Monday, July 28, 2008

Lentil Salad

Brown lentils, also known as continental or Egyptian lentils, are generally the least expensive and the easiest to get of all the gazillion types of lentil. They are milde in flavour and hold their shape well after cooking, although they easily turn mushy if overcooked. They can be cooked in about 35 minutes although if you want to ensure they remain firm, you can add oil to the cooking water and cook them for a shorter period, about 20 minutes. Cheap, nutritious and versatile, they are far and away my favourite lentil.

I wanted a salad at the weekend to go with grilled sausages and decided lentil was the way to go. Because it was so hot I wanted it to be both delicate and substantial - a little in the way turkish dishes can be. I had found a recipe online through but when I looked a little more closely it involved using raw coriander powder in the dressing as well as dried oregano and I wasn't convinced it wouldn't end up a bit gritty in texture, a touch nasty in the mouth. So I made it like this instead.

Lentil Salad

2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup brown lentils
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 spring onions, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

Whisk 4 tablespoons of olive oil with the lemon juice and seasonings to make the dressing.

Pick over and wash lentils in several changes of water until water runs clear. Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy based pan. Sauté the garlic in the oil with the ground coriander and paprika for a minute then add the washed lentils and stir to coat the lentils with the spiced oil. Add the bay leaf and water to cover by about a centimetre. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until the lentils are nearly cooked. Add additional water if necessary to keep the lentils from sticking. Add salt and taste for seasoning and cook for another five minutes or so till the lentils are tender.

Drain any remaining liquid from the lentils, remove the bay leaf, and allow the lentils to come to room temperature.

While the lentils cook chop all the vegetables and fresh herbs.

In a large bowl combine the lentils, vegetables and herbs with the dressing and toss lightly. Check the seasoning and serve.

I really was amazed at how well this worked - the salad vegetables added lightness and a variety of textures and the herbs made it positively sing while the lentils added body and were fabulously garlicky. Also, as an added bonus, really good next day in lunchboxes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

And this week...I bought

After a few changes last week to what I thought about and what we had, I shall try again to make a plan for dining. Saturday I fancy fish - possibly salmon with dill sauce and new potatoes to use the last of the bunch of dill and to dig up some more potatoes from the garden bought a fillet of Whitby cod and crumbed it and made a superlative dill sauce with yoghurt, sour cream, cucumber and lemon juice blended with the dill - it would make a fabulous summer soup. Sunday I think cold collation in the day went to the cinema and had dim sum after in Chinatown and risotto in the evening as we have lots of flowers on the squash plants and I'm not confident about battering or stuffing them! The flowers survived and I made grilled sausages instead with a brilliant lentil salad instead with leftovers for lunch Monday pasta with fresh herbs from the garden. Tuesday the lovely Marie is coming to dinner so I think chinese - anise chicken, sesame noodles and a cabbage and a cucumber salad - all cold, mostly made the night before did that and had coriander salad as well with chilled melon for dessert. Possibly something hot to nibble on at the start. or not. Wednesday salad, possibly with omelette, maybe nicoise went with omelette. Thursday grilled pork chops and salad more pasta, this time with tomato and basil, Friday veg curry perhaps. Though that seems very far away. And the steak from the freezer beckons with the last of the salad for a Friday night treat.

Saturday was hot hot hot at the market, and no breeze to offer respite. The traders all seemed very cheerful though and that was nice. Fairly quiet too which was a bonus for us. Started at Ginger Pig - no surprise there - where Charlie was being berated by John for forgetting to bring him some runner beans from his allotment. Butchers like vegetables too. I bought a couple of chicken breasts star anise chicken Tuesday night with leftovers for lunches, a couple of thick pork chops freezer where they remain and some old spot sausages Sunday supper for a very reasonable £19. They had a big sign out the front promising free bones and I asked John for some pork bones, thinking I might make a noodle soup. But he came back from the fridge saying they weren't good enough so he gave me a couple of chicken carcasses instead.

Then to Booths for salads - cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, and oranges, lemons, spring onions, cabbage half remains but will get used on the weekend and broccoli intended for pasta Thursday night but when I chopped it there was a strong smell of the sea, like fresh prawns which struck me as very odd so I threw it away - £5.90

Finally decided on cod crumbed Saturday night as the fish of choice, bought a lovely fillet of Whitby cod from Furness - £7.90

Then across the other side but not wanting much - still had some cheese and eggs, too hot for chocolate, so after a wander we came back to the main market to buy coffee from Monmouth - £8.50

Bought a pork pie for lunch - so long since we've had one - £4.90

Then to Tony's for bunch of beetroot, peppers and aubergine still in the fridge, but okay for the weekend - £2.70

Neals Yard - and I was sorry to hear that it was Naomi's last day - she's off on holidays before starting University - I shall miss her cheerful self. Bought some Hoxton rye - again a long time since we had some, as well as milk and yoghurt - £9.80

Then a cottage loaf from Flour Power - £1

Thought that was all but the melons at Elsey and Bent smelt divine so bought one for £1

A total of £60.70 - not bad!

Bought onions and radishes from my local fruit shop, mint, parsley and coriander as well as lentils and sesame seeds at Brixton market, and sour cream, because I forgot when I was in Neals Yard, as well as cornflour in Sainsburys.

Two years ago we were mostly eating rosemary scallops with gremolata - and what a treat that is!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spiced Orange Crusted Roast Pork

At the end of last week I had some courgettes and tomatoes left over from the previous week that were possibly a tad tired but otherwise perfectly edible. Not wanting to throw them away I decided I would buy some peppers and aubergine and roast the lot together with onions, garlic and herbs and make me a lovely robust chick pea salad for lunchboxes. By cooking them Sunday night with a roast the oven only needed to be on for one session.

Idly surfing the culinate website I came across a recipe for a spice rub for pork - and that was me sold on what this week's roast was going to be. It would go so well with the salad - and be a good dinner Sunday. Their version calls for pork leg but I decided to use boned pork shoulder instead. The meat is relatively fatty, which makes for juicy, tender, and flavorful roasts as well as clogged arteries. Might as well enjoy getting there! Pork shoulder is not a strong-tasting meat, but it stands up to many other ingredients anyway - the fat marbling means it trades flavors with whatever is in the same vessel and happily takes on pungent flavours.

I made the rub Saturday and left it in the fridge till late Sunday. The result was sublime - hot and cold.

Spiced Orange Crusted Pork

2 tsp. fennel seeds
3 star anise
1 tsp. dill seeds
Sea salt and black peppercorns
2 crushed fresh bay leaves
Handful of fresh dill, chopped
Zest of 2 oranges, grated
Olive oil
1 Tbsp. Pernod
2kg. boned shoulder of pork, untied
1 onion, sliced

In a mortar, crush the fennel seeds coarsely with the star anise, dill seeds, sea salt, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. Add the fresh dill and orange zest and stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Rub the paste well into the opened-out pork where the bone has been removed and all over the outside of the meat and into the crevices where the fat has been slashed. Concentrate on the inside of the roast, the fat, and the ends. Splosh on a bit of Pernod and put the roast skin side down onto a rack and cover loosely with greasproof paper. Leave in the refrigerator, overnight if you can.

Bring the meat to room temperature before you roll it up and tie it with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals. Rub generous amounts of salt into the skin. Place the joint on top of the sliced onion in a roasting pan. Sprinkle some sea salt over the roast and put it in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes hot as you can, then baste the roast and turn the oven down to Gas 4/375 degrees.

Keep basting the meat till it is cooked through - it will take about 2 hours. Remove the pork from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes. Scrape the blackened onions from the base of the pan and drain on some kitchen paper before serving with the meat.

I just made some mashed sweet potatoes and steamed courgettes to accompany the roast - the lightness of the veg offset the flavour of the pork very well indeed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dill Rice

I've been making this on and off for a while and was sure I had included it on feast with bron. Then last week I bought a big bunch of dill, some of which I used to flavour the pork roast and some of which I planned to use making dill rice. Only, when I looked, the recipe wasn't on here. Disaster! I use this blog as my recipe store - or one of them, I have gazillions at home and another gazillion saved on the hard drive - and often and refer back to them. In fact, if I lost this site not sure what we'd be eating.

Anyway, I googled and came up with lots of persian dill rice recipes - some of which sounded very nice - but it wasn't this one. And I really wanted this one. Finally, after trying a few different variations on the request I found it again on rice gourmet. Any time you need a little inspiration for a rice dish, this is the place to go. They love the stuff.

Dill Rice

1 cup (7oz/200) rice
3 tbspn oil
4 cloves
½-1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1 cup of frozen green peas

Soak the rice for 15 minutes. Wash well and drain.

Heat the oil in a pot and fry the cloves and chilli. Add the peas, dill and rice and saute for 1 minute

Add salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon) and 13/4 cups boiling water, and cook for 9-10 minutes until the rice is perfectly cooked.

It is very quick and easy to prepare. The finished dish has interesting flavours, the cool dill balances the little prickle of heat from the chilli and the cloves adds an interesting background note. We had it with a spiced mutton stew, which it complemented perfectly, but it would also make a simple central dish on a hot day (like we see any of those !) with just some cucumber raita and warm naan.

Friday, July 18, 2008

And this week...I bought

We have a quiet week next week - so far no plans to go out at all. We also have some potatoes to harvest this weekend so I'm planning simple but fabulous for Saturday night - omelette, buttered new potatoes and fresh herb salad had steak instead of omelette. Possibly strawberries and cream for dessert sadly not, the man didn't fancy it unless it was eton mess. Sunday I want to make a spiced roast pork as I have some veg left over from last week and want to use them to make chick pea and roast veg salad for lunchboxes. Monday I think duck salad in the french style - have some duck bits in the fridge that will go nicelyit was indeed but not till Thursday night, we had fresh pasta and salad instead. Tuesday I'm wondering about pasta e fagioli - eat some, freeze some no again (so much for planning!) we had a spiced mutton stew with dill rice - I wanted to use the dill with plenty left for the freezer and Friday night. Wednesday chinese perhaps - red cooked beef from the freezer and some stir fry veg and rice went out to Wright Bros for beef and oyster pie, Thursday pasta perhaps salad, Friday another salad spiced mutton with cous cous - it is summer after all!

Though it is summer according to the calendar it is a very long way from warm. Saturday, in fact, was blowy and cold and the market, at about 9am was pretty empty. We went to Ginger Pig where they had a big sign out the front saying 45 day aged rump £14.95 per kilo. That was the end of the plan to have omelette for supper! Halved it, one lot in the freezer, the other grilled and served with little potatoes and rocket from the garden. Bought a very very big slice, also some pork shoulder spiced and roasted Sunday night and then into lunches for the week and a little diced mutton for an African stew Tuesday night, again on Friday and one serving into the freezer and in no time at all I had spent £39.90. So much for frugality.

Then to Booths for sweet potatoes mash with spiced pork and into african stew where they collapsed and thickened it nicely, fresh courgettes steamed Sunday night, bananas intended for lunches but they had turned black by Monday so I made a banana and walnut loaf because I can't throw away a whole bunch of bananas, garlic, lettuce, cucumber salads, dill spiced pork Sunday, dill rice Tuesday and some still left, oranges zest with the pork and juiced by the man for breakfast Sunday and carrots mutton stew and grated with salad Thursday night - £8.90

Then to Gianni for cheese - we sampled three very different ones and chose the one in the middle - a hard, crumbly toma style cheese snacking and still plenty left, then had to have a burrata Sunday with bread and salami for lunch which is a variation of mozzarella cheese with slightly elastic skin that breaks open with a spoon to reveal soft curds and cream. The flavor is creamy soft with a gentle tang that lingers on the palate and the texture is both meltingly liquid and lightly chewy. There's no other cheese like it. It is easily one of the man's favourite things - £10.50

Olives snacking from taste of Turkey - rich, crinkly dried black ones - £2.60

Fresh pasta Monday night and as good as it was last week from Gastronomica because it was sensational last week and I wanted to revisit the experience - even if you can never go back - and some fennel salami Saturday sandwich and Sunday with burrata to go with the mozzarella - £7.20

Then to my delight I discovered Marie was working the Good Olive Company stall - haven't seen her for weeks - so had a lovely chat to her for half an hour or so - and suddenly the market was very busy, don't know where they all came from!

Went to Tony's for peppers and aubergine - roasted with tomatoes and courgettes and onions left from last week for chick pea salad for lunches £2.70

Then to Neals Yard for milk and yoghurt had some cooked rhubarb in the freezer so breakfast this week with the yoghurt, very summery -£7.80
Then to Flour Power for a cottage loaf toast! - but no brownie - so only £1

And lastly bought a ciabatta fresh weekend bread, and not too many holes from the Italian cheese stall that has inhabited Maria's café site since she moved into the market proper - £3

So not a cheap week - £83.60

Didn't buy a lot extra - butter and flour to make my banana cake, and some bread to go with salad Thursday, and a packet of borlotti beans for soup that's yet to materialise. Ended up being out Wednesday night for a splendid dinner at Wright Bros.

This time last year we were mostly eating spiced rice rather than dill rice and herbed crumb aubergine

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eating Chicken

Over on A Merrier World Kate has organised a campaign to highlight the importance of knowing the way in which your chickens are raised. She has written a fascinating piece about the last 50 years or so of commercial poultry production, which is frightening in its detail about intensively reared birds. It is well worth reading and pondering before you buy another chicken from the supermarket - or indeed from anywhere.

In an earlier piece she challenged food bloggers in general to join together to raise the awareness of the ramifications of factory production of these birds. I think it is hugely important and so this post is simply devoted to adding my voice to this campaign.

I wrote a piece a little while ago paying £17 for a chicken and how that made me panic slightly at spending so much. Then I cooked that lovely chicken and we ate various meals for a week and by the end it turned into an economical purchase. The last thing I made from it was a very fine Chicken and Tarragon Soup.

I firmly believe that it is worth paying more for better quality and using it all, thereby being frugal at the same time as being extremely well fed. Well worth aspiring to.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chocolate Brownies

A big fan in general of the Moosewood cookbooks, she had made the brownies using their famous recipe. She wrote it out for me - I still have her elegantly written page, albeit a bit chocolate smudged now. These days there is google - put moosewood chocolate brownies into the search engine and you get 20,000 results in less than a second. About the same amount of time it takes to eat one.

Moosewood Chocolate Brownies

250g/ 1/2 lb. butter (don't melt it)
125g/5 oz. 70% or above dark chocolate
1 3/4 cups (packed) light brown sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Let cool.

Cream the butter with the3 light brown sugar then add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract. Beat in the melted, cooled chocolate and the flour.

Spread into a buttered 9x13" baking pan. Bake 20-30 minutes at gas 5/350 degrees.
Optional: chopped nuts, or 1 tablespoon instant coffee, or 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange or lemon rind, or 1/2 teaspoon allspice or cinnamon, or a mashed over-ripe banana, or none of the above.

Yet another option: instead of uniformly blending in the chocolate, you can marble it. Add chocolate last, after the flour is completely blended in

I had been thinking of attempting a comparison test with Nigella's brownies - made a batch Sunday. Though fabulous I took them out of the oven too soon (following the warning that they would continue cooking while they cooled down) and had a lovely outside ring of fudgy brownies and an essentially liquid central lake, which firmed up in the fridge to be a sort of chocolate surprise which then liquified to chocolate ooze again at room temperature. The niece is in seventh heaven.

Friday, July 11, 2008

And this week... I bought

Thinking about next week I have no idea what to have Saturday - possibly fish - probably let the man decide. Sunday the niece comes again so will buy a piece of gammon and have ham and salads for lunch, pasta I think for supper - possibly some fresh from Gastronomica that I have been idly eyeing up for months. Monday we will go out for Mamma Mia and pizza and Tuesday we are out to watch the niece perform at Sadlers Wells with dinner before. Wednesday I think curry and rice or dahl, Thursday noodles and Friday salad of some kind.

Saturday dawned cold and threatening rain - again. Perhaps summer really is behind us. Borough Market is definitely quieter first thing - though perhaps people are simoly on holidays. Started at Ginger Pig and bought a lovely piece of unsmoked gammon that I cooked for lunch with salads Sunday and then for lunches till Thursday though possibly should have bought a bigger piece and also half a kilo of minced pork to split into small parcels in the freezer used a couple Thursday night for stirfry noodles with cabbage to add flavour and texture to occasional Chinese dishes - £19.60

Then across the other side for eggs brownies and sausages with salad for supper Wednesday night as I had some potatoes from last week that needed using and also the last of some rice salad from Wild Beef - for £5.50 - where Lizzie had a terrible story about TB. They have a pregnant cow that been tested a number of times with a different result each time - negative, positive and borderline - with the upshot that it will be slaughtered 'just in case'. The brother of this cow tested the same way last year, was slaughtered and was then found to be completely clear of TB and it is extremely likely that this will be repeated again now. It is outrageous that there is no reliable test and yet the farmers must submit their animals to slaughter with the likelihood of the death being pointless. Lizzie is hugely upset at the prospect of losing this cow and her unborn calf - and powerless to affect it. Just madness.

Decided against buying tomatoes from Isle of Wight - they are fabulous it is true but the punnet size seems to have halved and the price has remained the same and, this time of year, good tomatoes are not difficult to come by

So bought apple juice from Chegworth - who have now opened a shop in Notting Hill apparently - £3

Went to Gastronomica for some filled fresh pasta to see what it's like simply served with hot sage butter it was sensational - £5
Mussels Saturday supper sorted cooked with chorizo from the freezer and the other half of a bunch of coriander left from earlier last week from Furness Fish - £4.50 a bag

Then to Booths for tomatoes, celery, satsumas, peppers, fennel, sugarsnaps, garlic mostly salads but still have fennel and tomatoes plus courgettes from last week so will make chick peas with roasted vegetables for lunchboxes next week - less than usual as we still have potatoes, cabbage and some salad bits left from last week - £7.90

Smoked salmon Saturday lunch, mmmm lovely from the Irish stall which I now know is called Derreensillagh Smokehouse based on the west coast of Ireland in the Ring of Kerry. The business was established by a man called Tim Youard and his wife called Bron - making it close to perfect - £5

Then to Neals Yard for milk, cream it was a shortdated special so it's in the freezer till I need some to cook with, yoghurt and bread - a Swiss loaf for a change which is a mix of rye and brown - £9.80

Then to Flour Power for a cottage tin loaf - it really does make great toast - and a couple of croissants - £3.70

Total this week is an even £64 - I am trying to spend less and seem to be succeeding but then we are out a lot this week so that too is a factor. Apart from butter and chocolate and caster sugar for the brownies I also bought some sesame oil and noodles for stir fry, and a couple of oranges to make some spiced orange oil as we had run out. The end of one loaf of bread went in the bin as did the yoghurt as, sadly, it was off when I opened it.

This time last year we were mostly eating spiced cauliflower and roasted peppers with preserved duck eggs to push my envelope...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Spicy Chick Peas and Spinach

The basis of this lovely quick and healthy mid week dish came from eatlikeagirl - another London food blogger who wins my admiration just for having such a fabulous name for her site. Randomly scrolling through some of her posts I came across this one and thought - hmmm, could be a good one. And it is!

I bought a jar of chickpeas from Brindisa on Saturday - they are the best ready cooked ones I've ever found, big fat creamy golden balls. Just look at the size of them!. I realised last night when I started to make this that I already had a jar in the cupboard from a few months ago so I took it out. The price sticker was still on it - £2.75. The jar I bought this week was £2.95. Even cheap is getting more expensive. With chickpeas - as all pulses - the best result will always come from buying the freshest dried beans you can find, soaking them for a few hours before cooking them. It's also the cheapest way. But sometimes that is just not going to happen. I find that, particularly with chick peas, buying ready cooked ones and rinsing them thoroughly makes a good second choice. That way this dish can be made in half an hour - and eaten in minutes!

Spicy Chick Peas and Spinach

2 tins of chickpeas or 1 large jar if you can buy posh ones!
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbspn vegetable oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 in root ginger, peeled and grated
1 stick celery, finely sliced
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
Juice of half a lemon
250g fresh spinach,washed and desalked
1/2 large bunch coriander, choppped

Dry fry the coriander and cumin seeds in a large heavy pan until they start to pop. Tip them into a bowl. Combine with the ground cumin and coriander and the turmeric, chilli, salt and garam masala.
Heat the oil in the same pan and when hot, fry the onion and celery until the onion is translucent, then add the spices, ginger, and garlic and fry for few more minutes. Add the tomato puree and stir through till hot.

Add the chickpeas along with half a cup of water and coat in the spices. When the chick peas are well coated and hot add the spinach and cover with a lid until the leaves have wilted.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chopped coriander and the lemon.
Serve topped with a drizzle of plain yoghurt.

This is a very lightly spiced dish - you could make it hotter or spicier but it has a pleasant mellowness spiced this way.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


This is a serious throwback to another time in my life. When I was about 14 I was given a french cookbook for christmas - a wonderfully exotic and foreign thing in small town seventies' Australia. I pored over the pages, unsure to an extent even how to pronounce the names, let alone decode the photos.

I think the first thing I made was beef bourguignon - and it came out a rich beef stew that was different dish to the kind of thing my mother made at the time. New and exciting - I was smitten. Next I decided on quiche lorraine, but with a little trepidation. The recipe called for green bacon and gruyere cheese. I had no idea what either thing was - bacon was bacon and cheese was generally cheddar or else processed slices to melt on toast. My mother suggested I try asking at the new delicatessan at the bottom of the hill. Because I had really no idea what I was looking for I remember being hugely embarrassed to be asking. I started off by skulking around the shelves and chiller cabinets desperately hoping that I could find on my own the ingredients I wanted clearly labelled on a prominent shelf. No such luck.

Eventually I asked the woman behind the counter who was delighted to help. She explained that green bacon was simply unsmoked bacon and she sliced me the required amount. She also knew of gruyere though had none in stock. She told me it was a pale coloured Swiss cheese that had a nutty flavour and tiny holes. I must admit I was confused by this description but was too timid to say. She suggested Emmental as a substitute as it would also melt well to combine with the rest of the filling.

I took her advice, went home and set out to make my first quiche, which also involved making my first ever batch of pastry. With the kindness of hindsight I am sure it was perfect but that may well be the blurring of memory. I know I made a lot of them for a while because I was really taken with the way the cheese, bacon and pastry melded in to the most extraordinary shell for the cooked egg - rich, silky, subtly flavoured. I just loved them.

Then I left home and stopped making them - though I have bought quite a few, most recently from Paul. Then the other day, the sun was shining and we were looking to have a simple supper. I had a flick through Larousse Gastronomique and got me a recipe. Obviously, as it is a slightly more authoritative source than my book from all those years ago, this quiche lorraine had no cheese. Cheese is not an ingredient of the original Lorraine recipe, as Julia Child informed Americans: "The classic quiche Lorraine contains heavy cream, eggs and bacon, no cheese." Though most contemporary quiche recipes include Gruyère cheese, making it a quiche au gruyère or a quiche vosgienne. The addition of onion to quiche Lorraine makes quiche alsacienne.

The first one I made was cheese free. The second one, a week later, had some rocchetta pinched into pieces and mixed with the bacon. I lovd them both, but most of all I loved the second one.


For the pastry

250g plain flour
125g butter
A generous pinch of salt
1 egg
3 tbspns of very cold water

Rub the butter into the seasoned flour to make crumbs then add the egg and, gradually, the water, kneading the dough to make a firm ball. Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for a couple of hours.

Split the ball of dough in half, keeping one half out and putting the other half in the freezer for another quiche another day.

Flour the bench and roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a thickness of 4mm/ 1/4 inch. Carefully roll the pastry around the outside of the rolling pin and then unroll it into a buttered and floured (preferably loose bottomed) tart tin or pie dish, 22cm/9inches in diameter, bringing the edges of the pastry up to extend slightly beyond the tin edge. Prick it all over and line it with baking paper weighted with baking beans if you have them or a handful of dried beans if you don't. Cook in the oven at 200C (400F, gas 6) for 12-14 minutes. Take out the beans and leave to cool.

For the filling

250g unsmoked streaky bacon, cut into 1/2 cm strips
1 tbspn butter
100g cheese - either grated gruyere or a soft sheeps cheese (or whatever you need to use up)
4 eggs - the best you can find
250ml / 1/2 pint double cream
Salt, pepper and fresh grated nutmeg

Blanch the bacon for five minutes in boiling water. Refresh under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Melt the butter in a small pan over a gentle heat then brown the bacon very lightly.

Spread the bacon and cheese over the cooked pastry base. Beat the eggs with the cream; add salt, pepper and a generous grating of nutmeg, then pour the mixture over the bacon and cheese.

Cook for about 30 minutes in the oven at gas 6. Serve hot with salad, warm with salad or even leftovers cold for breakfast.
People say you can never go back and it's probably true. But if not, then I would suggest that this was better than the versions I made in my teens and so is very much the product of moving forward.

Friday, July 04, 2008

And this week... I bought

Thought I'd try out adding a new element to this section of the blog. What I think I'll have for the following week and then see what I end up really having and how it affects the pattern of what I buy. We have the man's delightful niece staying this weekend while she attends music rehearsals. Saturday night I was planning to have warm roast beef and salads - potato, beetroot, green bought letttuce and things at Booths but didn't make a green salad and one other as yet undecided made roasted onion and green beans with enough left over for a few days lunches for us. She is a right little chocoholic so will make a batch of brownies as well. Big success!

Sunday breakfast may well be special - scrambled eggs and smoked salmon salmon people not there so just scramble on toast perhaps, or strawberry smoothies. We're out Sunday night - fun night at dinner at Davids. And Monday night to see the utterly wonderful Black Watch at the Barbican. And I'm out Tuesday night so the man can have the last of the spaghetti bolognese from the freezer.

Wednesday I'm thinking a quick spicy chickpea and spinach dish with some cucumber raita, got as far as the chickpeas but just added a dollop of yoghurt with some left for lunch Thursday. Might need rice to go with. No rice either!

Thursday I think noodles or some other kind of Chinese. Went for some other kind - market omelette with carrot and ginger stirfry over rice - very good indeed

Friday I plan to use the steak from the freezer that I put in there a couple of weeks ago with a big salad and a little crusty bread. On target!

Borough Market was very quiet Saturday morning - not helped I suspect by the teeming rain. Absolutely chucking it down. Bleugh. We started as ever at Ginger Pig where I bought a spectacular piece of topside to roast - £25.20 - a lot but it was dinner Saturday and lunches in the week so reasonable in the end

Then we wandered over to the other side for eggs from Wild Beef - £3 a dozen for Sunday breakfast and omelette Thursday

Tomatoes from the Isle of Wight - they were looking particularly shiny and bright lunches and omelette - £3.50
And chocolates - £2

A summer cabbage bought it thinking I'd make a curry but didn't but it is still fine so plan to use it Sunday to make coleslaw and onions from Ted's Veg - £2.20

Coffee beans from Monmouth - £9

Posh chick peas spiced with spinach Wednesday night in a jar from Brindisa - £2.95

Booths for veg - lots of new crop Duke of York red for salad - they are the same variety I buy later in the year as main crop potatoes that make the best roast potatoes, a consistently wonderful thing, red onions, green beans salad, carrots stirfry, lettuce, cucumber, tangerines lunches and zucchinis still in the fridge but still fine to use over the weekend - £10.80

Half a kilo of spinach from Tony used most of it with chickpeas but the rest I hoped to have with steak Friday night but had to bin it as it was past it- £1.50

Neals Yard for bread for sandwiches and toast and the last bit went in the bin, milk, pasta to replace some I'd used last week and yoghurt for breakfast - £12.20

Then decided we needed salami for a sandwich so went back in to the market to Gastronomica for some napoli - £1.80

A cottage loaf from Flour Power - £1 No brownies as I'd made a pan the night before which, though not quite as spectacularly fabulous as the ones they sell were still pretty amazing

So all together we spent £75.15 this week

Extras I bought this week were butter and posh biscuits from Waitrose and ginger, spring onions and a little bit of minced pork in Chinatown

This time last year we were mostly eating chickpeas! but with tomato curry and spaghetti with tomato and ginger.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Caribbean Chicken and Rice - Pelau

One of the many good things about volunteering to cook for Food Chain is learning to make things I've never heard of before. We have a fair proportion of service users who are of African or Caribbean descent who look, like all the rest, to find food they know when they open their lunch on Sundays. Given that part of the ethos of the charity is to feed people well to add a little joy to their week we need to send out food that is familiar to them. I am fine on regular dinners, the hardest thing with them is deciding on which particular meal to cook. Vegetarian and Indian food I have a lot of experience making, eating and enjoying.

But African and Caribbean? No.

I have bought food at Notting Hill Carnival from street vendors and had an occasional meal from African kitchens and tiny Brixton restaurants but, despite the fact that London has a quite sizeable population from these countries the food has a very low public profile. There has been no parallel spreading of these ethnic foods into mainstream life to match the reach of, traditionally, Indian and Chinese or the more recent proliferation of Thai and Japanese - albeit bastardised versions of such. There are probably more shops selling Polish food now than African. There is the magnificence of Brixton market - and I do shop there a lot - but it hasn't spread more generally. Tesco sells no ready meal version of groundnut stew in the way they shift billions of chicken tikkas. The information and recipes are out there but you have to search. Cooking for food chain has led me to look.

What I found recently was a one pot meal called Pelau that sounded very tasty with the added advantage that we could make it on a Sunday morning and have it out on time. Pelau is one of Trindad’s signature national dishes. Chicken is seared in caramelized sugar after being steeped in a garlicky marinade then cooked in coconut milk until it is falling off the bone soft and subtly sweet. Sounded good.

I found the initial recipe on Aidan Brooks blogsite - in his favourite recipes section. Then I googled it and came up with many subtle variations on the original - the one thing they had in common was all of them extolling the pleasure in the eating. The other ting needed for the making of this was the need for green seasoning. Never heard of it. Apparently it is essential to the final dish. So I took myself to Brixton to one of the big Afro-Caribbean shops and checked the shelves. Sure enough there were rows and rows of bottles of different sizes.

Looked interesting.

Bought some.

After all I did want this to work.

The following recipe is my version that I made at home for the man and me - it is so good there is now a bottle of green seasoning in the pantry waiting for the next time.

Rice, Chicken and Pigeon Peas - Pelau

For the marinade
2 chicken quarters
1 tbsp mixed green seasoning
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

For the rice and peas:
1/2 cup rice
1 large onion
1 green bell pepper
1 tin cooked pigeon peas (or gungo peas)
1 hot chilli pepper
1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cups chicken stock or water
1 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tbsp vegetable oil

In a bowl, mix together the green seasoning, crushed garlic, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, tomato purée, salt and pepper.

Cut the chicken pieces through the joint to make two legs and two thighs. Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and rub in the marinade. Cover and leave for an hour.

Prepare the vegetables by finely chopping the onion and hot chilli pepper. Dice the pepper into 1cm pieces.

Heat the vegetable oil in a lidded pan big enough to hold the finished meal and add the brown sugar. Keep it moving, as the sugar will dissolve after a few minutes and turn toffeeish. Add the seasoned chicken pieces - be careful they will spit - and cook for about 5 minutes all over until they have a golden brown surface colour.

Now add in the chopped onion and pepper and the pigeon peas and continue to cook, stirring for a few minutes. Stir in the rice. Mix thoroughly. Add in the chilli pepper and then pour in the coconut milk and the chicken stock. Stir all of the ingredients together well, bring to the boil then reduce the heat so the mixture is just simmering. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed.

Add more liquid if needed until the rice is cooked. The final dish should be nicely dry, but not dried out.

Served in big bowls it was a great summer supper - and with very little washing up at the end!