food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘miscellaneous’ Category

chilli oil

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For those of you who love chilli, you’ll know that chilli oil is an important condiment at Chinese tables and a useful pantry staple. Made with facing heaven peppers, chilli oil is not very spicy (for a chilli oil) and has a nutty, toasty flavour enhanced by aromatics.

To make this chilli oil you will need 110g (4oz) of chilli flakes. If you can’t find the correct chilli flakes you can buy whole dry chillies and crush them in a food processor. Put the chilli flakes in a heatproof bowl or stainless steel saucepan and add some salt to taste as well as aromatics of your choice such as Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, ginger or five spice. The addition of aromatics is a personal preference which varies from region to region and even family to family in China. Next you need to heat a little more than 2 cups of oil. I used peanut oil but any vegetable oil without too much flavour would work. Heat the oil over a high flame to about 200ºC (400ºF). Remove from the heat and allow it to cool to around 135ºC (275ºF). Carefully pour the hot oil over the chilli flakes. It should sizzle and bubble releasing wonderful toasty aromas. Allow the finished chilli oil to cool before decanting into jars to store.




Written by michelle picker

March 21, 2018 at 12:09 am


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Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish (banchan) made from salted and fermented vegetables.There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi but it is most commonly made with napa cabbage and Korean white radish (mu) and a variety of seasonings including Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru), garlic, ginger and often dried seafood. Traditionally kimchi was stored underground in jars but today most people in Korea have dedicated kimchi fridges. Mary and I finally got around to making some.

For a large jar of kimchi, cut 1 large Napa cabbage into chunks. Dissolve ⅛ of a cup of salt in warm water and immerse the cabbage for 30 minutes. Meanwhile process 4 cloves of garlic, an equal amount of ginger, 1 tablespoon of unrefined sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce to make a smooth paste. Add 1 cup of Korean chilli flakes. Cut 350g each of carrots and white radish into julienne and cut a bunch of spring onions into similar lengths. Drain the cabbage and without rinsing pat it dry. Combine everything in a large bowl and pound or knead the mixture to get the vegetables to release their juices. When there is a reasonable amount of liquid in the mixture transfer it to a large jar and weigh it down so that the vegetables are all submerged (a smaller jar full of water makes a good weight). Stand the jar in a tub (liquid will escape) and allow it to ferment for 1 week at room temperature. If you prefer a sourer flavour you can leave it for longer. When you’re happy with the flavour and texture transfer it to the fridge. It will keep for some months.

As well as being eaten as a side dish, kimchi is often used in cooking. Here’s a delicious noodle stir-fry.

First cook 150g (5½ oz) of cellophane (bean-thread) noodles and set aside. Chop 1 onion, 4 large mushrooms, 2 rashers of bacon and some spring onions. In a bowl combine 2 finely diced cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of Korean chilli paste (gochujang), 3 teaspoons of soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of honey, 3 teaspoons of raw sugar, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar and ½ a cup of hot water. Heat a wok over medium heat and fry the bacon then the onion and the mushrooms. Add 1 cup of kimchi, the sauce and the noodles. Cook until everything is hot and well combined. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with the chopped spring onions. Turn the heat up and add more oil to the wok. Fry 3 lightly salted eggs until they are cooked and then place them over the noodle stir-fry. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and toasted seaweed (kim in Korean or kankoku nori in Japanese).

Written by michelle picker

May 21, 2017 at 6:01 am

banana daiquiri

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The Daiquiri cocktail may have acquired it’s name from the beach or iron mine of the same name in Santiago de Cuba. The basic recipe for a Daiquiri is similar to the ‘grog’ that British sailors drank from the 1740s onwards. By 1795 the Royal Navy grog ration contained rum, water, ¾ of an ounce of lemon or lime juice, and 2 ounces of sugar. This was also a common drink across the Caribbean. In the US it gained popularity during the 1940s when whiskey and vodka were in short supply and the Pan-American program made Latin America and rum-based drinks fashionable.

The addition of half a banana makes this much sweeter than the original daiquiri and suitable to serve as a dessert. In a blender add 60 ml (2 fl oz) of white rum (mine was 3-year-old Havana Club), ½ a banana, 15 ml (½ fl oz) of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of simple syrup, and some crushed ice. If, like me, you keep over-ripe bananas in your freezer, then you might not need to add the ice. Blend and pour. Top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

Written by michelle picker

April 23, 2017 at 5:53 am

cumquat liqueur

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The cumquat (or kumquat) is an small orange-like fruit related to the citrus family. It has an edible rind and acid pulp and is often used to make excellent bitter marmalade. This recipe makes a clean-tasting and fragrant liqueur.


Simply wash and weigh your cumquats. Place them in a clean jar with an equal amount of white sugar. Cover with a good dry gin and leave to steep for 3 months. You will find the cumquats themselves quite strong in flavour but worth trying with some ice cream.


Written by michelle picker

February 28, 2017 at 5:55 am


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On a recent trip to southern France, I was delighted to see my friends Franbi and Milan who invited me to a wonderful lunch. The starter was Franbi’s pissaladière, a traditional onion, olive and anchovy tart which originated in Nice.


I don’t have Franbi’s recipe but I hope she approves of this one. To make this tart you can use ready-made puff pastry. Place it in a greased pie dish or oven tray and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan and gently fry 4 large sliced onions until wilted. Add some sprigs of fresh thyme, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook until the onions are caramelised. If you want to hurry this along you can also add a little brown sugar at this stage. Spread the onions onto the prepared pastry then lay good quality anchovies over the top in a criss-cross pattern. Place Kalamata olive halves in the spaces between the anchovies. Bake the tart in a moderate oven until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.

Written by michelle picker

September 19, 2016 at 5:48 am

super soft sandwich bread + cultured butter

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Many years ago I attended classes run by Carol Bates in Simply No-Knead Breadmaking. I discovered that good quality untreated flour makes for less work. This recipe makes a deliciously soft white bread.


For 2 loaves, mix together 8 cups of unbleached white bread flour, ⅓ of a cup of ground or instant oats (1 sachet), 6 teaspoons of dry active yeast, 3 teaspoons each of salt and sugar and 4 teaspoons of natural bread improver (this is made of soy flour, ascorbic acid, bread flour and enzymes which all help the yeast work). Add 2 tablespoons of cold-pressed vegetable oil and ¾ of a litre (1½ pints) of very warm (but not hot) water. Mix thoroughly and add more water as required, just enough to make a moist but not too sticky dough. Cover the dough and leave in a warm place to double in size. When doubled, turn out onto a floured board and consolidate into 2 equal-sized balls, folding to expel any excess air. Shape into 2 long cylinders and place them into oiled bread tins. Allow to double in size again and then bake in a pre-heated 200ºC (390ºF) oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Why not try your bread with some homemade cultured butter?


Heat 1200ml (1.2 quarts) of fresh pure cream to 25ºC (77ºF). If you have Flora Danica Culture or Mesophilic Aromatic Type B Culture (I have these for cheesemaking) add a pinch (½ of a ⅛ teaspoon measure) of the culture, mixing well, and allow the cream to culture for 12-24 hours at 20-25ºC (70-77ºF). If you don’t have these cultures you can add 5 tablespoons of mesophilic yoghurt or cultured buttermilk and allow the cream to culture for 12 hours at 23-25ºC (74-77ºF). Whichever method you use, when the cream is cultured put it in the fridge for at least 5 hours to bring it down to approximately 15℃ (60℉) and stop the culturing process. Now pour the cream into a food processor (this is the fastest method but you could also use a stand mixer or put the cream in a jar and shake it) and start the motor. The cream will first become whipped and then break into yellow butter and buttermilk. Continue to process until the butter comes together. Now strain the butter but don’t throw out the buttermilk as it’s delicious. You can drink it plain, put it in a smoothie or bake with it. Place the remaining butter in a bowl and, using iced water and a spatula, wash the remaining buttermilk out of the butter until the water runs clear. There you have it, delicious butter!


on awards

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Linda at litebeing chronicles has nominated food for thought for two awards.

versatile blogger


These awards come with some rules attached which would cause my nominees (there should be 15 of them) to spend their precious time fulfilling these requirements.  So instead of accepting the awards I’m including links to some worthy bloggers you might enjoy. Of course, they’re all about food:

Life is Short. Eat Hard!   Almost Always Ravenous   Syrup and Tang   dessertaddictsanonymous   Nourish Me  365 Days of Bacon   The Hungry Backpackers   spontaneous tomato   alanabread   DUDE, WHAT’S MY FOOD   ice cream magazine

Thanks to all of my followers and readers. I hope you continue to enjoy my blog. Happy cooking and eating!

Written by michelle picker

August 26, 2013 at 6:29 am