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Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

enoki-dokey

Who could resist a heavily discounted package of enoki mushrooms?  And yet it comes with a dilemma: what to do with the contents…

enoki wrapped in pancetta with chives

I don’t do stir-fry, which puts 90% of recipe suggestions out of the question,  I don’t subscribe to that (largely north american) practice of throwing a number of costly ingredients together in a bowl and calling it a salad, and neither am I keen on mushrooms in their raw state;  options diminishing by the nano-second.   But I dislike wasting food more than anything:  time to get my imagination into gear.

Inspiration wafted up from the pages of  Lorenza’s Antipasti. This fab charity shop find delivers masses of recipes but also, and what I love most of all in any decent cookbook, interesting and informative introductions to its several sections: lots of text!  It’s beautifully organised: Part I is a pair of essays, Types of Antipasti and The Antipasto Pantry, while Parts II and III are Finger Food and Fork Food respectively, both sub-divided, and Part IV is Preserves and Basics.

I used the method for rotolini – or involtini – and wrapped a few enoki with chives in half-slices of pancetta and baked them for about 15 minutes at Gas 4-ish (375F, 190C, moderate-to-hot) to crisp: simple, genius!

photo of enoki and pancetta rollsA delightful nibble, with the appearance – and texture even – of some strange sea-creature; a hitherto unknown species of squid, perhaps?  Definitely to be repeated; this time I seasoned with nutmeg and ground Espelette pepper but next time, furthering the seafood idea, a sprinkle of dashi-no-moto and some shredded nori could be killer-delish: watch this space…

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Mmmm, yummy yum yum.  A brand new juicy cookbook from a great galumphing goofy guy with big heart, bold -not bolshy- bearing and a neat turn of phrase.  I shot to the online reservation page of my local library’s website and lo and behold picked up Valentine Warner’s hefty tome a mere two days later.   The writing is delightful, most recipes have an entertaining vignette to accompany and there are plenty of tasty morsels for tryouts.  As for this one, as there’s not much wild boar to be had (legally at least) on the Kent & Sussex border, pork had to be substitute in his deliciously different recipe.  A fine dish for a dim and damp winter night: the following is my adaptation and scaled-down version-for-two-with-leftovers-for-lunch of Valentine’s Tuscan original, which actually serves 6-8.
porkanchovyolive

Pork, Anchovy and Black Olive Stew on Polenta

500g boneless pork (shoulder or leg meat) in large-ish chunks
olive oil (or use anchovy oil from the tin)
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, peeled
6 anchovy, fillets (use the whole tin if you’re opening one especially)
1 onion, diced finely
1 fennel bulb, diced finely
thick strips of rind of 1/2 lemon
2 large glasses big-boned red wine (preferably Italian)
1 cinnamon stick
1 TBS tomato purée
4 TBS niçoise olives

Heat a couple of TBS olive oil with the rosemary sprig in a heavy, preferably cast-iron pot.  When fairly warm add the garlic cloves and anchovies, stirring about so their flesh melts to a sludge.  Add the onion and fennel and cook covered for 10-15 minutes until seriously cooked through, only adding the juice from the lemon if it looks like drying out – which it probably won’t.

Throw in the pork (no need to brown it first!) and stir, then add the wine, cinnamon stick and tomato purée; stir again then tip the lot into a small slow cooker set to auto.  Cover and leave to bubble away for several hours (I’d give it a minimum of four) then toss in the olives, stir about and leave for another hour or two.

Serve over polenta with a scattering of gremolata if you’re not meeting clients the next day, just parsley if you are… and steamed spinach on the side.

Incidentally, this Tuscan method and flavour combination appears frequently now I come to think of it.  I have cooked lamb in just the same way, but never before with anchovies and now I wonder why not: they give such a wonderful rich, toothsome savour when melted down into the background, the very essence of umami.  Lemon peel and rosemary contribute their own pungent perfumes to an outstanding sauce, thickened only by softened onion and fennel, which now occurs to me is reminiscent of osso bucco – see? nothing new under the sun, yet new delights to discover every day.  It’s the miracle of cooking.

What to Eat Now by Valentine Warner

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One of my all-time favourite dishes is brandade de morue – salt cod whipped up with olive oil and mashed potato plus a wee hint or more of garlic and a scatter of parsley.  Much as I adore the taste, though, I’m not about to pack in my suitcase a whiffy hunk of dried North Atlantic cod just so I can then rehydrate it under a running cold tap for a couple of days before cooking.

pureeAuthenticity be damned in this instance and come to think of it, I don’t remember when I last peeled a potato to make mash – certainly not since discovering this wonder-product from Lidl: 99p for a four-pouch box.  If you’ve ever read the ingredients list on a packet of Smash and its ilk, the relative purity of this product will come as some surprise, for it reads thus: Dehydrated potatoes (97%), salt, emulsifier (E471), nutmeg, spices, stabiliser (E450i), preservative: sodium metabisuphite (E223), antioxidant (E304), Acid (E330).  May contain traces of milk: that’s it. 

And before you start squealing in horror at the E numbers allow me to enlighten:

  • E330 = ascorbic acid = Vitamin C
  • E304 = ascorbic acid ester = Vitamin C+palmitic acid

The others are arguably possibly slightly dodgy, in that:

  • E223 can be an allergen, not recommended for consumption by children
  • E450i = disodium diphosphate, high intakes of which may upset the body’s calcium/phosphate equilibrium, so excessive use may lead to imbalance of mineral levels, which could potentially lead to damage to bone density and osteoporosis (drinking too much fizzy anything destroys your bones too)
  • E471 = mono and diglycerides of fatty acids; could be animal in origin or from genetically modified soya.

brandadefumee
I can live with that, especially when pretty much all you have to do is scald 250ml milk with 500ml water and sprinkle one sachet over the top for some pretty good pommes purées.  It’s definitely French-style though so don’t even think of using this stuff for fishcakes – for that you need the real McCoy! The consistency is purrrfect however, for a creamy brandade. I take a few fillets of smoked fish – here I was fortunate enough to have hot-smoked sea bass and cold-smoked haddock cruising around the freezer – and poach them in the milk & water with finely sliced garlic, a strip of lemon peel, bay leaf and a pinch of saffron.  I then remove the fillets, skin and flake them hot in the few minutes while the potato flakes do their magic in the hot liquid, then stir the fish back in with a fork to blend. Sometimes I shred them finely and actually whisk the mix to more closely approximate brandade but it’s not strictly necessary by any means.
smokyfishmash

Piled into a ceramic dish and finished off in a hot oven it’s a fantastically hearty meal for two on a cold night, accompanied by a woodcutter’s pile of steamed carrots and courgettes and a lightly oaked chardonnay.  Somehow winter doesn’t seem so bad after all…

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ratatouille1
Well hey, I’m not going to pay a visit to our place in Nice and swan about its perfect little kitchen, brave the snooty sales ladies at Alziari for a tin of their unctuous olive oil, fossick about the farmers’ stalls for vegetables and forage for fresh herbs on the Cours Saleya and NOT idle away an idyllic afternoon preparing the greatest Niçoise cliché of all, which also just happens to be one of my favourite vegetable dishes ever, now am I?  Its fall from fashion since its 80s heyday probably had much to do with the ghastly glutinous supermarket tinned travesties I remember not enjoying at all – and I only resurrected this recipe having enjoyed the real McCoy so much Chez Palmyre I had to recreate it myself at home. So delicious it could turn you vegetarian, ladies and gentlemen: I give you ratatouïlle.
vegetable market
Follow the correct principles using decent ingredients and you simply cannot go wrong.  I’ve never made the same one twice – vegetables vary in ripeness, juiciness, depth of flavour and the way they’re sliced or chopped makes a great deal of difference – but I’ve never made a bad one either.   Folk can get so precious about this sort of classic recipe but the fact is there is no one classic recipe.  In its home town nobody makes it the same as their neighbour, so why should you?  Just don’t undercook the vegetables nor stew them together without giving each its initial independent sauté – far less hassle than one might suppose. Oh – and don’t overdo the tomato.
rata2

Roughshod Ratatouïlle Niçoise

1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced fine
4 – 6 medium sized, tasty tomatoes, chopped
good olive oil

1 red & 1 green sweet pepper, in .5cm slices 5 cm or so long
1 aubergine, in .5cm dice (do not peel!)
4 small courgettes, in 1cm slices
thyme, salt, pepper + a sliver of orange peel if you have it

Preferably in a cocotte, but if not at least in a high sided saucepan, gently fry the sliced onion in a couple of tablespoons olive oil until softening, then slip in the garlic and sizzle briefly before adding the tomatoes.  Stir to mix, drop in the thyme (and orange peel if using) with a pinch of salt then leave to cook down steadily on a low heat while you sauté the other vegetables.

I think it a nonsense to use separate pans for each vegetable – although one must respect their individual characteristics and sauté them separately – so take a wide and heavy-based frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and toss in the peppers.  Cook over a medium heat for 5-odd minutes until softened then add them to the pan of onion and tomato; stir to combine and continue cooking down gently.

Same pan, two tablespoons of olive oil: heat and throw in the aubergines.  Cook fairly briskly, tossing the dice about so they don’t stick, for between 5 and 10 minutes until they are definitely cooked, then tip into the other pan.

p1060061

Same deal with the courgettes: perhaps a little less oil and a gentler heat needed here.  Do make sure they have really softened sufficiently before adding to the ratatouille pot as they will not cook much further and a crunchy courgette is not what is wanted.  Give the master pot a good stir and allow to simmer a very few minutes.

Taste, season; enjoy.  Ratatouille is good eating right away and even better once the flavours have had time to settle in with each other.  Hot, cold, tepid; it’s both a fine accompaniment and solitary dish: good crusty bread is its best friend, especially if your ratatouille is on the watery side (no bad thing, btw).

p1060132

Fab to come home to: comforting when reheated on a wintry day and refreshingly cool on a sultry evening.

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Mr T opted for sopa Menorquina as his set-menu starter at La Guitarra in Ciutadella de Menorca one rainy lunchtime and its simple, straightforward heartiness really hit the spot. Unlike Cafe Baléar, however, La Guitarra is one place I wouldn’t advise opting for the menu del dìa; for although the restaurant has a great reputation for local specialities its à la carte menu is very obviously the focus. One lives and learns all the same: its troglodytic charm would be a wonderful escape from the heat of Summer and descending from scorching street level into its stone-walled cellar-cool basement interior for a slap-up meal is what we’ll be doing next time, but in the interim I recreate this Balearic soup with fond remembrance of Menorca’s old capital in the Spring.

 

 

I wished I had ordered the sopa too as my garlic prawns were just that; peeled prawns with overcooked garlic and despite their toothsome texture, not much flavour in either.

We both ordered the sea bass a la plancha for mains and it was ok; fresh and decently cooked but decidedly dull!  The highlight of our lunch was so obviously the working man’s vegetable soup that it demonstrated how plain food doesn’t have to be plain.

This hearty soup could easily be made fit for a vegetarian – vegan even – by the substitution of the small amount of meat with extra olive oil, garlic and paprika.  On the other hand, if you’re a meat-eater but can’t get hold of sobrassada or chorizo, substitute pancetta or lardons and throw in extra pimentón (unsmoked, for a change) and garlic.

Sopa Menorquina

serves 4 as main course

2 TBS olive oil
5 cm or so sobrassada, cubed (or chorizo if unavailable)
1 large onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 green cabbage, separated into leaves and torn into strips (chop if you must)
1 large carrot, chopped
100g spinach or Swiss chard, torn or chopped
100g broad beans or peas or flageolets (any fresh or frozen green bean is good)
2 tomatoes, fresh or canned, diced
500 ml or so stock (if none fresh, make it with a bouillon cube)
1tsp pimentón (whichever style you prefer)
at least 4 slices of hearty peasant bread, toasted

sweating onions and garlic with sobrassada in olive oil

Chop or tear all the vegetables into pieces of approximately equal size.  Heat oil in an enamelled cast iron pot and sweat the onions with the sobrassada, garlic and pimentón on a medium-low flame.  Add the diced tomato and bring to a gentle simmer, then add the rest of the vegetables and cover with two cups of hot stock.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

throw in some extra pimenton to boost flavour

The correct way of serving this sopa is: for each person, place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of a soup plate, ladle over the vegetables and their broth, place in a 150C oven for 10 mins and serve:

serve in wide shallow bowls drizzled with olive oil and country bread on the side

but unless it has just baked a loaf of bread, there’s no reasonable reason to whack on the oven specially, so I have been known to serve the soup straight from the pot: topped with a spoonful of homemade ricotta, a trail of olive oil and with slabs of toasted country bread on the side nobody minds one jot.

Incidentally, at La Guitarra we ordered a bottle of Blanc Pescador, assuming (rightly!) its name denoted an affinity with fish, but as my Spanish vocabulary was not up to anticipating its pétillant tingle – “vino de ajuga” translates to “needle wine” apparently – it came as a pleasantly prickly surprise, and with a much cleaner and clearer flavour than el crudo cava, an awful lot more dignity too.

La Guitarra
c/ Dolos baixos
Ciutadella de Menorca 07760
tel: 971 38 13 55

3-course menu del dia €12.50
Blanc Pescador €13.50

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An attempt at improvising le Café Anglais’ legendary menu item had me feeling like Midas with a golden pond at sunset gilding each ramekin, but we found a custard richer than Croesus made a heavy hors d’oeuvre.  Mind you, I was using all-double cream, whereas surprisingly, Mr Leigh advises a lean – almost mean – half milk/half single blend.

Parmesan custard, anchovy toast, Stilton cream
So, with budget and midriff in mind I gladly followed his recipe to the letter, although being disinclined to faff I can’t say the same for the anchovy toast and fell in with anchovy infantrymen instead.

Although Rowley’s recipe worked well enough, a touch of cornflour would have seen off all splitting and a dose of double cream will undoubtedly up its unctuousness.  After all, if you’re going to the trouble of making this at home it might as well feel like a little luxury.

Gastroplod’s Parmesan custards & anchovy infantrymen

(with thanks to Rowley Leigh for providing my template)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 300ml full fat milk or single cream
  • 100g finely grated Parmesan
  • 4 egg yolks
  • a scant tablespoon cornflour
  • pepper, nutmeg
  • sliced wholemeal sandwich bread
  • anchoïade/anchovy paste/Gentlemen’s Relish

Lightly butter six ramekins. Scald the cream and milk in a heavy based pan then whisk in the Parmesan, keeping back a tablespoon or two for gratinating the tops, and stir to melt thoroughly.  Leave to cool as rapidly as you can.

Set the oven to 150C.  Whisk the egg yolks with the cornflour, making sure there are no lumps and everything is well blended, then whisk the yolk mixture into the cream/milk with a good grinding of pepper and grating of nutmeg.

Place the ramekins in a bain-marieand bake for 20 minutes, until just set.  Remove from the oven and turn on the grill to medium-high.  Take the ramekins from the water bath to arrest cooking and sprinkle the custards with the reserved Parmesan, then place under a hot grill for just a couple of minutes to burnish.

Toast some brown bread, scrape lightly with anchoïade, anchovy paste or Gentlemen’s Relish (Patum Peperium) and cut into soldiers for dunking into the custard; serve immediately or your warriors may turn into wimps…

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borage flowersAh, true sunny delight: the borage is in bloom.  Such pretty periwinkle blue flowers, all set to adorn a glass of Pimm’s® for whiling away an English summer afternoon.

Wood on willow, polite applause, chin-chin…you get the scene.  But there’s something wrong with this picture, surely?  Firstly it’s most likely raining and secondly, is not Pimm’s impossibly bland when made properly?  And possibly improper when not?  For truly it’s a merry devil of a drink, slipping down far too easily and bringing upright folk, even the odd marquee, down in its wake as stilettoes catch in turf and guy ropes do service as guard rails…

Try this recipe for the classic Pimm’s® Cup cocktail…
Over ice, pour:

  • 1 part Pimm’s® No.1
  • 2 to 3 parts clear, fizzy lemonade (eg Sprite®)
  • Infuse with borage flowers, fresh mint and slices of lemon, orange and apple.

..and you too can turn your garden party into The Wasteland.

But there’s more to borage than that; why not use the stems and leaves too?  With a delicate cucumber-like flavour they cook to a texture similar to that of chard leaves or beet greens, with which they are often prepared around the Mediterranean as a pasta stuffing or filling for pies and omelettes.  The flowers also make a delightful addition to salads and only the churlish could despise them as a garnish on any summery dish.

I’ll follow with a couple of tasty recipes once I have some pix to go with

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