The togarashi affair

My husband is having an affair. He’s not even trying to hide it any more. Last week he cooked me this fantastic stirfry and while I was complimenting him on it he dropped a bombshell. Just like that.

What’s even worse is that I know the third party. He introduced us a couple of months ago when we were having a rare lunch together at a little Japanese joint down from work. I thought she was great too, but now I can’t escape her, the fiery little minx.

Dear reader, my husband has become obsessed with togarashi, a spicy, zesty Japanese seasoning comprised of chilli, sesame seeds, ginger, orange zest, seaweed and other sundry ingredients. It’s a bit like the Colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices, only better. It’s traditionally used in noodle soups (the lovely guy who runs the little Japanese joint we occasionally escape to says it is “only for udon” but I can vouch for the following recipe (as long as it doesn’t end my marriage).

Togarashi chicken
I dragged as much information about the making of this dish as I could from the guilty party, plus watched him make it the other day. This serves two generously with rice.

350-400g boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice (lemon zest also good here)
2 Tbsp togarashi (or more, if you are really keen on it)
black pepper
splash of oil
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
bok choy or similar vegetables suited to stir-frying

Mix the chicken, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, lemon juice and zest, togarashi and black pepper together and leave to marinate for 30 minutes out of the fridge or a couple of hours in the fridge.
Heat a splash of oil in a heavy pan, then stir-fry the chicken and spring onions until nearly cooked. Toss in the vegetables until they are just cooked. Serve with hot steamed rice and a cold beer.

Cures for the common cold

It seems to me there are two main topics of conversation at the moment. One: the Olympics. Two: winter ailments. Your enjoyment of a) is directly affected by your experience of b) – and your suffrance of b) somewhat improved by a) – but b) is still a drag.

I have tried all manner of cures and potions to get rid of my current cold but it has Olympic endurance. Yesterday, however, while marvelling at the replay of the women’s triathlon, I remembered my old favourite winter brew. Lying on the sofa while drinking it did seem to help a lot.

Winter cold cure
This is a good thing to drink if you’re feeling feverish and fretful. Make a big glassful, wrap up warm and sweat it out in front of the telly.

Juice and zest of a lemon
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
about 1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh chilli or chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
2 tsp honey

Mix all ingredients together in a large mug or glass and top up with boiling water. Cover and leave to steep for five minutes, then drink. You can strain it into another glass if you don’t fancy a drink with bits in it.

If you’re over the feverish cold stage but still have a sore throat, this thyme tea is very soothing. And if you just fancy something with honey in it, I reckon these manuka honey brownies will do nicely.

What’s your favourite cold cure? And what’s been your favourite bit of the Olympics so far?

Sweet sweet Friday: Blackcurrant Icecream

To keep my brain occupied when I’m running on Saturday mornings I often try to plan meals in my head. Last Saturday, as I waddled around the south coast, I thought about the large bottle of cream sitting in the fridge, the half-jar of blackcurrant jam in the pantry and the fact that there was nothing for the babysitter to eat that night. Then I thought about the July We Should Cocoa challenge. By the time I’d made it around the coast, up the hill and down to the village I knew exactly what I was going to do. I nipped to the supermarket, picked up a tin of condensed milk and ran home. Funny how food is a good motivator, isn’t it?

Blackcurrant Icecream
As well as qualifying for We Should Cocoa, this is also my first entry for the charmingly-titled ‘Bloggers Scream For Icecream’ challenge. You can read more about it here, but all you need to know this month is that the challenge involves making icecream with condensed milk. This recipe uses about a third of a tin, which leaves plenty for eating with a spoon while no one is looking. If you don’t trust yourself with a tin of the stuff, you can see how to make your own here.

300ml cream
125ml condensed milk
1 dsp orange/lemon juice
1/2 cup good blackcurrant jam
100g good quality white or dark chocolate, chopped

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the condensed milk, orange or lemon juice, jam and chocolate. Pour into a container, cover and freeze. It should be ready in about four hours.

Have a great weekend, everyone. We’re off to a birthday party that’s just turned into a wedding!


Oooh la la…

So on Saturday night we celebrated la Fete de la Bastille, with a lot of champagne, a rustic pork terrine (thanks, Elizabeth David) with Dijon mustard, cornichons from Maison Therese, Raymond Blanc’s coq au vin mopped up with lots of baguette, more vin rouge, salade verte, three feisty French cheeses, more vin rouge, not-so-petit pots du chocolat and a Rutherglen muscat.

Then our guests departed into the wild night and we surveyed the destruction while pondering whether a digestif or a tisane would be the best course of action. It was quite a feast. So do excuse me if I look a little pale at the thought of having to think about food today. Thank goodness Bastille Day comes but once a year…

How was your weekend?

Lucy had a little lamb, Pt 3

After doing a lot of eating out and watching Masterchef in recent months – both in the name of work – I have realised how nice it is to eat really simple food. Foams, gravels and deconstructed this and that are all very clever and tricksy but they’re not exactly heartwarming to eat, are they?

This, on the other hand, is like going back in time to when you got home from school and asked what was for dinner and your mother said, “something-out-of-my-head-and-don’t-take-the-lid-off-the-crockpot”. In other words, it’s slow-cooked lamb shoulder chops. Really easy. Really delicious.

Lamb And Tomato Stew
… complete with no-frills photography to enhance the experience

Simple lamb shoulder stew
Don’t even think about adding anything fancy to this, unless it’s a can of drained and rinsed white beans about halfway through the cooking time.

olive oil
4 good lamb shoulder chops
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 ribs celery, de-stringed and roughly chopped
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup kalamata olives
salt and pepper

Heat a spoonful of oil in a heavy, ovenproof, cast iron casserole pot until hot. Brown the chops, one at a time, until well-coloured on both sides. Remove to a plate.
Wipe out most of the fat, then add another slosh of olive oil and saute the garlic, onions, celery and carrots for five minutes, until starting to colour. Tip in the tomatoes and olives, plus half a tomato tin’s worth of water. Stir well, then lay the browned chops on top.
Grind over lots of salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, then put the lid on and transfer to an oven preheated to 160C. Cook for at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours. The meat should be tender and falling off the bones. Serves 3-4, with crusty bread or rice and something green on the side.