It’s a well-known fact that it’s almost impossible to cook the right amount of rice. It’s also pretty well-known that reheating those mountains of rice leftovers should be avoided, since it can give you food poisoning.
I’m pretty sure the boys I lived with at uni flouted that rule, but I’m also certain they’ve eaten so many technically non-consumable things that they’re now invincible. Good job, guys.
However, for us mere mortals, it’s necessary to take precautions. It’s the post-cooking treatment of rice that makes it more likely to give us food poisoning: rice frequently contains spores which, left to their devices in a cosy, warm environment, grow into toxin-producing bacteria. That doesn’t mean you have to throw away your leftovers, though.
To reheat rice safely, when it’s first been cooking cool it as quickly as possible, ideally within an hour – for example, by running it under a cold tap. Keep it in the fridge for no more than a day, make sure it’s steaming hot the whole way through when you reheat it, and don’t reheat more than once.
At the beginning of this month, vegetables made headlines. Not in terms of comedic shapes or astonishing size, but rather because we Britons aren’t getting enough of them. I know! What a shock! Honestly, it’s like we’re a nation raised on turkey twizzlers and chips or something.
Oh, how we guffawed. Seven a day, we’re meant to eat now, apparently. Seven different fruits and vegetables, about 80g per portion. The only way the average person in the UK will achieve that is if they reclassify potatoes as vegetables, instead of starchy carbs.
But we can, try, right? We can try sneaking the healthy stuff in. I got a julienne peeler for my birthday and it, along with a bit of mind trickery, helped me to totally up my vegetable game. So out with spaghetti. In with what people have dubbed courgetti/zoodles. This, I tell you, is something no-one who’s known me for more than 5 minutes would have predicted.
In this bake, those vegetables are beefed up with sausage meatballs, chickpeas, and a decent kick of chilli. And by the end of it, you’ve had three of your five – or seven – a day, with none of the misery of enduring a salad.
I very nearly didn’t write this recipe, because, well, it’s all a bit haphazard and when you bake it, it just looks like any other thing topped with cheese – that is, delicious, but not particularly inventive. It’s not going to make anyone gasp. It’s vegetables in a sauce with cheese. I didn’t deem it blog-worthy at all, until I realised that I’d eaten it three or four times a week, and started panic-buying courgettes as if there’d be a sudden dearth, and so just maybe it might be worth sharing.
It’s almost Easter! Let’s talk about eggs, but not the chocolate kind (sorry).
I love eggs, as does my flatmate, to the point that we sometimes completely over-buy and yet we never, ever have to throw them away because they’re too old. We’re far from being the only ones: when I asked on Twitter what foods people refuse to scrimp on, almost everybody said free-range eggs.
I love that you can call eggs any meal you want, that you can eat them any which way at any time of day without it raising eyebrows. You can eat most foods at strange times of day, really — I’m pretty sure that’s what leaving home is about, the trade-off between getting your washing done for you and being able to eat completely weird food — but with eggs it’s kind of legitimate.
The very best I’ve had come from a chicken farm near home, where the chickens roam free in huge enclosures and, before they started running down the dirt track to the main road too often and had to be fenced in, used to peck at your shoes if you stood still for long enough while they ran around your feet. They’re so good that I’ve been known to lovingly transport them more than 100 miles from home to my flat, knowing that at the end I’ll be rewarded with the brightest orange yolks that make them perfect for just about everything, even if they are sometimes a bit strangely shaped.
Anyway. Too often I read recipes and have the wrong eggs. I have medium when it says large, or I’m left wondering whether large in American recipes is the same as a UK large. As in women’s clothes, the sizing seems to be different everywhere you look.
Back home, in that small village with the fields of crops I’m incredibly allergic to, most of my neighbours have known me since birth. They’ve watched as learned to walk, ride a bike, and eventually as my brothers and I left home.
My favourite neighbour is an 80-year-old man called Bill. Sometimes when I’m back for a weekend, I’ll nip over one evening, and we’ll end up drinking wine and chatting for hours in his front room, while my parents sit at home and wonder what on earth we could be discussing. Often, when he leans back in his chair, he’ll lace his fingers together and rest them on his tummy while he talks, his Scottish accent still very much there despite his decades in England. He’s not an ordinary old man – he’s fiercely independent and physically active – and we have the same conversations you would with anyone half his age or younger.
But my upstairs neighbour here in London…for a month we weren’t even totally sure of his name, let alone what he looks like or if he’s, you know, an amateur taxidermist or model train collector.
It’s a strange thing, this silence between neighbours that you only really seem to get in big cities. The couple on the third floor keep themselves to themselves too, but we’ve bumped into each other while I’m wearing tracksuit bottoms enough that I’ve felt the need to reassure them that I do usually dress like a respectable adult.
This weekend, I made this cake and went upstairs to introduce myself and make small talk about things like fire alarms. Of course, it wasn’t until I got back to my flat that I realised I had a big flick of chocolate on my chin. So while I was thinking, “He is quite the dishy doctor”, he was probably thinking, “Why is this girl brandishing a foil package at me and why is her lower face covered in…oh, I hope that’s chocolate”. Forever classy. Forever terrible at first impressions.
Luckily, the cake is good enough to make a great first impression when I’m too busy living a sitcom-worthy life to do so myself, even though I burnt it a little. And it’s super easy! Let’s go.
Silence seems to be the order of the day here, at the moment. So far, 2014 has been unrelenting in pace, throwing us all forward quicker than we’d perhaps like, hurling challenges to clamber back up from like we’re playing the Takeshi’s Castle of Life. My tiredness levels have reached the point where last night I even dreamed about sleeping, and when asked what my plans for the week are, said, “I’m cooking two of my friends for dinner tomorrow.” Sorry guys, looks like you’ll be on the table, not at the table.
I’ll get back to cooking properly soon, but for now it’s all a little uninspiring. The latest vegetable obsession – I’m a latecomer to this non-beige food party – has seen me wielding a julienne peeler at every courgette I can find. Honestly, courgettes are a revelation, but as much as I’d love to pretend that’s all I’ve been eating to fuel these long days, the chocolate smudges on my jeans tell a different story. A couple of nights ago I definitely gave life to the Frankentoastie, the gooey marriage of brie and Easter egg chocolate – the best kind, and we all know it – between two seeded slices. No regrets.
So instead of inflicting my recent bizarre meals upon you, here’s a little guide to what’s in season this month, and what you might like to cook with it. There are some absolute gems in here.
Asparagus is totally new to me. After seeing a hell of a lot of hype over asparagus season, I decided to give it a go, and oh boy was it worth the risk. Quick pan fry + sprinkled with sea salt = happy asparagus season.
One of the things that always baffles me when I come home is my mother’s recipe collection. Dozens of cookbooks, a folder full of ripped out magazine pages, some of them decades old, and a bunch of hand-written recipes. It’s extensive and spans at least 30 years, going by the design and crispy edges of some of those magazine pull-outs, and tells stories without trying. Even the style of recipe writing has changed in that time, no-nonsense instructions from Mrs Beeton giving way to seductive adjective-laden notes from Nigella.
But then I look at my own collection. A handful of cookbooks and a hell of a lot of internet bookmarks, likes on Bloglovin’, and favourites on Twitter. None of it is permanent beyond electrical pulses.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a small ebook. TLB has finally hit 100 posts — more significant, to me, than a blog birthday, purely because I disappear for weeks at a time — and to celebrate, I’ve brought together your favourite recipes. And the cookies I made last week, because honestly they’re astonishing.
It’s my birthday this week, so cookies are back. It’s my party and I’ll gorge myself on browned butter if I want to.
It’s probably a symptom of having older siblings, but it’s hard to forget how old twenties always used to sound to me, how much I thought I’d have sorted by now. But then, I thought that at 18 and 21 too, so I suspect my heart and my brain will forever be playing catch up to the passing of timing and the aging of this bundle of cells. I also suspect we all feel the same way.
But these cookies are probably one of the most grown up things I’ve achieved so far. They’re dark and toffee-y and use fancy salt — when did I become a person who gets excited by fancy salt? — in ways that take them a million miles from Maryland’s excuse for cookies.
The making of them completely feels like magic — the process of browning the butter, then whisking it with sugar and leaving it for a bit means that you start out with a gritty mix but end up with a gorgeously thick, glossy mixture. And then! And then you add the flour and the chocolate and it becomes the most gorgeously rich, nutty cookie dough imaginable.
It’s not a cookie to hand out to children — it’s one to be served warm, and savoured, the crisp outside giving way to a soft chewy inside, studded with dark chocolate brought to life by smoked sea salt. It’s an indulgence that, dipped into coffee, makes grey Monday mornings at your office job a lot brighter. It’s most certainly a cookie for grown ups.