For a long time I failed to see the point of guacamole. It was a tasteless green paste that occasionally showed up on your plate at natural foods restaurants, the proprietors apparently believing that its sickly chartreuse hue contrasted pleasingly with the dish you had ordered.
Then in 2002 I had a religious experience. At the end of a fine week at a cycling camp run by Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo (see link to PAC Tours), we now-hardened roadies decided on a night out in Tucson. Imagine if you will a mile long strip of Mexican restaurants, only very few of them were mere generic Mexican – instead they featured cooking from the Yucatan, or Oaxaca, or Veracruz or Chiapas, and so on. A veritable cornucopia and only one meal to eat. Happy sigh.
Once we chose a place and ordered drinks, the waiter asked us if we wanted guacamole. The consensus was yes, so I went along with the crowd. Shortly thereafter the guacamole lady showed up with her cart, and after asking how we wanted it, proceeded to mash up the avocados and our chosen condiments in a large bowl. The result was a revelation – fresh, flavourable and very satisfying. I kept a close watch on how she made the stuff and have developed this recipe based on her technique plus a bit of experimentation. It’s dead easy to make and extremely delicious.
Guacamole is a rustic peasant food. It should be fairly rough in appearance: basically a well blended mass but with lots of chunks of avocado of various sizes. Looking a lot like this:
Continue reading Guacamole
Seriously. One of mankind’s greatest inventions. Make a basic stir fry, then just before you thicken it, mix in two or three heaping teaspoons of the magic elixir. Result – nirvana. Or to be more correct, ambrosia (food of the gods).
This is a good brand, but they’re all pretty much the same. Chili, garlic and salt. Normally I would tend to shy away from products from the People’s Republic – their problems with food producers using dodgy ingredients are well documented – but I have to admit that the Lee Kum Kee sauce has a nice fresh taste. Speaking of fresh, remember that this ingredient is very inexpensive. It will last forever in the fridge but if it’s been open for six months or so why not splurge on a new jar?
OK, I hear you thinking, what’s a basic stir fry?
Continue reading In praise of chili garlic sauce
As a thirsty tourist in Salisbury you will be faced with a large number of pubs eager to have your trade. Most of these are quite sound so it’s hard to make a really bad choice, but there are a few that are particularly reliable.
Having been here for two years and having visited most of the local establishments (purely for research purposes!) I can make a few recommendations. The following ratings are entirely subjective, but include things I consider important in a pub: mainly ambience, beer selection and food.
As the Americans would say, Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): My top choices for Salisbury pubs are The Cloisters, The Avon Brewery, The Rai d’Or, and The Old Mill (which is actually in Harnham rather than Salisbury)
First, a word about food. The challenges faced by the pub industry (see sidebar below) have created a situation where many pubs have become restaurants in order to survive. This is not a bad thing – many of the pubs I visited on my first trip to Britain in the early 80s were proud to offer a full menu of crisps, ghastly packaged Scotch Eggs and peanuts. So the fact that in most pubs you can now buy something decent to eat is not a bad thing.
However my particular prejudice is that pubs should serve pub food. The “gastro pub” (soi-disant) can be an interesting place to eat but the better and more precious and “cheffy” the food is the less likely that you would want to drop in for a pint (even if they allow you to do so). If I want restaurant food I also want restaurant amenities – which as a minimum include table service by people who know about what’s on the menu and how to serve it, tablecloths and silverware, and most importantly a trained chef in the kitchen who makes the food rather than heating up prepared meals.
So… with one exception these pubs are rated on their ability to deliver the canon: good ales, a decent wine for my bride, and a menu that includes fish and chips, beef burgers, gammon steak with egg and chips, and Sunday roast.
Salisbury Pubs – The top four:
Continue reading Salisbury Pubs – Reviews
Chocolate Brownies (Jane Kaduck) These are the Best Brownies Ever, but don’t skimp on the ingredients! Use butter (not margarine or any other substitute) and good chocolate. Baker’s is the standard but you could push the boat out a bit more and go for Valrhona.
1. Melt: 4 sq unsweetened chocolate with 1 cup butter
2. Sift together: 1 ½ cup white flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt
3. In a large bowl: Cream together: 4 eggs and 2 cups white sugar Beat in: 2 tsp vanilla, 1 Tbsp corn syrup Then beat in melted chocolate/butter, followed by the flour mixture.
4. Bake in a greased 9×13 pan at 350F for 20 – 25 minutes. Brownies are done when they test done (with a toothpick) about 2 inches from the edge of the pan (not the centre). (They continue to cook in their own heat after removing from oven). In British ovens you may need to cook an extra 5 minutes or so with a piece of aluminium foil draped loosely over the top to prevent over-browning on top.
Top Tip: Don’t overcook these brownies. They should be very moist, Cool. Frost with chocolate icing if desired.
Chocolate Frosting Melt: 3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tbsp butter, 1 ½ to 2 cups icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp (approx) milk. Beat together. Add more icing sugar/milk to achieve desired consistency.