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Posts Tagged ‘ingredients’

Hibernation

Criminy it’s been a long while.  I can barely remember what it is to celebrate been so busy shivering.  And as for getting up in the morning – grrr fuggedaboudit if you can.  All that’s left for a sensitive soul trapped inside a chilly body is to cook, and cook good, food to warm the cockles without spending a fortune: between Christmas and the Credit Crunch it’s a blessed relief to put on a decent lunch.  To that end, I dug out my ancient french semi-glazed earthenware bean pot from the darkest recess of the attic.  I was always too timid to place it over direct heat, but since crossing that Rubicon I’ve been simply bowled over by the fabulous job it does on dried pulses: it just can’t be beat, nothing else has ever come close in achieving the perfectly cooked, mealy yet tender texture, even and especially with the hitherto-notoriously-impossible-to-get-right butter beans and chick peas.   Here’s a small selection of what’s been emerging from my kitchen, no tinned pulses here:

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I’m particularly proud of the fishcake/fishbomb, inspired by the tasty depth-charge served at Fishworks on Swallow Street and coated with panko breadcrumbs – waiting patiently in the pantry wings since last summer’s Wing Yip spree – but what should these friable morsels adorn next?  Hmm…just before Christmas Mr T’s starter chez Brasserie Blanc was the most delectable pair of Gruyere croquettes so I might have a go at replicating those … I foresee a bit of enjoyable research on my horizon!

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Do you ever buy delicious edibles in jars or tubs?  If so, you’ve no doubt acquired more than a few items preserved in olive oil.  Now this idea is so obvious perhaps I’m just a slow learner, but until recently, once the olives, or sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes or anchovies were gone I used to throw away the oil left behind.

And then it dawned on me: that way flies food waste and for a frugal hedonist that way lies madness too.

Food manufacturers go to some lengths to keep us buying the fancy “deli” stuff aimed at our sophisticated palates.  This usually means adding herbs and/or garlic to enhance the flavour of the main attraction, so while blithely using the contents of the jar, might it not be a really good idea to also make use of the olive oil it’s been swimming in to augment and deepen the flavours of your dish – or even the whole meal?
sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil

So if you’re cooking up beef daube with olives, brown the beef in oil from the olive jar (try anchovy for an authentic southern Rhône flavour) – or start your sofrito sizzling with sun-dried tomato oil for an Italian ragù.  Try frying the aubergines in artichoke oil next time you make caponata.  Kick off a pilaf with the same; add a few drops to plain couscous, a tablespoon or two to pizza dough…

rosemary branch in olive oilI have even been known to strain the oil into a decanter and poke in a couple of rosemary sprigs – hey presto, rosemary oil for focaccia!

Use in almost any recipe instead of your usual olive oil.  If you devote half a shelf in the fridge door to these almost empty jars and use them up quickly, not only is the extra depth of flavour well worth it, you’ll be able to save up your pennies for some really special olive oil.

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Yes, you read that right – oak smoked flour from Bacheldre Watermill – and with that great packaging, how could I resist?

Actually it’s oak smoked stoneground strong malted blend flour and as I don’t share the English predilection for malty bits in my bread I thought my first loaf rather ho-hum. The smokiness was enjoyable though, and quite a bit cheaper than setting up a wood-fired oven.

Possible solution: I sifted out those malty bits and fed them to the birds then made a fresh batch of dough, but the resultant loaf was still too worthy, in a knitted oatmeal kind of way, albeit with a crust to stop traffic (literally).

My solution: blend it with regular flour at a 1:5 ratio.  Result: a whiff of wood smoke and wheatiness with an excellent rise.  Better than saving up for a wood-fired oven any day.

£2.85 for 1.5kg from Waitrose

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Yesterday I happened upon a little pot of tarragon at the local flower stall.  I’m a big fan of tarragon’s manifold culinary applications and at a mere £1 it was irresistible, but while scrabbling in my wallet I thought I glimpsed another one, so with my £2 coin I bought the pair.

So, you’re thinking they look completely different, eh? Well they did to me too after I came home and actually read the labels. No problem finding uses for tarragon, but what on earth am I going to do with hyssop? And can you tell which is which?
A quick google turns up little of use.  Yet another dubious, labour-intensive remedy for sore throat, bronchitis and so on and so on.  One of the 130 mystery ingredients of Chartreuse (only another 129 to discover then). Nothing worth doing in the culinary sense, which a tentative nibble confirms. And I have to share this quote:

Its camphor-like smell reminds you of the sick room.

Well, yum yum yum. The same website suggests it as a substitute for mint or rosemary but I’ll stick with the originals, thanks.

Here’s what I learnt:

  • impulse herb buys are not necessarily a good idea
  • always read the label
  • tarragon and hyssop are indistinguisable if you’re in a hurry
  • tarragon and hyssop taste very different indeed
  • the lady at the flower stall made an extra £1 yesterday
  • buy more tarragon

Am I missing something?

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