Long-lost Vietnamese chicken salad09.16.10

See… the thing is… I’m pretty messy.  When we moved into this flat I bought a cute little bleached wood table and two bright white chairs with pretty red cushions to go in our kitchen.  I had hopeful day-dreams of eating leisurely breakfasts at that table on Saturday mornings.  Or enjoying late-night snacks in there when we’d been out for an evening.

Clearly, my hopes were set too high.  I literally cannot even SEE the top of that table right now.  It is covered with the following things:

1.  A large cardboard box from my last vegetable delivery almost two weeks ago
2.  Four wadded up tea towels
3.  A box of granola bars
4.  A bowl of apples / eggplants / limes / lemons
5.  A box of multi-coloured markers
6.  About 450 plastic baggies
7.  A stack of papers from our trip to Wales back in JULY

And it was in that stack of papers from our long-ago trip to the lovely Gower Peninsula in Wales that this recipe resurfaced.  We spent 2 nights in a cottage in Wales when my parents were here on their summer break.  Before we left my mom and I packed boxes and bags full of food.  We planned our evening meals and our breakfasts and even our afternoon snacks.  This recipe was one of the ones we chose.

We bought a roasted chicken a the Tesco and we made the salad dressing before we left home and transported it in a jar.  Then, all we had to do in the house in Wales was make the salad and toss it all together.  It was a gorgeous, easy and incredibly tasty meal and I swear I meant to post about it a long time ago.  But, the recipe got buried and I forgot all about it.  I was on an expedition this evening to find a roll of tape (found it under the box of markers, beside a random tomato) and I unearthed the recipe! 

I hope you all enjoy this salad as much as we did… and in an equally beautiful location!  I’m off to see what else I can find on that table.

Vietnamese chicken salad

Serves 2

2 small, cooked chicken breasts, shredded- or you can use the meat from a roasted chicken
1/2 cucumber, cut into thin ribbons
1 carrot, cut into long thin slices
several handfuls of torn lettuce leaves
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 large handful of coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
the juice of 3 limes
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs soft brown sugar
2 tbs roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Combine all the chicken with the cucumber, carrots, lettuce, spring onions, coriander and chilli in a large bowl. 

In a jar with a lid, combine the lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar.  Shake the jar well for 20-30 seconds. 

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.  Serve sprinkled with the roasted peanuts. 

Posted in Foodwith 3 Comments →

Time for sweet potatoes09.03.10

About 3 weeks ago someone came along and rudely shut-down my summer. August was miserable… really cold and wet. I’ve been point-blank refusing to wear jackets or coats this early in the year, in protest to of the early power-outage on my summer, and as a result I’ve been walking around shivering and drenched. It hasn’t been pleasant.

But, last weekend the switch was thrown again. Not back to full-on summertime, sadly, but to a sunny and mild early autumn. I miss the summer already, but I am more than happy to welcome these brisk mornings, washed out blue skies and the golden light at the end of the day that makes me want to wander around beautiful Winchester for hours (preferably with a jacket on.)

When the air begins to cool and I can hear the rattle of the dry leaves on the branches of the trees, I know it’s time for sweet potatoes. I could eat sweet potatoes all year long, but these orange tubers really come into their own when the weather is cool. So, on a recent gently sunny Sunday afternoon I made Sweet Potato and Halloumi salad with Ginger and Chilli dressing.

I love the combination of sweet potato with chilli- the heat from the chilli making the potatoes taste sweeter, and the richness of the potatoes tempering the burn of the chillis. Together with the tang of freshly grated ginger and the salty squeakiness of grilled halloumi cheese, the salad was the perfect lunch to be eaten on the front steps in a hoodie and fuzzy socks.

Having said all that… if summer-time wants to make an encore performance before we descend into full-blown autumn, that would be just perfect as well.

Sweet Potato and Halloumi Salad with Ginger and Chilli Dressing

Serves 2

For the salad:
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into rounds
1/2 a block of halloumi cheese (or approximately 8 thin slices)
2-3 handfuls of lettuce leaves (you can pick your favourite type of lettuce- we used baby gem)
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

For the dressing:
1 tbs freshly grated ginger
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp dijion mustard
the juice 1/2 a lemon
1 tbs white wine vinegar
4-5 tbs olive oil
1 large handful coriander (cilantro) finely chopped

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (400F) and place the sweet potato rounds on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the sweet potatoes with about a tbs of olive oil and a little salt and pepper.  Toss them to coat, then lay the sweet potatoes in a single layer.  Bake in the oven, turning over at least once, until they are golden brown- about 35-45 mins.

About 20 mins after you put the sweet potatoes in the oven, place a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat on the stove and add a tiny drizzle of olive oil.  Use a napkin or a pastry brush to spread the olive oil over the pan, making sure it’s coated, but only just barely, with the olive oil.  Lay the slices of halloumi in a single layer in the frying pan and fry until golden brown.  This usually takes about 4 mins on the first side and about 2 mins on the second side. 

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake the hell out of it.  It’s fun!!  Shake it hard to really combine the ingredients, then leave to sit for about 10 mins to let the flavours mingle.  Give it another good shake right before you pour it on the salad.

Once the sweet potatoes are roasted and the halloumi is fried, you can assemble your salad.  Start with a bed of lettuce and drizzle on a little of the dressing.  Then, top the lettuce with alternating slices of sweet potato and halloumi.  You obviously don’t have to do this… you could just toss it all in the bowl together.  Go crazy.  Finish by adding the rest of the dressing and a sprinkling on a bit of extra chilli and coriander. 

Posted in Foodwith 4 Comments →

In Brugge08.26.10

Whenever I am away from here for too long I feel the need to come back to this space with reasons and excuses for my absence. But, I must be honest with you, I have no excuses this time.

I’ve been busy, but no busier than usual. I’ve been away on adventures, but not any more often than usual. I’ve been eating well and cooking and taking pictures and I’ve even been writing… but somehow none of that ever materialised in this space.

So, instead of excuses, allow me to offer you a story.

Once upon a time there were three friends who worked on the 12th floor of the KPMG building on Shelley Street in Sydney, Australia. They worked hard and enjoyed Sydney, but eventually they all left the Southern Hemisphere for Europe.

One of these people… let’s call her Fiona… moved to the Netherlands where she spoke Dutch and drank milk and rode her bike all day long.

The other two people (who happened to be married)… let’s call them SarahKate and Andy… left Sydney for the grey and rainy shores of Jolly Olde England where they wore raincoats and drank pints and went for country walks.

Then, one fine August afternoon, these three friends were reunited in the gorgeous Medieval city of Brugge, Belgium.

The friends hugged and laughed and drank too much Belgian beer. They ate steak frites and Belgian waffles and drank more Belgian beer. They went on a canal cruise and took hundreds of photos and… well, you get the picture.

It was a lovely, cozy, funny, happy trip. And they all had a safe trip home.

The End.

Posted in Foodwith 8 Comments →

In Defense of American Food07.07.10

As an American living abroad, I’ve gotten used to hearing people’s unprompted opinions about the US.  I’ve heard the good (Americans are so optimistic!), the bad (Americans are destroying the planet with their SUVs!) and the totally silly (Americans always wear white sneakers!) 

I usually don’t pay much attention to the sweeping generalisations made about a nation of 380 million people- some of who do wear glaringly white sneakers, drive Hummers and look on the bright side.  But, occasionally someone will say to me “There’s no such thing as ‘American’ food. Americans only eat fast food.”  And, well… that one just pisses me off. 

America has an amazing food culture.  Those willing to look beyond the drive-thrus will find a wealth of distinct, local culinary habits.  The South has soul food like fried chicken and collard greens and grits.  The North East has clam chowder and lobsters and grinders.  The South West has Tex-Mex.  Nebraska has steak.  North Carolina has barbeque.  Chicago has pizza.  Seattle has coffee. 

One of my personal favourite food cultures in America is found in Louisiana.  Proper Cajun food is a uniquely American delight.  A fusion of rustic French techniques, local produce and African influences, Cajun food is a great example of how cooks adapted old methods to make something new and truly American.  A melting pot cuisine, if you will.

My husband is from Georgia and was raised on proper Southern food like sweet tea, biscuits and gravy and fried pork chops.  But, his favourite American food is easily Cajun food.  He loves dirty rice and gumbo and crawfish.  And, he makes a mean jambalaya.  Richly flavoured and spicy, his jambalaya is enough to make me feel sorry for those who think that America has no more to offer the culinary world than fast food.  Those people are missing out on a whole nations worth of deliciousness. 

Andy’s Jambalya

Serves 6

600 grams (1 ¼ lbs) chicken breast
500 grams (1lb) spicy sausages
1 large brown onion
2 stalks celery
5 cloves garlic
3 spring onions
¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for sautéing
¼ cup plain flour
2 tbs Cajun seasoning* (or more if you want your jambalaya very spicy)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups pureed tomatoes (we used a jar of tomato passata)
500 grams (1lb) prawns
200 grams (a little less than ½ lb) okra
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice- to serve
chopped parsley- to serve

Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Remove the sausages from their casings and break the sausage meat up into bite sized pieces. 

Add about a tsp of vegetable oil to a large heavy pan and place the pan over medium heat.  Brown the chicken in the oil.

While the chicken is browning, dice the onion, chop the celery into small pieces and mince the garlic and the spring onion.  Once the chicken has browned well, but is not cooked all the way through, remove the chicken from the pan and keep it in a bowl to the side. 

Add another tsp of vegetable oil, the onions and the celery to the pan.  Fry the onions and celery for 10-15 minutes, until they are soft and translucent.  About a minute before the onions and celery are done, add the garlic and the spring onions to the pan.  Stir well.  Remove the onions, celery, garlic and spring onions from the pan and keep in a bowl to the side.

Add the flour and a ¼ cup vegetable oil to the pan to make a roux.  Stir this mixture until it becomes very thick, like a paste.  Keep stirring the roux as it slowly browns.  As you stir, scrape up any bits of browned chicken or onions that may still be in the pan.  This will add a great depth of flavour to the roux.  Allow the roux to cook and brown for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Don’t’ let your roux burn… it should be a nice dark beige colour. 

Once your roux is ready, add the chicken, onions, celery, garlic and spring onions back into the pan and stir to combine with the roux.  Add your Cajun seasoning and stir again.  Then add your chicken stock, tomato puree and sausage meat to the pan.  Allow this mixture to come to a simmer and to simmer together for at least 30-45 minutes.  It should be thick and creamy from the roux and spicy from the Cajun seasoning. 

At this point you can refrigerate or freeze your jambalaya.  This is the type of meal that’s best served the day after it’s made, so I recommend getting the jambalaya to this point, then allowing it to cool and popping it in the fridge overnight. 

If you do put the jambalaya in the fridge overnight, then place the pan on a very gentle heat to bring it back up to a simmer.  If you don’t put it in the fridge, then just let the jambalaya continue to simmer. 

While the jambalaya is coming up to a simmer, chop the okra into bite sized pieces.  Add the okra to the pan and allow to simmer with the jambalaya for 5 -7 minutes.  Then, add the prawns to the pan and allow to cook for 2-4 minutes or until cooked through. 

Serve the jambalaya scooped over bowls of rice and sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley. 

*We bring big jars of Cajun seasoning home in our suitcases every time we visit the US.  If you can’t find Cajun seasoning in your area you can make it.  Mix cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chilli powder and some dried basil.  Make it to your taste- more onion powder and garlic powder if you don’t like spicy food, more cayenne if you want it hot!

Posted in Foodwith 5 Comments →

summer, summer, summer-time!07.01.10

I love summer. I just love it. I love feeling the heat of the sun on my shoulders whilst sitting in the park. I love the sounds of lawn mowers and leaf blowers in the cool early morning hours of a Saturday morning. I love the smell of charcoal barbeques wafting across our neighbourhood in the evenings. I love how everyone starts dressing in bright colours, so the crowded High Street in our town becomes a riot of pinks and greens and yellows. But most of all, I love the tastes of summer.

For me, summer tastes like watermelon. Like the blackened outside of a grilled hotdog. Like pink lemonade. Like tomatoes or peaches so ripe they drip when you bite into them. Like sangria.

Is there a more summery drink than sangria? I know that the English prefer their Pimm’s when the sun comes out, but I’m hopelessly devoted to sangria in the sunshine. Bright with the flavour of lemons and oranges, sweet from a touch of sugar and a dash of fizzy lemonade, sangria is pure refreshment with a kick. A glass of cold sangria, complete with floating fruit slices, and a plate of olives or tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and fresh basil… I’m feeling sun-drenched just thinking about it!

This sangria recipe is not actually mine. My lovely Spanish friend Juan-Miguel helped me make sangria and served as the all-important quality assurance taste-tester. I figure, if you’re making sangria and a Spanish man shows up at your flat, you are duty bound to get him to show you how to make it properly… and then to share the recipe on your blog so that every one can try the sweet taste of sunny Spanish sangria. Happy summer!

Juan-Miguel’s Sangria

Serves 4

1 bottle of dry red wine
2-3 shots of white rum
the juice of 1 orange + orange slices to decorate
the juice of 1 lemon
1 nectarine or peach, cut into slices
¼ cup white sugar or more to taste
1 cup fizzy lemonade (in the US, you can use Sprite, 7Up or Fresca)

You need a large pitcher or jug. Squeeze the juice of one orange and one lemon into the pitcher. Pour in the red wine, the rum, the lemonade and the sugar and stir very well. Then add slices of orange and nectarine and stir again. Taste. It should be fairly sweet and not too alcoholic. Feel free to add more sugar or lemonade if you want yours to be sweeter. You could also add an extra shot or two of rum if you’re feeling frisky. Serve over plenty of ice, making sure that each glass gets a few pieces of fruit.

Posted in Foodwith 2 Comments →

Potato salad for our birthday!06.21.10

Hello out there!  I’ve been absent for almost a month.  Goodness, I’ve missed my little blog.  My absence is mostly due to a malfunction in my blog which took a while to figure out, but we’ve also been super busy.  My brother has been here from the US, we’ve been travelling almost every weekend and the sun has been appearing with alarming frequency so we’ve been in the park soaking it up.

Now, none of this is a good enough reason to have missed my blog-birthday.  About 5 days ago this blog turned two years old.  Two years of pictures and food and writing and sharing.  It’s really been so much fun.  I look to this little space as my creative outlet after a day at work and running errands and all the little boring things that make up Monday-Friday life for most of us.  This is where I can come and be silly and no one minds.  This is where I can show the world what I ate for dinner and no one thinks I’m weird.

So, to celebrate my blog-birthday and my return to this happy little space, I threw a BBQ.  Have I ever mentioned how much I adore a good BBQ??  I’m a BBQ fan from WAY back… on summer nights in Georgia our friendly neighbourhood almost always smelled of charcoal and barbecue sauce.  Home grown tomatoes topped juicy burgers and blackened hot dogs were topped with cool, creamy coleslaw. 

Then, when we moved to Sydney, AU I really learned about the proper art of BBQ.  Sydney-siders are serious about BBQ… and there is a system.  The rule is that the women all hang out in the kitchen making the salads and the men all hang out by the barbie grilling the meat.  These lines are not to be crossed… unless by a woman delivering a beer to a man at the barbie.  It’s strict, but fair. 

And, now we’re here in England.  The English seem really keen on BBQ’s even though the weather here doesn’t generally lend itself to outdoor cooking.  But, the weather so far this summer has been pretty sunny, so I took full advantage and staged a BBQ birthday party for my blog.  We don’t really have a yard, so the BBQ-ing took place on a disposable BBQ on the sidewalk in front of our flat.  Where there’s a will….

If you’re planning a BBQ this summer, in honour of your blog or just because it’s sunny where you live, I encourage you to serve this potato salad alongside your grilled goods.  This salad is fresh and bright and full of tangy lemon zest and juice.  It makes a lovely side with grilled chicken or fish.  It’s not a cake and there are no candles to blow out, but a potato salad this good makes everything feel like a celebration.  Happy blog-birthday to me! 

Lemony Potato Salad
adapted from Gourmet magazine

Serves 4
1 1/2 lbs (750grams) boiling potatoes
1/2 cup diced celery
3 tbs mayo
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
2 tbs chopped chives
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the potatoes into bite sized pieces.  Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water and a few tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil.  Boil until tender (12-20 minutes) then drain and rinse with cold water- you want to stop the potatoes from cooking.

While the potatoes are cooking, chop the celery and make the dressing.  For the dressing, mix the mayo, plain yoghurt, chives, lemon zest and lemon juice together.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (I added about a tsp of salt.)

Once the potatoes have cooled completely, add the celery and the dressing and toss to coat well.  Serve topped with extra chopped chives. 

Posted in Foodwith 7 Comments →

The most wonderful time of the year!05.24.10

No, not the holiday season.  Not even baseball season!  It’s…. asparagus season!  It’s the hap-happiest season of all! 

I wait all year for asparagus to have its brief, shining moment of glory.  It seemed to take forever this year.  We had a harsh winter and a cold spring and there were some days that felt like asparagus, and the sun, would never come back.  Oh, the weather outside was frightful.

But, for the last two weeks, I’ve been seeing glimpses of the greenish purple-y stalks everywhere.  At the grocery store, at the vegetable stands, on my dinner plate.  Asparagus is here.  Repeat the sounding joy!

When asparagus is fresh and at its peak, you don’t really need to do much to it.  We love it simply drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt and pepper and roasted in a hot oven for just a few minutes.  These are a few fun recipes for when you want to dress your asparagus up a bit.  Right now it’s fresh, plentiful and very reasonably priced.  From now on, our troubles will be miles away!

 Grilled asparagus with pasta and tuna

 Serves 2 for a big lunch

1 bunch asparagus (approximately 6-7 large spears and 10-12 small spears)
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
250g-300g dried pasta
1 can tuna in spring water
1 lemon

To prepare your asparagus, you’ll need to get rid of the tough, woody ends.  You can do this by bending the asparagus stalk in half.  Where it naturally breaks is where the stalk is tough.  Throw away the woody bottoms and wash and dry the tops. 

Begin this recipe by placing a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Add the pasta when the water is boiling.  Drain the pasta when it’s still a bit al dente.  You’re going to be cooking the pasta for a few more minutes in the pan with the sauce, so you don’t want it over cooked. 

Then, heat a grill pan (or an actual grill if you don’t live in a little city apartment like me) over medium heat and drizzle your cleaned asparagus with a little olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  You could also add a few chilli flakes if you’d like.  Place the asparagus on the grill in one layer.  You might have to grill in batches if you’re making this for a crowd.  Turn your asparagus over at least once to make sure it grills evenly.  When the asparagus has cooked through (test it by sticking it with a fork- it should be mostly soft with a slight bite) remove it from the grill

Whilst your asparagus is grilling, warm a small pan over low heat.  Add a little bit of olive oil- only about a tbs.  Finely chop one shallot and two cloves of garlic and add these to the pan with the olive oil.  Allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the shallot is soft.  Drain the liquid from the can of tuna and add the tuna to the pan with the shallots.  Stir and cook together for 3-4 minutes.

Add the drained, cooked pasta and the asparagus spears.  You may want to chop the asparagus spears into chunks if they are too big. 

Toss together and sprinkle with a bit more olive oil if the pasta looks too dry.  Squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon into the pan and toss again.  Serve!

 Roasted asparagus with hollandaise sauce on toast

 Serves two as a starter

1 ½ bunches of asparagus (you could go ahead and cook two whole bunches and just eat the leftovers with your fingers!)
2 egg yolks
1 dessert spoon lemon juice
1 dessert spoon white wine vinegar
110g butter
2 slices thick white bread
olive oil

As described in the recipe above, prepare the asparagus.

Preheat your oven to 350F (200C, gas mark 5.)  Line a baking sheet with tin foil.  Place the prepared asparagus onto the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with about a tsp of olive oil (more if you have very thick stalks of asparagus) and a little salt and pepper.  Place in the oven to roast for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Then pour the yolks into a food processor or blender and blend on a low speed for about a minute.  Turn the blender off.

While the egg yolks are blending, place the vinegar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over a medium heat.  Allow the liquid to cook until it is reduced by about half- you’ll end up with about one dessert spoon of liquid.  Place this liquid in a jug with a spout.  I have a measuring cup with a spout and so I used that.

Once you’ve put the vinegar / lemon juice liquid into a jug with a spout, put the same saucepan back on the heat and add the butter to that pan.  Allow the butter to melt, but not to brown.

Whilst the butter is melting, turn the motor of the food processor or blender back on.  Then SLOWLY, in a very thin stream, pour the warm vinegar / lemon juice liquid into the blender.  You’re trying to blend the yolks with this hot liquid, but not to cook the yolks.  Adding too much liquid too quickly will curdle the eggs. 

Once you’ve poured all the vinegar / lemon juice mixture into the blender or food processor.  Turn off the motor.  Then, pour the melted butter into the same jug with a spout.  Now turn the motor back on and again SLOWLY pour in the butter in a very thin stream.  Keep the motor running until all of the melted butter has been incorporated into the mixture.  Then turn it off and taste the sauce for seasoning.

Once your hollandaise is complete, you can take your asparagus out of the oven.  Then toast your slices of white bread.  Arrange the spears of asparagus on top of the toast and drizzle with the hollandaise sauce.  Heavenly with a cold glass of white wine.

Posted in Foodwith 3 Comments →

Smokin’ quack05.17.10

I swear, I’ll stop talking about our cancelled trip and being stranded in England and blah blah blah very soon.  It’s just that our cancelled trip and being stranded in England really did change our plans for more than a month and we’re literally still feeling some of the impact.  For example, we had smoked duck risotto with manchego cheese for dinner last Tuesday night.

I bought the smoked duck from a stall at the Winchester Food and Wine Fair, which took place in front of the gorgeous cathedral in the centre of Winchester.  It was a drizzly and cold day- and we were supposed to be in Sydney.  But, the tent was warm and there were tons of locally made cheeses, pastries and wines to try. 

The manchego (a hard Spanish cheese) was purchased on our recent trip to Spain- when we were supposed to be in Japan.  The only souvenirs I have from our trip to Barcelona are a hunk of cheese and a tin of smoked paprika.  When travelling with carry-on luggage, your priorities really get tested. 

So, to be honest, this risotto would not have existed if our flights and vacation hadn’t been cancelled.  And this risotto was gooooood.  Not “It Makes Up for No Trip to Sydney” good, but rather, “Tuesday Night in England Never Tasted So Good” good. 

I know that locally-made-smoked-duck and fresh-from-Spain-manchego might not be readily available for most people (hell, they are not readily available for me!) but I’m going to give you little recipe anyway, just in case. After all, you never know when a cancelled vacation might lead you to culinary happiness! 

And now, I’m totally done with the cancelled trip whinging.  Totally.

Smoked duck and manchego risotto

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
350g (about 1.5 cups) arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
200 grams (about 1/3 pound) sliced smoked duck
100 grams (about 1/4 cup) manchego cheese, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a small saucepan. 

Place the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat.  Put the onions and garlic in the pot and stir until soft and beginning to brown. 

Stir in the arborio rice.  Stir this mix together for a few minutes to “toast” the rice.  Add the wine and stir frequently until the rice has absorbed the wine. 

Add chicken stock a ladle at a time to the rice, always keeping the mixture wet.  Stir frequently.  As the rice absorbs the stock, add more.  You may not need all of the stock. 

Continue to add the stock to the rice mixture until the rice is “done”.  It will still have a bit of a bite, but will be mostly soft and creamy. 

Stir in the duck and the manchego.  Cook for just a few minutes until the duck is warmed through and the cheese has melted.   

Serve in bowls, topped with extra grated manchego and salt and pepper to taste.

Posted in Foodwith 2 Comments →

A plane to Spain05.11.10

For a few days after our flights to Sydney and Tokyo were cancelled, I was feeling really claustrophobic.  I know that’s weird.  I was stuck on a huge island, not in a little plane like I was supposed to be, but still.  I felt like there was no way off the island and if there were an emergency at home, I wouldn’t be able to move.  It was unsettling.  I felt like I really needed to get off this island, just to prove that I could. 

Once the flight ban was lifted (approximately 1 hour after our flight was supposed to take off… thanks SO much) we started thinking about ways that we could salvage a little of our holiday time.  We discussed a drive around Southern England, which sounded lovely, but the weather was cold and rainy and that didn’t fit in with my bizarre need to leave the country.  Instead, we ditched this small island and the rain for a few days in…. sunny Spain!

I have wanted to visit Barcelona since my junior year in high school.  That’s when Senora Denegri, my high school Spanish teacher, first showed my class photographs of La Segrada Familia, the still-under-construction cathedral designed by Spanish artist Antonio Gaudi.  I thought those photos looked weird and wonderful and have since dreamed of seeing La Segrada Familia for myself.

You know how sometimes, when you’ve built something up in your head, or you’ve dreamed about a certain trip / meal / person for so long, the real thing is a bit of a let down?  Yeah, Spain was not like that.  Barcelona was better than I thought it would be.  See, I knew about the gorgeous weather and the amazing modern art and the world-famous architecture… but I didn’t know about La Boqueria. 

La Boqueria is the large food market in the centre of Barcelona.  It’s jammed full of the most delightful mix of tourists from Ohio, warily eyeing the live razor clams on display, and ancient Spanish women, haggling over the price of the peppers they want to buy for their dinner.  There are grotesque butchers cases full of tongues and brains and ears, right next to stalls selling nothing but lurid coloured sweets and jars of candied fruit. 

Interspersed throughout the market are tiny, cramped tapas bars where you can wedge yourself in next to 1000 other people and have a quick beer and a fortifying plate of freshly grilled calamari or steamed mussels, to give you the energy to tackle the rest of the market.  We had lunch at one of these places and it was one of the best meals we had in Barcelona.  Little plates of fresh seafood, bowls of grilled peppers, bread to sop up the juices and great big mugs of beer to wash it all down… it was the kind of lunch that you wish would last all day.  The kind of lunch that makes you understand the thinking behind a siesta. 

We spent five days walking around the broad avenues of Barcelona, sitting in sunny cafes, eating dinner in local places where we ordered off of menus in Spanish and hoped for the best.  It wasn’t Australia or Japan… it was something different and all-together wonderful.  Sometimes when life throws tomatoes at you, you just have to make gazpacho!

Posted in Foodwith 8 Comments →

Disappointment and dinner04.28.10

I’m writing this in our living room in England.  I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be fresh off a flight from Sydney, AU to Tokyo, Japan.  I’m supposed to be slightly tanned from spending a week in Sydney, getting ready to enjoy my first bowl of steaming Tokyo ramen.  But here I am, at home.

When stranded in England, pints in the sun are mandatory. 

It’s the volcano’s fault.  That silly Icelandic volcano ruined my vacation twice.  Flights cancelled all across Europe struck my vacation plans down and we weren’t able to recover.  The whole trip was cancelled.

But, I had planned ahead really well.  Perhaps too well?  I planned our pre-flight meals very carefully, trying to use up everything in the fridge, not leaving anything to go to waste whilst we were away.  A cancelled flight meant not only travel disappointment, but dinner disappointment as well.  There was nothing to eat!

We’ve made the best of the situation.  We’ve booked another little trip, now that the airspace is open again.  We’ve seen friends and tried to enjoy the surprisingly sunny days.  We’ve eaten out a little more often and when we’ve eaten at home it’s been very simple meals using as few ingredients as possible.

On sunny spring days, England is a lovely place to be stuck!

I was looking forward to eating our way around Sydney and Tokyo, and telling you all about our food adventures.  Instead, I’ll show you this beautiful Ploughmans platter and meat plate that we shared for lunch after our first flight was cancelled.  We’re still pale and we’ve not had even one bowl of ramen, but we’re here and we’re doing our best to enjoy our dinners.


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  • Abercrombie and Feast!