savoury snark

a little bit culinary curmudgeon and a whole lot of love.

28 September 2006

pink fingertips 2.0

What's a girl to do when she receives more fresh beetroot with her fortnightly veg box? Make tabbouleh of course! Not just any tabbouleh. Oh no. Beet & feta tabbouleh.

I really do need to upgrade our camera so I can have really good food photos like all the cool kids. So the secret to a good tabbouleh is lemon juice and lots of it. To make the same recipe gluten-free just substitute superfood quinoa for the bulghur. Even Stephen thought this was delicious and you never know with him.

Beet & Feta Tabbouleh (serves 4 as main course or 6-8 as a side)

  • 1c bulghur wheat
  • 2c boiling water
  • 200g / 1 pack feta cheese
  • 4-5 bulbs fresh beetroot (you can use pre-cooked but fresh does make a difference in taste)
  • 5T chopped fresh curly parsley
  • 3T chopped fresh mint
  • juice from 4 small lemons
  • 2-3T extra virgin olive oil
  1. Roast your beets in some foil in a 220C/425F oven with some oil and s&p for 45 minutes. Once cooled, peel off skin and trim. Dice into 1/2" pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, put bulghur in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Cover and leave for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork. If all the water isn't absorbed then drain. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Add to diced beets the lemon juice, olive oil and herbs. Adjust to taste and season.
  4. Add beet mixture to bulghur and crumble in 1/2 the feta.
  5. Plate up the tabbouleh and sprinkle the rest of the feta on top.

It will keep overnight in the fridge for leftovers but any longer and the lemon juice just makes it too acidic. I served mine with some falafel, toasted pita bread and tahini dressing.

24 September 2006

sugar high

£3. That's how much it costs for a day-saver (ie return) ticket on the bus these days. The Brighton & Hove bus company have faithfully increased their ticket prices every year around the same time as long as I've lived here. It used to be £2.40. Why am I telling you this? Because this means that my trips to Waitrose will be cut short (unless I get off my lazy ass and walk) and I am now forced to go to the dreaded straight-out-of-70's-Harlem Sainsbury's or super-chavvy Somerfields. Alas, I have found that my local butcher, who I visited for the first time on Friday due to a porkrib shortage at the other 2, actually stocks quite the variety of meats, some even being of the free-range persuasion. I can't whinge too much I guess seeing that the Open Market is just up around the corner as well. SIGH. mumbles something about loving Waitrose...

What was my point? I can't even remember. I just remember being really excited today when I was at Waitrose and found that they now stock Amy's Organic Soups, which I practically lived off of when I was a vegetarian and was feeling a bit posh. They were on sale so I bought the Black Bean and Lentil Veggie for Stephen's lunches this week. See? This is why Waitrose is so great and the other supermarkets AREN'T. My god, they even stock Bone Suckin' BBQ Sauce, imported from the US of A! Something else that Waitrose sells and no one else does (so therefore the Brits are clueless to the sheer wonderousness of it):

I give you...Fluff. Marshmallow Fluff to be exact. 1 of 3 vital ingredients for a Fluffernutter sandwich, the other two being white bread and peanut butter. My mother was somehow smart enough to not feed these to us as children HOWEVER I do remember the odd jars of Fluff showing up in our cupboards near Christmas. This is because my mother was making her infamous Never-Fail Fudge for practically everyone she knew. If I started selling this stuff I'd put the fudge shop around the corner out of business. For real. I found a bag of Nestle Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips lurking in my baking cupboard so guess what I made?

It's cooling in the pan as we speak. If you're my neighbour or husband's work colleague, be prepared for adult-onset diabetes when you try this stuff tomorrow. Weird that Waitrose thought to stock the Fluff in the Kosher section. Maybe it's Kosher, who knows? I found some Kosher semi-sweet chocolate chips (which you can never find here, it's always those small bags of chips that aren't semi-sweet and it's just so incredibly frustrating. Like buttermilk. Why is it so hard to find buttermilk??) so now that I've downloaded the recipe for the BEST chocolate chip cookies EVER guess what I'll be making tomorrow.

19 September 2006

plum tuckered out.

Well anyone would be after a weekend of rubbing shoulders with the zillion people at your local Food Festival. OK, maybe a zillion is stretching it a bit, still, those streets were packed! I took a mosey on down by myself on Saturday, to gauge all the goodies. Momma Cherri was there, complete with microphoned headset, teaching the masses how to make her downhome cuisine. I strolled past booths offering not just your British banger-in-a-bun, but Mexican, Moroccan, Nigerian and Thai. Too bad I had lunch before going! I made it back with some Cheeky Monkey banana chutney courtesy of The Garlic Farm and 3 bars of chocolate from the Chocolate Alchemist. The white chocolate & cinnamon is currently rocking my world. I returned on Sunday, this time with Stephen in tow and we scarfed down some of the best chicken burritos I've ever had, courtesy of Coriander. We came back with some locally produced cider, chilli piccalilli and wild boar & leek sausage rolls. YUM.

With such an array of chutneys, jams and such on display I got inspired. Well, that plus thumbing through my new copy of Everyday Food got me inspired:

How I do love this magazine. And I hate Martha Stewart! Such irony. Anyways, this month has plums on display and so I decided to use up the Riverford plums (as they weren't the red plums I prefer) by making chutney. I even got to use my new Le Creuset pot! Joy!

Plum Chutney

  • 1 lb (450g) plums, pitted and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 2T olive oil
  • 4 shallots (or 1/2 red onion), chopped fine
  • 1 chile, seeds removed and diced finely
  • 1/3c light brown sugar
  • 2T cider vinegar
  • 3/4t curry powder
  • 1/3t ground ginger
  1. Heat oil in small pot and saute shallots and chile over med-high heat for a few minutes, until soft
  2. Add plums, sugar, vinegar and spices plus 1/4c water.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook til slightly syrupy, about 7 minutes
  4. Allow to cool

I think if I had to pick a favourite condiment, chutney would be it. Be it any flavour or level of spiciness there's just something about it that I love so dearly. Give me some chutney, a fresh baguette and some good strong cheddar or brie and I am a happy monkey. I also love to smear it over jerk or cajun chicken but you can of course use it over simply cooked chicken or pork.

13 September 2006

pomegranates are the new black.

At least where I'm concerned. Not only have I geekily subscribed to the Pomegreat newsletter but I'm averaging about a litre of this stuff per day. I know it's the trendy new juice of the moment (I believe I saw an episode of "Queer Eye" that included pom-martinis) but I wouldn't drink it if I didn't like it. Not to mention all the health benefits like helping lower bad cholesterol, having 3 times as many antioxidants as green tea AND being chock full o' folic acid (for all you pregnant ladies out there). All hail the mighty pomegranate! At least until the next "superfood" comes along anyway!

09 September 2006

why i love my husband.

The man is thousands of miles away in Texas but still thinks of me. Not only is he going clothes shopping for me today but he also sent me an email informing me that Amazon is selling Le Creuset pots for HALF PRICE.

You have no idea how long I've been wanting one of these. I think it's been on my Amazon wishlist for about 3 years now. Ok, so they didn't have the lime, pink or lavender-coloured ones on sale but I think that this almond-coloured one will look lovely alongside my beloved Dualit kettle, don't you?

One step closer to the kitchen of my dreams! Now, if only these would go on sale for half price:

08 September 2006

i heart Waitrose

(Or as Delphine calls it, in her French accent, "The Waitrose". So cute. I get mocked by the Brits for pronouncing it Wait-rose, instead of Wai-trose. At least I don't say Sains-berries instead of Sains-brees. Give me some credit, people.) - original pic found at Flickr, entitled "you know you're back in England when supermarkets have aisles like this" - so true!!

Being unemployed will leave you with lots of time to sit on your ass all day. I did a lot of that at work and got paid for it and as much as I love to veg out and watch an entire season of Deadwood in 3 days, I know I have to get out and move my body or else I crip up like an old woman. I love going food shopping (especially when I can be leisurely about it and especially when I don't have Stephen with me going, "Why don't you buy this bacon, it's on sale! Why don't you buy this kind of juice, it's cheaper!"). Lately I've been killing 2 birds by walking to my local Waitrose, which is about 30 minutes away on foot. Waitrose is the posh grocery store chain. Think Whole Foods but not 100% organic. I'd never been to a Waitrose before moving to Brighton and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw that we had one. It wasn't until I moved here that I became interested in the differences in all the grocery store chains. Sure, we all want to shop at our local green grocer/baker/butcher, but it's not a reality for most people. It has to be somewhat convenient or else it's not going to happen. I like to do my bit by supporting local veg box schemes and buying the occasional deli items too but since we're not millionaires I have to rely on grocery stores and markets too.

Waitrose is a co-operative so I like that by spending money there you know that they're sharing the wealth with all of their employees. They also support initiatives in the third world, sell loads of fair trade products, ONLY sell eggs that are at least free-range, if not organic and make sure that locally produced products are put on their shelves. There's something about the atmosphere in a Waitrose that's a bit different as well. You get a sense that people that shop there really love food and are enthusiastic about trying new things and being willing to pay a bit more for good quality. I think that was a nice way of saying that their patrons aren't as common as the ones around the corner at my local Somerfields with their packs of feral, tracksuit-clad children and carts full of crisps and soda, don't you? I can be a total snob, I'll be the first to admit it.

In addition to being a haven for MY kind of people (hehe.) they've also started a bit of a fruit and veg revolution with their Ugli campaign. By now most people know how much food is wasted (an astonishing 30-40% here in the UK!!) because fruit or veg isn't "pretty" enough, even though some of the prettiest pieces of fruit I've ever had were the ones most lacking in taste. I've heard stories of entire lorries of food being turned down by Tesco for not being pleasing to the eye. Guess who suffers that loss? Not you or I in our self-contained, synthetically pleasing lives but the farmers who work their fingers to the bone so that you can have an attractive fruit centrepiece. Deep breath. Stepping off soapbox. So now you can buy Ugli fruit for cooking, baking or even to put in your rebellious fruit bowl. Fantastic idea!

Yes, Waitrose is expensive so I'm usually scanning the shelves for what's on sale. I know that one day when we start having children we probably won't be able to afford to shop here and then I'll have to be more budget-conscious than I am now. So for now I'll just indulge in their Goat's Cheese, Rocket and Fig Chutney Pizzas while I still can. (25% off this month!)

02 September 2006

pink fingertips

Courtesy of my new organic veg box delivery company, Riverford. I decided to give them a try after Helena recommended them to me. I will still use Abel & Cole for other items, such as meat and fish (they do have a key to my building, afterall) but I have to admit that Riverford is much better value for money. I also like knowing that by shopping with them that I'm helping to support a local, small business for Riverford's box scheme is a franchise. I know, you hear the word "franchise" and automatically your hands go up in the sign of the Cross, but that's not the case here. It's a way of equally distributing profits and encouraging small start-ups and I know now from firsthand experience that not everything about franchises is evil. Ok, MOST things are evil (like how they all have to buy from the same vendors even if it means shipping in frozen chicken from Brazil) but that actually works in Riverford's favour since you want most of your goodies to come from their 750 acre organic farm in Devon.

I had my first delivery on Thursday which consisted of a small veg box for £9 and a fruit bag for £4.30, with some additionals thrown in. The veg box brought me beetroot (beets), carrots, new potatoes, courgettes (zucchini), onions, leeks, rocket (arugula) and mushrooms, all picked and bagged that morning and righteously covered in dirt. The fruit bag contained apples, pears and grapes. Quite good value, I'd say.

One thing I like about having a veg box is that it pushes me to use every single veggie. I'm turning into my gran in that respect, I simply can't bear to chuck things into the bin. Another perk is that it forces me to use veggies that I would either never think to or just really couldn't be arsed messing with, like fresh beetroot. I'm all for avoiding pre-cut/prepared veggies; it only adds expense and excess packaging. With beetroot tho, I never saw the point in making it from scratch as it's SO incredibly messy, not to mention that it involves an additional 45 minutes to your prep time. I just love the luscious deep purple of it and the beautiful shocking pink that it leaves in its wake. Underneath my fingernails the crescents are still this shade of pink even tho I scrubbed them into oblivion.

Last night I invited a friend round to dinner, and since I have no end of time to invest into prep time these days, I decided to give it a go. I scoured my back issues of Everyday Food and checked both Riverford and Abel & Cole for their beetroot recipes. I contemplated doing soup but since I knew I was already doing a salad I looked for a way to add these fresh, roasted beets to the salad. I'm so glad that I did - Roasted beets and pear with parmesan and pine nuts over arugula and beet greens. Beets are commonly paired with goat's cheese or feta but since I was using my fabulous Welsh goat's cheese for the main dish, I decided to go with Grana Padano instead.

  • beets, 4-5
  • pear, 1
  • pine nuts, 3T
  • arugula/rocket, 400g - i also used some of the leaves from the beets as i didn't have enough rocket
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • lemon, 1 with half zested
  • cayenne
  • parmesan, to shave
  1. roast your trimmed beets in foil in a roasting tin with a bit of olive oil, s&p and water in an oven preheated to 220C/425F. when finished, allow to cool and then slip off the skins.
  2. wash greens thoroughly and dry (using your snazzy new salad spinner you got for an £8 bargain off of Ebay).
  3. toast pine nuts and remove from heat to cool.
  4. mix vinaigrette; 2 parts EVOO, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part red wine vinegar; s&p to taste with lemon zest and a dash of cayenne. dress greens and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, Maldon if you have it.
  5. dress sliced beets and add to salad.
  6. add slices of pear, toasted pine nuts and shave over parmesan.
For the main course - Fusilli with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat's Cheese (modified from Everyday Food):
  • pasta, 400g - use tubular, short if you can. (I opted for fusilli since I had some on hand and I'm trying to be more flexible in my cooking ie not having 6 different kinds of pasta on hand at once.)
  • sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 1c - not the ones in oil
  • slivered almonds/pinenuts, 1/4c
  • goat's cheese, 6 oz
  • chili, 1 or 1t dried chili flakes
  • garlic, 3 cloves minced
  • leek, 1, halved and sliced
  • fresh parsley, 1/2 c chopped
  • olive oil

  1. saute the garlic, chili and leek in the olive oil for 5 min. put aside.
  2. toast pinenuts/almonds. put aside.
  3. salt and cook pasta to 3 minutes short of instructions. add sun dried tomatoes to the water and cook for the further 3 minutes.
  4. drain; keep 1c of tomato-ey cooking water and add back to pasta.
  5. add garlic/chili/leek mixture.
  6. flake 1/2 of your goat's cheese with a fork into pasta and add parsley. stir.
  7. plate up the pasta and flake the rest of the goat's cheese over the dishes.

This recipe really is so versatile. You could use feta instead of goat's cheese and any number of veggies instead of the tomatoes. You could use shallots or red onion instead of the leek. You could always add a bit more EVOO to taste as well. Recipes are truly just a guideline most of the time. Make sure you serve with lots of crusty, buttery, garlic bread.

And now I'm off to the Fiery Foods festival, courtesy of the Brighton Food Festival. Lots of pics to come!