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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Health Food

I know my family, and especially my wife, is going to laughh at this post and the new category "Health Food" because we have a bit of a joke going on in our family, many years old. By the way, "Health food" as I have titled it, in my eyes represents the following: Crunchy stuff, hard nutty stuff, dry dusty bran, hard as stones dry raisins, tasteless soya stuff, plain boring meals stuffed full of strong spices and herbs to try and liven them up, no sauces, tons of brown or gritty looking rice etc etc ad nauseum!

You will no doubt conclude that I have had very very bad experiences with "health food" over the years.
But...BUT.. This must change. I am going to have to have a total re-think at this whole health food thing. A check up at the doctor two weeks back revealed that I have high blood presure and I need to do something about it.
So my mornings now start off panting and gasping and stumbling around in the half dark over my wifes skipping rope whilst trying to dream up tasty healthy meals which don't break my gastronomic spirit!

I have a few conflicts though. My cooking lore dictates that flavours are trapped and carried by fats. I also am an old fashioned cook that bases meals around meat and then add side dishes to balance the predominant flavour.
So... I am determined not to slide of into that demoralizing foggy area of tastless food bland veggies and no fats. Rather I will work hard to design meals that still contain meat, fish and poultry, but that are healthier (cholesterol wise) yet are still flavorsome and satisfying. Smaller meat portions will replace large and compensate for some of the less healthy components like a bit of butter, skins left on poultry, a nicely marbled beefsteak from time to time as well as pork, lamb and offal.
So expect some changes ahead! By the way I have learnt a lot from a fellow foodie blogger Adura, who like me is African (she black African and me White) and who blogs very practically about health, beauty and fitness as well as food. Her blog is here . Another, is a very gifted person, also an African, living out of Africa who prepares fantastic franco/african food with a Cameroonian theme. She is here..LAM BASSA'A

African people, especially those living in rural areas in Southern Africa are ten times more healthy than Westerners. You will note for example in Lambassa'a just how much natural ingredients she uses. Although living in London (or thereabouts I think!!) she sticks with what she knows.That is most likely how she was taught and brought up. Most African people here eat a lot of cereals, beans, root vegetable and fish. Meat is pretty much a luxury apart from fish and shellfish in some regions.

Anyway, look forward to some great but healthy food still with an African style in the blogs ahead.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Deep Fried Calamari Rings

Fried Calamari is a huge favorite seafood in Southern Africa. It is found on most restaurants menus. I cooked a batch this week and decided to share it here. Many people shy away from cooking it at home. This is often because of bad experiences with results. I must say at this stage that the length of cooking time and the temperature of the oil is of paramount importance. A few seconds in the oil too long and you get rubbery meat! There are actually very few restaurants that get it right either.

To start with, you need good quality fresh rings. I have found that the South African Breco brand of ready prepared quick frozen rings are of consistent quality and the right size. If you dont have to prepare and clean the whole Calamari yourself then dont!! Its messy, but I must tell you that the results are quite a bit better than using frozen.

Ingredients for 4 servings.

800g prepared cleaned rings.
fine fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg well beaten..
As you can see the ingredients are simple. It is the process that is tricky. Yet it is also just needs to be done a certain way.


Dry the rings thouroughly. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. I do it by making a pouch by holding the 4 corners or a clean dry tea towel. Put the rings in and then toss the rings by patting upwards with the other hand. Keep doing this and even change the tea towel for a dry one. Take your time and do the job well. I do not put the rings into flour before egging and breading them. I find this way produces better results. The crumb coating sticks and sets more firmly and doesnt come off in the cooking.

Next drop the rings into the egg and then after coating them drop them into a pan of breadcrumbs. Shake and toss until well coated. Remove and leave to set for an hour at room temperature.

Put clean cooking oil onto heat and put one ring or a piece of one into the oil and wait for the oil to heat and brown the ring. When it is well browned turn your stove top to keep the temperature the same. I do it by turning the knob back slowly until I hear it click. Try it! It works every time and is the most foolproof way of getting the temperature right. Now cook in batches of 10 rings. They should not be in the pan for more than 50 to 60 seconds and should be removed when they are a pale straw. As a general rule, rather have oil too hot.
The best way of eating these in my opinion is with a simple gherkin and caper tartare sauce or a squeeze of fresh lemon.