Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Turkish Dill-ight

Well hello there. I am finally returned from a 2 week trip to Turkey, marginally less pasty and slightly fatter. I had been sure that my trip would inspire my culinary creativity, I mean we had spanking fresh seafood on our doorstep and all that Mediterranean produce. Sadly there were two issues with the food in Dalyan.

1. Most restaurants catered for foreigners by adding every conceivable dish to bulging menus. They would claim to be traditional Turkish, yet have 'Mexican steak', chicken curry and egg and chips proudly offered.

2. They bloody love dill there, I'm not a massive fan. I don't dislike it, but it's ubiquity was tiresome.

We did eat some fab meals at our villa, courtesy of my father in laws Turkish recipe book and an assortment of willing chefs. My husband and I also discovered a genuinely traditional restaurant where we ate an assortment of meze that was fabulous. One of the dishes, bizarrely named 'woman's thighs' because of it's soft yielding texture, is well worth adding to my eclectic repertoire.

Woman's Thighs meatballs

1 lb ground beef
Cup of cooked rice
1/2 of bunch parsley (chopped
DILL - if you like it.
Pinch of cumin
Plenty of salt and pepper
1 medium sized onion (chopped )
3 eggs
1 cup of plain flour
vegetable oil for frying

Take rice, ground beef, parsley, dill, onion, 1 egg and s+p into the mixing bowl. Knead them all until well combined. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Take the bowl from refrigerator and make small patties ( about the size of an egg )
Place vegetable oil on frying pan and turn the heat on medium high. Place flour in a bowl and take the other two eggs into another bowl and beat it.
Take one meatball, dip it first in flour then into egg and place it frying pan. Fry both sides of the meatball. Repeat this step for all of the meatballs.

The other notable dish was a very simple salad of lamb's lettuce in a garlic yogurt dressing. Ridiculously easy and sooper-dooper delicious with pretty much anything. I loved it with Pide, the Turkish equivalent of pizza, but it is fab either with grilled meats or as part of a meze spread.

Lamb's lettuce salad

Bag of lamb's lettuce leaves
Clove of garlic
Couple of tbsp of full fat Greek yog
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Crush garlic and mix well with yogurt, salt and pepper.
If possible leave for a couple of hours for flavours to meld
Mix with lettuce leaves
Drizzle with oil

So these are my top recommendations for recreating Turkey in a small corner of west London. The other option is just to cover everything you eat with shitloads of dill. I shall leave the choice to you.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Low fun food

I am currently 4 days away from a two week holiday to Turkey. I'd had intentions of being in the best shape of my life for this trip because, well, because it's always good to have completely unrealistic ambitions. However upon my return from Cornwall (and in particular the Meadery *vomits in lap*) I realised that I was actually in the very worst shape of my life, post baby carnage aside.
So I made a decision to pull myself together. I've been sticking to 1200 calories a day, which is bloody hard when you are someone who can easily manage 3000 without blinking, but I've been using http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ which is fab for keeping track. I've also been walking partway to and from work, sometimes the whole way home. And I've had to knock my drinking on the head because I was consuming my entire daily calorie allowance in half an hour AND the following day I would go on a carb-frenzy.
I had a roaring success with my friday night dinner and thought I'd share the recipe in case any of you feel like pulling yourselves together. No offence.

Pizza Wraps

1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
9 mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
50g black olives, sliced
Tbsp capers
Splash balsamic vinegar
Tsp oregano
1 ball of half fat mozzarella
4 Discovery wholemeal tortillas

Fry the onion until softened
Add garlic, mushrooms, pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes
Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar and oregano and cook down until the sauce thickens
Divide mixture between the tortillas, add cheese to each and place under a hot grill until the cheese melts
Roll up and eat

Only 300ish cals per serving.

I promise I won't start banging on about calories all the time, I think I'm already boring my husband half to death. Friday sees the end of my abstemious phase and I will then enter extreme gluttony. Hopefully I'll be back with some amazing Turkish recipes and a cracking tan. Unfortunately I'll probably also be bringing my gut back.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Weekly Menu 04/07

Yes ladies and gents, it's the highlight of your week, it's my meal planner!

Monday: Broccoli soup
Tuesday: Breaded cod and asparagus salad
Wednesday: Cauliflower and green bean curry with brown rice
Thursday: Steamed mackerel with mushrooms and spinach
Friday: Undecided

Friday night tends to be treat night in our house, but this week husband will be at the local beer festival, drinking his bodyweight in strong ales and regressing to his 17 year old self. So I get to choose a 'treat' dinner that is entirely what I want. Ordinarily this would be something along the lines of fresh baguette and lovely, lovely cheese, but I don't want to deviate from my healthy eating too drastically. I might stick with the low carb plan and have a rare steak, but I know I'd miss the chips too much.

Any suggestions?

Curry me nice

It pains me to write this recipe as although I cooked it on friday I didn't eat it. My healthy eating regime took a bit of a battering on thursday evening with a 'mum's night out' that involved tapas, bread, cava and ice cream. So when I stepped on the scales on friday morning I had put on a pound, which was soul-destroying given how disciplined I had been otherwise.
So the curry got shelved in favour of tuna steaks with olive and red onion salsa and garlic green veg. Delicious, but no curry.
But the mince had to be cooked, so I have part-cooked the curry and popped it in the freezer to be eaten next saturday, as we all know that calories do not count at the weekend.

Keema Matar

1 onion
A few cloves garlic to taste (I used 4)
2 cloves
500g minced lamb
1 inch cube of ginger, peeled and grated
Chillis to taste (I used 3 birdseye chillis)

1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
150ml water (approx)

Couple of potatoes, peeled and cubed
Peas (couple of handfuls)
Fresh coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
Generous squeeze lemon juice

2/3 tbsp Greek yogurt

Fry the onions in a little oil until the start to brown
Add the garlic and fry for one more minute
Now add the minced meat, cloves, ginger, chillis, ground coriander, cumin and cayenne.
Fry for about 5 minutes or so on a fairly high heat, breaking up any lumps as you go.
When it’s browned add the potatoes and water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and leave it to simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if it gets too dry.
Now add the peas, fresh coriander, garam masala, lemon juice. Mix it all in and bring it back to a simmer – cook until the peas are done.
Season to taste and remove the cloves.
Finish with a generous couple of spoons of yogurt

If making ahead, leave out the peas, coriander and yogurt and add when reheating. I recommend eating it with paratha or a soft naan. Also feel free to leave out the potatoes, or to add other veg. Cauliflower works well.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Yesterday afternoon I was invited to leave work early by my boss and took it upon myself to walk the entire 4 miles home. The weather was horrendously humid and as I plodded through some of the less salubrious parts of West London my hunger built and built. I knew I was heading home to a lovely, if excessivly virtuous, meal of seabass, broccoli and green beans, but I was passing cafes that smelt of chips and crispy, cheesey lasagne and my thoughts were becoming less and less pure.
I knew I was getting obsessive when I passed a poster advertising McDonalds cheeseburgers and let out an involuntary groan of desire. From that point onwards (around mile 2 checkpoint), I compiled my ultimate, wickedest, most indulgent dinner. Now when I say indulgent I don't mean the best, most lovely things I have ever eaten, I mean the dirty, nasty food that has literally no nutritional value but tastes like total and complete awesomeness.
So I already knew that I had to include McDonald's cheeseburgers in this meal, and for me they MUST be dipped in barbeque sauce. Initially I thought maybe 4 cheeseburgers would be manageable but when I considered accompaniments I came unstuck. Mcdonalds fries are alright, but when you really need a carby, salty fix you cannot whack chippy-chips, I reduced my plan to 3 cheeseburgers. Chippy-chips must be doused liberally in vinegar, and when I say liberally, I mean absolutely drenched. You then add copious salt, wrap them up, and let them infuse for about 10 minutes before eating. This is chippy-chip law.
Then I remembered KFC. My darling KFC, I did not mean to forsake you. I decided to add a starter of two pieces of gloriously hot and oily fried chicken. None of the rubbish breast meat nonsense, I would have two thighs pieces to maximise the juicy loveliness of this chickeny session.
At around mile 3 I passed an Iranian patisserie. I am not a massive dessert-eater but it reminded me of the cake a colleague had recently brought into work for her birthday. This cake was astonishingly lovely, a cream, berry and sponge concoction that was the lightest, most wonderful cake I have ever eaten. I believe it is a Nordic recipe that involves soaking the sponge in milk, whatever, it tasted of heaven. So pudding would be a 30cm square slab of that.
I could have left it there, but my recently healthy eating has involved denying myself bread, and I bloody love the stuff. So logically I should add a cheese course.

Here is my final menu

Starter: 2 thigh pieces KFC
Main course: 3 McDonalds cheeseburgers with barbeque sauce, small portion of chippy chips. Ketchup
Dessert: Nordic cream cake
Cheese course: Ripe camembert with a warm freshly baked white baguette

All washed down with several tall glasses of full-fat Coca-cola with ice and lemon slices


Then I thought I'd work out the calorie content

KFC thighs 2 @ 250cals = 500cals
McDonalds cheeseburgers 3 @ 300cals = 900cals
Portion chippy-chips @ 464 cals
Mcdonalds BBQ sauce 2 @ 50cals = 100cals
Ketchup 4tbsp @ 15 cals = 60 cals
Cream cake @ 850 cals
Freshly baked baguette @ 370 cals
Camembert @ 800 cals
Coca-cola 2 cans @ 140cals

Total = 4184 cals

So I thought I'd give it a miss, on balance. The sea-bass was bloody lovely actually.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Weekly Menu 27/06

What was that? You're wondering what meals I have planned for this week? Alright, I'll bloody well tell you.

Monday: Grilled Seabass with garlic broccoli and green beans
Tuesday: Asian-style prawn salad with asparagus
Wednesday: Baked potato with taramasalata and tomato salad
Thursday: Carrot and Courgette soup
Friday: Keema Matar

So very Moorish

Last year I overcame severe claustrophobia to fly to Marrakech for my honeymoon. I say ‘overcame’ but it was more a case of ‘doped myself up to the eyeballs on diazepam’ Son2 was only 15 months old at the time but my mum had volunteered to look after both the boys for 6 days while we celebrated our nuptials in the scorching heat of Morocco.  We had picked Marrakech for 2 reasons.

1.       Your money goes twice as far there as it would in Europe. We had an amazing suite in a riad, with its own roof terrace and plunge pool and a houseboy to bring us copious booze(most of which was included in the price). All for around £140 per night, which would get you a very average hotel room in Italy or France

2.       Their food is amazing
While we were there we ate in some of the best restaurants and had fantastic food every day. One of the best meals I have ever eaten was in a restaurant called Tobsil, we had a main course of chicken wrapped in pancakes, which sounds unremarkable but was unbelievably good. However there was also a cook at the riad who was outstanding. She made fabulous tagines and the best tomato salad in the entirety of the world ever.
Upon our return we bought a tagine (and were given two more in a bizarre day I call ‘The day with 3 tagines’) and I have had a lot of success in my experimentations. Moroccan food is perfect for entertaining as they tend to serve a lot of salads, most of which can be prepared in advance, and slow cooked meat. My sort of food.
So yesterday we were going to be out all afternoon at a picnic/birthday party and I wanted a proper meal for when we got back. So I shoved a happy chicken in my tagine in its entirety. I rubbed in a Morccan spice blend of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and harissa (or you can just use one of those premixed blends) and shoved a couple of preserved lemons up its backside. Splash of water in the bottom, lid on and into the oven for a couple of hours at 180. While it was cooking I made my two favourite Moroccan salads/accompaniments.
Sweet tomato jam
Fab served with chicken or lamb. Once made you can keep it in the fridge, in a clean jam jar, with a layer of oil over the top, for a couple of weeks.

2 small onions, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tins plum/chopped tomatoes
Tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
Tbsp sugar
Tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion in a little oil until soft
Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes
Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger and sugar
Simmer for about an hour, until the mixture becomes thick and jam-like
Add the honey and seasoning
Leave to cool

Moroccan carrot salad

4 large carrots, grated
Juice 1 lemon
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
Tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped coriander

Mix it all together and leave for an hour or more before serving

So while we were out the chicken rested, the carrot salad infused and upon our return all I had to do was make a green salad with red onion, slice few chunks of baguette, pour out a bowl of yogurt and plonk the chicken, jam and carrots on the table. It was fab and very reminiscent of our honeymoon, apart from the over-tired toddler spitting bread at us and seeing how dizzy he could make himself by shaking his head back and forwards as fast as he could. Oh, and after dinner I mopped the floors instead of retiring to my roof terrace. But overall, it was a bit similar, sort of.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

'Cheese me, cheese me, cheese me, baby'

...the almost words of Chaka Demus and Pliers

Week to week I tend to run an ever evolving list round my head of food I want to cook. Often I only have a vague idea that I keep returning to and tweaking, until it becomes a fully formed meal or dish. Other times my passion wanes and it gets relegated to my pile of ‘meh’.
The following are the semi-conceived dishes I am currently mulling over:

Tuna steaks: Cooked rare with a salsa made from tomato, black olive, red onion, lemon (juice or flesh?) and fresh herbs (one or more of basil, parsley, coriander?)

A beef and mushroom stroganoff-type dish: strips of steak, chestnut mushrooms, some porcini mushrooms for depth of flavour, maybe a shot of brandy, cooked off. Low fat crème fraiche to finish and plenty of black pepper. Does it need garlic?

Pork and rhubarb: Pork steaks/chops/diced, topped with a sauce made of rhubarb, ginger, soy etc and baked.

In other exciting-only-to-me news, there is a cheese shop opening up the road from us. I fear greatly for both my bank balance and my waist measurements. In my expert opinion cheese is a meal in itself. You need only some good bread and I challenge you to find a finer meal. I am predominantly a fan of the soft French cheese family, as it is undoubtedly the mack daddy. I reckon Camembert is probably the very mackest daddiest, but I also make room in my heart for Epoisses and Brillat Savarin. Additionally I have a great deal of time for mature hard cheeses. Aged Parmesan dipped in white balsamic is almost a sexually exciting experience, and Cornish Cruncher is stone-cold amazing. I’ll tell you the cheese that can quite frankly ‘do one’ though, and that is the lowly goat. I CAN eat it, but I wouldn’t choose to. In fact I studiously avoid it. Anything that tastes like goat faeces smells cannot be right.  Endof.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Weekly Menu 20/06

And back by popular demand*, is my plan for this weeks meals.

Monday: Roast butternut squash and feta salad
Tuesday: Ratatouille and polenta
Wednesday: Spicy sausage and gnocchi
Thursday: Lentil soup
Friday: Take away (Indian)

I am doing my utmost to eat better this week. We are going on holiday in 24 days and my stomach is a disaster zone. My general plan is to cut out bread, cut way back on the booze and walk like a bloody demon everywhere I go.

I'm going to be absolutely starving.

* No actual demand

Mead and beans

Have you ever been to a meadery? I bet you haven’t. I wonder if you even know what a meadery is? Well, dear reader, a meadery is a medieval-themed restaurant that serves entirely fried food and mayonnaise-based salads. Oh, and mead, a traditional honey based wine-type of drink. I visited one such establishment on Friday evening and wish to give no further comment other than to say I have never felt so sick after a meal as I did that night. And my trousers stank so forcibly of ‘fried’ that I had a recurrence of my nausea the following morning when I put them on to go for breakfast. Utterly grim.
In fact I had a weekend of food that was almost entirely bereft of any fruit or vegetable and returned home last night desperate for a fresh, nutritious meal. Fortunately for me we had leftovers from last week’s black bean chilli, and it was the absolute perfect meal. As promised, here is the recipe:
Black bean and sweet potato chilli
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp cinnamon
Chilli flakes (to taste)
1 tbsp chipotle paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar
800g cooked black beans
2 x tin tomatoes
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 tin sweetcorn
Bunch chopped coriander

Soften the onions and garlic in a small amount of oil
Add the spices and fry for 2 minutes
Add the remaining ingredients, except the coriander, cover and cook for 30 mins, or until the potato is tender
Add the coriander.
We usually eat it out of a bowl with crushed tortilla chips, grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream.  Personally I like mine quite spicy, it somehow feels like it’s better for you that way, but you can make it almost entirely unspiced for smaller people, or complete wusses.  *waves at Toby*

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Weekly menu 13/06

Hello food friends. I have no idea whether this will be of interest to you, but I thought I'd include my weekly meal plans. I am the sort of complete and utter loser who enjoys reading other peoples food diaries/meal plans so why on earth shouldn't I share mine?

You will notice some meals cropping up over and over again. This is because they are either cheap, easy or delicious. In some cases all three, I will do my best to alert you to these beauties. So here goes.

Monday: Cauliflower soup with walnut bread (fyi, if you haven't tried yesterdays recipe it is really quite good)
Tuesday: Cod with asparagus salad
Wednesday: Rea and ricotta pasta
Thursday: Black bean and sweet potato chilli
Friday: WHO KNOWS!

We are off to a wedding down in Cornwall this weekend so I am hoping that friday night might find us enjoying some seafood in a coastal restaurant. Either that or feeding two starving, grumpy children in a Little Chef. Let's hope the traffic gods smile upon us.

I will post the recipe for my black bean chilli soon as it is a definite favourite, plus it is cheap and makes great leftovers to take to work. Pea and ricotta pasta is barely a recipe, you simply add peas, ricotta, lemon zest, chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil to cooked pasta. It is worth a try though, I love it.

You might notice that there is an absence of meat. We are in NO way vegetarians, but we have taken to eating a lot less meat.  We attempted to do a vegetarian January this year, partly to save money and also as a weird endurance-type test of our self control. It was partially successful. Midway through the month husband decided that we could eat meat if it was free, so when he went out for working lunches, or we were invited for dinner we could eat what we wanted. He seemed to suddenly have a LOT of business lunches. Then as the month dragged on, and on, we decided that the leftover curry in the freezer, cooked on NYE was too good to avoid any longer. We ate it. So we didn't succeed, but we did adopt a lot of new recipes that we still use frequently, so it was worth trying.

Monday, 13 June 2011

'I added a little sausage'

Today I am perusing the web trying to hone a cauliflower soup recipe. I had cauliflower soup once in a restaurant which was so unbelievably good that I am now on a one woman crusade to replicate it. So it sounds a bit dull, I accept the criticism. Anyhow this has lead me to stumble upon some of the best examples of a practice I call 'recipejacking'. You will undoubtedly be familiar with this phenomenon if you ever read recipes that encourage readers to provide feedback. Much of the time you get useful comments on perhaps reducing the cooking time, or offering alternatives for hard to find ingredients. Sometimes readers will feedback saying that they didn't have any double cream so substituted with creme fraiche or similar. This is all FINE. The remaining commenters however...

'This recipe was great, I made a few changes. I didn't add any garlic as my mum is allergic to it. Also left out the cream and instead added coriander, basil and a can of tomatoes'

Hmm? So you basically made some soup that shared an ingredient with the original and thought you'd tell us all about it here? Congratulations, you utter moron.

'Really not keen on this soup. I don't like cauliflower so we subbed for carrots. Totally bland flavour. DO NOT MAKE'

How generous of you to take time out to warn us about this terrible recipe THAT YOU MADE UP.

But this is my favourite comment I found today, I don't think it needs any further comment from me.

If you are after simple this is it. I added garlic, jalapeños, fresh tomatoes, creamed corn and sausage


So my meander around the detritus of the Internet commenter has resulted in a recipe that I have high hopes for. As always I have taken the best from my research and this is what we have.

Cauliflower Soup
 1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon
1 head of cauliflower
Parmesan rind
400ml Low salt chicken stock (or regular stock made with extra water)
200ml milk

Chop and sautée the onion until softened (in butter I reckon is best)
Snip up the bacon and add to the onions, cook until the fat starts to render
Add garlic and cook for 2 mins
Chop and add the cauliflower, Parmesan and stock.
Simmer for 20 mins or until the cauliflower is very tender
Add the milk, remove the parmesan rind and blend until smooth
Season with salt and plenty of pepper

It's not quite up there with TheGreatestSoupEverTasted, but I'm getting there. Perhaps if I just add a little sausage, and dill...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Stupid bloody avocadoes

Last week I obsessed over a menu more than I thought possible. We took the bold step of deciding to entertain other parents from son1's school. Lovely people, but people we have always felt were a lot more grown up than us, and who we might not be able to parade our full range of offensive humour in front of.
I was particularly worried about husband's ability to remain just the right side of horrendously drunk, a skill he has often lacked in the past. Most notably demonstrated on the occasion he went up to check on son2 in the middle of a dinner party, only to be found an hour later asleep underneath his cot.
I blame the beer enhanced with shots of whisky.

So in these times of social uncertainty I decided against anything too taxing on the cooking front. I felt I needed the comforting reassurance of a menu I could do mostly in advance, in between the pressures of completing son1's half term project. (Can we just say that the menu was more successful than the replica Tudor House we battled with). I went with Mexican food. EVERYONE likes Mexican food.

This was the menu I went with:

Slow cooked chilli
Tomato and chilli salsa
Refried beans
Spiced potato wedges

Alongside nachos, tortilla wraps, sour cream and Lancashire cheese

I have been perfecting my chilli for many years now and firmly believe that slow cooking beef shin makes for a far superior chilli to mince. Due to my obsessive nature when it comes to food, I have read possibly hundreds of recipes for the 'best ever chilli', the majority of them American.

Obviously the US has a far greater affinity with Mexican food, and they seemingly have a whole world of authentic ingredients available in their local supermarkets, which we simply don't get. I decided to order my ingredients online, and chose http://www.mexicangrocer.co.uk/ . I ordered the 'Dried chipotle chillies', Dried ancho chillies' and 'Dried Mexican oregano'. Unfortunately they still haven't turned up, 1 week after initially ordering and 3 days after the meal itself. So I was forced to use the ingredients available to me at my local Sainsbury's. Below is my recipe, with a few notes:

Slow cooked beef chilli

Pork fat (my butcher gives me this for free, just ask)
2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1kg beef shin, cut into large chunks
1 teaspoon ground cinammon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon chipotle paste (Discovery brand)
1 tin plum tomatoes (whizzed up with a handblender)
2 red chillis (whizzed up with the tomatoes)
2 cubes of beef stock and 1 tablespoon of instant coffee, diluted in 750ml hot water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
salt and pepper
3 squares of plain chocolate

Render down the pork fat and use it to cook the onion and garlic until softened
Add the beef shin, spices and chipotle paste and brown all over
Add the remaining ingredients, minus the chocolate, bring to a simmer then cook on a very low heat for approx 6 hours.
After 6 hours the meat should shred if you give it a prod, so give the whole dish a good poking, until you have a pot of lovely shredded beef.
Add the chocolate and stir it in well.

The most important thing is to cook it the day before you intend to eat it as it tastes approximately 12 times better a day or two after it has been cooked. This is science.

So my chilli had been cooked on friday afternoon/evening, infusing the house with a fabulous smell. Unfortunately it smelt so nice that my husband and I were hugely disappointed with the smoked salmon fishcakes we were eating that evening. We sat forlornly picking at the fishcakes as lovely beefy smells trailed seductively through the house. .

Also done ahead of time were stages 1 and 2 of my refried beans. Thursday evening had me soaking an entire bag of black beans and on friday I boiled them up, in a big pot with plenty of water, half an onion and another chunk of the pork fat thrown in for good measure.

I had also decided to prepare a cocktail for my guests. My aunt had visited from Cyprus and brought me two of the biggest, most aromatic lemons I have ever seen, picked days before from her garden. I have never smelt lemons like them. So I decided on a grown-up lemonade.
I made a sugar syrup on friday, basically just 200g or so of caster sugar, 500ml of water and the zest of one lemon and a couple of limes. Bring it to the boil  and stir to dissolve the sugar then turn off the heat and leave to steep for half an hour, then sieve into a tupperware and refrigerate until needed.
On saturday afternoon I juiced the 2 massive lemons and 6 limes and added it to the syrup then made up the cocktail as follows:

Grown-up lemon-and-lime-ade

1 part syrup
1 part rum
2 parts soda water
Plenty of slices of lemon and lime
Few sprigs of mint
Lots of ice

So Saturday morning rolled around and I was fretting most about my guacamole. I had spent the previous few days doing my utmost to ensure my avocadoes reached optimum ripeness for my guacamole. This involved a significant amount of avocado assessment, basically gently squeezing the little sods every few hours, and trying to determine whether they were best in the fridge (to slow down the ripening), on the window sill (to speed up the ripening), or on the sill, surrounded by bananas (to turbo-charge the ripening process). At one stage I had them split up in all 3 locations. I vaguely considered setting up a webcam to keep an eye on them while I took the kids to the park, but quickly realised it would be madness. I mean who can judge an avocadoes ripeness by sight alone? No, I would also need a squeezing device that could provide up to the minute assessment of their current firmness. I would also need to invent a scale of firmness to receive my updates in and make sure my squeezing device was correctly calibrated.  I realised I just didn't have the resources. I blame this lack of commitment for the fact that only 5 of my 6 avocadoes reached the required standard by saturday morning, the 6th I am eating as I type. It's still not quite right.
Here is the recipe for the guacamole I eventually made:


Half a bunch of spring onions
Half a jar of red jalapenos
large handful coriander
2 tomatoes, de-seeded
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
5 avocadoes

Put all the ingredients except the avocadoes in a food processor and blitz to a paste
Add avocadoes and blend to required consistency (I like mine quite smooth)

So now I turned my attention to the salsa, as it really needs a few hours for the flavours to meld. I reckon I must be a masochist, because I resolutely refuse to do salsa in a food processor, and also refuse to allow anything other than the finest dice make it into the finished product. It does mean a lot of chopping, but if you are anything like me you will appreciate the finished result.


8 ripe tomatoes
1 red onion
3 red chillis
Large handful coriander
1 teaspoon caster sugar
juice 1 lime
salt and pepper

Basically cut the whole lot up, really small. Err, that's it.

So the final task was the refried beans ( I'm not going to insult your intelligence by including a recipe for potato wedges, I put cayenne, oregano, salt and pepper on mine), my holy grail of which is the Wahaca version. Apparently their version uses about 3 ingredients and still tastes amazing, I have tried following their recipe before and utterly failed to replicate the deliciousness at home. I reckon they are LYING about the recipe so that we cannot achieve it at home and consequently are forced to return again and again to eat bowls of the stuff. The crafty so-and so's.
Here is the recipe I finally cobbled together from my extensive research:

Refried beans

Pork fat
Big knob of butter
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 sticks celery
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Approx 800g cooked black beans
Salt and pepper

Render the pork fat and add the butter, meanwhile blitz the onion, garlic and celery in a food processor.
 Add the mix to the pan and cook until softened.
Add the smoked paprika and black beans and cook down for about 30 mins, smashing the beans as you stir and topping up with water if it dries out too much.
Season to taste

The beans got a lot of compliments, so don't mess with this recipe too much, it rules. In fact the beans were the favourite I think, after the custard tart that my husband made, which is typical. He cooks one dish for every 12 I do, and steals the bloody show. If you are interested in his custard tart then I suggest you bugger off. (Or follow Marcus Wareings recipe, but add vanilla to the custard mix)

Anyway, the evening was a success. I mean I swore too much, but that's par for the course. Nobody got horribly drunk and everyone enjoyed the food. Even better there were some leftovers. I have used the leftover salsa to make breakfast burritos (scrambled eggs, sourcream and salsa in a tortilla wrap, hangover food of champions), leftover wedges and chilli had baked beans added to make son1's dinner, the leftover guacamole was eaten with nachos in front of the telly on monday evening and the refried beans are going into quesadillas tonight. Thrifty huh?