Num Num

eat. cook. write.

June 30, 2011

The Wimbledon Experience

Oh I know its such a tourist-y bore. But its a delicious cliche.

The journey
The Thames River at Mortlake

I like the overland journey from Mortlake to Wimbledon.
The train tracks rumble so loudly.
We whoosh past allotment gardens
Carrot tops.
Roses- white and pink.
An artichoke bush!
And then, in the beat of an eyelid- a sprawling river with houseboats as colourful as flags; and a woman eating her toast on the river.
There is:
Peeking into people’s houses
Cluttered offices
Mary’s Terrace
“This is Twickenham”
“This is Strawberry Hill”

This is another place, and these are more people.
Travelling makes me feel tiny.

The Golden Ticket

I meet a tennis-groupie couple on the train, they were so sweet. They knew absolutely every detail about Wimbledon and tennis. They showed me how to get there from the station via the bus. It started to rain. We laughed at that misfortune and they wished me well in my ticket hunt.

The closer I got to gate 1 the more rain fell from the sky, and the more useless my mission seemed to be. As I neared the gate I was approached my a tall man in a beautiful brown leather jacket. He asked if I was looking to buy a ticket. Wary of touts that I'd heard of and being ripped off, I asked him to show me. £65 for court one. I was suspicious. But the ticket looked real and he looked sincere. This will only happen once in my life, I thought. So I followed him to the gate and paid him my due.

Pimms, Missing Links, and Henman Hill

Play, of course, was suspended.

June 27, 2011

Melt-y Camembert with Breadsticks and Antipasti

Everybody loves a good braai; or as the British would say- A barbeque. A braai is traditionally a laid- back affair that shouldn’t require too much effort and is executed with a beer in one hand, and a pair of tongs in the other. The trick to this kind of eating is to keep it very laid back, and very easy. Here is my new favourite braai starter. Melted camembert and breadsticks. What! So delicious. So simple.

I confess that during my first year French 1p tutorials I spent more time browsing through French magazines than taking notes. I am sorry to say that I couldn’t resist tearing some recipes cards out of an issue. At least having French recipes inspired me to study harder, I think. And they led to this great find:

Braaied Camembert with breadsticks

You need 3 good rounds of Camembert- The kind that comes in boxes, or as the French would say: “Une boite”. Remove the cheese from each box, undo the wrapping and return to the box. Now wrap the whole thing in tinfoil.
Place on the hot braai ( a weber is best) for 10- 15 minutes, until you can feel that the cheese is melted under the skin… it may also be leaking out the bottom.
That’s about it. Tear the outer layer slightly to get to the melted goodness in the bottom and serve with breadsticks…

  • a note on the breadsticks. I made Jamie Olivers Moroccan flatbreads, and they were very tasty. The idea is to add 1 tablespoon each of crushed cumin and coriander seeds along with a can of smashed chickpeas to a general bread dough. The only problem I had is that they don”t stay crisp for very long, you need to serve them immediately. I tried crisping them in the oven a few minutes before, but they weren’t fabulous anymore.
  • If you don’t feel like baking breadsticks just before your meal….I suggest buying a good quality country loaf and toasting that on the braai (drizzled with some olive oil) while the cheese is on the go.
  • I served this as part of an antipasti starter along with freshly prepared artichokes and bright green broad beans with fine onions and crispy parma ham.  The main course was beautiful salads and Jamie Oliver's funky kebabs... A feast for the eyes and for the belly.
The smooshy- yummy end product

Anti pasti- freshly cooked artichokes with olives and parmesan cubes, and ( in the backgorund)  broad beans with parma ham and fine onions.. pretty pretty. 

Jamie Oliver's Chicken kebabs with courgettes, and peeking in the corner.. lamb kebabs with red onion and smoked paprika

June 26, 2011

Baked Pork with Oranges (and very crispy crackling)

Baked pork with oranges

This dish is a reminder as to why Elizabeth David is such a legend. Her recipes always work, and they always taste amazing. I turn to her books when I need something dependable and delicious. This dish is so handy as you can start it early and then only have to worry about it again 15 minutes before dinner.

This is my (very slight) adaptation. I cook for real crackling- lovers and thus do it separately: the only way to get it evenly crisp I think, without drying out the meat.

June 25, 2011

For the love of summer. and strawberries.

Strawberry Summer Cake

I found this recipe on one of my favourite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. It's adapted from Martha Stewart, and is called Strawberry Summer Cake. Those are two things I adore: Summer and strawberries. It gives me great, great pleasure to hop on an aeroplane and escape at least one month of what I deem to be winter misery in South Africa. I live in a house without heaters, or electric blankets, and only hot water bottles tucked into our pants and between our blankets to warm us. This morning at 7am I went for a crisp morning run and chuckled (a little gleefully I confess) at the thought of my friends at home still enveloped in a dark chill.

Strawberries scream summer. In Smitten Kitchen  Deb writes of rainy weather combined with strawberry purchases that causes a bit of a dilemma. I know what she means. I bought a red mountain of half- priced berries from Waitrose intending to make a chilled strawberry soup. The constant, characteristically English drizzle outside did not invite chilled soup. Rather, it invited warm carbohydrates that were reminsicent of summer but with due regard for the downpour outside. I googled strawberry cake, as I am sure many have before me.. and came upon this gem that I’ve now made twice since in four days.

Please see this link for the recipe as I found it:

The first time I made it, I scattered pistachios on top  ten minutes before the end of cooking and baked it in a sort of pie dish (that turned out to be tricky to serve). For round two I used a cake tin, and added 2 tablespoons of almonds to the mixture for a bit more richness.
Also, when following Deb/slash Martha’s recipe, I do the following:

Instead of adding the dry mixture after the wet ingredients, I make a mixture of egg and milk and add it alternately with the dry mixture of flour, baking powder and salt. I add the vanilla last (and I use vanilla bean paste, oh- glory). This prevents it curdling. Not that I’ve ever known a once- curdled mixture to be of lesser taste… but I just feel more satisfied if it stays smooth throughout!
Since it was a chilly summer evening (annoying actually, considering it was the summer solstice and the druids were all doing their thing at Stonehenge etc) I warmed it up in the oven before serving. M made a glorious runny vanilla bean custard to go alongside.

Vanilla sponge seeped with fresh strawberries.

Yes, please. 

June 24, 2011

The straight and the narrow- A welcome to England

The British are annoyingly organised. You can’t pick your nose without being caught on camera. You wouldn’t dare drive an old jalopy on the highway; and neither would you dare leave your car anywhere without first scrutinising the parking notices. I learnt this the hard way after I received a £25 fine on my first day in Newbury for parking in an area that I didn’t know was “pay and display”.
This country seems to me a land of more straight than narrow. A place of rigid white lines and tall, trimmed hedges; square little houses and bigger square mansions, all with their uniform chimney pots and their uniform people.
Of course, I judge the English too harshly. I do so because I am used to country where one will find litter in the streets. Where a burst of sobbing can save you from a traffic fine and the majority of square houses you find are in the townships where the poor live piled atop one another in a sea of reflective sink roofs and dusty roads. We are not as organised as the British. We have bendable rules and bribable officers.
And so, the British have wild things too- and these are the things that I like.  I saw a timid deer today when I went for a run. I saw two stark black sheep in a cloud of bleating white.  I got stabbed in the shin by an unruly bramble bush. But the cherry on top of my ice cream Sundae happened in Waitrose. The supermarket where its so damn cold and sterile you feel as if you’d welcome a broken refrigerator or a speck on the floor.
In my fresh baguette I found an embedded piece of white cloth, baked into the crust. I was so amused to find this evidence of human error that could not be avoided by law and rule that I didn’t even consider reporting it, or suing dear Waitrose.
So that was my first day in England. Also, we had a dinner party of five guests and Berkshire cook M and I tackled it together.
We had Ottolenghi’s delicious rice flour pancakes with veg for starters, you can find the recipe here .Its one everyone should have in their repertoire and it's great for all those gluten- allergies out there. This was followed by Elizabeth David’s pork cooked in milk, which was very tasty… and the list of the last three days’ cooking goes on. It’s been lovely to get at summer ingredients, and ones hard to find back home:

Rhubarb. Palm sugar. Broad beans. Fresh globe artichokes. Shallots. Plump raspberries, and salmon for tickets.  

And I wish, I wish, I could write you up the recipes I’ve been doing, with pictures alongside. But smarty pants didn’t pack her camera cable (a general note to all: It is advisable to get more than 30 minutes sleep the night before you fly) and thus I can’t upload photos and post them. It sort of kills my blogging mojo, not having the photo part. But I know George I will help me tomorrow, so I’ll see you soon- with more of the straight and narrow.  

June 04, 2011

Orange marinated Chicken and roasted Veg with Orzo

We live with a vegetarian who is allergic to oranges. She is in Cape Town at the moment, and we miss her every day. However, I jumped at the chance of making a meal to this tune while I had the chance.
Since exams started, we have turned our sitting room into a Zone of Higher Intelligence. Files and notes are littered around a massive table, millions of tea cups and coloured kokis are dotted around a box of tissues for our winter sniffles. Glorious. We really needed a wholesome dinner, and a good dose of orange healthy goodness.

June 01, 2011

Easy pasta with sweetcorn, cottage cheese, basil and cherry tomatoes

The first time I made this recipe was when I lived in residence last year, during November exams. I couldn't stand res food any longer. The inedible grey vegetables, deep fried everything, and fatty meat were giving me scurvy, I believed.  So I started cooking in my sardine-sized room with the help of the res microwave. The recipe is simple, easy, comforting and nutritious. Just what my lazy brain needed last night.

If you do live in res, and need to cook the pasta in the microwave- just place boiling water in a microwavable bowl and nuke until boiling, then add the pasta, cover in cling wrap, poke a few holes in and cook until done.

Feeds four

  • 2 fresh cobs of sweetcorn, husks removed
  • 250g pasta shells (the packet says gnocchi but who are they trying to kid?)
  • 3 tablespoons chunky cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • Handful cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Dash of good olive oil
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • Few leaves fresh basil, chopped

    1. Break the corn cobs in half and place in a microwavable bowl. Add about 50ml boiling water and cover in cling wrap. Poke a few holes in and microwave on high for about 10 minutes, or until the corn is cooked.
    2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water with a dash of oil until just done.
    3. Remove the corn from the microwave, and holding it up vertically, cut the nibs off with a knife. Add to the cooked pasta along with the remaining ingredients and voilá, so quick, so satisfying.