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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Thought for the Day

OK, y'know what's missing from this blog?

Booze.

Shit. No. Done that one already.

What's missing, from a blog about food, written by a guy whose parents nicknamed him 'Pudding' when he was a nipper because that's all I ever wanted to eat, and whose colleagues nicknamed him 'Two-Puds' because I once had two rounds of dessert in a restaurant... is dessert!

But all that... (DUN)

Will... (DUN)

Change... (DUUUUUUUN)

snacks & the single man: Last Course...
Coming Soon... To a Blog page near you...
(like, right here... when I get round to it...)
(but obviously not right here... it'll be in a different post...)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

S&M Rodeo #2: Wasabi Mash

I should say to begin this posting that I've not actually tried this... yet. Having woken up this morning feeling nauseous, I've barely eaten all day, but this idea had occurred to me a while back as another variation on the Sausage and Mash theme.

The drawback to this suggestion is that it would be far more difficult to achieve with freshly made mash because, with instant, you're basically mixing two powders, then adding hot water or milk. Working with real potatoes, you'd have to get the mash ready before you even add the wasabi, which would just increase preparation time and lead to the mash being cooler or overcooked, and so possibly not quite so appetising when it's served.

So. In theory, then...

Ingredients:
  • Instant Mash of choice (I'll be using Sainsbury's, as before)
  • Clearspring wasabi powder (1 heaped teaspoon should be plenty!)
Preparation Time: Mere moments!

Tools Required:
  • Bowl
  • Stirring implement

Process:
Mix up one serving/sachet/whatever of the instant mash, and the teaspoon of wasabi powder in a bowl, then add water or milk as directed in the instructions. Stir till you have the required texture of mash.

That's really it.

Now, I obviously can't do the traditional 'The Results:' bit because I haven't tried it... but I will make a couple of recommendations in lieu:
  1. Use plain pork sausages, as per S&M Rodeo #1
  2. Use a plain vegetable stock gravy

The reason for this is that any kind of seasoning in either the sausages or the gravy would play havoc with the flavour - not to mention the kick - of the wasabi mash. The mixture of potato and Japanese horseradish alone will season up you pork sausages quite nicely, I'd imagine... With any luck, if my stomach has cleared up tomorrow, I might risk giving it a try...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Link of Awesomeness #1

Tonight, I link to the foodie blog of a friend, rather than repeat its contents, for the finally-revealed secret recipe behind the Arbroath Smokies served at the awesome north London fish restaurant Two Brothers. It is a recipe I shall be trying myself - not to mention hopefully spring on my family - at the earliest opportunity.

Please, if you love your tastebuds, pop over to Crumbs123 and allow them to experience the wonder that is Tony's Arbroath Smokies.

This recipe does turn up elsewhere on the interwebs, and there's some debate as to whether the smoked fish should be Haddock or Mackeral... We tried Haddock, and it was amazing. It's a really easy recipe - the most difficult part is peeling the tomatoes - and cooks very quickly under the grill.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Iceland Pizzarante Speciale

Perhaps I have only myself to blame but, having tried and enjoyed some other Iceland pizzas, I thought I'd give this "Italian style pizza" a go. This isn't from the same range as the stonebaked one I've blogged about, but it is the same price-point - £1.50. The packaging is standard Iceland fare, which probably should have clued me in, but the promise of Emmental cheese, salami and pepperoni (along with ham and mushrooms) seemed like a good idea at the time.

Sadly, as far as flavour goes, you may as well eliminate the salami and pepperoni from the list... I can see they're there, but they had virtually no flavour - none of the kick one would associate with these types of Italian sausage. I'd expect the ham to be bland (it is formed rather than sliced, after all), but surely a spicy sausage should give the tongue something to do while each mouthful is being chewed?

Not being a cheese fan, I also have to admit that couldn't tell Emental from any other kind of cheese on this thing... again, nothing special about it. It's not lacking in quantity, either... just not outstanding.

In fact, the only thing that I really enjoyed about this particular pizza was the base which, contrary to expectation from a ready-made, frozen pizza, actually more-or-less delivers on its promise of being 'Italian style'. It's light, crisp, and very tasty.

One thing I may never fully understand is why so many ready-made pizzas are made in Austria. I'd like to think this has no bearing on the flavour (after all, even if they used Austrian spicy sausage, it should taste pretty good)... but for a supposedly quintessentially Italian food to be made in Austria just seems bizarre. It does explain why they're referred to as "Italian style", however...

Higgidy Little Moroccan Vegetable & Feta Pie

The Little Pie range from Higgidy is, to quote the packaging, "about good wholesome food in reasonable portions". Speaking as someone who will quite happily polish off one of their full-sized quiches all on my own, I'd place these in the 'Quick/Light/Snack Lunch' category, or perhaps serve them as part of a larger meal, but they certainly hit the spot.

This particular pie is made with tomatoes, aubergine and feta... making the second Higgidy product I've tried the second one to contain one of my least favourite cheeses. Weird... But the weirdness doesn't end there.

I have to say, before going into too much further detail, that I love the presentation of these things - not just the awesomely crowded packaging, full of the cute sketches, commentary, company history, invitations to send recipes, and so much information about the ingredients (broken down into filling, base pastry and topping pastry) I'm surprised they could fit a barcode - but the pie itself. Rather than being just a normal, boring 'pie with crust', the top of the pie is formed into a star, so that you can see, even before cutting in, that this is one seriously packed pie. Not for Higgidy, the 'half full' approach to pies.

Unlike the quiche, the pies have to be cooked, but they only take about 20 minutes, so they're eminently suited to being a quick and easy lunchtime snack. The base is made of their usual seeded shortcrust pastry, while the star on the top is a puff pastry. Both are nice and light, and add considerably to the overall flavour.

But the filling is where it's at... Being predominantly tomato (spiced, according to the ingredients), the contents of the pie are rich and sweet as one would expect, but with a good savoury kick from the added herbs and spices. The aubergine is a noticeably smoother note, and the perfect middleground between the tomato and the sharp, bitter feta.

If I had to have a complaint about it, it would be one I never expected to express: it could do with more feta. The cheese is the perfect counterpoint to the rich, sweet vegetable component, but I'm not sure there was quite enough. These pies being handmade, it could easily be that I picked up one that was a bit light on feta and that, somewhere, there's a Moroccan Vegetable & Feta Pie with more than its fair share of the cheese... But that's the beauty of anything hand-made. The best part is that these excellent pies can be frozen, so I'll be sure to buy a good stack of them next time I see them.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Cornflour

Spent the afternoon at my folks' place, and learned a valuable lesson on the thickening of gravy. That lesson is that you can either spend absolutely ages boiling down your fluids, or you can just add some cornflour. For best results, it seems, one should decant a small amount of the gravy-in-progress into another container, there to mix in the cornflour (the idea being that this makes it easier to ensure there are no lumps), then transfer the mix back to the saucepan to continue.

Obviously high on adrenaline and endorphins thanks to the excitement this news produced, I offered to cook my Sausage & Mustard Mash with Sparky Onion Gravy when I'm next over there, with my sister and niece as additional guests.

What was I thinking?

I suspect less-than-two-year-old niece will be having something a little less spicy, but that shouldn't be a problem.

Should I practice this coming week, to ensure I don't make a complete tit of myself, or should I use my old GCSE/A-Level revision trick of doing absolutely nothing remotely associated with this subject until the day arrives?

It's gonna be the latter, isn't it?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Simple Rice & Veg Stir-Fry

You know those days when it gets to dinner time, look through your cupboards and your fridge, and you've got loads of bits but nothing that really amounts to a meal? And most of it is leftovers from previous meals, stuff which you either forgot to include, or couldn't use the whole of at the time?

Yeah. Today was one of those days.

The sad fact is that I'm all to often inclined to eat one of those bits and call it 'a light meal'... So, today, not only to buck that trend, but to try something quick and theoretically simple as a cooked meal, I decided to combine some of the pieces into a more substantial dish. To wit:

Ingredients:
  • Uncle Ben's Express Egg Fried Rice
  • Waitrose Ready to Microsteam Garden Peas, Leeks and Spinach
  • Onion (either one small or half a large one - I used the red onion left over from my gravy)
  • Garlic Butter (I used Lurpak)
  • Teriyaki Sauce
Preparation Time: Approx 5-10 Minutes

Tools Required:
  • Knife
  • Frying Pan
  • Stirring Implement (a spatula would do)

Process:
Fire up the hob, and melt a generous knob of garlic butter in the frying pan. Chop the onion and add to the pan, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. Just as it starts to brown, add the contents of the Microsteam vegetable bag and keep stirring. Shortly thereafter, add in the Teriyaki sauce and stir some more. While that's going, put the rice into the microwave and cook according to the instructions on the bag. By the time the rice is done (2 minutes) the stir-fry should be ready. Empty the rice onto a plate, transfer the stir-fry, then serve.

The Results:
Aside from the fact that this turned out to be the equivalent of a small-to-medium sized meal for two, and the fact that I forgot to add the teriyaki sauce at the stir-fry stage, this turned out pretty well... In fact, it's almost tempting to suggest that the teriyaki be added to the rice as it's served, rather than to the stir-fry... but that's just silly.

As long as the stir-fry doesn't go on too long, all the veg should still be nice and crisp and, coupled with the rice and its egg chunks, it makes for a very tasty and incredibly quick meal. It's subtle of flavour, so some palettes might demand further seasoning, but it'd have to be something that doesn't get into conflict with the teriyaki. Must remember this!

Birds Eye "Bake to Perfection" Wild Pink Salmon Fillets

Funnily enough, I'm no stranger to baking salmon... I'd done it a couple of times before this blog existed, simply because it's a reasonably easy way to prepare the fish in steak form. Season to taste, wrap it loosely in foil, then slap it in the oven for a while.

However, when these things came along, in their "Bake Perfect Bag" ("real foil to lock in flavour", the packaging states emphatically), I figured they had to be worth a try... if for no other reason than to give me ideas for making something similar from scratch.

The idea behind "Bake to Perfection" is that you take these bags straight out of the freezer and put them into the oven. Everything that's needed to produce the perfect salmon steak is inside the bag. Essentially, this appears to be a generous serving of lemon and dill infused butter. As it cooks, this butter is intended to melt over and seep into the salmon, while being safely contained in a bag so it doesn't spill away. The fact that it's a foil-based plastic bag means you can keep a close eye on the fish as it cooks.

And I have to say that, compared with cooking the salmon separately and then adding dill sauce, or any kind of buttery accompaniment later, these things are awesome. I don't know that the butter truly gets into the salmon, or if there's just enough of it on the outside to influence the flavour. It certainly separates itself from the dill, leaving a nice layer of the herb sat on top. And, while the dill is the second most evident ingredient in the butter, the lemon flavour is very apparent. It's very well-balanced, though. Neither flavour overpowers the other, and the pairing complements the salmon perfectly.

Having tried this, I'm tempted to experiment with a block of garlic butter I picked up a while back, and the salmon steaks I still have lurking in my freezer... it's just going to be a matter of deciding what to add to that garlic butter (other than dill, which would be rather obvious) and ensuring it's all well enough contained in foil when I start it cooking.

Birds Eye have added to their range with a "Bake to Perfection" Chicken with Chasseur sauce... so I expect to be sampling that sometime soon...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Taiko Wrap Sushi - Vegetarian Wrap

You know when I said that my Filet o'Salmon Fish Fingers was the Lord of all Snack Foods? Yeah... well... I may have been a little hasty.

I've so far only come across these bundles of unmitigated sushi joy in certain branches of Waitrose, in their ready-made/snack/sandwich chiller cabinets but, at a mere £3 a pop for a full size sushi wrap, these are truly awesome. I shall attempt to illustrate:

Imagine, if you will, a long strip of Tamago, large slices of Shiitake mushroom and masses of fresh, crisp spinach wrapped up in a roll of sushi rice which is, itself, wrapped in a thin yet not insubstantial layer of Tamago. This roll is then cut in half and packaged with a sachet of pickled ginger, a sachet of wasabi, and one of those cute little fish-shaped containers of Shoda-branded soy sauce.

They are intended either as a quick snack, or as something to be eaten on the move and, potential complications arising from wasabi, soy sauce and perambulation aside, perform admirably in either function. They are quite tasty without the condiments and, perhaps surprisingly, the mushroom and omelette components offer the greatest contribution to the flavour. The ingredients list isn't particularly specific, but I'd guess the mushroom is either pickled or, at the very least, has been marinated in something - it has a kind of crunchiness and a subtle flavour that is not natural to raw, sliced Shiitake mushroom.

Dipped into the wasabi/soy mixture, of course it becomes a completely different, more powerful experience, and would probably work very well as a main component in either a full-on vegetarian sushi meal, or a mixed platter with fish, tempura and vegetarian options.

On Stereotypes

OK, right, before anyone comments on the last Thought for the Day post, along the lines of "Oh, you stereotypical Single Man, you... I bet you've got loads of booze at home, and no milk in the fridge, just like a stereotypical Single Man. All beer and no milk. Aw, bless", please examine this photo carefully.
In the bottled drinks rack, wedged in between the 2ltr bottle of Doctor Pepper and the 1ltr carton of Tropicana (Extra Juicy Bits), you will see a bottle of milk. Milk which I bought just yesterday, to replace the bottle I'd used up the day before.

I do have breakfast sometimes, y'know. And I rarely drink beer.

This has been a public service announcement.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Thought for the Day

OK, y'know what's missing from this blog?

Booze.

I mean, come on, it's called snacks & the single man. Why is there no alcohol?

Steak and Ale pies are off the menu because beef makes me ill... but surely something similar is possible with other meats? And how about looking into making up a beer batter for some home-made fish and chips (good grief, that Red Onion Gravy is going to my head!) since I tend to enjoy the stuff they serve in pubs, and I've got a new fishmonger just over the road now?

Cocktails, certainly... Plenty of rum, tequila and vodka sitting in my kitchen (I seem to acquire far more alcohol than I actually drink, and most of the time it ain't me buying it!)...

\\Research mode...

Monday, 7 February 2011

S&M Rodeo #1: Sparky Red Onion Gravy & Mustard Mash

There are two reasons this Blog is called snacks & the single man:
  1. It's a cool name, and no-one else had got there first
  2. I'm shit at first dates
Is this relevant? Who knows? Suffice it to say that, while this little experiment is all my own, the recipe is derived from something else, and the idea came from someone else. More specifically, from the overpriced, underwhelming Sausage & Mash served to them by a well-know London Bar/Restaurant.

I'll focus here on the gravy, since that's the complicated part and, to be honest, I didn't get it quite right on this run-through. The mustard mash was accomplished using Sainsbury's instant mash with a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard (Maille) and a small knob of butter. When I'm a bit more confident in the kitchen, I'll make the mash from scratch, too. Timings for each part will, by necessity, overlap somewhat... and I tend to get a bit skittish if I start thinking I need to to more than one thing at a time. Bad enough that I was cooking the pork sausages in the oven (Sainsbury's Taste the Difference 'Ultimate Outdoor Bred') while working on the gravy. That, and making the mash from scratch would have been... troublesome.

Ingredients:
  • Red Onion (either one small one, or half a large one)
  • Coriander Powder (2 teaspoons)
  • Chilli Powder (1 teaspoon)
  • Turmeric Powder (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Ginger (reasonably sized blob)
  • Garlic (2 decent-sized cloves)
  • Vegetable Stock (Knorr Stockpot this time)
  • 250ml Water
Preparation time: about 45 minutes, at a guess. More experimentation needed...

Tools Required:
  • Chopping Board
  • Knife (for chopping onion, ginger and garlic)
  • Small/Medium Saucepan

Process:
I suspect a useful 'Step 1' would be to actually have some proper cooking lessons... or at least spend some time researching gravy before stepping into the breach and doing something as crazy as this.

Ah well.

So, start by chopping the onion. It's going to come apart, so chop according to your preferences - either slicing it or chopping it into fractions (quarters, sixths, eighths, depending on the size of the onion) then separating it into its layers - then dump it into the saucepan. Peel and finely chop the ginger, then add to the saucepan. Same for the garlic, as it happens. Makes it all seem really easy, doesn't it? Add the coriander, chilli and turmeric powders, then stir together in 250ml of water. Bring to the boil, then stir in the vegetable stock. Allow it all to simmer nicely, and hopefully thicken up.

The Results:
Now, bearing in mind that I used about twice as much water as I really needed (500ml! what was I thinking?) and also couldn't decide whether the saucepan should be on a high, medium or low heat (I suspect 'high' to begin with, then lowering to keep it warm once it's thickened up), so the end result was... rather runny... it actually turned out not bad at all... Again, largely due to the quantity of water involved (but also perhaps the amount of other ingredients), I ended up with at least twice as much gravy as I needed, which is a bit of a waste, but hey.

The recipe I based this on actually called for garlic and ginger paste... which might also have helped. Possibly I could have pulped, rather than slicing, the fresh stuff, but perhaps next time I'll follow the recommendations

The gravy itself was not half bad... very hot and spicy... and it certainly went well with the sausages. Though I do wonder in retrospect if it wouldn't have been better to add the onion later in the process. I'm sure it was in there somewhere, but it wasn't the most apparent flavour in there. It had certainly lost all of its crispness which, to be frank, is not what I was aiming for. Perhaps the idea would be to pressure-cook everything to begin with, then add extra onion to the end result and let it simmer for a while?

Addendum 9/2/11 - Forgot to mention that the recipe from which this is derived actually called for the wholegrain mustard to be part of the gravy. The idea of turning my plain old instant mash into Mustard Mash came from a recent S&M experience of my own (sorry, I will probably be milking that particular double entendre for all it's worth and more) while out on a day trip. I'm not completely certain I added enough mustard, or whether the sheer spiciness of the gravy overpowered it completely, but I suspect those little wholegrains would have been overloaded wherever they were, unless I'd made a mustard mash that was approximately 65% wholegrain mustard... and that would just be silly.

Sillier than everything else in this blog, that is.

The pork sausages didn't quite cook according to plan... or it could just be that I don't know what I'm looking at when it comes to cooking the blasted things in the oven. Normally, I'd fry them... but with a saucepan on the hob, I didn't fancy trying to balance it all with a frying pan as well. Of the three I cooked, one wasn't completely done within the time specified on the packaging, so I may have to rethink time and temperature next time.

Overall, though, for a complete novice like me, this experiment turned out reasonably well... And no signs of food poisoning yet...
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