Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Warm Spinach & Bacon Salad

Wow! Hotter than a hot thing all week in London - just like a proper summer. And proper summer calls for proper salad, salad as a complete meal. Which is fine by me as I love salad in all its many guises - a good salad should bring joy to your day. It needs flavour and texture and colour and perfumes to tempt you to try a morsel of this and a soup├žon of that. Though the possiblities are endless the temptation to add everything you have to hand or in the fridge is best avoided.

I used to think most salads should properly be made with raw ingredients for the lovely crunch of carrots and cabbage denying the bland in creamy coleslaw, the dense rich perfume of a tomato still warm from the sun. And there are indeed many fine salads that are exclusively raw - but why limit yourself? Cooked elements served cold or at room temperature or even a little warm all qualify and may be fabulous.

This salad, which is an adaptation of one from the pioneer woman who writes a fine sassy blog about many things, including some great food. What appealed to me when I came across it is the variety of temperatures to match textures, and a palette of flavours that work togther but are tasted individually, the test of a great salad.

So on a hotter than it should be Monday night, we got to watch the the highlights of tennis from Wimbledon and sup on this very fine meal. It requires no more complicated accompaniment than crusty bread.

Warm Spinach & Bacon Salad
2 eggs
100g smoked back bacon, cut into thick strips
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbspn basil oil
12 white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
100g baby spinach, washed, dried, and large stems removed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoons sugar
1 tspn chopped fresh tarragon
Salt & ground black pepper

Cover with water in a small pan, bring to a boil, then turn off heat and allow to sit in water for 20 minutes. Drain off water and add ice on top of eggs.
Fry bacon until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes on a low heat. Remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Remove 3 tablespoons grease and set aside.

Add basil oil to a separate pan over medium heat and add the red onions. Cook slowly until onions are caramelized and reduced, 15-20 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Slice mushrooms and add them to the same pan. Cook slowly until caramelized and brown. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Peel and slice eggs.

Make hot bacon dressing: Warm the rendered bacon fat over a medium-low then whisk in the vinegar and sugar and heat thoroughly. Check and adjust seasoning.

Add spinach to a large bowl. Arrange onions, mushrooms, tarragon and bacon on top. Pour hot dressing over the top; toss to combine.

Arrange eggs over the top and serve.

I have to admit the clincher for me was the dressing made from the hot fat rendered from the bacon. Has to be special. There is a woman in the office where I work who doesn't eat pork. There is no bacon, no crackling, no salami, no grilled pork chops, no chorizo, morcilla or proscuitto in her life. A choice I could never make.

Friday, June 26, 2009

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

Thinking steak and salad Saturday night - not sure why I'm needing a treat. Treat turned out to be cold collation which was brilliant but, having paid vast amounts of money for the ham from Brindisa I should definitely have served it entirely alone, putting it on a platter with other things dimmed its magnificence a little. When I've saved up enough for there to be a next time, I shall remember this lesson.Fortunately don't need an excuse! Sunday I think roast pork from the shoulder I put in the freezer a couple of weeks ago, with salads warm indeed so we had the pork with beetroot and barley salad and swede and butternut roasted with ginger and chillies and crisp greens from the garden perhaps if the warm weather continues. Monday salad would be good fab warm spinach and bacon, Tuesday I have a spring pasta bake that I'd like to try had the ingredients but went with pork chop noodle soup, lighter in the heatwave!, Wednesday noodle soup out for dinner with friend from Hong Kong, Thursday I will try again for tortilla out again for a slightly odd evening talk at the Barbican then quick dinner after at the Happy Siagon and Friday is too far away and now it's here and I'm planning an omelette with leeks and bread and salad.

Saturday was sunny and bright and so were we. But I faffed about watering pots and putting washing on before we set off for Borough and by the time we got there it was already busy and was more so by the time we left. Told the man about the plan for steak and he said cold collation! So at Ginger Pig - where they have finally given up the struggle to get their punters to queue neatly on one side and are now serving at the outside counter with chicken and the other meat inside - I just bought a couple of pork chops that became noodle soup Tuesday night - £5.27.

Then to Booths for bananas smoothies, leeks omelette Friday, courgette, broccoli meant for my pasta bake but it didn't happen but should be okay till early next week, garlic, carrots, tomatoes lunchboxes - which were £6.50 a kilo this week after being £4.50 last week - a swede roasted for salad, mushrooms, red onion for the salad Monday night and sugarsnaps - £8.20

At Brindisa we sampled all the dried hams they sell - as the man sliced a piece from each one he explained the provenance and diet of the pig they came from. All of them were very good but the stand out one was the Iberico at an astounding £16.50 per 100g. I'm not about to start buying it every week, or indeed month, but as a total treat I decided that was to be my choice for the cold collation and the man agreed. The process works differently to the other stalls, I had to give my name to the man who slices the meat and was told to pay at the cash register and come back after ten minutes or so and then it would be ready. I did all of that and meanwhile bought a chorizo which is still in the fridge -£21.50

Lizzie was advertising ox cheek at the Wild Beef stall, she showed me a piece which was surprisingly fatty and she said though it was fashionable she preferred skirt. I oculd see why but with a bit of summer here for now any slow cooking seems daft so I bought some eggs - £1.50

From Gastronomica I needed a piece of Parmesan and wanted a piece of Pecorino - sampled a couple, one which was sweet with the flowers in the fields where the sheep grazed and one that was younger and chalkier from spring grasses, chose the floral for a change - £12

Bought some chocolates for Sam for birthday and Stavroula to congratulate her on a new job - £4

Then I realised I needed ricotta too for the pasta dish that hasn't yet happened but I found you can freeze it so will make the pasta next week so went to the other Gastronomica and got what I needed £6

Sweet smelling strawberries for the man to make smoothies from Chegworth - 2 punnets £2.50
Olives from the Fresh Olive stall to snack on over the weekend - £3.50

A pork pie Saturday lunch for a change from Mrs King - £5

Bread, milk and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £6.20

And a cottage loaf and a brownie from Flour Power - £3.10

So a hefty £78.77 - lucky we had a spare roast in the freezer!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Morcilla & Caremalised Apples

That was sensational! So said Vicki at being presented with some spanish blood pudding cooked with apples and cider. High praise indeed but she was not wrong.

I bought the morcilla at Brindisa on Saturday, wanting to do tapassy things Tuesday night for dinner as they are the kind of food that is hard to come by in the otherwise food fabulous Singapore. Was thinking I'd just fry thick slices till crispy and serve it up - quality ingredients simply done and all that. Then I had a sudden panic that perhaps the lovely Vicki doesn't eat such meaty delights, or perhaps not plain. A quick flick through the Moro Cookbook yielded this elegant sounding recipe which simply needed me to find some golden delicious apples. Which surprised me a little as I had thought they were just an eating apple rather than one to cook with. But hey, Sam & Sam know a lot more than me.

http://www.orangepippin.com/, a site that knows a lot about apples, says the variety was first discovered in the USA at the end of the 19th century, and is now planted in all the major warm apple growing areas of the world. From a grower's perspective Golden Delicious is an attractive proposition - heavy crops, and fruit which keeps in storage for a long time after harvest. This would be of little interest to consumers, but it does have some redeeming features ! The fruit (when fresh from the tree) is exceptionally sweet, almost like eating raw sugar cane. It can be used both for dessert and cooking purposes, and it also has an attractive appearance - which can indeed be golden if left to mature on the tree.

Being literal minded at times I searched through the ones on display at the Farringdon Fruit Shop and chose those closest to the notion of golden. They cooked up very well indeed, ending up a deep golden colour after about ten minutes in the pan. Frying them in butter resulted in exquisitely rich pieces of apple, not sweet at all but like pie almost, with a melting texture that contrasted beautifully with the dense pudding and all of it served on a bed of rocket fresh from our little garden.

Morcilla & Caremalised Apples

50g ghee or clarified butter
2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
2 tbspoons olive oil
200g morcilla, cut into rounds about 1 cm thick
2 tbspns roughly chopped parsley
75ml medium-dry cider

Set a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the ghee. When it has melted add the apple slices and gently fry until golden brown on one side, then flip them over and do the same on the other side. Cook unitl the apple is soft and golden all over. This takes about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wash the pan.

When you are ready to serve the dish place the cleaned frying pan over a medium to high heat and add the oil. When it is hot add the morcilla and fry for a minute on each side until slightly crisped, turning carefully. Return the apple to the pan and add the parsley, then the cider, taking care as it might spit. Continue to fry for 30 seconds to burn off the alcohol, then taste for seasoning.

Sam and Sam Clark recommend serving on a bed of lightly dressed cress but rocket worked a treat.

How can you resist? Sensational!

Friday, June 19, 2009

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

Black beans on rice with raita and coriander - sadly not great!

We are away for the weekend to see the lovely Marie and John in Gloucestershire which will be an adventure as I've not been to Gloucestershire before - or not knowingly. But it will be after Borough so still need a plan for the week. Sunday night on our return we will have something from the freezer - probably lamb and chickpeas with a little pasta better still stayed for a bbq in their wonderful garden and got in in time for bed. Monday I am hoping to try a new tortilla recipe had hot pies with mash and carrots and peas I found on line this week with salad from our garden! Tuesday the lovely Vicki is coming over so I'm thinking Moro - chorizo, dried mutton, date and parsnip salad, lentils or chickpeas moro fest it was with lentils and roasted peppers, morcilla with apple and hot padron peppers - the kind of thing that is utterly foreign in the food mecca of Singapore where she normally resides. Wednesday stirfry noodles omelette and leftover salads, Thursday there is an african lentil recipe I would like to try sausages and potato salad, though after this week's disaster with black beans might leave it and Friday salad with burgers - or sausage sarnies!

Saturday was brightish and warmish but the man wasn't so I set off alone to Borough. With my trusty trolley I figured I could just about manage. For the first time in I can't remember how long I didn't start at the Ginger Pig as I had nothing on my list to buy from them. But I was delighted to see a big sign out the front advertising pork ribs - after saying last week they can be hard to come by this week there is an abundance.

I started instead at Booths where I bought potatoes mashed with pies Monday, padron peppers, little gem lettuce, parsnips salads for Tuesday and beyond, kohlrabi, Spanish onions and sugarsnaps lunches but forgot to buy garlic which could very quickly be a disaster - £8.30

At Brindisa I bought chorizo and morcilla the Tuesday spanish fest for £7.77

Smoked salmon on toast Saturday again as it was so good last week £5

From Lizzie at Wild Beef I got eggs omelette Wednesday for £1.50

Olives for Marie and John from Taste of Turkey for £2.80
Beetroots and parsley Tuesday dishes from Ted's Veg - £2.30

Coffee from Monmouth hostess gift - £10

2 pies from Mrs King the plan had been to eat them before setting off for the train but there was no time so we had them Monday night with mash and peas and they were just lovely - £5

Peppers 4 roasted with spanish onions for lentil salad from Tony 6 @ £2

Milk, yoghurt and cream the plan had been to go with strawberries for dessert Tuesday night but it proved impossible to get good english strawberries so we had cheese instead and the cream is in the freezer from Neals Yard - £7.20

And a cottage loaf toast! from Flour Power £1.10

So a reasonable £52.97 but it's not the same going alone - much more interesting to have the man there to ask what he'd like for lunch or to point out something new or different. Next week.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Singapore style spare ribs

Fancied spare ribs a few weeks ago and then could not get them at Borough for love or money. (Money usually works!) Then on Saturday as I was just about ready to pay I noticed Ginger Pig had a pile and so I could not resist. Wanted them hot and sticky and chinesey like I've made for many many years using a recipe from Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook. I cannot resist a dish that requires chewing on bones, gnawing away for the pleasure of tiny bits of succulent meat and meantime getting sticky fingers and a messy face. Total pleasure.

Spiced Spareribs
About a kilo of spareribs, split
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn ground black pepper
1/2 tspn five spice powder
1 tbspn honey
1 tbspn sesame oil
3 tbspns light soy sauce
1/2 hot water

Combine the crushed garlic with salt, pepper, fvie spice, honey, sesame oil and soy. Put the meat into a roasting pan and rub the honeyed spices well into spareribs. Put the pan into a moderate oven, gas 4, and cook for about half an hour.

After 30 minutes, turn the pareribs, add hot water to the pan and continue roasting, basting every ten minutes for another half an hour or so, till the ribs are golden and sticky.

Serve with boiled rice and some plum sauce if you have it, and definitely lots of napkins.

Friday, June 12, 2009

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

To France last weekend so no Borough and a few days of mostly eating from the freezer upon our return. Oh and confit duck and duck fat potatoes with a little salad Thursday night to prolong the french experience.

Rumour has it the weekend will be warm so I quite fancy scallops and salad or something similar had lovely crumbed cod and peashoot salad Saturday night. Sunday perhaps tandoori chicken with rice and spiced onions huh! had the rice but with spare ribs and green peppers with black beans as it turns out the man does not like tandoori and things with lots of yummy leftovers for lunchboxes. Monday and Tuesday I'm out so the man will fend for himself, perhaps with the help of a steak & kidney pie from Mrs Elizabeth King. Wednesday noodles ma po tofu and rice and Thursday tortilla and salad should have gone with that but instead tried out a new recipe for black beans and rice and the nicest thing about it was the raita and coriander on top, the beans were decidedly savoury and I don't mean that in a good way. Oh well, broken eggs, omelettes and all that. Friday we're out - so an easy kind of week.

Turns out the man doesn't like tandoori chicken. So much for planning.

Borough Market was lovely and quiet first thing Saturday with neither dogs nor pushchairs blocking our way. The Ginger Pig still has lots of big signs asking people to queue on one side only - not sure if it's working. Bought a magnificent piece of rolled shoulder of porkfreezer and some smoked bacon also freezer then my eye was caught by a pile of spare ribs so, after a quick confab with the man bought a sheet with the plan to now be chinese Sunday with leftovers for lunch and the shoulder could go into the freezer for another week. Cost £25.70

Then around to Booths but stopped with delight at the return of the smoked salmon stall - Muirenn are back! Celebrated by buying a tub for lunch £5

Booths next for carrots, the biggest cucumber I have ever seen some in salad Saturday and some in raita Thursday and some still in the fridge, sugarsnaps lunchboxes, a butternut had a plan but didn't use it but will be good for a while and baby plum tomatoes Saturday supper and lunchbox - £5 for cash

At Furness I bought a cod fillet that I crumbed with home made sourdough crumbs and fried till crisp and golden for a real treat Saturday night - £5.80

From Lizzie at Wild Beef some eggs scrambled with salmon for lunch Saturday and hardboiled for lunchbox Thursday - £1.50 - she told us the hens are coming to the end of their lives and so lay slightly misshapen eggs with much thinner shells

Back over to Monmouth for coffee daily necessity - £10

Three green peppers from tony a pound stirfried Sunday night

Neals Yard for milk, yoghurt and pasta - with hopes as well of buying an english stick only to discover they no longer sell them - disastre! - so it was a small pugliese instead - £11.20

A toast loaf from Flour Power - £1.10 completed the shop

Spent £66.20 and also bought tofu, onions, peanut oil, butter

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lentils with ewe's milk cheese

Busy with bits and pieces of other things Wednesday night I wanted something reasonably simple for dinner. I had a pot of ewe's milk cheese from Abel & Cole that needed using and was wondering about cheese omelette. I sampled a little and it was a delicate curd like cheese with a lemony tang. Very summery but I wasn't convinced it would melt into the eggs. I had omelettes Monday night but with tarragon and a carrot and fennel salad and that melded perfectly but I still had the cheese.

Jaey made a really nice lentil salad with the bbq Tuesday using puy lentils and that set me thinking. Decided if I used puy lentils rather than my favourite green ones, which are creamier when cooked, I could make a fab dinner with chorizo (because everything is better with chorizo!) and lentils served hot with little gobbits of cheese on top to add a tangy creaminess. Worked a treat.

Lentils with ewe's milk cheese

1 onion, roughy chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbspns olive oil
2 cooking chorizo, sliced into rounds (next time I'd make them quite thick)
1 stalk celery, washed and sliced thinly
200g puy lentils, washed
2 tbspns chopped flat leaf parsley
100g fresh sheeps milk curd cheese or ricotta

Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent and fragrant, about 10 minutes, then add the chorizo and celery and cook for a few minutes more till the sausage starts to crispy a little around the edge.

Tip the lentils into the pan and stir to coat in the oily mixture then add cold water to cover. Bring the pan to a simmer then lower the heat and cover with a lid. After 10 minutes, check there is still enough liquid - add hot water if you need to - and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for another 10 minutes or so till the lentils are cooked then stir through the parsley. Serve in deep bowls topped with splodges of cheese.