

Who invented these?

If carrots are shock troops, chard and Jerusalem artichokes elite hit squads or SWAT teams, then spring greens/cabbage are the reluctant conscripts of the vegetable world.

Their platoon sergeant despairs of them. He frequently has to put them on jankers (fatigues, if you’re an American) for failing to polish the soles on their spare pair of boots. He has to chuck all their bedding on the floor because they can’t make proper hospital corners. Not one of them remembers to polish the back of their brasses. The sergeant is simply glad he doesn’t have a platoon of turnips on his watch.

Yep, they’re an awkward bunch. You know this. You’ve bought some, because they’re cheap and you get lots for your money. But you tip them out of the bag onto a chopping board, and you think ‘What have I done?’

They lie there, looking not too good to be honest. Dull dark green, with a slightly dusty appearance. You yearn for the sheer visual exuberance of chard. And a bit less attitude. They just look sullen, and have a an attitude that in military parlance is referred to as ‘dumb insolence.’

Time to whip them into shape so they can pass muster at the passing out parade. You are now William Hartnell in the film Carry On Sergeant. Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor await your attention.

Firstly do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, boil greens. They drop into nothing very suddenly. You can stir fry them, steam them, nuke them in the microwave, but do not boil them. Ever. Promise me you won’t do that.

Stir frying

You need a lot of garlic and a lot of ginger

Peel the garlic, and roughly crush it between two teaspoons

Take a good sized bit of root ginger (about the size of your thumb), peel it and make it into golden threads. To do this, slice it longways into very thin slices, stack the slices, and cut them lengthways again. You should end up with shreds of ginger about the size of a matchstick.

Heat three tablespoons of oil (or even better, ghee) in a wok or heavy pan, adding the ginger as it heats up

Cut the greens into 1” pieces across the length

When the ginger starts to sizzle, add the garlic. Stir it about a bit, and leave on a low heat

Wash the greens, drain them but not too much

Mash the garlic with a wooden spatula or spoon, turn up the heat (don’t allow the garlic to burn) then add the greens. It’ll spit a bit. Stir very vigorously. Add some salt if you wish, or a small sprinkle of white sugar. Or both.

When the cabbage starts to wilt, turn it into a warmed serving bowl

Good to go. Though a dash of dark soy won’t go amiss.

If you really want to make this very good indeed, add a handful of shaved almonds or pine nuts at the same time as the cabbage. Cashews work too. Even salted ones. Especially salted ones. Put them in a plastic bag and roughly smack them into bits with a rolling pin before adding them at the same time as the cabbage

Steaming/nuking

Shred the greens and steam them. Don’t overdo the cooking

If you’re nuking, cover the bowl with clingfilm and stab a couple of holes in it. Don’t add any water. The water left over from the washing is all you need. If possible, do the nuking in the serving bowl. It saves washing up

Now what?

The cabbage will still look a bit surly. It will. So tart it up.

A couple of tablespoons of crème fraiche or natural yogurt. Mix it up

A tablespoon of wholegrain mustard. Mix it up

Some crumbled Cheshire cheese. Or feta. Mix it up

Chilli oil. Always works

Moho. Recipe you’ve seen before. It’s miraculous

Mr Hong may stock Chinese sausage. It looks like cabanos a bit, but tastes more like salami. Chop it into fine slices. Mix it up

Pickled gherkins (pickled dill in the US, I think), finely cubed. Mix it up, and add a splash of the pickling vinegar at the same time

Funnily, you can add finely sliced pickled onions too. Not silverskin onions; proper grownup pickled onions. Very finely sliced, and not too many of them

Dry fried coriander seeds work. Even roasted poppy seeds spark things up, but you need a lot of them to make a difference

Horseradish or wasabi. They make thing a bit more intersting

Sybaritica

I’m a bit pushed for time just now, but if you like my blog about food, you really must check out

http://sybaritica.me/

Unlike my general knockabout style, this blog is slightlyformal and precise, but it has some very interesting recipes, ingredients you may not think of, and some detailed instructions and quantities.

Some good photos too, so you know what to expect.

Me, I’ll stick with knockabout, but this site has a lot to offer. I like it.

I’ve neglected you, so here’s something a bit odd, but it’s really good. Pseudo rojak

Fruit with spicy peanut sauce – it’s a bit like rojak

That’s rojak not Kojak. Kojak was a bald 1970s NYPD television detective with a thick sidekick, Sapperstein. Kojak was played by Telly Savalas. There was another character Stavros, who  was played by Telly’s younger brother. Playtime in their house must have been quite an interesting event.

Rojak is a very strange Malaysian thing. Malaysian food is often very hot indeed, and this applies to the attitude to fruit. Bear with me as you read the ingredients list, because you’ll be thinking, ‘This guy has really lost the plot now. He’s gone over the edge. He’s a lost soul.’

Well, maybe, but trust me this works. And it’s a sweet/pudding/dessert, and they’re a bit thin on the ground on this blog, aren’t they?

Here’s what you need

A large honeydew or Gala melon. Do not think you can make this work with watermelon! It won’t, it’ll be a disaster

A large papaya

A large mango. This is optional

A lime

Peanut butter. Smooth is OK, but crunchy is better. I should point out again here that I loathe and detest peanut butter in most of its incarnations, so that may convince you of my veracity

Chilli sauce, of your own choosing. Don’t use West Indian sauces though, since they seem all to be a bright yellow and stuffed full of parabens preservatives. I don’t mind the parabens, I just don’t like the colour

Some honey, or molasses (this works well), or brown sugar, or white sugar. All of these are optional

Here’s what you do

Slice the melon in half, scoop out all the snotty gunk and seeds, chuck the flesh in the recycle bin. Oops just joking. Chuck the snotty bits away. Slice the melon again to give you quarters. Carefully slice the flesh out, and chop it into 1” cubes

Slice the papaya in half, repeat the process

Ditto with the optional mango

Put the fruit into a large bowl, sprinkle with a half teaspoonful of white sugar if you must, then halve and squeeze the lime over things. A grind of black pepper will not go amiss here, but that’s up to you and how adventurous you are, and how much you trust me. Mix well with your hands; wash them first, obviously. Stick the bowl in the fridge in the coolest point. The cool of the fruit is half the amazing properties of this dish when it meets the fiery chilli heat of the sauce

Take two/three tablespoons of peanut butter, and heat it very gently in a small pan. Very gently. Just enough to let it melt

Add a tablespoon of chilli sauce. Maybe more if you’re adventurous. This really works better the hotter the sauce is

A teaspoonful of molasses (this is brilliant, adds a lovely smokey taste), or honey (unset is best), or brown sugar. Stir like crazy, or it will separate out like a beginner’s mayonnaise.

Keep it moving swiftly, but in no circumstances turn the heat up Just don’t. It’ll wreck the whole thing. It will, trust me.

Turn off the heat, and let the sauce rest for a minute

Meanwhile, take the fruit out of the fridge, stir gently to mix up the juices, and put into individual serving dishes. Ideally glass, and ideally having spent half an hour in the freezer. I forgot to tell you that, but we’re friends now, so you’ll forgive me that

Pour the now lukewarm sauce over the fruit. Serve

Yowser yowser yowser

A variant

Hey, if you have some fresh mint leaves, shred them and sprinkle them over the top. You don’t need them, but it’s a nice way of poncing this up and making it acceptable to non-believers. A quick grating of very good dark chocolate should convince the female parties in your audience. Girlies love chocolate, right?

Another variant

Fresh pineapple works here, but it can tend to overpower the more subtle melon/papaya/mango. Best treated alone. It still tastes absolutely fab

A real variant

I you really can’t be bothered, in which case shame on you, my moho sauce

https://messingaboutinthekitchen.wordpress.com/moho-sauce/

works well with pineapple and good quality apples, such as Russets

I’ve neglected you with the furore going on on nobodysreadingme.wordpress.com

Sorry about that.

I’m back

And it’s likely you wan’t believe me

Too bad

Fruit with spicy peanut sauce – it’s a bit like rojak

That’s rojak not Kojak. Kojak was a bald 1970s NYPD television detective with a thick sidekick, Sapperstein. Kojak was played by Telly Savalas. Sapperstein was played by his younger brother. Playtime in their house must have been quite an interesting event.

Rojak is a very strange Malaysian thing. Malaysian food is often very hot indeed, and this applies to the attitude to fruit. Bear with me as you read the ingredients list, because you’ll be thinking, ‘This guy has really lost the plot now. He’s gone over the edge. He’s a lost soul.’

Well, maybe, but trust me this works. And it’s a sweet/pudding/dessert, and they’re a bit thin on the ground on this blog, aren’t they?

Here’s what you need

A large honeydew or Gala melon. Do not think you can make this work with watermelon! It won’t, it’ll be a disaster

A large papaya

A large mango. This is optional

A lime

Peanut butter. Smooth is OK, but crunchy is better. I should point out again here that I loathe and detest peanut butter in most of its incarnations, so that may convince you of my veracity

Chilli sauce, of your own choosing. Don’t use West Indian sauces though, since they seem all to be a bright yellow and stuffed full of parabens preservatives. I don’t mind the parabens, I just don’t like the colour

Some honey, or molasses (this works well), or brown sugar, or white sugar. All of these are optional

Here’s what you do

Slice the melon in half, scoop out all the snotty gunk and seeds, chuck the flesh in the recycle bin. Oops just joking. Chuck the snotty bits away. Slice the melon again to give you quarters. Carefully slice the flesh out, and chop it into 1” cubes

Slice the papaya in half, repeat the process

Ditto with the optional mango

Put the fruit into a large bowl, sprinkle with a half teaspoonful of white sugar if you must, then halve and squeeze the lime over things. A grind of black pepper will not go amiss here, but that’s up to you and how adventurous you are, and how much you trust me. Mix well with your hands; wash them first, obviously. Stick the bowl in the fridge in the coolest point. The cool of the fruit is half the amazing properties of this dish when it meets the fiery chilli heat of the sauce

Take two/three tablespoons of peanut butter, and heat it very gently in a small pan. Very gently. Just enough to let it melt

Add a tablespoon of chilli sauce. Maybe more if you’re adventurous. This really works better the hotter the sauce is

A teaspoonful of molasses (this is brilliant, adds a lovely smokey taste), or honey (unset is best), or brown sugar. Stir like crazy, or it will separate out like a beginner’s mayonnaise.

Keep it moving swiftly, but in no circumstances turn the heat up Just don’t. It’ll wreck the whole thing. It will, trust me.

Turn off the heat, and let the sauce rest for a minute

Meanwhile, take the fruit out of the fridge, stir gently to mix up the juices, and put into individual serving dishes. Ideally glass, and ideally having spent half an hour in the freezer. I forgot to tell you that, but we’re friends now, so you’ll forgive me that

Pour the now lukewarm sauce over the fruit. Serve

Yowser yowser yowser

A variant

Hey, if you have some fresh mint leaves, shred them and sprinkle them over the top. You don’t need them, but it’s a nice way of poncing this up and making it acceptable to non-believers. A quick grating of very good dark chocolate should convince the female parties in your audience. Girlies love chocolate, right?

Another variant

Fresh pineapple works here, but it can tend to overpower the more subtle melon/papaya/mango. Best treated alone. It still tastes absolutely fab

A real variant

I you really can’t be bothered, in which case shame on you, my moho sauce

https://messingaboutinthekitchen.wordpress.com/moho-sauce/

works well with pineapple and good quality apples, such as Russets

It’s been a bit frantic here

Apologies for absence, as they say at Parish Council meetings

I lost my Facebook connection, through stupidity I have to admit, and had to spend some time rebuilding it. I’m back in action.

Then there’s a nutter on my case over on my other blog. Go to

http://nobodysreadingme.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/horoscopes-crystal-balls-card-reading-and-the-rest/

and read the Comments. I’ve behaved with admirable restraint, I feel. You may disagree, but hey!

I promise to try and post something new and yummy tomorrow

Auf wiedersehn

Dunk

Now the hangover has abated, here’s something really yummy – Bananas roasted with mustard seeds

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Another odd one, but it suits my lack of a sweet tooth, and despite your misgivings it will be delicious

Sri Lanka again. I had this on a 7 day trip on a rice boat. The cook managed three meals a day, plus snacks, for a crew of four and four passengers, using only a Belling hard hob cooker with two rings, and no oven. That includes for making chapattis, and this delicious way with bananas.

I don’t like sweet things much, hence the paucity of recipes on the blog. But I do like fruit, and these were sublime.

Here’s what you need

One big banana per person. It’s best if they’re a bit brown and speckly, but not everyone likes the slight discolouration of the flesh. If they’re still a bit green, increase the cooking time for a couple of minutes

Mustard seeds

Coconut milk (optional)

Honey, maybe. Ideally you need coconut sap, but you’ll find that hart to find in a supermarket

A really really sharp knife with a really really sharp point. A Stanley or craft knife is good if you’ve only got cheapo knives in your knife block in the kitchen

Here’s what you do

The bananas will be curved, so bear that in mind and listen carefully

Hold a banana with the concave side up. Carefully slip the point of the knife into the inside curve at the stalk, and slit the skin to within ½ “ of the nobbly bit at the end. Try not to cut the flesh too deeply.

Carefully loosen the peel from the flesh as much as you can

Sprinkle a teaspoon of mustard seeds into the resulting parcel. Add some coconut milk if you want. Maybe some honey if you’ve a sweet tooth

Wrap the bananas in foil, and scrunch the foil up so the bananas will stand in a roasting tin or baking tray without falling over

Stick in a slow oven, about 150 C, for about 15 minutes. If you’re brave you can cook them in a flat skillet over a really low heat, but you need diffuse heat, so it’s tricky on a gas hob.

Take the bananas and leave them to rest. They go lovely and gooey, and cool down. This is important since cooked banana is second only to melted cheese in its napalm-like qualities.

Smashing.

A variant

Add some poppy seeds as well, but not instead of the mustard seeds

Maybe some ground star anise, or half a cinnamon stick per nana

You can also cook plantain like this, but the cooking time may need adjusting. Be grown up about this. I just point you in the right direction

On overdoing it a bit

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If you like food, you probably like a drink. If you’re a teetotaller, then my heartfelt congratulations to you. You may want to read on to see exactly what you aren’t missing.

If you do like a drink, you may occasionally find yourself overdoing things a bit, and getting a hangover. It happens. Don’t beat yourself up. If you feel really bad about it, get onto Facebook and look at some of the ‘After’ photos for this weekend’s Halloween parties. The survivors look as if they’re still made up, then you realise they really are green with dark circles round their eyes. And the nice people at http://vegaquarium.wordpress.com/ frequently mention feeling a bit off colour, and indeed advocate fishfinger sandwiches as a cure. My own view is that Resurrection Pasta is the route to go down; https://messingaboutinthekitchen.wordpress.com/resurrection-pasta/

I’m now going to break the habits of a lifetime, and give some advice. I don’t usually give advice, but on this occasion I will, and it comes straight from the heart.

Unless you’re Mexican, do not get drunk on tequila. I’ll say that again. Do not get drunk on tequila. Drink wood alcohol instead; it tastes the same, and at least it will kill you and you won’t wake up. Because waking up after clattering tequila is all bad news. It’s worse than radiation sickness. It’s living death.

The positional vertigo and cold sweats are the very least of your worries. Your head feels as if someone filled it with red hot carpet tacks by banging them in through your eye sockets with a flint axe, and then shook it violently. Your mouth tastes as if a dead skunk is decomposing in there.Your throat feels as if you’ve been drinking battery acid. Your stomach feels as if there’s a tiny plumber vigorously using a sink plunger at both ends. The rest of you feels as if your blood has been replaced with the seething fat off a roasting chicken. Even the soles of your feet hurt; it’s as if the Stasi had a go at them with a rubber truncheon while you were asleep.

Even your hair hurts. Not your scalp, though that hurts too. Your hair hurts.

If the thought of terrorists setting off a a dirty bomb in your neighbourhood gives you sleepless nights, just pray to the god of your choice they haven’t got a bucket of tequila, access to the roof of a tall building, a stiff breeze, and a half-decent firework with enough explosive power to create a fine spray. They could take out half a city with that. If they get to the top of 1 Canada Square in Canary Wharf, they could eliminate the population of the Isle of Dogs, most of Greenwich, and a big swathe of Catford. Birds would fall from the sky as far south as Dover. Even cockroaches wouldn’t survive the fallout.

If you get on an aeroplane, don’t worry about the man with the smouldering trainers, because he’s clearly incompetent. Just keep a sharp lookout for the guy with a perfume atomiser and a bottle of duty free with a dead worm in it. He’s a pro.

Tequila is so poisonous I’m surprised they’re allowed to sell it except as shark killer. If they decide to remake Jaws, I could produce a screenplay that made it into something the same length as an average trailer. Shark turns up, eats someone, the Robert Shaw character pours a bottle of tequila over the side of the boat, and the shark can’t swim anymore and drowns. The End. The downside would be the shoals of dead fish washing up along a five mile stretch of coastline.

Tequila makes absinth look like one of your five-a-day, plutonium look like a vitamin supplement. If I’d been that guy John Sulston who headed up the Human Genome Project, I’d have had a specialist subteam working on how there are any Mexicans left alive. They must possess a tequila antitoxin gene.

If you’re a gringo you don’t possess this useful piece of DNA. You get out of bed and your legs collapse, so you drop twitching to the floor as if you’d been tasered. When you finally recover from the fall and manage the steep uphill crawl over five miles of broken glass to get to the toilet and evacute your bowels, it brings a whole new terrible meaning to the term ‘toxic waste dump.’ It’s like voiding a mixture of boiling mud and 15 amp fuse wire. It really stings. Meanwhile you’re projectile vomiting into the washbasin so hard your eyeballs haemorrhage.

Do not get drunk on tequila. I’ve advised you. Please listen to me.

On the subject of Mexicans, they’re a hardy race, aren’t they? Think about it. Their national drink is tequila. They discovered peyote. They invented chilli con carne. Any one of those things can kill or maim. Out in the sticks you have to remember to shake the scorpions out of your shoes in the morning. Meanwhile Mexico City is so polluted it makes Kuala Lumpur look like the Eden Project.

Everyday life in Mexico makes that of the Inuits look like a holiday in a beach paradise somewhere. Yes, there are polar bears to worry about, but they’re pretty small change in comparison. In the event of a nuclear war, I’d back Mexico to be the sole surviving nation. Mexicans would say ‘What’s all that noise?’ and just get on with things, albeit while fighting off invading swarms of cockroaches fleeing the radiation and trying to find a safe haven.