A High School Potluck

It’s not easy to take a good hard objective look at high school when you’re still in it. Looking back at the age of thirty-five (what?) I’m a little mortified at how much importance I placed on it all. I’m especially mortified at the importance I placed on perms and oversized red glasses. It makes me wonder if kids in twenty years time will look back and agonize over all the skinny jeans and hoodies. My mother always told me that high school wouldn’t matter so much, that the friends I’d make and keep for life would be the friends I’d meet in university and beyond. And to a certain extent she was right…but I think most of us are lucky enough to have held on to a few pals we shared all the bad perms with. Jennine, Joanne, Colleen and I (their perms were significantly hotter then mine) try to get together every few months or so for a meal and a laugh. If it was up to me it would be a once a week deal, but between being moms, having jobs, and living in four different parts of the city, it takes a lot of persistent planning. I’m carless (but a kick-ass pedestrian, just not entirely up for walking to Kilbride or Mount Pearl) so the ladies are great enough to make the trek downtown to the little red kitchen. The only condition being they have to carpool so they can share my one parking permit.

Joanne couldn’t make it to our gathering this time around, but it was a pre-Christmas miracle that the rest of us got together at all. Everyone was gunning to cook something so we decided on a little potluck. Hosting was a totally selfish act…I like leftovers more than I like some people and between the balsamic chicken and hashbrown casserole, I ate like a queen for the rest of the week. And frankly, I’m a little insulted that as I type the word ‘hashbrown’ it’s coming up underlined in red. I think its earned its place in our lexicon. It should be one word. They turned ‘bootylicious’ into a word.

My humble contribution to the evening was soup and a salad. A first crack at mulligatawny and a Jamie Oliver salad. A weird salty and sweet combination, but it worked with the chicken and the casserole. Four completely different dishes that you would never ever think to put together. Kind of like pals in high school.


1 kg chicken pieces
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
60g butter
12 black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
6 cups chicken stock
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup cream

Trim the chicken of excess fat and sinew (gross…using the word sinew in a recipe is totally uncalled for). Combine the flour, curry powder, turmeric and ginger, and rub into the chicken. Heat the butter in a large pan and cook the chicken until lightly browned on all sides. Tie the peppercorns and cloves in a small piece of muslin and add to the pan with the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat slightly and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add the apple and cook for 15 minutes further. Remove the chicken from the pan and discard the muslin bag. When cool enough, remove the skin from the chicken; finely shred the flesh (ewww, worse than sinew). Skim any fat from the surface of the soup. Return the chicken to the pan. Stir in the lemon juice and cream, and heat through gently. Garnish with thinly sliced ginger.

From The Curry and Chilli Cookbook (Bay Books, 2003)

If you’re slightly disturbed by the photo of the ‘Olde Tyme Pudding Bag’ you should be. I didn’t have any muslin and grabbed this at the store at the last minute. After putting 6 cloves and 12 black peppercorns in it and tossing it in the pot, I thought about how easier things would have been if I had just cut off a little corner and fashioned an ‘Olde Tyme Pudding Mini-Sac’. Too little, too late. At least now I know what a giant curried pudding bag looks like in my garbage can.

This recipe is from a little gem of a cookbook that came out of the sale bin at Coles almost nine years ago. Best five bucks I ever spent. Except for that yellow acrylic giraffe sweater I nabbed at Value Village in ’99. I used bouillon cubes for the stock and it was a titch too salty, so mind yourself and your salt. Other than that, really lovely. Don’t let the apple scare you, because it scared me (I have this thing about fruit in curry). It works. Use a granny smith for that extra tang. I sounded like such a foodie there that I just punched myself in the face.

Southern Pecan and Apple Salad

Olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pecan halves
2 red or green apples
2 heads Belgian endive, leaves removed, washed and spun dry
a couple of handfuls of mixed leaves, such as arugula and radicchio, washed and spun dry

For the dressing:

Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly rub a sheet pan with some olive oil and put to one side. Put a large saucepan on a low heat and add your butter and sugar. Leave on a gentle simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it catching, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture starts to darken. Gently stir in your pecans until they’re well coated in the caramel syrup. Be careful not to splash yourself, and don’t be tempted to have a taste because hot caramel can burn quite badly. Once coated, tip the nuts onto the oiled pan and use the back of a spoon to separate them out into one layer. Leave them to cool so the caramel can harden on the nuts. Meanwhile, make your dressing. Put your orange zest and juice, Dijon mustard, and white wine vinegar into a large salad bowl and add a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Whisk them, then have a taste. You want to get a nice balance between the sharpness of the vinegar and the smoothness of the oil, so add a little more oil if needed, then season carefully with salt and pepper.

Core, quarter, and thinly slice your apples and add to the bowl with all your leaves. Break the cooled pecans apart, add half of them to the bowl, and use your hands to delicately toss and dress everything. Serve on one big platter, or divide up between plates, and finish by crumbling over the rest of your beautiful caramel pecans.

From Jamie’s America (Penguin, 2010)

I’m not going to say Jamie let me down a little on this one because we’re awesome pals and he might stop inviting me over for tea with Jools and the youngsters. I think it boils down to me and lack of perfect ingredients (Sobeys, I’m looking at you). No arugula in sight and really bitter radicchio. I think radicchio is supposed to be bitter, but this was bitter in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in that-oooh, you think you’re all exotic using this weird red cabbage thing when you should have just stuck with romaine-kind of uncomfortable. Maybe it was that particular batch. Or maybe it was that I’m not my friend Darka who uses radicchio all the time and makes it taste like angels singing in your pants. Dunno. And the dressing was a wee bit on the sweet side for me. I should have handsqueezed (I made up that word to piss off Merriam-Webster) the orange but I used my fancypants (so there) citrus juicer and may have gone a little overboard. But you know what? I’d make this again. With just arugula to counteract the sweetness and a little less orange juice/zest in the dressing. The Belgian endive was weird but didn’t morally offend me or anything. And you can’t go wrong with brown sugary pecan goodness.

And brownie sundaes for dessert. Food was never this good in high school. But neither was our taste in perms and eyewear. I guess everything gets a little bit better with age.

Katie and Duncan’s Belated Wedding Feast

I never go to weddings. It’s sort of like, my thing now. Not because I’m not a fan or anything like that, but for some silly reason, everyone wants to get married in summer. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a wedding in January in Newfoundland. Imagine all the photos people miss of bridesmaids standing knee deep in slush, or losing out on the chance to get salt stains on your wedding dress. I just don’t get it. My beef with summer weddings is that I can never go to them. I haven’t been to a summer wedding since Uncle Craig got married in 1993. I wore that cute little number from Smart Set in the Labrador Mall and broke it down hard core to such favourites as The Bird Dance and Mony Mony. My May to Septembers are now spent working theatre festivals, with only Mondays off and no room for nuptials. When my sister was trying to plan her post-elopement wedding reception last summer she asked when I could make it. I said “Monday.” She sighed. So I sent in a little video and that was nice.

I can’t say I was entirely surprised to miss the marriage of two dear friends, Katie and Duncan, this past September. Sorely disappointed yes, but not surprised. The fact that I arrived in town the very next day still makes me wish I had been a marine biologist. But food fixes everything, even missing important life events, so when I was home and settled in the fall I had them over for a nice meal as a belated wedding present. Nothing too fancy; Katie and I were in the middle of rehearsals for a children’s show and I was a tired crooked beast. My plans for a crack at coq au vin turned into a pretty simple roast chicken, but with those nice potato-berry clouds I wrote about a few months back. And I did manage a new appetizer and dessert to keep things mildly stressful.

Stuffed Mushrooms

(The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook, Bay Books, 2005)

8 large cap mushrooms
4 tablespoons olive oil
30g (1 oz) prosciutto, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp soft fresh breadcrumbs
30g (1 oz) grated Parmesan
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 375F. Oil a baking dish. Remove the mushroom stalks and finely chop them. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan, add the prosciutto, garlic and mushroom stalks and cook for 5 minutes. Mix in a bowl with breadcrumbs, Parmesan and parsley. Brush the mushroom caps with 1 tbsp olive oil and place them gill-side-up on the baking dish. Divide the stuffing among the caps and bake for 20 minutes. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve hot or warm.

These things look fancy, taste fancy, and are dead easy. I’ve made/eaten a lot of stuffed mushrooms, but there’s something about prosciutto that will make you and the mushrooms light up a little bit more (I used Piller’s smoked prosciutto…salty and smoky, you won’t need to season the stuffing mixture). I’d eat these as a main, maybe with a salad and a nice glass of white (shut up chicken).

I discovered last summer while living in Cow Head that I could watch Food Network cooking shows online. I don’t have cable at home (a little righteous, mostly cheap) but I’ve always said that if I could custom pick my cable (which should be allowed, seriously) I would choose two channels: the Food Network and TLC. On snowy days I would hole myself up in my house and cook everything I see on TV and then eat it while watching episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. And until I can reach those heights of perfection, I will continue to come home from work in the summertime, make a couple of hot dogs, open a beer and watch my favourite food shows on a laptop.

Sophie Dahl. She’s so good looking it’s not really fair that she can cook too. I was pretty skeptical when I found out she had a show on the Food Network. I get my back up a little when models decide they want to be actors, but when models decide they want to host cooking shows? That’s just immoral. Like when Gwyneth Paltrow got to do that food tour of Spain with Mario Batali. What the hell macrobiotic vegetarians eat in Spain is what I’d like to know. Gwyneth? Anyways, I rolled my eyes a little while I ate my hot dog and clicked on The Delicious Miss Dahl. Turns out all her food looks as good as she does. She kind of makes you want to curl up with a cup of tea in her cozy English kitchen and have a chat while she makes you borscht. There you have it. Models can cook too. But I still don’t think I could hang out and eat hot dogs with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Sophie Dahl’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

Butter for greasing
300g broken plain chocolate
225g caster sugar
180ml boiling water
225g salted butter, cut into cubes
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
unit each of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries
200ml creme fraiche

Grease and line the base of a solid-bottomed (heh heh) 23cm/9inch round cake tin (a springform is best). Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. In a large food processor, pulse the chocolate and sugar until fine. Add the boiling water, butter, egg yolks, coffee powder and vanilla extract. In a glass bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold them into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the hot oven for 45-55 minutes. The top will be cracked like a desert fault line (dessert fault line ooh, hee hee). After you take the cake out of the oven it will collapse into itself quite a bit. This is ok. It’s not meant to be a proud cool cake, it’s meant to be slightly rough around the edges (like Sophie…ha!) and the creme fraiche and berries will hide any dips and cracks. Let the cake cool then put it in the fridge for a few hours. When you are ready to serve, remove from the tin, smother the top in creme fraiche and pile the berries on top. You can also grate some chocolate on top or dust with icing sugar.

This cake is perfect for so many reasons; it easy, it looks amazing, it’s gluten-free without even trying, and it’s the prettiest, most decadent thing you will ever lay eyes on. Sophie suggests a red-berry cake with red currants, raspberries and strawberries or a blueberry/blackberry one. I liked mixing up the colours and piled blackberries, raspberries and strawberries together. The only blueberries I had were in the freezer and I don’t think frozen berries would work very well for this one. And red currants? Hilarious to even think they could even be found in these parts. It will fall apart and maybe even crack off in pieces but like Sophie says, all the mistakes can be easily covered up. The cake is sweet and rich but the tangy creme fraiche and unsweetened berries even it out. You’ll find surprise chunks of chocolate in it (especially if you have no food processor and have to do it in batches in your smoothie blender-ahem) but I can think of worse things to find in a piece of chocolate cake. Here’s the link to the video if you want to watch Sophie make it. You’ll feel a little inadequate but a hot dog and a beer will help.


Stuffed mushrooms and chocolate cake might not be able to completely make up for missing a wedding (hot dogs?). But no one will complain when you invite them over for a good meal to make up for the fact that you weren’t there. If they actually remember that you weren’t there. Which they probably don’t. Maybe they should be making you a meal. That’s kind of mean, but hey, I missed my sister’s wedding, I’m a little immune. And at the end of the day, if it was me tying the knot, I’d rather get a flourless chocolate cake than a gravy boat.

Winter Sucks. This Will Make it Better.

It does. It just really does in St. John’s. Don’t get me wrong, if I could hole myself up in a little house in a fenced off enclosure in the middle of Bowring park and toboggan all winter, I would. Someone could deliver my groceries and I wouldn’t have to walk to Sobey’s in the slush and I would be like, the park winter caretaker and just make bread and soup and feed the swans or whatever until I came out in May. See, at the end of the day, I’m a Labrador girl. I like my snow squeaky and my cold dry. Cold enough you have to plug in your car. I like snow coming down on the roads and staying and freezing so hard it’s like dry pavement. The winters at home are so blue and clear, it doesn’t even matter if your nostrils stick together when you breathe in. But the cold horizontal rain and snow and slush of this city makes everyone feel like throwing shovels at each other. And the only thing that makes a St. John’s winter better (besides a hut in Thailand from November to April) is food. Warm, spicy, stewy foods that stick to your insides. And cupcakes.

Weeks 45, 46 and 47 were about comfort foods. November’s all pure, unadulterated denial. It’s not fall anymore, no matter how optimistically you look at it. The leaves are gone, there’s no colour, no sun. It’s the month you wait for the rain to turn to snow while the days get shorter and everyone gets a little crazier. It’s no wonder everything went to shit in that Guns N’ Roses video. I feel things may have turned out differently if there had been a Dutch oven and a Cornish hen lying around.

I ate my first Cornish hen when I was fourteen. We had been invited out to supper by family friends and it turned out to be a formative food memory for me…I had no idea chickens came in mini-size. It was stuffed with couscous (what what?) and when I found out I could eat one all to myself something went off in me. So I was as surprised as anyone that I waited twenty years to have a crack at cooking my very own little chicken in my very own little red kitchen. And it turns out I think I may have invented something pretty deadly. Pick up a hen and give this a try….Slice half a dozen potatoes in not too thinnish pieces. I bought some nice organic ones with yellow flesh, so I left the peel on to save some time and make it look all rustic-like. Slice a couple of red onions (thinnish) and toss with the potato slices and lots of olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and some smoked paprika. As much paprika as you like, depending on how smoky you want to go (be careful with the spicy Spanish stuff, it’ll punch you in the face…the regular smoked you’ll be able to handle in generous amounts, and so will guests who can’t do a lot of heat). Stick a few peeled garlic cloves under the skin of the hen and rub it all over with the same stuff, olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika. Place the hen in a cast iron Dutch oven or a good strong oven friendly pot/roasting tin and tuck the potatoes and onions around the sides. Top the whole thing up with some chicken broth (I had some lovely homemade stuff my friend Nicole had given me), cover and bake in the oven until the hen is cooked through and potatoes are tender.

I have a genetic fear of salmonella (chicken-death) so I’m famous for overcooking poultry; I had it in for around an hour and a half on 375F. Leave the cover off for the last half hour of cooking if you want to crisp it up a little. What you end up with is a smoky chicken and potato stew that you can stick in the oven and leave while you get some shit done, like laundry or a nap. It’s that easy and it tastes like a dream. I get a little overcome thinking about the possibilities…replacing the paprika with cumin, turmeric, coriander, and making a curried Cornish hen. Or an Italian-type stew with crushed tomatoes and basil, or something Asian with sesame oil and shiitake mushrooms. Get the hen, get some potatoes and broth, go nuts, and let me know how your experiments turn out.

Onwards to week 46 and Paula Deen’s Basil Lime Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Lime Frosting. Yes, yes. And yes. I did say basil, and I’m telling you now that if you need a cupcake recipe to impress, whether you’re trying to win over the in-laws, trying to seduce someone, trying to settle an international border dispute, this is the recipe you want. It’s no secret I’m a huge Paula Deen fan. She fascinates me. I like how big her eyes get when she tastes something she just made and how she says things like “Y’all, I just wanna stick my face in this.” I like how much she loves sour cream. I kinda wish we were pals. I read a quote a while back from one of America’s top chefs (he can’t be that great because I don’t remember his name). He said that Paula Deen is the reason America is fat. Umm, I’m pretty sure America is the reason America is fat, Mr. Top Chef. Who probably doesn’t eat anything that’s not grown in an organic lavender field in France. I’m also pretty sure that Paula Deen was a divorced mother of two who grew an empire out of her last two hundred bucks. If I had an empire I wouldn’t give a shit if the entire universe was fat, as long as I was making money and having a laugh. If you eat a pound of sour cream and two sticks of butter every day, you’re an idiot. But I think if you can’t enjoy a cupcake now and then, or a bowl of the most decadent macaroni and cheese you can imagine, you’re also an idiot. It’s a fine balance.

Basil Lime Coconut Cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened                        2 cups sugar                                        2 tbsp minced fresh basil                   1 tsp lime zest                                      4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature                                         2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                1 tbsp baking powder                      1/4 tsp salt

1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, beat sugar, basil, and lime zest at medium speed with a mixer until fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture alternately with coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Stir in sour cream. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites at high speed with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling two-thirds full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Coconut Lime Frosting

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tsp lime zest
6 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter, coconut milk, and lime zest at medium speed with a mixer until combined. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

Both recipes from the Paula Deen 2011 Holiday Baking Collector’s Issue. A stellar purchase from the pharmacy in Norris Point, if I do say so. I’m on a mini-cupcake kick at the moment…you can eat three or four and not feel guilty because it’s like one. Mini-cupcake math kicks ass. I looked for mini paper liners, I’m not even sure if they exist, but my pans are new and non-stick so I went with some baking spray and the cupcakes popped out no problem (baking time was reduced to ten minutes or so).  Makes two dozen regular cupcakes and close to eighty minis.  Bring your stretchy pants.

Make them. And for St. John’s readers, if you can’t find fresh basil at Sobeys or Domionion (when you need it, you definitely won’t see it) go to Belbin’s. They saved my ass a couple of times this past holiday season.

And now more chicken for mid-November…regulation size this time and with the same Dutch oven but a little North African. I found this recipe for djej besla (chicken and onion tagine) on my new favourite food website, saveur.com. Make a cup of tea and block out about three hours of your day and take a look. I wish I was joking. This one’s easy and tastes exotic with very little effort, perfect for the little red kitchen. Don’t let the saffron scare you; it’s expensive but a little goes a long way depending on how often you cook Spanish/North African. Jesus that sounded pretentious, but you know what I mean. And after you realize how amazing it is, you’ll want to have it in the house all the time. When I was making this I stuck my nose in my little container of saffron and smelled hard and almost cried. I think it’s time for a vacation.

Djej Besla (Chicken and Onion Tagine) from saveur.com

1 tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
5 tbsp olive oil
4 skinless bone-in chicken thighs
4 skinless bone-in chicken drumsticks
1 tsp crushed saffron threads
4 medium yellow onions, cut into wedges
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
1 1/4 cups pitted green olives
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
Cooked white rice, for serving

Make a spice paste: using the flat side of your knife, chop and mash salt and garlic together on a cutting board into a smooth paste. Transfer paste to a large bowl and stir in cumin, paprika and turmeric. Stir in 3 tbsp of the oil and then add chicken thighs and drumsticks. Toss until evenly coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Heat remaining oil in an 8-qt Dutch oven or large tagine over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add chicken pieces and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add saffron and onions to pot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 15 minutes. Return chicken to pot with the lemon slices, add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat and scatter olives and cilantro over chicken. Serve with rice. (I’m mental for olives and added a little too many, so watch your salt. When everything cooks for a long time it’s easy to miss the lemon rind; watch that you don’t bite into one because they’re pretty bitter.)

I loved this. I loved it so much. And the leftovers were over the moon. So easy and made my kitchen smell like I was somewhere warm. I think Moroccan food might be the secret weapon St. John’s needs to get through the dark half of the year. Invite some friends over, make a couple of tagines, drink some beers, steam up the windows in the kitchen a little. Because it might be hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain, but you can always stay inside and eat some chicken and cupcakes.

A Gluten-Free Deep-Fry Party. And Vodka.

Home again, home again, cluckety-cluck. Only took me a whole year to think of that one. Back to St. John’s and still reeling from the aftereffects of Roots, Rants and Roars, little red chicken attempts first new recipe on home turf since May. But not at home in the little red kitchen. Sandy and I were in the middle of rehearsing Oedipus Rex and Antigone and playing Ismene and Antigone respectively. What better way to bring two genetically messed up Greek sisters closer together than a gluten-free deep-fry party? After discovering she had to give up gluten this past summer, Sandy attacked her intolerance head-on. As you might remember from previous entries, we sure had a hell of a lot of fun with sorghum flour and xanthan gum. Sandy now laughs in the face of gluten (I merely chuckle…I can still pound the face off a loaf of Nanny’s homemade bread) but she mourned the loss of fried chicken. She decided to treat herself to a shiny new deep-fryer, one that would be strictly reserved for gluten-free treats. We decided to break it in one evening after rehearsal with some onion bhaji and veggie pakoras. You know, like the ancient Greeks would have done.

Sandy had done some poking around online and found these sweet little recipes on unsolvedmysteries.com. I have no idea how these recipes ended up on a site like this, but it’s pretty flashy, looks like the nineties, and makes me afraid to click links for fear of downloading something that will make my computer blow up. But awesome nonetheless. Though “not affiliated with Unsolved Mysteries Television Show” for all you Robert Stack fans.

Since leaving Cow Head and losing regular access to Didi’s super-camera I’ve been bribing friends with food if they take photos for the blog with their iPhones. Sandy graciously took most of these pics…and I will openly admit I cheated with this recipe. I chopped, stirred and dipped but made Sandy do most of the dirty work, as deep-fryers frighten the shit out of me. I think it’s a product of growing up with a mother who scared the bejesus out of us when it came to deep-frying. It was the eighties and the height of “don’t burn your house down when you’re making fries” warnings on the evening news. She would stand over an open pot of hot oil, my sisters and I huddled in fear on the other side of the kitchen while she glared at us and hissed “Don’t you ever let me catch you doing this.” Her homemade pogo sticks kicked ass but to this day I’ve never deep-fried anything. Also wondering if anyone else’s mother told them that Linda on Sesame Street was deaf from Q-tip misusage? Anyone?

Gluten-Free Onion Bhajis  (adapted from unsolvedmysteries.com)

4 oz chickpea flour
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 oz fresh coriander, finely chopped
pinch of salt
1 large onion, cut into chunky slices
cold water to mix
vegetable oil to fry

Sift the flour, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped coriander, onions and chillies and mix well, pressing the onions firmly to release the juices. Mix well and leave to one side. Preheat the oil to 350F. Gradually add a little water to the flour mixture until it just sticks together. Take small handfuls of the mixture and form into flattened patties. Drop gently into hot oil and cook until browned. Do not make them too large or they will not cook through. Golf ball-sized pieces are large enough. Drain well and serve hot.

Vegetable Pakoras

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 tsp crushed green chillies
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp mango powder (optional)
1/2 tsp crushed pomegranate seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
cold water to mix

Mix all ingredients with cold water to reach a thick, smooth batter consistency. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Prepare a selection of vegetables of your choice (eggplant, sweet potato, cauliflower, etc.) to either coat with the batter or mix into the batter. For dipping, simply dip the vegetable into the batter, allow the excess to drip off and fry immediately. For the mixed in vegetables, mix well into the batter and drop spoonfuls into the hot oil. Both types are ready when they begin to brown.

Mint and Cucumber Raita

plain yogurt
chopped fresh mint leaves
finely chopped cucumber
sprinkle of red chilli powder

Mix desired amounts to taste by hand or in a food processor.

Ancient Greek gluten-free deep-fry party: success. Everything was crispy and delicious, nothing blew up, and I am one step closer to deep-frying completely on my own. We went a little loosey-goosey with the raita and played around til we had something tasty. I’ve made a sauce similar to this for homemade samosas, oftentimes replacing yogurt with sour cream (I know! So deliciously evil!!) and the chilli powder with ground cumin. Mess around, see what you come up with and let me know how it works out. All very good with (ahem, gluten-free) Strongbow cider.

Shamefully, shamefully trying to squeeze five weeks’ worth of new recipes into one blog. Onward. Weeks 43 and 44 and a not so gluten-free evening with my yogi. A Friday night a couple of weeks later and Melanie and I decided to have a night in with some red wine and heavy carbs. Some of you might remember the Waldorf salad from ages ago, made on a whim from Jamie Oliver’s newish book Jamie’s America. I found a recipe for a vodka arrabbiata from the same book, and although vodka makes me fall out of lawn chairs, I’m all over spicy food, so I hoped that one would cancel out the other and off we went to Sobey’s.

Mel’s a stickler when it comes to whole wheat pasta. I was on that kick for a while, but man, white pasta just tastes better. And it feels…wrong with any other other kind. Like somewhere a little old Italian woman is laughing at me when I pick up a box of Catelli Healthy Harvest. So I stopped eating it. This decision was cemented when I heard my friend Karen mention one day that whole wheat pasta was like cat tongues (which is weird because she owns two wiener dogs). Every whole wheat pasta dish has been a little off ever since. Done. We hit the pasta aisle and I casually reached for a box of spaghettini and said “You’re cool with white pasta for this one, right?” Silence. Mel screwed up her nose. I told her that the Italian guy in the Barilla commercial would never leave a box of whole wheat pasta on the doorstep of his blond neighbour. Because if a fella whole-wheated me like that I’d heave it back out the window at him. “But we’re going authentic and I’m pretty sure whole wheat pasta’s illegal in Italy.” No go. I relented. What could I do? The woman’s my yogi and taught me how to do a headstand without crying like a seven year old. We compromised. Went wholegrain instead of whole wheat. I don’t even know what that means. It’s all cat tongues to me. See? I’m ruined.

Jamie Oliver’s Vodka Arrabbiata ( from Jamie’s America, Penguin, 2010)

4 fresh red chillies
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
a small bunch of fresh Italian parsley, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 x 14 oz can diced tomatoes
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
3 shots of vodka
1 lb spaghetti
1 lemon
optional: extra virgin olive oil

Prick the chillies (Jamie said it, not me) 6 to 8 times with a small, sharp knife. Put a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the olive oil and chillies and let them cook slowly for 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to full whack (Jamie said it, not me) and add the garlic, parsley stalks and anchovies. Keep moving everything around in the pan and when the garlic starts to take on some colour add the canned tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring this mixture to a boil, add the vodka, and turn the heat down so the sauce simmers. Gently bash up your chillies with a wooden spoon to release more of their great flavour into the sauce. Add your pasta to a saucepan of boiling salted water and cook following the package instructions. Drain in a colander, then toss the pasta in the sauce. Divide between bowls or serve on a big platter. Roughly chop the reserved parsley leaves and sprinkle them over your pasta. Finely grate the lemon zest over the top, then squeeze in the juice, making sure you catch the pips in your hands. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil to finish it off. Serve with a fresh green salad.

This recipe was off the hook, cat tongues or no. Tastes very…like pasta was meant to be? That sounds food-snobby, but you know how most of us were reared on spaghetti and meat sauce (not knocking it, I love it) and had no idea what real Italian pasta was until we went there or had someone Italian cook it for us? This tastes like that. Like a fresh, salty, lemony burst of something that you would eat in a stone house in Tuscany somewhere. Dead easy, tastes fancy. I made it four more times in ten days and finally got to use the tin of anchovies that had been in my fridge for months. If you’re making this dish for anyone who doesn’t like anchovies (because let’s face it, they’re weird and smelly) don’t tell them. We fed the leftovers to Mel’s boyfriend who’s not a fan and he didn’t notice. They give the pasta a salty-smoky flavour that I think might be impossible to replicate. I totally endorse lying to picky eaters (but not vegetarians, that would just be mean…most times) but check for fish allergies because there’s nothing like an epi-pen to ruin a Friday night in.

We were a little wary about the chillies, seeing as how we had to cook them whole without de-seeding, so we played it safe and used Fresnos. I say that like I’ve used them before when what it actually means to me is a check in the number two box (ten being the highest) on the plastic pack you can get at Sobey’s.  Also never divided anything into plates, just tossed sauce, parsley, lemon zest and juice all together in the pan to save time and it worked out just fine.  Best with white spaghettini (sorry Mel).  We finished the night off with peanut butter squares, a recipe from a friend of Melanie’s who adapted them into gluten-free treats. The red wine convinced us that a dessert with no wheat would cancel out the pasta we had just eaten.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Squares

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup teff flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
4 oz chopped chocolate (or you know, a pile of chocolate chips)
1 tsp xanthan gum

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease an 8″x8″ pan and set aside. Cream together butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Combine the oats, flours, soda, salt and xanthan gum in a separate bowl. Add this to the butter/peanut butter mixture and stir well. Fold in the chocolate. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.

Forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but you get the idea. Peanut-buttery, chocolatey, chewy squares that will impress your gluten-free pals and fool you into feeling less guilty for eating half the pan just because you’re eating quinoa flour.

A very good Friday night in.