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Goodbye Blogger: See theflexiblechef.co.uk

Thank you Blogger for being the platform bringing me from random Facebook postings to blogging. Sometimes it seems like full time unpaid work but on the whole I have enjoyed it.

However, the time has come for me to say goodbye as I migrate my postings from here to WordPress. Given that I spend so much time blogging I have started to feel like a professional and dare I say that WP is just that.

Anyway, thank you to the people and developers behind Blogger.

My blog can now be viewed at my website http://www.theflexible.co.uk - it is a work in progress.

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Mr Bean: Andalucian style

Baked beans, also known as Boston beans or Navy beans. The commercial product is packed with sugar and salt – even the reduced versions. However, it is relatively easy to make H J Heinz rather jealous by making them in your own home.

It takes a while (simmering tomatoes and the ingredients for 2-3 hours) but you can save time by buying canned or jarred haricot beans. In Spain all beans tend to be lumped into the ‘Alubia’ category but the small ones on the supermarket shelves are haricot and the large ones are generally butter beans.

This recipe gives a delicious tangy, zingy flavour that you will never, ever, ever get out of a tin no matter what the marketing people at Heinz say.

For the sauce:
1.5kg ripe and juicy tomatoes of your choice, chopped
75ml cider vinegar
5 cloves
2 green cardamon pods
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cassia bark (you can also use cinnamon)
1 tsp Paprika (I use hot smoked)
50g sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 or 3 sun dried tomatoes (rehydrated), chopped

This is the easy bit. Add all ingredients into a large pan, bring to a boil then simmer for 2 ½ or 3 hours.

Allow to cool before passing through a food mill, add the beans to the liquid then spoon into sterilised jars.

They are so gorgeously delicious they won’t last very long. Enjoy on hot buttered toast.

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Chat Amongst Yourselves: Chaat (chat) Masala

Chaat (sometimes spelt chat) Masala is a Pakistani and North Indian spice mix which is both sweet and sour in taste. There are, of course, more versions than I can shake a stick at but my version is below.

There are a couple of unusual ingredients, the first being Kala Namak (Indian black salt) and secondly Amchoor (dried mango powder). If you track down either of these ingredients in rural Spain then please do let me know.

Blend the following ingredients in a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar if you want to give your arms a work out.

1 tbs roasted cumin seeds
1 tbs roasted fennel seeds
Pinch asafoetida
½ tbs garam masala
½ tbs amchoor (dried mango powder)
½ tbs kala namak (black salt)
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp roasted black peppercorns

Dry fry or roast the cumin, fennel seeds and peppercorn until they start to release their oils giving off a wonderful aroma. Make sure not to burn them.

Add all ingredients to a spice blender and pulse until powdered.

Place in an airtight container in a cool dark place where is will keep for a couple of months but I prefer to mix and grind it as and when I need it.

On the day I ground my mix I used it as a rub for fish that I baked in the oven and served with roasted vegetables. 

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Pickled as a Newt

The term pickle is derived from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine. Pickled as a newt is an English phrase for being pissed.
Pickling is the process of preserving food in brine or vinegar and this method has been used for thousands of years, particularly in India and other parts of Asia.
In Fiji, for example, before a man could woo a girl he had to show his prowess by allowing her parents to inspect his pickling pits in order to prove he was good marrying material. I am going to try something similar - you show me yours and I'll show you mine.
Even Christopher Columbus's ships carried pickles as they are packed with vitamin C and thus helped avoid scurvy. Brits are often referred to as ‘limeys’ because their ships carried citrus fruits for the same reason.
In days gone by fruits and vegetables were pickled in order to survive hard and long winters. Now, in the main, we can pickle in times of plenty to enjoy in the winter. Pickling has enjoyed a recent boon from chefs and foodies alike (and me) as they add an interesting and acidic punch to dishes and it is very cheap to produce.
However, apart from pickled herrings, pickling is rather new to me. And now I have the pickling bug from onions, mixed vegetables to chillies. 
Pickling vegetables not only improves their texture and flavour but it can also make them more nutritious - by introducing B vitamins produced by bacteria.
And recently I watched The Hairy Bikers' Asian Adventure – Korean episode on catch up and there was Kimchi, I had it once in Hong Kong and now I am going to pickle cabbage, Kimchi Andalucían style. 
According to Korean scientists, Kimchi contains as much as twice the levels of vitamins B1, B2, B12, and niacin as unfermented cabbage contains. Now you know.

Meanwhile, whilst in pickling mode and having some green chillies to hand (Francisco, in my local fruit and veg shop told me they were muy, muy picante, he even wagged his finger to emphasis the fact) I decided to give it a go and here’s the recipe which has been specially requested by a friend, Fran Rajewski, who is slowly recovering from surgery. I’m sure my picante pickled green chillies will help with her mending. 

Use your usual sterilisation method. I place my jars in the oven for 10 minutes at 120°C and the lids under boiling water for the same time.

Place the chillies in a colander and scold with boiling water, set aside to cool as you will have to pierce them in order that the pickling solution penetrates them. 

Place them into the jar and add whatever spices suit you. I added:

Mustard seeds
Peeled garlic
Black pepper corns
Bay leaves
Cassia bark
Coriander seeds

Plus a teaspoon of salt and a good sprinkle of brown sugar.

Apart from flavouring the vinegar the spices are antimicrobial – they kill micro-organisms or at least they inhibit their growth.

Now cover with vinegar of your choice (white wine in my case) making sure everything is submerged. Now tap the jar in order to release any air bubbles, screw the lid tight then store in a cool dark place until the chillies start to turn light green. 

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India: The Best Kebab is in Lucknow

For the train spotters: We travelled overnight from Delhi on the mail train to Lucknow. It was a laborious 9.5 hours. We shared a 4 berth area with very little privacy. And it was very noisy.

Lucknow is a city of 2.5 million and at times it seems as though the majority of the populous live on the streets or in terribly overcrowded huts or rooms in decrepit old buildings. We saw it as we searched all over town looking for WiFi.

After visiting the British Residency* we didn't find WiFi but we did discover Tunday Kababi tucked away in a bristling bazaar - try to imagine downtown Kabul. The food was fabulous with a high turnover of diners. We were stuffed after spending £2.36 in total. It is a Muslim establishment with a separate dining area for women and we didn't feel comfortable in taking photographs inside but Tony captured a few shots of the outside.

This was our 5th day in India and the end of my vegetarianism. I simply couldn't resist the kebabs and please understand these are nothing like the kebabs served up in England but ground meat mixed with spices and served with flat bread.

*The Siege of Lucknow was the prolonged defence of the Residency within the city of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. After two successive relief attempts had reached the city, the defenders and civilians were evacuated from the Residency, which was then abandoned. Wiki. 

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Cooking Sous-vide on the Cheap

Sous-vide is a method of slow cooking food (in sealed plastic bags) in a water bath. It's a French invention wouldn't you know? 

To buy a half decent Sous-vide gadget will set you back over 200€ but my method is much cheaper and you don't have to buy anything except food grade cling film (one that’s marked suitable for microwave).

The big advantage of using this cooking method is that the meat retains its juiciness whilst taking on the seasoning and herbs that you coated it with.  The end result is moist meat.

As an example, take a skinless chicken breast, season and/or coat in herbs or spices of your choice then tightly roll up in cling film making sure the ends are secure and water tight.  Boil up a large pan of water and then turn down to a gentle simmer (should be making a slow plop, plop sound). Now place your sausage looking wrapped chicken breast into the water and leave it alone for around 30 minutes (depends on the size of your ‘sausage’ of course).

When it has reached doneness remove carefully and place on a chopping board allowing it to rest for a few minutes otherwise you’ll burn your fingers when unwrapping the breast as any liquid escaping will be rather hot. 

I served mine with cauliflower and potato gratin and green peppercorn sauce.

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Risotto: It is all in the stock

Risotto is simple yet comforting, you just need a good home made stock and not a stock cube or powder.

Make your own and freeze what you don’t need for another day.

Chicken carcass, bones and wings
Carrot x2
Celery stick x2
Onion x1
Bay leaf x3
Black pepper corns 6
Tomato x1
Leek x1
Fresh parsley and thyme (big handfuls)
3 ltr water

Roughly chop the vegetables and place in a large pan with the chicken, water and remaining ingredients. Gently bring up to boiling point then reduce to a gentle simmer .

Simmer for 3 hours skimming off any scum.

Strain through a fine sieve squeezing every last drop of liquid and loveliness from the soft vegetables.

For an ‘oriental’ stock add garlic and a couple of chilles (with or without seeds). 

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Porc à la Normandie - Cerdo Normandía

I haven’t had much by way of meat lately but a pork chop loitering in my freezer grabbed my attention.

And whilst it was defrosting my subconscious was working overtime to come up with a recipe to do justice to my sage plant and a bottle of French cider acquired recently during a reconnoitre to Granada.

I used to live in France so I know this is my made up version but at least the cider is from Normandy. The pork is Andalucian and the shallots are from France. The sage is from my Andaluz patio.

Using a suitable casserole dish this is cooking for one…

Brown a pork chop in a little oil
Sauté shallots, sliced carrot and a few cauliflower florets
Add a garlic clove
Add a splodge tomato purée
Add bay leaf, ground black pepper
Add peeled and sliced apple
Add a couple of slugs of cider
Then a ladle of hot stock to cover the ingredients
Sprinkle with dried or fresh sage
Layer with thinly sliced potatoes and a few dots of butter

Place in a preheated oven at 190°C for 35 minutes or until the top layer of potatoes have started to brown and crisp up. 

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India: Chandni Chowk Spice Market

Visiting New Delhi is not complete without a trip to the 17th century market. It is one of India’s largest.

Kalu travels 40km (each-way) every day to Delhi by bus just so that he can cycle a rickshaw that he doesn't even own. It is a very tough life and this day he peddled his rickshaw around the market of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi carrying Tony and I. We stopped at the spice market, of course. 
It is loud and dirty but vibrant - the wholesale spices are traded and sold in an old mughal building which seems to be held together by prayers alone.

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India: The Aromas

India smells, sometimes good, sometimes foul but most of the time there's an underlying aroma that is made up of:

Cheap soap
Holy cow shit
Inexpensive cologne

And I defy any woman I know to use the public conveniences.

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India: A Rick Stein Moment

Bisht was our Sikh taxi driver, he took us to one of the many temples in Delhi and after a tour of the last temple and grounds he took us to a large kitchen where volunteers cook and provide food for the poor on a 24 hour basis. Whilst we watched bubbling cauldrons of curry an enthusiastic team were rolling chapatis by hand, hundreds of life savers I suspect.

Guru Nanak Sahib is the head of this place, 
the unseen host at every meal, 
the silent listener.

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