Thomasina Miers’ Chorizo and Potato Quesadillas

As I may have mentioned, I don’t think a meal is a real meal if it doesn’t have carbs. There are some who say a meal is not a proper meal without meat. I can do without meat. But carbs? Carbs are the essence of food.

These have double carbs. Potatoes and bread. You know what else has both potatoes and bread? Chip butties. And crisp sandwiches. So you know this is gonna be good. It also has chorizo so if you are feeding someone with the aforementioned “must have meat” issue, this fits the bill.

Thomasina Miers is the creator of Wahaca, the chain of Mexican restaurants. Apparently she won Masterchef in 2005 or something. This is from her book “Mexican Food Made Simple”. A lot of it is not that simple, but this is.

Get yourself some potatoes. Cut them into dice, or smaller-than-dice if you can be bothered. The instructions said just to fry them but I find frying potatoes takes forever so I boiled them for 5 mins. Cut up some chorizo very small. Put it in a nonstick frying pan and fry while your potatoes are cooking. It’ll leak lots of lovely orange fat. Drain your potatoes and put them into the chorizo-y frying pan. Add lots of fresh thyme. Cook until you are sure that the potato is nice and soft.

Get your nice big tortilla wrap, put it into a hot nonstick frying pan (you can put some oil if you like but you don’t need to. Cover with the chorizo and potato mixture. Put grated cheese on top. I also added spring onion.

You’ll see the potato is all nice and orangey. Cover with another tortilla. I also used a small plate to hold the top one down to encourage the whole thing to stick together. Another way to make it stick together better is to use a lot more cheese than I did. That’s also a good option.

Cook like that until you sense that the bottom is brown. I don’t know how you expect to do this. The plate is useful for flipping.

Tah-dah! Now it is flipped. Cook til the other side is that same colour (I already told you, I don’t know how to do this, just use your intuition or something).

You’ll notice that I haven’t said any measurements here. I used a sausage of chorizo about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, double that volume in potato, and a small handful of thyme, to fill 4 tortillas (so two sandwiches). How much cheese did I use? That much  <gestures vaguely>

These are great for a lunch where you’re not sure when you’ll be eating. I made mine for friends who were coming round with a baby in tow. They are nice hot, nice cold, and (much rarer) also nice if they are just warmish. They stay warm well stacked in the oven as in the very top picture.

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Raspberry and lemon emergency sponge

You have people coming round, you want to make a cake, you realise you don’t have anything to make the cake exciting.

Oh, but you DO.

This is the story of a cake that worked much better than expected.

First things first. Oven on to 180C.

My basic sponge cake recipe is in ounces, because it originates from the days when my mum would bakes cakes because that was the cheapest way of putting something into the lunchboxes. So: 3 eggs, 6 ounces each of butter and sugar and self-raising flour. Add a bit more flour because the raspberries are going to leak some liquid out and you don’t want a soggy cake.

You might think that having raspberries lying around is an unusually luxurious state to be in. I think I bought a punnet of raspberries because I was having a friend round for dinner and couldn’t be bothered to make a pudding, so meringue + raspberries + icecream = pudding. In a fit of organisation I did not leave the remainder to go fluffy but stuck them in the bottom drawer of the freezer.

Alternatively it’s possible to buy bags of frozen berries. They’re cheap too.

Mix some berries into your slightly-stiffer-than-normal cake mix. If they are frozen, that’s fine. It might even be better. Put it in a lined loaf tin. Bought paper liners the shape of a loaf tin are your friend here. Any tin at all is fine of course, if you use a flatter tin it’ll cook quicker.

Blob some lemon curd on top. Don’t worry that the jar say 2016 on it. It’s not mouldy, it’s a conserve, that’s means it’s designed to last a long time. Put in oven. Check after 40 mins. Could be closer to an hour. Don’t plan to go out.

It’s done when you put a knife in it and the knife doesn’t come out covered in cake mix. Because all the cake mix is now cake. You know that by now, right?

Here is it. Nearly gone. I guess that worked well.

The Light Years (The Cazalet Chronicles) – Elizabeth Jane Howard

One of my regular complaints when visiting historical sites is that I don’t get enough detail about everyday life. Yes, the tiles are beautiful, but what kind of furniture did people use? Yes, that’s the kitchen, but how did they cook, what did they eat, what time did they get up? Why are there not pictures of how this would look when it’s full of silk curtains and platters of dates?

Some of my curiosity about everyday life in the past is being sated by The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

The Cazalets are a large extended family who regularly get together in one place in sufficient numbers for me to forget which of the boys is the eldest, and which of the small children belongs to which brother.

In 1937, the generations span the times so that grandmother (the Duchy) is still suitably Victorian in her attitudes, while one granddaughter is starting to wear trousers. (shocking, I know) A woman facing an unwanted pregnancy reflects on how many married women have a few children, a large gap, and then one last baby. She can’t quite figure out who she could ask how to become unpregnant.

And the food! Louise learns how to make Bath buns and is rather good at them. Marie biscuits are kept by bedsides. Someone (Polly perhaps?) doesn’t really like milk chocolate but can’t tell her father because he meant it as a kind gesture. Two children on a rotating basis are allowed to eat dinner at the big table, rather than having supper in the nursery.

The Light Years was published in 1990, but the author has lived through these years (her ages approximately matches that of the elder grandchildren) so it combines the authenticity of a contemporary book with a slightly more modern style of writing, and the ability to look back.

If you like this sort of thing, you should read these books. The closest comparison I can think of is Diary of a Provincial Lady, which can either function as a recommendation for this (if you liked that, you might like this) or an additional recommendation,

 

 

Low-knead bread – no really this time

Loyal readers (hah, I just really wanted to write that) will know that I have tried a number of different bread recipes over the years, all hindered by the fact that kneading is BORING and I don’t knead enough. Because it’s boring. And I get fed up.

I’ve tried overnight breads, and “no-knead” breads, and I’ve learned that I don’t like the taste of soda bread. I have not yet tried sourdough but that’s mainly because bollocks to any bread that requires you to start it 3 days ahead of time, or to permanently keep a “starter” alive (I’m not calling it Humphrey or Herman or whatever it is called by the kind of people who refer to it as “friendship cake”).

This recipe works though. And I have not improved my kneading technique or my patience. It does require you to hang about a bit, so it’s a job for a day when you are going to be in, but you can spend most of the day watching Netflix (The Crown, for preference).

The magic ingredient seems to be sour cream. Mix 125g sour cream (just under a small pot – I’ve no idea what you’ll do with the remaining 25g), 100ml boiling water and 150ml cold water (or 250ml warm I guess, but I like the precision this gives for “how warm should it be?). This did not mix nicely but it didn’t matter. Add a sachet of dried yeast and 2tsp each of salt and sugar. Then put in 550g of bread flour and make dough.

I don’t know if ingredients come in different sizes in Australia but 125g of sour cream and 550g of flour are both slightly-annoying measurements for me (flour comes in 1kg or 1.5kg, so can make slightly under 2 or 3 of these). I’ll forgive it though on the basis that it ACTUALLY WORKS. Cover it up and wait a bit. I just draped a tea-towel over the bowl.

It grows a bit even in that ten minutes

It grows a bit even in that ten minutes

After 10 mins, knead for 10 seconds. Yes really, 10 SECONDS. I think I counted 30 “pushes” on the dough, which was probably more than 10 seconds. This is the only time I have ever kneaded for LONGER than I was told.

Cover, wait 10 more mins, knead for 10 seconds again. Cover, wait 10 more mins, knead for 10 seconds again. Cover, wait for an hour, then squish it into a rectangle, roll up like a swiss roll (note to self for next time – put something IN it at this point?), and put into a buttered loaf tin. Cover, wait 90 mins.

Wait for it...

Wait for it…

..Whoosh! Look at that!

…Whoosh! Look at that!

Into oven at 180C fan (everyone has a fan oven these days right? 200C if not fan, if you have an Aga you’re on your own).

45 mins later… BREAD.

Looks like bread on the inside too

Looks like bread on the inside too

It actually looks like a loaf of bread

It actually looks like a loaf of bread

 

How to decide what to eat

The best way to decide what to have for dinner is to first decide what kind of carbs you want.

There are some people who think a meal is not complete without meat. Personally I can do without meat for a meal or two, but I cannot happily do without carbs for very long.

And carbs define the kind of meal you’ll be eating. Will it be a traditional meat-and-two-veg (one of which is of course potatoes)? A steaming bowl of pasta? Ditto noodles? Perhaps noodle soup? Or soup with bread? Or a sandwich? Or what about rice? How do you feel about a pie? A real pie of course, none of these stews-with-lids (although if you are a reprobate who likes that kind of fake pie, the puff pastry “lid” can form a whole new carb category).

My considered opinion is that once you know what kind of carbs you want, you have a much better idea of what to eat. There’s no point eating something if it’s not going to bring you joy, after all.

And because no post is complete without some pictures…

ramen

Some ramen I made recently.img_20160922_201151

Tonight’s pasta

 

“Not pesto” no-mayo potato salad

I realise that ‘s a lot of negatives in the description. And I love mayo and have nothing against pesto. But many people don’t like mayo and so would like a no mayo potato salad. And this is only sort-of-pesto-ish (my guests said “tastes like pesto”, if that helps) , so I felt like describing it as “not pesto” but not unlike pesto.

This also comes under the description of things that I have made in my nutribullet that are not at least half green leafy vegetables. OR DOES IT? Do herbs count? There’s a lot of herb in here.

Anyway -instructions!

Bag of small potatoes. Salad potatoes or new potatoes or Jersey Royals if you are feeling fancy and it’s that time of year. Cut them in half and boil them.

Get your cup of your nutribullet or other-brand cup-blender-thing. Give it 1cm of white wine vinegar (cider vinegar would work too) and 2cm of oil (olive oil probably best but no particular need for extra virgin as you’re putting in lots of other flavour). Add a heaped teaspoon of grainy mustard and a good pinch (or 5 grinds) of salt. Crush in 2 cloves of garlic.

Now go to the sad basil plant on your windowsill and give it a haircut. Or if you have a happy basil plant that will work.Snip off the tops of all of the fronds. This is what basil likes, Every stem that you snip will regrow two and your basil will be much bushier. It’s about meristems or something. Trust me, I have a degree in biology. Pre-cut basil is fine too if you don’t want to grow plants or listen to biology lessons.

When you have a good handful of basil, take the leaves off it. You can be rough and ready here, but separating stems and leaves is worth a little bit of effort.

Put the leaves in the cup with the oil and vinegar and stuff and give it a good whizz until it’s quite smooth and green.

Once the potatoes are eatably-soft, drain them and let them cool a bit, then coat them in your green basil-garlic-not-pesto-vinaigrette.

basil potato salad

Best served warm or cool but not hot.

I think this may be accidentally vegan. Which is the best kind of vegan.

 

In your face, Swiss meringues

I am all-conquering.

I have a variety of whisking machines and I will use them to make you.

Er, sorry, got a bit over-excited there.

You may recall that Swiss meringues tried to kill my food processor, but succeeded only in breaking the drive shaft. Lizard-like, my food processor has grown a new one (I bought it one from espares), but it was clear that this task required a more venerable whisker.

electric hand whisk

Behold, granny’s hand whisk. This machine is definitely older than me. It belonged to my great-grandmother. It can handle anything.

I made the full 115g of egg white this time (4 smallish eggs, if you’re interested) , heated up with 225g sugar (granulated again, I still don’t have caster, I have no particular intention of ever having caster).

Put it in a bowl after the sugar is dissolved but before it starts looking like cooked egg white. Put in headphones and listen to something that will keep you occupied. I chose More or Less from the BBC because I like stats, and telling journalists and politicians that they are wrong.

Whizz it for ages and ages.

upside down meringues

Test if you can turn it upside down.

uncooked purple meringues

Squeeze in some squeezy purple food colouring because FANCY. (Next step actual flavours? Maybe) Blob onto greaseproof paper. Put into an oven that you have already heated to 150C.

Leave in the oven for some amount of time, then turn oven off and leave for some other amount of time.

cooked purple meringues

Look, they actually got bigger! I am all-conquering! etc

swirly purple meringues

Pile ’em up.