When I was at university (and, I would like to add did not know that I shouldn’t eat wheat) my friends and I would walk down the hill from our halls and go to the all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant at the bottom of the hill. It was quite nice really. Not a take-away, an aesthetically pleasing low-lit set up where you could get a white box and jam in as much food as possible to take home for a fixed price (or eat there if you so wished.) So we would go and get a wide variety of dishes from prawn toasts to Singapore noodles and head back up the hill with our boxes to eat our spoils in the warmth of someone’s room, usually with some sort of American film.
Gradually however, I went off the idea. It’s not that they changed, more that I did. Or maybe they did change… Now, being a food lover, the all-you-can-eat experience should be one which is naturally enticing. What could be better after all than food that keeps going and going and going? Here’s an answer: food that doesn’t make you ill?! It boils down to this- why is there so much MSG in some sorts of cuisine? Why can’t we enjoy beautiful once-healthy dishes from China without being pumped full of additives. MSG is just something which I cannot understand the appeal of. Not only can you taste it but if the dishes were being cooked authentically, then there should not be any need of a flavour enhancer because the subtle combinations of vegetables, rice, meat and sauces should speak for themselves.
I went to an all-you-can-eat restaurant with a group of people the other night. Two not over-crowded plates, and a pudding, though I was full by the first. It was the first time I had been to that type of restaurant since university, so (sadly in terms of my age) around 5 years ago. I chose carefully; mostly Indian food with a tiny bit of Thai and a little Chinese. I was not only full by the first plate I might add, but I was starting to feel ill. It wasn’t wheat, but my stomach started hurting and I felt an increasing sense of exhaustion. The next day I was nauseas and was ill before I could have breakfast. I won’t go into details. I think MSG should be illegal. I want to be able to go out for dinner and even if I am making unhealthy choices, know that the food is unhealthy in of itself (because it’s fried or covered in butter), not know that I will be ill because my dinner is smothered in chemicals.
End of rant.
I know it sounds strange. Let me explain… I had a fish pie mix from Ocado. I was poaching the fish in peppered milk. I had added leeks, dill and lemon zest but I couldn’t find the potatoes! Somewhere in the house are our carefully stored garden-dug potatoes, but I couldn’t see where. Thus I needed an alternative. I thought that pasta or noodles would not do justice to the comfort-food element of the dish. It isn’t that pasta isn’t comforting, it’s beautiful…covered in a thick sauce or served with spiced sausage or sea food (thank you Carluccio’s) but I feel that it should be a dish in itself or be served as a side, not as a topping. I had just made my own version of gorditas for lunch tomorrow, to go with salsa. I had again, not been able to find the ingredients I wanted, so they are made from gluten free bread flour with herbs and buttermilk. Purists will of course say that these are not gorditas, and they have a point. This was however what they were inspired by. Anyway, I thought it would just be too bready and would potentially take ages to cook (as opposed to how I was cooking the gordita mix already- by frying). So, I remembered I had some coarse cornmeal in the cupboard from when I made fried green tomatoes. So, I mixed some with bread and made a sort of mash alternative dumpling topping thing. Hopefully, it will be a good alternative to actual potatoes and not be an all-out disaster.
Having gorged myself last week on gluten-free salami pizza topped with what I could find in the fridge (the original and not necessarily to be repeated combination of turkey slices, Indian takeaway spinach side dish leftovers and gem lettuce,) this week the food so far has improved! I mean, admittedly it started getting better from the weekend onwards, with a combination of salad with mandarin dressing, a cheese board, and Saturday night dinner of sausages, celeriac mash, onion confit and red cabbage gravy and broccoli. Oh, and follow that with my Mum’s really immense Caribbean stuffed beef. It’s amaaaaazing. Slow cooked beef stuffed with prunes and olives and all sorts of amazing things, with a red pepper sauce. Compared to that, last night’s meal does sound a little dull, but I was pleased with it! Ocado had an offer on gluten free gnocchi, and I was rather excited, so I bought three varieties. I had tomato gnocchi with an onion confit (can you tell what I have open in the fridge?), tomato puree, mushroom and cream cheese sauce. This also worked well cold as today’s lunch.
I am now dreaming of Thursday and the meal we are having at a friend’s house. We are crashing their house and taking dinner. Not a bad deal. It’s going to be something with pheasant (we have a freezer full, something about living in the countryside) but I haven’t decided what yet. For pudding I have evaporated and condensed milk in the freezer, so I was wondering whether to make a banoffee pie, as this would certainly please my husband. Other ideas I’m looking at are here: http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/article/clever-things-make-tin-carnation-milk.html
I know it’s a little way into 2015 before wishing you a ‘Happy New Year’, but let me do so now.
My new favourite thing- cheese and chutney. “That’s old!” I hear you cry! However, having spent years as someone who looked down on chutney as inferior to jam, I have now been converted. For really, what could be better than eating up your (copious amounts of) Christmas cheddar with various varieties of chutney. Be that the homemade spiced tropical fruit variety (which we apparently gave away every single jar of,) the garlic-tomato variety which was given to us in a three set or the cheapest one we could find on Ocado, I am proud to say I am now a chutney-lover. It’s spicy or sharp or spiced but all round I love that it cuts through creamier textures and provides a contrast. Therefore my first packed lunch of 2015 was… a cheese and chutney sandwich. Old school rules.
In other news, New Year’s feast 2014 was as follows…
My Mum’s massively amazing butter fried foie gras with confit d’oignion (another thing we made for Christmas but actually selfishly kept most jars of) on toast
Haggis ravioli- my husband’s hand made buckwheat pasta stuffed with a creme fraiche, haggis, carrot and chestnut puree mix, served with an (overly peppery) pepper sauce, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and another squirt of chestnut puree. Oh, and it was on a bed of carrots. Or as I like to call it, a nest.
Wild boar with a very rich red wine and mushroom sauce.
Chocolate souflees inside dark un-sugared cocoa-crepes. My sisters invention- oven baked. Un-sugared crepes make a surprisingly un-filling pudding and an unsurprisingly good next day tea snack also.
Chocolate covered fruit- Sharron, strawberries, satsumas and mango.
And so it continues…
Sweet fritters with a caramel sauce http://simply-delicious-food.com/2013/08/30/grans-pumpkin-fritters-pampoen-koekies/ These do look rather like Swazi dough balls (more rightly known as fat cakes) http://cgesouthernafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/fat-cakes-recipe.html
Garlic houmous http://pinchofyum.com/roasted-garlic-rosemary-pumpkin-hummus
Latte syrup http://www.accordingtoelle.com/homemade-pumpkin-spice-latte-syrup/
And some gluten free treats http://www.theroastedroot.net/50-gluten-free-pumpkin-recipes/