Friday, 24 December 2010

Festive greetings!

I couldn’t resist sharing this image with you from the old Fail Dogs website:


Are the dogs about to share an iced Pedigree Chum? I think my favourite one is the podgy golden laborador looking puzzled, his fat head jammed into his green cornet hat. Durrrrr.

Anyway, hope this brings a smile to your face. Have a great Christmas and New Year!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Thai green curry with smoked tofu and aubergine


I am in the rather disconcerting position of having completely lost my sense of taste and all cravings for food after a nasty bout of winter flu. It’s the strangest sensation ever – I don’t feel hungry or want anything that tastes exciting. My palate is currently as developed as a wet piece of cardboard, and for the past week I have been living on toast and chocolate. I’m desperate for something that will rev up my palate and get it back on track. Can’t think what on earth that will be. I’m all off kilter, it’s so very weird.

Anyway, this post is to give you the recipe of the last thing I really enjoyed eating before I got this darned flu. Even though I can’t stomach anything like this at the moment, it’s the best Thai green curry paste recipe I’ve ever tasted, made by my hubby. He rather unorthodoxly doesn’t use sugar (which is the mainstay of Thai cuisine) which makes it all the better for me, as otherwise I find Thai curries a bit on the oversweet side. This paste can be used with chicken, beef, pork, tofu, vegetables – whatever you like. It’s the perfect fodder for winter – aromatic, fiery, zesty and full of herby flavours that dance on the tongue. (Except that at the moment I can’t taste ruddy anything!!!)

Serves 4 (with rice)

You will need:

For the paste:
2 generous thumb-sized pieces fresh peeled galangal root (or use fresh ginger)
3 long stems of fresh lemongrass, outer husks discarded
1 white onion
7 fresh lime leaves, central leaf veins removed
5 cloves garlic
4 – 10 birdseye chillies (up to you how hot you make it)
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
About half a 400ml  tin of full fat coconut milk
handful of fresh coriander root (or just a few stems)
1 tsp ground coriander
lots of ground black pepper

For the rest:
1 big aubergine, chopped into 2cm pieces
1 x 225g block smoked tofu (we love Clear Spot organic smoked tofu)
1 handful dried small shrimp
Remainder of tin of coconut milk (used for the paste)
juice of 1 fresh lime
Fish sauce, to taste
Chopped coriander and Thai holy basil

When you open your tin of full fat coconut milk, scoop out a large blob of the thick white coconut gloop that is concentrated around the top of the tin and set aside. Chop all your paste ingredients roughly and blitz it all together in a food processor. If you find it’s too dry, just increase the amount of coconut milk. You’ll probably need to leave the food processor on for about 5 minutes so that you get a roughly blended paste.

Preheat a wok over a medium flame, then add the coconut gloop you reserved earlier, fry it until it gets hot and transparent, then add your paste – fry it, stirring so that it doesn’t catch, for about 10 minutes.  Add the aubergines, dried shrimps and the rest of the coconut milk and stir well; then add the wok lid. Cook until the aubergines are tender – will take about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on everything and give it a stir from time to time. Then add the tofu, cut into cubes, cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the herbs before turning the heat off. Season with fresh lime juice and fish sauce, to taste. Serve with basmati rice.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Fergus Henderson’s Rice Pudding


I love the writings of chef Fergus Henderson. I’m not really one for his experimentations with offal – even he can’t convince me that pigs eyes and cows knees are a lovely thing to eat, sorry – but my goodness can this fellow cook a sterling pud and write about it wittily. I chanced across his excellent book ‘Beyond Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking Part II’ at a second hand market, and found the section on puddings captivating. Its prose made me chuckle, and I was tickled that Fergus described his puddings in mock lofty tones as ‘steadying’ and ‘gastronomically as exciting as Prince Albert’. Ha ha! This man doesn’t do low fat – we’re talking serious usage of butter and cream, so look away now if you can’t handle it…

Anyway, this is his rice pudding. The book’s version is a little more complex as he completes his with an additional custard and raisins soaked in booze, but if you need just the rice pudding part to immediately improve a glum, wintry afternoon, this will be just the thing you need. It’s rich, warm, vanilla tones will wrap you in a big generous hug. Just the thing for a Sunday afternoon when the rain is pissing down and you have no need to go outside. Bliss.

Please don’t be tempted to try low fat replacements for any of the ingredients – your rice pudding will be much worse off for it.


Rice pudding, adapted from the recipe by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly

Serves 6

You will need:

125g unsalted butter (I use salted, it works fine)
150g caster sugar
200g pudding rice
1.5 litres full-fat milk
300ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
a pinch of salt (don’t bother with this if you use salted butter)

Place the butter and sugar in a large, heavy-based casserole and melt over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and let it bubble, without stirring, until it turns into a golden brown caramel. Add the rice and stir to combine it with the caramel, then add the milk and the cream. Once the liquid hits the caramel, the caramel will become hard and stringy. Don’t worry; as the liquid heats up, the caramel will melt again into it and become smooth again. Slit the vanilla pod open lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and pod to the rice, together with the pinch of salt (if using). Bring to the boil and place in an oven preheated to 160C/Gas Mark 3. Bake for 1.5 – 2 hours, until golden brown on top and thick and creamy.

Dreamy! If you need proof of Fergus’s other excellent puddings, try out this recipe for his mighty fruit crumble cake (where you can use rhubarb, damsons, apples etc).

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Retro Britain: Harry Tuffins supermarket



I love this country, especially when I feel as though I am being sucked into a timewarp, being the retro enthusiast that I am. On my recent travels, I was constantly reminded how the 1970’s – or the 1950’s for that matter – are all around us in certain parts of this splendid isle.

Observe this independent supermarket in Shropshire (pictured above: its welcoming lobby area) called ‘Harry Tuffins’. It stocks everything from bags of peat, rubber boots and tubs of processed meat – and even has an aisle called ‘Fancy Goods’. I’m not joking!


Pray, where are the chipped potatoes? Oh, look:


All three freezers-full. Or ‘deep freezes’ as they used to say in days of yore…I like the special effort the staff have made with these laminated signs, to enable folk to find their frozen chips in every shape, size and hue.


There is a heavy grey atmosphere of pre-Iron Curtain Soviet shopping - functional and frill-free goods storage:


Tissues, anyone? There is a whole aisle dedicated to them:


I’m less in love with the retro meat presentation – how terrifying:



Aha! Pants from the Victorian Era!


Aside from its functional and sometimes disturbing array of produce, the supermarket name ‘Harry Tuffins’ makes me think of some kind of Robin Hood character prancing around in a forest, drinking mead out of a bell jar - not exactly evocative of a large food and ‘fancy goods’ retailer with a whole aisle dedicated to ‘tissues’. However, my teasing aside, it’s inspiring to learn that Harry Tuffin – an actual real person, not a marketing slogan - actually started up the business with his wife Doris in 1955, and it remains a strong independent mini chain of supermarkets to this day, run by Harry’s daughter, son-in-law and their children. You’ll find the shops in Shropshire and Wales, should you ever need some corned beef, gardening shears or some enormous underwear…