Same Old Same New: Mild To The Max

Mix it all up and just slather it everywhere.

I never actually run out of much because, Dear Reader, I write the shopping list, do the shopping and that will never happen. I don’t like hunger and outside of the set things I eat daily and weekly there isn’t anything I can just grab so I never let it happen. I do occasionally run low, I buy a lot of fruit and vegetables that wouldn’t stay fresh if I buy too many, so sometimes I’m left wondering what I’ll make with what I have. Today I wanted something mild tasting, not to be mistaken for bland, something warm, since the weather is miserable, filling and just gentle. So I took this and this and smashed them together.

I found a shallot, so add shallots.

The carob chicken is intense due to the prevalence of aniseed flavours, I mitigated that by using garam masala as the spice instead of the Five Spice, just a rough teaspoon this all rough, Dear Reader, I used a tablespoon of honey and carob syrup, surprisingly this isn’t noticeably sweet, the honey cuts the tahini’s sharp taste, I mixed all that with a little salt, pepper and garlic granules, it’s just a thick paste, but I rubbed it all onto the chicken anyway, you’ll have to scoop it all into the pan when frying, but it cooks better when mixed first.

I’m sparing this carob syrup, so much that I forget to use it.

I used an onion, garlic, I love garlic, and a shallot, fried in olive oil this time, rather than butter. Tossed the chicken into the pan on a low heat, keeping it from caramelising too much, again: mild, left that to cook for a while, this was being cooked alongside the rice so times vary, I love this post format as this is how I often cook, Dear Reader, rather than he methodical posts you often see accompanying recipes, I do that for my Dear Reader who wants to learn, but you can lean here too, just in a less structured way.

Coconut cream because it’s all I had.

I tossed in the coconut cream, which was thickened by the tahini and peanut butter, about half a tablespoon each. There can be an issue getting the sauce to reduce when using nut or seed butters, you’re better to let the coconut cream or milk residue first and then add them, otherwise you’ll have to crank up the heat and potentially spilt the cream, which isn’t bad, but it can be very oily and might not be that pleasant. The whole thing just simmered away, I occasionally tossed the chicken about, more for something to do than for any real purpose, though flip it at least once to ensure and even cook.

Anything like this ends up either Golden Brown or Sunny Orange.

As for the taste? It was just a gentle, warming dish.It is funny how you can add too much to a dish and destroy the balance and here there was a very simple flavour, that tasted just right, if there wasn’t enough it’d be noticeable, but it isn’t so strong that you notice the flavour all that much either. I’m no great expert on spices, Dear Reader, I’ve learned a lot over the years, but I still add too much, forget to taste. There are so many useful spices and I try to vary it, there are many health benefits to everything I use, it’s why I eat what I eat, I just no longer think of that as I cook, I just do it and enjoy it. Hopefully I’ll have something new soon, Dear Reader, I did make scones and quinoa bread, I used teff and buckwheat and it is very tasty as a combo. Worth thinking of for future recipes. Until later, take care.

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Until We Plant Again

For seeds literally flung at the soil they did well.

You’ll see this meal and it’s variations often so we might as well talk about it.

As you know, Dear Reader, I’m always mindful of new readers and if you’re new you’ll fall for that. Okay, all joking aide there are a series of dinners I eat and one you’l see often is the one above, with many tweaks and changes. My diet is one hat has taken a long time to fine-tune, you can see the progress scattered all over the blog, signature chaos in every post, none of this was ever planned that far ahead because I never knew where I was heading. Still, quinoa and amaranth, though amaranth is the later addition it’s strong taste and unusual texture pushed me harder to make it palatable, now I wouldn’t be without either. So, for the above nut butter versions and standard preparations you can check out Quinoa and Amaranth’s recipe pages respectively. Quinoa was a saving grace for me, without it I’d have had a much harder struggle, it took a lot even then for me t love it as I do now. That’s what you have to understand, Dear Reader, these recipe pages are packed because they’re diaries of expeditions into the unknown, I took recipes that barely coked them reworked them to get a basic recipe and then went far beyond that again. You might have to read and reread, but I honestly believe they’re worthwhile.

The stuffing balls are indeed the last of the Harlequin, Sage and Apple Stuffing and,yes, Neophyte Dear Reader, that’s a variation of my own recipe With Sausage that was a remake of he classic Irish potato stuffing, not that I didn’t have another with Rice originally. Using two kinds of rice if needs be. See? I’m not bragging, I’ve just been through a lot in regards food and there are a lot of things I’ve tried over the years. As for harlequin squash, well, you’ll see a lot of that later in the year all going well again. The carrot and parsnip are fresh from the garden, sadly the sweet potato isn’t, and were absurdly delicious. The parsnip just melted into creamy flesh inside a soft shell of tender skin, the carrots retain a complex mixture of firmness and tenderness in roasting that can’t be matched. The chicken was steamed and partly boiled in a pan with turkey juices from the freezer. It’s nothing that can’t be done in any kitchen, Dear Reader, but that’s the point, even with all the limitations on my diet there is still so much I can eat and grow. For now I eat through the old supplies and plan the year’s garden. Take care Dear Reader.

Same Old, Same New: Almond Curry In A…Well, Just a Pan.

In all honesty, Dear Reader, I haven’t enough content to fill two posts so once again I’ll do double duty and just ram all of this into one.

You’ll forgive me because you’re so kind-hearted…surely…I hope.

An oldie, but a goodie. Original Here.

My curries all spawn from my own recipes, the earliest are the Peanut and Almond, when I first went nightshade free after only just learning how to make Thai curries, a sad loss as they’re delicious, there wasn’t really an recipes beyond the most basic and bland curry sauce, naturally I couldn’t stick at a diet that was just bland food over and over, I had to learn and learn fast, there was no preemptive planning with any of this, it was all terrifying seat of the pants stuff and I never once went backwards. Which is crazy when I think of he resolve that that took. The almond curry was originally a almond crumbed chicken recipe with Indian spices, my first introduction to garam masala if I’m not mistaken. It hasn’t yet been nine years yet that was another life and another me, Dear Reader. It is a simple recipe, still it had the benefit of having spices that were very distinct from the usual curry powder and it used almond butter sparingly, always a bonus at the cost, without losing the taste. Yes, Dear Reader, I worked out a recipe based on rough approximations, almonds became almond butter, spices that seemingly paired with that flavour became a part of my pantry and I jammed all these new ideas into the basic curry recipe that has stood me all these years.

Rich colour thanks to so many browns.

The garlic is up.

Extreme close up. They’re going back now. Hope the last until next year.

Now there are really just two ways I do curries, in a pot, where there is a lot of sauce and very tender meat, and vegetables if using, if not and they appear you’ve done something wrong, this is naturally due to the steam, it can cause too much sauce if there’s a lot of moisture present, like if you’re adding fruit and as nut butter will thicken and stop sauce reducing too much you can end up swimming in curry, which sounds great really, no, Dear Reader, I will not take any of this seriously, I know too much that if I speak seriously about it it sounds stuffy and arrogant, so I sometimes use a frying pan instead, it helps with quick reduction and does cook everything quickly. Today i decided to enhance the flavours a little, I fried the onion and garlic in a little butter and olive oil, on a nice high heat, but not letting them burn just brown, butter helps this as it browns too as it heats, I then added a little honey and let it caramelise a little, then I added the usual spices, with a little extra asafoetida powder, still unsure how to use it outside curries, and a little Chinese Five Spice, mostly the same, in went the chicken, almond butter and the spices to be coated and cooked through, to keep the chicken firmer. The whole mixture cooked away on a lower heat for a while so the coconut milk wouldn’t split when added, I warm it on the range to melt it and save myself scraping the tiny tin, and the whole pan turned the golden brown colour you see above. It’s all the browns in the recipe combining. It doesn’t guarantee it’ll taste good, but it did this time, I reduced it a lot and the taste was intense. It’s a really great recipe and I love the health benefits that the spices and ingredients bring. I think about it a lot, but understand no ingredient is a magical cure and by itself rather useless. Eat all the good you can, Dear Reader that’s my motto.

A little less chaos next year…I hope.

Finally the juice is loose!

I’m still cleaning stones, there must have been three or four tons taken, all for free thanks to a friend’s kindness in thinking of Jack, Dear Reader, but the work is mostly done. The rose garden has been roped in as has the dahlia patch, the first I suppose I have to say now as there is a second, which will need some fencing too, have to keep making work for myself to get through the Winter after all. The eyelets let the rope run smoothly and kept it tight so that worked, hopefully it’ll stop the inevitable sprawl of the roses. I feed my plants well, and as I sit here typing this I’m reminded I have a bucket of comfrey tea that has been there for a month or two, maybe three, that might need to be emptied and soon, it’ll be smelly, which is avast understatement, I’m scared, Dear Reader. I have undiluted, no rain to wash the worms in the greenhouse, shocking I know, it doesn’t rain indoors, write that down, worm…worm juice? Worm…feed? No idea, there are crude options here, but this is a family blog so shush. Supposedly you can store the run off from both the worms and the rotting vegetable matter, it’s lost in the composters, no way to save that and with the volume of rain it’d be heavily watered anyways, if it helps then it’ll be great, should be useful it’s every thing from coffee to banana peel, all the nutrient rich waste that people, er, waste. I just need a rain cover when the wormery travels back outside in the Spring. Growing food is exciting if you’re interested, probably dull if you’re not. Ah, well, Dear Reader, you can’t please everyone and if they complain I’ll throw comfrey tea at them. Until later. Take care.

Same Old, Same New: Cottage Pie


The Original.

The garden is slowing, Dear Reader, far from done, but the work is dwindling. I’ve been thinking a lot about one of he issues the blog has brought, there’s a need for posts, maybe not a need, but you understand me, and with my dietary requirement recipes aren’t easy to come by and often have to be created from scratch, add to that the difficulty of fitting in new foods and trial recipes into a very rigid dietary structure, well, it can be stressful. The one thing I’m faced with is there are a lot of ways I utilize the ingredients I have, but often they’d be a poor recipe in themselves and are thus unshareable as such. Obviously their uses hold a lot of valuable information on preparation and culinary uses. When dealing with a plethora of food issues any help is useful, so, here we are. Think of this as a trial run, it’ll be posts wherein I explain what I use ingredients for, how I use them when I’m diverging from a recipe, whether for convenience or fun, but it’ll also be a more relaxed format. Less carefully typed ingredients and methods, I’ll usually be basing these on recipes I have already so you can go there as a refresher or for help, and because working any harder on these posts, flippant as they are I do take this all seriously, Dear Reader, it’d be pointless and exhausting. Depending on how they’re received and how they type up you may never see another post like this, but if they’re useful, well, we’ll see. As always if you like what I do you can buy me a coffee here.

Turkey Mince has been useful.

As I say I often eat the same thing over and over and am often annoyed at being restricted. So I’ll end up playing with what I have. With this I had it in mind that a sauteed Harlequin topping would make a great replacement for mash on the cottage pie, but obviously that wouldn’t freeze. So, a half portion made fresh was in order. I went out and grabbed a shallot, I love the stronger taste of just browned shallot, when browned I added turkey mince, for sheer convenience and mild taste it’s hard to beat and versatile, the comes the magic: Cashew Butter Gravy. I love this, it’s rich and velvety, just a stock cube a pinch of thyme, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic powder. It’s a small serve so it thickens fast. It’s stupidly rich, you need to cut it with something.

Just grow your own or use another sauteeable vegetable.

See, this is why this format helps. No everyone has this, wouldn’t work as a recipe, but as a discussion it works. You could question the nutritional aspects of food like this, but honestly compared to how I could prepare food this is nothing. Imagine all the cheese and fat an average recipe similar to this would feature. So I top the gravy mince with crispy, fluffy, piping hot harlequin and then toss some cheese on top. The whole thing, aside from peeling the squash which I did earlier and made stuffing, is twenty minutes or so, it’s quick, but comes from knowing how everything works together and how to prepare it. Practice in other words, Dear Reader, it’s a mixed preparation, but the steps are the same. It was good, really nice, a large serving wouldn’t been too much in all honestly. I don’t do this elaborate food much for my second meal of the day, but once in a while it breaks the monotony. Getting tired of what I eat is still on of my biggest struggles.

Split cheese optional.

So, there we go. A look at some of the other things I eat when I’m not putting together a recipe. I’m not sure where this will go, but if you have any suggestions or requests I’m open to listening. Let me know below and I’ll be back later, Dear Reader.

Carob Syrup Curry

Looks more like a stew, huh?

Sadly the original recipe this is heavily based on hasn’t ever gotten much views, Carob Curry, I’m not complaining or anything, it’s just that there can only ever be so many views and the most popular recipes will naturally take precedent, still, I have a soft spot in my heart for the all too often maligned carob. It has a very rich flavour profile, I can’t type that with a straight face, how pretentious, eh, Dear Reader? But carob powder has a few drawbacks, the inherent dryness coupled with its inability to dissolve properly can make it less than ideal. Now I’ve done my part creating my share of carob recipes, breads, soba, desserts, when chocolate went I had to try with what I had. Still the flaws tended to stand out and I just fell out of the habit of using it. Now, I have a bottle of pure carob syrup, not pods cooked in sugar, rather sugary syrup derived from the pods themselves, the pods make the flour, and it has the same flavour, more of a black liquorice in syrup form, but can be stirred into anything and it will melt away. I would say it’s slightly milder, but then again it’s been a while since I had the powder and this recipe just uses a tablespoon’s worth.

This is obviously a simple variation of my many curries, you need variation on a restricted diet and any change, however small is welcome. It’s one of he more involved with the spices, the blend leans towards a warming style, not hot or spicy, think mulled wines and Winter stews, not that it’s very complex, but coupled with the natural sweetness of the carob, boosted by the bit of sugar, and the slightly stronger notes  of liquorice present in the syrup the whole dish has a flavour that you can’t get anywhere else. The peanut butter works wonderfully with the carob, it thickens the sauce and adds a velvety richness. If I had to describe it it’d be complex but subdued, you don’t want too strong a taste here so I think the syrup works better than the powder did. This might not be for everyone, but I love making recipes like these because they’re what I needed when nothing was suitable. I’ll be back with at least another big post, it’s the one year anniversary of my surgery too so I’ll talk a bit about that. Take it easy, Dear Reader.

 

Ingredients

1 Chicken Breast, Chopped
160ml Coconut Milk
1/2 Yellow Onion, Chopped Fine
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Smooth Natural Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp Carob Syrup
1/2 Tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Tsp Sugar
1/4 Tsp Cumin
1/4 Tsp Ground Cardamom
1/8 Tsp Ground Coriander
1/8 Tsp Black Pepper
1/8 Tsp Ground Cloves
1/8 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 Tsp Sea Salt

Method

1. Heat Olive Oil in a large non-stick pan and when warm add Onion and Garlic mix and let cook for 5-10 minutes, on a medium heat, or until soft.

2. Add Spices, Peanut Butter and Chicken stir together and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Turn heat to medium and add Coconut Milk and mix together. Then add Carob Syrup and stir until combined. Turn to medium and cook for 20 minutes. Increase heat if sauce needs to thicken more, but don’t let the Coconut Milk boil.

Banana, Almond and Apple Curry

Our extraction fan always casts a shadow which makes these photos a pain to take.

This is very loosely adapted from here, the original seems to have enough sauce for four or more serving so check everything if you’re using that and shame on you for not using mine! Dear Reader, the magician that is your pal Jack has somehow managed to create a new recipe from the same ingredients he uses all the time. Again. Seriously, I could do with something new, but for now I’ll work with what I have. I have quinoa flour coming so hopefully I’ll get some better photos of the Bread and Baps. Not to sound arrogant, but I’ve done as much as I can with quinoa flour, there really isn’t much I can think of making with it, still you never know what I’ll pull out of my hat. Today I’m either tantalising your taste-buds with my banana curry or I’m making you feel ill. There are two sides to the use of banana in savoury applications: Those who like it and those who are wrong.

Just before adding banana.

Now, I do have a similar recipe, but since citrus is out that’s no longer an option for me. So instead of just re-workng that recipe I instead decided to work with the idea of almost raw banana, they’re just gently heated in the sauce here. It gives this incredibly sweet hit that works wonderfully alongside the warming spices and slightly sweet almond butter. The apples provide a crunch and a slight tartness. I just used an eating apple. The banana was a ripe one, I think ripe is best for the inherent sweetness. The sauce is different as the coconut milk starts to reduce right away, the almond thickening, but not too much or it’d make the whole thing stodgy. Almond butter is the least effective as a thickener of the three nut butter I use frequently. Cashew is first, then peanut and finally almond. I find almond butter can be oily which works well when used in conjunction with Indian spices, a lot of Indian gravies seem to favour the separation of oil so it might not be that strange. Coconut milk in a pot and pan is very different, I find it richer in the pan, but if it’s let split it’s unpleasant. It also doesn’t work well with too much additional oil, it makes the whole feel too slippery and gives an unpleasant mouthfeel. You like that, Dear Reader? See, Jack can cook you know, he might be a self-taught idiot, but he knows a lot more than his flippancy would hint at. Arrogance is never a spice used in Jack’s kitchen mind, truth is the only acceptable addition. If I say it’s good then it really must be, because you know if you’ve been here a while I’ll gladly run down my own recipes when warranted.

Always served with fluffy steamed rice.

The cooking times can vary a bit here, depends on how firm your onions are, how set your coconut is, I let mine heat a little to melt it before adding. You can take it early for more, but lighter sauce, or you can let it reduce for longer for a thicker sauce, be careful of over cooking though. The banana is the star here, I’m torn between leaving he amount as is or adding more, too much would overpower, but I really enjoyed the firm, yielding texture. It might be a strange addition if you’re unused to fruit in curries, but when on a restricted diet you can’t afford to be hesitant, eat everything once, twice, three times a…sorry. Just try and unless you hate it completely with the very fibre of your being try it again. I would’ve baulked at the idea of apple alone in curry once, but when you start to lose flavours due to dietary restrictions then you suddenly find yourself much more open to new ideas. There isn’t much to this recipe, you will notice that I add the almond butter with the chicken and apple, this coats everything slightly, but avoids you smashing the apple in order to help it blend with the coconut were it added then. Of course you can omit the chicken, but if you’re adding vegetables you might want to make sure they’re tender before adding the coconut milk. It will cook everything further but as it’s at a simmer, and not for long, it won’t cook things that much more.

I really enjoyed this. I like getting fruit into my diet as much as possible. Eating it as part of a meal helps you avoid overeating to get it in there. You can play with these recipes to suit yourself, but maybe try it as is first so you can see what the changes you’re making have brought to the dish. If you’re curious about how I find these recipe, well, I go to Google, combine two words, in this case chicken and banana, and look through dozens of images hoping to see something. That’s it. I’m pretty limited so new recipes aren’t going to be as frequent as they once were. Still, when it comes out like this the wait is worth it. Take care, Dear Reader.

Ingredients

1 Chicken Breast, Chopped
160ml Coconut Milk
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp Almond Butter
1/2 Yellow Onion, Chopped Fine
2 Cloves Garlic, Diced
1/2 Tsp Minced Ginger
1/2 Tsp Turmeric
1/2 Tsp Garam Masala
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Half An Apple, Cored, Peeled and Cubed
1/2 Ripe Banana, Sliced into Rounds

Method

1. Heat Olive Oil in a large non-stick pan and when hot add Onion, Garlic and Ginger mix and let cook for 5-10 minutes, on a medium heat, or until soft and just starting to brown.

2. Add Chicken, Apple, Almond Butter, Turmeric, Cumin, Salt, Garam Masala and then stir together, increase heat slightly and let cook for 10 minutes or until Chicken is no longer pink.

3. When 10 minutes is up add Coconut Milk, don’t let it boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Increase heat if a thicker Sauce is desired, but be careful of burning. For final 5 minutes add Banana and let it heat through.

Pecan Butter

I have to write about nut butter? It’s nutty and buttery. Done.

Ah, the humble pecan. That…er…what is a pecan, besides a nut? I’ll Google it, but later. If you let Jack away to read about plants then you’ll never see me again, dear reader. A pecan is a fancy walnut. Shush. That’s true and I will deny having ever said it if it isn’t. As with all recipes of this simplistic type I have to work very hard to pad out the following post. The reason I decided to make pecan butter is that a packet of pecans is a fraction of the price of pecan butter, which is insanely expensive. A tiny jar would run you twelve euros, sized like that little jar above. So, I decided to make my own and hope my food processor would be up to the task. It’s just a bog-standard variety, no fancy high-speed setting or anything other than basic functions really. It works, I can’t complain. You can obviously adjust the amount of nuts to suit yourselves. The one warning is that pecans toast fast, absurdly fast. Burnt caramel might be tasty, seared steak delicious, but burnt nuts are burnt nuts.  Don’t do that.

Light affects the colour, it’s brown-ish.

Taste is like a pecan, I don’t add anything at this stage as if I am going to flavour it I can do so when I’m using it. I’ll probably use it in cooking more than as a spread. It’s worth pointing out that it can be much runnier than store bought nut butters. It’s the problem of needing oil to blend. Still, it doesn’t really affect much when you’re dolloping it on your porridge or scooping it into a smoothie. Keeping it in the fridge will probably make it solidify. The joys of home-made, dear reader, are unending discoveries. I do have a few ideas I’ll try it with. I like combining tahini with nut butters, adding some raw garlic, some honey or maple syrup and a little salt. Some water to thin and you make a really handy cold sauce for pasta. Nut butters are great, a staple of my diet. Making your own can be cost effective, but for me it’s just a novelty. Still, it may mean more recipes and that’s never a bad thing, right, dear reader?

Ingredients

250g Pecans
2-4 Tbsp Olive Oil or Any Other Mild Tasting Oil

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 175c (Fan) and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Spread the Pecans out and then bake for 4-5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning as needed, until fragrant and slightly browned. Be careful of burning.

3. Add the Pecans to a food processor, while still warm, and blend until a smooth glossy paste has been formed. Add Oil as needed to facilitate blending and stop every few minutes to prevent food processor over-heating. Store it in the fridge.