this is lemonade

A mindful, grateful, creative life: Life constantly hurls lemons at us. I’m on a mission to make lemonade as best I can, by God’s grace.


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Food Culture and Crispy Goodness

Hasselback Potatoes

I’ve always enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen, but lacked confidence to share it with others. My style is not sophisticated, neither is it unique. I just love feeding people and having them gather around my table. The culture of eating together, was something I was brought up with. Whenever I have lived with at least one other person, I have rarely eaten alone of an evening. And when I lived alone, I was always gathering friends round to share one pot wonders with. My food tends to be low-key and as low-fuss as possible. I have always cooked creatively but frugally. People will compliment me on my cooking from time to time, but more often than not they simply emit polite murmurs of appreciation as they tuck in. My food does not become the specific subject of conversation at the table, although we are a greedy lot – future meals or interesting ingredients are often discussed whilst we eat! For me, a shared meal is about providing nourishment for the body but more importantly, it is about togetherness and conversation – food for the soul.

I have a confession. I rarely follow recipes. I get that from my mum. She is the ultimate in hosting random people who show up on the doorstep and accidentally stay on for dinner. Whatever is in the fridge, freezer or cupboard will be thrown together to create a hearty meal. So, I’ve also had some fun writing my own recipes in 2012, working out what quantities I used on a particular occasion, knowing that it will probably never happen in the same way again! (That is with the exception of baking, almost. I still can’t help throwing in some randoms just because I feel like it – a bit risky, seeing as baking can be a little like Chemistry lessons sometimes. Although I must admit, happy accidents do often occur.)

I often eat late now, I cook and then wait for my munching partner. And by the time we eat, the food has been kept warm to death. I am ravenous and food is food. A dinner is polished off in much less time than it took to prepare and cook it. However, as I blogged over the past year, I came to realise how much I enjoy cooking and eating my own food. I have my trusted favourites, my store cupboard staples, my preferences and routines, but discovering and exchanging lots of ideas with other bloggers has given me the impetus to explore further.

What a wonderful invention is the oven. And what a wonderful climate we have in the UK to use it. In recent years, I have not even broken sweat when using the oven in summer. One of my favourite things to do is to roast a chicken, together with potatoes and root veg. I marinade the chicken, or simply rub it in olive oil, salt and pepper. I then cube potatoes and root veg in similar sizes and toss those in the same. I’ll time it so that the veg gets about 45-60 minutes in the oven, so if the chicken needs longer, I will add the veg into the roasting tin later.

Even though I generally consider myself a healthy eater, I do have an addiction a soft spot for crisps. I’ll eat my potatoes made any way, but I love them fried or even double and triple fried (by a restaurant – I hate deep fat frying at home). So imagine my excitement when Pinterest kept throwing up these little beauties… a concertina of crispiness called  Hasselback Potatoes. I just had to experiment with them myself. They are baked, and the only difference I could tell between making these and my roasted easies was that you sliced them through (almost) whole first, before baking. Oh, and it’s best not to put them in with the chicken I imagine. The yummy chicken juices soaking into the potatoes will not be conducive to crispiness-making.

Well.. unusually, there are no photos with this post even though I took some. I just felt like having another go at drawing again. But I did stumble across a cute little article complete with videos, if you want to amuse yourself taking photos of food in a restaurant.

What are your cultural habits when it comes to food? Do you enjoy cooking and eating your own food? And, most quite importantly, do you like crisps/potato chips? 🙂


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Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame salad

This salad is beautifully aromatic and makes me really happy every time I eat it. I’m dedicating this post to a wonderful family friend who is a talented cook and generous host. I seldom get to see her nowadays, but I think of her often especially when I am in the kitchen. She taught me the method I use below to cook the chicken. I love that it is energy saving, and I can leave the kitchen for an hour while it works its magic. You can use it for a variety of dishes where you might otherwise steam the chicken. If you prefer to substitute portions for the whole chicken, I would suggest thighs for their succulence. They could easily be cut into strips and pan-fried as a quicker alternative.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame saladThe salad can be served with fluffy long grain or basmati rice and a side of sugar snaps or broccoli.

I have used relatively rough measurements, as much of it depends on the size of the chicken and your taste preference. I love coriander and sesame, so I use lots of it. The preparation and cooking together take up to two hours in total.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame salad

  • 1 chicken (corn fed if you can get it)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 5 cups water (enough to cover chicken breast-down in pot)
  • salt
  • handful of sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup of coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sesame oil
  • the juice of ½-1 lime
  • soy sauce

Wash the chicken carefully paying attention to the cavity area and removing any clumps of fat. Put the bay leaves and peppercorns in a big pot and place the whole chicken in the pot breast-down. Pour in the water, turn to a high heat and bring to the boil. Boil on a medium heat for a further 5 minutes for a small chicken to 10 minutes for a large one, keeping the pot covered. Then turn off the heat without removing the lid. Set a timer for 60 minutes and leave to steep.

Put your feet up with a cuppa tea and a slice of yummy cake, and read some nice blogs or do something else inspiring.

After 60 minutes, put the chicken back on a high heat and boil for the same amount of time as before. If there is still pink meat, you may need to boil for a little longer. Drain off any water from the chicken back into the pot carefully and put the chicken on a plate. (For ideas on making the nutritious stock go further, keep reading to the end!) Then rub the skin of the chicken gently with some salt. Set aside to rest.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle comfortably, tear off the flesh into strips no thicker than 1cm and place in a serving dish or bowl. Add the chopped coriander and the sesame seeds to the chicken and toss together, seasoning with the remaining ingredients to taste. Serve immediately or chilled.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame saladAfter removing the meat from the bone you can return the chicken carcass to the stock, adding some root vegetables, and boil up a lovely broth accompaniment. If you are serving the salad with rice, don’t pass up on the opportunity to make it subtly fragrant by using the chicken stock instead of water.

For a truly cool summery twist, you could add some strips of cucumber to the salad, shredded with a vegetable peeler. I have to say that this salad improves overnight in the fridge if you can wait to eat it. I have also been known to attack leftovers with some mayonnaise or Colman’s English mustard for a flavoursome sandwich filling. I find it’s really versatile and I hope that you enjoy it!