new year, new me

Quite frankly, I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, think that it is important to take some time to both reflect and look ahead – why it must happen at the end of one year, I am not really sure.

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But I am not here to critique people’s life choices, I am here to put down in written form some of my musings for the year to come. Similar to much of the work that we laid out in Blogging 201, I have been tossing about some ideas of how and where I will take this blog in 2016.

It has been rather difficult to evenly distribute between all that I have wished to; Travel, Food and Life in general. Not that I have ever really struggled to find something to write about but I have noticed that the general content focus has varied significantly from time to time.

Travel
Now that I am in one stationary spot for the foreseeable future, I find it really hard to write about travel. At this stage there isn’t a lot more I can do apart from writing in retrospect, which I guess I can make do with but I feel like there is something slightly untruthful about it. Rose-tinted glasses some may say.

Food
I will always have a focus on Southern European cuisine, even though I’m no longer based there. It’s my automatic go-to and what I enjoy researching. Even so, I find myself branching out a bit; I do love Middle Eastern cooking and I have noticed that more and more international and fusion dishes are making their way onto the blog. I guess it all depends on what I have time to make.

Life
This is something I am a little stumped with; how much of one’s life should be incorporated into one’s blog? It is talked about at length in Will Write for Food but I can’t decide where I sit. I think that’s be I think as long as it fits with the blog’s concept, then it’s fine with me.

Writing 201
I have enrolled in another writing course for February of 2016 to work on finding, and expanding what my story really is. If anyone wants to join me in this, let me know; here’s the link.

The January Cure
I have also signed for another month long task – this one is aimed a little bit at Life Admin and decluttering the home before the year gets into full swing. It’s called the January Cure and it’s a collaboration between Apartment Therapy and the kitchn. I’ll post updates as I go, but once again, please feel free to join me!

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As 2016 swings into action, there’s how I see it going, or at least beginning, for me. But we don’t know what we don’t know, we know where we are going to start (for me it’s lying in the sun!) but where we will end, is all part of the fun!

 

 

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the smallest kitchen in paris

My approach to learning the French language was slightly alternative to most; I didn’t take French at school, in fact, my school didn’t even offer French until I was 16. I studied Japanese at university then decided, in a rather spontaneous decision, to move to France instead of heading to Japan as originally planned.

Armed with a My-First-French-Words book, I set off on a whirlwind attempt at conquering this difficult little language. It turned out that my greatest tool would actually be a cookbook.

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La pétite cuisine à Paris by Rachel Khoo was first published in 2012 and details the recipes Rachel finds closest to her heart from her time in Paris. Like me, Rachel moved to France with basically no knowledge of the French language, unlike me, she has become hugely successful. Her love of food, cooking and entertaining is prevalent in this book, and that is what I love about it, it’s not pretentious, like French cuisine can easily become, the food is uncomplicated and gives a modern spin on many French classics without being too ‘modern’.

When I was given this book (as part of the French-est Christmas present ever) I was under the impression that Rachel had written the book in French, or translated it herself from the English version, but I am not quite sure I can confirm this as a true fact. But at the time I liked if for that very reason; it made me believe that it wasn’t impossible to master the language, even though so many irregular verbs should be illegal; if she could do it, and write a book to prove it, then so could I!

The language the book uses is relatively basic – the majority of it is recipes; they all follow a similar structure and repeat many of the same verbs and nouns. Reading it and cooking from it was an excellent way of improving my reading ability, practicing verb conjugation in a practical and delicious way while learning verbs and nouns that would eventually come in very handy! Faire fondu, préchauffer, and la recette are all phrases that anyone who has to cook anything in French needs to know.

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As well as teaching me how to say whisk in French and the words for a bunch of vegetables, it also provided me with a crash course on the French classics. We have all heard of coq-au-vin and macarons, but my favourite new encounter was her mini tartiflettes – a sinfully delicious Savoyard take on potato bake, filled with smoky lardons and gooey melted cheese; relatively unheard of anywhere else and one of France’s best kept secrets!

red roasted radishes

They say that your tastebuds change every seven years, that your body almost resets itself and redefines the way it reacts to different flavours and textures. I have found that over the last year, the way that my body reacts to a variety of things has completely readjusted itself; I don’t particularly like white wine anymore and I am highly sensitive to pollen and olive trees, I have also fallen in love with radishes.

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“Fallen in love”, is technically not the right way of putting it; as a child I thought radishes were awesome. I remember being assigned a science experiment testing how radishes grew in varying environments – darkness, cold etc. and instead of placing my radishes in dank, cold cupboards where I knew they would die, I left them all on the veranda to flourish and changed the experiment to ‘how many radishes can I eat in one sitting’. But as the years progressed, leading up to my teens, I thought they were awful. I hated the peppery aftertaste, and texture; not a quite a crunch but not soft either.

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It wasn’t until a few years ago that I tried them again, and now I can’t get enough of them.

Most people are stumped at coming up with ways to use radishes that extend further than a pop of colour in a salad, but I love to roast them and cover them in brown butter sauce.

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Place your radishes, halved or quartered onto an oven tray and bake at 230°C for 20-30 minutes, until their skin is pink and crisp, not quite burning, but so close it almost hurts. The flesh will be plump and juicy, no longer dry and tart like when they’re raw.

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While they are cooking, melt a knob of butter and a pinch of salt, mix constantly over a medium heat until it shines like glassy caramel. Squeeze in a dash of lemon juice at the very last moment before serving – either pour over top of the radishes or serve on the side and dunk them in. Make sure that you have a napkin close at hand, you’ll need it to mop up the gooey butter and warm radish juice running down your chin!

nostalgia moment: slutty brownie

I know I have been a little bit slack on my ‘Will Write for Food’ posts recently, I haven posted anything since the beginning of Blogging 201 but I am back, with a vengeance, and some nostalgic culinary anecdotes.

“Maybe you didn’t flush meringue down the toilet, but surely you have some stories about food that readers would enjoy.”

Using this statement as a springboard, the ideas that come to mind are endless, some of which are too embarrassing or ridiculous to mention – I want to maintain a certain level of dignity, providing hilarity is important, but dignity is paramount. However, one particular failure stands out above the rest, a failure of quite epic proportions. Everyone who doesn’t currently live under a rock has heard of Slutty Brownie, but for anyone not so familiar, let me enlighten you; a layer of cookie dough, a layer of Oreos and a layer of chocolate brownie. Gooey goodness dripping with naughtiness.

“oh so easy, and more than a little bit filthy”

It sounds rather straightforward, doesn’t it? Rosie uses one box of cookie dough mixture, a couple of boxes of Oreos and a box of brownie batter. All you need to do is add a couple of eggs. A student at the time, I decided to make my own batters – more economic than buying the boxes of mixture, and you know what’s actually going into it. So that’s what I did.

Worst mistake ever.

I don’t know what to blame; the variation in density, the quantities I used, maybe a slight difference in ingredients or just my dumb luck. The air in our tiny flat was dense with  chocolaty aromas and the scent of burning sugar, the minutes ticked by, and with our noses but an inch from the oven’s blackened door, we deemed the brownie done. It seemed like it took hours to cool, when in reality it was really only 15 minutes. I tapped the top, noting the satisfying crunch but because of the layer of cookies inside, I couldn’t get a knife the whole way in to test the baked-ness of the cookie dough.

I held the bottom of the tray steady, Flatmate 1 and 2 slowly guided the outside of the tin down while Flatmate 3 watched in glee and excitement. A look that quickly turned to horror as liquid cookie dough rushed in every direction possible. The result was what I can only describe as the most liberal interpretation of Eton Mess you can imagine, and floors, arms and faces smeared with raw cookie dough. Delicious, yet disastrous. Flatmate 4 did not seem amused when she emerged from her room to four messy grownups eating the mixture straight out of the mixing bowl, licking our spoons with the joy of children who are given pudding before dinner.

I still have never built up the courage to try making Slutty Brownie again, I prefer to keep the three elements separate when possible.

blogging 201: will blog for food

Welcome to Blogging 201!

‘Hot of the Press: July in Blogging U.” the post read, I scrolled past it, then I unscrolled back to it, even though unscrolling isn’t something you can grammatically do. I signed up on a whim, what have I got to lose? And thus, I begin. Blogging 201: Branding and Growth, pushing us to really define what our blogs are about, and more importantly, how we are going to get them out there, which funnily enough coincides with my next chapter in my ‘Will Write for Food’ challenge.

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Blogging 201: What do you want to accomplish? Will Write for Food: How will you expand your knowledge?

Three goals for each, be specific, because writing it down means its real, it means that you’ll do it.

  1. I want to increase the number of views I get by at least 50% by the end of the year, ideally more and ideally sooner. But slow and steady wins the race.
  2. I want to post regularly; consistency is key. At the moment I try and post about three times a week, it is a hard task; the planning, cooking and writing is time consuming but getting into a routine makes it that little bit easier.
  3. I want to find more blogs that I want to follow, that is the point of WordPress isn’t it? What is the point in writing if we aren’t also here to read? I think the blogisphere is a great community to get involved with and if anything, I would like to see the number of comments my posts get increase, and in turn, comment on more posts by other people.

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But saying and doing are very different things, and I think it is gaining new knowledge over a snazzy looking blog that is going to draw the crowds in. (in saying that, I am working on getting a logo done)

So how will I increase my knowledge so people care about the things I have to say?

  1. READ – as someone who only discovered cooking recently, I don’t really have a wealth of knowledge on many of the basic elements of cooking. To remedy this, I have decided to read Nigella Lawson’s “How to Eat” in its entirety. 526 pages on elementary cooking form the very basic to the somewhat skilful, and more importantly – how to enjoy eating it all. 526 pages, no pictures, wish me luck.
  2. COOKING CLASS – I have a mortal fear of not being in control in the kitchen, which is why I don’t think I would do well on Masterchef. I have never taken a cooking class, I don’t follow recipes well and like to ‘augment’ them as I go, so I think a cooking class could be a little too reminiscent of home economics at school – where I often had flour fights, and often forgot to turn the oven on. But maybe I’ll learn something, do I might give it a go.
  3. DINNER PARTY – Very seldom do I cook for other people on a grand scale – maybe just one or two people. In order to expand my knowledge, I think it is important to not just learn by doing, but also learn by watching and eating! I want to form a little dinner party group – not only as a way of being social, but also to learn new recipes, ideas and cooking styles at the same time.

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So, that’s Blogging 201 Post 1 done and dusted, stay tuned for more over the next two weeks!

adjectiveless chicken

The second task in my Will Write for Food challenge is about adjectives, or more accurately, a lack of adjectives. Many writers think that the more adjectives they cram into a piece of writing, the better it will be. The result is usually a flowery piece of writing with a lot of words, without very much substance. To avoid this, and to come to really understand the proper use of adjectives, this piece was originally written without any, afterwards I allowed myself to add in five where I thought they were most beneficial (oops I actually did six!)

How do you think I went?

Anyone who grew up in an anglophile home is going to have nostalgic memories of roast chicken, and I am no different. Since beginning my travels I have eaten roast chicken in many countries and in far more situations than a Sunday lunch on a winter’s day.

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Frango no forno is a perfect early evening meal served in Portugal; a series of lemon wedges artfully arranged along the edge of the plate and a scoop of fries nestled next to the glorious oven-roasted chicken. It may seem odd to serve fries as a standard accompaniment to roast chicken, but on any table on Britain you will find potatoes; either roasted, boiled or mashed, within an arm’s length of the stuffing and gravy – fries are just one more variation of a good old potato, offering a fluffy contrast to chicken’s crisp skin and moist flesh.

Since leaving Portugal I refuse to serve a roast without a dish of lemon wedges on the table, I often follow Jaime Oliver’s roast chicken recipe; a whole lemon in place of the stuffing inside the chicken’s cavity with a bunch of fresh herbs. The lemon’s juice keeps the chicken moist from the outside in, from the time in enters the oven until the time in enters your mouth. Not only are the lemon’s juices infused throughout the meat but the lemon’s flesh is infused with the flavours of your herb garden, the bitterness of the rind is cooked out and you are left with a tangy juice to add to your gravy or veges.

writing, comma food

I have recently begun reading ‘Will Write for Food’, by Dianne Jacobs; a charming guide to all things falling under the grand canopy of food writing. Each chapter of the book ends with a series of tasks, designed as an aid to improving one’s writing and I thought it would be an interesting experiment to share my journey through each section by publishing my musings for each task encountered.

A summation of the first chapter’s tasks is to explore finding your own voice and writing style by describing a favourite food while looking at similes, metaphors and enhanced descriptions.

For integrity purposes, I have left all editing and annotation visible, as it is really about the journey and the process as opposed to the finished product.

I ate a lot of cherries while I was in Spain. I am a huge cynic of anyone who overuses the word ‘literally’, while saying I ate them by the tonne may be a slight exaggeration, but I did literally eat bucket loads of them. Breathing in the warm summer air, my mind easily floats back to a time when my mind life was filled with nothing but fluorescent, deep red orbs, when the staining, tartly sweet taste of them barely ever left my mouth.

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What draws me to eating, and cooking with cherries is their sheer versatility; plump scarlet slithers in a cherry jam, velvety sweet in a clafoutis or bursting with juice at the end of the season, melting in your mouth like a molten ball of summer.

In my opinion, half of the satisfaction of eating cherries comes from the preparation; such an awakening of the senses! The sun beating down on your shoulders and the lactic acid building up in your arms as you reach for the sweetest fruits on the highest branches, everyone worker bees in a row at the kitchen table removing stalks, removing pits and slicing fruit in half, purple-stained hands adding each crescent moon into jam pot.

There comes a point, midsummer, when a cherry tree’s output becomes exponentially greater than a human’s rate of consumption. An afternoon of jam making makes easy work of a big bucket of cherries morning’s pickings, but what are you to do with the other two buckets?

Cherry pie
Cherry juice
Cherries mixed through gooey vanilla ice cream
Cherry crumbled topped with shards of caramelised sugar
Cherry-infused vodka, gin or brandy

As the blood-red sun begins to set on the summer’s horizon, and the soft, ripe fruit is given away to anyone who will take it, you stop loving cherries; you think you can’t stand the sight of another cherry, let alone the taste.

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Until next summer.