garlic oil

Slow Cooker Fodmap Friendly Garlic Oil

garlic oil

Today is a great day for me. It’s the day I get to combine my two food obsessions and talk about slow cookers and FODMAPs. Basically this is a birthday present to myself. North/South Food is five years old this week and I haven’t had time to make a cake to celebrate, so writing a piece about my two favourite subjects will do instead!

I’ve given a little bit of background on Fodmaps before on this post, but if you don’t have time to read back, I’ll give you a crash course here too (bearing in mind my level of scientific knowledge wouldn’t even make it onto a L’Oreal advert voiceover.) They are a relatively recent discovery and research and knowledge into them is ever evolving so don’t take my word as gospel rather than an overview.

FODMAPs as an acronym stands for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides Di-saccharides Mono-saccharides And Polyols which are basically a selection of short chain carbohydrates encompassing certain sugars and types of fibre found in foods. They include:

  • lactose in dairy products
  • fructose in fruits, juices, honey and agave syrup
  • polyols such sorbitol which is found in dried fruit and wine and used as an articial sweetener
  • fructans found in onions, garlic, prebiotics and Jerusalem artichokes
  • galacto-oligosaccharides found in legumes and beans
  • galactans found in wheat, rye and barley

Read more

Gache melee

Guernsey Gâche Melée

Gache melee

I know most people go to book group as an excuse to drink wine and possibly read Fifty Shades of Grey, but the one I go to has ended up being much more highbrow than that (we’ve never read Fifty Shades and I had spare bottles of wine after the last one.) It’s introduced me to books and people I didn’t know and taught me a lot along the way. It was constructed from a group of us on Twitter who had all read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and had not entirely positive feelings about it.

On the suggestion of the Guernsey native in the group, we went for something much more authentic and less whimsical and read The Book of Ebenezer Le Page instead. We ate Guernsey’s national dish of bean jar (a recipe I shamelessly appropriated for Slow Cooked) and put the world to rights. Sadly we haven’t found much other literature from the Channel Islands to read since then, but I thought it would be fun to hark back to Guernsey’s charms for this week’s get together and try making gâche melée for dessert.

Almost like a cake made with suet instead of butter, gâche melée is filled with apple and differs from the similarly named gâche which is more like a tea bread like barmbrack or bara brith. Gâche melée is an excellent vehicle for Guernsey’s famous cream and allows non Guernésiais speakers to try and get the pronunciation right as they eat. It should be as close to gosh mel-aah as you can get (which isn’t very in my Belfast accent.) Or you can just keep your mouth too full with its loveliness to say much. Read more

IMG_4015

A Slow Cooker Salon

IMG_4015

If I could sing or didn’t hate The Sound of Music so much I’ve never managed more than 23 minutes of it in one dose, I’d be tempted to give you an early 2015 burst of some of my favourite things but instead I’ve decided to make a New Year’s Resolution that includes them.

I spent New Year with one of my favourite people. We lazed on the sofa drinking tea and watching Graham Norton in the run up to midnight and talked about our achievements and aspirations of the past and future for hours afterwards. Next day we ate fennel roasted pork belly and drank Prosecco to whet the appetites of the new year even though I burned the potatoes that were to replace the traditional lentils I’d run out of.

In one of our many conversations, she mentioned this wonderful piece on Serious Eats about Friday Night Meatballs and all that sharing food with people you’ve welcomed into your house entails. I thought it was a charming idea but didn’t get round to reading the article until a few days later and seeing all that it had to say beyond the simple power of meatballs.

For a long time because of both physical and mental health problems, I’ve felt like I’ve been waiting for my life start again, as if there would be a magical arbitrary tipping point when I could do things again. I’m not quite sure if I was expecting an actual Fairy Godmother to wave a wand or putting my faith in something else, but reading about Friday Night Meatballs I realised something striking: if I want there to be a moment like that in my life, no one else is going to produce it. I have to do it myself.

And so I decided to do one of my least favourite things in order to be able to do some of my most favourite things. I’d take the risk (eek) of hosting an open house Slow Cooker Salon so that I could meet people and feed those people the food I cooked. Spontaneity scares me so I’m going to set a few rules and see how it goes.

On the last Sunday of the month, I’m going to cook something simple and easy to eat in my slow cooker and I’m going to open an invitation to eat that dish in my flat to up to 10 people. They can be people I know offline, online, via Twitter, friends of friends, who knows. Obviously I’m not going to put my address online and say come on over, so people will need to email me to say they’d like to come and I’ll give them details and directions.

I’m going to start with meatballs in honour of the the idea that inspired this. I’m aware of people having dietary requirements so if anyone who is coming is veggie or gluten free or whatever, let me know and I can tweak things to accommodate them. On other occasions I’ll be keen to cook things that I can’t tweak to suit everyone but I’ll give lots of info in advance so people can decide if it suits them to come to that lunch.

And of course, if you’d really like to come but aren’t sure if you can eat what I’m making, feel free to bring something with you. In fact, anyone who fancies bringing something should. A gathering of people can be an excellent chance to finally bake or cook that creation that makes 12 portions and try it out on a different audience to usual. Or if your love of food extends to eating it, not making it, then bring some wine or buy something someone else has made. There will be no standing on ceremony here.

In fact, there were will be a lot of sitting on mismatching chairs (including the garden ones brought inside) and eating with uncoordinated cutlery and plates. There will probably even be plastic glasses. My entertaining is usually one or two people for a meal or a floor picnic of an afternoon tea so expect something that’s an unholy alliance of both in my living room. For this reason, it will have to be child free. My house is definitely not kid proofed or big enough to cope with small people alongside big people with big appetites. It’ll be a late lunch from about 2pm to allow for my faffing and your travelling.

It won’t be fancy, but it will be fun (and if it isn’t, we’ll simply never speak of this idea again, pretend it didn’t happen and carry on as normal…) So if you feel like trying something new to with food or making friends this year, contact me on the form below, and hopefully see you on January 25th!

Sign up!

tripe soup

Slow Cooker Mondongo

tripe soup

I am a person who gets hangovers. Even as a teenager when everyone else around me seemed to be able to drink cheap vodka mixed with battery acid on an empty stomach and bounce right back, I was suffering. Not for me the two aspirin and a can of full fat Coke trick. I need to lie on a bed of gossamer, sipping angels’ tears from a cut glass goblet while eating crisps and waiting for the day to pass to put it all behind me. No amount of practise has ever really helped, although occasionally a ball of mozzarella eaten like an apple before bed can stave the situation off completely.

Therefore I am constantly on the hunt for hangover cure stories. I think that I’m one old wives’ tale or anecdote away from the hangover Holy Grail. I’ve tried the whole vitamin B before going out rumour, the milk thistle phase of the late 90s, the Gatorade by the bed trick, even the suggestion of mixing the liquid from a jar of gherkins with some soda water and downing it (spoiler alert: this is not the answer to any question, unless this question is ‘how I could feel immediately worse right now?’)

I think I know now nothing will ever be my ultimate answer, but that I can simply use this quest as a way to try new things along the way, which is how I came to know about sopa de mondongo or tripe soup. A Mexican-American friend online mentioned it once for its hangover curing qualities but still feeling scarred from the pickle juice, I screwed my face up and refused to even think about eating tripe even when I wasn’t feeling delicate. Read more

slow cooker mulled wine

Slow Cooker Mulled Wine

slow cooker mulled wine

Few things are more Christmassy than mulled wine but often it doesn’t live up to expectations and tastes slightly bitter despite the sweetness of the drink. This happens when you turn the heat off to stop the wine boiling away and then heat it up again. The slow cooker is perfect from preventing this as you can keep the wine ticking over at just the right temperature without bitterness. Nor do you lose the lovely booziness of the wine…

Serves 4-6

  • 2 bottles of decent red wine
  • 400ml cold water
  • 400g sugar
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 150ml ginger wine
  • 1 orange, sliced

I do two things that make my mulled wine particularly good. Firstly, I use half decent red wine instead of really cheap plonk and secondly, I make a syrup to add to the wine so I don’t need to risk boiling the wine to melt the sugar.

Start by mixing the sugar and the cold water together in a saucepan along with the zest of one orange, 1 cinnamon stick, the cloves, allspice and nutmeg and gently bring to the boil. Stir it all as the sugar dissolves and heat it for about 5-6 minutes until it all becomes a lovely thick syrup. Allow to cool with the spices infusing in it.

When you are ready to make the mulled wine, pour the red wine into the crock of the slow cooker. Strain the syrup through a sieve into the wine and add the remaining cinnamon stick and half the orange slices. You can stud these with a few more cloves if you like the look and taste.

Put the lid on the slow cooker and heat the wine on high for 1-2 hours minimum before serving. Pour the ginger wine into the now mulled wine. Serve in heatproof glasses or mugs with a fresh slice of orange.

The beauty of this slow cooker mulled wine though is that you can just serve as much as you need, put the lid back on and keep it at the right temperature in between. But be aware, the booze does not evaporate so it’s stronger than you expect!