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Sometimes, your cooking plans are derailed by ingredients not being available but in the last couple of weeks, mine have been inspired by unusual ingredients turning up in stores. I knew I wanted to make some kind of salsa when a bout of warm weather cut through our rainy Spring, but I hadn’t exactly imagined that it would centre around kumquats. But there they were in a basket at the Taj grocery – wintery fruits that I usually associate with Christmas but that offer an bittersweet citrus punch not dissimilar to Mexican naranja agria. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to include them in my Spring salsa, so I poked around for ingredients to balance their chewy acid pleasures, coming up with plump little radishes, long red chilies and soft avocado. This recipe barely qualifies for the name, but it makes a substantial salsa that could function as the major component of a plate, not just a condiment. We ate it with grilled chicken and tomato rice but it would make a simple supper with just a rice bowl, or a vegetarian meal with Mexican black beans and rice.

Spicy kumquat salsa

  • a large handful of kumquats
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 large spring onion or 3 regular sized ones
  • 6-8 radishes
  • a large handful of ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 5 long red chilies (or 2-3 serranos)
  • bunch of cilantro
  • 2 limes
  • some olive oil

You basically just have to wash and chop everything – avocado into chunks, spring onion, chilies and kumquats thinly sliced, tomatoes halved, radishes diced, leaves pulled off cilantro stems. Salt generously with nice flaky salt, then dress with lime and a little olive oil and mix well.

Et voilà – a not exactly authentic salsa but a nice way to transition from wintery citrus fruits to the promise of summery flavours.

Serves 2.

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People are often a bit skeptical of quinoa and I understand why: anyone who has eaten leaden, tasteless 1970s-era vegetarian food has probably had a scarring experience with it. Even Thrifty Gal, who enjoys her veggie grub, looked at me sideways when I suggested cooking it for her. But here’s the thing – quinoa is easy to make, its nutty flavour is a great base for a spring meal, and it is unbelievably good for you. Check this out: this ancient Andean foodstuff is full of essential amino acids, it can help protect against heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer, and it can even reduce the frequency of migraines. As a sufferer of quite unpleasant headaches, this last point had me planning a quinoa-centric diet, but even if you want to emphasise flavour rather than health, quinoa is one of the tastiest of the so-called ancient grains. It’s actually not a grain at all but technically a grass, which is why I always cook it during Passover, but it functions like a grain in cooking. I think the trick is to combine it with lots of vegetables so that it provides a nutty counterpoint rather than a protein-heavy mouthful. This dish came from my obsession with those superfood salads you can buy in Chopped and other salad places. I absolutely love all of those supposedly super-good-for-you ingredients of beets, dark greens and seeds and as it turns out they mesh splendidly with quinoa. Read the rest of this entry »

Mama Lemur had a significant birthday recently and, in a surprise celebration, we went to Tom Kitchin’s highly-regarded Edinburgh restaurant The Kitchin. It was a lovely evening with great food in glamorous surroundings, and Tom even came out to talk to my mum and wish her a happy birthday. It was also incredibly good value for such high-end cooking, further proof of my not-very-original thesis that eating out is at its best at either the very low or very high price points, with the mid-range restaurants often giving the worst value for money. Here, the emphasis on Scottish seafood and meat made for some top quality plates, though there was nothing vegetarian on the entire menu as far as I could see, which is really not on in this day and age. In this case, though, I was planning on ordering a seafood-heavy meal to take full advantage of being in Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »

I was part of a fascinating conversation on Facebook recently, in which an American Jewish friend made a disparaging comment about gefilte fish. Lots of other Americans piled on with the disgust toward these unappetising jarred fish balls floating in gloopy liquid. One person even revealed a childhood with canned gefilte fish, even more questionable than the giant jars. But something funny happened in this thread – both of the British Jews who responded had very different memories of gefilte fish; positive memories of a tasty dish, much looked forward to on special occasions. I have always loved these light fish balls, and during the period that I lived abroad, it went without saying that when I came home for a visit, my mum would cook me gefilte fish as a welcome home treat. I don’t know if there is a transatlantic difference here (obviously it was a pretty small sample and I’ve already encountered one American friend who actually likes the stuff in the jar) but the discussion prompted me to look out our family gefilte fish recipe for Passover. Read the rest of this entry »

While I’ve been away, I missed a veritable shower of appreciation! Excitingly, I have received not one but two Versatile Blogger nominations, which is really rather wonderful. I was too technically thwarted to respond at the time, but I am eager to do so now…

First of all major thanks go to the two lovely bloggers who nominated me:

Body of a Geek Goddess is the person who nagged, bothered and generally inspired me to start blogging in the first place. She was insistent that I had something interesting to say about food and even eats things I cook for her on occasion. She’s also the talent behind this splendid sci-fi and fantasy oriented blog which is the place to go for your feminist geek needs and/or Supernatural underwear.

Postcard of a Painting is a fab blog for those grammar geeks among us, with forays into theatre, film and television writing to boot. But it mostly mocks badly-written signs, which is a life-affirming process for some of us.

The rules of the award stipulate that I now nominate some of my own favourite blogs and then tell you seven things about myself. I would nominate my nominators but they are both already recipients of the award so I won’t give them more work! Read the rest of this entry »

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