Hot Dayum!

harrissaDouglas Adams once described the alcoholic drink the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster as being similar to “having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.” Well, sometimes that is exactly what is required. Sometimes you stumble across a day that can only truly be described by the terminology “A Shiter.” I’ve decided that today is one of those days. There’s that horrible, bitty, insidious rain happening. The kind that promises it will do nothing more than drastically fluff up your hair in a bad, ugly-extra-from-an-80s-B-Movie kind of a way but actually turns out to have the added bonus of making you damp from head to toe. And I don’t mean wet, I mean damp. Just vaguely, uncomfortably damp. It’s reminiscent of those student days when you had to dry your clothes inside your tiny, freezing, airless flat and when you put them on you were never sure if they were just cold or actually still wet. And they smelt vaguely of mushrooms.

Just me? Never mind.

Anyhow there is only one known cure for B-Movie hair and slightly damp pants and that is harrissa. Actually I completely made that up. The only real cure is alcohol, but the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is, unfortunately, as fictional as it is obviously incapacitating. And harrissa is to food what the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster would be to alcohol if it actually existed. Harrissa is pretty much like having your taste buds smashed in by a chilli wrapped around a large… gold… clove of garlic. The analogy is getting away from me here somewhat.

RECIPE:

  • 8 large dried red chillies, soaked in a little water overnight
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 80ml olive oil

Take the chillies out of the water and drain them, reserving the water. Cut the stalks off, they don’t taste good, and roughly chop.

In a small frying pan, toast the cumin and coriander until they smell awesome and then bash them about with a mortar and pestle until they are powdery.

Put them in your food processor with the chilli, garlic, sea salt and oil and 2tbsps of the reserved chilli water.

Pulse it up until it turns into a beautiful red-y orange paste.

100_0852That’s all well and good but what do I do with it now, I hear you cry! Genuinely anything. Cut up some carrot sticks for dunking, toast some pitta bread and serve it with olives, spread it on toast, stir it into pasta. Whatever. Just find the fastest, most efficient way to get it into your mouth and you’re good to go. It is a wonderful, heady, spice explosion. Liquid sunshine. Not quite a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster but close.

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Burgers, Bad Puns and The Perils of Student Living

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Like all great, epic sagas (and also unfortunately the not-great ones) the quest for the perfect veggie burger has a second installment. A Return of the (Burger) King, if you will, or a Clash of Hob Rings. Terrible puns aside:

desktopExcept not really, I LIED!

Ahem, terrible puns aside, the reason for the speedy ease of this recipe could be that it comes from famous Mockney, Jamie Oliver. A man who favours stop-watch timed cooking, turning meal times into a frantic race against the clock like some kind of feverish kitchen-based version of Countdown, except with an unusually high burn risk. He also favours serving his food on big wooden boards because, y’know, plates are too conventional.

RECIPE: (serves 4)

  • big bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 x 400g tin mixed beans, drained
  • 200g frozen broad beans (defrosted for 5mins)
  • 1/2tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2tsp cumin
  • 1/2tsp coriander
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • olive oil
  • feta
  • cherry tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • jalapenos
  • gherkins
  • 4 wholemeal burger baps

Put the coriander, mixed beans, broad beans, spices, lemon zest and flour in a food processor and pulse together until combined. I made the mistake of putting the broad beans into the processor whilst still frozen. This gave a fairly accurate sounding reconstruction of the horrifying sound of several machine guns going off at once. Interesting to note for any war-enthusiasts, or you could record it and use it as a sound effect during your next game of Risk. Just an idea.

Scrape the mix out and, on a floured surface, form it into four patties.

Pop the buns in the oven (disclaimer: not an anti birth control slur), lay out some sides and heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat.

Add the patties and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, turning when they are nice and golden and that… is pretty much it.

bloggt 003These are very yummy! The beans make them really satisfying and for just a couple of minutes of work they are definitely not disappointing. They are also a ridiculously cheap dinner and therefore student friendly. If students actually cooked… which most often they don’t. I actually had a flatmate once who tried to cook a frozen meat burger in a toaster. Undergraduates really do inhabit a special world of unreality.

Anyway these are very tasty, very fast and very easy. Happy cud-chewing people 🙂

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Golden Balls

freedpmThe name of these eggs is not, in fact, my own desperate cry in favour of Scotland’s Independence but just what I have decided to call this recipe for vegetarian Scotch eggs. As meat is such an integral element of Scotch eggs I thought that calling them Scotch was a bit of a lie. Like a wolf in sheeps clothing. Or an American acting the part of a famous Scottish person. For example.

I absolutely love picnics. They are little more than an excuse to eat delicious food in the favourable guise of being active and healthy and outdoors-y. I always hated missing out on Scotch eggs. They aren’t particularly good for you (the traditional version) but they look so yummy. Savoury spicy-ness and eggs, all in a little portable, finger-friendly package.

So I give you freedom eggs! Free from horrendous, nasty, stereotypically Scottish, death-inducing ingredients. And also free from meat (but not free from David Cameron nor free from questionable acting – just a little disclaimer)

RECIPE: (makes 6 eggs)

  • 7/8 large eggs
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 250g grated carrots
  • 2 heaped tbsp curry paste
  • 200g breadcrumbs
  • 85g roasted cashews, chopped

Put 6 of the eggs in a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil. Let them boil for 5mins exactly and then take them off the heat and cool them in cold water. Shell them carefully. No one wants bits of shell in their egg. Major picnic faux-pas.

While they are cooling heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for 5mins, add the grated carrots and cook for a further 10mins, until soft. Add the curry paste and the breadcrumbs and leave the mixture to cool a little. Then beat the egg and mix it in. If the mixture seems a little dry beat another egg and add it in a little at a time until the mix becomes a paste.

Heat your oven to 170’C/150’C fan.

Now for the messy bit! Divide the mixture into 6. Flatten a part of the mixture in your hands and then put the egg on top and slowly wrap the mixture round. Use wet hands if the mixture seems to prefer sticking to your fingers instead of the egg. Scotch fingers are a slightly more controversial version of this recipe and not one I intend to go into at this point in time. The mixture should bind around the egg pretty well. Do this for each of the eggs and then roll them in the chopped cashews.

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Pop them in the oven for about 15-20mins until the coating has crisped up and then serve them with some mango chutney and a crunchy salad. Or just put them in a tupperware and pretend you are going on a hike somewhere.

100_0719These are totally delicious, spicy and crunchy. Vegetarians (or just heart-attack avoiders) rejoice!

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Mariachi Madness and the Majestic Cactus

mexicanaAs members of the human race we are constantly searching for new distractions. Art can take you places. Music can lift your soul. A good book can be liberating, capable of opening up a whole new world of possibilities – whether it be a world of magic and the epic struggle between good and evil or merely a world of gratuitous S&M as portrayed in the undisputed masterpiece Fifty Shades of Grey. In a similar manner some foods just transcend their own foody limitations. They have a story to tell, a new world to show us. This soup is one. Imagine, ladies and gentlemen, the edible equivalent to a one night stand with a Mexican millionaire; the setting sun pouring in through the windows (through which you can see the silhouette of a mighty cactus), the smoky taste of tequila on his mustachioed lips. This soup is hot, spicy, luxurious and undoubtedly over much sooner than one would like.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

Soup

  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • a sprinkling of dried chillies
  • 250ml hot vegetable stock
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Salsa and Croutons

  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful fresh coriander
  • handful fresh mint
  • a couple of pickled jalapenos
  • squirt of lime juice
  • 2 slices bread, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat your oven to 200’C. Put the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put them in the oven for about 15/20 minutes or until they are splitting and blistering.

Cue a gratuitous and utterly unnecessary close-up of some tomatoes. Your welcome.

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Put them in a food processor with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, spices and stock and blend them together until they are smooth and a colour Duluxe would probably term something ridiculous like Terracotta Daydreams. Trust me on the sugar, in really brings out the taste of the tomatoes and the smokiness of the paprika. Pour this into a saucepan and add the rice, letting it cook at a gentle (but tremulously passionate) simmer.

Meanwhile, make the salsa by putting the coriander, mint, jalapenos, lime juice and olive oil in the blender. Pulse until smooth-ish. I call this colour Intense Swamp.

When the rice has absorbed the soup and is cooked but still slightly al dente (this means not rice crispies but not porridge either, a happy medium) make the croutons. Heat some olive oil in a small frying pan and add the bread. Season with salt and pepper and turn until they are golden-brown and crunchy. Take them off the heat and then add the grated cheese, allowing it to melt all over them in a sensuous manner.

Pour the soup into bowls and swirl over the salsa and top with the croutons. This soup is genuinely the dogs bollocks. The spicy, acidic salsa cuts through the smoky, sweetness of the soup. Intense flavour bomb. It would also really, really work with tortillas instead of croutons. Put some tortillas topped with the grated cheese under the grill. When the cheese is melted and bubbling put them on the soup and your ready to go…

100_0652Arriba!

footermex

Falafels: An Incoherent Truth

 

falafalThere are, on this planet, only a couple of truths that are universally acknowledged. One of these is that drunk people make a mess. To progress this idea could be to argue that drunk people will make a spectacular mess, merrily, and often in record time. It’s inescapable, and therefore should be embraced whole-heartedly. The fact that drunk people enjoy making a mess is, in fact, the sole reason behind the existence of many of our most celebrated dishes. Do you really think the Mexicans would have invented nachos if they hadn’t invented tequila first? What other purpose does a kebab actually have? Do you think chips and cheese would even exist without drunk people?

And so I bring you falafel wraps. These are the perfect drunken food. DIY wrap-making can be messy at the best of times, even when your sobriety is not actually in question. So you have the added bonus of watching your friends trying to navigate a cheesy, leaking wrap into their silly drunk faces. It’s pretty much the equivalent of giving them a hair-trigger Super Soaker full of hot sauce. Amazing.

RECIPE: (serves 3-4)

Falafel

  • 1 x 400g tin of mixed beans
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tbsp harrissa
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • olive oil

Sides

  • 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 4 spring onions, as above
  • 8 small tortillas
  • 2tbsp mango chutney
  • 250g cottage cheese
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 lime
  • sweetcorn

Drain the chickpeas and the mixed beans in a colander. Make sure all the gunk from the tin has come off, or your falafels will end up smooshy. Nobody wants a smooshy falafel. Put them in the food processor, grate in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Add the harrissa, allspice, flour and coriander and blitz everything together. It doesn’t matter if it it doesn’t have a perfectly smooth consistency, the falafel are actually nicer with a bit of texture, and besides, your drunk, so what do you care?

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Scrape out the mixture and (with slightly wet hands) shape it into 8 to 10 balls. Squish them flat, heat a tbsp of oil in a frying pan and cook the falafel on both sides turning them when they are nice and crispy.

Fry up the bell peppers with the spring onions. It’s alright if the peppers go a little black, they’ll be sweeter that way, so you can let your drunken mind wander… just not too far. Put them in a bowl.

Put the tomatoes, chilli, garlic and some more coriander in the processor with the lime juice. Whiz it up till it’s smooth and salsa-y, season and put it in a serving dish. Mix the cottage cheese with the mango chutney or sweet chilli sauce – both is good trust me, I know it sounds bizarre – and put it into another bowl. Other nice bowls of stuff could be sweetcorn, some chopped cherry tomatoes and grated cheese. I know this already sounds washing up heavy, it’s worth it, I just hope you have polite friends.

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Put the tortillas in a microwave for about 45 seconds, or warm them in the oven. Pop them on a plate and let battle commence.

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I will warn you: Do not serve this to your in-laws unless they are either forgiving, like-minded or suitably plied with alcohol. You are going to end up looking like a toddler with problematic motor skills.

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