Monday, July 31, 2006

Rosemary Scallops with Gremolata

Scallops are hermaphrodites - when you see these fat creamy discs nestled against their roe sat prettily in the middle of their Venus inpsiring shell, the colour of that roe depends on the sex at the time they are caught. Orange for females and white for males - but it could have been different if they'd been caught at a different moment. Nature is strange.

Scallops are definitely a high end luxury food with a delicate sea scented flesh that acquires a dense texture when briefly cooked (and becomes inedible rubber when overdone). They need care at all stages which is rewarded many times over in the pleasure of the eating. Wild or farmed they grow on the sea bed and are best harvested by hand to ensure freshness and minimise the damage and detritus that comes with dredging.

Robust enough to marry with other ingredients, they are eaten as a delicacy in Asia with aromatics like chilli and ginger and in Europe more often with cream sauces or in delicate filo surprise packages. One of my favourite ways of eating them is inspired by a dish I had at Zilli Fish a few years ago where the scallops are threaded onto rosemary sticks interspersed with unsmoked bacon and then cooked fast in a griddle pan. The rosemary gives a very subtle perfume because they are cooked so briefly, the hot pan guarantees the shellfish will cook quickly, almost caramelising their sweetness and the hot salty crispy bits of bacon add a perfect counterfoil. I like gremolata with them because it adds texture and flavour without being a sauce - sometimes liquid adds nothing to a dish.

Rosemary Scallops with Gremolata

4 scallops per person
1 fresh rosemary branch per person
1 rasher of unsmoked bacon oyster per person, cut into 4

For the Gremolata

Leaves of a bunch of flat leaf parsley
Grated zest of an unwaxed lemon
1 green chilli, finely chopped (discard the seeds if you don't want it too hot)
1 small shallot, finely chopped

Using a metal skewer poke a hole in the centre of a scallop and then thread it onto the rosemary stick, poke a hole into the centre of a piece of bacon and thread that onto the rosemary. Continue poking holes and alternating scallop and bacon, lacing four of each per stick. I then skewer the whole thing end to end with a metal skewer to aid turning. Heat a ridged grill pan till it is very hot - at least 10 minutes.

While the pan heats, make the gremolata by simply mixing all the ingredients together.

When the pan is really hot lay the skewers across the ridges. Let them cook for a couple of minutes till the bacon starts to catch a little and then turn them over, cook for another minute or two then give a quarter turn and a minute later another turn so all four sides have hit the heat. Cooking time in total should be about 5 minutes for good sized scallops. Remove from the pan, and serve with gremolata and salad and crusty bread for a wonderful supper.

I Bought

A lovely piece of topside to roast, 1/2 kg of minced pork and eggs from Ginger Pig £18
Lettuce, courgettes, new potatoes, bobby beans, red onions, spring onions, big bunch of flat leaf parsley, unwaxed lemon, 6 nectarines from Booths - £6.20
Baby plum tomatoes and a large cucumber from Isle of Wight Farm - £4.75
Chocolate brownie from Flour Power as a treat for the lovley boyfriend £1.50
Dark roast Colombian coffee beans - £8.50
Strawberries from Kent Apple Farm - £1.50
8 scallops on the shell - diver caught! - from Shell Seekers £8
Big chunk of Parmesan, a truffle scented sheeps cheese and a pack of buffalo mozzarella boccincini from the Italian cheese stall - £15
2 litres of milk, 2 500g tubs of yoghurt - 1 cow, 1 sheep, ciabatta, 1/4 Hoxton rye from Neals Yard £8.20
Carrots from Total Organics £1

So - food for this week is £72.65

Friday, July 28, 2006

This Week

Monday - Coffee and cereals for breakfast, lunch from the deli at Alba because we had no food in after being away, dinner was grilled sausages from the freezer, potato salad, grilled onion salad and green salad, cold sliced gaia melon to finish

Tuesday - Coffee and melon for breakfast, cold sausage and salads for lunch, cheesy peas for tea

Wednesday - Coffee and cereals and yoghurt for breakfast the rest of the week, cold cheesy peas for lunch, zucchini frittata and herbed white beans for dinner

Thursday - Cold frittata and bean salad for lunch, grilled pork chops from the freezer and steamed potatoes and green salad for dinner

Friday - Tuna and white bean salad for lunch, spaghetti with tomato and green bean sauce for tea

Feeling quite pleased with myself having made a week of good food mostly from freezer and cupboard, proper amounts of fresh vegetables and a decent lunch every day. It's a bit more complicated than I'd be happy with every week to have a different lunch every day but it was certainly a treat that softened the blow of the return to work after holidays.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Zucchini Frittata

I say zucchini, the lovely (English) boyfriend says courgette, which proves yet again where you grew up will always be with you. In Australia, and the US, courgettes are called zucchinis - both versions are the diminutive of marrow in Italian or French. Apparently they were called zucchinis here originally till a 19th century craze for all things culinary to be named in French changed things. When I told my sweetheart this little snippet of useless information he smiled and said 'Moi? Pretentious?'

Whatever you call them they are a lovely summer vegetable, their light nutty flavour cooking to a melting softness making them a very versatile element for a meal. Their flavour and texture marries well with others - dairy, pasta, spices, or combined with other vegetables as in the classic ratatouille - all make great combinations.

This dish is really easy to make and quick, so it's great for a mid week supper with a little salad and bread. It also looks very impressive when it comes out from under the grill too - always a bonus I find.

Zucchini Frittata

500g/1lb zucchini (courgette)
1 clove garlic, crushed
4-5 large free range eggs
1 tbspn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
4 tpsn grated Parmesan cheese or other strong hard cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash and slice zucchinis into rounds as thick as a pound coin. Heat oil and butter together and gently fry the garlic for a minute, then add the zucchinis and stir to coat. Season and cover and cook over a low heat, stirring once or twice, for 20 - 30 minutes until it is meltingly soft and a little golden round the edges.

Beat the eggs till foaming. Preheat the grill to its highest setting. Turn heat under the pan to high and take the lid off. Stir the zucchinis gently, then, when the pan is very hot, pour over the beaten eggs. It should start to set almost immediately. When it is about half set and starting to puff up (4 - 5 minutes) sprinkle the cheese over the top and whip it under the preheated grill. When it is all puffed and golden (another 4 - 5 minutes) remove from the grill. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into wedges and serving using a fish slice.

Don't look too closely at the accompanying picture - the green veg is leek but I didn't take a photo of the zucchini dish... oops!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Grilled Onion Salad

We went to France last week for a few days sorting out work on the house and had a couple of days at the beach, defeating the scorching heat of la canicule by frolicking in the surf. It was fabulous. Food was pretty amazing too. Fresh oysters from the Arcachon Basin slipped down like velvet essence of ocean, and des fruits de la mer served as mountains of sweet fresh crustacea on ice. As always in our village in the Gers duck was the speciality - in the midst of a heatwave confit just doesn't work but salads do - gesier or thinly sliced smoked breast were perfect.

Back to London Sunday night and the weeks food is a bit of a challenge - we have lots of nice things in the freezer but no fresh things, vegetables or fruit. London is having its own version of a heatwave so complicated is out, but salads are best when the vegetables used are grown for flavour rather than appearance so a supermarket shop is something I'd rather avoid if possible. There's a little fruit and veg shop round the corner from the office that always has a supply of English produce so I popped in there at lunchtime and bought a selection of what looked good. They had Essex potatoes with a sign on them saying 'great flavour' (which seemed as good a recommendation as any) as a base for a creamy potato salad to go with grilled sausages Monday night. Indeed the sign did not lie - briefly boiled then mixed with Hellmans when cold they were great.

I also wanted to make something else a bit different to go with it. I had some big fat spanish onions and recalled watching Delia on the tv once a long time ago making a salad with them. If I'm honest I'm not a great fan of Saint Delia - her failure to ever taste anything as she goes along strikes me as curiously passionless though it is possibly as much a construct as anything else on tv. I remember being astounded and outraged in equal measure that the bbc had agreed to produce her 'how to cook' series a few years ago - starting with how to make toast and boil an egg - but now I can see that she does indeed have a point. Perhaps not toast but I can see that there is an increasing need to help people to know how to cook, to make proper, decent unprocessed food for themselves and their loved ones. I guess I query that done the way she does it without any visible pleasure would not really inspire spmeone who didn't cook to give it a go. Though if they did attempt one of her recipes it would more than likely result in the dish they set out to create and that would probably inspire them to try more.

Anyway - back to the onions. I did what I remember Delia doing all those years ago - really I was just making it up as I went along and hoping for the best - more homage than accurate recreation. Inspired by her.

Grilled Onion Salad

2 spanish onions
2 tbspns olive oil
2 tspns balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the onions and slice them through the rings into three thick discs. Put them in a grill pan that is lined with aluminium foil, drizzle generously with olive oil, season well with salt and ground black pepper then put them under a very hot grill. With the magic alchemy of the kitchen they puff into little mountains as they cook, the edges blackening as the sugars caremalise.

They take about 20 minutes till they achieve a thorough softness then you simply tip them with their oil into a bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and mix gently.

Dinner was then a summer version of the classic sausage, mash and onion gravy. Hot grilled sausages and creamy potato salad and the onions, sweet and burnt and soft, bringing it all together. Brilliant.

Friday, July 14, 2006

This Week

Sat - fabulous platter in front of the women's tennis final of Wimbledon - parma ham, buffalo mozzarella, olives, rockmelon, crusty ciabatta.
Wild beef sausages and potato salad for supper
Sun - strawberry smoothie to start the day.
Cold sausage and salad for lunch
Out for tea
Mon- the lovely boyfriend made smoothies as a delicious start to the week
Lunches are rice salad and salad veg - same till wed
Roast pork, potatoes and spinach for dinner
Tue - cereals, yoghurt, rhubarb and coffee every day
Cold roast pork and spiced aubergine salad as a goodly summer supper
Wed - fried rice and grilled pork chops and green salad
Thu - Cold fried rice for lunch
Salade nicoise for supper
Fri - Green bean and tomato spaghetti - had beans that need using and this is a quick easy end of the week dish - and look how yummy it is!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I love potatoes for their variety of textures and flavours and the way there is perfect versions of them all year round. By last week the Jersey Royals had finished but Booths had some heritage potatoes called Red Duke of York - small, red skinned new potatoes with waxy yellow flesh. I'd never come across them before, apparently they were first found in a Dutch crop of Duke of York (Eeresteling) in 1942 and they have been grown ever since. They make a brilliant salad.

Scrub the skins, halve them and boil till tender. Drain and then, while they are still hot, dress them with a simple vinaigrette - 3 tbspns olive oil, 1 tbspn lemon juice, salt and ground black pepper. Allow them to cool and serve them as a salad. Only make as much as you will eat in one sitting as these don't save well for later meals. We had them with grilled sausages and green salad Saturday night and it was very good indeed.

Because I was roasting a piece of pork Monday night I made roasted potatoes to go with it. I had some Sarpo potatoes, that are bigger than the Duke of York's and more floury. To add more depth to their flavour I roasted them with herbs from the garden - rosemary, thyme and a couple of bay leaves tucked all around with a few crushed whole cloves of garlic. Roast for an hour while the meat is cooking and eat hot from the oven. A perfect accompaniment.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

I Bought

4 pork chops for £8 from Ginger Pig - bargain! - and a lovely piece of boned rolled leg of pork to roast, 4 toulouse sausages that weighed about 250g each - they were huge and some unsmoked oyster bacon - total £25

5 litre tin of olive oil from Vaheed at Borough Olives - £22.50 - but it lasts for a few months

2 punnets of strawberries for £1 - another bargain! - and 5 apples also a pound from Kent apple farm

Lettuce, green pepper, canteloup melon that smelled divine, sugar snaps, cucumber, onions and bananas from Booths - £5

Celery and coriander from Tony - £2.50

Because the melon smelt so fabulous the lovely boyfriend said - Parma ham - so we went to a new stall that is Italian and only sells ham and buffalo mozzarella - their ham was beautiful, tried the mozzarella while the ham was being sliced and it was so good bought 2 of those - £7.50

Last week at Neal's Yard a farmer was selling his own sheep's milk soft cheese called Hoad. Had enough cheese then but promised to buy some this week because it was a great cheese - possibly the best english sheep's cheese I've come across - £5

Plus the usual from Neal's Yard of 2 litres of semi skimmed milk, 500ml thick plain yoghurt, 500ml sheep's milk plain yoghurt and a ciabatta £8.50

Last - but definitely not least - a chocolate brownie for my sweetheart - £1.50 - for him to nibble at all weekend

All in £79.50 for the week's food for both of us for 3 meals a day and all of it excellent quality

We had a wonderfully decadent lunch watching the women's final of Wimbledon with ham, mozzarella, olives, melon, bread and a cold glass of semillon - bliss

Friday, July 07, 2006

This week

This week we had:
grilled beef sausages, green salad and crusty bread on Saturday night
strawberry and banana and yoghurt smoothie with coffee for Sunday breakfast
cold sausage as a mid-morning snack
avocado and baby plum tomato on ciabatta for Sunday lunch
cauliflower soup (from the freezer) and soft oatcakes with grated caerphilly grilled and rolled for dinner
Coffee, cereals and yoghurt for breakfast all week
Jellied ham and parsley terrine with cannelini bean salad, cucumber, carrots, sugar snap peas and baby tomatoes for lunch Mon-Wed
Spinach and soft english sheep's cheese omelette, crusty bread from Paul and salad Monday night after seeing Princess Raccoon at the cinema - I liked the film but the lovely boyfriend was bemused... we both liked dinner
My friend Vicki made dinner Tuesday and stayed the night with us - her grandmother Phyllis's stuffed peppers, which were magnificent and coffee eclairs for dessert - also from Paul
Wednesday night we had peppers again as Vicki generously made enough for two days. No dessert though
Thursday for lunch we had the last pepper with salad, cold
Lentils and belly pork - the pork had been in the freezer for about 6 weeks - for supper
Leftover lentils for lunch Friday
Still have aubergine, courgette and some beans and tomatoes in the fridge so will make roasted aubergine salad, hot spiced courgettes and maybe spinach and yoghurt for supper

As well as ingredients for all the above I bought some toulouse sausages that are in the freezer, and some new potatoes that will make a nice salad or hot boiled over the weekend

Past their best and headed for the bin is the last of an oak leaf lettuce and a few sticks of celery, so not much to be thrown away

We are getting a worm farm in a few weeks so soon that won't be hitting the bin but feeding our fertilizer makers...

Haven't decided yet what to have next week

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ham in Parsley Jelly

I had this great idea for lunches this week, Ham in a Parsley Jelly - Jambon Persille as it is known in France. Seemed perfect because the weather is finally properly baking hot and I liked the idea of a cool and slippery jelly with crisp fresh salad - an ideal match on a hot day.

It started so well. I bought a beautiful hock, about a kilo and a half in weight, from Sillfield Farm for £2.95 and, for 40p, a pig's trotter from Ginger Pig to guarantee a properly gelatinous stock. I was aiming for elegant but it wasn't going to be expensive. Added some parsley stalks and a few other aromatics, cooked it to perfection, set it overnight and turned it out to cut slices to put into our lunch boxes. Up to this moment it all went entirely according to plan. Then as I sliced it the jelly resisted, then wobbled and finally gave way, collapsing into a shiny little mountain of ham and parsley and jelly. Disappointed but undeterred, I spooned it into the tubs and then added crunchy sugar snaps, baby plum tomatoes, sliced rounds of carrot and cucumber and a generous spoonful of herbed cannelini beans. It looked lovely with the bright shiny rainbow of green, red, orange and white vegetables nestled against the ham. All was not lost.

But I hadn't factored in that hot bus ride from hell between home and work. It's slow at the best of times around Monument and Bank and with the heat - because of the heat? - it was slower than usual. And about 10 degrees hotter on the bus than on the street even with all the windows open because of course the heating was on because they can't turn it off which is something that really is beyond comprehension.

By the time I got in lunch was soup.

Popped it in the fridge and hoped for the best. By 1 o'clock it had reset, all the salad vegetables caught in the pale lake of jelly, flecked with parsley and herbs. It looked like a freeze frame or a still life - Disaster Following perhaps. But it tasted great - the juxtaposition of crisp and soft and cool was wonderful, everything I had hoped for when I planned this as lunch. So good in fact I will make it again - just with different expectations on what it will look like.

Ham in Parsley Jelly

1 unsmoked ham hock
1 pig's trotter, ask the butcher to split it for you
6 parlsey stalks
1 onion, peeled and halved and stuck with 4 cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 large sprig of thyme
5 tbspns chopped flat leaf parsley
300ml dry white wine

Put all the ingredients, except the chopped parsley into a large stockpot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that forms, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for about 90 minutes until the ham is cooked. Put the hock onto a plate and cover till it's cool enough to handle. Strain the stock into a bowl and refrigerate until any fat separates and sets on the surface. Discard the aromatics and the trotter.

Strip the meat from the bone and rip into small pieces. Mix with the chopped parsley and put it into a jelly mould or loaf tin that has been lined with cling film. Scrape any fat from the top of stock, then warm the stock again till it is all liquid and pour it over the meat to cover entirely. Refrigerate overnight. Next day, turn out the ham using the clingfilm and slcie to serve.

I think my mistake may have been to fill the container completely with stock even though the meat/herb mix only filled two thirds of the tin. It may have held together better if it had been denser all the way through. The collapse is really only a visual disaster - the flavour is fine!