Red Tomato’s

redtomatos

Introducing the tomato.

It comes in many shapes, sizes and colours but it’s best known wearing a red coat and whether or not you believe it to be part of the vegetable family or fruit, it has graced our plates and tables for many years.

So why have I chosen to feature our red friend?  Well,  I’ll tell you.

Life was simple, free and easy growing up in the states during the 70’s and as a kid, I had the pleasure of regularly visiting farmer’s markets and helping my brother and later on my parent’s tend to an extensive and beautiful vegetable garden in the heart of Northern Maine, New England.

At a very early age, I remember my father bringing home his favourite plum tomato’s and eating them like candy.  They were bright red, shiny and were still attached to their vine with soft and fragrant leaves. It’s hard to explain the scent but I guess they smelled like sweet earth to me. I loved them and they were easy to pop in your mouth.

“Where’s the beef?”  Beefsteak tomato’s… now this one is the Daddy of all tomato’s!  As much as I’d like to say my first experience of this meaty fruit was in New York, I will hold my hand’s up and admit that New Jersey at that time had the best! (sorry fellow New Yorka’s)

Now this is one that can ONLY be enjoyed 2 ways:

  1. cut in half, salted and eaten like an apple
  2. Sliced thick and served on a juicy burger

My summer’s spent in Maine as a child were magical. It was like camping,  an adventure of sorts and it helped me to appreciate nature and the simplistic life. What kid wakes up in the morning, picks tomato’s, green beans and sweet peas off of their vine’s and eats them quite happily whilst walking through a maze of blooms to reach a babbling brook only steps away?  It was me and I am grateful.

There’s a bit more to this story, which was the motivation for this post.  Moving to Northern UK was a culture shock for me in the beginning and I had to adjust to many differences, mainly food.   My first tomato experience here was completely different.

Entering the quite reputable kebab take-away… so you can probably gather that I’m pretty darn passionate about food in general.  “What would you like on your kebab Miss?”  “Oh, I’d like tomato, lettuce, onions and whatever else you have in the way of salad please.”  I got home and opened the carefully wrapped package.  Orange?? These tomato’s are orange.  My husband (who is not entirely passionate about food in general) replied, “what’s wrong with that?”

My reply: “Everything darling, just everything.”

Its a matter of taste

june-july-holiday-2007-central-park-west-side.jpg

Okay, so I love pretty much ALL food, but I was curious to see if a national Thai food chain in my local area met the standards of the London branch I visited over a year ago.  My friend who also loves to dine went with me on a Wednesday evening, which we thought was a nice change to the weekend rush.

We decided to take our time and enjoy the full experience by ordering all courses and started with 2 appetisers and a bottle of wine to share.  The wine chosen was a light and medium dry rose, which had a mild citrusy flavour and was very smooth.  (We didn’t want to offend the other flavours)

Starters were next to arrive and we felt that they almost arrived too quickly…. we chose a plate of fried Asian greens in a soy, garlic and ginger sauce and steamed chicken gyoza dumplings with a mild but sweet dipping sauce.  After drinking a half a glass of wine, our taste buds were ready for the next experience.

First let me make something clear….  I love to cook and experiment quite often however; I am not an executive chef or culinary wizard by any means but my palate is sensitive and I appreciate good food, nice flavours and pleasing textures.

My take on starter 1: stir-fried greens in sauce-that’s about it… swimming in sauce and dare I say micro waved or re-heated?  The veggies were still firm and still had their natural juices when you bit into them but the SAUCE… why use so much when the veggies are happy enough being themselves?  A drizzle maybe to add dimension to the dish… we had no idea what to do with all of that sauce at the end… and it wasn’t steaming or sizzling when it arrived.

Starter number 2: steamed dumplings, kind of my favourite Asian appetiser in the states, so I was excited and awaited its arrival.  If you’ve never had them before, their skin (for the lack of a better description) is like ravioli pasta but thicker.  It should arrive plump and hot (or very warm and moist) on the outside and the juices from the filling should be slightly dripping onto the serving plate.  When you first bite into it, the flavours and filling should explode in your mouth and deliver an enjoyable mmmmm reaction. The consistency and texture should be non-offensive. If you have to ask, “Should it taste like this” during the first bite, it is not up to scratch. Can you tell I like dumplings? (please note, photo link is how it should be)

OUR dumplings were small and the skin was too thick, rubbery (micro waved) and lacking moistness and filling. They were also a little oily, which kind of leads me to believe that they were fried first, and then re-heated.  No taste explosion and no mmmmmmmmm.

Main course……….

Pad Thai, I love this dish because the noodles are flat and light, unlike typical Italian pasta dishes. My favourite part aside from the noodle is the sprinkling of peanuts amongst the blend of spicy, sour and sweet fresh herbs. When it arrived, it looked okay but my first reaction was, “where’s the peanuts?”

The dish looked a little lack-lustre and dry, but okay…. here I go dipping my fork in to test it out and… Hmm… it had that slightly tart taste, which it should have and the noodles were cooked well (almost slightly sticky) It looked like Pad Thai, but sadly was a little dry.  My friend’s expression was the same as mine… perplexed.  My friend suggested that we ask for a little extra sauce, so it arrived and we drizzled and tossed, until it started to resemble what we were expecting.  It was better.  The textures were up to standard I would say, sticky and light noodles with the traditional sprinkling of fresh Thai herbs and little crunchy bits with the sauce absorbing nicely into each bite.

Desert and grand finale

mochi

We were curious about Mochi and there were a few of them to choose from, so we decided to order the “mix it up” assorted plate.   Mochi’s are little balls of flavoured ice cream wrapped in sticky rice and served with various sweet sauces. We were slightly excited because we had never tried this, hence a new experience was about to happen!

Here we go… first one Coconut…I found it strange when I first bit into it. The coconut flavour was really prominent and creamy but the sticky outside consistency was almost like Turkish delight, chewy and slightly slimy. The ice cream dissolved in your mouth to leave you chewing the coating for a moment longer. It was different and we were intrigued.  So we tried the next flavour-Raspberry… our palettes were not surprised any longer and this one was more enjoyable and must have been made with real raspberries because we began to crunch on the little seeds as the ice cream melted in our mouths. Final stop… sesame.  These were slightly different and had both the flavour of sesame on the inside and seeds on the outside rolled within the rice.   We finished our meal with a piping hot mug of green tea.

I must admit, we enjoyed our experience even though it didn’t meet our expectations however; it was a taste experience and I can now admit I’m a Mochi fan.

Thank you very Mochi for reading

Hands-on  🙂

How good is your memory?

The human mind is an amazing thing don’t you think?

Throughout the years, I’ve tested myself to see how far back my memories reach, which thankfully land as far back as the age of 3-4.  (I’m in my 40’s by the way)

These moments in time are so clear to me, that I can almost picture myself there now. I’m visualising where I was, what I was doing and matching those visions with triggers such as food flavours and scent’s. Yes, I believe that our senses are quite strong.

Since I’m being honest here, I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean.

Milk… it’s good for growing kids and we must drink it. (mom said so) I didn’t like drinking it plain at all… especially after my mom decided to serve it in one of those 1960’s pearl lustre type mugs, which gave it an odd paint-like sour taste. (No, I’ve never tasted paint in case you’re wondering)

pearlmug

So as you can imagine, from that moment forward I opted for nestle chocolate or strawberry quik. I was 4, so you can clearly now understand how powerful taste senses can be.  To prove this is not a “one-trick-pony” example, I’ll fast forward to aged 7.

My parents loved to introduce me to old movies as a kid because they grew up and lived through the depression era.  Sunday afternoon movies with the parents were great and as I sat on the couch, still in my pyjamas some days,and watching on this particular day Laurel and Hardy, my mom made us both a cup of Jasmine tea (you know, the loose kind that requires one of those strainer things?) This was a luxury item then and probably chosen because it was served  at the local Chinese restaurant that my family and I visited for many years.

jasmine tea

I probably liked the smell more than the taste but every time I drink it now as an adult, I think of Laurel and Hardy movies and the plaid couch I was sitting on.

Speaking of Chinese food and having grown up in New York,  I can’t help thinking of my experience with Pu-Pu.  You heard me, and it’s not a typo.. it’s actually a pretty wonderful experience for kids and adults. (Visual with descriptive review below)

Not that I’m drooling or anything.. okay, I am!  I was first introduced to this magnificent beast when my parents would take me to our local Chinese restaurant in the suburbs of New York.  I was dazzled by the blue, red and yellow  flame created with a jelly type substance and the “mini” BBQ effect.  Generally, the first item I grabbed was the beef teriyaki stick purely because I could hold it over the fire. Total joy and the hot flame made the flavour explode even more. Next I went for the spare ribs… again, easy to hold over the fire and sometimes I would heat it just long enough to see a little flame appear. Camp fire anyone?

There was a process when enjoying this and boy, did I enjoy it!  One of my other favourite items was fried jumbo shrimp, which was coated in batter. This I dipped in what they called duck sauce, although it wasn’t made of duck but rather used on duck dishes… I think.  It’s a sweet fruity sauce that is probably made with mandarins, but makes the savoury shrimp all the more tasty.

It was very sad when we finished the platter… farewell tasty tidbits and tiny barbecue.. till we meet again.

Do you have any fond food memories?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

Thanks for reading

Hands-on

This blog is a prequel to something new and exciting that I’m working on..stay tuned 🙂