Category Archives: Food

Good Eatin’ – Hijiki Mixed Rice

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 698/751Food item: Hijiki

Before going into this food item I just want to touch on the warning that has been attached to this type of seaweed. There are a number of governments around the world that discourage people from eating hijiki because some of the crops have a rather high level of arsenic. I bought and ate this knowing this and pretty much not caring. After all, I can’t imagine a company knowingly selling toxic food.

Anyway, let’s onto less toxic matters. One of my Christmas presents this year was a rice cooker (it’s technically a multi-cook, but to me it’s my beautiful new rice cooker. This is a kitchen appliance that I have been wanting for years, but never bought because it felt a bit frivolous. It sound a bit strange to say this, but this may b one of the best Christmas presents that my husband has ever bought me.

I mention my new rice cooker because, without this, I am not sure how I would have cooked the hijiki. I mean I know there would have been some way to do this as a soup, but it turned out so well this way:

To prepare the hijiki I took note of a recipe from Japanese Food Report for hijiki mixed rice. Since I didn’t have access to dashi stock I substituted in low-salt chicken stock. Other than that I had most things to hand… even the white soy sauce, which I am very happy to have found another use for.

The main thing that the hijiki added to the mixed rice was some saltiness and something I can only describe as minerally. Having eaten this delicious mixed rice I am very sure that I have already eaten this seaweed at some point in Japan. There is an odd umami flavour in this dish that you don’t get outside of Japanese food, and it might have been a mix of the shiro shoyu and the hijiki that given this flavour.

With the dried hijiki a little really goes a long way and I have so much of this left that I am probably going to be having mixed rice a few more times in the next few months. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a way to mix in some of the dried golden needles that I have in the cupboard.


Good Eatin’ – Cooking With Jaggery

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 697/751Food item: Jaggery

It’s an odd experience to receive a block of unrefined sugar for Christmas knowing that you put it on your Amazon Wishlist. I mean it’s money I won’t have to spend later (which is good as I just spent £28 on some meat from a game supplier… more on that in a month as I need to find the nerve to behead a bird) and it comes from a place that is helping me to reach the next landmark as soon as possible.

So, what is jaggery? Well, it’s essentially a block of concentrated and unrefined sugar. The best way I can think of describing this is that it’s sticky and granular molasses. The taste of the jaggery is dark like muscovado, but it’s got a different mouthfeel to it.

As with most things, I can’t just sit here eating jaggery shavings. So let’s get cooking.

The first thing that came up when I searched for jaggery recipes was to make a sort of peanut brittle called peanut chikki. I’m not going to say no to something like that, so I followed the recipe here from Foodviva.

Looking at my picture versus the one on the website, I think I cooked the sugar for too long. I mean it’s definitely a darker shade so I wonder if I might have slightly burnt it. Still tastes good… although I wish I’d used salted peanuts so it would have been like a salt caramel peanut brittle. I still have most of the block left after making this so there’s always a next time.

Good Eatin’ – New Mexico Chiles

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 696/751Food item: New Mexico Chile

A big thank you to Wholefoods for providing me with a chance at trying New Mexico Chiles. This wasn’t even something I was going out of my way to find, it was just hanging there as we were purchasing rye bread on Christmas Eve. I guess this could be described as an early Christmas present. Well, it provided me with two for not only was I going to cross off this food item, but I was also going to try out cooking with whole dried chiles for the first time.

As a child I had a bit of a bad experience involving scotch bonnet chiles, residual juices on my fingers and one of my eyes. Needless to say, I was exceedingly careful with my handing of these dried chiles so that I could escape without the urge to flee the kitchen in floods of tears. Manly tears, obviously.

Since you can’t just eat dried chiles (which is a pity as they smelt like a mix of dried cranberries and red pepper) I made a Chile Colorado sauce as following the back of the packet:

Of course I had to add my own touches to this to make it my own. I swapped out a regular onion for a pink onion, added black lava salt in place of regular salt as well as some black olives, a bit of tomato puree and some ground cocoa nibs. By the time I was done with this, the sauce smelt smokey, earthy and of the colour red.

If I had to put this chile (and the sauce) on a scale it would probably be about a medium on the curry house/Nandos scale. It was warming with prickling on the sides and back of the tongue, but with enough of a savouriness to make me want to eat this as quickly as possible. Thanks to this dish, I think I understand more what a character was saying in the third season of Food Wars about spice being addictive.


Good Eatin’ – Coppa Piacentina and Maple Candy

Happy Boxing Day 2017 everybody. As this post is being written I am slowly digesting two days worth of gorging and listening to a best-of episode of the Comedy Bang Bang podcast.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Coppa Piacentina

One night in Munich I ventured into a Lidl looking for food list items. I walked out with a bottle of Schwip Schwap and sadness that I’ll be unable to find Thuringer Leberwurst. During this trip I saw a pack of coppa piacentina, but I only fully processed that I had seen something interesting by the time I had been back in Britain for a few days.

Thankfully, I was able to find a pack of Piacenza meats on the Waitrose website and so this ham found its way to my plate in a matter of days. It’s times like this where I cannot help but wonder… just how far would I have been able to get if it wasn’t for internet purchases.

Compared to a lot of the cured hams I have tried for this list, the coppa piacentina is not salty. The production of this ham (which is a descendant of cured hams from the Roman era) uses less salt in the curing process. What this does is allow for the natural sweetness of the pork to come to the fore rather than salt, spices or smokiness.

Honestly, I am not sure if this is a ham that I would actively seek out. I guess that, because of the subtleties and because this is an early example of cured hams, this is something I have tasted shades of in many hams that have been developed since.

Food item: Maple Candy

With it being the holiday season, I put a bunch of 1001 food items on my Amazon wishlist. Here we are post-Christmas and I am the happy recipient of two more – the first being this plastic container of maple candy. For the sake of full disclosure, I have the hard version of maple candy rather than the soft one. However, since the book mentions this as an option, I still class this as a win.

Previously on this food list I have already had the pleasure of crossing off maple syrup (the main component of maple candy). I did not give maple syrup a decent write-up as I was back in the days of writing food posts with 5-6 items having mini-entries. So hopefully I will be doing better with the candy.

Just by looking at the ones I have here, I can see that this is a darker maple syrup than I have previously had. This matches with the taste which, rather than being sickly sweet, has the richness of a dark brown sugar (like muscovado) with the slight smokiness that would be expected of a maple product. As hard candies go these are dangerously moreish so I need to stop eating them before I give myself a stomachache.

Progress: 695/751

Good Eatin’ – Slow-Cooked Pig’s Feet

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Pig’s Feet

Unlike lamb’s brain or veal sweetbreads there is a ghost of a chance that you’ll be able to find pig’s feet in a nearby supermarket. I have never actually gone out of my way to buy these, but I had no choice when I saw them in my local Morrisons next to the pork steaks. You see, since it took me over a year to re-find beauty heart radishes, I am just buying these foods first and asking questions of suitable recipes later.

At least you can put pig’s feet in the freezer so you can take your time to find a workable recipe; the fact that this one helped make use of my much-ignored slow cooker was a bonus.

The recipe I used was from Allrecipes, which could have been a bit more explicit about the point at which you added the litre of water. Still, the gravy was exactly the sort of aromatic as I had hoped for… just would have been better if the flavours were stronger and the liquid was thicker.

Anyway, that’s the window dressing to the main event: pig’s feet. Not going to lie, but it was a bit odd seeing them laying in the packaging. After all, these are obviously the feet of a pig and, seeing how I am still watching Green Acresthis was something I needed to reconcile. Guess that shows just how sheltered I am in terms of food looking like the animal it came from.

Seeing how my nan used to make and enjoy pig’s feet (which curled into fists after nearly 4 hours in the slow cooker) I thought this would be a good way to continue getting in touch with my German roots post-Munich. Now that I have… this may not be a part of my heritage I will revisiting for a while, unless it is stuffed with sausagemeat like the zampone I ate for new years.

You see I had not realised that there is little to no meat on a pig’s foot. It’s mostly bone, skin and fat. Knowing my nan I can see how this would have appealed to her considering the era she grew up in. Thing is, I am not someone who is easily able to eat forkfuls of pig skin and fat. I mean, the texture was incredible with it just falling off of the bone and being so soft and tender… but it’s fat and skin.

Pig’s feet are definitely something worth using for a stock, but I am not convinced of it as a main part of a meal. Still, I was unprepared for this post to end on a note of disappointment.

Food item: Goma dofu

A few days ago I went to the Japan Centre in London to have a general browse and came across this little individual pack of goma dofu. This is something that I searched for in the supermarkets of Hiroshima, but had not noted down the Japanese characters… so that proved fruitless.

Oh well, at least I found it two and a bit years later in London. Finally! The idea of a tofu type food made out of sesame seeds has appealed to me since I started the food list as it combines two things I really love. Now that I’ve had it, I wish I had bought a second packet as goma dofu is incredibly moreish.

To start off with, goma dofu is nothing like tofu. It’s like a grey jellied custard with the faint taste of sesame seeds. On it’s own this is fair moreish, but ultimately a bit bland. What makes this special is how the goma dofu interacts with a sauce. With the right sauce (like the one attached to this little pack) the taste of sesame is elevated and you are left wanting more of this weird sesame semi-solid pudding.

Progress: 693/751

Good Eatin’ – Beauty Heart Radishes and Purslane

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die Food items: Purslane and Beauty Heart Radish

Thank you Borough Market for continuing to supply me with food items when I thought that I was on the verge of running out. Today’s post concerns two vegetables that, whilst both can be used in salads, are probably not used together all too often. There’s no way for me to properly prove this, but I like the idea of doing something a bit different.

The first thing worth noting is that beauty heart radishes (also known as watermelon radishes) are possibly the prettiest vegetables that I have ever bought. From the outside they just look like a spherical turnip but the insides are incredibly vibrant. In terms of colour, it’s like cutting into a small watermelon albeit a pinker and seedless one.

As for the purslane… well there’s nothing too interesting about them when it comes to looks. However…

There is something interesting about the purslane in terms of taste. You see, the taste of purslane varies depending on the location. Since this variety was grown near the sea (and cost me £4.80!) it tasted salty.

You’d have thought that, after sampling samphire, I would be used be used to a vegetable tasting different to how it looked. Nope. I was taken aback by the sudden shock of salt when I first bit into the leaves. This would basically make cooked purslane the perfect substitute for spinach as you wouldn’t have to salt it.

Then there’s the radish. So… prior to today, I had forgotten that I’ve never really eaten radishes before. Mainly because some of the radishes I saw back in the day was very peppery (and a 10 year old me had no idea how to deal with that).

These beauty heart radishes are a lot milder than regular radishes, with the exterior of the radish being the spiciest… but that’s only the level of some tame rocket. The interior is subtler in terms of pepperiness and is actually a bit earthy with the slightest hint of sweetness. I don’t know if this is something I am going to be able to say about all radishes going forward, but I may need to rethink my position on this vegetable as, surprisningly, I really liked it.

Progress: 691/751

Christmas in Munich – Day 3: Churches and Alte Pinakothek

So here we are already with the last full day in Munich. It’s amazing just how quickly the days go. With that in mind, there’s a lot to talk about so let’s get on it.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 689/751Food item: Schabziger

So, I managed to find some of this yesterday and figured that it would be good to try it as part of breakfast. As cheese goes it does look slightly off-putting as it is a pale green colour. This is because it is flavoured using blue fenugreek, so by virtue of colour addition this cheese becomes green.

On its own this cheese is dry and flaky, which speaks to this being it a cheese grated on top of things. It has a taste that is like a salty, herbal Swiss Parmesan. Nice in small amounts, but not something to chomp on. The web recommends mixing this with butter to have as a spread, and this is the far better option than just having it as it is. The butter tames the acid and helps add a bit of creaminess. It also helps to dilute some of the green colour of the cheese…

With breakfast taken care of, it was time to use and start abusing a group ticket for the public transport (seriously, this is great value compared to London) and went to the first stop of the day: the Asamkirche.

When I first saw this 15 years ago I found the Asamkirche to be incredibly overwhelming. I still have never seen any church that is as over-the-top as this one with its skulls, angel heads and figures of the grim reaper strewn around the place. Also, it’s hard to get to grips with the amount of gold leaf present in such a small space. To think that this was actually built by some rich brothers as a place to be buried. Just ridiculous amounts of money there.

From here we walked a few blocks until we reached the Viktualienmarkt: a sizeable daily food and crafts market that takes place around the corner from Marianplatz. One of the defining features of this market is that it happens in a square surrounding the Munich maypole.

You know me, I am a sucker for markets and want to see all the fresh produce on sale. It’s a real pity to stay in a hotel when there is so much nice looking food on offer. Still there’s one thing I couldn’t resist:

There’s no way that I could be here in Bavaria without having some Weisswurst and a pretzel. Finding this made me glad to have just tried out that cheese for breakfast. I know this sounds weirdly sexual, but I just love dipping the Weisswurst in the sweet mustard and sucking the meat out of the skin.

Anyway, from here we left the market and went to St Peter’s Church. This is one of the largest churches in the city and, whilst not as glamorous as the Asamkirche, is still an impressive building on the inside.

One part of the church caught my attention – the bejewelled skeleton of Saint Munditia. This is not the first time that I have come across one of these catacomb saints, but this is the first one I’ve seen whose placement wasn’t too far out of your field of vision when walking around the church. I have to admit that I really do not understand why you would dig up a skeleton in Italy and have is shipped to Munich in order to be put on display covered in jewels… then again I’m not am 18th century Catholic.

We had a quick break for coffee and poppyseed cheesecake (I had some Schwip Schwap, because I need as much Spezi as possible before I leave the country) is we could be fuelled up for our next stop…

The English Gardens. One of the largest urban parks in Europe and over three times the size of London’s Hyde Park. Considering the amount of snow that we traipsed through yesterday, it is incredible just quickly it can all just melt away.

We only spent a few hours here and we barely scratched the surface of these gardens. In all our walking we didn’t come across the Chinese tower or the Japanese teahouse or any of the interesting buildings that are mentioned on the Wikipedia page. If I ever come back to Munich then this is a place that needs revisiting and a proper explore.

By now our feet were aching, but we marched on to the final sight of the day: Alte Pinakothek. It’s an art gallery that focuses on ‘old art’, so anything that’s not classed a modern. Sadly this museum was under renovation so we only got to see about a quarter of the collection on display, but this was just enough for our now-aching feet to deal with.

Where the museum would usually cover artists from all across Western Europe, the rooms that were not under renovation were mainly Dutch artists, with some Spanish and German ones. Considering that the entry fee was only 4€ and this came with a free audio guide, this was still tremendous value for money.

On previous trips to art galleries in Rotterdam and Vienna, I have been seeing a lot of paintings by Rubens recently. With today’s visit I think I must have seen a substantial cross-section of his life’s work and, now, I am becoming a bit of a fan. The sheer variation in his pictures is astonishing as he goes form a contorted scene of the Last Judgement to an imagining of the scene when Seneca killed himself. So much talent.

It was also interesting to find out how the height of the rooms within this particular museum had been designed with a particular Rubens painting in mind. A painting that is one of the largest canvas painted at around 6 metres in height. As with all the other Rubens paintings on show this was excellent, but to think this dictated the height of ceilings in a museum wing is extraordinary.

The other artist that I saw that stuck out for me was Bartolomé Estéban Murillo with his posed and idealised paintings of street children. There is just something with these pictures that interest me, as does the fact that none of these are on display in his native Spain because only foreigners would buy them from him. Hopefully he was able to carve out a proper living for himself anyway.

Finally it was dinner time and, in stark contrast to the more refined surroundings of the previous day’s meal, we went to Augustiner-Keller for dinner. As with the Weisswurst from earlier in the day… when in Bavaria do as the Bavarians do. It’s a bit loud in the cellar (which is accessed via a long spiral staircase) but a lot of fun.

It was time to overdose on more sausages (again, this is Bavaria), drink a tankard of Spezi and share a starter plate containing local foods including brawn and the restaurant’s own version of obatzda. We were all stuffed by the end of the meal and proceeded to start walking this off with a final walk around the Christmas market in Marianplatz.

Today I brought my decoration count up to four with the purchase of a metal tree hanger of Santa on a steam train as well as a squirrel and a songbird made of something that I’m not currently able to name.

Tomorrow we leave for home, but we have enough time to at least get something done. At the moment I’m not sure what it is, but that’s a worry for tomorrow’s me.

Christmas in Munich – Day 2: Nymphenburg

Well, the snow that was falling last night just did not stop. We woke up in the morning to the sight of bright white streets covered in freshly fallen snow. I honestly cannot remember the last time I woke up to a winter wonderland, especially since I am staying in Lehel – which is one of the oldest suburbs of Munich.

So this was where the day started, a snow covered Munich with yet more snow falling slowly. Apparently this is a cold snap as this is not what you would expect in the first week of December… but this just helps to make everything feel that much more Christmassy.

Continuing yesterday’s theme of Germanic history, today our main attraction was Nymphenburg Palace. Not only is it the birthplace of Ludwig II but it was also the summer residence for the rulers of Bavaria since the late 1600s. So, as someone who enjoys absorbing history during holidays, a visit here was a no brainer.

When you arrive it is difficult to not be impressed by just how expansive Nymphenburg is – it really does put Buckingham Palace to shame. Then again I might be biased because I saw Nymphenburg completely covered in snow, which just helps to make anything feel a bit larger and more other-worldly.

Seeing how yesterday I was walking through Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, it would be expected that I would be a bit ‘palaced out’ or at least that most things in Nymphenburg would just pale in comparison. That is until you enter the Great Hall of Nymphenburg and you remember that since Ludwig grew up here, he would likely have derived at least some influence from his surroundings.

The Great Hall truly is stunning. A bit chilly because of the lack of heating, but artistically it is absolutely beautiful. It reminded me a bit of a Grand Hall that I saw during my visit to a palace in Tallinn, just on a far larger scale. It’s one of those rooms where pictures really do not do it justice, but there’s no harm in trying.

Walking around the many rooms of the palace with the audio guide playing reminded me just how little I know about European history. Especially German history, which must be extra complicated seeing how it was split into so many parts with their own rules for such a long time. I don’t think I am completely up to speed with how it worked for the rulers before Bavaria became a kingdom, so I guess that is some homework for me to do.

One of the rooms that has, weirdly, stayed with me was the Queen’s antechamber which has been decorated with the ‘Gallery of Beauties’ as commissioned by King Ludwig I. The idea of commissioning portraits of 36 beautiful women to be hung in your home sounds a bit creepy. More than that, it is a little bit creepy. However, it is also incredibly fascinating. All of the pictures are pretty chaste and many of them come with very interesting stories (especially those of Lola Montez and Jane Digby, the latter of the two being so interesting that I purchased a biography of her within a few hours of leaving the palace).

After the palace we had a wander through the gardens, which coincided with the snow becoming decidedly heavier. As weirdly magical as it was to be seeing these gardens covered in snow, there’s a part of me that would love to see the gardens in their full glory during the summer.

One benefit of being in the gardens in winter is that you can go for a long time without seeing anyone, so you can walk around and pretend that these gardens belong to you. We also managed to see a doe and fawn bound across the path and graze within the bare trees. That was a pretty cool moment.

We made our way back to the Munich a Central Station for lunch (because nowhere was open in Nymphenburg Palace… which feels like a wasted opportunity). This may sound a bit weird to any Germans reading this, but I am so jealous of the sandwich shops that you can find in German stations. In Britain it’s a bit of a tasteless baguette with some generic filling, here I had a leberkase, pickle and salad sandwich in a role that tasted of pretzels. If a sandwich place like this opened near where I worked, then I would be an incredibly regular patron.

The rest of the afternoon was spent looking around some of the larger shops and department stores in Munich. Just window shopping, for now, but it is always a treat to see how some of these larger stores are when you go to other countries. I tried to use this opportunity to track down the last German sausage on the food list, but nowhere had it. I guess that I’ll have to give up the ghost on finding Thuringer Leberwurst during this trip.

By the time we reached the Christmas Market near the Rathaus it was well past sunset and a choir had just started a half hour set. How Christmassy, right? It’s hard to not get in the spirit and find yourself buying a decoration. For my sins, I purchased an elk carved out of a tree branch. I really love this one because of how unique he is because of the wood itself.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Alter Hof where I found myself demolishing this plate of sausage and sauerkraut with a trusty glass of Spezi. I am not sure if I have mentioned Spezi before on this blog, but this is pretty much the only thing I drink when I find myself in either Germany or Austria. It’s a blend of cola and orange that just makes me incredibly happy.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 688/751Food item: Basler Leckerli

For dessert is a food item! I managed to find some of these being sold by a gingerbread stall in the main market. These are Swiss-style spice biscuits in the same family as gingerbread, but in these the ginger is in balance with, what tastes like, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. You also have the bitter, sweet and sour influences of the candied citrus peel. In terms of texture, this is more like a dense, sticky and slightly dry cake instead of a biscuit, which would make this like a spiced flapjack. Have to say that I may need to buy another pack of these to take home.

Tomorrow is set to be the warmest day of this break as we reach a maximum of 4 degrees. I’m expecting that all the snow will be gone by the time I wake up tomorrow, which will be a pity in a way but I’ll be happy to not have freezing cold toes and thighs.

Good Eatin’ – New Zealand Honeydew

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Beech Honeydew

So here I am a month later with the final of the three food items that the hub got me for my birthday. Sure it isn’t as fun to eat as the miracle berry, but considering that there are five types of honey on the food list it is time that I found a way to cross off the third one.

Like manuka honey, the origins of beech honeydew lays in New Zealand. The idea with this is that the honey is produced by bees who only feed on the sweet liquid produced by beech trees (which is also known as honeydew). The result is a type of honey that is thick, dark and weirdly smoky.

This beech honeydew is a definite step up from the manuka and heather honeys that I’ve had before. Things haven’t changed in the last few years in that I’m not the sort of person that is able to eat honey straight from the jar, but this beech honeydew was actually nice with some butter (well, olive spread but you get the idea) because it helped to tone down the smokiness.

I’m never going to be a big fan of honey on it’s own or as a topping on bread. It’s the same way with chocolate spread; I guess that the only breakfast spreads for me are jam, peanut butter and Marmite.

Progress: 687/751

Good Eatin’ – Very Bitter Bitter Melon

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Bitter Melon

Today marks my second attempt to cook with bitter melon. I had previously bought one of these gourds a few weeks ago but didn’t get to cooking it fast enough and it began to putrefy. I guess that I really should have learned by now that I need to cook list vegetables as soon as I get them.

Anyway, at least this didn’t cost a lot of money… like if I’d bought myself caviar and let that go off. One of the reasons that I have yet to buy beluga caviar. That and the crippling expense. Seriously, I’m more likely to make it to Vietnam and sample elephant ear fish before I cross off both of the caviars.

Anyway. The book warned of the bitterness of the vegetable (with a name like ‘bitter melon’ it feels like this should go without saying) and that a way to counter this is to pre-salt the chopped gourd and squeeze the water out. Like when you are making courgette pancakes… or anything with courgette really.

So, I did that and followed this recipe to try and make the best of the bitter melon. What can I say, it’s bitter. So bitter that it felt like my mouth was under attack – similar to eating a chilli, but bitter instead of hot. The balsamic-soy dressing was a nice idea and the first bite was fine – it’s that aftertaste which makes this unpalatable.

I think I can categorically say that I don’t understand how something that tastes like this was able to find its way into a culture’s cuisine. Bitterness is an acquired taste, I know that, but this really is beyond the pale. I might have to re-evaluate my relationship with sprouts

Progress: 686/751