Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Emperor's New Clothes

I read in the news yesterday about the, allegedly, top 50 restaurants in the world. Apparently Heston’s ‘Fat Duck’ fell by 20 places. Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

To be honest I found the video clip here about the No.1 restaurant ‘El Celler de Can Roca’ hilarious. I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be funny, but there was no way I could keep a straight face at the dross they so solemnly trotted out; mind you, give them their due, they at least managed to sound like they believed it. Emotional cuisine, anyone? Oh, please…! These guys are so far up their own rear ends they can hardly see daylight – the word ‘pretentious’ doesn’t even come close to describing them.  Admit it, wouldn’t you just love to go in and ask them what the veggie option is…?

I’m a simple soul. When I go out to eat, which admittedly isn’t very often given the dearth of decent vegetarian restaurants, I like a well-cooked, nicely-presented seasonal meal in comfortable surroundings with excellent service. Perfect.

Frankly, distilled earth and oak smoke in sugar baubles make me think of a conjuror doing his party piece. I almost expect an aging Paul Daniels to pop out from behind a screen, warbling “You’ll like this….not a lot!” I don’t care how much it’s been distilled, ‘earth’ does not make me think of a relaxed enjoyable dinner no matter how outrageously expensive and famous the restaurant may be.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who are taken in by this flannel; there must be, it’s a successful business and as Phineas T Barnum said "There's a sucker born every minute". However, three words keep coming into my head……Emperor’s. New. Clothes.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Chickpea, Mushroom and Spinach Korma

It’s still like winter here even though Easter has been and gone – we actually had another light flurry of snow this morning; it’s getting beyond a joke now and I am still cooking winter meals!

Now, I know what you’re thinking... This doesn’t look like any Korma I’ve ever seen; where’s the cream, where’s the ground almonds? That’s what I thought too, and that’s what drew me to it. It’s my vegetarianised version of this recipe by Atul Kochhar. Obviously I didn’t want the fish but I liked the look of the spicy tomatoey sauce served with it, so I used the sauce as a base, played around with it a bit and added chickpeas, mushrooms and spinach.

According to Atul (hark at me, first name terms – anyone'd think I know him!) it’s a Middle Eastern Korma; he uses baharat in it, a spice mix I’ve never come across before but I have led a very sheltered life. Wiki says baharat is a generic Arabic word for ‘spices' - there you go, you learn something new every day...

The smell in the kitchen while it was cooking was divine, I could hardly wait for it to be ready to eat. It was worth waiting for, though – not quite like a curry but spicy with a warm fragrant kick to it. Definitely a keeper.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
200m Portobellini mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp Bart baharat
1 tsp ground turmeric
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 loomi (dried limes) or thinly pared rind of 1 lemon
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
200ml stock or water
a couple of handfuls of baby leaf spinach

Heat the vegetable oil in a large lidded pan and sauté the onions and mushrooms over a highish heat for five minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli powder, baharat, turmeric and cinnamon stick; sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, loomi or lemon rind, chickpeas and stock. Bring to the boil, pop the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the loomi or lemon rind and the cinnamon stick then stir the spinach into the sauce until it wilts.

Serve immediately with rice or naan.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Baking with Gorgeous Granddaughter

So, what do you do with your 2¾ year-old Gorgeous Granddaughter when you’re lucky enough to have her stay overnight during the coldest Easter weekend in living memory?

In our case the answer was:
  1. Baking biscuits.
  2. Making an Easter card with Grandpa for Mummy and Daddy (Grandpa was in charge of the scissors!)
  3.  A couple of short walks, well wrapped up, around the allotments across the road where free-range chickens pecking hopefully in the grass were a big hit.
All the biscuit business which involved knives or hot surfaces was done by Grandma (moi) whilst Grandpa (Mr Simply Veg) was stationed beside GGD to make sure she didn’t fall off the stool (!) at the breakfast bar. However, all the stamping out of biscuits and the topping, with cranberries, milk and white chocolate chips and almonds, was GGD’s own work and a very nice job she made of it (a few of the chocolate chips may have been snaffled by her just to make sure they tasted nice!)
I used a half quantity of this recipe and was surprised at how forgiving the dough was, given that it was very well squidged by little fingers and rolled by her to within an inch of its life! The three of us sampled the biscuits, which were delicious, after lunch and she presented the remainder to Mummy and Daddy with her card when they came to pick her up.

A happy time was had by all.