Daily Prompt: Ring of Fire surrounding my dish of chilli con carne

Do you love hot and spicy foods or do you avoid them for fear of what tomorrow might bring?

Veg at Dagenham Heathway

I knew there must have been a reason why I took the photo of the peppers on the Dagenham Heathway market, to illustrate my famous spicy food blog of course. The shop owner, of Indian origin, looked suspiciously as I produced my camera and began to snap away. He probably thought I was taking photos as proof for the British Food Inspection Agency in case there had been complaints about the quality of his produce. I reassured him that it was for a blog (I do not think the word existed in his Gujarati-english dictionary) and he realised that I was just a misguided tourist taking photos of the local colour – in the eastern part of London. Actually the local colour would have been more in the shape of pie and mash or fish and chips, but that is not a dish famous for its fire and burnt lips.

I was a deprived youngster in this way of things. The only spices my mother knew were salt and pepper and vinegar for the chips. Of course she magically produced mint for a sauce when lamb was served, but in those far away days spicy foods were unknown in the east end of London. The only foreign food would have been bagels and salt beef from the Jewish population of this part of London. Sometimes dad would bring bagels from the Sunday morning market in Brick Lane/Petticoat Lane, but that was the beginning and end of anything non-British on our dining table.

Eventually I left the bland food shores of England and arrived in Switzerland and …… lived with a Pakistani family for my first two years. The man of the house was Pakistani. Actually he was from North India, but in 1946 when India split into Pakistan and India things changed. The muslims living in North India all moved to Pakistan, and the Hindus living in east and West India, which became Pakistan, all moved to India. It was quite a large walkabout, but the food remained. The lady of the house was Swiss, but she cooked Indian style most of the time, so this was my big chance. It was not just a matter of spicing with chilli powder, but cooking the food in spice combinations. Sometimes a small red chilli might be hidden in the middle of a meat patty, that was a surprise. The first bite was OK, but when you did not know about the explosion in the middle, it could be a burning surprise.

I survived and even got to like the food and cook it. I like hot, spicy foods and my chili con carne is comparable with a volcano. It looks harmless but after the first spoonful the weak amongst us ask for a glass of water when it begins to erupt in the mouth. I was thinking of putting a fire extinguisher on the table for those that had water appearing in their eyes, their complexion turning the colour of a sunset – you know the one with the fiery sky in the background, but up to now we have all survived.

The only spice I am not really allowed to use is cumin, also known as jeera which is used in 100% of Indian food. I do not mind it, but there are some European taste buds which do not like it in my family, no names mentioned. I do sometimes smuggle it into my chilli con carne. I bought a special chilli mix and it definitely has traces of cumin, but by the time I have set everything on fire with lashings of chilli, it almost goes unnoticed and everyone is busy with the fire extinguisher.

I am still trying to work out the bit about what tomorrow might bring. My usage of hot spices is so thorough that it disinfects the stomach juices to such an extent that there is no danger. All germs, viruses and infections flee from the onslaught of the chilli purge. They have no chance of survival. They burn before causing trouble. I would worry more if I ate a plate of beans, now that is another problem, but will not be discussed here. To continue: I like spicy food and so my family also eats spicy food.

Of course, this is not a daily occurrence in my cooking; my food travels all over the world. We mainly eat Swiss, or Italian, perhaps sometimes Chinese and of course a little English remains with fish and chips.

Today we had cravattine pasta (pasta looking like little bow ties) and Kohlrabi (cabbage turnip?) in a béchamel sauce. I always make my béchamel sauce with cream and flavour it with aromat, Dijon mustard and black pepper – so no danger of setting the lunch on fire. We generally do not eat meat at lunch, only in the evening. I am not a vegetarian, but can enjoy a meal with just vegetables.

Daily Prompt: Ring of Fire surround my dish of chilli con carne


Daily Prompt: Junk Food Junkie

What’s your biggest junk food weakness? Tell us all about it in its sugary, salty, glory.

A speciality of the Spreewald in Germany

A glass of pickled cucumber: they have many names. One of the ingredients in a “Mac” – you know those delicious buns filled with flat pressed meat patties, sold in MacDonalds: the king of junk and fast food. Have you ever looked behind the scenes, especially in summer when the weather tends to be warm and inviting for various flying objects? No? Then I would not if I was you. You will find a pool of vinegar with these delicious green cucumbers swimming in it, if you can see behind the cloud of flies that it attracts. Still want to order a Big Mac? Of course, what the eye does not see is not a problem.

The pickled cucumbers shown on the picture are something very special. They are the pickled cucumbers from the area of the Spree woods in the Eastern part of Germany and in the old DDR days of Germany, they were still a well known product of the area. The Spree woods is a region with many rivers and an ideal place for the growing and production of these pickled cucumbers. When I was a working lady, exporting goods all over the world, I had contacts in this part of Germany. After the reunion of East and West Germany one of my contacts always brought me a glass from the area.

But now back to the junky bit. Does a golden oldie like me really eat all this junk stuff? Not really, but if I was starving and my only rescue would be in the Macdonalds, KFC washed down with a cup of Starbucks, then I would eat it/drink it because I would have no choice. My problem is that I like to know what is actually contained in the food I eat, and for this reason I am mainly a do-it-yourself cook.

I have never eaten a chicken nugget, I like my chicken with legs and wings and seeing all the bits and pieces of the body. I could make a chicken nugget myself. Some time ago I watched a video about how these chicken nuggets are made. If this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth then I am glad I have never subjected my digestive organs to this food wonder. Do they use the breast of chicken? Of course not, far too expensive. Perhaps the meat from the limbs – forget it. We are left with the body so we are nearly there. Now imagine a skeleton, just the bare bones. Luckily chicken bones are on the softer side, so easily mashed in a suitable chopping machine. You are left with a sort of pink sloshy substance. Just add some flavour and a few artificial ingredients to stabilise the whole thing. Form the remaining mass into nugget shapes, coat it with bread crumbs (although I am not really sure if it is actually bread) and you have your nugget. Just cook it and eat it, yummy.

I like cooking. I sometimes lull myself to sleep thinking about what I will be cooking the next day for lunch. The problem might be that Mr. Swiss and I have differing ideas about what we like. I like to do something different now and again, this might or might not work. I am still not sure about this week. We both decided to have a rice day, we both like rice. I might do an asparagus risotto, rice with tomato and courgette, or even a colonial rice, you know with curry powder, fruit and some chopped chicken for good measure: all smothered in whipped cream.

I decided to do something completely different, inspired by an episode of the TV programme “Master Chef”. The main ingredient was chick pea, I like chick peas: a remainder from my Indian cooking days (I lived almost two years with an Indian/Swiss family). Chick peas need a spicy background and the cook on TV was sprinkling the chilli powder all over it very generously, so I though what he does I can as well. I have a special mixture in the garam masala style (every Indian housewife has her own spice mixture) and so I decided this would be it. I also mixed some spring oinions and chopped tomato and eventually dinner was served. Mr. Swiss found it quite spicy, quite hot, but after the first try he decided his taste buds had been fired up to such an extent that he no longer noticed that the food was on the spicy hot side. I quite like it like that, so there you see the difference. Even after 46 years of marriage, you still have different tastes in food. He did mention not to cook that dish again.

The Easter holidays begin tomorrow and so the fridge and kitchen cupboards and brim full of food. Careful planning was necessary but after a conference, Mr. Swiss and I decided what would be on the menu. Nothing hot and spicy, just plain cooking, however I am cooking lamb racks on Sunday and I was wondering if just a little chilli – no let’s keep it plain and simple, although I do like my lamb with a good soaking of garlic. I find if everyone eats garlic, it is not such a problem, we all smell the same.

Daily Prompt: Junk Food Junkie”

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