July Roundup

July. The month that felt like the early 2000s with everyone talking about Pokemon and Blink 182. Not me though. I’ve been harping on about Celebrity Masterchef, the lack of decent strawberries in the supermarkets and how summer just doesn’t feel like summer when you don’t have a 6 week holiday.

Oh the good old days of school when life’s biggest worries were getting a ladder in your tights or not having a boyfriend like all the cool kids. I thought my teenage years were such a struggle. I knew nothing. I used to come home every day to my bed made, a home made dinner on the table and my washing done and ironed for me. Now, I come home to a messy house at whatever time the traffic allows and have to engage the brain enough not to mix my dinner up with the cat’s. I tried a cat treat once. It was a terrible, terrible mistake.

I’ve made some damn good food in July, though I do say so myself. I’ve recapped all of this month’s posts below in case you missed any or want to have a re-read.

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Recipe: King Prawn Linguine / Recipe: Steak’n’Stuff / Recipe: American Pancakes with Bacon / What I Ate In A Day #11 / Recipe: Masterchef Style Smoked Haddock / Top 5 Must Have Cook Books For Eating Well / Recipe: Peanut Butter Brownies / Recipe Review: Gordon Ramsay’s Bread and Butter Pudding / Recipe: Chicken Tikka Salad / How to be a Better Cook in 5 Easy Steps

See you in August!

My Hero Ingredients

There’s certain ingredients scattered around my kitchen that I find myself continuously reaching for when conjuring up different recipes. I like to have a well stocked store cupboard so that I always have something to use as a basis for a nice meal and have found myself recently relying on the same few things. I’m calling these my hero ingredients and thought I would share them with you for something a bit different.

Salt

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Salt is an essential ingredient in 90% of recipes. I know that excessive salt isn’t good for you but I can’t understand people that don’t cook with salt. I can’t imagine how bland life would be without it. I have a tub of bog-standard cheap table salt which I use to salt water when I’m cooking pasta or potatoes, then I have a salt pig with Maldon sea salt in it next to my stove to use in day to day cooking. These little tubs from the Cornish Sea Salt Co are a little more special and are used as a finishing touch to lift a dish. I have smoked sea salt (amazing in desserts and chilli), lemon and thyme sea salt (great with buttered new potatoes) and sea salt with seaweed (delicious sprinkled on top of salads).

Spices

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I have so many jars and packets of spices in my cupboard which range from adventurous sumac and Thai 7 spice mix to the more classic cinnamon and mixed spice. I use spices a lot, pretty much daily in fact, and I couldn’t cook without them. I use cinnamon in smoothies, desserts and in coffee, cumin goes into curries and Mexican style dishes and paprika goes into pretty much everything. Garlic granules and Herbes de Provence are fairly new discoveries but are both used liberally on roasted vegetables and potato dishes. These 5 little jars are a gateway to a world of amazing flavour. I use all the spices I have in my cupboard but I would literally be lost without these superheroes.

Lemons and Limes

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I pretty much always have lemons and limes in the bottom drawer of my fridge, ready to jazz up pretty much anything. Limes are great with avocados or as a finishing touch to a chilli or other Tex-Mex concoction, and lemons are great in risottos, pasta dishes and puddings. Rightly or wrongly, I always have lemon and lime juice in bottles in case of emergency and these get used a lot.

Aromatics

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My fridge always contains some fresh garlic to use whole for roasting, and occasionally some fresh red chillies when they are needed to finish off a dish, but I absolutely always have jars of garlic, chilli and ginger on hand to use whenever I want. Which, in fact, is all the time. I reach for these jars more than anything else in my fridge and we get through a jar of garlic each month. All three are needed in stir fries and curries and are so much easier and quicker than having to use fresh stuff all the time, and I can’t say I ever notice a difference in flavour. Absolute life savers.

Tins

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One of the shelves in my cupboard is buckling under the weight due to the amount of tinned tomatoes I keep in there. A tin of tomatoes can be the basis for so many different dishes, from shakshouka to spaghetti pomodoro, and I like to have a plentiful stash on hand ready to create some magic in the kitchen. I also like to keep tins of beans in my cupboard to bulk out meals and provide some additional goodness. Chickpeas are the main ingredient in humous so I always keep those close by too. Coconut milk is a great ingredient to have handy as it’s delicious in curries and desserts. I think there’s some stigma attached to tinned food but there really needn’t be, they’re great for convenience and last for ages.

Oils and Vinegars

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On a day to day basis I use an inexpensive mild olive oil for cooking which doesn’t really affect the taste of the food and is suitable for most cooking techniques. I like to use coconut oil when making curry and it’s lovely to use in baking too. I save my expensive extra virgin olive oil to use for salad dressings, humous and for dipping bread into. There’s also some toasted sesame oil within my collection which I use for Asian dishes and love it’s nutty taste. It really provides some authenticity to Chinese cooking, as does the soy sauce which I’m never without. I use white wine vinegar or cider vinegar in dressings and marinades and balsamic vinegar is used frequently with tomatoes, bread or added to stews and sauces to provide depth of flavour. I love vinegar, I could drink it by the glass, but I don’t as it also gives me crippling tummy ache!

Sweet Things

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I like to have the wherewithal to make something sweet so always have a well stocked supply of sugar and syrups. Maple syrup is one of my all time favourite things, I love it in all it’s smoky glory, and incorporate it into a lot of dishes from granola to pancakes. I use honey and golden syrup less but they each have their place in the kitchen. I then always have caster sugar ready for basic cake making, soft light brown sugar for a caramel flavour, icing sugar for, well, icing, and demerara sugar for crumbles and in coffee. My teeth hurt from just looking at all this sugar but what is life if you can’t treat yourself from time to time.

Other Store Cupboard Essentials:

  • Flour (plain, self-raising and wholemeal)
  • Baking Powder
  • Cocoa/Cacao Powder
  • Chocolate
  • Peanut Butter
  • Nutella
  • Mustard (English, Dijon and Wholegrain)
  • Tomato Ketchup
  • Brown Sauce
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Nuts
  • Pasta (I always have penne and spaghetti as a minimum)
  • Rice (brown, white and basmati as a minimum, arborio too, ideally)
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Marmite
  • Stock Cubes
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tomato Puree
  • Black Pepper

Let me know if you have any ingredients that you just can’t live without and I will be happy to try adding them to my list!

 

A Vegan Food Shop

So I decided to join in with the current trend and become a vegan. For a week. I love my food and the thought of having to cut stuff out of my diet filled me with fear, but I wanted to try a different kind of food lifestyle and figured it can’t be too hard if I only have to sacrifice some of my favourite things for just a week. Right?

‘Why bother?’, I hear you ask. Well, veganism is on the rise as more people learn of the damage caused to the planet by consuming animal products. There is also a belief that following a plant based diet is better for you health wise. So if we can help the planet, save a few animals and nourish our bodies in a better way surely it’s worth trying. I don’t think there is any scientific proof behind the vegan health claims but if people feel better for eating this way then good for them. I’m trialling it to see if I feel any different from cutting out all animal based products. I keep getting a mental image of a little lamb skipping away from the slaughter house saying ‘Thank you Tania!’ as it bounds into freedom.

The first thing I did in preparation was a food shop to stock up on the right kinds of foods. I’ve already got a huge stash of cooking ingredients such as grains and loads of spices and condiments so it was mostly fresh fruit and vegetables I needed as well as some tinned goods. Tyler, my partner, has decided to meet me halfway and will be eating some of the food I make along with fish and has a few emergency meals planned for if he just can’t take it. I thought about making the cat vegan too but she begged me not to, so she’s eating the rest of the ham that’s lingering in the fridge from last week. Our food shopping, including Tyler’s cheat additions (not pictured) came to just under £80.

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Here’s what I bought:

  • Mixed leaf salad
  • Baby plum tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Jersey Royal potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Mixed peppers
  • Spring onions
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Courgettes
  • Mushrooms
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Pomegranate
  • Bananas
  • Medjool dates
  • Raw cacao powder
  • Pecan nuts
  • Maple syrup
  • Mixed herbs
  • Gherkins
  • Coconut milk (tinned)
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Butter beans (tinned)
  • Kidney beans (tinned)
  • Chickpeas (tinned)
  • Black beans
  • Beetroot juice
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Bean burgers

So I’m all ready to tackle a week without meat or dairy. I’m OK to forgo meat for a while, I like meat but actually don’t have that much of it, but cheese. Oh God. Cheese. And to be super helpful, my food processor has just broken so I can’t make the raw brownies from Deliciously Ella which I think would have made this week so much easier! Never mind. I will let you know how I find my week as a vegan in a later blog post, stay tuned!

 

 

May Roundup

Guess who’s got over 100 followers??? Me!!! Thank you all ever so much for taking the time to read, like, comment on and follow my blog. I love my little corner of the internet and have enjoyed spending another month sharing my stories and recipes with you. You can like The Gammon Kitchen’s Facebook page to see more.

A few things that happened in May:

  • I tried Pizza GoGo. Let’s just say Domino’s have nothing to worry about as they won’t be losing my custom.
  • I ate an Indian takeaway for breakfast.
  • I watched the entire previous 5 seasons of Game of Thrones in the space of a month and now have to wait for the next episodes with the rest of the peasants.
  • I had the worst case of flu known to man. Or so it felt.
  • I rediscovered Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream and couldn’t be happier about it.

And here’s all the blog posts from the past month, in case you missed any.

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Recipe: Berry Rose Smoothie / Recipe Review: Byron’s Ronaldo Burger / Recipe: Rocky Roads / What I Ate In A Day #8 / Recipe: Courgetti With Pesto Chicken, Mushrooms and Goat’s Cheese / Jamie’s Food Revolution 2016 / Recipe: Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Risotto / Recipe: Easy Cinnamon Swirls / My Cookbook Collection / Recipe: 3 Ingredient Asparagus Brunch / How To Spot A Foodie

I hope all you lovely people have had a wonderful month filled with delicious food and lots of fun!

 

100 Things About Me!

I’ve recently reached a bit of a milestone on my blog. Set off the party poppers, light the fireworks and do a little jig, for I am celebrating. It may be nothing to some, but earlier this month I welcomed my 5000th viewer. Woo-hoo. I know, I know, some blogs get that amount of views in a day, but I never anticipated that even one person would read my random ramblings. Thanks to all of you that have stopped by, unless all those views were from my mum. In which case, erm..thanks mum, love you.

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I thought I’d celebrate with a slightly different kind of post and fill you all in on a few facts about me. It’s Friday night, pour yourself a large one and settle down for a long read. Or make like the youngsters, get your glad rags on and get yourself out for the night. No, don’t really, stay. Please.

 

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Deep breath….

  1. My name is Tania Gammon, hence the name ‘The Gammon Kitchen’.
  2. I live in Rochester, Kent, UK.
  3. I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers.
  4. I also have 6 nieces, 5 nephews, 2 great nieces and one great nephew. So yeah, huge family.
  5. I’m a customer service manager for a female fashion company and I love my job.
  6. I live with my fiancé, Tyler, and my cat, Lulu.
  7. It’s no secret that I love Lulu more than Tyler.
  8. I love all cats.
  9. And dogs.
  10. I had a doberman when I was younger called Bracken and she was the best dog ever, I miss her.
  11. I also had a husky called Ice. She was very naughty and I do not miss her so much.
  12. I try to encourage the other neighbourhood cats into my house for cuddles. A neighbour caught me once so I had to stop.
  13. I like all animals really.
  14. I hate mice and rats though.
  15. I would love to swim with wild dolphins and see whales in their own habitat. They’re on my bucket list.
  16. I’m fascinated by sea creatures and watched Blue Planet on repeat when it was first released.
  17. My favourite colour is grey.
  18. I also like duck egg blue.
  19. I only recently discovered that duck’s eggs are actually blue, which I guess is where the name comes from. Duh.
  20. I’m hit and miss with eggs. Sometimes I’m like ‘hey egg get in my face’, other times I can’t look at an egg without heaving.
  21. I have a very vivid memory of a family holiday to Portugal when I was a child. I don’t remember playing in the sea or anything fun like that, I just remember having an omelette and crunching on egg shell. Gross.
  22. I love holidays but hate travelling.
  23. I’m very very scared of flying. I have flown pretty much every year since I was 2 years old but my fear has got worse with age and my last flight back from Turkey last year was the worst ever. I had a panic attack and demanded for the flight attendant to land the plane. I don’t know if I can fly again.
  24. One of my favourite holidays was to Crete. We stayed in a very luxurious hotel and it was glorious.
  25. Another of my favourite trips was to the Lake District last year. I climbed a mountain!
  26. Tyler surprised me with a trip to Paris for my birthday in 2013.
  27. He proposed on the second day there. altogether now…AWWWWWW!
  28. The elastic on my knickers broke when I was walking round Paris on one of the days so it wasn’t the most comfortable of outings.
  29. I also didn’t take a coat. In January. Needless to say, I was cold.
  30. I actually spent a lot of my time in Paris moaning.
  31. I get accused of moaning quite a lot, but I’m a happy moaner, if that makes sense. I think it does.
  32. My favourite thing to do is nap.
  33. I collect cookbooks and am constantly adding to my collection. I have officially run out of space on my bookshelves but I am not deterred.
  34. Nigella Lawson is my favourite person ever ever ever.
  35. Nigella and I share a birthday, 6th January if you’re interested.
  36. We also share a nickname. My parents used to call me Frank Spencer because I was so clumsy and alas that is what Nigella also goes by for the very same reason.
  37. I’m not as clumsy now I have my own home because I know if I break something I have to pay for it and if I spill something I have to clean it up.
  38. I am really house proud but also hate cleaning so I generally just don’t let anyone in.
  39. I like cleaning the toilet though as I find it satisfying.
  40. The worst job is cleaning out Lulu’s litter tray. Blurgh.
  41. I love cushions.
  42. I also love buying stuff for the kitchen. Getting a new bowl for me is like a normal 20-something getting a new pair of shoes.
  43. I’m the same with stationery, I love it.
  44. I recently referred to the feeling you get when you buy new stationery as a stationerygasm.
  45. I thought I was cool at school and told all my friends that an ‘organism’ was a feeling you get when you have sex. I had misheard something somewhere of course.
  46. I love writing and hate maths.
  47. I have this weird OCD tendency with words and I count the amount of letters in certain words. I then only like words that have 3, 5, 8, 10 or 13 letters in and my favourite kinds of words are when you have two 5 letter words and they join together to make a 10 letter word. That folks, is a wordgasm.
  48. I also have to do things in order. If I have a to-do list I have to work through from beginning to end, I can’t simply tick something in the middle.
  49. To do lists are amazing though aren’t they.
  50. I buy a lot of notebooks. Then each notebook must have a specific purpose and I can’t deviate from the notebook’s intended use.
  51. This is why I never finish a notebook.
  52. I’m noise-phobic and prefer to spend my time in silence. Constant noise like drilling or humming annoy me, as does unnecessarily loud TV.
  53. One of my favourite films is Dumb and Dumber. I like it a lot.
  54. Dumb and Dumber 2 was absolute rubbish though.
  55. I can recite almost the whole script from Titanic, I watched it so much during my teenage years.
  56. I watch videos of people picking spots on YouTube. I quite often find myself over on the dark side.
  57. Likewise, I’m a bit addicted to watching make-up tutorials.
  58. I have a very large lipstick collection, about 75 in total but I only wear a few.
  59. Sport absolutely winds me up, I hate every single kind of sport.
  60. I don’t like being naked. Like at all. As soon as I am out of the shower I put clothes on.
  61. I spend more time in pyjamas than I do in actual clothes.
  62. When I do wear proper clothes, I like nice loose fitting shirts with leggings or jeggings.
  63. I’m terrible at walking in heels. Like dreadfully bad.
  64. I’m not a big drinker but when I drink I like to get drunk. I love a nice cocktail or a glass of white zinfandel.
  65. Pizza is my absolute favourite food, especially when it’s from Dominos. I don’t like Pizza Hut or Papa Johns.
  66. Chocolate is my second favourite food, any type but I’m not keen on white chocolate, far too sickly.
  67. Steak is up there too, preferably fillet steak cooked medium-rare.
  68. Salt and Vinegar are the best flavour crisps.
  69. I used to make cupcakes to order and catered for a few parties and what-not, but stopped making them when I stopped liking them. I didn’t enjoy making them once I didn’t enjoy eating them.
  70. At one point I had a little jewellery business but got bored of that pretty quickly.
  71. I love singing but have not been blessed with any vocal talent.
  72. I wasn’t allowed to sing in my school nativity and had a speaking part instead. Cruel really. But I am that bad.
  73. On a hen do in Brighton last year I performed Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’ to a group of hotel guests wearing Mickey Mouse pyjamas and using a water bottle as a makeshift microphone.
  74. I love depressing love songs. Celine, Whitney…all the classics.
  75. Ed Sheeran is the love of my life and seeing him at Wembley last year will always be one of my fondest memories.
  76. I also have a bit of a weakness for hip-hop and RnB.
  77. When I was younger I developed a bit of an obsession for Kanye West and my friends nicknamed me Tanye South Eastern. It was completely stupid but I sometimes still get referred to as Tanye.
  78. I don’t have many friends but can rely on the few that I do have and I much prefer it that way.
  79. I studied Fashion Promotion at university and left with a 2:1 honours degree.
  80. As a teenager, I ran a karaoke and DJ business with my parents.
  81. My signature karaoke song was Eminem’s ‘Cleaning out my Closet’. I did the rap and my mum would sing the chorus. Cringe.
  82. As much as I hate getting up in the mornings, I’m a morning person once I’m up and about. My energy levels slump in the afternoon and I get grumpy in the evenings.
  83. I used to stay up really late but I can’t nowadays and have to get 8 hours of sleep.
  84. I get teased for being a bad driver. I did once drive round a one-way system the wrong way. Twice, actually. But other than that and a few other minor discrepancies, I’m really not that bad and have (somehow) never had an accident.
  85. We’ve recently bought a brand new Suzuki Vitara and its lovely.
  86. I can’t ride a bike.
  87. I would like to be able to ride a bike as I love the idea of nice bike rides through the countryside. I just don’t like being off the ground.
  88. I’m definitely more of a country girl than a city girl.
  89. I really hate London. It scares me.
  90. I would love to live by the sea.
  91. I’m completely addicted to Vaseline on my lips. I can’t go anywhere without it and on the odd occasion that I forget to take it somewhere I have to go and buy some more or I get panicky.
  92. I like to drink through straws.
  93. I have to wear glasses for reading and driving so splashed out £300 on a pair of Prada ones but avoid wearing them as they are too heavy for my face.
  94. Likewise, I spent a fair amount of some designer sunnies last year to find that they make me feel like I have a blocked nose. Not what you want on holiday.
  95. I have a foot phobia. I can’t stand people’s feet.
  96. I don’t like having my hair done so only go to the hairdressers once a year.
  97. I recently went on my first spa day and loved it but stuck to a facial as I’m really ticklish and couldn’t risk a massage. Maybe one day.
  98. I’m really bad at doing my washing and will sometimes leave it weeks, only forced to do it when I finally run out of clean underwear.
  99. If I could afford it I would pay someone to do all my cleaning, washing etc. And I would have no shame in doing so.
  100. I love lists.