Well, I have packed, moved, cleaned and had a little cry. And now I am homeless. Homeless, but very excited about what the future holds.
However, I do feel like I need some time to get both my mental and physical energy levels back up again, so I’m going to give myself a bit of a break from blogging.
Luckily, my little sister (whose spare room I’m kipping in at the moment) has a beautiful, big, well-equipped kitchen, so I’m sure I won’t be able to resist for too long the temptation to roll up my sleeves and grab a wooden spoon.
In the meantime, appropriately for the mood I’m currently in for reminiscing, I thought I’d have a look back at what I’ve written so far on And The Cupboard Was Bare, and remind both you and myself of some of my favourite posts.
One of the first dishes I wrote about – an anchovy and cherry tomato risotto – was a perfect example of the philosophy of this blog… that it’s so easy to make a tasty meal out of very ordinary ingredients that are sitting around in your cupboard and fridge.
Another recipe of mine that came about thanks to some random ingredients was one of my most successful cakes – a pear, almond and vanilla sponge. I’ve made this many times since my original post, and it just seems to get better and better.
The vanilla for this cake came from one of my many trips to Istanbul – which, of course, can’t be missed from this mini round-up of blog posts.
As well as vanilla, the most regular purchase of mine from Istanbul’s Spice Market is pul biber, a red pepper spice that comes in flakes or paste, and in varying degrees of saltiness and heat.
Unfortunately, not all my foodie purchases in Istanbul have been as successful as pul biber, as I realised when I was, um, ‘persuaded’ to buy something that was described to me as lemon salt. It turned out to be little more than citric acid. As determined as I was not to waste the stuff, I couldn’t find any good use for it, so in the bin it went.
One of my most avid readers and commenters is my mum (thanks Mum!). And it really is because of her that I’m so passionate about food and cooking. She is a great cook herself, and from a very early age, taught me to eat and cook well – which is why the above photograph of my sister and me eating artichokes in about 1973 is such a treasure to me.
But I don’t only have photos to remind me of my foodie childhood – I also have a number of kitchen utensils that used to belong to my mum to bring back memories.
And soon they will be providing me with a set of very different memories, when they are transported to my new kitchen – and my new life – in Istanbul.
December 10, 2009
Chances are, if you grew up in the 1970s, your mum had one of these. And, if your mum was anything like mine, this clay crock pot languished at the back of a cupboard for most of that decade. After being carefully packed and unpacked, and moved from London to Scotland to Brighton to France, finally, 40 years after my mum first bought it, this one found its way back to London and my kitchen. Where it, ahem, languished on top of a cupboard for several years.
It was a major kitchen clear-out that eventually inspired me to use the pot. I couldn’t quite bring myself to throw the thing away, so I decided if I was going to keep it, I’d have to use it. A phone call to my mum and some intensive Googling, and it was clear that this could become my new favourite utensil. Although you can apparently cook pretty much anything – from potatoes to prawns – in it, I’ve only used it for chicken. And, I have to say, I now don’t roast a chicken any other way.
The pot is soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes before you put the chicken in, and the steam that this creates in the hot oven effectively poaches and roasts the meat at the same time. The result? The juiciest, most succulent roast chicken you’ll ever taste. (If I’ve tempted you at all, I think you can still buy these clay crocks in Habitat. I certainly recommend giving it a go.)
Isn’t it funny that, despite all those high-tech gadgets available to the home cook nowadays, the old ones seem to still do the job just as well – if not better? What things do you remember from your childhood kitchen?
UPDATE Some more research has led me to discover that this thing is actually called a chicken brick. And apparently Habitat first started selling them in 1966 – which must be about when my mum bought hers. Ooh, I have an antique in my kitchen.