Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Any gluttons for punishment?

I dare say some of you remember the last installment of that fantasy trilogy I've been writing for far too long..? One or two of you might even have bought it, for which much appreciation (and sympathy). Well, the wait for part 2 is over, and here it is:
For those who were completely baffled by what was really going on in the first book, things in this one start to become much clearer... although there are of course some big unanswered questions to tie up later. Anyway, I really hope some of you enjoy it as a bit of a diversion from reality, and if anyone wanted to review one or other of them on Amazon, that would be fabulous. I've started to pick up the thread in the third book as well, although it won't be ready for a while.

On the subject of books, albeit a completely different one, my aunt has recently published a historical novel set in mid Wales a couple of centuries back. This was a time when the baptist minister ruled, mistakes were hard to forgive, and life (especially for women) could be very hard indeed. It's not my normal sort of read, but I'm actually finding it beautifully written and utterly compelling... definitely recommended if this sounds like your sort of thing.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Chilli oil

In China, the normal table condiments are rice vinegar and chilli oil. (Soy sauce is only ever used during cooking.) One of the things that we have missed since coming back from China is the chilli oil. This is not the sort of thing that can be bought in a shop, so we used a recipe from Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop. (As an aside, this is an excellent book, and I really wish that I had taken it to China with me instead of leaving it in storage.) This is how we did it.

The chilli oil has two ingredients: dried chillis and oil. The chillis used in China are hot but not too hot. We couldn't find exactly the right sort here, so we chose to use large Kashmiri chillies. The small Indian dried chillis would have been too hot.

Joe started off by frying the chillis in a little oil. Dry-frying them resulted in burnt chillis, and we had to start again.

While Joe chopped the chillis, I heated groundnut oil until it was smoking, then left it to cool for a few minutes. I warmed up (and sterilised) the jar using hot water, then boiling water, in the same way I would as for making jam. I did this well before pouring the oil in, so that there was time for it to dry. (Normally I would put jars into a low oven to dry them off, but we don't have an oven at the moment.) I was fairly sure the jar wouldn't crack, but just in case we put it into the sink before pouring the oil in.

This is what the contents of the jar looked like shortly after putting the oil in.

The flavour and colour took a couple of days to develop. Now it tastes exactly like the stuff on the tables in the Chinese noodle shops. Yum!