Droid Joy

I am now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Ace. Second hand, of course, but no less exciting. In my head, I wasn’t allowed a smartphone because I break them. Well, they break. Into pieces. After being dropped on the ground several times in succession. The touchscreens no longer react the way you expect them to. You have to hit the letter above the one that you want. And … so on. Short version: I am anathema to smartphones.

Until now. I observed with growing confidence, a star-shaped crack on the casing and the battered corners. My brother’s phone previously, it seems to have survived a few batterings and still lives, gloriously. Could it be that they have finally made a bulletproof smartphone?

I only require indestructability. And new ways to text. (Swype, anyone?!) And fancy gadgets to see how many miles I am doing on each journey and at what speed… And tetris. And the weather!

The obsessing might be over right now for the sake of this post, but the obsession remains.

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Hummus Happiness

Hummus is one of my favourite foods of all time. Chickpeas are amazing legumes and I like them in lots of dishes, but hummus is where chickpea ceases to be the vehicle for a more exciting prospect and becomes the star in its own right.

One can of cooked chickpeas. Into the food processor they go. Note: I personally prefer the texture created by the food processor, but stick blenders might suit others.

A couple of grated garlic cloves, a heaped tsp of tahini, about 1 tsp salt, a hefty squeeze of lemon juice and about 100ml sunflower oil. Olive is too overpowering and eradicates the delicate flavour of the chickpeas.

Whizz the whole lot together (I add the sunflower oil while the machine is processing). Check for salt. Add more if necessary and whizz again.

Best devoured on a soft pitta plate, with an accompaniment of olives on the side.

Olives with Garlic and Lemon

I love olives. J’aime l’olives! Cheap or expensive, all grades have their great points, and you get good and bad at every level anyway. They are an acquired taste, but for me it was worth acquiring, because whenever I eat them, I experience fantastic sensations under my temples.

I don’t know if it’s a part of my brain reacting, but it feels like that. Which suggests the sensations are narcotic in nature. Hmmm … Food for thought.

Take a mix of black and green brined olives. Cheap ones are fine in my opinion. And stoned. This is a very naive version of the fancy cocktails you find in upmarket pubs. I prefer my olives to be firm, so I used pimiento stuffed greens and those big juicy matt black ones you buy in a can.

Find the bowl you want to fill with olives but don’t. Not yet. A glass tumbler does very well and looks nice. Pour in a healthy dose of EVOO. Grate/crush at least one large garlic clove into the oil. Mix with a spoon a few times. Grate in a sensible quantity of lemon zest and mix again, crushing the two ingredients against each other in the oil. Add a pinch of oregano and a few twists of black pepper, and add the olives to the mixture.

Sluice them with the potent oil, over and over and then leave them for a bit, to steep. Leave them a few hours if you want. I sluiced them a few times for about 3 hours (testing them each time).

Eat with fabulous pitta breads and homemade hummus.

Scratch Pitta Breads

Culinary genius? Or just bloody minded?
Observe below and weep. (Recipe below)

Homemade TapasIt might be simple, but isn’t that the point of tapas?

This is a garlic trio of tastiness, the hummus so garlicky that it’s hot; the olives unexotic types but dressed in garlic and lemon zest olive oil (good olive oil at that); the pittas made with garlic oil, and every few bites accompanied by an intake of lemon zest and a chilli flake sting on the tip of the tongue.

Scratch Pitta Bread
Take 300g strong white flour, 200g plain white flour, a level tsp salt, a couple of tblsp garlic oil, and mix.

Add around 350ml luke warm water, some of which should contain 1tblsp dried yeast/ 1 sq cm fresh yeast, melted into the water with a dessertspoon of caster sugar and covered briefly in a warmish place, to start off its chemical actions.

The dough should be loose and soft. Knead it for a few seconds only, then cover and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes or so. (Doesn’t matter if you leave it a few minutes longer). My warm place for the bowl is leaning it against the hot radiator, covered with a clean tea towel.

Pour a ten pence sized pool of EVOO on the work surface and spread it around. Tip the sticky dough onto the surface and knead lightly for about 10 seconds. Scrape it back into the bowl, grate the zest of 1 lemon into the bowl and return it to the warm place, covered.

Repeat the above, ensuring that the lemon zest is incorporated into the dough. This time sprinkle a few chilli flakes over the dough and return to the warm place. Know this: chilli bites! Be tight.

Leave the dough for 30 minutes this time. By the time I returned to it, the dough had tripled in size.

Put the oven on, to a temperature of around 230-250 deg C and enshelve a clean baking tray. This heats up the tray so that the pittas are exposed to heat from every angle.

Tip the monstrous blob out of the bowl, onto a floury surface, and rip out around 8-10 chunks; they should weigh around 100g each (I have an unhealthy fascination with my newish digital kitchen scales, so this was no problem for me, but you’re talking about the size of an average McDonald’s burger bun). Roll them into balls and leave, covered, for about 15 minutes.

The oven should be hot enough after than, so *roll out the pittas, two at a time, on a worksurface thick with flour snow (trust me on this). They need to be around 5mm thick, no more.

Leave them for another couple of minutes, then get them carefully off the surface (if they can stick, they will stick) and onto the baking tray. Keep the heat in the oven by taking out the tray and closing the door immediately. It’s hard to pick up the pittas with only one hand anyway.

Slam them in the oven and roll out the next two. They need around 3-5 minutes in there, no more. They’ll inflate like food balloons, lightly browned on one side, and soft and white on the bottom. Keep repeating from * until there are no more doughballs to roller.

Tear off, rip up and smother in hummus, one bite a soft medley of different garlic flavours, the next an amendment of bitter olive richness.

Amazing World

What an amazing world we live in. We still have wild things which live secretly alongside us. Little birds that interact with us. Spiders, badgers, foxes, deer, and of course, Robin et alRobin helps to clear the wall.

 

 

One of my old ladies has a little cushion in her bedroom which says “When I count my blessings, I count you twice”. That always reminds me how important different people are to me and my life.

Take a step back, and think: how am I lucky? What’s the most important thing?

Sure, we all think our health is the most important thing; that’s obvious. But, for most of us, that particular luck will run out. So what else? People, jobs, life in general, children, love, parents, faith? The ability to draw interesting friends? The knack of winning a job interview every time? The talent to find inspiration every time someone asks for it to be written/depicted/filmed/sung?

There aren’t any right or wrong answers. Everyone is different and luck has different angles to it. But if you find yourself thinking how rubbish everything is, and how bad or sad or mad you feel, just remember:

This too, will pass.

And maybe that will lead you back to how lucky you are.

As above, so below.