I hope your Christmas was full of joy and peace. With much love, always, Julia x
For those of you new to this, the idea is that we pick 3 seasonal ingredients for you to create a dish with and blog about. You can add any ingredients to these in order to come up with a dish. The Twitter tag is #InTheBag.
Make a dish using the ingredients and blog about it then send an email with ‘In the Bag in the subject line to asliceofcherrypie AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk by Sunday 9th January with the following information:
– your name
– a link to your post
– a picture of your dish
Here are the loose rules – but ultimately remember the objective is to have fun whilst highlighting seasonal food:
1. Participants should attempt to use all the ingredients ‘in the bag’ for that particular month, but may leave one out if they prefer.
2. Participants can include any extra ingredients that they see fit.
3. Entries should include a link back to the host for that month, and the post should be tagged “In the Bag”.
4. Entries can be written any time during the month, as long as the URL is emailed to that month’s host before the closing date.
5. Particpants from outside of the UK are most welcome to join in and substitute an item from their own local seasonal produce if necessary.
Not so long ago the words ‘Mexican food in London’ are likely to have conjured up images of brightly painted cartoon eateries with sombrero-clad waiters serving up fajitas and jugs of cheap margarita to hen parties (ah, those were the days!). The food was hardly an exquisite dining experience but by the time you’d washed it down with another shot of tequila you were so plastered and your taste buds so numb you didn’t give a flying taco shell.
But things are changing.
As journalist Fleur Britten, author of ‘A Hedonist’s Guide to London’, puts it ‘A Mexican revolution is afoot – that is, authentic Mexican food that is made with free-range meats and seasonal vegetables from generations-old recipes, as opposed to Texas’ bastardisation which uses insipid cheese, watery sour cream and chillies the colour of bogeys.’. Quite.
This new wave of authentic Mexican restaurants such as Wahaca, founded by former Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, is stirring our interest and taking us on a journey to the real Mexico without us having to leave London town. And we don’t even have to leave our homes if we don’t want to, as we can now discover this incredible cuisine through the exciting pages of Thomasina’s cookbook ‘Mexican Food Made Simple’. It will certainly liven up your kitchen. Now, where did I leave my sombrero?
Having sat and watched as the north of the country became blanketed in snow I was very pleased when it came my way. And boy, did it come.
As usual, the transport network ground to a halt and I found myself stranded at London Bridge station for an hour and a half with hundreds of other very cold and very unhappy people trying to get home. As I watched yet another crammed train that I hadn’t been able to get on pull away from the station and the snow continued to fall I started to wonder if I would ever get home that night. Rob wasn’t having much more luck than me; he had managed to get on a train but was now stuck on it outside a station that it couldn’t get into. Things were not looking good.
I eventually managed to get on a train which took me, not to my usual station, but to one not too far away from home, although far enough to make it difficult to get home. I couldn’t get a taxi and so had to walk into a town centre where, at Rob’s suggestion, I managed to get onto a bus and get to his parents house, 3 hours after leaving my office. It felt so good to be welcomed into their warm home with a hot drink, food and lots of love. My journey had taken 3 times as long as usual and it was still snowing heavily outside. Rob’s journey was even worse and he had to walk for miles to get back to his parents. We were all very relieved when he finally made it home, well past 9pm.
Rob’s parents asked us to stay the night and as his mum made up a bed, found us clothes to wear and fussed over us in the lovely way that only mums can, it felt very cosy and, now that we were all safe indoors, really rather exciting. The words I’d written in the ‘Snow Flurries’ chapter of my cookbook came back to me: ‘if I ever were to find myself in the highly unlikely situation of being snowed in here in the south east of London…’.
That was Tuesday and the snow stayed with us until Saturday. In fact, it’s still on the ground in places, all iced up. It was so lovely being snug inside as it fluttered down. It brought out a Christmassy mood and one of our neighbours invited everyone over for mulled wine and mince pies, which was really wonderful.
Someone else enjoyed the snow too – very much. Our loveable labrador, Ben, was very happy bounding around the local park, as you can see.
‘Come on, this is fun!’.
‘What’s that I can smell? There’s something down there…’
‘I know it’s here somewhere’.
‘Nope, can’t find it but look, I’ve found a playmate!’.
‘But the best playmate is my dad’.
‘Happy at my master’s side’.
‘I love snow days!’
I know that many of you still have snow and there’s still time to join in the fun of the Snow Day Bake Off, which has gone down a storm! It’s going to be a great round-up in a week’s time.
Keep safe and warm x
November’s ‘In the bag’ event, hosted by Scott at Real Epicurean featured game, one of the things I most look forward to cooking in the autumn. My local butcher usually has rabbit available, albeit in his freezer as I guess he doesn’t get a large demand for it, and the other day I picked up a small wild rabbit, all nicely prepared and jointed.
I do love a good stew and as wild rabbit is very lean stewing or casseroling is a good option, to help tenderise it. The length of time it will need will depend on the age and size of the rabbit but the great thing about stews is that you can just leave them to simmer away for as long as you need, topping up the liquid with water or stock if necessary. This stew really was delicious and made me wonder why I don’t cook rabbit more often, particularly as it’s so cheap. Perhaps now I will.
1 wild rabbit, jointed and oven-ready, heart, liver and kidney removed and reserved
2 rashes back bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
800ml chicken stock
A dash of sherry
1 bay leaf
A small handful of flat leafed parsley
A few sprigs of thyme
Sea salt and black pepper
Drizzle some olive oil into a flame-proof casserole dish and heat it over a high heat. Add the rabbit pieces and brown them (you may need to do this in batches), and then remove them from the dish.
Add the bacon and sauté it until it starts to colour and then add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté them until they start to soften and take on a little colour. Next, add the chicken stock and a dash of sherry along with the herbs. Put the rabbit pieces back into the dish and season well. Bring the mixture up to the boil and then pop on a lid, turn the heat down so that it’s gently simmering and then cook it on the hob for about 1½ hours, or until the rabbit is tender. Serve straight away.
My rabbit came with the heart and kidneys still attached (they just need a little tug and they’ll easily come off) and the liver inside the cavity. Offal isn’t something that naturally appeals to me but over the years I’ve become much more open minded about trying things I haven’t before. It doesn’t always have a happy ending, such as when I tried pigs trotters and found them bland and tasteless, not being able to figure out what all the fuss is about. But most of the time I like what I try very much and so I find myself broadening my culinary taste and options
I’m quite sure the lack of appeal of offal is simply because it’s not as ‘run of the mill’ as chicken or beef so as a society – and of course I’m generalising here – we’re just not used to it. And the power of the ‘ick’ factor should not be underestimate; we are talking, after all, about the innards of an animal and in the case of rabbit one which is associated with fluffy pets, Easter and Watership Down. Now, I love all things fluffy as much as the next person – in fact, probably more so – but I also love food. I was curious about the rabbit offal and there was no way I was going to throw it away without trying it. I did hesitate for a second over the heart – I’ve never tried any heart before and I thought about its function which put me off a little – but I told myself I was being silly and, spurred on by tales of how good these things are, I pressed on. I decided that if I chop everything up together I wouldn’t know which bit I was eating anyway.
And, my goodness, am I pleased I did try it; it really was delicious. If, like me, rabbit offal is new to you and if curiosity gets the better of you, here’s how I cooked it.
Clean the reserved heart, liver and kidneys well and then dice them. Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and then add the diced heart, liver and kidneys. Season them well and add a a few leaves of fresh thyme. Sauté for a minute or so, turning frequently, until cooked through. Serve on buttered toast.