1 May 2015

25 Questions - All About Food!

I got 25 questions...


I talk about food a lot on my blog. I have some explaining to do!
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1. What is your favourite breakfast?

Fresh watermelon with coconut yoghurt. My fave breakfast during the summer!

Or if I wake up and feel filthy, I make a giant stack of American-pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. Best. Sunday. Ever.


☁ 2. How do you have your coffee? 

With cream and two spoons of brown sugar. Naughty - I know - but I don't really drink coffee all the time!

I used to adore a cup of coffee in the morning with a pastry and a cigarette - a French breakfast - but I'm smoke-free these days.


☁ 3. What is your favourite sandwich? 


A crisp sandwich. Whoever made the first crisp sandwich has revolutionised the sandwich-eating experience 4EVA.

Thick, white bread, buttered, with a slice of ham, and a whole bag of chunky McCoy's Salt & Vinegar crisps. I dread to say it, but it's my 'manwich'.


☁ 4. Soup or salad? 


Soup! Soup! So tasty. Soup! Soup! So spicy! Carrot and coriander. Chilli chowder. CROUTON! CROUTON!

In all seriousness, I adore a bowl of soup in the winter! I like to make a huge pan of soup to last me a week, so that every time I go back to it, the flavours become more and more intense and delicious! 

Fresh tomato soup with plenty of added chilli, a swirl of green pesto and eaten with a toasted cheese sandwich; it totally gets my furnace roaring!



5. Do you love mother's cooking?

...lol

My mam has a very 'Irish' diet - potatoes, meat, starchy vegetables, bread, etc. They're all things I like, don't get me wrong, but when you eat it all the time you feel kinda stuffy and bloated.

She's not very fond of exotic or 'continental food'. She has very old-fashioned tastes. She doesn't usually like any of the things I cook, but I don't take it personally really!


☁ 6. Sweet or Savoury? 


Sweet. You need sweetness in your life.


☁ 7. Which world food is your favourite? 


I love trying food from all over the world! I tend to go through phases, but I always find myself going back to Lebanese, Greek or Moroccan food. It tastes so wholesome, healthy yet has tonnes of flavour. *drool*



☁ 8. What is your favourite food movie? 


I hate talking about this film, because it makes me sound like one of those cliché, 'Namaste' traveller hippie types (I dunno, maybe I am), but my best food film 'Eat Pray Love'.



I first watched that film at a pretty mixed-up time in my life. I was in my final year of university, in an unhappy relationship and was feeling trapped and a bit directionless. This film was about a woman who was in pretty a similar situation to me, who escaped into the world to reawaken her senses. It taught me the idea that food ties in so much culture and exploration in its own right, and eating the right food can transport you anywhere! 

It's an idea I still live by today, and probably will for a long time.


☁ 9. What is your ultimate guilty pleasure? 


Easy! Sweet BBQ Pulled Pork, stuffed into freshly-baked baguettes with pickled onions. I usually make a huge pan of it and I will eat it all to myself. It's a naughty pleasure indeed, but I never feel too guilty about it! 




☁ 10. What was the worst meal you've ever had? 


I was studying for my A-levels, and a school friend invited me to her house for the afternoon to revise for our final exams.

After studying for a little while, she made us some lunch. She sat down with a chicken kiev, vegetables and fries, and gave me a bowl of plain penne pasta with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Was I her war hostage? I ate the whole thing and pretended to enjoy it. I would never ever treat a house guest like that - if you come to my house, I'll always share my food with you, even if I actually have very little.

Funnily enough, me and this girl are no longer friends!


☁ 11. Home cooking or eating out? 


Eating out is great. It's nice to get dressed up, go out and try something new that you probably wouldn't have at home. However, I think home cooking is so underrated. That's why I like sharing recipes! People should be enticed to try new food, with recipes that are straight-forward, require no massive amount of technical skill and that use easy-to-access ingredients. I reckon so many people are intimidated by cooking and think of it as something that should be left to the professionals. NO.

Cooking should be relaxing, experimental and fun. Be playful with it. You don't have to know everything about food. I love cooking, but I don't know how to fillet a fish and I don't know the difference between the many cuts of steak. That's what Google is for!

(sirloin...ribeye...tender?...is 'tender' one of them? I dunno.)


☁ 12. What is your favourite restaurant? 


Blue Sky Cafe, in Bangor, Wales. 

I lived there for 4 years while I attended university, and 'getting a Blue Sky' was the ultimate, indulgent treat when I was a student (not for the calories, but the money!) It was a small cafe, hidden away in a back alley that served fantastic food, coffee and cakes. They would offer one-off specials every now and again so there was always something new and exotic to try. 



I miss that place SO much.

☁ 13. What is your favourite ice cream flavour? 


I like allllll flavours of ice cream! Ice cream is my all time favourite thing to eat, even in winter!



If I had to pick one flavour, it'd have to be pistachio! Delicately nutty and eye-catchingly green!

☁ 14. What is your favourite cooking utensil? 

My rolling pin!

It's a very old rolling pin. It might have even belonged to my great-grandmother! There are a lot of memories attached to that rolling pin. One time, there were two lads stealing clothes from our washing line, so my mam ran out and chased after them with said rolling pin. 


☁ 15. What is your favourite cocktail? 


Anything that reminds me of holidays! So I'd go for Piña Colada or a Strawberry Daiquiri.

☁ 16. What is your favourite snack? 


I love to snack on anything that is small and nibbly. I like to cut up a pitta bread into little triangles, toast them, and eat them with houmous and some black olives. It's a pretty big snack, but it doesn't feel too naughty. ;)



Or when I can't be arsed: a whole packet of chocolate chip cookies!


☁ 17. What is your favourite pizza topping? 


I've always loved Hawaiian (Ham & Pineapple). I really dig fruit on pizza.

The best pizzas I've ever eaten were Fig & Ham (Greece) and Rabbit & Banana (Spain)




☁ 18. Which foods do you hate? 


Seafood - unless it's covered in chilli - that's a whole other story!

Pears. If you locked me in a room with a bomb, and the only way to escape was to eat a whole pear, I'd be so dead.

Also, liquorice. Cannot stand the stuff. I'd rather eat my own belt (I saw a woman do that on MTV once - anything is possible.)


☁ 19. What is the most difficult thing you've ever cooked? 


A soft-boiled egg.



Seriously bro, that shit is fucking HARD!


☁ 20. What is the craziest thing you've ever eaten? 


Alligator! There is a restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya called 'Carnivore', an all-you-can-eat buffet which serves all kinds of weird stuff, from giraffe to ostrich.

Alligator was kinda alright. Bit like eating a shoe.


☁ 21. How much do you spend on food shopping each week? 


I spend about £30-40 on food just for me. I find it very hard to scrimp on food! Even when I was a skint university student, I would rather have skipped a night of clubbing than had an empty fridge!


☁ 22. What is your favourite cup of tea? 


I love green tea. I tend to buy the one that is blended with jasmine because I find it pretty therapeutic to drink. It's really nice with a splash of pomegranate juice too - which makes it very soothing and very Persian!



☁ 23. What is your favourite flavour of crisps? 


Salt & Vinegar.

I'm obsessed with salt and vinegar. If I were captured by cannibals, I'd demand to be rubbed with salt and vinegar before they chow down on my soft, fatty flesh. I would be really delicious.


☁ 24. What would be your last meal on Death Row? 


Starter: Bruschetta with baby tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto and gallons of balsamic vinegar.
Main: Chocolate gateau, with all the cream scraped out and whole bars of chocolate slid between the layers.
Dessert: Dozen-box of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

(No lie, I just had a HUGE heart palpitation-thing writing this answer! Now I have a headache.)


☁ 25. What is the most embarrassing thing you like to eat? 

Tuna & Sweetcorn Mayonnaise with pasta. 

People seem to think it's revolting but I just LOVE it. It's not attractive. It has the sex appeal of a prostate exam. I take tinned tuna, sweetcorn, full-fat mayonnaise, wholegrain mustard, tonnes of vinegar, tonnes of black pepper and pickled onions, mix it all up and spread it over huge tubes of rigatoni pasta. I enjoy eating this out of a mixing bowl when nobody else is around. They never have to know. Until now. ;)


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I hope you enjoyed these answers! Let me know if there is anything you agree on. I like knowing about people with similar tastes. It makes me feel a little less of a freak!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony :)

29 April 2015

Pharaoh's Pudding (Egyptian Umm Ali)

The lovechild of baklava and bread & butter pudding, born in the land of the pyramids.


Pharaoh's Pudding is a pudding fit for, well...

... a Pharaoh!

We take buttery croissants, strew them with pistachios and almonds, drench it all in thick milk spiced with vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom, before finally roasting it all in a hot oven. It's deluxe, exotic and it feels like the warmest embrace in the mouth!


This pudding is inspired by Umm Ali - the national dessert of Egypt - which has been around since ancient Egypt. Modern Umm Ali is typically made from puff pastry, various nuts, dried fruits, milk and spices. There are many ways of making 'Umm Ali', and an Egyptian may well have a freak-attack at my take on it. My recipe is no way a traditional Umm Ali, but I have taken the best flavours and essences of that dessert and made it much friendlier and quicker for you to make.


Traditional Umm Ali normally asks for puff or filo pastry, but I've replaced it with croissants! It's just easier to use croissants, and it's so much quicker as you don't need to fanny around with rolling out and baking puff pastry. Umm Ali also asks for raisins. I decided to leave raisins out of my recipe simply because they remind me of the nasty ones you get in bread & butter pudding. Bread & butter pudding was a hugely popular dessert in the UK at one point, but is now considered 'retro' and a bit gauche. I like bread & butter pudding really, but I don't tend to shout about it. I completely resent snobbery when it comes to food - but let's be real - bread & butter pudding is the 'sweatpants + no underwear' of the dessert world. By leaving out the dried fruit, this Pharaoh's Pudding is a far cry from that trashy, grubby stigma!


Unfortunately, this Pharaoh's Pudding doesn't keep for long - it becomes very dense once it cools down - so I definitely wouldn't recommend making this in advance for anything. However, I would totally recommend making it at a moment's notice, in a small batch just for yourself and a couple of others to enjoy for supper, in a bowl with some vanilla ice cream.

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What You'll Need:
(To serve 3-4 or people)

5-6 Small Croissants
1 can of Evaporated Milk
75g of Pistachios
50g of Flaked Almonds
2 tablespoons of White Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 pods of Cardamom
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
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STEP 1: Find a small roasting pan/dish - anything that's at least one-inch deep and will make a snug home for 5-6 needy croissants


Tear up your croissants into chunky nuggets, and tuck them into your dish so that they're snug but not squashed.



STEP 2: Prepare your nuts!


Sprinkle most - but not all - of your flaked almonds and rubbled/chopped pistachios over the croissants, and poke around a bit to tuck the nuts between the cracks and crevices.



 Keep a few nuts back to sprinkle over your creation when it emerges from the oven.

STEP 3: Let's make our spiced milk - it's very easy!


Empty your can of evaporated milk into a saucepan and start heating it on a low heat.



In the meantime, add your cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom (make sure you burst the cardamom pods first) into your milk.



Add your two tablespoons of sugar; I used brown sugar to add some richness, but white sugar is perfectly fine!


Heat everything for about 10 minutes on a low heat so all of the spices can infuse. Remember to remove the cardamom pods afterwards! Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180C/350F.



STEP 4: Pour your spiced milk over your pan of croissants, making sure to coat every nugget of croissant so nothing stays dry.



Take a spoon and gently pat everything down to soak in the milk.


Sprinkle a little sugar over the top to make the surface nice and crisp!

STEP 5: Place your pan of goodness in the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes until it is golden brown and toasted on the surface, then take it out.


STEP 6: Sprinkle over the leftover almonds and pistachios from earlier, and you're good to serve up straight away!


Get your plates and cutlery ready!



Serve it with splash of cold milk (so good!) or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The hot'n'cold thing is one of the best things about life in my opinion!

Hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Anthony :)




16 April 2015

Norwegian Pepper Almond Shortbread

A hamper of sweet, peppered joy that sings of Norwegian fjords.


When I was a kid, my dad took me to visit my family in Norway. We stayed on their farm outside Kristiansand, the mouth of the gorgeous world-renowned fjords. It was like nothing I'd experienced before. We'd go for walks through towering forests - I'd never seen an actual forest before! I discovered a lot of nature: how to fish for crabs; how to set traps for wild animals; even how to hunt deer!

Anyways, aside from all of the fresh air, I discovered a lot of really cool food there. Of all things, Norway is where I discovered mayonnaise for the very first time! Mayonnaise was sold in toothpaste tubes, which made it even more fun to eat, kinda like Frubes, but for fat kids! Besides that, I also remember eating these tasty, buttery cookies. They tasted kinda spicy, and I remember being told afterwards that they had pepper in them! As a little kid, that blew my mind. That was the first time I'd seen the boundaries blurred between the worlds of sweet and savoury. It felt kinda naughty, but I've gotten pretty comfortable with the idea ever since!


These cookies, which I found out were called 'Pepperkaker' in Norwegian, turn out to be a true Scandinavian taste. In Norway and Sweden, they use pepper just like we might use ginger: for it's warming, tingling heat - exactly what you need for their cold, dark winters. Pepperkaker also use cardamom seed, which is a major flavouring in Scandinavian cooking. You'd never think so. You'd probably associate cardamon with Indian food, but in fact, Scandinavia takes up half of the world's demand for cardamom!


These cookies are hearty, buttery, crunchy and have one hell of an aromatic attitude. They're like nothing you will have tasted - harmonious and summery, yet tinglingly spicy and warming. They're a pleasure to eat in summer as they would be in winter. Best of both worlds if you ask me, and what's more: they make your house smell fucking incredible when they're in the oven!


Anyways, I'll quit yapping now! Grab your oven-mitts and come with me...
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What You'll Need:
(for 20 aromatic, Nordic shortbread cookies)

150g Butter (NOT margarine)
60g White Sugar
150g Plain Flour
50g Ground Almonds
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of freshly-crushed Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Lemon Zest
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1. First we need to cream together our butter and sugar.


Weigh out your butter and sugar, and churn them together with a study spoon until you have a thick, buttercup cream.




2. Now that our fat and sugar is sorted out (the finest things in life!), it's time to flavour it!

Add your ground cardamom to your mixture. You can buy cardamom that has been already ground, but I only had pods. If you can only get your hands on pods, simply burst the shell open and shake out the little black grains, and discard the shell. The little black grains are your cardamom!



Add your crushed black pepper.


Add a pinch of lemon zest (add as much as you like - it's to taste.)



And finally, add your vanilla!


Mix everything until your flavours are evenly dispersed.


3. Next, add your ground almonds, and mix until you have a slightly thicker paste.


4. Now weigh out your flour, and add it to your mixture.


Mix well until you end up with a single ball of soft, moist dough.


5. Tip your dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently spread it with your hands.


Once it's reasonably flat, softly run a rolling pin over it until it flattens to roughly 1cm thick.


Take a sharp knife (a one without teeth is best, as it will tug at the dough) and cut a few lines into your shortbread, so you can get an idea of how many units you will get.


You can cut them into bars, or into rounds with a biscuit cutter - it's totally up to you and your imagination!

6. Place your dough shapes on a greaseproof baking tray, about 1-2cm apart.



Pop your tray of shortbread dough into the fridge for 30 minutes, so they can firm up before baking. You can preheat your oven in the meantime to 180C/350F.


7. After 30 minutes, take your shortbread dough out of the fridge, and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.


Absolutely don't worry if they're still a little soft in the centre - they will firm up as they cool down.

8. And you're done! You can eat them plain straight away (they're GORGEOUS when they're still buzzing from the oven!)


I personally decorated mine with a smattering of wet icing and a few flaked almonds glued onto them.


During Christmas in Scandinavia, they tend to pipe fine, sophisticated icing patterns onto their cookies, which you can totally try your hand at but...

Life is just too short, especially when warm shortbread is concerned!


Enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Anthony :)