Friday, April 30, 2010

I wanted ...I bought.... I made

Bank holiday weekend Yay! Even though I know rain is forecast. It was so very very cold and wet. We shall have burgers before going to Davids party Saturday night, Sunday some chinese spare ribs and cold dressed cauliflower was very wow, Monday we are out in the evening so might do a paella for lunch grilled pork chops with steamed asparagus and new potatoes. Tuesday the man is out so I shall aim for a treat the last of the burgers with salad for me, Wednesday chicken pie as seen above with the other half steamed for Thursday so no pasta, Friday sausage sandwich out to try Tommyfield!
Bloody freezing Saturday - and colder Sunday - feels like winter has returned. At the Ginger Pig I was hoping for spare ribs but they'd sold out Friday so I bought burgers Saturday supper then the rest for me Tuesday - that sadly had no marrow in them - and a couple of magnificent pork chops early supper Monday before seeing the hilariously brilliant London Assurance at the National - £13.90

Fortunately next door at Silfield they did have spare ribs Sunday night treat which I discovered when I went in to buy a ham hock which is now in the freezer but will be a Great British Menu copy with peas and jelly - got both for £7.60

Had a funny chat with Ian at Mrs Elizabeth King's Pork Pies, with his tales of what people ask for when they buy his pies, worrying they won't be safe on the train or in the back of the car, needing two bags to protect them, this terrible fear that they will melt or leak or break. It's a pork pie for goodness sake! We bought one - that travelled very happily on the bus home - £5

At Ted's Veg I bought cabbage, leeks, carrots for my chicken pie, cucumbers and asparagus for £8.50

First punnet of tomatoes from the tomato man - otherwise known as Isle of Wight -so very very good in lunches and suppers - £3.50

Olives from Fresh Olive - green ones stuffed with chillies - £3.50

Coffee from Monmouth - £10

A truffled rochetta from Gastronomica creamy and earthy and amazing - £7

Milk, yoghurt and penne from Neals Yard - £11.70

So spent £70.70 - a nicely balanced total

Monday, April 26, 2010

Butterbean and Cauliflower Salad

It is the last week of April and I have decided that, come what may, it is time for more salads. Don't care what the actual weather is like, in Feast with Bron world it is sunny and warm. Blue sky thinking. Which led me to plan Sunday dinner as cold roast pork with salads, which would then carry on as lunches through the week. I didn't buy potatoes at the market as I had no intention of having a back up plan, particularly one that involved roast potatoes. Or mash. Sheer force of will shall banish winter forever.

I bought a copy of the second St John cookbook last week as I adore the food there and I find the recipes in the first book work a treat. It's such a delight to browse - almost every recipe makes me want to make it and all of them make me want to eat them. The ideas are strong and the language a joy.

The one for bean and cauliflower salad caught my eye as it fulfilled my brief for Sunday and it sounded fabulous. It is also one I hadn't tried at the restaurant. Thoroughly new. It's a slow salad to make and all the better for it. The creamy butterbeans are a perfect foil to the crisp raw cauliflower and the silky threads of leek, the lot melded with a garlicky vinaigrette. Definite harbinger of summer.

Butter bean, leek and cauliflower salad

2 handfuls of butter beans
2 heads of garlic
1 happy head of cauliflower, taken apart into challenging bite-sized florets
4 leeks, sliced across at 5mm intervals, then thoroughly rinsed
a bunch of curly parsley finely chopped
a handful of extra fine capers

300ml extra virgin olive oil - it's a thirsty salad
juice of 1 juicy or 2 not so juicy lemons
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thoroughly crushed (this may seem a lot, but remember the dressing has to bring 'wayhay' to some very calm elements)
sea salt and black pepper

Soak the butter beans overnight in cold water, then drain and cook in clean water with the heads of garlic - this can take 2-3 hours - so that you have pillows of joy.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together thoroughly, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Take the cauliflower and butter beans and liberally dress them, Toss and then leave overnight.

When it comes time to serve, just tease the leeks for a moment in some boiling salted water. The warmth of the leek, added to the cauliflower and butter beans, should awaken the slumbering salad. Once awake, it mayjneed some more dressing - take a view. Add the chopped parsley and a substantial handful of capers. Toss vigorous.y, being careful not to crush the butter beans, then serve.

Woke Sunday to the sound of heavy rain. This salad definitely helped make it sunny for us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I wanted ... I bought... I made

We have quite a busy week coming up so the plan can be short and sweet. Saturday I want to try a recipe for steamed prawn and tofu and I'm thinking a kind of yum cha series of elements, so some bowl steamed aubergine, some greens, some rice got as far as the wontons and the rice with a cucumber salad on the side - delicate and delightful. Sunday I think roast pork but with some salads as the sun is set to shine, Monday we are off to the Royal Court to see Posh, Tuesday the man is out so I may treat myself - it was a treat to have aubergine pasta and the man was home for extra sweetness! Wednesday we are seeing I Went to the House But Did Not Enter with the treat of dinner first at Bruno Loubet, Thursday it is the lovely David Johnson's birthday so we are off en masse for dinner at Galvin La Chappelle which I am excited about, Friday I think something very simple at home - leek frittata and some crusty bread.

The fabulous blue skies continued Saturday - just loving it! Ginger Pig was busy early so we queued to buy a piece of pork shoulder - boned and rolled roasted for Sunday dinner and cold for lunch till Thursday - £16.40 Had to tell Charlie how fabulous his marrow and beef burgers - we will have more!

From Teds Veg I bought cauliflower for butterbean salad, butternut squash, onions, carrots for salads Sunday night and in the week but no cabbage though I was tempted! Cost £5.80

At Gastronomica I bought a sheet of fennel salami lovely sarnies Saturday and a chunk of Parmesan for £11.50

Raw prawns for wonton from Furness - £4

A big bunch of basil from Booths - £1.50 - as I am running out of basil oil and salad season is upon us

Milk and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £4.35

Spent £43.55 and then later that day bought bread at the little local farmers market at Oval from the Old Post Office Bakery who make lovely bread, tofu, coriander, aubergine and various bits and bobs from Wing Yip in Brixton

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steamed Meatballs with Courgette & Tagliatelle

I noticed when I steamed a shoulder of lamb a few weeks ago that a lot of liquid collected in the base of the pan, mostly juices from the meat with a little rendered fat which presumably evaporate while cooking if it's in the oven. Upon tasting I found a light liquid with a rich flavour of lamb and the spices I had marinated it in. And it was good. Saved it to use as the base for a mutton curry.

I wondered if I could get the same result steaming meatballs so as to use the liquid as a sauce. I am looking to attain the delicacy of a lot of the asian food I've made in the steamer rather than the much more robust 'brit' food like the fabulous steamed leek pudding. I know we're talking pasta here, but it too has the potential for silky lightness.

I didn't add an awful lot to the mix as I wanted the true flavour of the meat, a pack of mince from Wild Beef I'd had in the freezer. I was hoping it would give up enough juice to be a simple sauce. Not one to use a knife with pasta I made little balls - it is important to be able to eat them in one go with a fork.

I had a decent sized courgette in the fridge as well as a quarter of savoy cabbage. It is true that steaming makes things taste most intensely of themselves so I made ribbons of the courgette and a fine shred of the cabbage and steamed them in a perforated tray for the last five minutes. Tossed the lot through the pasta with the balls and their magnificent juice.

Could not have asked for a finer dinner. Beautiful combination of textures, extraordinary delicacy and a brilliant depth of flavour.

Steamed Meatballs with Courgette & Tagliatelle

500g good quality lean minced beef
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
3 tbspns fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 medium courgette, made into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/4 savoy cabbage, finely shredded
400g tagliatelle, cooked till just al dente
2 tbspns flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Mix together the beef, garlic, finely chopped parsley and one tablespoon of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. When all the ingredients are well combined, shape into small balls. I ended up with about 24 the size of a walnut. A perfect mouthful!

Use the rest of the olive oil to very lightly grease the base of a solid metal pan and arrange the balls on top.

Heat the steam oven to 100C and cook the balls for 25 minutes.

Cook the pasta till al dente.

Add the shredded cabbage and courgettes to a perforated tray, season and slot into the steamer above the balls. Steam for another 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Stir through the vegetables, roughly chopped pasta and the meatballs with all the juice. Combine well and serve in big bowls.

And be prepared to be amazed. Cooking each element separately means they all keep their individual tastes to be brought together at the end - it's all so lovely in your mouth.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I wanted...I bought....I made

Still feel a bit off with the fairies when it comes to planning food for the week, not really helped by temperatures that range from tops of 12 to 19C. Salad or stew!

So, as I have food chain on Sunday, Saturday night needs to be at least a little fuss free, am seriously craving steak and salad, so we shall see. Let the man choose and we had blissfully wonderful beef and marrow burgers from the Ginger Pig on floury baps with caremalised onions. As the man was choosing we forgot even a hint of green for garnish. Sunday the simplicity of roast, I think perfect beef with roast potatoes, onions, cabbage and carrots and gravy in a boat as my cousin Jaey had joined us and we like to push the boat out for guests! Monday we are off to the revival of Tom Stoppard's Real Thing, Tuesday I shall attempt again the steamed meatballs that didn't get made last week, Wednesday I think spiced grilled chicken and salad a sadly awful vegetable curry, Thursday serious chance of noodles as it is an age since we had any pea & ham soup from the freezer with bread from St John, Friday too far away it will be a starter of asparagus as the little shop round the corner from work had some this morning and I could not resist followed by leek frittata. Very like a glass of cold white wine to welcome the sunshine.

The sun was shining which made the rush rush round the market that bit nicer. At Ginger Pig I let the man decide on the menu for the evening. He very cleverly chose the beef and marrow burgers that have been tempting me for weeks. Charlie promised that a lot of love had gone into the making of them total Saturday night special!. Bought a piece of silverside to roast, Sunday, beautifully marbled, cost £24.20 the lot.

Dropped by Chegworth Farm stall to see what veg they had but it was only kale at the moment which was not on my list this week so went instead to Teds Veg for leeks, rhubarb, onions, marfona potatoes which roasted beautifully as promised by the young woman on the stall, savoy cabbage - £14.80

Continuing with the man choosing dinner we needed big floury baps - got a perfect pair from Rhodes for £1.60
Then to Wild Beef for eggs - £1.50

Then to Monmouth for coffee - had totally run out which is reason to fret - £10

Neals Yard for milk and yoghurt - £5.60

For the first time in the longest time, bought a brownie for the man at Flour Power, which, despite my assertion last week, is not in fact backed by Jamie Oliver. My lovely friend Marie who is now Mrs Gleeson and has left the Fresh Olive Company for country life in the Cotswolds thinks it is actually the Flour Station that he is involved with... I may have gone off half cocked! The brownie was £2

So we were back on the bus and home by 10am having spent £59.70 - see how fast it can be done!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicken & Courgette Risotto

Made risotto for dinner and it turned out smooth, delicate and soothing. Lovely flavours, great textures, seriously good. Got me thinking about cheffy tricks, the little things chefs have up their collective sleeve that makes a dish work really well or takes it from one level to the next with a piece of magic generally unknown and unrecorded. But if you trawl as much as I do for good food an occasional nugget will fall into your cooking pot that adds that extra something to the dish du jour.

The reason risotto ended up on the menu at all was that I'd bought and roasted a chicken on the weekend for a fine Sunday dinner, and then had it cold for the next few days in lunchboxes with salad. Having paid £14 for the bird it had already translated into £1.75 per meal and there was still the strong boned carcass and a reasonable amount of meat to be picked from the bones and a fair amount of skin from the underside. I had stock in the freezer, carnaroli rice in the cupboard and courgettes and celery in the fridge. Had risotto written all over it!

It is true that the rice needs lots of stirring for a creamy finish but that is generally well known and the only decision to be made is just how long you will stand stirring smoothly - for ages if you find it relaxing or no time at all if you mostly find it irritating. But the things that took this one from nice to amazing was the stirring in of butter and Parmesan at the very end, off the heat, then covering the pan and leaving it to 'fluff' for about five minutes. Marvellous the difference that makes.

My other trick was crispy chicken skin. It really is something I saw a sleb chef - sorry can't remember which one - do on the tv. Chicken skin, particularly the skin on the back and the thighs can be transformed by simply shredding into thickish strips then warmed through in a dry pan over a low heat. The fat rends, the skin turns a rich gold, and the flavour is essence of chicken. Serious wow. Scattered over the top of the risotto it adds a brilliant finish.

Chicken & Courgette Risotto
2 tbspns olive oil
1 tbspn butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, washed and finely sliced
200g carnaroli or other risotto rice
1 litre of stock, warmed to simmering
1 medium courgette, quartered lengthways, then diced
About a cup of cooked chicken flesh
As much skin as you can strip from the carcass
2 tbspns butter
3 tablespoons Parmesan, freshly grated
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil with one tablespoon of butter in a large heavy based pan, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally over a medium heat till the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and celery and stir for a minute till the garlic changes colour. Add the rice and stir to coat with the onion/butter mix.

Pour one ladle of stock over the rice and stir continuously till it is absorbed by the rice, which will be fairly quick. Keep adding the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring a lot, adding a new one each time the previous one has been absorbed.

After about 15 minutes of ladling and stirring add the chicken and courgettes and stir through. Taste and season. Continue adding the stock gradually till all the stock is used. Taste the rice - it should be creamy, not chalky, but still with a tiny resistance to your bite. If it has not reached this point and all the stock is gone add boiling water till it is perfect.
Leave the pan on the hob but turn off the heat. Stir through the butter, cheese and parsley, cover the pan and leave to sit for a few minutes.

Meanwhile put a small fry pan over a low heat and add the shredded chicken skin. Warm through, stirring, until the fat rends and the skin crisps.

Take the lid off the risotto, check the seasoning, then scatter the crisp skin over the rice and serve.

Thoroughly delightful. Good next day for lunch.

And I still have a carcass for more stock...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bean burgers

I have been trying to find a good bean burger recipe for a while now, but to date they have either been unutterably disgusting or have fallen apart whilst cooking. Sometimes both. Had begun to think they were some kind of mythical (non) beast from the sixties, apparently misremembered like much of that decade through substance abuse or non attendance.

Then, the week spring finally (sort of) came to London the new production of Hair has opened to much fanfare and rave reviews. Even Quentin Letts of the rabid Daily Beast can't entirely resist. Though at the start "Mr Swenson jumped up on my seat, tousled my own (receding) hairline and pushed his crotch towards my face." (The crotch in question, mark you, was loose and unclothed.) "It smelled faintly of matron's liniment and coconut butter," Letts says. "That didn't seem right." By the end even Charles Spencer from the Torygraph can only harumph ' "more than 40 years since its premiere, this greatest of all rock musicals can still inspire violent antipathy among the strait-laced. That strikes me as being one of its strengths." I'm seriously thinking of buying tickets!

This is also the week, serendipity or not, when I cracked the bean burger. Using cannelini beans as the base - tinned time but I think dried would be even better next time - their creaminess wrapped around the rest of the ingredients - rich toasted cashews, earthy slivers of celery - and all of it encased in crispy fried breadcrumbs. A most fabulous collection of textures and flavours.

Bean Burgers

50g cashew nuts, slightly crushed then toasted
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
100g gruyere cheese, grated
2 spring onions, chopped
1 stick celery, thinly sliced
1tbsp tomato paste
2 tbspns flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
75g fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying

Heat a small pan over a medium heat and lightly toast the nuts for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan and set to one side.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and gently fry the garlic till also just golden.

Place the beans in a large bowl and mash with a fork to a rough consistency. Add the cheese, nuts, spring onions, celery, garlic, parsley, tomato paste and about a third of the breadcrumbs. Season and gently mix together until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Shape the mixture into 8 burgers. Coat the outside of each one first with the beaten egg, then with the remaining breadcrumbs. Cover and put into the fridge to firm up for about 20 minutes.

Heat 1cm oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add the burgers. Fry for 3-4 minutes each side until crips and golden and hot all the way through.

We ate them with a simple cucumber and radish salad and some crusty bread, and somewhere in the ether a tune floated towards us, faint at first let the sun shine, let the sun shine, the sun shine in....

Like wow Man.

Friday, April 09, 2010

I wanted...I bought...I made

A couple of weeks away in the sun and fresh air of southern Spain was a real treat. Ate lots of amazing food, particularly pork things washed down with some fine riojas. Ended with fabulous fish in a beach cafe while a man outside with a tin dinghy on chocks that was full of sand with a big charcoal fire in the middle, cooked fish on sticks. Proper holiday.

And joy of joys it seems spring has arrived in London. Lovely.

So I'm thinking perhaps a little lightness on the menu this week, though don't imagine there'll be much by way of salad veg out there yet. I did bring back some morcilla, amongst other things, and plan to recreate a great lunch we had in Ronda that was simply steam fried garlic potatoes topped with sliced grilled morcilla with soft fried eggs on top. Lacking lightness perhaps (!) but will be a most splendid Saturday night special. Sunday I think a roast, beef perhaps, chicken instead with new potatoes, sweet potatoes and steamed leeks, with lots for lunches. Monday stirfry noodles steamed tofu, cabbage and rice, Tuesday meatballs with pasta lovely bean burgers and salad, Wednesday steamed tofu used the last of the meat from the chicken for a most sublime chicken and courgette risotto, Thursday lentils lamb and barley stew from the freezer with toast and Friday sausage sarnies.

It was nice to go back to the market after a few weeks away but a bit disconcerting to see that Wyndhams old shop unit has been leased to Hotel Chocolat - here come the chains... Seems the trustees do indeed intend to pursue a policy of 'brand Borough' and make another identikit slab in London. They have insisted that it is not called Hotel Chocolat though - as if the renaming of it will make it unique.

Charlie was his usual cheerful self in the Ginger Pig, happy to listen to tales of pigs in Spain and chargrilled suckling kid. He's wanting a holiday but then, so am I! Bought a fine looking chicken for £13.90

At Ted's Veg I bought leeks, fennel, celery, cucumber for £4.90

Then at Booths I bought two kinds of potatoes as well as sweet potatoes which were American and were, for my tastes, simply too sweet when roasted to the point of unpleasant, sugarsnaps, and courgettes for £5.50

At Wild Beef I got some eggs £1.50

Had a lovely chat about our holiday with Ian at Mrs Elizabeth King's pork pie stall - where he's yet to introduce frozen pies but may one day! - and bought a pie £5

At Neals Yard bought milk only for £3.10

A cottage loaf from Flour Power, which I learned only recently is a Jamie Oliver enterprise - £1.10

Clementines from Elsey & Bent meant for lunchboxes but mistake! too hard to peel - £1.90

So not a huge shop - we have lots in the freezer and I bought some serious pork products back from Andalucia - spent £36.90