Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chilli with cornbread muffins

Our boiler is broken. Is there anything more awful? (Why always in a really cold snap? WHY??) The chill in the house has slowed my brain right down, right back past even its most shoddy 2+2=time for a cup of tea calculations. It has done absolutely nothing for my shitty mood these past few days, I can tell you.

My husband is being terrifically sporting about the whole thing. He sees a broken boiler as rather an excitement - time for a vast fire in the sitting room, dust off the blow-heater, micro-manage everyone's wash times so as not to use up the weedy amount of warm water we have via the immersion heater, while our boiler guy sources a vital part for the fucking twatty twathead bastard boiler from, like, MARS, or somewhere.

I, on the other hand, have been moping about in a right old funk complaining about the cold like a really annoying ghost with a drippy nose.

Let's just say this: the highest praise my father can give to a woman is: "We won both wars thanks to girls like you." He has never said this to me.

It doesn't help that I'm having trouble sleeping at the moment. This is a really terrible realisation, but I think I need to do some exercise.

Anyway for the time being, if you'll excuse me, I'll sit the hard work of yet another post out. What?! FFS. I've got a note. Instead the heavy lifting today  has been done by another great gal I met on Twitter called Danielle. She's American but lives in Kent and she's terribly funny. (@pochyemu)
So here we go, Chilli and Cornbread, by Danielle Barton
As a clueless and deluded teenager growing up in small-town America, I decided that by the time I was 25 I was going to be a millionaire and Secretary of State for the U.S. government. Right hand to the president. Swanning around Washington D.C., confident as hell in my power suit and my helmet-esque hair-do. “Anything is possible”, I thought, “seeing as how 25 is forever away and also so old I’ll be practically dead”.

I was such an idiot.

Anyway, I’m 27 now, a graduate who holds two degrees largely to do with minority rights issues in Estonia (always an in-demand subject). Hillary Clinton pipped me to the post for Secretary of State. I live in Kent. Oh, and I’m unemployed with zero millions of dollars in my bank account.


It’s at times like this (times when you’re unemployed and haven’t showered or dressed in, like, maybe 3?, days, eating tuna out of the tin with your fingers because getting a plate seems like SUCH a hassle) when one reaches for comfort food. Quick and easy food that tastes good. The food you grew up on. The food your mother or father made you. You know, when you were young and stupidand living at home rent-free with no responsibilities or worries except how your parents were so mean, keeping you from drinking all your brain cells away and making you apply to universities.

I am no different from you in this respect. Therefore: chilli and cornbread muffins.

Some of you think you know chilli. You do not. You know English chilli, which is generally horrible. Real chilli should be full of recognizable vegetables and soup-like, NEVER SERVED OVER A BAKED POTATO FOR THE LOVE OF MARY. This is my mom’s recipe (or near enough) and it’s good.

Cornbread, I understand, may be new to you. That is a shame because it is God’s own food. It’s bread that tastes like cake that you eat with lashings of butter. It’s amazing (if done right). I normally make it with boxed mix that I bring over in my suitcase, but I’m out and therefore have made it from scratch for the first time ever. This recipe is the real deal and delicious.


2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
500g mince (can be beef, pork or turkey, depending on your preference and whether you’re watching your weight)
2-3 carrots, cut into small chunks
3 or 4 smaller potatoes, cut into cubes
1 tin sweetcorn
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tins kidney beans
2 tins’-worth of water, or enough to just cover the ingredients
2 packets chilli seasoning (I prefer Old El Paso)

1 In the pot you’ll be cooking in, fry off onions, peppers and mince in oil, draining off any fat that comes off the meat. Add the remaining ingredients and top with water. Simmer 30-40 minutes until veg is cooked through, then add spice mix and simmer for another 15-20 minutes to combine the flavours. Serve in a BOWL like SOUP, not over a potato. Potatoes already inside, see?

Honey Cornbread Muffins

(Recipe adapted from one on RealSimple.com, which has good American recipes)

4 tbsp unsalted melted butter, as well as some to grease the tin
160g plain flour
125g course cornmeal [No idea where to find this... Waitrose? – E]
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
280ml buttermilk (280ml whole milk plus one tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar, left 5 minutes on the side to curdle and thicken)
80ml runny honey

1 Heat oven to 180C. Grease 12-cup muffin tin. In a bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and soda. Whisk in eggs, buttermilk, honey and melted butter. Combine (mix will be a bit lumpy, just try to break down any big clumps). Pour batter into muffin cups until nearish the top and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the inside is just cooked through when a toothpick is inserted into the centre.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Boil-n-Bake Baby Back Ribs – Crime Against Nature, Or Just Guilty of Being Delicious?

Here’s what I know: I took some baby back ribs, simmered them for an hour in a flavorful liquid, glazed them in sauce, roasted them in the oven for about half an hour, and they looked and tasted really good. I also know these boil-n-bake baby back ribs would be great at any party, preferably a Super Bowl party (during which the Giants win the game).

Here’s what I don’t know: Why so many people will lose their minds over the fact that I boiled these ribs. They’ll say it’s a crime against nature, and that these are just not the same as baby backs slowly roasted over smoky coals for hours and hours. Well, duh.

These aren’t meant to replace, or even compete with, a traditionally barbecued version. This is simply a fast and tasty alternative method for having a nice stack of ribs appear on your snack table. Seriously, what’s the problem?

This is one of those recipes where I don’t want or expect you to use the same stuff I did. This is more about the quick and dirty method than any specific ingredients. I would make sure the simmering liquid is very well salted, and have a decent amount of acid and spice, but other than that, anything goes.

As far as the glaze, I just threw a bunch of stuff in a mixing bowl, in a sort of stream of saucy consciousness, but very much enjoyed the results. Chinese 5-spice is wonderful with pork, and created a beautifully aromatic base for the sweet, sour, and spicy sauce.

By the way, if it looks like I was a little short on sauce, I was, but made a little more while they were roasting, and it was fine. The amounts below will give you plenty for a rack of baby back ribs. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

1 slab baby back ribs
2 1/2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
6 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tbsp kosher salt (less if using fine salt)
1 tbsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 bay leaves

For the glaze:
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp ketchup
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp sambal chili paste, or to taste
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice

Friday, January 27, 2012

Balsamic Beurre Noir – A Black Butter Sauce Any Femme Fatale Would Love

It’s too bad I didn’t go to film school. If I had, I could have done a clever play on the film noir genre for this balsamic beurre noir recipe. 

Of course, it would have been done in black and white, and featured a chain-smoking, fishnet stocking-clad femme fatale who would eventually double-cross me after a few extended close-ups of spinning ceiling fans. But, I didn’t, so all you get is this plain old video for an incredibly easy and delicious, garlic-spiked, balsamic butter sauce. 

The name is going to confuse a few culinary students out there. Technically, a “beurre noir” refers to a sauce where the butter is cooked until it turns a very dark brown, almost black color. I’m using the term “beurre noir,” as one would use “beurre blanc,” a butter sauce made with reduced white wine, or “beurre rouge,” one made with red wine. The technique is identical for these types of sauces, and we just change the name depending on the color.

For you guys out there looking for Valentine’s Day recipe ideas, you can’t go wrong with this very sexy sauce. Everyone knows cooking dinner for your sweetheart on V-Day is way more romantic than taking her out, and you really can’t beat the old home field advantage for these occasions. You don’t have to hire a private dick to figure that one out.

Anyway, I hope you give this a try soon. Rent some classic film noir, grill up some meat or fish, and spoon over this dark, dangerous, and deeply delicious sauce. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2-3 portions:
2 tsp melted butter
1 sliced garlic clove
1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 tsp minced red chilies
1/2 tsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Peanut butter brownies

I have been really down in the dumps recently. Not clinically, but I'm just SO BORE-DUH of everything. Especially my face - man alive! If I have to look at that stupid beaky ruddy beady gingerish freckled fat mish-mash of shapes once more I will scream.

It has been made worse by a girl I know having had a baby a few months ago and having a MARVELLOUS time with it. And she's not lying either. She really is just finding the whole thing okay. And she and her husband are terribly relaxed and on days off just wander into town and have lunch and the baby sleeps when it sleeps and not when it doesn't. My friend has not decided to confine herself to the house during naptimes and never finds herself sitting on the stairs outside the nursery picking her fingers, rocking to and fro hissing "go to fucking sleep go to fucking sleep", which is what I spent basically the first 10 months doing with Kitty.

And when her husband says "Shall we go out for brunch on Sunday", my friend doesn't scream, like I do, "Are you MAD?!! She will fall asleep in the CAR on the way BACK and then WAKE UP  when we get home and it will be a disaster!!!!!"

I had thought that my experience of new motherhood was quite normal, quite widespread, but now I feel like I have sort of deliberately backed myself into a hellish little corner of parenting philosophies and to-the-minute timings because, basically, I don't think I deserve to have a nice time.

So I went to the hairdresser and got all my hair cut off. And do you know what, it has made me feel much better.

I also thought I should make some karmic amends by being nice about a recipe for a change. The last time I was really mean about a recipe it was one out of Waitrose Food Illustrated and the editor, William Sitwell, told me at a party the other day that I'd upset everyone, (not him, he doesn't seem to give a fuck, because editors never do), and my name is now dirt in their office.

I was slightly outraged at this and called him all sorts of foul names.

(This might have been because I was sitting next to Sara Parker-Bowles and had gone a bit berserk with the effort of not grabbing her by the throat and screaming "What is the Duchess of Cambridge like?!?!?!!? What does she smell like?!?!?!?! PLEASE TELL HER THAT IF WE MET SHE'D REALLY LIKE ME!!!!!!"

Instead I had been pretending that I've got no idea about anything ("Queen who? Prince what?") because it's so, so rude otherwise, but the effort of appearing nonchalent drives you a bit demented after a while.)

Anyway where was I? Oh yes, karma, so I thought I would correct this imbalance by being terribly nice about a thing out of My Daddy Cooks. I was mean about Nick's microwave chocolate pudding the other day and he didn't say a word. Didn't complain, didn't object, nothing. I think that is immensely cool, so I must big up to you now his peanut butter brownies, which I made last night and are terrific.

Peanut Butter brownies from My Daddy Cooks

This is not the exact recipe because I don't like vanilla essence and I didn't have enough chocolate chips. Don't worry too much about the amount peanut butter. I didn't have quite enough of that either and it still worked.

Preheat oven to 180C

200g butter
200g brown sugar of any sort
6 tbs peanut butter
3 eggs
a few drops vanilla essence
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g-ish chocolate chips (Waitrose sell them)

1 Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the peanut butter and mix until smooth

2 Mix in the eggs, followed by the vanilla, flour and baking powder

3 Stir in the chocolate chips

4 Flop into a greased/lined tin (20x20cm if you can be arsed to measure) and bake for 40 mins. Maybe 30-35 if using a fan oven

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monkfish curry

I have become obsessed with a book called French Children Don't Throw Food. I'm sure you've heard about it; it's by an American journalist called Pamela Druckerman who moved to Paris, had children and wondered why they were such snarling brats compared with the quiet little bonbon-ish children of her French counterparts.

She did some investigating and turned her findings into this book, which, if like me the two things you find most abhorrent in the world are badly-behaved dogs and badly-behaved children, is utterly gripping.

The secret, she says, is that the French just sort of ignore their children and let them get on with things by themselves. They are not constantly in their faces, trying to entertain them They do not rush over to their child at the first squeal of frustration. They practise "La Pause", which is the moment where you stop and think "Is that a cry of distress? Is my child actually hurt, afraid or upset? Or is she annoyed because she can't get the star-shaped wooden thingy into the square-shaped hole and will recover herself in a moment? And should I therefore just continue to hang up this washing and not run over there?"

They also don't really tell their children off that much. When they do, they make it count - but they don't tell them they are naughty. They say something along the lines of: "NO! We do NOT lick shoes. Non, non, non!" and they consider it part of the toddler's education, teaching them not to lick shoes because they are dirty, rather than a terrible curtailment of their freedom of expression - or as discipline.

Anyway, I could go on but I won't because we'll be here all day. But the upshot is that I have been implementing this advice as much as possible and although I can't say that Kitty is now a model child, at the very least I have ceased to feel even remotely guilty when I leave her bumbling around alone with her toys for 45 minutes while I lie on the sofa eating mini-eggs.

On an entirely separate note, I made the other night a really fantastic monkfish curry and it was terribly easy. I had a lot of monkfish knocking about from a trip to the farmers' market over the weekend and it felt like a curry night.

It utilised a curry paste from Jamie's 30-Minute meals, minus a few things I didn't have. We are eating a lot of fish and vegetables at the moment because my husband and I have both got terribly fat in the last few months and seeing as we're neither nice people nor useful to society, the least we can do is be thin.

Monkfish curry

2 monkfish tails (or any other firm white fish), cut into chunks
1 knob fresh ginger
1 red chilli seeds in, don't be pathetic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 heaped tsp tomato puree
1 tsp tamarind paste (if you have it)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 mini cans cocnut milk (you can get these from Waitrose, or 1 large one will probably do)
1 tsp coriander seeds, (if you have)
2 tbs groundnut oil

1 Put all the ingredients for the curry paste into a whizzer and whizz. In 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil fry off the paste for about 5 minutes.

2 Add the monkfish chunks and some sad old veg (baby corn/sugar snap peas etc) you have hanging about if you need to get rid of it. Stir this round until the monfish looks opaque on all sides, but don't cook for longer than 8 or so minutes.

3 Add the coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes until everything is very hot. If you had some fresh coriander, you could stir this in or sprinkle over at the end, but who ever has fresh coriander?

Sloppy Toms – This Sandwich Has a Great Personality

I was so excited I’d been able to make such a fine Sloppy Joe with ground turkey instead of the usual beef, that I didn’t even consider its unsightly appearance as I ate. It wasn’t until later, as I edited the footage and photos that I realized this was not an attractive dish.

Even the best looking Sloppy Joe is a homely plate of food, but this was made even more so by the pale turkey meat. As I mentioned in the video, I believe a more thorough browning of the onions would have helped the color, and I will test that theory the next time I make this.

In fairness, it did look a little better in person, and the taste and texture were exactly as I had hoped. It tasted enough like a traditional beef Sloppy Joe to provide that satisfying comfort food fix, yet seemed much lighter.

Superficial beauty aside, this made for a very enjoyable lunch, and kept warm in a slow cooker, could also work very nicely for a Super Bowl party. I hope you give it a try soon. By the way, thanks to Me.Eat.Food for inspiring today post title! Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 Portions:
2 tbsp butter
1 onion
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey plus 1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar, or to taste
cayenne to taste
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cup water, or as needed
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Staff announcement

For no other reason than I feel like it, I have decided to appoint a girl I met off the internet, Emelie Frid, as editor-at-large of Recipe Rifle. (You will remember her from her Jamie's Mince Pie Cookies post, which was such a success.) And when I say "at large" I mean that she lives in Letchworth.

The title of editor-at-large doesn't really mean anything, except that she will (when she feels like it) post here. And if she should ever find herself one day in the future doing drugs in the bathroom of a London private member's club, it's something to say, isn't it? I say that having no idea if she's ever done drugs before - we don't really have those kinds of chats - but in my experience, people doing drugs in bathrooms of private members' clubs are almost exclusively editors-at-large of media outlets. ("It's called Jazzhole. It's a cross between The Spectator and i-D. We're based in Bow. It's really cool actually.")
Anyway, as it's an entirely unpaid position, and Emelie is about to have another baby, the chances of her getting off her redheaded pregnant butthole and doing a post more than twice a year is probably quite slim.

And that's the kind of work ethic I like around here.

So here we go, French Toast Creme Brulee by Emelie Frid.

This is an American breakfast recipe. Now, I’m a confirmed sugar junkie regularly laughing in the face of certain diabetic coma, but I personally would find this a little too sweet to eat first thing in the morning. So I served it as dessert instead, which worked very well indeed. It’s almost like bread and butter pudding! However, if I WERE to have it for breakfast I would serve it with bacon. I’m healthy like that.

The recipe uses corn syrup. In Letchworth, where I live, it’s easier to find the Grail than corn syrup, so Esther gamely schlepped to the post office to send me an unopened bottle she had sitting in the larder. I don’t know how easy it might be to source corn syrup elsewhere – I mean, Letchworth is not exactly the centre of the universe. More like the armpit. If you can’t find it for love nor money, I have seen it suggested that maple syrup would work very well as a substitute. Or perhaps golden syrup?

For approx six servings you will need:

6 slices of white farmhouse style bread, about ½ inch thick. Or you could use whatever bread you fancy here – panettone? Brioche?

115g butter
200g brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
4 eggs
350 ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orangey booze (full disclosure: I didn’t have this, so I chucked in some orange zest instead. It worked out great)
¼ teaspoon salt

HEADS UP: you have to prepare this in advance, as it needs to chill for at least 8 hours before going into the oven.

1. Melt butter in a small, heavy based saucepan on a medium heat. Mix in sugar and corn syrup and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish

2. Cut the crusts from the bread (or leave on – up to you) and arrange on top of the sugar and butter mix in the baking dish, in a single layer. You want them to have a tight fit.

3. Whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla extract, Grand Marnier and salt. Pour evenly over the bread.

4. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 8 hours, or overnight if serving this for breakfast.

5. When ready to use, preheat your oven to 175C. Remove the dish from the fridge and bring to room temperature.

6. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven, until it’s puffed up and browned, approx 35-40 minutes. Don’t be afraid to bake this until properly browned – you don’t want it too soggy in the middle.

I served this with fresh fruit – banana, berries, kiwi – and a dollop of Greek yoghurt. And not that I would presume to tell you what to do with your children, but I gave a little bit of this to my young daughter, the feral Goblin, and was still trying to peel her off the ceiling an hour later. So next time she’s just getting the fruit and the yoghurt, no matter how imploring she looks when she holds out her fat little hand saying “Mmmmmmm, tack, tack?!”

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Buffalo Wing Sauce-Stained Spoiler: Giants to Win Super Bowl XLVI

As promised, here’s my official Super Bowl XLVI prediction, using Buffalo chicken wing bones! The game will feature the heroic New York Giants vs. the despised New England Patriots, and while I’m sure you would have enjoyed the game anyway, just think how much more fun you’re going to have winning all this easy money too.

The best thing about using bones to predict the winner is not having to waste time gathering information, analyzing game plans, and considering any actual facts. 

No, all the talking haircuts on TV can do that, I’m sticking with this time-tested, definitely-not-an-obvious-joke method. By the way, the fact that the "N" is backwards makes this even more of a sure thing. Why? Don't worry about it.

On a personal note, Michele and I were at Candlestick Park yesterday for the NFC Championship Game! The weather was dreadful, but the old ball yard was rocking, and the game turned into an epic defensive struggle that I’m glad we got to see in person. Go Giants! Enjoy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Predicting a Super Bowl Prediction

I’ve received so many emails asking whether or not I’m doing my Super Bowl prediction this year, using Buffalo chicken wing bones. As you may know, we shocked the world last year with our absolutely spot-on prognostication that the Packers would win, cover the spread, and that the score would exceed the over/under line.

Well, great news! As soon as the teams are set, I’ll will toss the bones, and the rest will be up to you. And by “rest” I mean withdrawing your kid’s college funds and betting it all on the game. Stay tuned!

*For those of you that doubt the prodigious prognosticating power of these puny bones, I welcome you to feast your eyes on last year’s prophecy. Scoreboard!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Broiled Herb-Crusted Salmon – Stop Staring at the Seafood Case, You’re Making the Fishmonger Nervous

I don’t generally talk to strangers – heck, I barely speak to my friends – but once in a while I’ll see someone staring so cluelessly at the fish case in the grocery store, that I just have to jump in and offer them some unsolicited advice – usually suggesting a recipe like this broiled herb-crusted salmon.

This method of broiling salmon, with its simple to make mayonnaise-based crust, produces a magnificently moist and flavorful piece of fish. It can be varied a thousand ways, and other than the actual mayonnaise, literally every other ingredient is optional.

I love the combination of tarragon and Italian parsley, but I’ve used herbs like basil and thyme, which worked wonderfully as well. As far as the fish goes, a center-cut salmon filet is a perfect thickness for this, but other similarly shaped seafood will work.

So, if you happen to be one of those people who get that deer in the headlights look when choosing seafood at the store, I hope you give this great recipe a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 Servings:
2 (8-oz) center-cut salmon filets
salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp mayonnaise
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Peach and whiskey chicken

This really ought to be called Chicken in Jam, because that's what is it. I made it following a medium amount of fuss about its excellence on Twitter and I'm really not sure about it. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say I actually didn't like it. Sorry, yet another bum recipe from me. What can I say? It's an unlucky streak.

It's a recipe from a wildly popular American blog called The Pioneer Woman, who is on her SECOND cookbook by the way. If I never hear about another blogger who's got a flaming bookdeal it will be 8 million years too soon.

Anyway and in this recipe she covers a lot of chicken in whiskey and jam and sticks it in the oven for 1.5 hours. The thing about Americans - and I say this with the proviso that I really, really like Americans - is that they don't half eat a truckload of chicken. And I think they think it probably gets boring, so to liven it up they do things with it like cover it in jam. It's terribly French. The problem with this recipe is there's not much to counter-balance the overwhelming sweetness - there's no sourness and no heat. So what you're left with really just is chicken in jam.

But if that kind of thing sounds right up your street, it is a terrific recipe.

Peach and Whiskey Chicken (aka Chicken in Jam)
8 chicken thighs
about a wineglass full of whiskey
1/2 a jar of peach jam (Tiptree do one, available from Waitrose)
1 bottle of barbeque sauce (I used one by Paul Newman because I LOVE Paul Newman)
some garlic cloves
1 large or two medium onions
groundnut oil and butter for frying

Preheat your oven to 180C

1 Melt some oil and butter together in a pot - (the Pioneer Woman recommends a "big ol' pot", which just made me hate her, I'm afraid) - and brown your chicken in it. Ho hum, what a boring thing this is to do. But make sure they are nice and brown.

2 Remove the chicken to a plate. Chop up your onions and fry these off for about 5 minutes. Add the booze and cook down for about 3 minutes. Then add in the barbeque sauce (I wondered here why I wasn't just making barbeque chicken) and then spoon in half the jar of peach jam. The recipe says the whole jar but, like, fuck that. Whisk this all together with a few garlic cloves.

3 Put the chicken and the resting juices back in the pot, cover with a lid and cook for 1.5 hours. My husband said it was nice and went back for seconds but what the hell does he know. I had two pieces and then developed a terrible headache.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Baked Buffalo Chicken Dip – Don’t Bet the Ranch this Super Bowl

Arguing about what salad dressing is more appropriate for a baked Buffalo chicken dip recipe is kind of like debating about which shoes to wear with that Hawaiian shirt. Still, to some of us (and by “us,” I mean people from Western New York), these kinds of things are important.

No one can explain why, but for whatever reason, deep-fried chicken wings coated in hot sauce, taste really good dunked into creamy blue cheese dressing. However, despite this if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it dipping sauce, people started serving Buffalo wings with Ranch dressing. I’m not sure why, but assume it was some type of strong-arm tactics by the buttermilk industry. Those bastards.

I’m not saying that chicken wings dipped in Ranch are terrible; I’m just saying that the sharper, saltier tang of blue cheese dressing works much better. That goes for the classic hot wings, as well as when this iconic recipe is in dip form.

As I joked about in the video (it wasn't a joke), you can’t keep showing up at these Super Bowl parties with a bag of chips every year. So, if you’re ready to go from snack scrub to appetizer all-star, then give this great baked dip a try. Enjoy!

3 cups diced cooked chicken
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup Frank's Red Hot pepper sauce, or other Louisiana-style hot sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese, plus a little for the top
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (if you can’t find, here is what’s in it)
cayenne, to taste

Sunday, January 15, 2012

And the Winner is…Food Wishes!

I'm proud to announce that Food Wishes has been awarded the 2012 Tasty Award for Best Food Program: Web. I can't thank you all enough for taking the time to nominate and vote for the blog. 

I wasn’t able to attend the ceremonies in Hollywood, but our dear friend Sara, from Average Betty, did, and graciously accepted on our behalf. When she wasn’t accepting other people’s Tasty Awards, she was accepting her own, winning for Best Critic or Review Series. Congratulations, Sara, and thank you for representing!

Speaking of representing, check out this great video Sara did recently featuring David Chang’s Potato Volcano from the Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. If you're looking for a metaphorically suitable Valentine's side dish, this may be just the thing. Click here to check out the full blog post and recipe on Average Betty. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Microwave chocolate sponge pudding

Broadly-speaking, I don't really put recipes on here that don't work because I don't think there's any point. Why do you want to know about something that you aren't going to make? But I think there is some relevance in including recipes here that don't work if I think you are in danger of coming across them and making them and getting yourself into a pickle - hence the Jamie griddle waffles of the previous post.

This is another recipe that isn't that great, although it's not from Jamie. It's a chocolate sponge pudding that you make in the microwave from a book called My Daddy Cooks and if you had the book and came across it and like chocolate you'd definitely be in danger of having a crack at it.

I really don't want to give the wrong impression about this book, as it's generally good-looking and inspiring and I very much recommend it, especially but not exclusively if you've got children. On reflection, I've been a bit unfair, maybe, cooking this - it could never be that terrific. I think it's the lack of eggs that does it, you end up with quite a dry thing. Although it's perfectly amusing to make a cake in the microwave, I wouldn't make it again.

Microwave chocolate sponge
Makes a huge amount - for 4 starving adults or 6 starving children

55g butter
200g self-raising flour
170g caster sugar
55g cocoa powder
180ml milk
a few drops vanilla essence
110g soft brown sugar

1 In a large non-metallic bowl melt the butter for about 30-40 secs (depending on how warm it was when you started).

2 Sift in the flour, add teh caster sugar, half the cocoa powder, the milk and the vanilla extract and stir it all together well until you get a cake batter

3 Mix the brown sugar and the rest of the cocoa powder together and sprinkle over the top

4 Pour over 275ml boiling water but don't mix in. It will look an utterly mad and disgusting mess by now, which is normal

5 Put it in the microwave for 7 minutes. Leave to cool for a bit but then eat straightaway because on cooling completely this will collapse and turn into rubber.

Friday, January 13, 2012

“Steakage” – Changing the Shape of Your Steak Sandwich

Hot dogs and hamburgers are fine for the regular season, but when the playoffs and Super Bowl roll around, you need to upgrade the tailgate menu to something a little more special, like this “steakage” steak sandwich.

The name comes from the fact that the steak is being treated more like a sausage link. The problem with a traditional steak sandwich is it usually consists of a thin slice of beef, grilled and served on a thick sandwich roll. The steak to bread ratio is way off, and it’s very easy to overcook the meat.

Here, by cutting our steak into thick strips, we not only have a more geometrically appropriate piece of meat for our smaller bun, but we are able to get a nice sear on the outside without having to worry about the inside overcooking.

I used a gorgeous flat iron steak, and I really hope you can get one from your butcher, but if you can’t, this technique should work for other cuts of steak as well. NY strip, rib eye, top sirloin, and tenderloin could all be made to work. The key is something that can be cut into a large slab first, ideally about 1 1/2-inch thick, and then into strips about the same width, and as long as your bun.

I was very happy with these, and really enjoyed the little extra something the grilled mushrooms provided. The smoky salad added an earthy texture to the grilled beef, and it was all tied together nicely with the barbecue vinaigrette. To make this easy and versatile condiment, simply combine 3 parts barbecue sauce, with 2 parts vegetable oil, and 1 part cider vinegar.

So, if you were planning on splurging for your next backyard tailgate, and want to serve something a little out of the ordinary, then maybe give this whole “steakage” thing a try. By the way, it goes without saying that this would rock with cheese on it, but the American Kobe beef I was lucky enough to use was so exquisite that I didn’t want to cover it up. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
1 fully-trimmed flat iron steak
6 hot dog buns
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
mayonnaise and arugula leaves as needed

For the mushrooms salad:
8 oz brown clamshell mushrooms, grilled, separated
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

For the bbq vinaigrette:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar

Jamie's griddle waffles

I'm rather sad to report on the first Jamie recipe I've encountered that has fallen short of expectations. I tried out his new genius-looking idea for making waffles in a griddle plan this afternoon and everything went fine until I had to flip the waffle to cook the underside and:

it was more or less impossible. The recipe also calls for 2.5 tablespoons of baking powder, which is all very well but it doesn't half make your waffle taste like baking powder (not good).

By all means give them a crack if you fancy it, though. You may be more dextrous than me at the old flipping - it wouldn't take much.

Jamie's Griddle Waffles

2 eggs
300ml milk
100g butter, melted
2.5 tablespoons baking powder
225g self-raising flour
1/4 tsp salt

1 Whisk the eggs and the milk together, then add the salt and the baking powder. Sieve in the flour (this is important because otherwise you will get lumps) and whisk to combine. Then dribble in the butter in stages and stir in. Rest for 30 mins (yes you must do this).

2 Get your griddle pan very hot and melt over a large knob of butter. Pour in the batter - you might have to spread it around a bit because the batter is quite thick - then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes. Flip it over (yeah, right) and then cook the other side for another 8 mins.

Full details are here

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spicy Peanut Butter & Pepper Jelly Chicken Wings – Gimmicky, But No Gimmick

On the surface, it may seem as though this gimmicky-sounding peanut butter and jelly chicken wings video is nothing more than a cheap attempt to get a recipe to go viral right before the Super Bowl. Sure, the semi-shocking name will probably generate some added buzz, but I promise you, this is no gimmick.

I was thinking of doing some kind of chicken wing glazed with an Asian-style peanut sauce, but texturally wanted something a little stickier. That brought thoughts of a possible peanut butter and jelly collaboration, which came into final focus after a brilliant suggestion by Michele to use pepper jelly.

The result was a spicy, sticky, and, thanks to the peanut sauce base, quite unusual chicken wing-eating experience. If you're a fan of satay, you should enjoy this approach. As I mention in the video, this recipe can be easily adapted, and finding unique brands of pepper jelly would be just one way to tweak it.

I’m also excited to share a method I’ve been working on for getting oven-baked wings with a texture closer to something that comes out of a deep fryer. By adding a thin layer of potato starch to the wings, a nice crusty exterior is forged in the hot oven, which not only adds some great texture, but really helps grab on to the sauce.

With the NFL playoffs in full swing, it’s time to raise your game when it comes to the snack table. Have your Buffalo wings become too predictable? Has that ranch dip lost a step? Then I hope you consider shaking up the roster with these spicy peanut butter and pepper jelly wings. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 40 pieces of Peanut Butter & Pepper Jelly Chicken Wings:
For the wings:
5 pounds chicken wing sections, thawed, patted very dry
toss with…
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
cayenne to taste
1/4 cup instant mashed potato powder or flakes
*Bake at 425 for about 50 minutes, turning once

For the sauce:
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup pepper jelly
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
sriracha hot sauce to taste
4 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Monday, January 9, 2012

Creamy Mushroom Meatloaf – An Experiment in Letting Your Meat Loaf

If you’ve ever said goodbye to someone, and on the way out added a hearty, “Hey, don’t let your meat loaf!” then I just gave you a virtual high-five. In this context however, we’re taking about letting your meat “loaf” for a long time in a low oven, sitting in a rich, creamy shiitake mushroom gravy.

The main point of this exercise was to determine the benefits of cooking a meatloaf and sauce at the same time, in the same pan, but I was also planning on giving you a very nice “three meatloaf” recipe (using beef, pork and veal). Unfortunately, I wasn’t totally thrilled with the results, so you’ll have to wait until I perfect the final formula.

This "Three Meatloaf" recipe was good,
but not Food Wishes good, yet. Stay tuned!
Regardless, this technique will work with just about any meatloaf recipe out there. I really liked how the roasting meatloaf fortified the sauce with its flavorful drippings. The meatloaf was very moist, and seemed to have picked up some nuances from the sauce as well. One negative is you do have to skim a lot of fat off the top, but that seems a small price to pay for a quality one-dish meal.

You can adjust the texture of your gravy by adding more broth if it seems to be drying out during the cooking time, or, like I did, boil the sauce for a few minutes at the end to thicken it up a bit. Anyway, the next time you’re in the mood for meat in loaf form, and a creamy mushroom gravy, I hope you give this tasty technique a try. Enjoy!

1/4 cup butter
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups cold beef broth
1/2 cup cream
1 ready for the oven meatloaf (2-3 pounds)

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Banana Bread That’s Okay to Make Early

Banana bread is one of those things people rarely make on purpose. Even though you know you’re not going to eat seven bananas in a week, you buy the big bunch anyway, because, “it’s kind of green.” Now, those last three bananas are almost black and you’re feeling like a bad person.

Then you remember banana bread, and long story short, you realize you’re not a bad person…in fact, you kind of rock. While that’s the most common scenario, this scrumptious banana walnut loaf, spiked with dark chocolate chips, is so good you’ll want to make it well before the bananas get to that condition. Yes, it does come out better with extra ripe bananas, but if you can’t wait (like I couldn’t), you’re still in for a treat.

The chocolate chips are sparse here, but make a big difference in the overall flavor. This is a case where more wouldn’t necessarily make it better. This should be more of a snack, not a super-sweet dessert. When Michele makes this, she actually grates unsweetened baking chocolate instead, and it’s amazingly like that also. And, don’t even get me started on how good this is toasted.

The recipe is adapted from one by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, from their cookbook, City Cuisine. It’s one of the oldest cookbooks we have, and has tons of great recipes, so check the link if you’re interested. Enjoy!

Banana Bread Ingredients:
3 ripe bananas
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
*Bake in a 9x4 loaf pan at 325 degrees F. for about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

St Lucian mac and cheese

Last night I wasn't feeling very well and so Kitty's nanny, Shura, who is from St Lucia, made Kitty's dinner instead. It was mac and cheese the St Lucian way and it was really, really delicious. It is made without a white sauce, which cuts down the hassle factor by about two thirds and it contains onion, which works wonders.  This might actually be a perfectly normal and widely-used method of making macaroni cheese but I've never come across is.

By the way please don't hassle me about having a nanny, okay???, it's too boring. She's not here every day and when she's here I don't laze around eating bonbons - well, not ALL day - so just cut it (as Shura would say).

St Lucian mac and cheese

1 small handful Annabel Karmel baby pasta shells
1 knob butter
1 small sloop semi-skimmed or whole milk (probably about two eggcup-fulls)
1 small sloop cream (if you have it, about one eggcupful)
1 handful grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon of very finely chopped or grated white onion or shallot

Preheat the oven to 180C

1 Boil the pasta as normal. Drain and return to the dry pan. Over a medium heat, add the knob of butter and stir until melted, then add the milk and continue to stir.

2 Throw over the cream if using and the onion, then the cheese and stir until completely melted. Turn out into a small oven-proof dish and stick in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recipe 666: Deviled Eggs – Damn, These Were Hella Good

As I approached my 666th upload on YouTube, several subscribers wondered if I would do some sort of satanic-inspired recipe. Since one of my New Year’s resolutions was to eat less chocolate cake, I decided to go with the next most obvious choice.

My deviled eggs recipe is fairly standard, except I like to add a little cream cheese. Unlike mayonnaise, cream cheese firms up when chilled, and provides a little more luxurious texture. The other glaring addition is a simple, yet stunning ring of candied Fresno chili pepper. I think a little sweetness is important to balance the sharp flavors, and these “rings of fire,” along with a dash of rice vinegar, worked perfectly.

Besides sharing this much-requested recipe, and the gratuitous use of the words, “damn” and “hell,” the other reason I wanted to do this video was to prove that our previously posted hard-boiled egg method works as advertised. The procedure was posted back in March 2010, and some complained it didn’t work. Well, I used the exact same method, and it worked perfectly, again.

This time I’m giving an exact temperature of 210 degrees F, whereas before I just said to bring to a simmer. I imagine many failures were due to people not getting it to a high enough temperature. You also need a heavy pot and tight lid, as well as live close to sea level, but other than that, you should be fine.

By the way, I did try to get the Devil to make a cameo appearance, but he was too busy meeting with the Kardashians on a new deal. Anyway, the NFL playoffs are just about to start (Go, Giants!), so maybe give these sinfully delicious deviled eggs a try for your next big game day buffet. Enjoy!

12 large eggs cooked in 3 quarts of water as shown
2 tbsp cream cheese
1/3 cup mayo
1/2 tsp Sriracha or to taste
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
chives to garnish
For the candied peppers:
1/4 cup red chili rings
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp water

Goat's cheese and roasted tomato tart

Last year I learnt:

1 Why people wear coloured socks. It's not, as I previously thought, because they are insufferable optimists, looking to display their sunny personality through their jazzy footwear. Rather, it is so they don't end up wearing odd socks (one black sock does look so much like the other one and yet they are alwas fundamentally different in size and texture). And there is something really massively unsatisfactory about wearing odd socks. So I now have a lot of very colourful socks, and always wear matching pairs, and very zen I feel about it, too.

2 I cannot control events with the power of my mind. When I went to see Dr O with my nervous breakdown, I explained to her that I feel very superstitious about my anxiety. "I believe that if I worry enough about something, then it will not happen," I said. Dr O looked at me. "So what you are telling me," she said, "is that you can control events just with the power of your mind?" "No!" I shrieked. "It's more complicated than that." But it wasn't. That is what I believed. I don't believe that any more, and I am much less anxious. But I worry that I am less interesting.

3 I am not good at being flexible. When Kitty was very tiny I lived my life and hers by the clock. I'm talking to the second. From the outside it probably looked really mad but I was terrific at it and it worked. I never had to fret over whether she was hungry or tired because she was never hungry or tired because she was fed before she was ravenous and in her cot before she was hysterical. But now Kitty is nearly one and she's more of a real person rather than a blob and some days, like the rest of us, she is more tired or more or less hungry than others. So now I have to do a thing where I have to make about a million little decisions, from day to day, about whether this is one of those days that she needs to go back to bed at 9.45am for a little kip, or whether she can make it until lunchtime. And just between you and me, I hate it.

4 Being a lazy shitbag is okay only for so long. I am a quitter, through and through. I hate making an effort at anything, it causes me genuine pain. I don't like doing exercise, or "sticking at" things. When I think about having to put my clothes away at night I want to cry, so I don't and they pile up on the chair next to my bed until on morning, usually on a Sunday, it even repulses me so much that I do something about it. But last year, I had to persevere at some stuff. I couldn't give Kitty up for adoption, because everyone would know what I'd done and be SO unsympathetic. And I had to keep wearing my stupid fucking teeth braces to correct my teeth because both my husband and my dentist, Handsome Richard, made such an almighty fuss about me giving up. But now Kitty is so much less of a hassle than she was and my teeth are near as damnit straight that I now, with great reluctanct, admit that perseverence might not just be for massive square martyrish losers after all.

And so it is with dinner. The past few months have seen me so incredibly uninspired about food in general and dinner that I am just doing the same old things over and over again. It was mostly because I couldn't be BOTHERED to think about it. I would mull over our dinner options for about three minutes and as soon as I had settled on an old favourite I would just go with that.

But on the way to the shops yesterday I really thought about it and came up with a couple of things we really haven't ever had before, or hadn't had in ages. They don't comply with my husband's usual cry for things to be purchased from the Ginger Pig, or to be carb-free, but there's no time for that kind of dicking about this year. We must have variety, and vegetables, or we will all go mad.

So I did a very obvious dinner thing last night that was nonetheless really nice. It was very lazy pub-starter stuff - just a slab of ready-made puff pastry flattened and goat's cheese and roasted tomatoes on top. But, you know, it was really terrific and terribly easy and I'll be doing it again. If I can be bothered.

Goat's cheese and roasted tomato tart

2 packs Capricorn goat's cheese
1 slab ready puff pastry (I get Waitrose own, which comes in two slabs. One of those, rolled out a bit, is enough for 2 people.)
1 string of baby tomatoes on the vine
1 egg
some mint, if you have
salt and pepper
semolina for dusting

1 Shove the tomatoes in the oven for an hour at 180 with olive oil and salt at some point during the day.

2 When ready for dinner roll out the puff pastry to a longer-ish oblong. Dust a baking sheet with semolina to stop the pastry from sticking. Beat an egg in a bowl and brush the pastry all over with about a third of the eggwash.

3 In a bowl combine the torn-up goat's cheese (rind on or off, it's up to you), the tomatoes, some mint, salt and pepper and the rest of the beaten egg. Then pile up in a fat straggly line along the centre of your oblong (as it cooks it will melt and spread out and you don't want it to slop over the edges of the pastry).

4 Shove in a 180 oven for about 20 minutes. We ate this with Polpo's courgette salad (also on this blog).

Yes yes I know a lot of you will be rolling your eyes at the obviousness of this, but as my husband always says "The perfect is the enemy of the good".

Monday, January 2, 2012

Goat Cheese Apple Walnut Pasta – Suspect Supper Turns into Super Side Dish

It sounded so good on paper. Yes, this creamy, tangy goat cheese sauce, spiked with sweet apples and walnuts was going to make quite the memorable winter pasta dinner. The only problem was, halfway through the bowl I suffered that most dreaded of all pasta eating afflictions…palate fatigue.

For whatever reason, after three or four ounces of this perfectly fine concoction, I got tired of eating it. It wasn’t that it started to taste bad; it just became a little tedious. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, especially with a bowl of macaroni.

However, instead of declaring my goat cheese, apple, walnut pasta entrée idea a failure, I decided to cleverly re-brand it as a tasty, seasonal side dish. The same exact recipe that fell a little flat as a main course, turned out to be a stellar side for some roast pork.

Of course, with taste being as subjective as it is, maybe you’ll have a different opinion as to this pasta’s worthiness as a headliner, but I wanted to be clear about my official recommendation. Even simply adding some slices of cooked chicken breast would have transformed the dish into something a little less “one-note.”

By the way, this isn’t something to make way ahead of time, as the walnuts react with the dairy in the sauce, and will turn your leftovers a fairly disturbing purple-blue color! If you’re not going to eat this immediately, then don’t mix in the nuts until service. I hope you give this great winter pasta…err, I mean side dish, a try soon. Enjoy!

2 cups ditalini, or other small macaroni
1 tbsp butter
1 apple, diced
1 cup chicken broth
4 oz fresh creamy-style goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What I Had for Breakfast

It's been a while since I posted a, "What I Had for Breakfast," photo, but this Dungeness crab cake Benedict was just begging to be shown off. It's topped with an Old Bay hollandaise, spiked with capers and tarragon. Happy New Year!