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"Tasty enough on its own, but humble enough to not take away from the main event" OTK Extra Good Things

Just to make clear, this is not a post about the whole concept of side dishes. It's actually one of my bits and pieces weekend posts. Yes they always seem to occur at weekends. I am, however, hoping that the items in the post will meet the criteria of my opening quote.

So let's start with the above dish. I have been through my usual process with this kind of post by trying out different words which mean a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Not enough to make a whole post out of, but interesting and worth passing on. I started out with 'extra' and so I immediately thought of the OTK book Extra Good Things and opened it at random to find this dish - the extra in this case being the crispy garlic, which as they say, is extremely versatile - sprinkle it on anything. And keep the oil you fried it in too. The dish is a wonderfully simple fry up of onions fried in sumac which are eventually added to fried silver beet. Raisins, more garlic cloves and lemon juice are in the mix too. Sounds exactly right as a side dish for almost anything, and, of course, infinitely variable as to the vegetables you use.

An interview with the Recipe Tin Eats Lady - Nagi Maehashi

My friend Wendy up there in Queensland is a regular reader of my blog - Many thanks Wendy. And a day or so ago she sent me a link to an interview with Nagi Maehashi that she attended at a library up there. You can watch it too - it is long, but quite interesting and includes a cooking demonstration.

I'm guessing this is just one of many interviews she has done around the country to promote her book - Dinner - which I recently gave to my younger granddaughter as a Christmas present to ecstatic thank yous. She uses the Recipe Tin Eats website a lot you see. As do many Australians. There is probably no need to promote it as it is shooting up the bestseller charts - well she has more than 5 million followers worldwide so no real need to promote I guess. I wrote about the blog back in 2020 - see here - so I will say no more here. It really is an aside. Interesting to hear how somebody makes a huge success of a blog though.

Smoked almonds

My husband eats a lot of smoked almonds. So many in fact that his dentist tells him he is damaging his teeth. I say 'so many' but of course I don't really mean he eats them all the time, but probably more than I realise. Actually when I think about it he likes a lot of smoked things. However, I suspect the smoked almonds he buys from the supermarket are not actually smoked but have the smoked flavour added to them artificially. I tried to find out how but have failed, although there are recipes out there for smoking your own.

But of course you don't have to snack on them. You can do things with them too:

"Smoked almonds are a magic ingredient, upping the flavour in many dishes.I like them as a quick garnish (chopped and sprinkled over blanched broccoli with red chillies, say) or blitzed and folded through a cake batter." Ravneet Gill

And she demonstrates this by providing a recipe for Chocolate cookies with smoked almonds and torched marshmallows in The Guardian. There are, of course, other recipes out there, but you could also devise your own. Chop them up with things and sprinkle them over stuff à l'Ottolenghi. Like the crispy garlic.

Incidentally they are not always available which is mildly curious as there are always roasted and raw almonds. Maybe they haven't got the supply and demand thing sorted out yet.

Christmas foodie gifts

Christmas is definitely coming so it's time to think about foodie gifts. Or is it? The magazines and blogs are full of ideas of things to make from the gimmicky to the actually delicious but do your friends and family really want a jar of chutney or bag of gingerbread men? Well I do know my grandsons like gingerbread cookies - a lot - so I may make some of them. But I suspect the rest of them don't really want another jar of chutney or jam.

There are other things you can do of course. Make a hamper of all their favourite things - although first you have to find out what their favourite things are. Vouchers for their favourite restaurant. A bottle of their favourite tipple. I guess my most successful foodie gift was the long ago one of my home-made cookbook of my sons' then ten favourite dishes. They had left home and I suspect not cooking much. They were delighted. These days they don't need that sort of thing, although I have occasionally made up a kind of hamper with a new recipe and all you would need to make it.

Of course I shall be making jam. Every day I check my plum trees that are nearing ripeness and keeping an eye on the birds. All of the trees seem to have large fruit this year. I guess it was all that rain, but to my mind the plums are still rock hard. But these days I dole out jars of jam every now and then anyway, so that's not special. So no I don't think I shall be giving Christmas foodie gifts this year - however much fun it is to make them. I'll just make them for myself.

Though I was tempted by Ottolenghi's Coffee and cacao-infused tequila. He said it was great for those who loved a coffee martini - my ex almost daughter-in-law or a white Russian - I suspect my son. There was even a recipe for a new cocktail to make with it - tequila frappé cocktail. I noticed that when we were on holiday in Port Douglas the young ones - well they're middle-aged now but to me they will always be young - had a cocktail each evening before dinner. So maybe I should think along those lines. And unlike limoncello it doesn't take months to mature.

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