Sunday, 25 April 2010

• Chapatis!

I did it! I made chapatis! While I do make our bread and rolls every week, I'd never tried making them before now. Chapatis (or 'rotis' as they are also known) are an unleavened flat bread and a staple of the northern areas of South Asia and other parts of the world. Chapatis (or similar breads) are made every day in hundreds of millions of households across the globe. The ubiquity of the bread leads to it appearing in various shapes and sizes and its recipes varying from kitchen to kitchen.

Having said that, the basic ingredients of chapatis couldn't be simpler - flour, salt and water. In many cases a little oil is added after the dough has rested to facilitate rolling. I've now made them on three separate occasions (in as many days!) and, in my hands, they are simple AND difficult to make. Simple in the sense that all you do is make up the dough, roll it out and cook it on a hot griddle. But what consistency is best? Should the flour be stiff, medium or soft? How much oil should I use? When do you flip them over? Why do they sometimes puff up and other times they don't? In spite of my satisfactory but somewhat variable results, I think this bread is really fun to make and I'll be cooking them quite a lot in the near future!

• Today's batch

Today I blogged about my first experiences making chapati bread. While I was making the chapatis, I was working on a batch of 'everyday' bread too. This week, Steve wanted slicing bread and I am in the mood for rolls... so I made both! I'm trying a variation on my usual technique, inspired by French-born TV chef, Jacques Pepin - instead of doing my mixing and kneading in a bowl, I use a bucket!
"A bucket?" Yes, dear Henry, dear Henry - with a bucket!

What I did is this:
I went out and bought myself a food-grade 6 litre bucket from the local variety store. It's sorta square-ish and it has a hinged lid (the advantages of this lid will soon become apparent!). After washing it well in hot soapy water (always advisable before first use!) and drying it, I weighed out my (500 gms brown) flour and dumped it in the bucket. Then I mixed a tsp of quick yeast and a tsp of salt and a tsp of sugar into the flour. After that I added about 350 mls water to the bucket and mixed the flour and water together until the dough was formed. I didn't really knead it at this point. Then I added 2 tbsp of olive oil to the dough and oiled my hands (to help keep the dough from sticking to them) and mushed everything around vigorously for about 2 minutes. This is all done with one hand. I stopped when the dough seemed well-mixed and elastic. Then I gathered the dough into a ball (more or less, I wasn't too particular about it!), gave it a final mush with my fist and covered it with the lid. Then I picked up the bucket and put it in a corner in our pantry and left it overnight.

The next morning, after breakfast and when I remembered it (!), I fetched the bucket. The dough had risen nicely. (By the way, the slower the rise, the better the bread - and it lasts longer, too!) I floured my (clean) counter and scraped the dough out onto it, sprinkled a little additional flour on top of it and kneaded it for about 2 minutes, adding more flour when it got too sticky to handle. Then I shaped 3 (100 gms each) rolls and made a round loaf with the remaining dough. I put the bread onto a couple of floured baking sheets, sprinkled them liberally with flour and covered them with cling film. After they'd doubled in size, I baked them in a 200˚C oven for about 25 minutes.

And the advantage of the bucket? Only the bucket to clean up because the dough is not kneaded on a surface (until the next day); the bucket has its own lid so towels and/or oiled cling-film are 'history'; the bucket is so easy to position - it can be stowed anywhere so, no need to find an undisturbed surface for a bowl.

They seem like advantages to me! Hope you enjoyed this post!

Lisa x

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

• Celeriac Curry

I thought I'd post tonight's 'main event'. I'm excited about this recipe because Steve and I have been working on it together. It is an adaptation of a Kelara potato curry recipe (source tba...) I found while trawling the web for recipes. I mean, what does one do with celeriac - other than mash it or roast it?

Lately however, neither of those treatments seems attractive - we have been consumed with Indian food for several months now. Then this celeriac appears in our weekly veg box! Whoever heard of 'Celeriac Curry'???

You have! Look:

Kerala Easy Celeriac Curry

1 celeriac, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
12 curry leaves
1 large onion, sliced
3 green chillis, deseeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp tumeric
1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
1/2 can chopped tomatoes
1 handful coriander leaves, chopped

1. Place the celeriac chunks in a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil and cook until the celeriac is soft. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a sauté pan until it's very hot then add the mustard seeds, red chilli flakes and curry leaves. Allow to sputter for thirty seconds.

4. Add the onion and fry until starting to soften (about five minutes)

5. Add the green chilli and garlic and fry for a further five minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

6. Stir in the powdered spices, mix well then add the tomatoes and stir well.

7. Simmer the mixture for five minutes then stir in half of the chopped coriander leaves.

8. After two minutes, add the cooked celeriac and stir well to coat evenly with.

9. Heat on a low flame until the celeriac is warmed through.

Serve garnished with the remainder of the chopped coriander leaves

Monday, 12 April 2010

• What's new?

Sometimes I get lucky and have a camera in my hand when a cute situation presents itself. This was one such occasion: There was Steve, sitting on the sofa reading the paper (the sports section, probably...) when something caught Sofie's eye. She sat there, staring (thinking about dinner and her chances of getting Steve to do her bidding!) and I took this picture.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

• Mauby

This is a REAL blast from the past - mauby syrup! Amazing stuff. When I was at university, I became close friends with several students from the U.S. Virgin Islands and the West Indies. As has always been the case with me (and with my good friends) food played a large part in our daily lives; we used to cook at home and bring in food for each other and we used to go to each other's houses to cook and eat together.

Wendy, a friend whom I've unfortunately lost touch with over the years, was from Trinidad and I often wound up at her family home where we'd study and talk. One of the many different foods she introduced me to was a drink called Mauby.

As well as being a drink mauby is the dried bark of the Caribbean Carob Tree (Colubrina Reclinata), a tree found in Haiti, Puerto Rico, northern parts of the Caribbean and southern parts of Florida (Wikipedia). The drink is an infusion of the bark mixed with sugar and, occasionally other flavours such as cinnamon, allspice, star anise and vanilla. I particularly remember mauby because it took me a while to get used to it! I'm not a great fan of flavours toward the bitter end of the palate so I swallowed a lot of the stuff before I understood what the fuss was all about! It's a very distinctive (and, to my palate, bitter) sweetened drink that is made much like iced tea. In my friend's family it was consumed in much the same way as iced tea was at my house.

Many years on (30, in fact!) when Steve was looking for a non-fruity drink, I thought of mauby. Then I started searching the web for it and I found it here at the Afro Caribbean Food store. I ordered the syrup as well as the bark which I'd see made into a drink at Wendy's house.

Mauby bark

It arrived promptly (within 5 days!) and I immediately opened the package and unwrapped my goodies. Packaging now strewn about the house, I made my way to the kitchen and mixed up a cold drink using the syrup... sipped... yeah! Ah! Steve tried it and he likes it very much too. What a find that was!  While writing this I thought of another drink from college days... sorrel!  Think I'll get searching on that one next...

Saturday, 10 April 2010

• GuacammmmolĂ©!

Last night I was itching to have burritos for dinner - again! Well, since it was Friday night (and movie night) I decided it would be okay to indulge this urge. I'm so hard on myself! ;) It's always nice to end the week with a treat, though, and this seemed to be just the thing. So I stopped off at the green-grocer's on the way home and got a couple of perfectly ripe Haas avocados, a bunch of tomatoes and a couple of limes. Mmmmmmmm! I got some tortillas at the Co-op.

On the ride home, I thought about what movie to suggest we watch. As soon as I got in the door and made my proposal to Steve, I realised I'd forgotten the sour cream! Not to worry... it was a beautiful evening and Steve was happy to make the trip.

We watched 'Moon' - a very good film which reminded me of "2001: A Space Oddessy", more than once.

• Hershey Bars!

Hershey Bars!
Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg
How could I have forgotten to mention that, buried deep within the surprise box were a couple of Hershey's Chocolate bars... with almonds???! I'm truly shocked at the omission. In the rush to get to press, I forgot to include this photo. Whew! I feel better now that I've set the record straight now!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

• Surprise!

Today we got a big surprise! My friend Pamela sent us a package - all the way from New York! Okay, it wasn't a complete surprise, because when you send a big package across the Atlantic you do tend to let the recipients know to expect it. But it was a surprise, anyway.

So here it is - just as it was before we opened it. Once I began to open it, I could smell ... chocolate! At least I thought it was chocolate... something sugary and chocolatey smelling, anyway.

It took a few minutes to get it open.

The first thing we saw once we'd got it open was... tissue paper! Bubble wrap! And... PEEPS!!!!

You know you're a loooong way from Kansas, when you don't see Peeps in your local supermarket!  Pamela sent two packs of Peeps one of the 'original' yellow chicks and one pack of pink bunnies (Peeps come in a variety of shapes and colours and sizes... check 'em out here.)
 Delving deeper into the tissue paper we found three boxes of Girl Scout Cookies!

Well, we had to try some, didn't we? Nom, Nom. Now we know why Americans are fat - we ate 5 small (absolutely deee-licios!!) cookies between us - and consumed a total of 375 calories, just like that! We later admitted that we could easily have eaten the whole box (of 15 cookies) had I not grabbed the box and put it in the pantry. Whew! Close call. Not for snacking on but for *serious* indulgence...

I can't begin to describe the next several packages - one package smelled (and looked!) like Oreo cookies; another like package of Saltine crackers and cheese; yet another like S'mores... but they were ...SOAP!

Yep, soap! Unbelievable.

 Also included in the package were a set of US commemorative stamps (for Steve, an avid stamp collector) and a pair of (photographic?) prints of telegraph poles and birds. (It's getting late and my feeble powers of description are fading fast!)

All in all, it was a wonderful surprise Christmas and Easter package - all the way from NY!

Thanks, Pamela...

And good night!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

• Work

This is where I work. I don't work here all of the time - only some of the time. The other times, I work elsewhere. I like this arrangement very much. It has the advantage of keeping me interested in what I'm doing (which is, often, none too easy!). You can tell this is my bench, I just realised, because I have put a not-so-descrete label on the shelf above my bench. It reads "Lisa's Stuff". I put that sign there in the hopes that my labmates wouldn't use my stuff whilst I was working elsewhere. It might have worked. But how would I know... I wasn't there. Hmmm. Anyway, that's my bench.

These are two of my labmates: That's Rupak in the foreground and Yvonne in the background with her back to the camera. They were working when I took this (and the other) photo(s). It looks like Rupak was talking. He probably was - but not to Yvonne, you see, because if that were true, Yvonne would be looking at him.

I think he might have been talking to Hannah...

He talks to everyone. Maybe he was asking me to put the camera away.

Yvonne talks to Hannah, too.  Hannah is a good listener.

Here Yvonne and Hannah seem to be sharing a joke but they are actually laughing because I'm taking a picture of them while they are working. That's Yvonne on the left.

There was another lab member at work today. That's Dan. He's the post doc in the lab. If you look carefully, you can just see his red backpack.  He's heading off after a long day.

Well, that's it for today. There are several others who work in our lab but, this being the first day back after the Easter break, not all of them made it into work today.

These are the ones who did.

Monday, 5 April 2010

• At Last...

This really must be the last post of the day!  I've been enjoying this new blog and the iPhone camera (and, of course, Hipstamatic!) so much that this must be my 3rd or 4th post today.

This is good night.  As you can see, Steve is fading fast
IMG_0117 and the cats are arranging themselves artfully on various proximal, soft and warm surfaces. I'm sure we'll wind up with at least one in bed with us.

It's been an interesting day full of pleasant (and unpleasant!) tasks to do. We're in the midst of a whirlwind Spring cleaning session and we never find this easy to do! It's really tough going through things (so many things!) and being ruthless about deciding what stays and what has to go. I find it exhausting because it's really only when doing this that I realise just how much time has elapsed and I feel so old.

Then there's the problem of how to dispose of it all. Clothes should go to the charity shop (but hardly ever do make it there), papers and magazines need to be recycled; electrical and electronic things (all broken) have their own special places they have to go.

Then there's the stuff that won't fit in the bin. Some of it has to wait for the next rubbish collection cycle.

Finally, the stuff we can't figure out what to do with goes in the Hippobag. Sigh. This is quite a task - not for the faint-of-heart! It's not as though we don't do it very often either - we make a point of going through things every 12 - 18 months and getting rid of stuff.  So where does all this stuff come from??  I wish I knew!

Anyhow, I'd better go referee the scuffle that's just got underway in front of the gas fireplace and start getting myself "up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire" - something that you have to be English to have made up!


• Springing

I just stepped outside and - Lo - it seems as though Spring is springing! I'm now testing the camera and this blogging app called Blogpress. Seems pretty nifty. I'll try posting with it (for real) sometime soon...

-- Post From My iPhone

• Introducing...

This is me. At least this was me yesterday afternoon in the kitchen, as photographed by Steve. Notice that I am in the kitchen, not food blogging. I am cooking. After this photo was taken, I got back to work preparing dinner. Having said that, this is the archetypal post for the blog I plan to write.

This is my husband Steve. He might be smiling because he can smell dinner cooking... whatever the reason, I really like this photo of Steve - so much that it is my iPhone desktop photo!

Steve and I have 3 cats. Three cats is one cat too many - but we manage.

This is Tomas, our oldest cat
He's nearly 16 years old. He's in very good shape for his age. This is partly due to his very healthy diet and regular visits to the vet and partly due to the efforts of his 'personal trainer'...

This is Robby, our youngest cat. Robby is Tomas's self-appointed personal trainer.

He and Tomas run around the house together, all hours of the day and night. Tomas vocalises a lot during these sessions (read: screams like a stuck pig) but he manages to keep the game going for a good while. I wanted to get a photo of Robby looking less menacing, less... fierce. Alas, the camera never lies. You can see the 'killer' in his eyes, right?

 Anyway, one thing is for sure, our darling girlie cat Sofie, is never to blame for any of the ruckus that goes on in our house.

This is Sofie, our middlest and girliest cat
She's Tomas's best friend. She knows how to deal with Robby. When these these two go at it, the fur flies!

Sofie (l.) and Robby (r.)It all seems to be in good fun though because the three of them (or any two of them) can be found sleeping together in front of the gas fire
Most telling, perhaps, is Sunday mornings can find all FIVE of us crammed in bed together!

So this is the 'family'.

Lamb Stew with Algerian SpicesAnd this is what was for dinner...Lamb Stew with Algerian Spices.

• An experiment

I have a new toy.  Trawling through the App Store (which probably qualifies as a tic by this time!) I found an app that did amazing things with images I take with my iPhone camera.  It's called Hipstamatic. The tagline that follows says it all: "Digital Photography Never Looked So Analog".  It does exactly that - it stylises your iPhone photos (replacing the iPhone's unimaginative camera) and turns them into photos that look like old Kodak Instamatic camera photos!  I played with it for many hours yesterday and in the process of doing this, I decided two things:

1.  to suspend my food blog (which will come as no great loss to the world!) and
2.  to play around with blogging in a less-restricted, more free way, illustrating the blog with photos taken with my iPhone using my new app.

As with all things, this blog will morph into something entirely different.  Let's just say this is how it started...

• hello world

hello, world