About me

After being diagnosed with a long list of food intolerances seven years ago, I was forced into getting more creative in the kitchen.

For me, the best recipes are those which are easy to prepare and deliver heaps of flavour, perfect for sharing with friends and family without having to single anyone out because of a specialised diet.

My love for cooking and adapting recipes for my own dietary requirements has given me the incentive to share tips with others who also live with restricted diets.

I hope you find a bit of cooking inspiration from my blog. Please feel free to comment and post any questions...

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Real 'comfort' food

When deadlines are looming and studying takes over the social calendar, a student’s diet can often turn tragic.
Dry handfuls of cereal snatched straight from the box strategically balanced on a pile of library books. Or a jar of nutella, bearing trawl marks from a spoon, pencil or fingers (times were tough and the sink was full) are just some examples of late night studying sustenance I have witnessed. The beauty of student living.
Quick sugary fixes to fuel all nighters and encourage tired eyes to stay open, often mean a rise in profits for the corner shops around campus.
But in times like these, I find “comfort food” to mean something very different to the processed, chocolaty stodge most people raid the cupboards for. Not to say I never crave these sweet treats. There are times when a mixture of hot chocolate, peanut butter and ready break so thick you can stand a spoon in it would top a date with Gerard Butler...almost.
After buffering up the computer at 6:30 am on Wednesday and barely taking a moment to stop and think before 7:30pm, I was struggling to form coherent sentences. It was the kind of day where I had reached cave man like communication and had begun barking one syllable words. At that moment it was : “FOOD!”
 Rather than running out in search of the student inhibited sat. Fat. Aisle of Tesco, or even worse the alcohol fridge, I headed for the spice rack. The best cure for a growling stomach at the end of a stressful day for me is a ‘real’ dinner. One that is packed with flavour and colours that weren’t added unnaturally.
The idea of a filling, home cooked meal that wouldn’t result in guilt and a food baby gave me one final boost of energy. Less than an hour later, my efforts had paid off. I was happily sitting down with a plate of Mediterranean stuffed aubergines and peppers, roasted and bulging with a spicy mushroom and tomato filling.
The twenty or so minutes it took to prepare the vegetables and filling before heaving the tray into the oven for 25 also massively helped me to unwind and re-align the list of jobs I had to do the following day.
When you develop a confidence in the kitchen, you also build a mental catalogue of safe, go to dishes which you can knowingly prepare quickly and enjoy fully. For the amateur cook, this may just be a jacket potato with a favourite filling and sides, but there’s nothing wrong with simplicity when it works this well.
Personally, cooking should always be simple, quick and taste so good that you’re surprised it didn’t take longer to prepare.  After all, a complex dish which has been slaved over and watched through the oven door with an eagle eye for six hours will still only take tops, twenty minutes to be annihilated by a hungry diner.
Something which, without fail you will hear my Dad say at the end of every Christmas Dinner.
The following night after my med veg feast, I had soldiered on through another tiring day of articles writing, production research and fighting with the laptop.
After finding brief solace in a trip to Grainger Market I was looking forward to cooking my ultimate, favourite curry. Thai red fruit curry with prawns and pilaf rice. This time I was willing to share, provided the other party go buy the prawns. ‘Compromise’ after all, that and a can of coconut milk was shockingly almost £2 from the Japanese market!?
After such a hectic day, I found it therapeutic to be pre-occupied for just forty minutes with the rhythmic chopping and stirring of the aromatic curry, which has a wonderful balance of sweetness and spice. Something which I have had to consider multiple times when cooking for the “prawn supplier”, appearing in this entry.
I’m known to be a little heavy handed with the chilli flakes and hot paprika, but this doesn’t sit well with a spice-a-phobic who still confesses to enjoy a curry. It’s the same with people who enjoy sweet food, but strongly dislike it when used in savoury recipes. Thankfully, this time taking a chance had paid off and the once brimming wok of golden, sweet prawns and juicy mango chunks in a spicy coconut sauce was being scraped out for thirds.
With full tummies and rouged cheeks, we could sit back and enjoy repeats on Dave, a sure sign that the student culture had only been shortly abandoned.
For recipe details, just leave comment or contact me.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

"Is it an aphrodisiac? I'm not sure but it's very pretty!"

For the lovely people who have read my blog in the past or who have made the kind decision to become a follower, you may have realised that it has been some time since my last post.

Apologies, as my lecturer rightly said this week, a vacant blogger is probably much worse than a prospective journalist who does not blog at all! Therefore, I hereby put it in writing that I will be changing my ways and will be committing to the culture of blogging on a much more regular basis.

Last night, when I should have been locked away in a tower, working on various assignments, I allowed myself to be distracted from the books and instead enjoy delicious and authentic chinese food at "Nudo" in the Newcastle city centre. After all, a girl's gotta eat. Does a girl have to also HAVE  to continue to revel in a bit of procrastination by seeing the new Woody Harrelson film "Rampart". This one does and did and loved it!

Last year when a friend introduced me to the little treasure trove that is Nudo, hidden on Low Friar Street, conveniently two minutes away from Empire cinema, I was intrigued by the vast menu choice and student friendly prices.

The Aubergine in a sweet, sticky soy sauce with stir fried vegetables and rice quickly became my safe go to option, with the occasional dive into a vibrant sushi selection or a pan fried, spicy tofu dish. The options for a pescetarian living with various food intolerances were refreshingly abundant and I was impressed by the knowledge of the waiting staff.

The haphazard decision to eat there last night, came with yet more welcome surprise. Nudo have recently changed their menu, expanding their choices and adding much appreciated diversity for picky eaters like myself.

It is rare that I can go into a restaurant and feel overwhelmed by the choices available to me, without having to grill the waiting staff as to what ingredients are in which dishes and could they possible adapt it to be gluten or dairy free.

After about half an hour and several failed attempts to take our order ( very rarely am I indecisive over food) I settled for the mussels in spicy tom yum soup with ramen noodles (Gluten free!) with a side of spicy edamame beans. My friend went for the  kung pao chicken with rice and to start, fish roe sushi.

Having been warned that the larger coral, jewel like beads of fish roe had a similar consistency and taste to that when you bite into a cod liver oil tablet, we quickly opted for the smaller, sweeter roe sushi and were not disappointed.

When the tiny glittering gems arrived on an oval of rice, tightly wrapped in seaweed, they looked far too pretty to eat, but far too appealing not to. I took the first brave taste, with chopsticks of course, which I insisted on using for the whole meal, despite having ordered soup. If you commit to experiencing other cultures, you do as they do.

The tiny, pink, gleaming beads had an interesting texture which quickly pop and dissolve in your mouth, leaving a delicate and refreshing flavour of, well...sushi. I'm afraid there's no better way to describe it. Slightly sweet and with a slight fishy flavour, but certainly not strong enough to be avoided if you're generally not a fish eater.

The Chicken kung pao arrived first and smelt delicious! Even to a non meat eater. A mixture of stir fried vegetables and chicken with toasted peanuts in an aromatic, medium spiced sauce on a bed of pilau rice. I quickly began my meerkat impersonation...where was my tom yum??

The only issue I have in chinese restaurants like this one is that they are intent on bringing you your meal when it is ready. This may sound like the obvious norm, but in practice, serving two people their main courses ten minutes apart and then delivering a side dish twenty minutes later may not be for the best. The curse of working in a restaurant is that you sub-consciously over scrutinise service wherever you go to eat. Then again, I would have thought that edamame beans would only take two minutes top in the wok.

As the waitress approached our table, lugging a vast terracotta bowl with a wooden ladel teetering on the top, I expected her to veer off to the neighbouring table of five diners. But no, this was my much anticipated spicy muscle and noodle soup.

With eyes much bigger than my belly, I happily delved into the family size portion, hunting down the fat, juicy mussels and quickly filling up on the delicious, but fiery, intensely flavoured soup. The ramen noodles were very similar to an Italian linguine in texture and slipped down a treat, but I was intent on saving room for my edamame.

After a little, 'polite' badgery, the side dish was delivered to the table and at just the right moment. I had confidently ordered the spicy soup, despite questioning looks from the waitress and my friend. I may not look it, but for me when it comes to spice, the hotter the better.

But after several bowls of the maroon broth and a few too many chilli flakes, I welcomed the edamame to my  dish. Although they were also labelled spicy, the marinade they had been fried in had more of a charred, smoky flavour, similar to my favourite spice, smoked paprika. I quickly devoured the bowl before my friend could pronounce the dessert menu and washed it down with a cheeky aloe vera juice.

Overall, the entire meal was delicious and with a bill that came in under £30 I was more than happy with my decision to push back the studies just a teeny bit more and enjoy the new and improved Nudo menu. Researching audio equipment at midnight however, was the downside to my diligence.