Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Guerilla cooking

I rented an apartment on the meditterranean for a week to study. The plus to this was that I was away from my normal space, and forced to study. The hard part was that being away from my kitchen, its tools and ingredients.

You don't realise what you have till its gone!

I arrived to find a kitchen that did have pots and a fry pan, a microwave, two hotplates (which I discovered through bitter trial and error have their numbering back to front), crockery and cutlery.

The glaring omissions were that it had no oven, sharp knives (a blunt paring knife and a twisted out of shape blunt peeler were in evidence), chopping board, storage containers, cooking tools such as slotted spoon, serving spoons, tongs, ladle.
Also no food.

Well, to give credit where it is due, there was a bottle of salt. So what to buy? I had no desire to buy a whole pile of foodstuffs and kitchen tools for someone else. I needed food for 5 days of staying in, so I needed variety, simplicity, and flexibility. And a sharp knife.

When I got to the supermarket I found some cheeses that had a cheeseboard included for free. 1 problem down. I found a little purple knife for 4 euros. Another problem down. A packet of "herbs de provence", some oil, pepper and I was just about at the end of the things I was willing to buy and donate to the apartment owner. Until I stumbled upon one of those sets of plastic containers... 14 containers for 3.90 euros. Yup I will have that.

I bought some meat, some bread, some vegetables... the usual stuff. I was set, vaguaries of my desires set aside.

Two days in and my second meal of pork chop, potato and sweet potato. The first time around it was burnt pork chop (see above comment on the stove) and mashed potato and sweet potato (pressed with a drinking glass then mashed with a fork). This time I had an onion to add to the excitement and had boiled the potato and sweet potato. But the dish cried out for a gravy. But... I had no flour, no stock... nothing to make it from!

I looked around. Ahah. There was the packet of french onion soup I had bought in case the predicted rainy day happened. There too was the "pompote" I got as part of my 'kids meal' at a cafe the day before (I usually find that a kids meal is actually more than enough food than we need and, limits in options aside, is very good value. 3.50 euros for a little hamburger patty, fries or vegetables, a drink and a dessert [the aforementioned pompote]). A pompote is a sort of apple mush in a squishy tube.

So I fried up my fresh onion, sprinkled on a tablespoon of the french onion soup mix and squeezed out a good dollop of the pompote. Gradually added some water and raised it to a simmer. What do you know? I had a very yummy gravy!

It just shows what you can do with a bit of imagination and willingess to experiment.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Apple and cinnamon cupcakes

2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp vegetable oil
4 tsp baking powder
250g caster sugar
320g plain flour
50g unsalted butter, melted
2 lightly beaten eggs
175ml buttermilk
2 peeled finely diced apples

Turn the oven to 175 degrees (350F). Line a cupcake tin with paper liners (this recipe makes 12 decent sized cupcakes)

In a bowl combine the sifted dry ingredients.

In a large bowl beat the liquid ingredients until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat until nearly combined. Stir in the apples - careful not to overmix!

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Top with brown sugar frosting. These keep for up to 2 days or freeze (without icing for up to 3 months).

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Honey malt slice

This wickedly rich slice is based on a recipe from the Women's Weekly "biscuits and slices" recipe book.

340 grams of butter
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups malted milk powder
4 cups corn flakes
4 cups rice bubbles
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup desiccated coconut

1. Lightly grease and line 2 20x30cm baking trays. Take a sheet of baking paper and lay it along the pans, allowing the paper to extend beyond the edge of the pan.

2. Combine the malted milk powder, butter and honey in a saucepan. Stir on a low heat until the butter is melted. Pour over the dry ingredients, stir, then pour the mixture into the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate till set.