Food and good fortune

Food prices are going up and up and I’m feeling fortunate to be of sufficient means to continue as before. I don’t eat dairy so haven’t noticed the rise in milk product prices. But at my local supermarket you used to be able to get five rolls for £1 – now it’s only four. Some say that this is an inevitable blip while we adjust to China’s increasing appetite (I’m warmed by this idea) and also the requisitioning of arable land for biofuels. In other cases it’s attributable to the vagaries of the weather – for example there are problems getting enough wheat, onions and also red lentils. And there’s the cost of fuel which contributes indirectly to the price of food.

So, this is a post on the food I like best. It’s also inspired by the return to Sainsbury’s shelves of Patak’s mixed pickle. Pataks mixed pickle is basically fibrous spiced mush and hard vegetable bits in an unbelievably salty oil. Unrivalled for flavour.

On the other hand, the delectable slimey little antipasti mushrooms are gone and so is Sainsbury’s own green tomato chutney – available for one season only back in 2006 and never seen since.

Aniseed balls. Something I’ve noticed in myself is that it’s impossible to feel upset and have a sweet in your mouth (either you spit the sweet or it restores your spirits).

A recent discovery – ritter sport marzipan and ritter sport peppermint fondant.

In praise of all marzipan – the rougher the better.

Plain, but not bitter, chocolate. Something dairy-free, rich, creamy and mild.

Cherries – a pound a pound in Whitechapel market for a two-week window every summer. For the past 10 years I’ve been collecting cherry stones to make a cushion so I’d better love cherries.

Blueberries, rasberries. Watermelon. Mellow, perfumed sharon fruit. Crisp chinese pears. Small round grapes from the vine on the garage.

The chick pea, my staple diet. A can of chickpeas dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper, a small amount of paprika, chilli and shallots chopped up tiny, parsley and a lot of lime juice.

Red lentil dahl. Toast some coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a heavy bottomed pan. Remove, add generous measure of vegetable oil and mustard seeds. Tear apart some dried chillis into pieces, reserving as many of the seeds as you have an appetite for. Squash a few garlic cloves flat. Grind the coriander and cumin with a pestle and mortar. Add fenugreek and grind more. Try to sneak in cardomom which Matt detests. Add turmeric. Grind until you’re bored. When the mustard seeds are popping, add the chilli pieces and seeds, and the ground spices. Fry for a bit. Be boiling the kettle and have some vegetable stock powder ready in a jug. Add enough red lentils to the pan and stir to cover in the spices and oil. Cook for a bit. Make up stock and pour over the lentils, enough to cover or however much you think. Throw in cinnamon sticks and maybe some bay leaves. Bring to the simmer. Add some raisins or sultanas leaving enough time for them to soak up the moisture and plump up. Add more stock if you need to. Towards the end stir in creamed coconut chunks until melted. It’s ready when the lentils are done. Stirring in spinach at the end is good. Ditto topping it with stir-fried, slightly burnt cabbage. Eat with steamed brown basmati.

Redcurrant jelly.

Gaby’s falafel is peerless. I think the crispiness is due to the distressed surface of the falafel.

Pitta bread from Yossi’s on Barkingside High St (OK, I forewent the bagels and the challah – don’t force me to ask whether they put milk in their tender, floury pitta).

Red pepper houmous, caramelised onion houmous (Tesco’s is good). Wet, gloopy and piquant.

Matt’s dressing. Turn some garlic into a pulp (no bits) and put it in an old mustard jar. Add half a lemon’s juice, a pinch of sugar, mustard to taste and plenty of pepper. Put the lid on the mustard jar and shake. Then add oil to taste and shake again – the more mustard and oil, the thicker.

Par-steamed and roasted Jerusalem artichokes with salt, pepper and oil.

Roast potatoes. Potatoes in general. My favourite food is probably salted french fries with dipping ketchup.

Separately, artichoke hearts, avocado, and asparagus with Matt’s dressing

Sainsbury’s FreeFrom custard is the best custard analogue I know. It does have a slight grey tinge but beggars can’t be choosers. I like this on apple crumble but I haven’t made any this year. Apple crumble, with rough-chopped hazelnuts and lemon zest in a thick crumble topping and a bit of walnut oil in with the apples.

Christmas cake with egg substitute and banana instead of eggs.

Tyrell’s crisps. Sea salt and balsamic vinegar crisps. Chilli plantain crisps.

Aduki beans, little beans of joy.

Filthy Redwood meat analogues – particularly the ham sandwich slices. These are really naughty.

Manna’s vegan chocolate fondant made me almost cry with happiness when I had it on my birthday.

Golden syrup for a little pick-me-up.

In celebration of peanut butter. Meridian’s is the best – only peanuts with a bit of salt. Matt says (although he doesn’t act on it at all) never eat anything with more than five ingredients.

Tomor margarine is vegan and very tasty indeed but it contains palm oil which is bad from a cardiovascular stand-point. Palm oil is saturated and artery-clogging. My stature has got cardiovascular disease written all over it – see Yoav Ben Shlomo’s and Diana Kuh’s Life Course Approach to Chronic Disease Epidemiology.

Cafe Direct drinking chocolate solely for the purpose of Flesh’s chocolate pots. Four heaped teaspoons of CafeDirect drinking chocolate into a small microwaveable pot. Something shy of a measure of booze e.g. Cointreau. Nuke for literally 12 seconds or the sugar burns. Stir and eat in very small spoonfuls – it should be fairly stiff, not liquid. Ideally some of the sugar granules from the chocolate will still be crunchy. Add pine-nuts for variety.

Realeat soya mince is good and springy between the teeth – reminds me slightly of home-made gristle-burgers as a child.

Guacamole with lemon and tiny pieces of fresh red chilli. No mayo – who would do that?

Alfalfa sprouts are so lovely.

Herbed dumplings in a chickenless broth (Osem is good, if you can get over eating something with 75 ingredients).

There’s more, but I got hungry.

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