No Added Sugar! Honestly!

The other day, Himself was dispatched to Geneva Airport to collect Baby Amelia and her parents. The three “Mexicans ” and I set to in the kitchen.

I had found a recipe the other day, which said, No Churn Ice Cream, good idea thought I , especially as Horror of Horrors, I do not have an ice cream machine, here in the mountains. Interestingly, it was made with condensed milk, double cream and honey. It also said that meringue, rum soaked raisins and chunks of chocolate would work well, and salted almonds. My problem here was that my 10 year old visitor, doesn’t like chocolate, ( who has heard of a 10 year old not liking chocolate? Well he doesn’t but he told me he has taught himself to eat chocolate cake at birthday parties, otherwise he always missed out on the cake!) And to boot has a nut allergy. We decided to make this ice cream with caramelised sugar ( brittle toffee) microwave meringues, boiled condensed milk ( think caramel, think Banoffee Pie) and double cream. We skipped the honey.

The night before I had boiled the can of condensed milk so that it was thick, caramelised and cold. We mixed one slightly beaten egg white with enough icing sugar to make a very thick mixture, that could be rolled onto Golf Ball size balls, and so made our meringues, cooked quickly in the microwave and therefore cooled very quickly ( see blogs from July, August 2017).

We made the toffee brittle, simply by pouring sugar into a pan and gently heating it until it melts and caramelises, remove from the heat as soon as it turns colour as it will very quickly burn, pour onto a greased baking tray and it will solidify very quickly, BEWARE it is hot!

Bash the caramel with a rolling pin or hammer. Beat the cream ( I used a litre of cream) , , stir in the boiled condensed milk, add the broken caramel pieces, crush the meringues, and add them. Put into a box and freeze.

The result was an amazing, sweet, sugar overload ice Cream! And I can honestly say that there was No Added Sugar! Whatever that means in reality ! The taste was wonderful, but only have a small scoop at a time and the kids? They could be bouncing off the walls in no time at all, but making that, more Ice Lollies and some Lemon Drizzle Cup cakes, kept them busy all morning!

Himself makes a Stir Fry!

This week, we have a friend from New Zealand staying ( via way of the UK and Belgium ) and I have to admit that she is a big fan of “Himself”. No criticism of Himself is allowed when she is around! So working on boosting his already high image, he declared he would make Dinner. Me? I was off to the golf course, whilst House guest was off to Cambridge. I gave Himself, three options:-Stuffed chicken breast, cooked Sous Vide ( he has become quiet a dab hand with the Sous Vide machine) , problem is, it is connected via my phone! Bang Bang Chicken, which I love and have not had it in years, used to be one of my favourites in Houston, in a restaurant strangely called Houston’s, and also in The Ivy in London. Or Singapore noodles! He chose the latter!Not sure if it really is a recipe from Singapore, Singapore is the Manhattan of the East. It’s cuisine is such a mixture, with influences from Malaysia, China, India, Indonesian and don’t forget the British. All of these have influenced Singaporean cuisine. And one cuisine, that is a complete mish mash of these is Nyonya cuisine which comes from the Peranakans who were the descendants of the early Chinese settlers, who married local Malays and combines,the various cuisines.The majority of Singapore’s Chinese population is Hokkien, and this a version of their all time favourite noodle dish, Singapore noodles with pork and prawns.

  1. 2tsp sesame oil ( or olive oil)
  2. 300grams pork mince
  3. 1tsp Chinese five spice powder
  4. 3 tsp curry powder
  5. 200grams large prawns peeled and deveined
  6. 200 grams carrots, finely sliced
  7. 3-4 red chillies de seeded and chopped
  8. 400 Grams egg noodles ( preferably ready cooked or straight to wok type.
  9. 3-4 chopped Pak Choi ( spinach as Substitute )
  10. 6 Spring onions sliced
  11. 2 tbs soya sauce
  12. 1/2 cup water or stock as needed

It’s Summer Time in the Mountains, and the kids are cooking , Again!

It is summer time which means we are in the French Alps along with some little ones, ( getting bigger each time they come ) ! Have only been here a couple of days, but so far have been to the local Lake, where they tried out the new Blow Up Kayak, a big success but would help if Himself read the instructions first! Where was the seat? And the rope to pull it! But never mind, he didn’t tip them out ( they had been forewarned). Life jackets on, they were safe! Rubber rings, buckets and spades, hats and sun cream to the fore! And the waterfall waterslide is always good fun, even though the smallest is way too small, he was happy looking for tadpoles and pottering in the ice cold Mountain water.

Back home it was cooking time, well not exact cooking, but freezing. Ice lollies, more to the point.

We used 200 grams frozen raspberries, a quarter of a small watermelon and some apple juice, though orange juice could be used or better still frozen concentrated Orange juice would be even better, but as yet to find this useful commodity in the UK, but readily available in the USA.

The tedious bit of this recipe is removing the pips from the watermelon, I wonder are seedless ones available? However Miss Tess was the Queen of pip removal, then it is really easy. Just throw the lot into a food processor or Blender and wiz the lot around and then pour into lollipop mounds, which of course I just happened to have!

Wait for them to freeze and then let the neighbourhood kids come round and help eat/suck them! They were declared an overwhelming success and we are about to make some more!

I find Markets and Supermarkets fascinating, though I am the first to admit that our local one here in the mountains is not my favourite. We are only just over an hours drive from Geneva, so not really in the “back of beyond ” but the quality of fruit and vegetables tends to be rubbish but none the less I always find it intriguing.

On yesterday’s visit, I was amused by the absolute love of all things Chocolate, yoghurts with Smarties or M&M’s in, or the rows and rows of various dessert pots, all chocolate ! Or the biscuits, again with Smarties/M&M’s or the ones coated in Chocolate rice crispies! And the British Government is concerned about childhood obesity, I wonder if there is such concern here in France, if not, there should be!

And finally my absolute favourite (not) is the tube of condensed milk , already sickly sweet but here it is with added chocolate, also available in caramel, just waiting to be spread on your breakfast croissant.Quelle Horreur!

The Girls Came to Lunch

This week saw 8 of us meeting here, for lunch. We all lived in Brussels in the ’80’s and 90’s, had kids the same ages, who went maybe to the same schools, maybe played on the same soccer teams, baseball teams, and certainly all went to the same Orthodontist. I mention this because, out of all of us ( and there were many many more ex Brussels girls out there) the Orthodontist ( and one other, maybe) is the only one who is still there, after all these years! And yes! She came over for the day for lunch!

My dear friend, who now lives in New Zealand was visiting and so I thought maybe, just maybe, some of us could get together for old times sake, and so we did.Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 10.59.08

A beautiful sunny day in London, and the question was , what to eat. Something which did not require me being in the kitchen, and certainly not to have the oven on. I decided on the following:-

  1. A Super food type Salad, of enormous proportions
  2. my favourite french cheese tart
  3. a salmon mouse
  4. a vegetable frittata
  5. Japanese cheesecake
  6. Eton Mess.

The french cheese tart has been written about before ( Tart au Fromage d’Abondance…… January 15, 2016) as has the cheesecake ( March 29, 2016 and November 22, 2015) The super food salad is new as is the salmon mousse.

With apologies to Yotam Ottolenghi, whose recipe inspired mine. The quantities used are completely, hit and miss, add what you  want and as much or as little as you want. I used a mixture of all of the following

  1. 200 grms cooked quinoa
  2. 200 grms cooked puy lentils
  3. 100 grms Fregola pasta
  4. 2 grapefruit segmented and cut into chunks
  5. 2 cups pomegranates seeds, ( too much of a pain? Waitrose sells them already seeded)
  6. bunch spring onions chopped
  7. 200 grams soft apricots chopped
  8. 100 grms cooked asparagus cut into chunks
  9. 100 grms cooked green beans cut into chunks
  10. some baby gem lettuce shredded
  11. some rocket leaves
  12. 100 grms chopped nuts preferably pistachios
  13. a couple or red chillies , de-seeded and chopped

other ingredients could be, red rice, brown rice,  sun-dried tomatoes, mustard and cress type sprouts, chopped parsley, chopped coriander, can of chick peas.

The dressing I served on the side, and it was very simple, dijon mustard, with lemon juice and olive oil.IMG_4851

The cooking of the various ingredients is a little time-consuming, but worthwhile, especially as they all need to be done ahead of time, cooled and refrigerated. Just before serving, literally chuck them all into a large bowl, mix well ( using your hands is by far the best way) and serve !

Himself Cooks a Stir Fry!

This week, we have a friend from New Zealand staying ( via way of the UK and Belgium ) and I have to admit that she is a big fan of “Himself”. No criticism of Himself is allowed when she is around! So working on boosting his already high ego, he declared he would make Dinner.

Me? I was off to the golf course, whilst House guest was off to Cambridge.

I gave Himself, three options:-Stuffed chicken breast, cooked Sous Vide ( he has become quiet a dab hand with the Sous Vide machine) , problem is, it is connected via my phone! Bang Bang Chicken, which I love and have not had it in years, used to be one of my favourites in Houston, in a restaurant strangely called Houston’s, and also in The Ivy in London. Or Singapore noodles! He chose the latter!

Not sure if it really is a recipe from Singapore, Singapore is the Manhattan of the East. Its cuisine is such a mixture, with influences from Malaysia, China, India, Indonesian and don’t forget the British. All of these have influenced Singaporean cuisine. And one cuisine, that is a complete mish mash of these is Nyonya cuisine which comes from the Peranakans who were the descendants of the early Chinese settlers, who married local Malays and therefore combine, the various cuisines. The majority of Singapore’s Chinese population is Hokkien, and this a version of their all time favourite noodle dish, Singapore noodles with pork and prawns.

  1. 2tsp sesame oil ( or olive oil)
  2. 300 grams pork mince
  3. 1tsp Chinese five spice powder
  4. 3 tsp curry powder
  5. 200 grams large prawns peeled and deveined
  6. 200 grams carrots, finely sliced
  7. 3-4 red chillies de seeded and chopped
  8. 400 Grams egg noodles ( preferably ready cooked or straight to wok type.
  9. 
3-4 chopped Pak Choi ( spinach as Substitute )
  10. 6 Spring onions sliced
  11. 2 tbs soya sauce
  12. 1/2 cup water or stock as needed
  13. Maybe some peanuts or cashew nuts ( unsalted) might be a nice addition.
  14. Maybe also some chopped coriander leaves.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep-frying pan, over a fairly high heat, fry the prawns for about 3 mins, until they turn pink, be careful not to over cook as they will become tough. Remove from the pan and put to one side. Add a little more oil and fry the mince for about 4 mins, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the carrots and the chillies.

Cook for a further 3-4 mins, before adding the Pak Choi or Spinach. Add the noodles and then the water or stock, scrape the bottom of the pan. return the prawns to the pan, make sure the vegetables and noodles are cooked and serve immediately, garnished with the spring onions and soy sauce on the side.

If using nuts add them just before serving.

Not maybe the prettiest of dishes, but taste wise, excellent.

 

Frida Kahlo , Viva Mexico !!

Frida Kahlo , Viva Mexico !!

There is in London at the moment a Frida Kahlo, exhibition.  Willowy blond took her three young Mexicans ( only Sam is truly a Mexican to see it the other day, and reported back that it was worthwhile seeing. Just south of Mexico City is the real, Frida Kahlo exhibition, her house,  La Casa Azul in Coyoacán where she lived a tempestuous marriage with Diego Rivera firstly and then a relationship with Leon Trotsky, who moved around the corner from her house and where he was assassinated.

Our first introduction to Mexican food was by the way of Texas, which to be fair, has its own version of Mexican food, which bears no resemblance to Mexican food of Mexico whatsoever! It seems to make no difference whatsoever, if it is Texas, Arizona, Colorado or Florida, Mexican food USA style is what is commonly called TexMex.

It consists usually, of crunchy tortillas, fried with Salsa, so many that you can no longer do justification to your meal, and then the meal itself is beef, chicken of Shrimp Fajitas, Tacos or Burritos served with Guacamole, Salsa, Refried Beans and Rice, maybe with some jalapeno peppers on the side, but slopped on a plate and everyone ( except me that is) leaves the restaurant with a congealed mass in a styrofoam box.

Therefore it was a revelation to go to Mexico and find out all about real Mexican food. And what a revelation it turned out to be. Each morning we would go out for brunch, a choice of eggs with spicy sauces,  or soups. freshly made tortillas, made just then by the hole in the wall gang of tortilla makers, And such a choice, and no it was never the Full English !! Many of the “Best restaurants” in the world are to be found in Mexico city. amongst them Pujol, Quitonil, Biko, Bellini and Dulce Patria, and that is not forgetting some of our favourites, Maximo Bistro and Contramar. Oh how we miss them all. But help is at hand because Martha Ortiz, the chef owner of Dulcia Patria has opened a London Branch in the Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane ( 1 Hamilton Place, to be precise). Saturday night saw us trooping off to Ella Canta, The imported Mexicans, ( the adult variety), the sylph like Brunette and us.

We started off with cocktails, something we never normally have, but himself and Nickinlaw, both like Tequila or Mezcal, himself getting into the groove by having a shot of tequila at home beforehand.IMG_7903 2

Then for dinner, three of us chose the Pulpo Con salsa de chiles ahumados y pétalos de cebolla tatemade ( octopus smoked chile sauce and burnt onion), whilst the other 2 chose the Glorioza sopa Azteca,  Aztec soup with cheese, avocado and pastilla chile. Both were excellent and would try either of them again.

For our main course four of chose the Carnitas de cerdo el estilo Michoacan con salsa de chile de arbol ( traditional Michoacan Style pork with Arbol Chile Salsa, whilst teh odd one out ( he who always waits to see what everyone ese is having, to be different, and for once that is not Himself), chose the Barbacoa de cordero con salsa de chile morita y garbanzos salterines ( Lamb Shank barbaccoa style with morita chile and jumping chick peas.

The Pork was wonderful, even the brunette who said she was out of her comfort zone eating “fatty” pork thought it was very good. Nickinlaw, loved the lamb Shank, but thought that the chick peas added nothing to the dish.

And finally to dessert. Not a lot of choice as we were having the menu. Four of them chose the churros with caramel and chocolate. whilst I chose the Coconut and vanilla custard. My impressions were that the churros were underwhelming, as all had eaten them at El Moro, in Mexico city, where they have been cooking and serving them, 24 hours a day for the last 85 years! However I enjoyed my flan very much. To round it all off, more tequila and a christmas looking cocktail. also featuring tequila.

So our overall thoughts, ? The food was delicious and value for money by taking the menu was a good option. The BIG downside was that although the restaurant was not full by any means, it was unbelievably noisy. There seems to be an unwritten thought out there, which is let us make as much noise ( in this case piped music) as possible and then everyone will think that is a fun place. It did not need to do that, gentle background would have been good, gentle background mexican would have been better, but loud to the point of drowning all conversation. we asked several times to have the music turned down, and although it was a bit, just not enough and we were told that was to create a certain atmosphere. Umm too much non atmosphere springs to mind. Would we hurry back, maybe not, despite the great food, ruined bu the noise level. Too bad, though.

A Salad need not be boring !

Growing up a salad was boring, in fact I guess we did not really eat a salad as a meal, except on a hot summers day, when a few limp lettuce leaves were put on a plate along with whatever other salad vegetables my father grew in the garden, maybe tomatoes, maybe cucumber, maybe celery and radishes! Back then I loved radishes, if you could get to them before the insects did. Then, on top of that was usually a slice of ham or maybe a slice of pork pie, pickled beetroot, ooh how I hated that, dark red vinegar adulterating my plate finished with HEINZ SALAD CREAM. It was only many years later  I learnt that other countries had mayonnaise but we had Salad Cream!! Today the Heinz company is considering changing the name to Sandwich Cream, because research shows that only 14% of purchasers use it on Salads. As far as I am concerned it can disappear from the shelves for good, but maybe I’m being controversial here, but as I have never bought a jar of it, I am not about to start now !

Many years ago, we were on holiday in Gibraltar, yes Gibraltar ! in those days it was separated from Spain, by a physical border, but it had been a dreadful summer in Europe and we wanted a sunshine holiday. So did the rest of Europe and so off we trotted to Gibraltar, being the only option. The salad here, read my childhood salad, plus a chicken leg, which was frozen ! They still wanted me to pay for it !!

Fast forward several years, and my eldest daughter declared ( home from school for the holidays), “Salads are boring!” I corrected her by saying, that maybe at school they were, but not mine. Forward again, and now on the market there is a plethora of ready-made salads to choose from. All of the fast food outlets, have good salad options as do the ready meals in the supermarkets, along with the small cafés and delicatessens, the choice is enormous!

However these can be expensive, so make yours at home, but they can be time-consuming to do.

Last night I made a salad using the following

  1. green asparagus
  2. courgettes/zucchini
  3. small tomatoes
  4. red chili peppers
  5. padrón peppers
  6. sliced mushrooms
  7. Haloumi cheese or goats cheese
  8. a basil garlic dressing. ( I cheated here by using pesto, olive oil and baked smushed  garlic)

To start with, slice the courgettes into oval rounds, if that makes sense, ie, rounds cut on the slant about 1/4″ thick. Using either a grill pan, a Teppanaki grill or BBQ grill, grill the vegetables, having brushed them with a little olive oil, do not over cook, remove from the grill and place on a cooling tray to cool.

The Padrón peppers are only available in the UK at about this time of year,, small and green they can be used whole, they give just a little zing to the salad. Sweet romano peppers can also be used. If you don’t like spice leave out the chilli peppers, but if you like them, when cooked chop into bits, make sure you remove the seeds before adding to the salad. The haloumi cheese can then be cut into slices and grilled. I used Goats Cheese, which I grilled .IMG_8117

Construct the salad, but layering some baby gem lettuce and some rocket leaves, and then tope with the cooled vegetables, arranging them neatly. Top with the dressing, ( not too much, more can be added if needed)

Remember, a salad can be healthy but never boring !