Monday, August 23

Supperclubs, suppers and slightly grubby rice

Busy week! I had meant to post this the other day, then the weekend, and another supperclub caught up with me. It went very well, each one gets a bit smoother and easier, or maybe I get a bit more confident and worry slightly less, who knows. Still knackered on Sunday mind you! The menu, a celebration of all things Spanish, consisted of:

Cava Cocktail
Garlic chili prawns with homemade saffron bread
Tortilla, smoky tomato sauce and sizzling chorizo
Pork & Lima Bean hotpot with green picada, salad and bread
Almond Citrus cake with caramel oranges and Pedro Ximenez sherry
Coffee and turron

I love Spain, and Spanish food, so I really enjoyed putting this menu together. of course I didn't quite think through the fact that of course my visits to fiesta in Sedella, a wee village about an hour into the mountains outside Malaga, occurred in the height of summer. Sangria and Gazpacho are a little incongruous in Auckland on a damp August evening. But it seemed to go down very well anyway, with every single plate bar one coming back wiped clean. I would love to show you lots of lovely pics of the delicious meal, but after taking the shots above before everyone arrived, the battery went flat. I popped it aside to charge.........and promptly forgot about it. I know, I am so not the person you want around to capture life's little moments. Or any moments in fact. I could kick myself, the dessert especially looked beautiful, a damp golden cake, with brilliant oranges, and a wee shot glass of the most delish Spanish sherry, tasting of musky just not the same in the telling is it?

So I'm afraid you will have to make do with pics of last weeks dinners instead. I am doing quite well on my challenge, another 800 grams lost this week (I know, sounds pathetic, but I keep looking at a block of butter and reminding myself how that isn't sitting on my backside anymore.....) and we did eat some pretty yummy suppers

First up was dainty Lamb Cutlets with Couscous. The cutlets were left in a marinade of lemon thyme, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper for about 20 minutes while I made the couscous. If you have no other herb in your garden, at least have lemon thyme, it is amazing how often you will use it. It is a Mediterranean herb, and is used to growing in a hot climate, with limited moisture, and poor soil. Perfect for the beginner/negligent gardener. You can grow this, trust me. Chicken, lamb, fish all benefit from this herb, and most garden centres have it in stock.
The couscous (a cup was loads for two of us) was mixed in a bowl with seasoning, a couple of chopped spring onions, a handful of pistachios, a handful of sultanas and a small knob of butter. I then covered the whole lot with about 1 1/2 cups hot chicken stock , and left to sit for 10 mins or so covered in a warmed oven. The lamb cutlets were griddled until pink and juicy (Mr PK likes his incinerated, but I wont let those little lambs die in vain.......) with a few mushrooms I found lurking in the crisper, then plonked on a plate with the couscous, more spring onions, chopped cherry tomato, fresh mint and coriander, and some natural yogurt mixed with a dollop of tahini. It has almost taken me longer to type than to prepare, and it was really tasty.

 Next up on the Plum Kitchen "dinners that don't make you feel depressed parade of champions" is a new creation I had to call Slightly Grubby Rice. Tempting no? I was sitting at work, doing something tedious like PAYE, and trying to decide what to have for dinner. Sadly this was probably 10.30 in the morning, but anyway..........I wanted  to use the prawns I had in the freezer, part of my eat more seafood campaign. I know prawns are not exactly pushing the boat out, but this also dovetailed nicely (actually I could use the word synergy here, but I don't want to sound like a tosser, so I wont......) with my sister Liz's suggestion I try using all the meat I have in my freezer before I purchase anymore. I think she was trying to ram a glass in to chill and having some difficultly. Quite frankly I'm not sure how many more challenges I can take on board right now, but this did seem entirely sensible, given I live five minutes walk from an awesome butcher. I have no need to stock up, and am rubbish at labelling my hoard, so a clean out is in order.

 I fancied Mexican, but didn't want to eat corn chips, or fatty nachos or such like. Then I remembered an amazing rice dish I had in London, Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas. I know, Mexico by way of Jamaica.......stick with me. I lived in London for seven years, and for the majority of that worked for a fantastic law firm in Docklands, in the east of the city. My boss Osa was originally from Nigeria, and occasionally him and his friend Tony from IT would head into the east end and get Jerk Chicken or Pork, with Rice & Peas. Osa made the mistake one day of offering me some to try, and I think I had hoovered up half his lunch before I even knew what I was doing. Temporary insanity by way of mind blowing food, it would stand up in any court I can think of. The peas referred to are actually black eyed beans, and even for a non rice aficionado like me, it is a top meal. Another classic rice dish is the Cajun Dirty Rice, which contains chicken livers or giblets, and turns the rice a brown colour. I didn't fancy chicken livers, but the spices I used did turn my rice a slightly murky colour..hence the catchy name.

This recipe was made up with what I had to hand, it is neither Mexican, Jamaican or Cajun.....but it is good.

Slightly Grubby Rice with prawns

Sprinkle your fresh or defrosted prawns with either a couple of teaspoons of  this Tio Pablo Mayan Gold Mexican seasoning mix, (no weird additives, tastes yummy) or a good pinch each of paprika, dried thyme, chili, ground cumin and ground coriander. You could also use chicken, pork, or even firm fish.

Chuck your rice (I used a cup, which made enough for four) in your rice cooker or pan with a tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 2 bay leaves and a few coriander pods. Cook until slightly underdone. I used a bit less water than normal in the rice cooker which left the rice slightly hard. Take out & leave to cool a little while you prepare your pan mix

Fry a diced onion in oil until soft, then add three chopped garlic cloves, and a tsp each of chili power and Tio Pablo mix OR the following

1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground coriander

Don't stress if you don't have every spice, what I was going for was a mixture of hot but sweet spicy, hence the inclusion of cinnamon, and you can adjust the amount of chili to suit, if you are cooking for kids or the heat intolerant.

After about a minute or so add half a chopped red pepper, and a drained tin of black eye peas, and 3/4 cup of canned or frozen sweetcorn kernels.Stir in a cup of water (or use stock if you have it). Add your rice, cover and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes or so till all the liquid is absorbed. Your rice will finish cooking and become fluffy, and imbued with the flavor of the spicy seasoning.
Fry the prawns on a griddle or in a pan until sizzling and cooked through

Put the rice in a bowl and top with the prawns, some fresh tomato, chopped avocado, coriander and a big squeeze of lime. Sour cream is lovely on top, or some yogurt, especially if you have need generous with the chili. To be honest the prawns were not really necessary, the rice was really satisfying on it's own. I believe when you combine carbs like rice, with a legume, you get a much better quality of protein (like having wholemeal toast with baked beans), which is handy for vegetarians. All I know is this was a really tasty dinner, and I will be making again.....

Last up is the one pasta meal I am allowing myself a week. Fresh gnocchi which cooked in all of a minute, cover in a simple tomato sauce and baked with a breadcrumb topping. Yum

Tomato Sauce

Fry a couple of chopped rashers of streaky bacon (the Freedom Farms one is good) until crispy and put on a papertowel to drain. Wipe out most of the fat, and fry a diced onion until soft. Add a crushed garlic clove, and fry for another minute. Add a splash of white wine to the pan, then tip in a tin of crushed tomatoes (Farro Fresh do tins of Italian tomatoes, 3 for $5 it is worth stocking up. They also do a similar deal on tinned legumes) Add a pinch of sugar, which I always add when cooking with tomatoes, seasoning, a pinch of chili flakes and about 1/2 tomato tin of water. Add the bacon back to the pan, stir and let bubble way on medium for about 10 mins until thickened . Stir through a couple of handfuls of baby spinach until wilted, then add a splash of cream. I know,, what is a diet diva doing adding cream? It really gives richness, disproportionate to the amount added, and cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Tip the sauce over your boiled gnocchi, which you have drained and placed in a baking dish. Top with fresh breadcrumbs and a wee bit of Parmesan (for flavour!) and grill for a minute or two until crispy on top. Super yummy and satisfying.

Changing tack entirely I went to the cinema recently and saw a lovely film Cairo Time, if you have every been to Cairo, or wanted to, see this film. It is a lovely bittersweet romance, and an ode to the city, I loved it. Be warned , it is a chick flick...........Mr PK was slightly less than effusive, but that may have been the lack of guns.......

If you are reading this I applaud your tenacity! I suspect I do this the wrong way around, many of the blogs I enjoy have plenty of beautiful pictures and short snappy prose..........I am entirely the other way around, a few pictures, and A LOT of words. I like words, always have. But I promise to make a better effort with the pics, so please hang in there.......


  1. That Spanish dinnerparty lineup sounds amazing!! And all your food looks so fresh and colorful. I'd totally make your "grubby rice," perhaps with some seasoned tofu =)

  2. Thanks! The tofu is a great idea actually, I will give that a bash myself:)And I LOVE the sound of your choc banana pud, def going to try that!

  3. That rice looks sooo good! Will have to try it soon!


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