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Thursday, 24 November 2011

My Spicy Cornbread

Dawn has spent her whole life eating cornbread and it is definately her favourite form of bread.  When we met 15 years ago, I had never tasted it; now I have perfected it.  This is my normal recipe.  However occasionally I add some cheese. It's great with a bowl of my meat-free bean and lentil chili.  Best of all is that I use Dawn's Granny's cast iron skillet, which has been around for donkey's years and is so well-seasoned.

284 ml Buttermilk (one carton)
150g “Dunn Rivers” Cornmeal
150g Plain white Flour
4 chilli peppers, seeds removed and chopped
Tsp of Bicarbonate soda
Tsp of Salt
3 Medium Free Range Eggs
30 ml Groundnut oil
15g “Splenda”Sugar (or 1 Tbs of sugar)

1. Set the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Pour 15ml of groundnut oil into a 9 inch cast iron skillet.
3. Place the skillet in the oven to heat the oil.
4. Measure the cornmeal into a medium bowl.
5. Measure the flour into the same bowl.
6. Add the bicarbonate soda to the same bowl.
7. Add the Splenda/Sugar to the same bowl.
8. Add the salt to the same bowl.
9. Break eggs into a second bowl and gently beat.
10. Add the buttermilk to the eggs and gently beat.
11. Add 15ml of groundnut oil to the wet mixture.
12. Gently beat the mixture until light cream colour and smooth.
13. Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
14. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
15. Pour the creamed mixture into the well of dry ingredients.
16. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients until completely combined.
17. Stir in the chilli peppers.
18. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the oil around to coat the pan.
19. Carefully pour and spoon the wet cornbread mixture into the skillet using a spatula to get it all out of the bowl.
20. Swirl the skillet to even out the mixture.
21. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake for approx. 18 minutes.
22. Remove the skillet when the top has turned a golden brown.
23. Turn the cooked cornbread onto a cutting board and then turn over again onto a wire rack to cool.

This can be cut into pieces when it has cooled, wrapped in foil and frozen for later use. If frozen, defrost in fridge and then reheat in a preheated 200 degree oven for five or so minutes.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Boat Ride to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Fifteen years ago we took a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and enjoyed the memorable site of Lower Manhattan receding into the distance.  So we wanted to repeat the trip this time and also pop over to Ellis Island, too.  However, as the ferry pulled away from Battery Park, the physical loss became more and more apparent.  The World Trade Centre twin towers were gone.  The landscape that had been ingrained into our memories was gone for good.

However, this was New York.  Not only was it the city that never sleeps (and so good they named it twice), but it was full of tourists, school kids and, so it seemed, couples like we had been a decade and a half ago, capturing moments that in years to come they may look back fondly and say, "Do you remember this?"

The day we arrived in New York City was the 125th anniversary of Lady Liberty's dedication.   I am sure she has had many touch ups since then. But she looked as proud and welcoming that day as am I sure she did that October day in 1886.   Sadly we weren't able to visit to crown like we had 15 years before as the interior had been closed for the start of eleven months' renovation work. 

After a wander around the Statue and visit to the gift shop, where we bought loads of souvenirs, we boarded the ferry again for the short ride to Ellis Island.  Neither of us had visited the small island that had been the first port of call for millions of Europeans arriving in the US and was the nation's busiest immigration station between 1892 and 1954 went it was closed.  Incredibly, 450,000 passed through its doors before the short journey to Manhattan in that first year.  And that was at a time before transatlantic jets.

The ferry ride back to Manhattan gave us a prime view of One World Trade Centre with a few of the old World Trade Centre buildings visible in the foreground with their distinctive green-domed tops.  I don't know how long it will be before we make a trip back.  I just can't wait until we can take this same ferry ride for a third time together and see the majestic building creating a new skyline that will be loved by generations to come.

If you want to see more photos from our trip click on the link below.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Dinner at Blossom: 187 Ninth Avenue, NYC

After a long flight from London, we didn't fancy traipsing around New York looking for somewhere to eat, but we were more than happy to walk ten blocks to 187 Ninth Avenue to Blossom.  Dawn had done a huge amount of research back home and this organic vegan restaurant had appeared in several books full of recommendations.  Especially as it been voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant in 2008 and 2009 in the New York Time Out.  Turning up without a reservation, we were pleased to be shown to a table for two.  Being asked whether we could free up the table within 90 minutes is never a problem for us.
As usual, we both looked through the menu and then came to an agreement as to what we would like to share.  We both agreed on the an appetiser called Cape Cod Cake, which (as you guess) did not contain any cod. Instead, the fish flavour came from hiziki seaweed, and was made with tofu, a crispy coating and vegan tartar sauce.  It tasted pretty good.

Dawn felt like she was spoilt for choice, but the Hickory Basted Tempeh was too much for her to resist.  Coming from the South, Dawn had an affiliation with hickory, and since becoming a vegetarian, it was the closest she would get to BBQ pork.  The tempeh was served on some collard greens (another of Dawn's favourites) and some roasted fingerling potatoes with a horseradish crème fraiche.  Tempeh, like bean curd/tofu, absorbs all the flavours of the spices, but unlike bean curd/tofu, has a firm texture, which makes it ideal for simulating meat. Best of all is that it's not tough, fatty, or gristly like meat.

I, on the other hand, went for the lasagna.  To give the impression of meat this time, the chef used ground seitan with a tofu marinara.  Seiten, like tempeh, is firmer than tofu and perfect for this meal.  Sitting on a bed of sautéed broccoli rabe and topped with tapioca cheese, this was the lightest lasagna I had ever eaten.  The portions may have been  a little on the small size, but we had sufficient. 

We made our way back to The Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue, contented and pleased with our choice of both restaurant and dishes.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Our Visit to the 9-11 Memorial on November 1st

November 1st was the fifteenth anniversary of the day Dawn and I met for the very first time on top of the Empire State Building.  But we wanted the special day to be more than just a repeat of that cold day in '96.  We wanted new memories we could look back on in the years to come and visiting the 9-11 Memorial at Ground Zero definitely would do that.

Walking around the memorial fountains was extremely moving and both of us were deeply moved as we passed the names of all those who perished in the Twin Towers whether in 1993 or 2001, in the field in Philadelphia or in Washington.  The overwhelming feeling we had was grief for the thousands of loved ones left behind or who witnessed first hand these tragic events.

The two fountains were also a fitting memorial with ever-flowing water falls, each one with a square hole in the centre of each fountain that gave the impression that the water fell into infinity. It was as if they both had the equivalent of an eternal flame making sure we never forget.

Adjacent to the 9-11 Memorial is 1 World Trade Centre, formally named Freedom Tower, a new office building gradually rising out of the rubble that was Ground Zero replacing one of the lost towers. When we visited the site, signs said that it was halfway complete.  When this 105 storey structure, which will stand 1776 feet high, is completed in 2013, it will be the tallest building in the USA and one of the tallest in the world.  We look forward to one day returning to New York and visiting the top just as we did the top of one of the Twin Towers when they stood proud and magnificent at the tip of Manhattan.

As we left the 9-11 Memorial we noticed at the base of 1 World Trade Centre the above. An image that seemed to prove that although many lives were cruelly taken from this world, America will carry on and will continue to stand tall.