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Archive for April, 2009

Everyone has a different style.  No one is right, no one is wrong.  It’s one of the things that makes cooking so much fun, everyone does things a little different.  

I’m not a great fan of recipes. I learned how to cook over the years, so don’t like to be restrained by rules.  But, there are times when it is wise to have a reliable recipe to work from.  When baking, it is essential.  Baking is a little like chemistry in the kitchen, if you don’t measure things correctly, you’ll end up with something other than what you were hoping for.  

But, when you are cooking for dinner, things can be more relaxed.  If you like onions, you can add a bit more, if you don’t, you can leave them out. One word of advice, don’t be afraid to make a mistake.  It’s just food.  Unless I am totally unfamiliar with a dish, I use recipes as guidelines or as inspirations.  I am often suspicious of recipes that have lots of ingredients.  Unless you are making a curry dish from scratch (which do have a lot of ingredients, it’s true), I often find less is more.  You don’t always need everything that is on the list, but, the key is to know which things can be left out without damaging the overall effect. 

This is another thing that I learned in whilst in Turkey.  They are great at making small dishes, called Meze, that are usually very simple, but elegantly dressed in  good olive oil, fresh lemon juice, minced flat leaf parsley, and salt.

Dishes made with olive oil should not be served straight from the fridge, as the oil hardens slightly when cold. 

The flavour is much better at room temperature. 

Here is a typical Turkish style Meze, or appetizer and one of my favourites.

 

Fresh Fava Bean Salad

1 kg of fresh Fava beans

Good quality virgin olive oil

Fresh lemon juice

Small handful of finely chopped, flat leaf parlsey, chopped dill, or chopped mint.  

Salt and Pepper 

 

Shell the beans and blanche quickly in boiling water for a few minutes. Don’t leave them, they cook very quickly. Plunge the beans into icy cold water while they are still bright green.  This helps to keep their colour. 

Small beans can be eaten as they are, but larger beans will need to have their casings slipped off.  This is a bit time consuming, but, I usually put on music or a dvd, and the task ends up being quite therapeutic. 

Whilst the beans are still warm, dress them in a few spoonfuls of oil, lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Allow to cool to room temperature and sprinkle with parsley, dill, or mint. 

These are traditionally served on in a shallow dish, with plenty of bread to soak up the dressing.

I like to toss them into a green salad.  They also go nicely with either raw or cooked beets.  

These will keep nicely for a few days in the fridge.

They never last long in our house. 

Hope you enjoy them.

Myrtle.


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Did you have to clean your plate when you were a child?  

I grew up in a house with rules of this nature.  We were served portions and had to eat everything, whether we liked it, or not.  There were consequences if we didn’t; serious consequences.  Children who were allowed to be picky, not eating all their food, were spoiled, ruined, which was a bad thing, apparently.  My brother is a lovely man, who still hates and refuses to eat his peas to this day. 

It is not my desire to bring up debatable practices of previous generations, only to briefly mention the types of food we ate in our house when I was a child.  Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, hot dogs, Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereals, bologna and Wonder Bread.  We rarely had anything fresh, other than seasonal fruit.  It was mostly highly processed food, full of chemicals, sodium, msg, and, dubious forms fat.  Who remembers Vienna Sausages in their diminutive, pull top tins? Or deviled meat? It was the same fare that everyone we knew ate, this was the norm. 

Are we smarter now?  That, too, is a debate into which I don’t care to enter.  I only want to point out that if children are presented with freshly prepared foods on a regular basis,  it is amazing what they will eat.  I saw a different view of family eating whilst living in Turkey, where families generally eat together and there is little, if any, processed food. You can’t miss what you never had. I have tried to incorporate some of those principles into my own lifestyle. I don’t buy much convenience food. Both my children eat salads and fruit, happily.  One hates fresh tomatoes, the other dislikes raw carrots, but I overlook this, as, overall, they eat well, with little complaint.  

Before you think that I am completely sanctimonious, let it be known that my favourite food is, and has always been, pepperoni pizza.  We eat it and love it.  But, the kids and I know that it is a treat food, not a staple.  

Anyway, on with a recipe for one of my family’s favourite staples – Garlic Yogurt with Parsley. Those of you who know us, know that we eat this with everything, including a fork straight out of a bowl. 

Before you recoil in horror, trust me, it is delicious.  Little One has been known to eat it for breakfast.  I first had it in Turkey, where is is served nightly with fresh bread which is very similar to crusty French or Italian bread (made with water and few preservatives, and goes stale quickly).  It is very easy to make.

I favour Fage Greek yogurt, which is very thick and has good flavour and similar to the yogurt in Turkey.  I sometimes combine the low fat with full fat, or use the 2% on it’s own.  It all tastes good.  

DSC_7986

 

Garlic Yogurt with Parsley (Sarmisakli Maydonozli Haydari)

1 tub of Greek yogurt  (500g)

2-4 cloves of Garlic (depends on size and strength)

1 bunch of flat leaf Parsley, washed, dried, destemmed, and finely chopped (or, put the parsley leaves in a mug and cut with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors). 

Salt 

Crush the garlic into the yogurt and mix well. Remember that it will develop, so be cautious the first time you make this.  We like it strong, and therefore use a lot of garlic. Stir in the chopped parsley and salt to taste.  Leave it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

It is delicious with fresh, French bread,  pita breads, toasted breads, potato wedges, felafels, as a dip, the list goes on and on. 

It is traditionally served in a low dish, with a tiny swirl of good olive oil on top.  

Of course, you can vary it to your taste.  It’s nice with a touch of crushed chilli pepper, chilli oil, or other flavoured oils.  Finely chopped green onions and/or dill also work well. 

Another lovely thing about this dish is that it keeps for days in the refrigerator.  

I hope you like it. 

Afiyet olsun, 

Myrtle.

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The Fruit Lover

First Born came home with a stomach ache today.  Too much fruit.  She had mango, banana, and homegrown grapefruit for breakfast.  She also took three satsumas and a rather large bag of strawberries to school.  I blame the strawberries. 

It’s hard not to want to eat  lovely, ripe fruit when it’s in season and  reasonably priced.  But, having a gut of strawberries from the glut at the supermarket, isn’t always wise.  Fruit lovers, beware. 

I will puree the remaining berries and freeze them with a drop of grape juice into ice lollies.  Very welcome when the temperature goes over 100. My nephew loves them as well.

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I suppose it is traditional to explain why one is doing what one is doing.  

I have blogged before.  It was a lovely experience.  I wrote about and photographed my life with and love of plants, my beautiful Cornish garden, and of the Garden Design Course at the Falmouth College of Art, in England. If you are curious, I am also known as The Hedonistic Plant Hunter, to be found at  http://thehedonisticplanthunter.blogspot.com/ . I love plants and gardens as much as I love the culture of food.  

But, I also have a family to raise.  With the move from small town England to the fast pace of Phoenix, I found that I had little time to write, let alone garden. 

Gardening is a different experience in the desert.  It is possible, of course; there are beautiful gardens here.  But it isn’t the joyful experience that I had had in Cornwall.  Nevertheless, my heart still does a little flip whenever I see a hummingbird and I do so love the saguaros and citrus trees that thrive here in valley.  The Desert Botanical Garden will always be a favourite haunt.  If you’ve never been, I urge you to go. It’s a very special, unique place.

I write every day, in various forms.  But, it is usually more dutiful than fulfilling, most often it is just boring. 

It is time, Dear Reader, to take time, to follow my bliss, to find my mojo, to write again about something I love.  

Food. 

Thank you for reading. 

I hope that I keep your interest.

Myrtle x

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Dear Reader, 

You will soon realize, it is therefore, pointless to pretend that I don’t have them.  They are every where.  At least they seem to be.  But, they are lovely, very sweet, and we have a happy life together.  I am referring to my children. 

First Born is now a teenager, taller than me, lanky,  and eats fruit at an alarming rate.  Her addiction to mango is unnatural. She loves sushi (with cooked fish), chocolate, and smoked salmon.

Little One, is a pre teen, and not so little, but she is the youngest.  She, too, is a very good eater, loving cous cous salad, pasta salad, tuna salad, in fact, just about any salad.  She is very fond of vinaigrette, which she used to call ‘Spicey’, when her vocabulary was limited.  Her nanny would buy Paul Newman’s brand for Little One’s visits. My darling was fascinated by his face on the bottle, and soon began calling it ‘Spicey Man’.  It was her favourite.  We still call it that to this day.  

We miss you, Spicey Man.

Much love,

M.

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I Love Food

I love food.  

I love to think about it and read about it.

I love to plant it, grow it, harvest it, forage or shop for it.

I love to bring it home, display it, wash it, chop, slice, and prepare it.  

I love the colors and smells of fresh food.  

I love to serve it to family and friends.  

Finally, I love to eat it.

I’m sure you do, too.

M.

 

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Lemons and parsley.  

Two things I always have in the kitchen.  

Few days go by when we are not eating something with a

squeeze of lemon and a handful of freshly chopped parsley.

I cannot remember who once said to me,

you can never have too many lemons in the house.  

They were right.

I hope that you will agree.

Myrtle. 

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