Posts Tagged ‘olive oil’

My kitchen rules

Well, they’re not rules as such. It’s more of a theory on how I cook/bake. It’s not even a theory. That makes it sound like a well reasoned method with some philosophy behind it. It’s actually more of a control freak thing. I hate people sneakily adding things to my food that I didn’t ask them to put there.

Things I do not use in my kitchen.

1. Self raising flour
What an abomination! If I wanted baking powder in my flour, I’d bloody well put it there myself. By using plain flour and bicarb, I can regulate how much is in there and control the end result. With self raising, I know they probably mix it together pretty well, but the proportions of flour to raising agent aren’t going to be exactly the same in each batch so you lose control of the end result. I also find my otherwise smooth cake gets bumps all over the surface when I use self raising. Urgh.

2. Baking powder
Again, someone else has mixed bicarb with something else and packaged it for me. If I wanted my bicarb mixed with other stuff, I’ll do it myself, thank you.

3. Salted butter
Stop adding stuff to my food! If I wanted salt in there, I’d have put it myself. Actually, I make my own butter at home most of the time, by whipping double cream, so I know there’s no salt in it anyway.

4. Pre-mixed spice mixes
A generic ‘piri-piri’ spice makes me cringe. A curry powder sets me on edge. When did we start having to conserve our arm energy to the extent where taking five or six spices down from the cupboard became too exhausting and we opted for the catch-all curry powders? If you have some curry powder or garam masala or dried herb mix in your cupboard, I’d like you to go and get it out. Read the ingredients on the label. Next time you go shopping, just buy those herbs/spices individually. You may find there’s something in there you like loads, oregano, for example. Next time you make something that requires dried herb mix, you can put in more of the oregano and less of the other stuff. Take back control of your dinner! These generic spice mixes mean giving control of the taste of your dinner to someone who has no idea what you like eating. I do have a few mixes I’ve made myself in a salt and pepper mill. A Moroccan one, for example, which had cracked nutmeg, blades of mace, chilli flakes, whole allspice, whole peppercorns, etc, so when I’m making Moroccan food, it gets all crunched in there, fresh, and hasn’t been ground months ago, half way across the world.

5. Table salt
Another energy-conserving thing, I think. It’s far too much effort to have lovely chunks of rock salt and crush them over a plate of food or use a grinder. One must have it pre-ground into tiny dots and just sprinkle it. I despair. Let’s get back to grinding.

6. Margerine/vegetable/olive oil spread
The spread things that are a mix between butter and vegetable oil are pretty atrocious. If I wanted vegetable fat in my butter, I’d bloody well put it there myself. The olive oil spreads that are being advertised as super healthy, eurgh. If the olive oil in there was good high quality, they’d be selling it as proper olive oil and getting a lot more money for it. The olive oil that makes it’s way into the spreads is like the offcuts of cake that you nibble to test it. It’s the waste product. If I wanted to eat olive oil so much, I’d just get the good stuff out of the bottle in my kitchen.

7. Bolognese sauce
Omg, the easiest thing ever to make at home. Half tomatoes into a pan and heat gently til they break down. And any herbs or spices that you like and season well. Done.

8. Vanilla extract
Easiest. Thing. Ever. And so much cheaper to make the proper way. Enough of this £10 fancy Dr. Oetker stuff. The amount of extra ingredients in that stuff is ridiculous. Vanilla extract is just vanilla pods preserved in vodka. On my shelf is a bottle of good quality vodka jammed with scored vanilla pods which has been slowly brewing for over a year now. It’s that simple. When it gets low, I add more vodka. When it starts to look pale, I add more vanilla pods.

9. Grated cheese
Pre grated cheese… Vomit! What an awful awful invention. It’s dry, the texture is hard and plasticky. I mean, it’s just an atrocity. Take a block of cheese and grate it. It takes about 30 seconds. Are our lives really so busy that we need this time saving device? The cheese that you get pre grated is barely even worth it. It’s a waste. I’d much rather have no cheese at all. There’s no flavour. There’s no freshness. Pre grated cheese is like one big sorry mess. Can we ban this via an act of parliament please?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of my little rant against the food industry. I’d like to think it’s because I’m terribly Mother Earth-y and love to make things from scratch but I think it’s more personal than that. I think it’s more about being annoyed when people think they know what I want. How dare people put salt in my butter?! Did they ask me?! No! How rude!

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Nanny Rhino and the three bird roast

My excuse fobbing you off with my Nanny Rhino entry today instead of writing a proper blog entry?

I woke up late.

Feeble.

So anyway, today it’s about duck. Enjoy.

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Duck has been a recent revelation to me. My interactions with it have been few but all extremely enjoyable. I first ate duck at a small restaurant near a yoga class I used to take every week. It was Bikram yoga which, for those of you who don’t know, is like yoga on acid. It’s in a heated room and is like a fight to the death, a struggle between good and evil, between you and the heat, to win and make it to the 90 minute mark without having passed out or vomited. If you make it to this 90 minute mark, you feel invincible. Shaky on your legs, but invincible. And really damn hungry! I would wobble out of the class, change and leave, wide-eyed, looking for the nearest place I could get food. I would have taken anything on offer but thankfully, the nearest thing was actually a really great little restaurant. I’d order about four things off the menu, blinded by my intense hunger, not even sure what I’d ordered.

 

Quite often, a total surprise to me, a duck stir fry would arrive and I would consume it in one inhalation. It was so amazing. Inspired by this, I would occasionally buy a duck and hoisin sauce wrap so my mind had started to pair the two together.

 

Then last Christmas, a neighbour had recommended I buy a turkey crown for Christmas Day lunch as a full turkey is really too big for two. So off I went to Waitrose, on Christmas Eve, to buy my turkey crown. Surprise of the century when I got there – no turkey crowns! Well, who would have believed that on Christmas Eve, the shop would have sold out of turkey. Clearly, my forward-planning skills have much improvement to make.

 

I looked sadly at the shelves, which were mostly bare, and spotted two candidates for Christmas lunch. One was a stuffed duck crown with a pork and orange stuffing. The other was a three bird roast; a pheasant, stuffed into a partridge, stuffed into a duck. Noticing all the wide-eyed panic around me, I grabbed both, held on tight and called my other half.

 

I’ve got stuffed duck crown or a three bird roast! Which do you want? There’s not much time! I might not make it out with anything!”

 

The, uh, the three bird roast! The three bird roast!” he yelled. “Good luck!”

 

Throwing the crown back on the shelf, I made a mad dash for the tills, holding my three bird roast protectively. A few people made eyes at it, longingly, but I pulled my jacket around it and kept my head down until my money was handed over and I was out of the shop, on the home straight.

 

That duck was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. I made a simple carrot and turnip mash on the side and we used the roasting juices to make gravy and we just ate and ate and ate. I couldn’t believe how amazing it was.

 

The following recipe is another thing I made to impress my brother and his wife when they came over for dinner. It’s a guesswork version of the first duck I ate, post-yoga.

 

Duck stir-fry

Olive oil

8 mini duck breast fillets (or two large, with the fat removed)

A few spring onions

A handful of oyster mushrooms

1 orange/red pepper

Hoisin sauce (plum sauce will also be fine)

1 white onion

1 garlic clove

Thick egg noodles

Sesame seeds

Put some hot water in a pan to boil.

Put a splash of olive oil into a wok and add the garlic clove and the onion, finely chopped. When everything has warmed up, add your pepper, sliced into long batons and mix everything around a bit. Add your duck fillets in, depending on the size, you can slice them smaller, if they look a bit too large.

While the duck is cooking, put your egg noodles into your pan of water, which should be boiling by now and give them a few minutes to cook. When cooked to al dente, drain the noodles and let them sit for a second.

Add the chopped oyster mushrooms to your pan with the duck and check your duck to see if it is cooked through. If it is, give the mushrooms a minutes or two to soften. Add your hoisin sauce in and stir immediately so everything gets coated. Then add your noodles in and mix again, so the sauce is evenly coating everything. Lastly, add in the spring onions, finely sliced, toss everything around a bit and serve, finishing with some sesame seeds, sprinkled on top.

I must just add a little aside to this Nanny Rhino post because my brother, having eaten the whole thing and the main and the dessert, asked, as we were sitting chatting, what was in the duck starter. As I listed the ingredients, he went “O! Mushrooms! I thought that was just bits of fat off the duck and I didn’t want to say anything.”

 

So I apparently come across as the type of woman who would serve up a stir-fry which had slabs of fat in it. I don’t know whether to be a little depressed over that.