Auld Lang Syne

Here is another quick post that has absolutely nothing to do with food, but may just come in handy on New Year’s Eve.

If you are like me, you probably don’t know the words to Auld Land Syne – other than the chorus.  So here they are.  (And if there are any mistakes, don’t blame me, blame the internet!)

And if you really need the practice, play the Mariah Carey video and sing along!

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Best Christmas Song Ever?

No recipe today.  Just a message to say:

Happy Christmas!

And a video of the best Christmas song ever.  Well, 166 million viewers think so, anyway!

Malta is the least wasteful country in the EU

fruit and veg

In the news this week is a report from Eurostat on the eye watering amount of food wasted in the EU each year. In total, the EU wastes 89.2 million tonnes every year and that figure is rising.

The UK is the most wasteful of the EU’s 27 member states, wasting a whopping 14.3 million tonnes each year. Next come Germany (10.3 million tonnes), the Netherlands (9.4 million tonnes), France (9 million tonnes) and Poland (8.9 million tonnes).

But WELL DONE MALTA! Malta is the least profligate country in the EU, only wasting a relatively tiny 25,000 tonnes each year.

The shameful thing is that research suggests that nearly three quarters of food waste is avoidable.

A key reason for avoidable food waste is a ridiculous consumer demand for cosmetically perfect food. Visit any UK supermarket and you will see row upon row of uniform, blemish-free, homogenised fruit and vegetables. What a contrast to Malta! Here we have an abundance of greengrocers and mobile fruit and veg vans selling fresh and seasonal fruit and veg in all manner of weird and wonderful shapes and sizes. NEWS FLASH! A twisted green pepper tastes just as good (or even better) than a perfectly rounded, smooth one.

So, come on consumers; tell your supermarkets that you would rather eat ugly fruit and vegetables than see them wasted.

Other key contributors to avoidable food waste are unnecessarily strict sell-by dates, poor storage, and promotional offers, for which blame sits more squarely on the shoulders of regulators and retailers.

Tamarind Curry Sauce

dried red chillies low res

Makes enough to serve up to 8 in a main course

It is always a good idea to have a portion of this delicious sauce tucked away in the freezer, ready to make a quick and easy supper dish.

This curry sauce has a mild-to-medium heat. Tamarind gives it a wonderful sourness and coconut milk provides a touch of sweetness – a match made in heaven. It is ideal with vegetables, fish or chicken. It can be made ahead of time and reheated as needed.

This curry sauce is vegetarian and also vegan, as long as the tamarind paste and coconut milk are themselves vegan.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
6 dried red chillies
10 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 onions, finely diced
Dry spice mix made with 2 tsp each of mild Madras curry powder, ground coriander, ground turmeric, paprika and ground ginger
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes, blitzed to a puree (or use Passata)
1 tablespoon concentrated tamarind paste
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
135 ml water
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the dried chillies and stir fry briefly. Add the garlic cloves and stir fry over a medium heat. Once the garlic starts to brown add the onions and sauté until they have softened, approx 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the dry spice mix and stir fry for 45 seconds to cook off but don’t let the spice mix catch or burn. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tamarind and bring back to a simmer. Add the coconut milk and water and season with salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, part-cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes check the seasoning, adding a little more salt if needs be. Sieve the sauce into a clean pan and reheat when needed.

Chinese Garlic

GarlicWe are all told that garlic is good for us, reportedly lowering blood pressure, improving circulation and helping in the fight against some cancers. The evidence for these claims is mixed but it suggests that if these health benefits are real, you need to eat large quantities of garlic to benefit.

But is the garlic we are eating safe? Maybe that depends on where it comes from.

80% of the world’s supply of garlic comes from China. And Henry Bell of the Australian Garlic Industry Association tells us some unpalatable facts about Chinese garlic. It is bleached. It is sprayed with chemicals to stop sprouting, to whiten it, and to kill insects and plant matter. Some is grown in raw sewage.

“I know for a fact that some garlic growers over there use raw human sewage to fertilise their crops.”

Chinese garlic is fumigated with methyl bromide to get rid of bugs. Methyl bromide is a very toxic hazard. Exposure to high concentrations can cause damage to the respiratory and central nervous systems, even death. According to the UN it is 60 times more damaging than chlorine. It is the base of CFCs.

Chinese garlic is also reportedly contaminated with lead, sulphites and other unsafe compounds.

Oh, and if you see Chinese garlic advertised as organic, be sceptical. Organic certification methods in China cannot be trusted.

Chinese garlic may also be over-stored. Over-storage is problematic because levels of allicin start to decline over time. Allicin is one of the major constituents in garlic responsible for its health benefits.

So, next time you pick up some “healthy” garlic in your local supermarket, you may not be getting quite what you bargained for. LW and I only buy non-Chinese, fresh garlic. It may not be as pretty but it sure beats the alternative!

Chicken Fajitas

Cumin_Ground low res

Serves 2 to 4, depending how hungry you are!

Fajitas are a firm favourite of lovers of Mexican food. This recipe is for chicken but it’s just as good with strips of fillet steak (or rump steak if you don’t mind chewing!).

The spice mix in this recipe has a mild heat. Any left-over spice mix will keep well for ages in a sealed spice jar.

For the fajita spice blend…
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt

For the finished dish…
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large sweet peppers (1 red and 1 green) cored, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 red onions, thinly sliced
8 soft flour tortillas (wraps)
Optional to serve: guacamole, soured cream and/or salsa.

Simply rub a little oil onto the chicken breasts then rub on a generous amount of the fajita spice blend and leave to marinate for up to an hour. Then bake in a moderate oven (180c) until cooked through. Leave to cool slightly, then cut into thin slices.

Meanwhile, heat some oil and stir-fry some thinly sliced red and green peppers and red onions until just starting to soften. Sprinkle with some fajita spice blend, stir and remove from the heat.

Serve the chicken, peppers and onions in soft flour tortillas adding guacamole, soured cream and/or salsa according to taste.

I’ll drink to that!

lager

The UK media often tell us that when it comes to drinking alcohol, the UK is the bad boy of Europe. In towns up and down the country we see civil unrest, domestic violence, road traffic accidents and crowded A&E departments, all thanks to the demon drink. In France it is more civilised isn’t it? After all, they only drink wine and at that only a couple of glasses with meals.

Well, not quite. The OECD has just published data showing alcohol consumption per capita across Europe in 2013. The UK came out a respectable 18th out of 27. France was 7th. Lithuania is the booziest nation; Italy the least.

What’s more, the research does not include “moonshine” or similar home-made alcohol. Many of the countries that fared well on the OECD’s list, not least in Scandinavia, have a moonshine culture. If that had been taken into account, the UK would have fared even better.

The research also shows that overall, consumption has fallen in the 13 years since the study was last done in 2000. Drill down further and we see that a relatively small proportion of the population – 20% – accounts for the lion’s share of the drinking, varying country-to-country from 50% to a stonking 90% (Hungary). Yeah, in Hungary 90% of alcohol is drunk by just 20% of the population!

Here is the full list.

Lithuania
Austria
Estonia
Czech Republic
Russia
Hungary
France
Luxembourg
Germany
Poland
Ireland
Portugal
Latvia
Switzerland
Slovakia
Spain
Belgium
UK
Slovenia
Denmark
Netherlands
Finland
Sweden
Greece
Iceland
Norway
Italy

Waldorf Salad

walnuts low res

Serves 4

You’ll do well to find anyone who doesn’t like this classic salad! It works perfectly with almost any lunch or dinner time buffet. And, hoorah, hoorah, it’s dead easy to make!

This salad was created by the Maître d’ of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City in 1896. In its original version, it only included apples, celery and mayonnaise. The walnuts came later. Some modern versions have lost the plot and are no longer recognisable as a Waldorf Salad. I’ve seen versions with dates, pine nuts, grapefruit, pears and, believe it or not, even Cajun seasoning! Give me a break. Fine, make a salad like that if you will, but don’t call it a Waldorf Salad. Classic recipes create an expectation in diners’ minds and they feel cheated if you go too far off-piste.

Grapes are sometimes added, as in my recipe, as they lighten the dish and add a subtle sweetness.

For the dressing…
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Simply mix the ingredients together!

For the finished dish…
100g walnuts, quartered
100g apple, diced
100g celery, diced
100g red grapes, halved

Cut the walnuts, apple, celery and grapes into similar sized pieces. Mix in the dressing and stir to make sure everything is evenly coated. That’s all there is to it!

You can make this salad ahead of time. It will keep quite happily in the fridge for several hours.