I only have four recipes to write up for this food post. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been kinda busy recently. But, also, these recipes somehow left me with a lot of half-used ingredients that I wanted to finish up before getting stuck into too many more recipes and generating even more open perishables.
Grasmere ginger shortbread with ginger cream filling (recipe from "The Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking" by Linda Collister)
Hmmm. I'm not sure what to make of this one. The original recipe in the book is just for the ginger shortbread, but then there's this little paragraph at the end saying how you can posh them up by sandwiching the shortbread fingers together with ginger cream. So I went for the cream version. Does this look posh to you??? Maybe it's not obvious from the photo, but these were the size of actual bricks. Dainty is one thing they're not. Plus the shortbread is quite hard to bite (while the outside of it is really sandy and crumbly, which makes it difficult for the cream to stick) and the cream is soft. Basically, if you try to eat these, you quickly end up with cream and crumbs everywhere. I should add that I had to alter the recipe slightly, because it calls for stem ginger in syrup, but the shop was out of that, so I had to substitute with crystallised ginger. When it comes to taste, the shortbread itself tastes wholesome as opposed to indulgent; I think it's the addition of wholemeal flour and oatmeal. It's not unpleasant. The cream, however, should be nice, but I must have used an ingredient that was past its use-by date, because the cream tasted stale somehow. In conclusion: if you fancy some earthy and not-too-sweet gingerbread then give it a go. Just, for God's sake, don't sandwich them together with cream; don't be that person.
Chilli bean crumble
This is one of those dishes that sounds better than it tastes. You have all these hearty ingredients plus the punch of vegetarian haggis. (I'd never had veggie haggis before; but it's full of salty and umami flavours, much like normal haggis.) Yet, despite all the ingredients, this dish has a very bland, same-y taste; every mouthful tastes like paprika and cinnamon and nothing else. It's boring and heavy and dry. If it weren't for the fact that the textures keep things mildly interesting (the green lentils added a nice bite) it would have been difficult to eat a whole bowlful. Speaking of whole bowlfuls, this dish is really filling; don't attempt to eat it with bread on the side like I did. In fact, don't attempt to eat it at all; it's not worth the effort of cooking it. Yet I can't help feeling that a splash of something sweet and sharp (balsamic vinegar perhaps?) would have made it 5x better.
Shrimp paste fried chicken (recipe from "Chicken Leg" by Hoe Yee)
Look at that fried chicken. A tad burnt, perhaps, but so golden in colour! So crunchy! Alas, my friends, the picture can't convey how bad it smelled, nor how bad it tasted. (On the up-side, if you like shrimp paste, you are going to love this dish.) Basically, the recipe was originally called "Belacan" fried chicken. Belacan is Malaysian shrimp paste that is sold in big, solid blocks. I couldn't find any belacan (or any toasted belacan powder, as listed in the recipe) so I instead bought a jar of Thai shrimp paste, which is less solid and more wet. In an attempt to turn it into toasted powder, I then heated it in a frying pan until it turned dry and crumbly. So, I don't know how pan-toasted Thai shrimp paste holds up to belacan, but I have come to understand that Thai shrimp paste is an acquired taste. And it is very much a taste that I haven't yet acquired. Now, I had thought that Thai fish sauce smells bad. But, personally, I think the shimp paste is worse. It smells like a cross between fish food, cat food, and wet dog. And, joy of joys, it tastes exactly how it smells! This recipe really doesn't hold back when it comes to letting the shrimp paste take centre stage. The chicken tastes entirely of shrimp paste; there is nowhere to hide. So, not being a fan of shrimp paste, I found this chicken particularly unpalateable. (I have since discovered that I can eat shrimp paste quite happily, as long as there's only a small quantity of it and you throw loads of really strong flavours on top; it adds great depth to a Thai curry, and you don't even realise it's there!) A few notes about alterations to the recipe. I was meant to batter the chicken with tapioca flour and wheat starch, but couldn't find either so used a mixture of plain flour and cornflour instead. The recipe also calls for the chicken to be deep-fried, but that is too scary to me, so I side-stepped it by shallow-frying the chicken before shoving it in the oven. One more thing about shrimp paste. Your kitchen will smell very strongly of shrimp paste afterwards. For about a week. If, like me, you hang up your coats in your open-plan kitchen/living room, be prepared to smell of shrimp paste every time you leave the house. What can I say? It was a learning experience; I have learnt many deep and valuable truths.
Baked chicken legs with shallot garlic (recipe from "Chicken Leg" by Hoe Yee)
And here we have the dish that looks the worst, but actually tasted the best ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Ah, yes, we come to that old chestnut: burnt garlic on the outside because I baked the chicken for 50 minutes instead of the 30 minutes the recipe calls for. (In my defence, the chicken on the inside was perfectly cooked and moist.) Part of the reason for the burning may be because the recipe says to blend the garlic and the shallots in a fruit blender. I don't have a blender, so I whizzed them up in a food processor, which left me with larger (and more burnable?) chunks. The marinade is otherwise fairly simple, including salt, five spice powder and Shaoxing wine (I left out the wine). And it works! The reason why I say this dish tasted the best is because the chicken really took up the taste of the marinade. I think the key to success here was that the chicken sat in the marinade overnight, so had soaked up tonnes of flavour. Very nice. Just don't eat the burnt bits on the skin; you will not have fun if you do.
My god, I am insane.
Those words, in order, were: slot machine, Las Vegas, and what turned out to be the objectionable one, which rhymes with “flasino.”
HAHA I WIN!
I KEEP TRYING TO ADD A COMMENT BUT YOUR BLOG THINKS I’M SPAM AND I DON’T KNOW WHY BUT IT’S MAKING ME SAD.
I’m so sorry! I don’t know why it’s doing that. It clearly doesn’t mind your IP address, seeing as this message posted ok.
Probably your comment contains some random word that I blacklisted back in the day. If it’s not telling you what word it is, maybe you can email the comment to me, and I can see if I can work out what it is and unblacklist the word for you. (Which is a ridiculously convoluted way of going about things, I know.)
I’m the sort of person who saves rejected comments, and I’m trying it again —
I’ve had my new computer off for eleven days [twelve now], because my geographical region has been experiencing an atypical climate change-related weather phenomenon called a “REDACTED,” which is Spanish for something, probably, “a thunderstorm that lasts for a solid week and bends all the trees over horizontally.” There should be more exclamation points in there, to be honest. A REDACTED isn’t sufficiently large enough to comment on a blog (or anything), sadly. Not that I didn’t try.
The fruit machine! I heard a British celebrity say it during a game show (Alan Davies on early-alphabet QI, maybe) several months ago, and I was frowning to myself until I realized, from context, that he meant “REDACTED.” REDACTED REDACTED are mostly popular with evil old white people, though, so probably calling something a fruit machine in front of them would just make you new friends. I wouldn’t worry about it.
Maybe a “fruit blender” is like one of those ‘bullet blenders’? [I tried to add a link but the blog thought I was spam.] I used to have one of them; they ought to call them “leaky rockets.” I suffered with mine for ages before buying a real blender. I don’t see how any of kind of blender would be able to reduce some shallots & garlic to a liquid, either. Unless you were using two cups worth?
Sometimes the FOOD POSTS become a Nabokovian foray into the peculiar psychological landscape of cookbook author Hoe Yee. That’s what makes them special.
I’m sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with REDACTED weather! I hope it’s not damaged any property and that you’ve stayed safe!
It’s interesting to hear your take on bullet blenders. I never realised they were leaky! They always look like they work really well on the sponsored YouTube videos. I’ve been taken in!
I have no idea why the link was being treated as spam, I’m afraid. But I’ve now unblocked the word casino, so hopefully that will prevent any further blocking on the subject of fruit machines.
Oh my god I missed a FOOD POST!!!! By a month+!!!!
Here are my vital thoughts:
1. The ginger shortbread bricks don’t look too bad, and I can personally salvage anything with cream in it. I could probably look on the bright side of a dish made out of Paul Ryan’s shoes and some pastry cream. That’s not even a joke.
2. I can still remember the dismay I experienced as a small child when I discovered what haggis was. I don’t think I could salvage a dish with even a vegetarian version. Haggis is one of those things that really brings home the fact that the land of one’s ancestors is not a Far Away Home. ("You eat what in a what????")
3. That chicken looks beautiful, but I feel you on the shrimp paste. I had Authentic™️ Pad Thai once that smelled horribly like wet dog, and I’m told that’s because it had shrimp paste in it. It tasted pretty awesome, though! No one would eat theirs, so I ate mine and then took three more home in a doggy bag. #NOREGRETS #NOSHAME #NOHUMANPRIDE #DIDNTHAVETOCOOKFORTWODAYS
4. I like burnt bits! Probably this last chicken leg would be my favorite, anyway, whether it “worked out” or not.
I have a new computer now — and it functions! — so I will be on the next FOOD POST like Superman at a forty-car traffic pileup caused by an alien invasion.
EXTRA CREDIT: What’s a “fruit blender"? Is it like a “fruit machine,” which I recently learned isn’t a gay slur, but British slang for a slot machine?
Congrats on the new computer! It’s always great to finally have a computer that works after one kicks the bucket.
Oh my God fruit machine! I did not realise that it’s not a term used in the US! (If I ever go to Vegas I’m going to have to make sure to watch my language.)
By the way, I have no idea what a fruit blender is. That’s what the recipe said. Maybe it’s a Malaysian thing? I just assumed it was like a normal blender, which I don’t have.
Thanks for the comments! Don’t worry about timing, seeing as I’m at least a month late before I even start writing the posts. This is not a timely blog in any way.
I’m so glad I’m not the only person who has problems with the smell of shrimp paste. In the end, I turned most of my shrimp paste into nam prik kapi, which has some really punchy flavours, but in an enjoyable way. The smell wasn’t awful either; perhaps it was the lime juice? Or maybe I’d just become desensitised by that point.
Re haggis: I’m very squeamish about offal, so I’ve only ever had the smallest mouthful of real haggis. It mostly tastes of salt/spices/herbs, rather than anything meaty, so the vegetarian version doesn’t taste too different. (A bit like sausages; although I know you’re not a sausage fan, so I’m probably not selling this very well…)