Thursday, 23 August 2018

August 2018 Favourites List

In my Favourites List last month, I shared my impressions of going "on safari" for the first time. Since then, I've been trying to go through the many photos I took. I confess to having been completely snap-happy!

Going through my pictures, I am struck by how the wild animals of southern Africa all have a story. Sometimes that story is known by rangers and trackers. They can tell you all about the daily struggles and life story of some of the animals. Other times, the animals are recent visitors, mysterious and enigmatic. 

Powerful elephants roam around, sometimes devastating the bush, trampling trees or stripping them clean of leaves and fruit. Marula fruits are their favourites. These hungry giants have an inefficient digestive system, forcing them to roam. Yet they show their family group tremendous tenderness and loyalty. You can see how the baby elephants are looked after by all the females in the group. They all invest their time and care into the next generation, an amazing act of altruism. 

Cheetahs roam around, solitary and regal. Conserving their energy when there is nothing for them to hunt down. They'd beat Usain Bolt at a sprint hands down, moving with effortless skill. Yet, watch them try to climb up and down a tree and you see their evolutionary disadvantage; their claws, which cannot be retracted, render them clumsy at climbing. 

Families of warthog dig deep burrows, which they ensure they sleep in, facing the exit. Beware the predator who dares try to invade their home... they are in for a ferocious attack! 

My favourite group among these animals were the three little lion cubs. Cubs with an astonishing life story. Their dad died of old age, their mum was killed by other lions. Their sister took them on, with her brother. A highly unusual family group, the cubs play with their uncle and aunt with seemingly no cares in the world. They don't know there are other males in the area, who would dispose of them without a second thought. Their secret defenders are their other aunts, who sneakily keep the dominant males busy to prevent them investigating the local area. Who knew that big cats can show such self sacrifice, strength, tactical awareness and love. The odds are against them, but I am cheering them on. I hope you will too.

I hope you enjoy this second instalment of safari photos, taken on the edge of the Kruger National Park where there are a number of private game reserves and lodges. If you missed the first, you will find it here:

Now it is time for me to share my list of fab stuff for the month. I hope you enjoy it all, and do get in touch with your feedback on your safari experiences or on any of the items in this list!

Recipes - food, drink, quick cooks and no cook dishes: 

Chicken and spinach pasta from Jack Knight's food blog:

Pimm's isn't just for Wimbledon! Here's a classic Summertime Pimms and a Pimms Spritz from Fiona Maclean at London Unattached:

No cook salad with broccoli, daikon, cucumber and dried cherries. The dressing keeps for a week if you want to make up a batch.

You might be a bit too hot to fire up the barbeque, but these Japanese inspired skewers by Tash of Food I Fancy remind me of Izakaya Yakitori sticks:

Too hot to cook? Here's a no cook Scandi style chopped salad with smoked mackerel:

Chef Romy Gill's Bhindi Subzi (okra/ ladies' finger curry) - vegetarian and vegan):

Marinaded lamb cutlets, with cannellini beans in a pesto dressing:

From the BBC series Eat Well For Less - Slow cooker lamb and Sweet potato tagine with couscous:

Nothing says Summer holidays to the Med like Paella! Felicity Cloake's Seafood Paella:

Want to make your own soft flour tortillas for tacos, burritos and quesadillas? Here's how:

Sometimes, the most effective recipes are the simplest ones. And the simplest, the most effective. Who's have thought simply dipping courgette juliennes in milk then rolling in plain flour, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper could be so satisfying?

Full of Spanish flavours, this prawn stew is a quick cook dinner.

School holiday cooking? How about Unicorn Poo Meringues?

What you might have missed at Snig’s Kitchen:

Brand new recipe blog post - Sichuan inspired salad:


Spirited Away


Mojo and Trojan present "Reggae Nuggets" 
Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost


Search Party (Season 1)
Search Party (Season 2)
The Carole King Story

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Sichuan inspired pepper, carrot and broad bean salad

Ever had that dilemma... you know, when you've been flicking through a cook book looking for something new to cook and you can't make your mind up? Dish A looks amazing and Dish B sounds awesome. Which to cook?

This salad was born out of one of those dilemmas. I've been working my way through Fuchsia Dunlop's excellent cook book "Every Grain Of Rice", a varied and comprehensive book of recipes Fuchsia learned in Sichuan province in her travels to China. It's a wonderful book, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to go beyond Chinese restaurant food.

Trouble is, the book has so many recipes, it will take me months to cook my way through it! One very interesting discovery has been the salad recipes in the first chapter of "Cold Dishes". Having had a go at Lao Hu Cai (Tiger salad) a very easy to prepare cucumber and chilli salad, I was ready to try my hand at some other recipes. Trouble was, there were two I wanted to make at the same time: Xiang You Qing Dou (Sichuanese Green Soy Bean Salad) and Liang Ban Hu Dou (Sichuanese Broad Bean Salad). In the end, I decided to mash the two up. This recipe is the result. 

The dressing is Fuchsia Dunlop's, as I don't know enough about Sichuanese food ingredients to invent my own. It packs a chilli punch, let me tell you! If you can't take a lot of chilli, then you will want to keep the amount of chilli oil down (1 tablespoon rather than 2) and perhaps omit the half teaspoon of sediment. 

If you make it as in the recipe, it will be vegetarian and vegan. But I couldn't resist making this much more sinful. I topped it with some crispy cooked pancetta (highly irregular and extremely inauthentic). I would try steamed prawns in it next time. 

Sichuan inspired pepper, carrot and broad bean salad
(Serves 2)

For the salad:
500g bag of broad beans
A third of a cucumber
Half a yellow pepper
A small carrot 
Three spring onions
A handful of salad leaf (I used a bistro salad mix)

Fuchsia Dunlop's dressing:
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
Half a teaspoon caster sugar
Quarter teaspoon Chinkiang vinegar
1-2 tablespoons chilli oil with half a teaspoon of sediment
1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional - but I used it)
A few pinches of Sichuan peppercorns (optional - but I used it)

Prepare the salad first: 

1. Double pod the broad beans. You will be amazed - the half kilo bag only gave enough broad beans for what would have been a side dish. 

2. The broad beans should be blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, no longer. Drain and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. 

3. Peel and chop the carrot into small cubes (around 1 cm). Chop the pepper into similar sized cubes. These should be blanched in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, no longer. Drain and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. 

4. Peel the cucumber partially (in stripes along the length), scoop out the seeds/pulp. Cut into juliennes. 

5. Cut the spring onions into small 7mm-1cm rounds. 

6. Put all the salad ingredients into a large non-metallic bowl whilst you make the dressing. 

7. Toast the Sichuan peppercorns in a dry pan until you can just about smell them. Remove from the heat. When they are no longer hot, grind them in a mortar and pestle. 

8. Now mix all the dressing ingredients in a small (non-metallic) bowl. They might need a bit of a whisk to combine them. 

9. Put a couple of handfuls of the salad leaf on two plates.  

10. Either mix the dressing with the other ingredients (which were in the large non-metallic bowl) or put the other ingredients onto the plates and drizzle with the dressing.

11. Enjoy as it is or top it with something - as you choose.