Kagsy's Kitchen

Salad days part 2 – feeling saucy!

Coronation chicken is a traditional British classic, very popular as a sandwich or baked potato filling, or on its own with a tasty salad. Being a big fan of the flavour, I’ve read many recipes that seemed quite complex, so I took a few ideas that I liked and made this simplified version. Traditionally the sauce would be mixed into cooked or shredded chicken pieces, but I like it so much on its own I simply dollop it on the side. My good friend Helen felt the same when I knocked it up for her on a recent visit, and asked for the recipe. So Helen, this one’s for you! Just mix together the following:

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • A few sultanas, if you like them

Spices can be adjusted according to taste and preferred level of spiciness!

It’s worth making a big batch while you’re at it and keeping it in a jar in the fridge. It makes a lovely dip sauce for a plate of chips or instantly livens up a sandwich. And looking for a creative way to use up some extra, I came up with a tasty kind of Indian-flavoured slaw. To about 1 ½ cups of the sauce I added a tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed, 2 grated carrots, a handful of raisins, half a teaspoon of salt and some chopped fresh coriander. It worked really well as a side dish, and would make a lovely addition to a buffet or barbecue.

My second recent dressing concoction came by way of a need to stretch the last of a jar of pesto a little further, and to satisfy the needs of a boyfriend who fancied a salad for dinner with a bit of a kick to it. I put around 2 tablespoons of pest and the same amount of very low fat crème fraiche into a jar, added a good drizzle of olive oil, a little black pepper, and the juice of about half a lemon. Give it a good shake, preferably while listening to a great 80’s pop tune, pour it over mixed greens or mix into a pasta salad, and you’re good to go!


Salad Days

Summer’s nearly at an end, and I’ve been so busy enjoying it I haven’t put aside any time to update this little blog of mine! But come rain or shine, it’s always nice to enjoy a fresh tasty salad, and they can be adapted to any season by careful choice of ingredients and dressings.

Having said that, most of mine are chosen and created anything but carefully, and usually come about as a result of raiding the bottom shelf of the fridge, copping up whatever I find, adding a can of something to “beef it up”, and blagging a dressing of some sort! As such, I often tend to flip the page when I come across a salad in a recipe book or magazine. I mean, they don’t usually involve any actual cooking, do they? How hard can it be? But then not everyone has my cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best approach to cooking, and that’s probably no bad thing.

This was really brought home to me by my very good friend Anna, after a fantastically tipsy day spent at the beach chatting, swimming, sunbathing and munching. She was in charge of wine, I was responsible for food, and both were supplied in copious amounts. The pasta salad I had thrown together in traditional fashion was enthusiastically wolfed down, accompanied by the magical mixture of Fanta and rose wine, and a perfect summer day was had by all.

It was so good in fact, that I got a message from Anna the following day to say that she’d enjoyed the salad so much, she’d be straight out to the shops to recreate it, and it happened to be working wonders on her hangover! It had never really occurred to me that I could inspire someone’s kitchen habits like that, especially by just throwing some stuff in a bowl.

So here, in honour of my wonderful friend, and in the memory of a perfect summer’s day, is Anna’s Beach Salad. Measurements are approximate, and the beauty of it is you can leave out any relevant parts needed to make it a vegetarian or vegan option, without compromising on flavor and fill-up-ability!

Anna’s Beach Salad

Start with some cooked pasta of choice I think I used wholegrain penne) and add a good drizzle of olive oil, the juice of a lemon, a couple of pinches of paprika, and a sprinkling of dried oregano. Then add a handful each of a selection of the following, adjusting as tastes, dietary and religious requirements, and availability dictate:

  • Sliced chorizo sausage
  • Chopped cooked chicken
  • Diced cucumber
  • Chopped sundried tomatoes
  • Rocket leaves
  • Chopped raw mushrooms
  • Diced feta cheese
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Diced red peppers

Best served with sunshine!

A Chip on My Shoulder

I’m at home killing some time before a flight to my parents’ for a couple of days home-refuelling. I have some extra time to kill after missing the flight I was booked on this morning, and having just about overcome the wanting-to-head-butt-myself phase, can now indulge in the I-can’t-wait-to-eat-such-and-such phase! I must admit that in this respect, every British stereotype applies – pies, pasties, fry-ups, and of course, the iconic fish and chips.

Whenever I mention this, my non-British friends and family either laugh, or make some kind of “I just don’t get it” comment, and this is fair enough. There are many Swedish flavours I have yet to acquire a taste for, and I fully appreciate the importance of the “taste of home” factor. But I do believe that British cuisine gets an unfairly bad press, and our beloved chip is no exception. In “A Cooks’s Tour”,  American food writer Anthony Bourdain described the supper served on a visit to a Glaswegian fish and chip shop thus: “The fish was great, the chips, as everywhere in the UK, were needlessly substandard, limp, and soggy. Few chip shop owners bother to blanch their fries in low-temperature oil before frying, so they are never, ever crisp.”

Now this is a fair point. Chips shops are rarely entirely crisp. But I feel part of the problem comes from the idea that “chip” is simply the UK-English word for a French fry. The distinction is far more subtle, and the words are not so simply interchangeable. It’s not simply a case of us brits “failing” to get our chips crisp – we cook them using a different method, and as such they are a totally different dish. This is one reason why they taste better with vinegar, and why fries are better complemented by ketchup. If you are expecting a fry when ordering a chip, you are bound to therefore be disappointed.

But this does not mean that either is superior. Of course, one may develop a preference, but to simply think of one as the poor relation of another, or one as being simply “the right way to do it”, is missing the point slightly.

This also leads me to thinking of an oral presentation I was required to give as part of my Swedish studies. We had been set the task of describing something that is done in a different manner in our home country and in Sweden, and compare the two. Some described different Christmas or new year celebrations, others weddings, others visiting a restaurant. I examined the process of making a cuppa.

The swedes love their tea, but favour the fruit-flavoured/herbal blends, and specialist tea purveyors are scattered everywhere. Milk is very rarely added, and honey favoured over sugar. I love this, and have an impressive selection of teas at home (in a very fancy wooden box labelled “tea” in gold, no less!). I find them very refreshing and light and love the variety of flavours.

On the other hand I love a brew – the classic British builder’s tea, strong and milky, and above all else from a TEA BAG. I became very protective of this institution when my lovingly crafted powerpoint presentation attracted disapproving frowns and mutterings of “dish water,” and tried to explain that if you think of them both as the same drink, comparisons will always hit a dead-end. It doesn’t have to a case of either/or, as they have their own qualities that make them appropriate for different situations. There are times when only milk and two sugars will do!

We have no problem recognising the vast array of ingredients, cooking techniques and traditions the world over for their own individual merits, so why leave out the basics, those which we take for granted and are brought up on? Eat with your mind as open as your mouth, and you may just be pleasantly surprised.

A glassful of heritage

Rifling through my cookbook shelves recently, I stumbled across a pretty glass bottle with an old-fashioned label that I’d forgotten about, but brought back a flood of memories with the first glance.

Mr Fitzpatrick’s Sasparilla cordial is a flavour from my childhood, and time spent with my grandparents in Lancashire. It’s unique herbal flavour is something of an acquired taste, but to me it’s the taste of special days out to Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall. The temperance bar became a staple of feature of Victorian communities primarily in Lancashire, but extending across the United Kingdom, and provided a strong and meaningful alternative for communities drastically affected by poverty and alcoholism.

As less people today are willing to abstain from alcohol (myself included), the temperance bar has all but disappeared, with just one remaining: Fitzpatrick’s. 

My grandparents have played a huge part in my life, and through them I’ve been given a sense of Lancashire’s unique regional identity and character, and am proud  of my Lancashire heritage. There is no better representative of this, and no better way for me to feel close to them when far from home, than Mr Fitzpatrick’s Sasparilla cordial.

Real the whole story here http://www.mrfitzpatricks.com/index.html

Cool beans.

A common occurrence in my kitchen, since I work in the evenings and usually have to leave at around 4 pm, is to find myself starving hungry and in need of a fast but filling meal that’s going to keep me going through the evening and work – and if I’m really careful, help me avoid the temptation to drop into the Maccy D’s by the subway on my way home at night.

The solution to the problem involves a quick scan of the fridge to see what’s available, and then a bit of imagination. The best part about that is you only have to use your imagination once in a while, as ….

Today’s “fridge scan” uncovered the following: 

  • a bit of a courgette
  • a couple of mushrooms
  • half a jar of arrabiatta pasta sauce
  • a “chorizo” sausage (inverted commas denoting its false claims to genuine chorizo status)
  • some sorry looking spinach, a bit too limp

Now an obvious solution here, seeing as pasta sauce is involved, would be to chop and fry the veg and sausage in a little olive oil, stir in the sauce and spinach, and pour the lot over some pasta. But that would involve boiling some pasta, and thus having another pan to wash! So I looked in my cupboard, and pulled out a tin of butter beans. Beans are high on my list of store cupboard essentials, and once you start using them, you’ll be amazed at their versatility, and how tasty and filling they can be.

Us Brits develop a passion for the classic baked bean early in life, but tinned beans of any description are a godsend to quick one-pot cooking. They add a meaty weight to vegetarian dishes, count as one of your five a day, AND keep you feeling full and well-nourished for hours!  

After throwing the chopped veg and sausage into a little olive oil and frying for a few minutes until browned, it was simply a case of draining and rinsing the beans, adding them to the mix with a little paprika for a peppery kick, followed by the sauce and lastly the spinach.

Another batch of leftovers go unwasted, another batch of vegetables my it into my system, and another night of work goes bay with a fully-energised and full-bellied Kags. Time from chopping board to dining table: 13 minutes!

Come in, the kettle’s just boiled!

Welcome to my new blog, the assorted musings of a girl, her ideas, and whatever’s left in the bottom of the fridge.

Food has always been an enormous part of my life. I love to experiment in the kitchen, lose myself in the promise of a new cookery book, and serve up something hot and tasty to put a smile on my friends’ faces. I also love to write, and since food and cooking are my biggest sources of inspiration, it made sense to start writing some of these ideas down and share them.

Since leaving the UK two years ago for a new life in Sweden, my kitchen has been a sanctuary for me, in the wilderness of a new environment. In good times and bad, whether making my new friends and family welcome, or feeling lonely and homesick, the radio goes on, the pans come out of the cupboard and I hit the spice rack. The kitchen is always the place I feel most at home, and the place I find it easiest to make others feel at home.  

I’m going to be sharing my love of food here through recipes, ideas, and sometimes a tribute to my favourite foods or ingredients. Food always has a story to tell, and just opening a cupboard fills my head with ideas and inspiration, or brings back wonderful memories and emotions. Kagsy’s Kitchen is an invitation to everyone, especially those at home I miss, to come and sit down at my table by the window with a cuppa and a welshcake. All are welcome, and dinner is served 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So come on in, and help yourself to milk and sugar!

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