Wednesday, 8 April 2009

If a picture speaks a thousand words...

...then this post is already 5,000 figurative words long before I've so much as opened my mouth, which is handy as I'm a bit short on time. Away we go!

34. Spice-Grilled Mackerel (Spicy Food)

I'd actually made this last November but that was before the start of the project, and as mackerel were half price at Sainsbury's (£1.54 for four! Though admittedly on closer inspection at home one of them turned out to be the size of an emaciated sardine) and I had people coming round for dinner (nothing says hospitality like thrift...) the time seemed ripe for a re-make. The recipe couldn't be much easier: you slash the flesh of each fish, rub a mixture of Thai red curry paste, coconut milk and sugar into the skin and grill for ten minutes. I was going to make some coconut mashed potato to go alongside, but luckily remembered in the nick of time that I don't actually like mashed potato, and revisited the Togarashi oven chips instead. The mackerel recipe also includes directions for a very simple salad, which you can see in the background below.

The only explanation I can offer for the poorness of this photo is that Mike, who took it, hadn't slept in over 36 hours. Usually I'm such a control freak that, after plating up, I wrest the camera from him and take a couple of pictures too (not that there as yet appears to be a correlation between this control-freakishness and actual photographic ability, but I live in hope), but I didn't get round to it that night. And thanks to that tangent I almost forgot to say - the mackerel's scumptious! Delicious payoff for minimal effort.

Mike says: "Although puny in size, fish is always fun to eat when it's served with head and all. I can't remember too much about this one as I had been up for a couple of days trying to hit some deadline or other, but I'm sure it was good and had nothing to do with my three day migraine to follow the day after."

35. Little Fruity Puddings (Steamy Food)

These are little steamed puddings crammed with sultanas and currants - think fruit cake mixed with Spotted Dick and you'll get the idea. Again, I'd made the recipe pre-project, but back then I: a) made one large pudding rather than six mini ones, and b) - somewhat more crucially - completely forgot to put the butter in. It actually tasted fine despite this glaring omission, so in an attempt to suck up to my arteries I didn't use the full amount of butter this time round, making up some of the difference with a fruity olive oil. As another healthy bonus, there isn't any sugar in the recipe - instead the puddings are sweetened with honey, which I'm convinced is a gazillion times better for you than sugar, so please don't disillusion me.

The best sleep-deprived-Mike photo of the night! He raises his game a bit when it comes to pudding

I love a good steamed pudding, and these are indeed gooood. It looks a bit plain here - the suggested accompaniment is mostarda di frutta, but I didn't really need another half-empty condiment jar hogging valuable fridge space, so just used up the rest of some double cream we had instead. I tell you what would be perfect with them though - custard! And that's coming from someone who isn't really a custard person (I do quite like fresh custard, but I know Custard People and they would not recognise me as one of their number).

Mike says: "I was actually allowed to eat these even though I was still on my forty day Lent sweet things fast. The reason being that they were only sweetened with sugar, woot. Really tasty these little things, would be good with custard, and in multiples of six."

36. Lemon Yoghurt Cupcakes (Fruity Food)

I made these to take along to a band practice (what do you mean, rock & roll and cupcakes aren't a natural pairing?), not least because I had most of the ingredients to hand. It's a fairly straightforward cake mix, except that in addition to the usual culprits (plus lemon, in this case) it contains a hefty amount of yoghurt, and rather than being simply beaten in the eggs are seperated and the whites whisked to firm peaks. Except - for reasons that I'm itching to go into in a desperate attempt to justify myself, but in order to maintain a semi-sane appearance I will refrain - for the first time ever I overwhisked. (You know how instructions sometimes say things like "if the mixture resembles snow you have gone too far?" I never used to be able to picture what they meant, but guess what? Overwhisked whites really do look exactly like snow! Who'd've thunk?)

The other thing which floored me was the word 'cupcake'. I mean, I know what a cupcake is, obviously, but...well, OK, maybe I don't. I always assumed it was a miniature cake; the kind of
thing you'd bake in a mince pie tray (I realise 'mince pie tray' isn't the technical term, but why on earth are they called bun trays? Have you ever seen a bun that size or shape?). I thought Ms Dupleix and I were in agreement on this - hers look exactly like my idea of cupcakes in the book photo, and I've seen the same recipe in a newspaper supplement where she explained that they were relatively healthy because their diminutive size served as potion control, which you wouldn't really say of a something larger like, say, a muffin. But just two lines into the instructions you're told to "set ten paper muffin cases in a large muffin tray". A muffin tray? A large muffin tray? Is that a tray for making large muffins, or a large tray for making mini muffins? A glance at the sidebar shows that the recipe puports to make only ten cupcakes, so presumably we're not talking mini muffins. But then why doesn't Jill just call them muffins and be done with it? And why do the pictured cakes look nothing like muffins? At this point in my thought process I went "screw it", and spooned half the mix into six (large) muffin moulds and the other half into twelve paper cases lining a mince pie tray.

As it turned out, the difference in size between the 'muffins' and the 'cupcakes' was fairly negligible, but this might be chiefly because the poor things all sank! I imagine my overwhisked egg whites had something to do with it, but our spectacularly useless oven (complete with surprise-opening door) probably didn't help either. Fresh out of the oven the cakes tasted lovely (and incidentally the raw mix was pretty divine, too - sort of like lemon sherbert, but without the tooth-aching sweetness), but as they cooled and sank further they became overly dense - they were still OK, but not nearly as special.

Mike says: "It has been said that I have a sweet tooth, and perhaps over-indulge in sweet things. Rubbish I say, but to prove a point I gave up eating sweet things for lent, and then, to spite me, H goes and makes these, so I wasn't able to savour them, but I am pretty sure that they were absolutely disgusting, and everyone who enjoyed them when I couldn't should admit their foulness. "

37. Nutty Quinoa with Greens (Veggo Food)

I hadn't had quinoa since its first flush of fashionability back in 2004 or so, and I remember never being sure when it was actually cooked. Helpfully, though, Jill tells you that white tails appear on the grains when they're ready (which, in case you're a fellow perennial quinoa-overcooker, took mine just under ten minutes). Anyway, for this recipe , which is essentially a salad along vaguely similar lines to tabbouleh, you take cooled, cooked quinoa and mix it with baby spinach, halved cherry tomatoes, pistachios, sultanas, mint and parsley, then toss through a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and fennel seeds. (I used lime juice and carraway seeds as I was out of lemons and fennel, and the culinary gods didn't smite me.)

This was nice, and more flavoursome than I expected, though I'd probably up the quantities of sultanas and pistachios a bit next time. I imagine it'd make an excellent lunchbox food, too.

Mike says: "This salad is definitely unique, and if you have had never had quinoa before then it might feel like eating frogspawn, but it was good, enough said."

And that's all for now, folks!

1 comment:

Alana said...

Hehe!! I think I took that photo of the fish and chips, but in my defence Mike had already eaten part of it. They were really tasty though, if that's any consolation! Mmm and the cupcakes were gooood too, nice and lemony, like mini lemon drizzle cakes but not as sticky.