Monday, 26 December 2011

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays baby calves.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cheese Fries casserole

I made a cheese fries casserole a la Betty's Kitchen to have with (leftover) chilli. I made few changes, notably:

1) I halved the recipe

I used regular frozen fries.

Diced onion.

 2) I used Gouda cheese (because this is what I had)


Snipped it up with scissors instead of grated it, for reasons of convenience.


3) instead of a crunchy border of cornflakes, I opted for an overall crunchy blanket of boxed bread crumbs.

We had it with heated-up chilli and a salad of rocket leaves, pecans, lettuce and balsamic dressing.

It turned out very well, creamy and cheesy, see here for recipe. I would like to make it again with this new Scotch Bonnet cheese from Tesco that's coming in the next delivery. It would go great with a new hot sauce we've got as well.

We went to an honestly pretty boring Christmas fair at the Barbican where we did two good things: eat some Greek Christmas biscuits, and discover Aunt Celia's Hot Hot Pepper Sauce.

Me and James agree that it's the best hot sauce we've had out of all the hot sauces we've tried, and we've tried loads - stuff by Blair's, CaJohn's, the You Can't Handle This hot sauce - first problem with many of the very hot hot sauces is the slight 'chemically' taste - maybe the taste of capsaicin, and the other problem is that if the sauce is too hot you don't get any other flavour. This hot sauce is impressively/scorchingly hot, but retains a beautiful Scotch Bonnet flavour. It's not a Tabasco-consistency hot sauce, the consistency's gloppier, like cheese dip. So far we've had it with fries and I've had it eggs and baked beans for breakfast (amazing!), but it promises to be a very versatile hot sauce.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dogfather, and Chilli

When I was younger, there used to be an American fast food chain called A&W in Singapore. As far as I can recall they mainly sold three things: a) hot dogs called 'coney dogs', waffles, and root beer. I liked my root beer in float form. One day they packed up and disappeared, leaving canned root beer in their wake, and left me with a hankering for hot dogs.

On Saturdays, there's a little market thing on North Cross Road in East Dulwich.
You walk past the hog roast, past the clothes, past the fair trade coffee van (the coffee is lovely, and you can get bags of beans), past baked goods, somerset fudge, caribbean food, stews and pies, and towards the end you'll get to a stand called the Dogfather Diner.

They have light up cactuses, hot sauce, jalapenos, a dog, and a long queue.

We like their hot dogs. They're hot dogs that remind me, very much, of the A&W coney dog but much, much better. The hot dog (sausage) bit of the hot dog is 100% beef, kosher Shechita, halal, and there's even vegetarian options - a hot dog for everyone. I'm not sure what the vegetarian option is because the regular hot dog is so awesome.

We like the Mexican Elvis.

It's got beans, cheese, guacamole, jalapenos, and onions. I'm not sure how it's Elvis, but there you go. All that's missing is root beer.

Please, you need to go to this place.

Today me and James cooked chilli.

Here is the recipe:

My tasty and easy Chilli Recipe

I have an inauthentic but easy and great-tasting chilli recipe. I read lots of differet chilli recipes and tried a few different ones before assembling this, maximising simplicity and taste, and minimising time spent on cooking and skills required.

Cook your rice. I cook mine in a rice cooker that can keep the rice warm for some time, so I put some rice in the rice cooker and press the button before I start everything else.

First boil some water.

Next choose your dried chillies and steep them in the hot water. This is important, because you'll need to steep it for at least 20 minutes. We chose a mixture of de Arbol chillies, chilpotle, ancho, half a naga jolokia, and some others from my dried chilli collection. You can have what you like or what you have. I usually use the types that I want and as many as I want. You will make a chilli paste with these. The more chillies, the thicker the paste. The dried chillies also provide the bulk of the flavour for the chilli dish itself. I like adding smoky-tasting chillies in. If you're looking for dried chillies in the UK, I got many of mine from the South Devon Chilli Farm website.

I realise I'm meant to dry-roast the chillies first in a heavy-bottomed pan or skillet, but I don't. I kind of fear dry-roasting, it sounds like something that requires common sense or a specialist dry-roasting skill. Without dry-roasting the chillies, the end result might be inaccurate but tastes well enough to me.

Meanwhile dice 1 red onion and mince 6 garlic cloves. We used a garlic press. James is good at dicing onions and diced it.

Also use the time to assemble the following items: mince, 1tsbp ground cumin, 1tbsp chilli powder, 1tbsp dried oregano, 1 can kidney beans (drain) and 1 can tomatoes (I used canned plum tomatoes, but have used other things like canned cherry tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, etc.)

At this point the chillies should be ready. Put the chillies and a bit of the chilli soaking water in your blender (I used my mini chopper), and blend it to a paste.

Heat up some oil in your pot of choice. I used my Zojirushi electric thing that I've talked about earlier, the one with the adjustable heat slider.

The method is easy:

Fry the onion and garlic.

Fry mince until browned.

Add cumin, chilli powder, oregano. Continue to fry.

Add drained kidney beans. Continue mixing and frying.

Add chilli slush and can of tomatoes. If too thick add some chilli soaking water.

Add salt to taste.


Put lid on and simmer until done to the consistency you like.

Tomorrow is strike day, but I've just started my new permanent job and haven't joined the union yet. I only received my pensions information pack in the mail a short while ago. There's lots of PCS application forms all over work and I've picked one up and filled it in, but that means that I'm now too late to join the strike. I'll have to go into work instead of march with the people.

I will have to bring some chilli for lunch so I won't have to walk through the picket twice.

And I will unionise and not be a scab in the next strike.

Friday, 25 November 2011


Went to Holland and had a lovely time. We arrived in Amsterdam Monday evening, and took the train out to Haarlem (15 minutes away) on Tuesday and Utrecht (20 minutes away) on Wednesday.

In Amsterdam I had a hot chocolate which was a chocolate lollipop in hot milk. The lollipop melts in the milk.

Occupy Amsterdam were camped outside the stock exchange. It was a cold and strange, very foggy night.

There was a little building near our hotel that leaned forwards.

Holland has lots of cheese. I had lovely cheese, called Old Cheese and Young Cheese. The young cheese is softer and creamier.

We then met Mimi. This is Mimi, she's named after the sister of a little old lady who told us about her. She lives in a seed shop, and has a young family near the concert hall.

A FEBO is a little chain place, where you put some money in a coin slot, open a window and take out a kroket. A kroket is a small Dutch snack food that looks like a vegetarian sausage but is made of mince (beef, there's a choice of veal, and a satay option) in a kind of cream gravy, covered with breadcrumbs, and fried.

I'm going to try to make a kroket, a proper one not from a window.

We took the train to Haarlem, and saw Occupy Haarlem.

Here are some Zwarte Piets casually dangling from ropes in a bakery window. It requires a slight mental shift to see the shopwindow below as a happy Christmas scene.

Dutch Santa is recognisably different from the other Santa, as he wears a Pope hat and is accompanied by Zwarte Piet, his helper friend. There were Zwarte Piets all over Haarlem.

We wandered around Haarlem for a while looking for lunch, but most of the eating places looked closed. We ended up going to a very nice cafe called Anne&Max. Their customers were mostly women. Their sandwiches were awesome.

There is a choice of teas.

I had the 'oude kaas' sandwich, with olive tapenade, rocket, and aubergines. It's a sandwich I will recreate. The bread had a crunchy crust I really liked as well.

After lunch we walked around looking for the vast park in Haarlem. We saw something amazing in the distance!

Llamas! There are llamas in a park in Haarlem. Or, you know, alpacas, or whatever. It was magical.

The park continued to be magical. It was like little, quiet woods, with comfortable walking tracks.

We had to leave the park before it got too dark. Saw a cat in a shop window, next to a unicorn hand puppet.

I loved Haarlem. It feels kind of like that Amelie movie, that European feel, with everyone cycling around on cobblestone streets, and neat red brick houses with tall windows.

We took the train back to Amsterdam - trains come about every fifteen minutes to Amsterdam Centraal station, and take about fifteen minutes to get there. We wandered around Amsterdam for a while and later that night had apparently authentic Mexican food, which I'd never had before.

Nachos came with different dippy things and a salsa. Wasn't sure what the dippy things were, the salsa was good.

I had enchiladas with shredded chicken and mole sauce. It was a thick, kind of sweet and spicy sauce, and it came with a dark side sauce of some kind. I have no clue what it was, it all tasted nice and was really substantial.

James had the enchiladas with salsa verde, which I really liked. It was the same format as mine, but with a fresher taste.

The Grasshopper, the coffeeshop-restaurant extravaganza building, with funky neon sayings. We didn't go there.

Instead I recommend the Dolphins, which has vapourisers on colour changing lights on the ground floor and a good sized sitting area downstairs with a snack vending machine. The drink I most enjoyed in Amsterdam is a chocolate milk called Chocomel. It's a Dutch chocolate milk and is made in Amersfoot. It's thick, and chocolatey. I saw an ad for Chocomel Dark, but couldn't find it.

The Dolphins is away from the main stretch of coffeeshops and slightly dodgy-seeming people, which is the main alarming thing I find about some streets in Amsterdam, an otherwise safe-feeling city.

Graffiti down Spuistraat: Live Without Dead Time. And happy grinning dude face.

On Wednesday we went to Utrecht, a university city about twenty minutes away from Amsterdam. We saw, Occupy Utrecht, on week 6!

We had lunch in Utrecht, somewhere very similar to Anne&Max, called Tastoe.

I had a super-awesome sandwich I'll definitely try to recrete. It was an open-faced sandwich on crusty brown bread, and was a chevre with apples on top, and I think grilled so the chevre melted. This was topped with a sort of fruit chutey, pecans, and accompanied by a salad.

James had a sandwich with young cheese.

I totally rate the sandwiches I'd had in Holland.

Windmill near a crossing in Utrecht:

We returned to Amsterdam later that evening and wandered around. The canals are romantic at night, and kind of what I wish Paris was more like. Possibly the best thing about Amsterdam is the layers of traffic, and you're segregated from cyclists and traffic. There are substantial pavement bits to stand on when you cross the road so you aren't tottering on a road divider. I was puzzled when trams seemed to stop for me at pedestrian crossings, but I'm unfamiliar with the habits of trams.

Another cat in a window.

I also totally rate the Vlaamse fries I had, with satay sauce. They were light crispy, 'fries' type fries (not thick cut 'chips' type fries), but the fries were crunchy and not floppy, and covered with a sweet satay sauce. I didn't take a picture of it but these were definitely way more awesome than I expected fries in a cone to be. They were from Vleminckx Sausmeesters, with whole range of sauces, including the satay sauce, sambal oelek and regular mayonnaise. They're near the Tweede Kamer coffeeshop, which is a nice, small coffeeshop that plays jazz music.