Squash curry ( Dec 10, 2008)

I really fancied pumpkin curry the other day...even though I've never tried it. I didn't know, however, that pumpkins were no longer in season so ended up buying acorn squash, which I was told, is very similar. This recipe is a mish-mash of a recipe from VegWeb and my own invention. It's not a bad curry but maybe it's a bit bland and is very mild, due to the fact that I had a little accident when adding the coconut milk and the whole can plopped into the pan and over the hob- what a mess!! I kept adding more chilli powder and some of the other spices to make it tastier but it was very mild and as I said before a bit plain. It tastes a bit like squash Korma only a bit blander. I'm going to work on this recipe and when I have an improved version, I'll give you the new improved version. I also discovered that acorn squash is very difficult to peel so if I find a better way to prepare it or anyone has any advice, let me know. Scoop out the pumpkin/squash seeds, maybe you could toast them and add them to the curry. Sorry for not having the metric measurements.

Squash curry (serves 2-3 people)

1/2 acorn squash/pumpkin, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2cm fresh ginger root, grated
1/2 cup of mangetout/peas
1 small to medium sized potato
1/2 can of coconut milk
1/4 of 15oz can chickpeas
1/2 small courgette
pinch salt
1 cup of basmati rice
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli powder( If you like a really spicy curry, add more. 1/4 tsp wasn't enough I found and I prefer a mild curry!)
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Boil the potato in salted water till just slightly underdone.
Heat olive oil in frying pan and add garlic, ginger and all the spices and cook for a few minutes.
Add onions and fry till soft and transparent.
Meanwhile, boil basmati rice in water with salt.
Add courgette and mangetout and cook for a few minutes. Add squash, potato and chickpeas and cook until everything is covered in curry spices. Add a pinch of salt.
Add coconut milk and cook at a low temperature until squash and potato are tender, taking care that the curry doesn't become too dry. Serve with basmati rice and Naan bread.


Birthday meal (4th Dec,2008)

As it was my birthday this week, we went out for a meal in one of the many restaurants I want to try, Soba Lounge. The Soba Lounge is a very chic, elegant and trendy place, some people might say that it was posh. It has a lounge bar in one half of the bottom floor and the other half is a restaurant and the restaurant as a whole is quite big as it takes up about 3 floors of the building. The decor is very stylish and modern with a Zen-like twist and a water fountain feature wall, which adds to the "Oh" factor. We were seated at a table complete with two smooth dark grey stones to add the finishing touches and carry on the Zen theme to the place settings. The restaurant was dimly-lit and each table had a candle, creating a romantic mood(even though our candle kept going out...the waitress kept having to replace it, at least 3 times!)A friend had recommended a cocktail but unfortunately it was no longer on the menu so I tried a Pacific Rim cocktail instead, which had vanilla Absolut, granadine, blue Curacao and maybe pineapple juice. It was good but a little on the potent side for me. Service was very good and prompt. They brought us a little appetizer while we were waiting for our order, pitta triangles and a spicy cucumber salad. My boyfriend, who didn't use to like spicy food and who can now eat spicier than me, loved it but I found it a little too spicy. We shared a starter of mushroom and spinach dumplings with a spicy dipping sauce, nice but maybe a little on the bland side, my boyfriend then had a salmon dish and I had a Vietnamese caramel pork dish served with winter squash and garlic green beans. The food was really nice although my pork was a bit too fatty. We then shared a dessert, asian pear with gingerbread, which was heavenly. Portions were just right not the usual humungous portions you get in the States, which you can't finish and have to take home the leftovers in a doggie bag. The restaurant is a little on the expensive side but it is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Pittsburgh. It has been voted one of the best pan-Asian/fusion food places in the city and is also a great lounge bar. As for my pressies, my friends know me well. My boyfriend got me a nice warm brown winter coat a la JLo, a new purse and a cupcake calendar....so watch this space, I'll be getting down to some serious baking and a friend bought me a nice recipe book so I can write down all my fav recipes. Unfortunately, the photos of the food in the restaurant didn't turn out as they are too dark so this entry is pictureless!

An all-American Thanksgiving( 4th Dec, 2008)

This is the first time I've ever experienced Thanksgiving and as we're in the USA, we're definitely in the right place. We were invited over to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. There was a big group of us, about 20 in total, but as we are an international group consisting mainly of Spanish people, I'm not sure how authentic the Thanksgiving meal was but it was delicious anyway. My effort as you already know was the pumpkin pie and mince pies.

Our friends had their work cut out for them, slaving over a hot stove and cooking roast turkey, gravy, apple and sausage stuffing(although as it wasn't stuffed in the bird, here they actually call it dressing)and mashed potatoes with sour cream and chives and of course cranberry sauce. Everything was homemade apart from the cranberry sauce and everything was really tasty. The turkey was nice and tender, not dry at all, the stuffing was yummy...in fact, I joked that they could come and make my Christmas dinner for me. I will definitely be wanting all the recipes. It was all very professional...they were using a meat thermometer and injecting the juices into the turkey which my family certainly have never done.

Our Japanese friend brought chicken yakitori. Lots of people brought desserts including crepes,quesada (a Spanish dessert a bit like cheesecake), a Catalan dessert(panellets) which is like marzipan balls rolled in pine nuts.

I was as stuffed as the turkey by the end of it. I was a little disappointed as the quesada seemed more successful than my pumpkin pie and mince pies. It was really good though, although in my opinion it's a little plain. I also tried eggnog(alcoholic of course!) for the first time and have been made a convert...so creamy and light...just don't think about the calories!!!It's got at least 12 eggs in it!I will definitely be making that in the future!

We spent the rest of the night playing poker, Dance Revolution, Singstar Superstar(a karoke type game of which I have found another new passion!) and playing a card game Werewolves. So, all in all we had a great Thanksgiving, great fun, great food(as you can tell by the photos) and above all great company. We finished at 3am,just in time to dash off to join the queues for the sales on Black Friday although in the end we were too late!

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