We are always excited to be in the kitchen and cook… for us, for other people, or even for our dog. Even making fried eggs makes me happy. However, there are some cooking sessions that stick with me for a long time and put a smile on my face. It can be for a number of reasons, like the first time I was hired to cook alone for 20 people.
This recipe is in my special list because of the way I incrementally acquired the ingredients without having planed it at all.
So the story starts with our standard, twice a week trip in to the town center which is at the port where we stock fresh fruit and vegetables from the farmers market. Depending on the weather there are sometimes, early in the morning, a few small fishing boats docked along the pier which is exactly next to the road we drive on. So when we spot them we always check them out. This time, one of them had three, nicely sized fish that we bought right away. This doesn’t happen very often because the Aegean is not like the big oceans… it’s a lot warmer and shallower and the fish mainly caught are small to medium size from sardines to red snappers. So having bought the fish along with our weekly shop, we head home.
The island we live in has an abundance of two things growing everywhere in the wild: Caper berries and fennel. Both go well with fish, but because caper berry season is over, I chose to use the fennel seeds. I cannot describe how much more fragrant the fresh un-dried seeds are compared to the store bought, and you get them in various stages of maturity… I even use some of the flowers from the fennel plant. So off I went for a walk in the fields with the dog to cut some stems, and 20 minutes later I was back with a handful of seeds. Now, all that was left was some lemons from the lemon tree. Ohh and because i was watching a Jamie Olive episode a few days before, I was a bit influenced by his obsession with chillies and added some chili infused olive oil that Lauren made.
The smell that came from that parcel was amazing, and I recommend this recipe especially to people that don’t like fish very much.
Did you notice it was Thursday? More importantly, did you notice that we’re finally back up & running?
This is a very big moment. You see, being as it’s Thursday & we’re back, that also means that Champagne Thursdays are officially reinstated.
I did it again though, I’ve made a combination that needs time for the flavors to meld. It’s not that I want to torture you, it’s just I prefer infusing my vodkas (or any other booze) with the flavor rather than making a sugary syrup like most cocktails use. Personally it’s because you end up using half the sugar & get double the flavor. But that’s just my two cents worth.
You see, right about the time that Whatever’s Left went offline, I started looking for things around the house that I could make to keep myself occupied. This is what happens when Lauren gets bored…. a shelf full of flavored vodkas. I’ve even got a lavender one up there.
Here’s what I suggest, seeing as it’s Thursday & we’re supposed to be having a drink together, I think it’s time you strain the zest out of your limoncello that we made a little while back because it ought to be good & ready by now. Pour it over some ice & put your feet up with me.
I know, I make things so complicated. I’m sorry. Really though, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t worth the wait. & if you really just don’t feel like waiting, stick a whole chili & a tablespoon of brown sugar in the blender along with your peaches & vodka & you should get the same effect. Well, not the same exactly, but it will do whilst your chili infusion is taking its time to become marvelous.
Marvelous, what a lovely word.
There are somethings in our kitchen that “they” have convinced us we have to buy ready made. Many of those, like mustard or ketchup, are sometimes better left to the pros. Not that you can’t make ketchup your self, but the effort and expertise that only comes through trial and error sometimes need a lot of time & patience to perfect.
However, there are others that are so easy to make and so very satisfying to consume that it’s a pity that we let a big factory take over the process rather than venture to do it ourselves. Making a simple jam or a sauce only requires a few ingredients. Economically speaking, it might be cheaper to buy it pre-made…. but can you really pronounce all of the ingredients listed on the back? How good for you can those be? Personally, I’d rather not consume them…..
With this in mind, we made a classic, eastern sauce that goes amazingly well with most things. Seafood, chicken, noodles, salads… you name it. I am talking about sweet thai chili sauce.
I have forgotten to mention the most important thing about making this yourself… you can adjust how sweet, vinegary, or hot it becomes according to your personal preferences. Play around with the quantities to get exactly what you like. Keep in mind one thing though as you proceed, the spiciness comes from the seeds of the pepper, not the flesh, and the heat will mellow out the longer you keep it jarred.
Guacamole… not many things to say about it. Simple, delicious and versatile, we used it for our chicken burritos. It can also accompany a variety of dishes or be used as a dip for chips and vegetables. Easy to make, the only thing that is important is to have nice ripe avocados that will mash simply with a fork.
— I’d like to add that I think mel has really understated this dish. Yes, ok, technically it’s not a main… but I couldn’t stop eating it! I actually made it again today & took it into work, nothing to go with it, just guacamole all on it’s own… I kind of feel bad for my colleagues since I like to put double the garlic, chili, onions & lime that mel puts. What can I say, I’m a big fan of the intense! My point is, make it, it’s super delicious & incredibly healthy. — nickey x
I think we’re going on strike today. We’ve just finished cleaning the house, the windows are open, there is a chill in the air & to be quite honest, I don’t think I’m going to get out of my PJs. It’s all about your boyfriend’s hoodies & a good pair of thick slipper socks.
We’re not going on strike completely though, just a little. There’s still hot chocolate. It kind of feels like the right day for hot chocolate though. It kind of feels like the right day for a fire-place too. Maybe a few movies.
I want to make two points here before I share the recipe:
1. Mel never does anything the easy way. He bought fifty thousand kinds of chocolate for the recipe, even though the whole world knows that valrhona will be his first choice every time.
2. Even though mel choses the more complicated way, it’s always because he’s trying to make it completely amazing. Sure, hot chocolate can be easy. You can buy a pre-made pack of powder, pour it into hot water & you’re done. Or you can turn it into a science like he does, and gain a result where that every sip is rich, creamy, heavenly bliss. There’s always a choice.
Mel’s desire to be complete & thorough means I’m having four, full, hot cups. There is a chocolate & orange hot chocolate. There is a cinnamon & chocolate version. There’s one with fresh chilis in it & another with five-spice. Then, there is me on the couch, in the previously mentioned hoodie, enjoying every sip. Going to end up putting myself in a hot-chocolate coma.