So the time and space for blogging has been a bit thin on the ground recently, and I think it’s going to get a whole heap worse before it gets any better. It’s all well and good planning your ideal kitchen but somehow I underestimated the preceding chaos. And that’s saying something considering the background chaos that we’re used to dealing with around here, believe me. So for the next couple of weeks or so (fingers crossed) simple is the name of the game. Don’t even ask about the couple of weeks after that.
So summer has officially shifted over to make way for autumn and now the flimsy clothes have been packed away it’s time to stop all the lounging around (I know I’m finding it hard too), start making the most of all those serious produce gluts and start cooking. I’m not sure about you but I don’t know of a better place to start than with some gorgeous autumnal plums. And cake of course.
I know I’ve talked before about necessity being the mother of all invention on this blog before but never is that more true than in a house filled with boys. Maybe it’s just mine but I’m never sure whether they exist on the same dimension as me. I’m not complaining; it has led to quite a few spectacular culinary discoveries in my house and last week has was no different.
I’m not really that particular when it comes to good food. I like most of it and I like a lot of most of it (moderation is a work in progress for me; serving sizes have never been my strong point) so perhaps it will surprise you to know that I also love lovely little plates of tapas. Possibly because it represents as good a reason as any to sample most of what the menu has to offer but that’s by the by. I’d find it hard though to condense down though to one or two of my favourite dishes; Spanish cooking always seems so undeservedly underrated to me. From the garlicky prawns to the Serrano hams served with various cheeses all the way through to the octopus salads, simple tortillas, anchovies, olives or padron peppers the choices are almost infinite. And hidden in there comes this dish. I couldn’t even dream of claiming this as one of my own as one of my own; even the briefest trip through Spain will reveal hundreds of variations on the theme but this is my take on it. So good that if you don’t fancy preparing the other bits or bobs for a true tapas feast you can serve a soup bowl full of it up rustic style with a hunk of crusty bread on the side. Make it in advance if you’re that organized and let the flavours develop then serve it a bit warmer than room temperature or stick it in an ovenproof dish and crack a couple of eggs into a couple of wells you made for just that purpose and bake for a different version of heuvos rancheros. Your choice. However you serve it it won’t matter. It’s always delicious.
Every so often a few culinary planets align and something magical happens on even the most mundane and boring days. One such moment happened last week. I had a perfectly ripe avocado. Only one. And a perfectly ripe mango. Now I can always find a home for a perfectly ripe mango but only one avocado is slightly harder. In a family our size we need at least two so we can get stuck into some guacamole but waiting for another one to catch up never seems to work for me. Even with the help of the revered brown paper bag and over ripe banana. Of course there was always the option of devouring it mashed on wholemeal toast with some roasted tomatoes (one of my favourites) before anyone got home but I was feeling magnanimous. And summery. A winning combination. The avocado and mango ice cream idea was born.
You’ve got to love the humble courgette or zucchini as it’s known over the water haven’t you? Originally from the Americas, over the centuries the popularity of this firm fleshed fruit masquerading as a vegetable (like the rest of its fradulent family, the squashes) has spread world wide. It’s true that it often doesn’t really shine simply boiled as a veggie side (you should hear the cries of ‘boring!’ when I serve them up like that in my house) probably because of their rather inconvienient tendency to carry on cooking as they sit on the table but they are so versatile that you really shouldn’t feel the need to stop there anyway.
I’ve sung the praises of middle Eastern food before on this blog but I haven’t yet touched on Ful. Ful Medames (also spelt foule mudammas or Ful mudammes) is a mouth wateringly delicious Egyptian breakfast dish popular all over the Levant. The recipes vary as much as the region but essentially it consists of cooked broad (fava) beans blended with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and cumin. A bit of a surprise it hasn’t cropped up here yet then; full as it is with all my favourite flavours. I have to confess though that I hadn’t tried it at all until recently when a good friend of mine (who experienced it first hand from the Syrian refuges she helps out) pointed me in its direction. I owe her; I’ve been hooked ever since my first mouthful and amazed that the rest of the world doesn’t want to start the day with the same style.
The other day I discovered another great ingredient. I’ve never been the biggest fan of peanut butter. I can’t help it, I just find it a little bit too flat tasting. And, yes, I do know I’m swimming against the tide here. But the good news for people like me is that there are now so many other great tasting nut butters out there that you can use instead. Macadamia, cashew and almond are all regulars in my kitchen but a few weeks ago I discovered a new gem which I hadn’t seen anywhere before and that was raw walnut butter.
Now I have written a couple of posts before about breakfast and I think I’ve made it my opinion on breakfast cereals known. Unless you are buying the really over processed, brightly coloured, so sweet it’ll make your face pucker kind, cereal/ muesli comes in boxes that clearly were not meant to feed a family of 6 (or at least not a family of 6 that doesn’t live in a supermarket) and they are incredibly expensive. But even I have to admit that they are unbelievably convenient. Hence the reason we all keep going back to the cereal cupboard every morning.
Am I the only person in the world who has missed out on this cake in a jar trend? Apparently so. My teenage son caught onto to it way before me (and he’s not well known for his love of all things kitsch and cute) and challenged me on Facebook to knock him up a couple. Yeah, yeah, I said, I’ll get to it. That was a month ago, but this week as I was still ‘convalescing’ (read having a very lazy week) I decided to give them a go. It was almost worth having the flu for. We haven’t looked back, and have been gorging ourselves on cakes in jar every lunch time since.