28 September 2010

Great mashed potatoes

This was going to be an entry about bangers and mash. But then I thought that bangers and mash, that staple of British pub and comfort food, is plain, simple and easy (part of the reason it is a comfort food) and nothing special to talk about.

But not these. These are great mashed potatoes/mash that have flavor! Life! Pizazz!

Mashed potatoes and wonderful and warm my soul almost more than any other food, which I inherited honestly from my mother and other Midwestern relatives. We do come from the red meat and potatoes part of the US, so a love of a good potato dish is in the blood. When Thanksgiving came each year, we would make something like 20 pounds of mashed potatoes. Yes, it was for over 20 people, but that is still a pound of potatoes per person. And there were never any leftovers.

With all the love for potatoes I have, I am a little ashamed to say that I ate mostly the dehydrated potato flakes for much of my life due to convenience. Now that I eat the real thing, I could never go back. So now I look for ways to make my mash exciting to keep my tastebuds interested, which includes throwing various spices and vegetables with the potatoes.

In these great mashed potatoes, I went for the classic British flavors version, but you can easily add bacon and chives, sweet potato and cinnamon, bits of apple and fennel, rosemary- anything you want really that will compliment your dish.

I boiled some potatoes with the skins on, but you could easily peel them if you prefer. Apparently, lots of vitamins and good things live in the skins, so I am trying to eat them more often.

Then sautee some leeks and thinly-sliced cabbage for 5-10 minutes to cook briefly over a high heat.

After mashing the potatoes when done, add a splash of milk and lots of butter. If it is unsalted, make sure you add some salt too. If you find that the potatoes are too sticky, add a splash more milk and some butter to loosen them.

Grate some cheddar into the potatoes, then add the sauteed veggies to the mix.

If you have some, I would also add some sour cream to really make these lush.

You can serve these great mashed potatoes as a side to almost any main dish, or top with bangers.

Mmmm, I'm hungry already. And my soul is feeling warm and fuzzy from all this comfort food in the fall.

24 September 2010

Greek barbecue

As summer fades into fall and I look forward to harvest food, I would like to leave the season with a Greek barbecue.

We attended the last barbecue of the year when the weather was already turning a bit stormy and breezy in the UK, but we persevered through to hang on to the tendrils for a Greek and Cypriot summer barbecue.

There was meat roasted on a coal fire.

Fresh salads and lemon with bursts of flavour to top it all off.

Handmade desserts, with lashings of honey everywhere.

Greek dancing with exuberance!

I enjoy having foods that are still seasonal in our world of having everything we want whenever we want it. It makes the seasonal food more enjoyable as it harbors excitement and anticipation, pleasure in the taste, fond memories, and finally desire. As I say goodbye to summer for another year, I shall savor the memories of the barbecue and wait, somewhat anxiously, for next year's first barbecue.
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There's nothing quite like a summer barbecue, eating the grilled meat with crisp salads outside. But I do start to crave the warm comfort food and flavours of harvest time, and I look forward to cooking and baking in the fall most of all. Some of my most favorite recipes are coming up soon!

5 September 2010

Fried green tomatoes

For the past three years, I have planted tomatoes in my garden in London. I raise them from seeds inside and then gingerly place them outside, supporting them with stakes and hoping for warm weather to help them grow. When I finally see some tomatoes on the vine, the calendar turns to August and nights feel chilly. The lovely late summer heat and sun that tomatoes need to ripen is nowhere to be found and in three years, I have only had a handful of tomatoes turn red. After woefully staring at green tomatoes, I remembered a classic summer Southern dish of fried green tomatoes. Ah, perfect! Uses my tomatoes and they don't have to be ripe.

I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but my family is not actually Southern, nor are we from the Southern US. I grew up there and was influenced by many of the traditions and culture and know about Southern food, but most of the time when I make a classic Southern dish, I have never tried to make it before or seen someone make it. So when I say I remembered a classic Southern dish, I usually have only remembered that this dish and recipes exists, not the taste and fond memories of making said dish. Still, Southern cooking reminds me of home in so many ways, because you would never find some of these foods outside of the US, making them unique and have a particularly strong association with the US to me.

Back to the fried green tomatoes. This, like many good Southern dishes, is fried. Examples = chicken fried steak, fried chicken, deep-fried okra, deep-fried twinkies (don't ask). If you are keeping score, fried = good = Southern.

After picking and slicing my green tomatoes, I prepared a beaten egg and a plate of flour, cornmeal and breadcrumbs for the coating.
Dip each slice in the egg and cover all sides with the breading mixture.

Place the slices in a heated pan with vegetable oil.

The tomatoes will brown pretty quickly, so be sure to turn them regularly. I left them on the heat for 10 minutes or so. That was enough to make sure the breading was browned and the tomatoes cooked, but not mushy.

The green tomatoes hold their shape really well and have a slightly tangy taste. I don't know if this is protocol, but we ate them with leftover creme fraiche, which complimented the taste and texture nicely.

I highly recommend this recipe if you have any green tomatoes on the vine.