Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

Parenting in the Imperfect / Nutella Macaroons with White Chocolate Ganache

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children.” John Steinbeck

My three-year old son spent most of today with at least one hand down the back of his nappy or up his nose. Although I can admire his tenacity, I felt the need to gently and persistently steer him away from this new activity. Partly because I can’t keep an eye on everything he touches after; and partly because the only other part of his body he’s currently obsessed with is the inside of his mouth. And he gives me lots of kisses, which can turn into licks. Just one of the many joys that come with parenting a toddler…

His other new activity’s opening his mouth as wide as possible and yelling a single note as loudly as he can. Mostly in response to something he doesn’t want to hear. Which, these days, could be just about anything. He has no compunction about doing this in the car, in a cafe, in the supermarket. I believe his preference is somewhere public and definitely where others are quiet.

I was laughing with a fellow mother the other day about our opinions on parenting before we had children. Before my son was born, I was judgemental towards parents who allowed their children to use electronics, once staring in horror at a family allowing their two-year old to use an iPad for an entire breakfast. My child was never going to have a dummy. My child was going to sleep through at 6 weeks thanks to letting him cry himself to sleep. My child was going to only eat organic, biodynamic produce, prepared entirely from scratch by me and was never, never going to have sugar, salt or preservatives in food. Before he was born I seriously considered cloth nappies and unpainted, Scandinavian wooden toys. I briefly played with the idea of changing all our cleaning products to white vinegar and baking soda, with the occasional whiff of diluted eucalyptus oil. He’d never have a temper tantrum because I’d read all the right books. I’d never bribe him to behave. I would exude patience, love and tolerance at all times.

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Three years on, as he’s eating chocolate covered sultanas (totally a fruit in there), watching his second hour of television (Dora’s educational, right?), wearing clothes probably made in terrible sweat shops in a third world country (Kmart have trolleys with child seats – my new essential for a shop), with an ugly plastic toy xylophone that keeps him happily entertained for the 20 minutes it takes for me to have a shower; I’m so very grateful that I’ve learned to be happy about being an imperfect parent. And beyond grateful for the parents who snort with laughter when I tell them about this, before responding with tales of their children sharing bites of food with dogs, of co-sleeping, of owning 14 types of dummy, of fish finger dinners and of having watched every episode of Peppa Pig… twice…

As part of my softening to all parenting ideas that involve parenting as happily as possible, my boy and I share a love for these macaroons. Hazelnut and chocolate is a completely delicious combination, as the Italians discovered many years ago by creating Nutella. As a side note; there are macaroons and macarons, two completely different nibbles. Macarons are the slightly fussy, often poorly made meringue biscuit sandwiched with something creamy. Macaroons are a very easy-to-make, robust meringue biscuit; super-light in texture, packed with flavour and last happily for several weeks in an airtight container  — perfect for toddlers (and adults) who need to be bribed out of a brewing temper tantrum (yup, I do that too) or for afternoons when your friends drop by and the only other food in the house is a honey sandwich…

Enjoy.

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Nutella Macaroons

  • 250g (9oz) hazelnut meal
  • 125g (4.5oz) icing (powdered) sugar
  • 50g (2oz) cocoa powder
  • A pinch of sea (kosher) salt
  • 150g (5.5oz) egg whites (about 4 egg whites)
  • 25g (1oz) caster (superfine) sugar

Preheat the oven to 200˚C and line two baking trays with baking paper

Place the hazelnut meal and salt in a bowl

Sift in the icing sugar and cocoa powder and stir to combine

Place the egg whites and caster sugar in a separate bowl and whisk together until soft peaks form

Gently fold in the hazelnut mix

Spoon into a piping bag and pipe walnut-sized balls onto the trays, about 5cm apart (if you don’t have a piping bag, you can shape using two teaspoons. The only warning I have with this is that when I tried it this way they looked like… and I don’t know another way to say this… cow pats. Yes, they still taste amazing but they will look slightly dung-like. My son thinks this is hilarious and now won’t let me pipe them. You have been warned.)

Decrease the oven temperature to 160˚C and place the trays in the oven, baking for 25-30 minutes or until the macaroons are lightly coloured and dry to the touch

Cool on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely

White Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • 440g (15.5oz) white chocolate (choose real chocolate, check on the ingredients that it contains cocoa butter)
  • 150ml (5.5oz) double cream (at least 35% fat)
  • Small pinch salt
  • 5ml (½ tsp) vanilla essence

Heat up your cream until it almost starts to boil and then pour over the chocolate

Let it sit for 30 seconds and then stir

If there are still lumps of white chocolate you can microwave it for 10 seconds and stir it again until it’s smooth

Leave it to cool

Using a palette knife (really any blunt knife will do), smear the ganache onto the macaroons in quantities and patterns that make you happy

Use for all your most important bribes.

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Lunch or Dinner, Savoury, Super Easy

A Faint Hum / Roast Pumpkin & Goats Cheese Pasta

Sickness and exhaustion from my toddler’s nighttime antics have descended and taken over everything. My brain emits nothing more than a faint hum, reminiscent of the white noise that used to be produced by television sets before they commenced on their eternal entertainment existence.

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I’m in no doubt how closely linked my mind, body and essence (soul? Spirit?) are. Rolling in negative thoughts quickly slows my mood, practising good principles of living (kindness, patience, love, self care) creates a lightness I feel from the very centre of my body. And physical exhaustion and sickness dull my senses, both physical and emotional, until I feel that everything’s under deep, dark water — heavy, weighed down and isolated.

The solution’s as immutable as the problem. Each day needs to be created from scratch: self care, refusing any nonessential activities, accepting any and all offers of help (a particularly difficult one for me), meditating both in company and alone, being useful to others to help distract myself, remembering that my thinking is compromised when exhausted, and the most important rule to follow is not to take myself so damn seriously… And repeat… And repeat…

TIK - Chilli

It passes. It always passes. Sickness will fade and my son will sleep. And even in these days there are long moments of laughter and light — always as a result of time spent with others; particularly with those I’m coming to cherish as I risk opening my heart to the world.

Meals like this are perfect for these days. Pan roasted pumpkin with chilli and garlic is offset by a gentle, creamy goats cheese and tossed through pasta. It’s incredibly simple, while offering flavours that both comfort and dance. I sometimes squeeze sausages out of their skins into little balls and add to the pumpkin for the last few minutes of cooking. In other seasons, I exchange the pumpkin for zucchini and cook for half the time. Use the recipe as suits you best. I know I do.

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Enjoy.

  • 800g pumpkin
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 – 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, to taste
  • ½ – 1 chilli finely chopped, to taste
  • 400g spaghetti
  • 4 tbl sp soft goat’s cheese (I use Meredith Dairy’s goat cheese infused in olive oil, but any soft goat cheese will do)

Chop the pumpkin into bite sized pieces, (very) roughly 1.5cm squared

Melt the butter and olive oil in a frying pan

Add the pumpkin, garlic and chilli and cook, covered, over a medium low heat for 10 minutes

Turn the pumpkin and cook for another 10 minutes, until golden and tender when poked with a fork

In the meantime, cook your pasta according to the packet instructions

Place a tablespoon of goats cheese per person into the bottom of each bowl

Drain the pasta and mix into the goats cheese

Add the cooked pumpkin to each bowl and serve

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Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

Walking By Starlight / Triple Chocolate & Coconut Lime Cupcakes

“When a dove begins to associate with crows its feathers remain white but its heart grows black” German proverb

I’ve been woken each morning this week by the Dark Crow that once had a permanent place at the foot of my bed. Patient and dangerous, it snuck through unguarded shadows to taunt me once more.

“I’m glad you’re awake,” says the Crow, “we have a problem. No, I can’t wait for you to open your eyes, you have many things to listen to, it’s all bad I’m afraid… Remember that girl who wanted to have coffee? You know the one, she’s pretty and slim, so already better than you? Yup, you messed that up, here’s a flashback of the conversation at the exact moment you were an idiot. And remember that call with your friend when she was too busy to meet up? She’s not, you talk too much so she doesn’t want to see you, you’ve lost another one. And then yesterday when you…”

And that’s just the first millisecond as it warms up to the really good stuff.

I heard the Crow’s stories for so many years they became an indelible stain on my brain. So soaked into the fabric of my thoughts that the Crow could start half way through a monologue, knowing I already had the rest of my imagined failures embroidered into my soul.

TIK - Base flavours for Triple Chocolate, Lime & Coconut Cupcakes

It’s not the best start to a day. It’s not the best start to a life. I was about eight years old when I first heard the Crow, I didn’t know that it was something to be fought until I was 25. I didn’t know how to fight for 2 years after that. For 19 years the Crow was my bed companion, greeting me in the morning and talking me to sleep each night.

Today, my heart breaks for that child who knew no different, who didn’t even know it was unusual to listen to such things. If it had been a person outside my head, rather than a voice inside, it’d be classified as chronic emotional abuse. If anyone spoke to my son that way I’d happily hack out their tongue with a blunt spoon. And yet, I never thought to treat myself as I would anyone else. I never knew to be disgusted and horrified on my own behalf.

And today I speak with scores of people who live with their own Dark Crows, maybe you have one too.

I changed quite suddenly. About 8 years ago I woke up, the Crow opened its beak to start pontificating on my life failures and, Matrix style, I gripped its beak shut and thought, “Stop”. I looked deeply into the part of my mind that housed the Crow and said, “I will not be spoken to like that any more. It’s over. You’re finished.”

TIK - Finnish Proverb Lime & Coconut Frosting

From that moment, every time my Crow would arc up I’d firmly and gently stop it from saying any more. At first I’d catch it halfway through the monologue, I was so used to its noise it took some time to recognise. Gradually, I caught the chatter earlier. My mind became quieter. At the same time I began the work of challenging all the thoughts it’d been crowing at me, while actively focussing on the good in my world. When given a choice I would look for joy, peace and love. Even today it feels silly and naive at times, like I’m not being realistic trusting the light of the stars when the night sky is so dark. But I’d firmly decided on that first day that I’d rather be stupid than broken. And for the most part today, I’m neither.

But this week, my visitor smuggled the dark back into my mind. And today, my two year old son wore some of its hatred. He woke up in a challenging mood and we’d been at loggerheads all morning, I was unable to see anything past the Crow again and, frustrated with him and filled with self, I yelled primal fury into his little face. He immediately crawled under the table, weeping, and repeating over and over, “I’m so sorry Mummy, I’m so sorry.”

Is there anything more devastating than terrifying your child into tears? If there is I haven’t found it yet. The guilt, remorse and self-hatred were immediate and soul-crippling. The Crow won that round and so had more powerful material for future monologues.

I paused, as I’ve been taught to do, and pushed my self-absorbed self-loathing to one side, before creeping under the table next to my son and whispering “I’m sorry. Mummy’s having a bad day and that’s clashed with your bad day. It was very wrong that Mummy scared you and it’s never okay to shout like that. I’m so sorry I scared you.”

TIK - Triple Chocolate Cupcake tower

He immediately crawled onto my lap and we were friends again. Moments later he’s pelting me with ping-pong balls and laughing uproariously. His forgiveness is fast and complete. I’ll take longer to forgive myself for the monster breaking free around my son.

But if I don’t forgive myself the Crow wins, and I’ve made a silent commitment to all those who come into any contact with me that the Crow isn’t going to win any more. I’m starting the only way I know how and walking by starlight again. Because today I know that although the world is full of pain and tears and terrifying cruelty, it is also full of wonder and inspiration and heroes. And at the end of it all, I know which side I want to fall on.

Bloody hell… I need glitter, laughter and jazzy hands coming from my oven after this week. It’s a no brainer in this mood, it’s got to be the most frivolous of all bakes, cupcakes. I’ve a fabulous and super-easy chocolate cake recipe from Nigella Lawson that I’ve adapted for these cupcakes; dark, heavy and a good representation of my crow. I’ve then lightened and lifted the darkness with a liberal addition of a sweet, creamy and sharp coconut and lime frosting. I’ve topped everything off with sparkly bits to cheer myself up, feel free to ignore that addition if you’re already sparkly enough.

Enjoy.

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Click here to print this recipe

For the cake

  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g cocoa powder + extra to dredge the cupcake tins
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbl sp vanilla extract
  • 80ml sour cream
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 175g dark chocolate chips

For the syrup

  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 125ml water
  • 100g caster sugar

For the frosting

  • 1 can of coconut milk (about 400ml)
  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 315g icing (powdered) sugar
  • Zest from 2-4 limes
  • 1-3 tsp coconut extract
  • Optional topping of your choice (sprinkles? Lime zest and coconut shavings? Shavings of dark chocolate?)

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 325ºF

Thoroughly grease two 12 hole cupcake tins and completely cover each one with about a teaspoon of cocoa powder (I put a the cocoa in the bottom of each hole and shake the tin around until each hole is entirely covered). Once finished, tip the tin upside-down and tap lightly on a surface to get rid of the excess cocoa

Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into the processor and blitz till a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips

Fill each cupcake hole about half way up before sliding into the oven, cooking for 20 to 25 minutes. When it’s ready, the cupcakes will be risen and a cake-tester, or a fine skewer, will pretty well come out clean. But this is a damp cake so don’t be alarmed at a bit of stickiness in evidence

Five minutes before you take the cupcakes from the oven, put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. You may find it needs a little longer: what you want is a reduced liquid, that’s to say a syrup, though I often take it a little further, so that the sugar caramelises and the syrup has a really dark, smokey chocolate intensity

Take the cupcakes out of the oven and sit them on a cooling rack and, still in the tin, pierce each a few times with a cake tester. Then run a small knife around the outside of each cupcake to make sure they can come away easily before pouring a teaspoon or so of syrup over the surface of each cupcake

Let the cupcakes cool and then slip them out of the tin ready for frosting

To make the frosting, bring the coconut milk to boil in large deep saucepan over a medium-high heat (coconut milk will boil up high in pan). Reduce heat to medium-low and boil, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes until reduced by about two thirds. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Transfer to small bowl. Cover and chill. (This can be made 2 days ahead and kept in the fridge)

Using an electric whisk, beat the butter in large bowl until smooth. Add the sugar, zest from 2 limes, 1 teaspoon of coconut extract and 80ml of the reduced coconut milk and beat until light and fluffy. Once fully fluffed, check the coconut and lime flavours are speaking your language loudly enough, if they’re not, keeping adding in each little by little until you have the flavour exactly as you want.

Using pastry bag fitted with large star tip, pipe frosting onto the cupcakes

Eat these at dawn, at dusk and amongst the stars

And, quickly, a big thank you to Michelle at King of States and the rest of the group at Blogging 201 this week. Anyone who thinks blogging isn’t a community effort hasn’t spent time surfing the loving halls of WordPress.

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No Food, Just Writing!

The Nothing Plague

I’ve barely cooked this week. Sickness has descended upon our house to the point that I’ve wondered if we should hire someone to stand outside our front door, wave a bell and holler, “Unclean! UNCLEAN!” in dramatic plague fashion.

I haven’t checked emails, WordPress, Facebook, Instagram or any other The Imperfect Kitchen social media staple all week. I haven’t pick up my camera and I haven’t written a publishable word. Until tonight, I didn’t even know that the lovely Oak Tree Lane had awarded me a Liebster Award — yippee!

Basically, I’ve got nothing to publish and I feel guilty. Ridiculous — because nothing bad’s going to happen in anyone’s life if I publish tomorrow instead of today.

So that’s it for tonight I’m afraid. My two year old’s currently yelling to be let into my bedroom, where I’m hunched on my bed typing frantically and furtively, wishing I didn’t have to deal with any more sick people (I seemed to miss all of Florence Nightingale’s DNA); so who knows what’s going to happen next?

Wish all those around me luck and I may see you tomorrow…

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Dessert, Super Easy, Sweet

Love Thy (Really Annoying) Neighbour / Coconut, Finger Lime & Chilli Ice Cream {Raw, Vegan, Gluten Free}

A lightbulb of an idea crept into my mind a few years ago as I awkwardly came to realise I’d spent a long time in my search for an emotionally healthier self lost in wanting to be a happier person purely because I thought people would like me more and then I’d find life easier. I had struggles for years when I’d think, “But I’m being so lovely, thoughtful and kind!” when something in life didn’t go my way.

With the lightbulb’s glow steadily growing, I found a wise piece of writing that suggested trying to follow the principles of good living (honesty, tolerance, boundaries, patience and love) whether my desires were met or not. To trust that things were as they were meant to be, in spite of how they may appear to me.

Radical stuff. And one of the things I’ve been trying to focus on ever since.

So, with the lightbulb shining steadily in my mind, I’ve been trying to find a way through the recent behaviour of a neighbour.

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When parking yesterday, with my son and husband in the car, our neighbour across the street stormed out of his house, wearing nothing but saggy, used-to-be-white underwear on his very portly frame, and started swearing loudly at us. Apparently he’s been angry with us since Christmas, although this is the first we’ve heard of it, as we sometimes park one of our cars outside his house.

Translating his swear words which was pretty much all he spat at us, I think he was saying,

“Golly gosh, darling neighbours of mine. I’ve noticed that, although this is a public road, you seem to be parked outside my house and sometimes I have friends over who now need to park ten metres further on. This is rather frustrating and I’d like you to park somewhere else. Please.”

Setting aside his appalling fashion sense, and my hell-fire fury at someone shouting and swearing like that in front of my toddler – my husband and I come from populous suburbs where the concept of a public road belonging to anyone is ludicrous. But I’m trying to understand that we could be suffering from the cultural clash of moving to a quieter suburb, and have to ask myself whether private public streets are normal here and the onus is on us to change?

During the night, the neighbour took it upon himself to move both his cars from his garage to park them outside our house. I think he believes this’ll upset us, not understanding that we actually do believe public roads are for public use – the only disturbing part for us is the pettiness and vindictiveness of his behaviour.

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It’s tempting to knock on his door and talk to him calmly – to insincerely convince him I’m truly lovely and worthy of being treated gently and kindly. Although, right now, it’s more tempting to go over there with my cast iron frying pan and smack him over the head… physically persuading him that I’m a force to be reckoned with and he’d better be afraid, very afraid.

Unfortunately, in doing either of these I’m conveniently ignoring my lightbulb’s attempts to teach me honest, loving and light living in the world regardless of the outcomes. To pretend to endorse his behaviour’s no longer acceptable for me. Equally, an attempted power drive won’t bring me any peace.

Ultimately I’ll need to come back to my decision that it’s more important for me to be at ease than right. But today I’m just allowing myself to be angry, and as long as I don’t act on it in any way until I’ve found my balance again, that’s imperfectly okay.

And the best bit? As we were walking away from him; my oblivious, darling, glorious son leaned over my shoulder back to our impossible neighbour, waved both his arms and shouted, “BYE BYE! BYE BYE! BYE BYE!” followed by exuberantly blowing kisses. I tried not to laugh, I really did.

A hot and sour recipe today, as if you need to ask why… Finger limes are in season and they’re enormously pretty while tasting incredible. For those who aren’t aware of these native Australian fruits, they’re shaped like a fat finger (hence the name) and are filled with flesh that looks exactly like bright green caviar. Once in your mouth, each little pod shoots a torrent of delicious, fresh lime juice all over your taste buds. For those in Melbourne, Georgie’s Harvest at South Melbourne market sell these little beauties during their short season. For those who can’t reach the market through geography or sheer laziness (nothing wrong with that) you can even buy them on Etsy.

Enjoy.

  • 2 x 400ml cans of coconut milk
  • 100g honey (I use raw honey, but use whatever you’re comfortable with)
  • 2 finger limes (or, if you can’t find them, 2 regular limes)
  • 2 bird’s eye chillis, seeds and membrane removed, very finely chopped (increase or decrease to taste)

With an ice cream maker

Place the coconut milk in the back of your fridge for at least 24 hours, this will aid the freezing process

Once cold, open the cans and scoop the thick cream into a blender, followed by the thin coconut milk

Add the honey, the zest and the caviar from the limes (or, if you’re using regular limes, the zest and juice) into the blender and blend until smooth

Pour the contents into your ice cream machine and follow your manufacturer’s instructions, adding the chilli 5 minutes before the timer ends

Spoon into a freezer safe container, and place in your freezer until ready to serve

I’ve sprinkled some extra chilli and finger lime over the ice cream for the photo. Feel free to do the same before serving, but it’s certainly not essential.

Without an ice cream maker

Once the coconut cream, coconut milk, sugar, lime caviar (or juice) and zest are blended, stir in the chilli

Pour into a freezer safe container and put into the freezer

Stir every half an hour, until the ice cream is frozen through

I’ve sprinkled some extra chilli and finger lime over the ice cream for the photos. Feel free to do the same before serving, but it’s not essential.

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Lunch or Dinner, Savoury, Super Easy

In the Comfort of Lemon & Rosemary Roast Chicken

I’ve felt the slow fog of exhausted depression steadily envelop my mind the last few days. My son’s sleeplessness, already legendary amongst family and friends, has taken a large turn for the worse the past couple of weeks and I’ve finally reached the point of barely functioning. I spent all day in bed yesterday, the impending shame of no dinner on the table being the only thing that got me groggily moving during late afternoon. I feel almost totally numb, like a heavy blanket has been gently tucked around my brain.

Depression and I fought monumental battles during my teens and early twenties. A quote on my phone at that time from the great wartime British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, read

“Never, never, never give up”

One of my great fears is to be pulled back into that half-lit existence, with an insurmountable glass wall rising up between me and the rest of the world. Where I can see people but can’t connect in any meaningful way, and the loneliness cripples my soul.

Logic tells me it’s currently exhaustion not depression but, like an alcoholic’s home in the bottle, my mind’s misguided safe place is the grey zone I can’t will or intellectualise my way out of. A deeply frustrating and scary position for a wilful semi-intellectual like me.

I’m doing what I can, based on my experience of actions that work. Calling appropriate people who can listen and advise without judgement or meaningless platitude. Going for walks and gentle swims. Allowing myself to rest, with permission not to feel guilty. Meditating. Actively not comparing myself to the rest of the world who currently seem so functional and obviously more competent than me in every way. Finding laughter wherever and whenever I can. Watching beautiful videos like this one, based on a poem by Shane Koyczan

I’m assured that all I need is enough rest and self-care and, unlike depression, it will pass rather quickly.

And in the spirit of self-care and comfort, I chose to make a roast chicken recipe that I‘ve been gradually honing for over 15 years. Roast is unbelievably easy to make, because even at the best of times I’m all about getting the most bang for my buck. It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods; juicy, delicate, crisp skinned and comforting. Here, where it’s currently warm, it’s delicious with salads and a fresh baguette. In the colder climates (hi guys!) throw some peeled root vegetables in the pan for the last hour or so of cooking. Save the chicken carcass and any root vegetable peelings in a bag in the freezer to make delicious homemade stock (recipe on the Imperfect Kitchen’s Facebook page if you need one). Nothing could be easier, tastier or, for me at this time, more comforting.

Enjoy.

  • 1 tbl sp vegetable oil
  • 1.8kg chicken, the best quality you can afford
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • a large pinch of coarsely ground pepper
  • a large pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 190˚C

Pour the sunflower oil into a large baking dish and place it in the oven while it warms

Finely chop the leaves from 3 sprigs of rosemary

Squeeze the juice from the lemon but keep the lemon carcass

Finely chop 3 cloves of garlic

Mix the butter with the finely chopped rosemary, lemon juice, finely chopped garlic and pepper

Rinse the chicken with cold water, inside and out, and pat dry

Carefully push your fingers between the chicken skin and meat, opening a space while making sure not the break the skin

Push the butter mix into the chicken underneath the skin, trying to keep the coverage even

Rub your greasy hands all over the outside of the chicken, making sure to get into all the little crevices

Sprinkle the salt on the chicken skin and gently rub all over

Store the lemon carcass, 3 whole cloves of garlic and 3 sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken

Remove the pan from the oven and put the chicken in the pan

Return the pan to the oven and cook the chicken for 80 minutes (20 minutes per 450g). Baste every 20 to 30 minutes

Once the chicken has cooked this long, turn up the heat to 220˚C and cook for a further 15 minutes

Leave to rest, covered loosely in tin foil for 10-15 minutes before serving

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Dessert, Easy, Sweet

The Crazy Food Lady’s Three Dreams of Ice Cream

It’s been a really tough week. Our son’s barely sleeping and the deprivation’s playing havoc with my mood. I’ve also been writing a piece on vulnerability for this post, before realising I’m not a good enough writer yet to say what I feel I need to, which left me feeling worse. I then wrote a fluff piece about the food I’m making, as I did last Wednesday, a cop-out to the promise I made to myself when starting this blog.

Food was never going to be the star of my blog, it was always going to sit in the background against living the life that creates my recipes. I’m not too sure how many of you read the words, versus shooting straight down to the ingredients list. May be I’m just writing to myself here, which on a day like this feels just fine.

So you want to know what I really think about the food I’m pushing at you today? Here goes…

I could tell you that I chose pomegranate because I like the flavour and the health benefits. But really I chose it because my mother lives in Egypt part of the year, where pomegranates run wild and rampant, and I miss her. And because running my hands through the deep red colour of the arils makes me feel alive. And tearing open the bleeding flesh satisfies a primal urge, on a week like this, that my prefrontal cortex can’t engage…

I hear endlessly about the health benefits of coconut, and the flavour’s delicious. But I really choose coconut because I feel I’m tapping into an entire garden of produce, housed in one joyfully hairy shell. Flesh, water, flour, sugar, cream, milk. It’s the veritable land of plenty, and I imagine coconuts sitting on our market shelves, worshipped by the other produce as they sway to a cool calypso beat. Having grown up in a country where coconut was one of the pinnacles of exotic I still feel a small child’s thrill whenever I stroke my hands over their balding heads.

My frustrated and flat mood makes it a perfect week for ginger. I love that it feels a little rebellious, punching me in the mouth each time I bite down. Its very own “screw you!” to its demise. It’s one of the gang members of the produce world. Backed up by wasabi and horseradish. Sneering at the apples, carrots and blueberries. Cautiously respectful of sour citrus, that cause all my taste buds to shrivel up and squeal. I picture the ginger, unmuffled by this coconut ice cream, screaming in maniacal and joyful defiance all the way down my throat. K’POW! K’POW! K’POW!!

The warming, delicate tang of far-travelled spice can liven even the most boring dish, I use spice in nearly everything I make. But that’s not why I’m making chai ice cream. It’s because I miss my little sister every day and chai is her favourite hot drink. I’m making it, because with each soft pinch of spice, the distance of 10,496 miles (16,892km) between us doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I like to think that she’ll smile when she reads this recipe, my sisterly love letter to her.

I get a lump in my throat every time I make my Fruit & Nut Loaf. I made it shortly after I found out we’d lost our first baby. I sang a quiet lullaby as I sifted the flour and wept as I stirred everything together. I grieved with my hands that day, and every time I pull out the ingredients I remember our children that could have been and call a small piece of my love and gratitude to the place they might be. And it reminds me to be intensely grateful for the child I have, sleeplessness and all. A slice of this sweet bread, warm from the oven, goes beautifully with any and all of these ice creams.

So join me in revelling in the stories we tell about our food. The pasta you love because it’s just the way mum made. The chicken dish handed down from your grandmother. The tinned soup you ate every Sunday night as a student. I really hope that food doesn’t just mean something to me, otherwise I’m just the crazy food lady warbling into the world-wide inter-web cloud.

Having just spent an entire post telling you how unimportant the food is, I can’t help but write that I think these are some of the best recipes I’ve ever created. The coconut sings a sublime introduction to the ginger’s punch. The pomegranate borders on super sweet until the encroaching flavours of cardamom and lime melt the sweetness down. The chai is just about the best thing I’ve ever tasted in ice cream form, tangled flavours that dance on the tongue and develop magically while eating. I’m ridiculously proud of them all.

Coconut & Ginger Ice Cream

  • 350ml (cups) coconut milk
  • 250ml (1 cup) double cream (heavy cream)
  • 80g (3/4 cup) desiccated coconut
  • 75g (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 75g crystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces

In a saucepan, mix the coconut milk, cream, desiccated coconut and half the sugar

Heat on medium-low to just below boiling point, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool a little

Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks with the remainder of the sugar in a mixing bowl and whip for a couple of minutes, until fluffy

Add the egg yolks to the milk mix and stir constantly on medium-low heat, until it coats the spoon and you can draw a line with your finger on the spoon (if you have a food thermometer, it should be at 85˚C / 185F)

Take off the stove and let cool, ideally leave overnight in your fridge to let the flavours develop

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour into a container and place in the freezer

Add the ginger after the first two hours and stir well

Stir every hour or two until frozen

Pomegranate & Cardamon Ice Cream
(based on a Nigella Lawson recipe)

  • 2 pomegranates
  • 1 lime
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 500ml double cream
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom

Juice the pomegranates and the lime into a bowl
Add the icing sugar and whisk to dissolve
Whisk in the double cream and cardamom and keep whisking until soft peaks form in the pale pink cream
Spoon and smooth the ice cream into the airtight container of your choice and freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight
Scatter with some pomegranate seeds before you eat, if you like

Chai Ice Cream

  • 150 ml (3/4 cup) milk
  • 250ml (1 cup) double cream (heavy cream)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamon
  • 1 small pinch ground cloves
  • 1 small pinch ground nutmeg
  • 4 black teabags (cheap, strong tea is better – I’ve use Yorkshire Gold in homage to my sister)
  • 65g (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 5 egg yolks

In a saucepan, mix the milk, cream, spices, tea and half the sugar

Heat on medium-low to just below boiling point, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to let the spices and tea infuse the milk

Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks with the remainder of the sugar in a mixing bowl and whip for a couple of minutes, until fluffy

Remove the teabags from the milk (press the teabags through a strainer back into the saucepan to get all the juices out), return to the pan with the egg yolk mix and, on medium-low heat, stir constantly until it coats the spoon and you can draw a line with your finger on the spoon (if you have a food thermometer, it should be at 85˚C / 185F)

Take off the stove and let cool, ideally leave overnight in your fridge to let the flavours develop

If you have an ice cream maker, pour into the machine and freeze according to instructions

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour into a container and place in the freezer, stir every hour or two until completely frozen

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