Thursday, December 30, 2010

Venison Faggots with Onion Gravy

It has long been the plan to have an amazing haunch of venison for Christmas. The man's sister and her husband and family have a farm in Cornwall where they planted a section of native forest about a decade ago. It has attracted a large wild deer population which needs to be managed with an annual cull so that both the trees and the animals survive in optimum conditions. They very generously gave us some when they visited in the summer and I have been idly making plans for it ever since. The first one involved using a jar of cherries I bought in France a very very long time ago. There were a few different versions of side dishes and accompaniments that I liked and then discarded. The final one happened because I ordered venison at dinner one night and it came with faggots and they were gorgeous. Don't think I'd ever eaten one before. Instantly decided that they too would be on my plate.
Faggots are a very old fashioned dish, a sort of simplified sausage that is easier to make, using cheap piggy bits of offal and fatty pork and spicy onions made into balls and wrapped in caul fat. They have been made in Britain since approximately the dawn of time - it was an accident with a batch of faggots at a shop in Pudding Lane that started the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Given that I had already decided not to go to Borough Market on the Saturday before xmas as it is invariably bedlam I set about finding pigs liver and caul fat. Who knew it could be so difficult to pick up a couple of bits of fairly standard butcher's fare? Jamie Oliver has opened a butchers under his new Barbecoa restaurant - complete with a couple of ex Ginger Pig butchers! - so was positive that I could get everything there. Not so - seems they had offal for the first couple of weeks but no one bought it and it has been subsequently discontinued. Further on down that street there is Porterfords - a traditional butcher that has served the city for many years. They were happy to get me caul fat but don't normally sell pigs liver. I could order it but I had to have a whole one. They weigh a couple of kilos and I needed 250g so it seemed wasteful. I started making calls (it was snowing and slippy and possibly dangerous to be wandering from butcher to butcher), but the Ginger Pig at Greeensmiths had none and expected none till after xmas, the butcher on Theobold Road didn't answer, the first retail butcher I tried at Smithfield didn't stock it, the second one suggested I call a third one who - joy! - promised they'd have some the following day. Popped in on my way to work, asked for pigs liver, and the butcher said 'Don't stock it, only lamb or calf'. When I said I'd spoken to someone the day before he said 'Oh, got that for you!' Came back with a whole liver - and insisted I must have it all.When I said I'd pay for it but only wanted a little bit he was somewhat taken aback. 'No love, you've paid for it. Freezes well and I'll slice it for you.' Which is how I ended up with an enormous amount of pigs liver.
Worth it in the end though - these little balls of pure delight were one of the highlights of the week. The recipe comes from that master of all food things British, Mark Hix. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear I omitted the mustard. I also used a little nutmeg as I had no mace.
Venison Faggots with Onion Gravy
This made sixteen decent sized faggots
3 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3 juniper berries, crushed
2tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tbsp vegetable oil
200g minced pork belly
250g minced pork or game liver
350g minced game meat such as pheasant, venison, hare, etc
1/2tsp ground mace
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 egg
200g caul fat, lamb or pig's, soaked for an hour in cold water
For the onion sauce
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1tbsp vegetable oil
A good knob of butter
3tsp flour
1tsp tomato purée
1tsp Dijon mustard
100ml red wine
250ml beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Gently cook the onion, garlic, thyme and juniper in the vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes until soft, add the pork belly and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes stirring well. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/Gas mark 7. Mix in the liver, game meat, breadcrumbs and egg and season well with the salt, pepper and mace. Mould the mixture into 150g balls - bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball - and wrap in a double layer of caul fat. In a deep baking tray, roast the faggots for 20 minutes or so until nicely coloured, then drain off the fat.
Meanwhile make the sauce: heat the oil in a thick bottomed pan and gently cook the onions for 8-10 minutes with a lid on until lightly coloured - you may add a splash of water if they are catching on the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and flour and tomato purée and stir well over a low heat for a minute. Add the mustard, stir well then gradually add the red wine, stirring again to prevent lumps forming, and then gradually add the beef stock. Season, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 175C/gas mark 4. Put the faggots into an oven-proof dish with the sauce, cover with a lid or foil, and continue cooking for 40 minutes. Eat them with mashed potato and root vegetables.
I made them a week early and froze them and cooked the onion gravy a couple of days early so on the day they were absolutely stress free. Best of all I only used half of them at xmas and the rest made a perfect mid week supper with the last of the root veg.
Am thrilled now that I have more liver in the freezer - these will definitely be on the menu again before this winter's out.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

King's Ginger Truffles

These are quick, easy and very festive. They will adorn our table at the end of the meal in case anyone is still remotely hungry.

King's Ginger Truffles

The recipe comes from Berry Brothers & Rudd as does The King's Ginger

Makes about 24

200g good quality chocolate
175ml double cream
5 tbspn The King's Ginger Liqueur

1 tspn finely chopped drained stem ginger in syrup

Cocoa powder for dusting

Line a baking tray with cling film.

Break the chocolate inot small pieces and drop into a heat proof bowl.

Bring the cream to the boil over a low flame and pour over the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate is melted.
Add the King's ~Ginger and the chopped stem ginger and mix well. Leave the mix to cool to room temperature which takes about 2 hours, when the mix will have stiffened nicely.

Use a teaspoon or melon baller and roll into interesting shapes. Roll in cocoa powder (I used toothpicks to turn them) and place on the baking sheet. Chill overnight.

Gorgeously ginger!

Happy Christmas everyone - eat well!

Friday, December 17, 2010

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

Vension faggots ready for christmas day

'Tis bizarre but the only Saturday of the year when I absolutely know I will not go to Borough is the one before Christmas. It is simply too horrible to contemplate, spectacularly busy to the point of completely mobbed and that's at 9am. Add snow to the mix and God knows what horror it is by mid afternoon. So my plan is to go early Sunday and collect my gammon and some cheese and coffee then run away home.

Saturday am planning culture afternoon with the lovely David, Turner Prize followed by cinema then spag bol and garlic bread at ours due to the fact that some toerag stole all of David's clothes and things from the gym culture was cancelled but restorative spaghetti at the end of the day helped a tiny bit. Sunday possibly out for lunch more spaghetti for dinner with the last of it intended for lunchboxes Monday. Monday night I'd like tofu and rice and cabbage had steamed eggs and leeks and rice so in the same kind of ball park, Tuesday lentils or dahl grilled pork chops with mash and carrots and peas, Wednesday we are out, Thursday is ham sandwiches as is the tradition in my family xmas eve, one early as we are spending Christmas with Jaey and Marie and they are planning a Swedish feast that I am very excited about.

OMG Never have I seen Borough Market so empty as it was Sunday morning. We got there about ten and I swear there was no more than 4 other people there shopping. It was brilliant! But only for us, for the stallholders who had turned up in the sub zero snow fest what should have been one of the best times of year for them was very bad for business. It's a real shame - they work so hard all year supplying such amazing produce they deserve the bonus that xmas brings.

Started at the beautifully laid out but completely empty Ginger Pig where I bought a gorgeous piece of gammon for the end of the week £21.38

Then to Muirenn Smokehouse for salmon - the trader told me that with the arrival of snow on Saturday the market pretty much emptied out and the afternoon had been deathly quiet. They plan to be there all week though they have currently lost a truck full of fish somewhere between the west coast of Ireland and Borough. Bought a pack of salmon - £10

Tub of olives from Fresh Olive Company - the only place where there was another customer - got the melange - £4.50

There was no Ted's Veg, or Harriet at Organics so wandered over to a very cold looking Lizzie at Wild Beef for eggs - £3

Then to Gastronomica for a lovely hunk of Pecorino - £10

Coffee from Monmouth - £11.50

Neal's Yard for spaghetti, milk and cream - £9.80 then remembered I'd planned to get some Coolea - £11.23

Then bread for toast from Flour Power - £1.10

Then back out into the snow to get the bus home, I was cold by now and I was well rugged up. Suspect there was a lot of hot coffee drunk by those who were there for the day.

Spent £82.50 but I know I will spend more - it is the time of year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fried noodles

Stri fry noodles is somethng that anyone who cooks and even vaguely likes Chinese food will make at some point. They seem so incredibly obvious - the name says it all, surely. Hot wok, noodles, garlic and ginger plus whatever protein and veg you have available, add some liquid, preferably rice wine and stir rapidly over a high heat. If there's a bit of coriander in the fridge chop it in at the end and it's all to the good. You have stir fry. Technically speaking this is precisely what you have.

For many years it was pretty much how I made them and often as not it was fine as dinner, fairly quick and not much mess, light if not really elegant. But over the last few years as I have begun to use more and more Asian cookbooks, both current and ancient out-of-print ones that I indulge myself with occasionally, I have started to realise how much more this dish can be. What my origninal method lacks was any kind of subtlety to the finished dish, any nuance or melding came mostly through luck or through trying to replicate something I'd eaten in a restaurant and not through any particular skill on my part.

The results were borne of ignorance rather than inability. One of my favourite Chinese books is Mrs Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook, last printed more than thirty years ago but still brilliant today. The woman was a culinary genius on a domestic scale. I was looking for something else the other day when I happened again upon her list of one dish meals, a tempting list that I had once resolved to work through from top to bottom, an ambition not yet achieved. Fried noodles was one of the 'yet to makes' and, with noodles and some pork in the freezer and a sweetheart cabbage in the fridge I decided its time was now. It took quite some time to prepare everything but it was a fascinating lesson in how to construct every element so that each ingredient was considered so that they all stood out and worked together.

Fried Noodles

You could use many other combinations of ingredients, consider this to be the building blocks and the key to understanding how they go together.

Makes 2 generous bowls of noodles with a little over for one lunch next day

1/4 cup dried tree ears
6 dried mushroom
2 cups boiling water
100g raw prawns
1/2 tspn salt
500g fresh noodles
1 small cabbage - sweetheart or Chinese
150g pork steak
3 spring onions
2 tbspns soy sauce
1 tbspn sesame oil
2cm knob of fresh ginger thick as your big toe
1 tbspn rice wine or sherry
1 tbspn corn flour
9 tbspns peanut oil
1 tbspn salt

Put the tree ears and dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside to soak for 20-30 minutes.

Peel the prawns, devein them (cut the thin black intestine out that runs down the back) and, if large, cut them into 2cm pieces. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mix thoroughly and set aside.

Pull off the tough outer leaves of the cabbage and discard. Wash the other leaves then shred crosswise into pieces roughly 2cm wide; you should end up with about 3 cups.

Cut the pork into thin shreds about 5cm long and 1/2 cm wide and put into a bowl.

Clean the spring onions, then cut both green and white parts into 5cm lengths, then slice them lengthwise into fine shreds. Add the spring onion shreds to the pork shreds along with the soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix well and set aside.

Peel the ginger, then slice it into shreds about 1/4cm wide, the width of a matchstick.

Drain the tree ears and mushrooms, then rinse them well under running water. While you are rinsing the tree ears pick them over carefully to remove any impurities, such as little pieces of wood tha may still be embedded in them. Remove the hard stems from the mushrooms and slice the heads into thin slivers 1/2 cm wide. Keep the mushrooms separate from the tree ears.

Add the rice wine and the corn flour to the prawns and mix well.

Rinse the noodles thoroughly with warm water and drain in a colander.

Heat your wok or pan over a high flame for 15 seconds then add 6 tablespoons of peanut oil. It will be ready to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear. When the oil is ready toss in the ginger and the mushroom shreds. Stir-fry them for 30 seconds, scooping them off the sides of the pan and stirring them in the middle of the wok. Add the meat mixture and stir-fry for antoher 20 seconds.

Now add the tree ears and continue to stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Keep stirring while you add the prawns, keeping everything moving for another 45 seconds, then tip the whole lot into a large bowl. At this point the prawns will only be partially cooked.

Thoroughly wipe out the pan with paper towels and put it back onto a high flame for 15 seconds then add 3 tablespoons of fresh peanut oil. When the oil is hot enough for cooking put in the sliced cabbage. Stir-fry for a few seconds, scooping the cabbage shreds off the sides of the pan and tossing them into the centre. Add a scant tablespoon of salt and continue to stir-fry for about a minute.

Now add the drained noodles. (You don't have to stir-fry something like noodles too energetically; just use your cooking shovel to spread them around and keep them from sticking to the sides of the pan.)

After the noodles have cooked for about 2 1/2 minutes, return the meat and prawn mixture to the pan. Stir the ingredients so they are all evenly distributed, then let everything cook for 5 minutes more, stirring the noodles occasionally to make sure they all get fried. Longer cooking will produce crispier noodles, which is a good thing. Some crispy bits add another texture.

Serve immediately.

Expect no sauce on the finished dish just a lovely melange of noodles and pork and cabbage.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I wanted I bought I made

This weekend is Food Chain so busy busy. Saturday night needs to be simple, maybe pork chop soup as I made stock with the bones from last week's roast and there are pork chops in the freezer sausage and mash, perfect and the stock is in the freezer. Sunday a roast, simple and tasty it was but it was cooked at the Canton Arms so we had fried eggs on toast, lovely. Monday stirfry noodles roast beef and veg but sadly the creamed turnip was bitter but the rest was very good indeed. Tuesday we are out. Wednesday I think the beef stew from the freezer with lots of veg fried noodles. Thursday broccoli pasta bake with a tub of cheese sauce from the freezer the beef stew with added mushrooms, mountains of mash and carrots and brussel sprouts a welcome meal to greet the return of the snow. Friday omelette with morcilla.

At the Ginger Pig Charlie and John and the others already look tired. And they've still got two weeks till xmas. They work really hard at this time of year and I'm glad they are there for me to get such great meat. There was only a couple of really small bits of beef topside left so bought a nice piece of rolled rump and some pork mince for £24.87
Next to Total Organics for some parsnips - they were lovely last week - £1.87

From Ted's Veg I bought brussel sprouts and onions but no potatoes this week as I still have last weeks - £2.80

Still had last weeks eggs too, so bought beef sausages from Wild Beef - £4.72

Milk from Neals Yard - £3.20

A box of clementines from Tony's - really is xmas when the clems are about - £3.50

Toast bread from Flour Power - £1.10

Spent £42.06 - and so close to xmas!

I love cheeses

On Tuesday night I was delighted to be invited to an evening of French goats cheese and a ‘ready steady cook-off’ at Divertimenti in Marylebone. Accepted with alacrity, needless to say.

Bizarrely when I arrived the road was closed off to traffic by police cordon due to a suspect car but the shops and footpaths were open to pedestrians. People wandered about vaguely nervous but otherwise unhindered.

Inside all was calm and warmly welcoming. A glass of crèmant accompanied a catch up chat with some bloggers I met at FBC10 and haven’t seen since. When the crowd was thawed and chilled we were welcomed by Marilyne Le Pape, from ANICAP who explained that many small French producers had banded together to take more of their cheese to the world. I am more than happy to help in the promotion of these wonderful artisan cheeses.

The main tutoring of the evening came from Patricia Michelson, owner of La Fromagerie, one of too few fine cheesemongers in London. This woman really knows her (goats) cheese.

Lots of cheeseboards were dotted about laden with generous quantities of cheese. It always appeals to me just how many shapes you get with goats cheese – it’s a delight before you even taste them. We started with a couple of cheeses from the Administrative region Centre which includes the Loire. The first was Crottin de Chavignol, a small flattened ball of crumbly cheese made with the raw milk of mountain goats. It was gorgeously smooth with a rich nutty taste. As it matures it gains a light mould which is when it is perfect grilled atop a salade de chevre. One of my favourite salads – but then what’s not to love about a salad topped with warm goats cheese and crumbled walnuts? It matched well with the Sancerre we were drinking, another product of this bountiful region.

Next up was Sainte-Maure de Touraine. It comes as a log with a wisp of straw running through the centre. Historically there to make it easy to handle and repair, producers nowadays engrave the straw with their name to prove its origins. Removed before cutting, it leaves a tiny hole in the centre of each slice. You could almost thread them back together to make a necklace. The cheese is a delicate white with a fine coat of charcoal ash. Fairly mild and ever so slightly salty it is rich and smooth on the tongue.

Staying in the Loire we sampled Selles sur Cher, one of the first products to be awarded AOC status in 1975. It comes as a pyramid covered in a blue tinged ash contrasting with the ultra white interior. Nicely goaty with a rich nutty flavour and a tang of salt, it’s really quite dense when you bite into it and then it melts gently in your mouth for a sensuous finish.

Then we tried Cabecou du Rocamadour, from the Lot. I’ve been to Rocamadour and it’s a small village, very pretty, that hosts an annual Fête des Fromages which is the largest cheese festival in the south of France. It has something like 10,000 visitors a day and according to 2009 statistics, 2 tons of cheese were sold. Two tons! You have to love a country that has such serious cheese festivals. This cheese comes in small medallions with a delicate natural rind. Soft, rich and creamy it has a slight nuttiness as well.

Next, Valençay, a cheese with back story. Originally this cheese was made in the shape of a perfect pyramid. But, coming back from a calamitous campaign in Egypt, Napoléon stopped in Valençay. He saw the cheese, loathed its reminder of his failure, wielded his sword and chopped the top off. Been that shape ever since. Produced to traditional methods, when firm enough each cheese is covered in salted ash then matured in a ventilated cellar till ready. It’s an incredibly white cheese, moist and firm and distinctly salty. Apart from straight from the cheeseboard, it would make a great topping for a jacket potato.

The penultimate cheese was one I know and love – a Tomme de Cleon au Jurancon from the Pyrenees. It comes as a sizeable round and is a semi hard cheese with a gentle fruity flavour. The rind is washed in Muscadet or Jurancon which gives it a floral sweetness. It’s an incredibly smooth cheese, really lovely to eat and was the hands down favourite on our table. It makes a quite fabulous cheese sauce for lasagne and vegetable pasta bake and would be sensational with a seafood mornay.

The last cheese had sat neatly wrapped in chestnut leaves tied with raffia on the board for the whole evening. It was a Banon and what a delight it was when it was unveiled. Cutting into the golden rind the interior was lush and runny and smelled divine. It is generously salted then matured for a couple of weeks before being washed in eau-de-vie then wrapped in the leaves to ripen. Small amounts of edible blue mould develops under the wrapper further developing the flavour. The end result is a strong cheese, rich and creamy with a really complex flavour. I remarked to Marilyne that I thought it would go better with a red wine and she assured me it is actually best with a luscious sweet wine like Montbazillac or, particularly Jurancon. No doubt she is absolutely right.

After this fabulous feast of cheese it was time for fun and games. While most of the others had a wander round the shop four of us hit the kitchen for a goat cheese cook off using cheese readily available from supermarkets. Rachel and Anne were team captains, Tracey and I their trusty assistants. We had thirty minutes to make two dishes per team using that all time favourite - a bag of random ingredients. We had butternut squash, figs, hazelnuts, beetroot and pork. Anne decided we'd make butternut tartlettes topped with tomme and grilled bacon and bruschetta with figs and melted mini log with a carpaccio of beetroot and a scattering of toasted hazelnuts.

Rachel and Tracey had haddock fillet, sunblushed tomatoes, pinenuts, pears and a Savoy cabbage. Rachel went for smoked haddock topped with grilled (blowtorched) chevre log with tomato base, and most remarkably given the time restrictions, cheese gnocchi in a sage butter mixing a spreadable chevre with a little flour and egg.

It's amazing how half an hour can be so very slow while at the same time pass in a flash. Both teams made it and though Anne presented two beautiful plates of food Rachel just pipped her in the taste test to be the ultimate winner! There are no recipes of course but it shows you really can make a good cheesey dinner any time.

Hope I've tempted you to try a few new things. All of the cheeses are available from La Fromagerie but if Marylebone is not handy to you it is worth searching out other cheesemongers who will always guide you and give you any help you need, as well as a taste if your serious about buying. This time of year most feasts will incorporate a fine selection of cheese but remember cheese is for life not just for Christmas.

A special thanks to Tracey from International Foodie for letting me use her brilliant photographs of the night.

Friday, December 03, 2010

I wanted I bought I made

Another busyish week ahead - Saturday I am having an early xmas dinner with friends so plan slow cooked pork to keep the kitchen warm and steamed marmalade pudding because I hate xmas pudding the pork was perfect but made an apple and blackberry duff for dessert. Sunday we are out to lunch so dinner may well be toast topped with mozzarella and the last of the parma ham, v good toast indeed. Monday is Hamlet, Tuesday I am out so the man can have hot pie, Wednesday the man is out so I shall have burgers as it's been ages and I love them with the fab edamame, rice and blackbean salad from 5am foodie, Thursday we are both home so shall rescue the final tub of beef and mushroom stew from a couple of weeks ago and serve it with lots of winter veg due to the change in temperature from less than zero to a little more than zero we had a slightly unsuccessful pasta with broccoli and walnuts -should have stuck with the original plan :( Friday stir fried noodles - grilled lamb chops with salad and bread.

Spent an age rugging up to go to the market Saturday morning only to discover it was positively warm outside, ridiculously balmy even. Total surprise. The market itself is always 10 degrees colder than outside so it was, obviously, totally freezing but not as bad as it could be. *sigh of relief*

At the Ginger Pig I bought a magnificent piece of pork shoulder on the bone which I put in the oven on our return and served for dinner some hours later for £15.80

Then to Teds Veg for potatoes, swede, carrots - I love winter veg - and fennel which was intended for the mussels but that did not go well - £8.70

Had to have a bag of chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat - £2

Bought parsnips puréed with butter and cream, lovely with pork and garlic from Tony Booth's daughters organic veg stall - she was very pleased with the thaw. The market had been really quiet Friday with no trains coming into London Bridge and that, combined with sub zero, was a definite challenge... Spent £2.85

Apples from Chegworth - £2.10

The Italian ham stall had obviously had a slow week and were offering bogoff on the buffalo mozzarella - too good to resist, added some ham, spent £10.80

Mussels from Shellseekers the last mussels I bought from here were possibly the best I have ever had, and these ones promised to be the same. I washed them and found only one that was open. Cooked them with a little shallot and white wine. When I opened the lid a cloud escaped that smelt not of the briny depths but distinctly of farmyard, fresh manure variety. It was of course the moment that the first guest arrived and as the man came back into the kitchen with her he said, euuugh, what's that smell? They had all opened and they looked fine but they really did not smell it so I binned the lot. Anyone have any ideas of what it could be? Straight on to mains! £5.50

Eggs from Richard at Wild Beef as Lizzie was home minding the Aga - sensible woman - £1.50

Cream, clotted cream, milk, bread (from St John yay!) and a fresh donut at Neals Yard - £12.70

That was all from there - having porridge for breakfast meant no toast loaf - spent £61.95 then bought a butternut at the local market and sprouts round the corner.

Walking back to the bus stop saw a sign - Automatic door out of order. Please push. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Pai Gwut - Steamed Spare Ribs

Winter is here with a vengeance and it makes me want to eat. The obvious - stews, roasts, toasts and mashed potato - are all featuring heavily but I also love chilli hot and ginger bright at the end of almost any kind of day. Robust flavours combined with interesting textures, both texture and flavour multilayered making every mouthful wonderful.

I was having a craving for black beans, was actually thinking beef and black bean, one of my favourite dishes when done well. Checked Steamy Kitchen and found, instead a recipe for spare ribs steamed with black beans. I know already that steaming pork is an unutterably fabulous thing to do so figured a new version could only be a bonus.

How right I was.

Though it was a Tuesday I fancied making a few dishes, the ribs were very quick to prep, and I already planned to steam the last of the cabbage I had in the fridge but even with rice I wanted one more dish. Aubergine because I love aubergine, thinking sea spiced but came across this on my own blog and the hit of chilli in it was the perfect addition for a seriously fab dinner. Man said he wasn't hungry when he got home, but still managed to eat the whole bowl full in no time.

Steamed Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce

You need to ask your butcher for spare ribs, maybe order them in advance if you are definitely planning this dish, otherwise you may be disappointed

Serves 4 with a couple of other dishes also great next day cold for lunch

500g (ish) pork spareribs
2 tablespoons black beans
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons cornflour
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Cut the spareribs crosswise into 2-4cm sections or ask the butcher to do it for you. Combine the rest of the ingredients. Transfer spareribs and sauce into a shallow, heatproof pan and leave to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

To cook in a steam oven set temperature to 100C and steam for 25 minutes.

Or set a steaming rack inside of your wok and fill with water almost up to height of rack. Turn the heat to high and when water is boiling, turn heat to medium-high. Set pan with spareribs on top of a steaming rack in wok. Steam on med-high heat for 18-20 minutes until ribs are no longer pink.

Serve with rice and one or two other dishes for perfect winter treat.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I wanted I bought I made

I thought it was cold when we got back to London. Seems positively balmy in retrospect. Odd thing is the news this morning announced this to be the warmest year in a decade...

We are away for the weekend and out Sunday and Monday so it's a short week to plan food wise. Tuesday I fancy steamed pork ribs with black beans, Wednesday I really want soup, Thursday we are out again and Friday I think burgers and salad as there is a salad from 5amfoodie that I really want to try. I did this! - first time ever I matched what I wanted to what I made, though it will be omelette Friday, not burgers.

Wow it was cold at Borough on Saturday - I swear the concrete freezes the better to radiate icy conditions. I was very early and John was seriously rugged up behind the counter at Ginger Pig, including a wool cap. Looking at him made me warmer! They didn't have any spare ribs though, so decided on a couple of pork chops on the spur of the moment. £6.50 Also had a lovely catch up chat with Charlie and how nice it is to be flying somewhere on holidays, even economy, what with films to watch while someone serves you drinks.

Coffee at a queueless Monmouth - £11.50

I bought eggs at Wild Beef where Lizzie wore no gloves but the young guy working with her was in a full length woolen poncho - Mexican stlyee - £1.50

Apples from Chegworth - £1.20

Then I thought - ooh, maybe Northfield will have spare ribs and they did! Got a lovely big meaty rack - £4.80
Milk and pasta from Neals Yard - £6.70

Baguette from du Marché - £1.30

Also bought lots of lovely treats as gifts but the total for the shop for us was £33.50 but I'd bought salami at Di Lieto's before I'd even got home

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pork and Chicken Liver Terrine

I do love a good terrine. Simple and sophisticated, they have flavour and texture and if animal based generously give a lovely meaty mouthful. The melding of elements make a whole greater than the individual bits, and the very best examples have one or two sublte surprises included for extra joy.

For a long time now I have eaten at the Anchor & Hope at Waterloo, gastro pub extraordinaire. I have never had a single bad meal there, I have never been disappointed, which never ceases to amaze me. One of the things I have ordered and enjoyed consistently is the terrine - rich and delicate at the same time, it was easy to recognise the pork and the liver, the hit of garlic and the lovely savoury notes of thyme. There were other bits, like the occasional slippery fruity strand that I had more trouble identifying, could have been prune but it wasn't, could have been vegetable but sweet? Marinated raisin - maybe but not.

Head chef at the A&H for a long time was a woman called Trish Hilferty who had come there, via The Fox from the original London gastropub, The Eagle. Difficult to get a better pedigree than that. Recently, to my delight, Ms Hilferty set up on her own at the Canton Arms, a pub a mere 5 minute walk from us. Five minutes! It was a little uncertain to start, slightly uneven, but interesting. The first Sunday we had lunch there I think was the best roast chicken dinner I have ever eaten. It was sublime. The pub was also half empty so we were happy to stay in the bar for lunch perusing the papers, having a blissfully perfect version of Sunday. It has become very well known since, and sadly is so incredibly busy you must eat only in the restaurant should you be lucky enough to score a table. No bookings means wait and see - and we do.

As a starter or a plate to share terrine is often my choice. It is always a variation of the ones I have eaten for years. Jay Rayner says 'The house terrine, thick and dense, served with still-warm Melba toast and cornichons, was an exemplar of its kind'. He's right - it always seems to work.

So imagine my delight the other day when, perusing the cookery shelves of Book Warehouse, I found a book called Gastropub Classics Cookbook, written by none other than Trish Hilferty. I flicked IMMEDIATELY to the Starters chapter and found this recipe for terrine.

Couldn't wait to make it, couldn't wait to share.

Pork And Chicken Liver Terrine

Makes a one kilo loaf - serves 10

Very simple to make though not quick, this makes an elegant starter or an impressive centrepiece for a cold buffet. We ate it for lunches through the week, with a seedy crispbread and a crispy salad of fennel, carrot and celery. Perfect for the two of us.

1 small onion, finely diced
200ml red wine
6-8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
750g pork mince
200g chicken livers, trimmed of connecting bits
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
3 tbspn brandy or Madeira
1 tspn fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Put the diced onion into a small saucepan and pour over the red wine. Place the pan over a lowish heat and simmer until all the wine has evaporated and the flavour has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Use the bacon to line a 1 - 1.2litre terrine dish or loaf tin, arranging them crossways with the edges hanging over the sides. Put all the remaining ingredients, including the cooled onion, into a large bowl and mix really well. Use your hands - it squishes very satisfyingly indeed. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Squash the mixture into the lined terrine, fold over the hanging ends of bacon and cover with a lid or foil. Trish Hilferty then places it into a roasting pan of hot water and bakes it at 160C/325F/Gas 3 for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. I covered mine with foil and steamed it at 100C for 90 minutes for a perfectly rich moist result.

To test whether the terrine is cooked, pierce it with a skewer; it should come out hot and the juices should run clear. Drain any collected juice from the tin. ( I added the porky/livery essence to a beef stew to wonderful effect).

Let the terrine cool for ten minutes, then weight it down. (I didn't do this) Refrigerate overnight. To serve, turn it out of the tin and cut into lovely thick slices.

At last I know what the lovely slippy threads are - finel bits of onion cooked in red wine. Great trick!

Friday, November 19, 2010

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

Bacon and onion omelette topped with grilled to golden cheese

Back to London in winter, lightly tanned and slightly shocked at the cold. Comfort food is needed.

Saturday we are out to lunch so dinner will be cold collation, that most beloved meal of the man masses of cheese with salami and St John bread. Sunday I think I shall make a spinach pie - I have some cheese and filo in the freezer. Couldn't resist making a terrine for lunches, so had another collation. Beef stew with mash and sprouts Monday, noodles Tuesday omelette and salad, more stew Wednesday, pasta with dried mushrooms Thursday 'twas pasta but baked with cauliflower and (3) cheese sauce and lamb chops with aubergine Friday - cheese on toast!. Could be a good week.

Borough Market was quiet early - it was good to be back. Bought pork mince and chicken livers at Ginger Pig, which had a fair queue for pre 9am, spent £13.70

From Teds Veg I bought lots - potatoes, onions, fennel, garlic, brussel sprouts, flat mushrooms - £6.60

A bag of chocolates for Sam who's coming to visit this week - £2

From Wild Beef I bought eggs - £1.50

At Gastronomica I asked Gianni for something hard and sheepy - he presented me with a sliver of a spectacularly fabulous Pecorino, so bought a chunk and a rocchetta, went to pay with £20 and he asked me if I needed Parmesan. I did. So he cut me a lump then added a buffalo mozzarella and half a softish goats cheese - £20 for the lot - total bargain for such a glorious selection

Apples, a pear and an apple crumble from Chegworth - £4.20

Milk, spaghetti and cream from Neals Yard - who are going to be selling St John bread from next week - yay! - £7.30

Bread from Flour Power - £1.10

Spent £56.40 but there was much more needed. Bought salami at Di Lieto's, cauliflower and celery at Brixton market, porridge oats, biscuits and butter at the supermarket. It all adds up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spanish Food with José Pizarro

Friday night was utterly brilliant. Spent the evening with José Pizarro learning more about Spanish food and some of the finer points of how to make the most of this lovely produce.

There was an abundance of things to try including many things pig, the best of which is this meltingly fabulous Jamon Ibérico, the world's most highly prized ham. Made only from the Iberian pig - a blackhoofed, dark skinned breed descended from wild boars they forage freely in the grasses and the acorns in the dehesas of south west Spain. It's the acorns that are the secret!

I tossed that tortilla! I was really pleased this was on the menu - I love this rich egg and potato concoction but have never made one as good as the ones I've eaten at Brindisa. And I have certainly never successfully tipped a half cooked one out of the pan and flipped it over before returning it to the pan to finish cooking, certainly not without a lot of mess and a raggy finish. Instructed by the master I feel quite confident I can do it again next time I make one at home.

Held at La Cucina Caldesi we were joined by both Katie and her husband Giancarlo who were happy to be mucking in and learning a little too about the finer points of Spanish food and the difference to their own beloved Italian. Once the hot stock was added to the paella we were told to leave it absolutely untouched for 10 minutes to make a crust on the bottom as the rice absorbs the liquid - total antithesis to the constant stirring of risotto.

Steak cooked with piquillo peppers - I was interested to learn that the roughly chopped garlic goes in at the end to be an ingredient in its own right rather than flavouring the whole.

The dish I had most to do with was chorizo cooked in cider. Cider because it comes from a region of Spain with lots of apples, though it is apparently permissable to use any kind of alcohol, even beer or vodka at a stretch. You must rend a lot of the lovely spicy fat from the sausage at the very beginning and tip it away - or into a bowl for dipping crusty bread - before adding cider and stock and a sprig of fresh thyme and simmering for another ten minutes or so. Simple cooking showcasing great ingredients, one of the guiding principles of the whole evening.

I have never eaten a paella I enjoyed more than this one. It tasted as beautiful as it looks, truly extraordinary. And one I'm planning to make at home.

So a big thank you to José - warm and charming throughout it quickly became apparent that what he is first and foremost is a very serious chef. Every question was answered, every dish explained, every mouthful was gorgeous. I cooked a lot, I ate a lot, I learned a lot.I could not have asked for a better Friday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

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

The chill is increasing so might as well go with it, quite fancy pheasant for a change Saturday night - was very pleased with how well it turned out, braised it with celery and bacon and then finished the sauce with cream, a la Jane Grigson. Sunday we are out in the evening so I may make gammon for lunches in the week with a white bean salad and very good it was. Love all things pork and beans. Monday steamed tofu omelette garlic potatoes and salad because I liked it so much last week, Tuesday we are both out but Wednesday the man is home alone while I make autumn rolls and mai tai's so shall see if he fancies a hot pie plans changed so we met up with rellies for a very pleasant dinner at Canton Arms. Thursday I have a recipe from Kay Standish, one of my readers for chicken with yoghurt chickpeas and harissa that will use the last of my Total yoghurt supply and sounds very good and it was - spicy juicy creamy kind of excellent, Friday omelette perhaps.

We were a bit later this week arriving at Borough Market and so there was quite a crowd already - definitely makes it less fun. Ginger Pig only had a small queue (yay!) so didn't wait long to buy a nice piece of gammon and a tray of unsmoked bacon - £19.70

Then to Monmouth for coffee, a dark Costa Rican, £11.50

Potatoes, celery and fennel from Teds Veg - £4.70

Garlic from the organic stall that Tony Booth's daughter runs - £1.30

A steak & kidney pie for the man from Mrs Kings - £2.50

Eggs from Wild Beef - £1.50

Milk and cream from Neals Yard - £7.60

Toast loaf from Flour Power - £1.10

Then home again to buy pheasant from the local farmers market at Oval, as well as oat bread from the old post office bakery and some fennel salami from De Lieto's, and chick peas from Malinka on Brixton Rd - all of which were very busy Saturday morning which is good to see.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thai Chicken Biryani

Spicy mint sauce accompaniment

I know, I know biryani is quintessentially Indian, a magnificently spiced dish of rice and meat, or fish or vegetables, often the centrepiece of a feast. It is a generous offering, usually made in quantities that require sharing, what's not to love? This version though is distinctively thai, and just to muddy the cultural waters further is an adaptation of (Australian) David Thompson's recipe in Thai Street Food by Andrea Nguyen on her lovely site Viet World Kitchen, the yoghurt is Greek and my kitchen is in London. How fabulously multicultural can you get?

The thing is, the last time I made biryani, a lamb one, I was disappointed. It was 'nice' I decided and that, from me, is faint praise indeed! It lacked interest, had insufficient depth of flavour and spicing, a bit ordinary, really. I wanted so much more. When I came across this recipe I was delighted - though not authentic it really ticked my boxes, seemingly offering the complexity I'd missed last time. It coincided with the offer to try some yoghurt by Total - had to be tried.

It worked brilliantly, I'm pleased to say. I made a couple of small changes to the original but it is pretty much as I found it.

Thai Chicken Biryani

Serves 6-8 very well indeed

It is slow to make but not difficult, so don't be put off by the long list of instructions. It was a pleasant way to spend Sunday afternoon with great results.

Marinated chicken

3 tablespoons coarse chopped coriander stems
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup plain yoghurt, low-fat or full-fat
8 to 10 chicken thighs - I used 1 1/2 whole chickens cut into eighths

Spicy mint sauce

1 or 2 green Thai chiles
2 slices peeled fresh ginger, chopped
2 slices peeled galangal, chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
A pinch of salt
2 cups coarsely chopped mint leaves
2 generous cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and stems
3 to 4 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 1/2 cups basmati rice
3 1/3 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons canola oil or chicken fat
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallot
3-inch piece cassia bark, or 1 1/2-inch stick cinnamon
3 Thai cardamom pods, or 1 green cardamom pod, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1 cup chopped thai basil leaves
2 pandan leaves, tied in a knot (optional)
1/4 cup plain yoghurt


1/4 to 1/3 cup Crispy Fried Shallots
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
1 small cucumber, seeded and sliced
1/3 cup Thai Sweet Chile Sauce (optional)

1. For the seasoning paste, use a mini food processor to grind the coriander stems, ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt, and sugar to a coarse texture. (Or use a mortar and pestle.) Transfer half of the paste to a bowl to marinate the chicken.

Set aside the remaining paste for the rice.

To the paste for the chicken, add the fish sauce and 1/4 cup yoghurt. Stir to blend well. Set aside.

2. Remove the skin from the chicken. (Save it for rendering instant schmaltz for the rice, if you like!) Add to the seasoning paste containing the yogurt. Stir to coat well. Set aside for 1 hour to marinate. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, setting it out at room temperature to remove some of the chill.

3. Meanwhile, make the mint sauce. Use a mini food processor to grind the chiles, ginger, galangal, sugar, and salt to a fine texture. Add the coriander, mint, and vinegar. Grind to a fine texture. Add water by the tablespoon to create a spoonable texture. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

4. Rinse the rice in a mesh strainer and set aside to dry and drain. Put the stock in a pot and heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat the oil (or chicken fat) in a large wide pot over medium-high heat. Fry the shallot for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until golden. Add the remaining seasoning paste, cassia, cardamom, and bay leaf tied into a piece of muslin for easy retrieval.. Fry until aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato, cilantro, and mint. Cook, stirring until the tomato breaks down. Add the chicken, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken no longer looks raw. Lower the heat, if necessary.

5. Add the rice and pandan leaves, stirring to combine well. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, until the rice turns opaque. Add the hot stock (expect sizzling) and 1/4 cup yoghurt.Lower the heat slightly, cook for 3 to 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and there is a glossy layer of orange-yellow liquid at the top. The stock will bubble up through little craters dotting the surface.

Cover, lower the heat to low, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Lift the lid to make sure the rice is cooked. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 10 minutes. Use a spatula or large spoon to gently fluff the rice and turn the chicken. There will be delicious browned bits at the bottom. Let the rice sit for another 10 minutes before serving.

Transfer to a platter or shallow bowl, sprinkle with the crisp shallots and coriander.

Serve with a plate of cucumbers slices and the sauces.

I served it in the middle of the table, straight from the pan - but it was with friends! The final dish was better even than I was expecting with fabulous spicing, a delicate hint of creaminess from the yoghurt, good chicken and particularly tasty rice. So good I didn't get round to taking a photo.

Leftovers cold for lunches worked a treat.

Friday, October 08, 2010

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

Pork pie and papers - perfect Sunday

This week the nice people at Total are sending me a selection of their lovely yoghurts and I'm quite thrilled by it. I love yoghurt and it's a rare week when I don't eat any. So some of the weeks plan is yoghurt driven. But not Saturday I think - it will be something simple, possibly mussels as we haven't had them for a while simply steamed with black beans and thai basil they were a treat. Sunday I want to make a thai biriani followed by an interesting baked ginger yoghurt tart that was good but ultimately would have been better as tiny tartlettes I suspect, Monday perhpas some viet pork parcels went as far as defrosting pork and picking up some raw prawns but didn't actually fancy it when the time came, so we had omelette and duck fat fried potatoes with a (small) green salad instead, Tuesday we are out, Wednesday pasta bake but then I still had the pork and the prawns from Monday so started the parcels only to discover the prawns had a definite 'smell' so ended up making a wonderfully slippery stirfry with cellophane noodles and pork with a little ginger and garlic, Thursday tofu marinated in spiced yoghurt overnight then baked, a quick dinner after the early session of Krapps Last Tape and Friday omelette and salad I am beyond excited to be going to a cooking class with José Pizarro at Katie Caldesi's cookery school.

I am a winner! And the prize is an ostrich egg as well as a bottle of bubbly. Do love new and exciting! Thank you James Ramsden.

Had been expecting sun Saturday so was dismayed to find overcast gloom when I woke. Pfffft - should know not to believe the weatherman. Approach to Borough there was the most ENORMOUS crane in the bit of the market they've knocked down and, bizarrely, a turnstile at the entrance of the building site that was (and will be again) the Wheatsheaf. Apparently on Sunday they lifted the first piece of railway bridge into place. Would have been something to see.

Meanwhile, onto the shopping. Had nothing on the list for Ginger Pig so headed first to Teds Veg for salady things, in case the sun does make an appearance. Bought a cucumber, lettuce and a couple of tomatoes - £2.90

Then to the Turkish Olive Company for some kuru sel - not the ultra dried ones, but the fairly well wrinkled ones - £3

From Lizzie I bought eggs - £1.50

At Shellseekers I bought a kilo of perfectly fresh mussels, washed and cooked not a single one needed to be discarded - £5.70

A pork pie from Ian's son at Mrs Kings - £5

Smoked salmon for luscious breakfast treat - £5

Milk from Neals Yard - £3.30

As we passed Tony's asked the man if I should get a savoy cabbage for 50p to make summer rolls. 'No' he said 'you can't eat it raw' Thought he was joking then realised he meant it. Had to ask - 'what's coleslaw?' Made us laugh. Bought a loaf of bread for toast from Flour Power - £1.10

Then home a mere £27.50 spent. Went to Brixton later and bought lots of herbs and noodles and tofu and ginger and bean sprouts and salami.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Spiced Roast Lamb

Who knew heaven was Lebanese?

About ten years ago I was taken by a friend to Green Valley, a Lebanese supermarket just off Edgware Road, and I thought I'd died and woken up in a better place. It is a truly extraordinary shop - huge and packed to the gills with the most exquisite collection of food I'd seen in a long time. Seriously gives Harrods a run for its money, and in my opinion is better because this shop is used by thousands of people to do their weekly shop rather than mostly gawping tourists who will buy something in a jar, mostly for the attached label. I have returned a thousand times though that web of streets Marble Arch is not really on my way to or from anywhere that I go frequently. Or even rarely.

The huge plate glass window at the front display pastries in great circular mountains, glistening palely, tempting me in. It was from here that the man first tried baklava - a new delight to add to his list of fine things. At the front of the shop there are serried ranks of vegetables, common things like fresh tomatoes through to more exotic fare like fresh dates and okra as well as enormous bunches of dill, coriander and parsley. It smells good. They sell seemingly every herb and spice known and have barrels of olives of various flavours and hues next to sacks of dried pulses if your need is greater than the packaged varieties on nearby shelves. Keep going and you will find a bakery making flat breads and a food counter selling dozens of different kinds of prepared food, salads and little sausages and mini pide. They have huge swords of meat - one lamb, one chicken, rotating slowly that makes probably the nicest kebabs in London. Rich, juicy and garlicky they are certainly the best I've eaten. They have a full butchers counter, a dizzying array of dairy, great varieties of halloumi and yoghurt, handmade falafel fresh or frozen, tahini in jars large and small.

When I go in I shop! It invariably takes a while, even if I know what I want I still must check every aisle, every package, every possibility. Though I know the things I will definitely buy - halloumi, green lentils, falafel that cooks from frozen, a tray of baklava, shiny fat kalomata, a pack or two of flat bread, tahini if I'm running low there are also new treats every time. Spices I've not seen before, fresh pine nuts, a twisted sheeps cheese and most recently a tube of harissa paste.

I've eaten harissa when out and have seen many references to it on food blogs and other places, but I'd never actually used it myself. Not sure why - certainly a big of fan of chilli hot, and serious spicing across many cuisines, but somehow it just hadn't come up. Owning a tube obviously meant I had to try it. Pierced the top to find a thick terracotta paste, smelt lovely, tiny taste was hot and good. Given that I'd bought it at Green Valley I decided to pair it with lamb on its first outing as they are brilliant at all things sheep. With autumn definitely in the air lately slow cooking a shoulder was hugely tempting. I mixed the harissa with lots of other spices and some herbs from the garden, lightened it with a little olive oil and lemon and left it to marinate for the day.

Spiced Roast Lamb

The paste cooks down to a sort of brick coloured crust full of intense flavour, good both hot and cold
Serves 4

1/2 shoulder of lamb
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbspn fresh dill, roughly chopped
1 tbspn flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tbspn hot smoked paprika
1 tspn ground cumin
1 tspn ground coriander
1 tbspn harissa paste
1/2 tspn ground ginger
Large pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground turmeric
1 tspn crushed black pepper
1/2 tbspn salt
3 tbspns olive oil
2tbspns lemon juice

Put all the ingredients from the chopped onion down to the salt into the bowl of a stick blender and blend till you have a rough paste. Add the oil and lemon, stir it in to loosen, then blend again to be fairly smooth.

Piece the flesh of the lamb all over with a sharp knife. Put it into the pan in which you intend to roast it. Rub half the marinade on the underside of the meat (not the skin side) and turn the meat over to be skin side up. Rub the remaining marinade into the skin. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but overnight would be better.

Heat the oven to Gas 4/350F/175C. Take the plastic off the tray and cook the meat for about 90 minutes, basting occasionally. If the top appears to be starting to catch cover with a sheet of foil to finish cooking.

Initially I planned to make aubergine and yoghurt and hummus to go with this, but the man pleaded for roast potatoes, so we had them instead with sweet potato roasted till caremalised, I put parsnips in with the meat and they came out 'curried' and just gorgeous.

Friday, October 01, 2010

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

So we are out Saturday night being cultured at the Tate then dinner with David J and Vicki T. Sunday we are off to the Cotswolds to meet Teddy Gleeson - first born child of the lovely Marie and Jon - which will be a splendid way to spend the day. Sunday night I think we will have the rest of last week's pork and paprika from the freezer with penne and a dollop of sour cream had the last of the mozzarella on toast as we had a most splendid roast for lunch. Monday I fancy roast lamb, spiced, with aubergine salad, hummus and carrot salad the lamb was a triumph but went with trad veg - roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips and cabbage and made chickpea, fennel and carrot salad for lunchboxes. Tuesday omelette and salad, Wednesday I think we might go to the movies best laid plans... we had the pork with penne and sour cream, Thursday will try again for dahl! had the chicken noodles mneant for Friday, really tasty Friday chicken noodles with chicken, noodles and saffron sauce all from the freezer will have cheese on toast with a little salad from the window box - the man is delighted.

Sunshine! Great start to Saturday as Friday had been thoroughly miserable with belting rain and enough wind to make being out simply dire. At Ginger Pig Charlie was happy to cut a shoulder of lamb in two - one for this week, roasted Monday with leftovers for lunch one for the freezer - and gave me nice pile of smoked bacon offcuts also for the freezer as they are endlessly useful - £15

Coffee from Monmouth after waiting a few minutes, watching a man sample six or seven different beans made into filter coffee by one of the extremely well informed staff who described each one with the kind of detail usually found describing fine wines as she poured very hot coffee from one small cup into another and back again to cool it. Great piece of theatre - and then he bought 150g! I bought half a kilo of dark roast Columbian - £11.50

At Wild Beef Lizzie was cheerful depsite having dropped a box of eggs, and most amused to have had a conversation with Glenys - the market manager - the previous week who wondered how Borough could be returned to its former brilliance. This from the woman who managed to drive out Booths... Too late methinks, too late. Eggs were £1.50

Potatoes and onions from Ted's Veg - am absolutely besotted with their Marfona potatoes which roast beautifully and also make perfect mash, and last week I fried some with garlic and duck fat and they were gorgeous! £2

Chocolates from L'Artisan, 2 bags because 1 is not enough - £4 plus the nice young woman running the stall gave us a free sample, which was a seriously fabulous bit of breakfast

Queued for a while to get ham and mozzarella but it was slow, so left the man there to get the cheese while I went a few stalls down to buy jamon from the Spanish stall, sampled their chorizo and it was spicy and good, so bought one, a bargain at £4 on special offer Spent £9.50 altogether and the mozzarella was £4.60 makes for a very special brunch

On the hunt for more cheese Gianni was happy to pass out slices of tomme - which was creamy and delightful - so we had some of that, a couple of scamorza and he threw in half a soft cheese made with sheep, goat and cow's milk unusually for us we haven't gobbled the lot but treat for Friday is the smoked mozzarella on toast, a most perfect thing when melted for another bargain £10

Over to Neals Yard for milk and yoghurt - and the man decided apples too as they were handing out slices on the cobbles - £6.60

Then a cottage tin from Flour Power - a bargain at £1.10 for it makes the best toast

Then home on the bus in the sun - £65.80 spent.

Later, when it had clouded over, I caught another bus to Brixton for rice, red lentils and butter beans, but forgot the garlic. Pooh!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Aubergine Salad with Walnut & Yoghurt

This salad is a bit of a stunner - and definitely good for the transition from summer to autumn but I think it might enter the repertoire permanently.

It started with an aubergine. Actually it started a couple of weeks ago with a different aubergine. We were at the Canton Arms one Sunday for a quiet beer and the sharing of a couple of starters while we read the papers. I love those kind of Sundays! That day one of the dishes was a particularly awesome salad of cubed aubergine dressed with mint and yoghurt and maybe tahini. Seriously gorgeous with thick slices of warm bread. Didn't have the recipe - should have asked.

Usually I move on to new cravings but that salad stayed with me - the creamy freshness of the dressing worked so well I found myself wondering about it in idle moments. I had one attempt where I roasted the cubes in a little olive oil then dressed it cold with yoghurt and garlic, walnuts and mint which was good but not hanker after it memorable. Missed the spot.

Friday I had some lovely little lamb chops that needed an accompaniment to make them supper. Thought I'd have another shot at the salad but there was next to no mint in the garden. There was, however, loads of dill, my new herb of love. Added here and there it has been one of the flavours of our summer. Cut a generous amount then set about making a new dressing. Also decided to steam the aubergine just to see what it would be like.

Aubergine Salad with Walnuts & Yoghurt

Steaming the aubergine gave it a lovely delicacy of texture - like little pillows of joy - but roasting would also work well

Serves 2 generously as a side dish

1 medium sized aubergine
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 tspn salt
2 tbspns walnuts
1 tbspn chopped dill
100ml plain yoghurt
25ml olive oil
Salt and pepper

Cut the aubergine into 2cm cubes. Put them into a perforated steam tray, season lightly, then steam at 100C for 15 minutes. If roasting, put them into a roasting tin with a little olive oil, season then cook at Gas4/180C/350F for about 20 minutes until they are cooked through.

Using a pestle and mortar crush the clove of garlic with the salt to make a paste. Add the walnuts and dill and keep pounding until you have a rough paste. Add the yoghurt and mix well then drizzle in the oil, still mixing with the pestle till it is all combined. Taste a bit to check for seasoning then add the required salt and ground pepper.

Let the aubergine cool slightly then fold it into the dressing. The flavour develops if you let it sit for about half an hour.

It was perfect with grilled lamb but it would work well with chicken or fish or as part of a meze platter. Thoroughly addictive!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

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

A small hiatus in the blog - had a glamorous time in Dorset at Summer Lodge, where the salted butter has a few granules of salt on top, and the unsalted butter is formed into a perfect golden tomato. Had to check it wasn't actually tomato butter. *cough*

So this week I have things to plan around. Sunday is food chain so Saturday night will be something fairly fuss free. Am tossing up between chicken curry - I have curry sauce in the freezer - and sausage sandwiches. Both simple but went for beef and marrow burgers with salad. Sunday night a simple roast, thinking pork with cauliflower cheese - I have cheese sauce in the freezer - and roasted sweet potatoes. Easy peasy and a lunchbox delight due to some overindulgence on the wine front after food chain dinner was slightly undercooked (but the crackling was perfect). Monday I think steamed tofu and cabbage and rice - I have cooked rice in the freezer which returns to perfect with a few minutes steaming made a pork and paprika stew with refried potatoes both marfona and sweet. Tuesday we are out to see Faust at the Young Vic - very excited. Quite brilliant - go if you can. Wednesday I quite fancy dal and fritters or stuffed baby aubergines intended the dal but discovered about 7pm we had no red lentils so the crisis on the catering front was resolved with a fine spinach omelette and garlic potatoes, Thursday I think noodle stir fry - had the steamed tofu, cabbage and rice we didn't have Monday. Friday omelette and salad. Because I love omelette and salad. But having had omelette once we will have noodles stir fried with shitake and cabbage. Which I also love.

On the bus I decided what I'd really like for dinner was neither curry nor sausages but some of the fab beef and marrow burgers they've been making through the summer at the Ginger Pig, only to discover they didn't have any. Woe. Did have beef and marrow bones so bought that, with Charlie telling me to put the bones into warm water for a few minutes then PUSH! And hey presto, I had marrow. Also bought a piece of pork leg, as there was no pork shoulder left, all sold Friday apparently. I blame Hugh Fearnley Whittinstall for extolling it's virtues on Channel 4 this week. Spent £21.03

Then to Ted's veg for potatoes, cauliflower, parsnips and carrots - £3.40

Eggs from Wild Beef - £1.50

But Isle of Wight tomatoes had no corresponding garlic which is a blow, now that Booths is gone there is such a gap in my shopping plan at Borough.

Milk and pasta from Neals Yard - £6.60

Bread from Flour Power - £1.10

Then straight back on the bus! Spent a mere £33.63 but there will be other costs in the week

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cheese & Chocolates

A recent blogger evening in the delightful surroundings of La Cave à Fromage in South Kensington was a revelation. Pairing chocolate and cheese Louise, from the Chocolate Consultancy hosted a tasting with Tiago from La Cave to make some interesting connections and a couple of quite amazing pairings.

A lot of people seem to think this is a match that simply cannot work. If your starting point is a couple of Snickers and a chunk of Cathedral City that is undoubtedy true. If, on the other hand, you begin, as we did, with a white goat's milk chocolate made by Askinosie and a bleu de Basque from the French Pyrénees a whole new experience begins. I have never come across a goat's milk chocolate before and though I'm not a particular fan of white chocolate I am a big fan of goat's cheese, so I was really curious to try this. At the first nibble it is lightly goaty, slightly grainy, definitely interesting. Next was a nibble of sweet crumbly creamy blue ewe's cheese. Having sampled the individual tastes it was time to try them together in the same mouthful. They made an interesting combination - the cheese almost sweeter than the chocolate but it was the hint of sour tang from the chocolate that is the last thing in my mouth.

Second combination of the night was the first of three Valrhona chocolates. Jivara is a milk chocolate, 40% cocoa solids with a light barley malt extract flavour - an ultra refined ovaltine. It was paired with that most fabulous of British cheeses, Montgomery cheddar. This elegant pale ivory cheese is made by hand in Somerset with unpasteurised milk and matured for around 11 months. I am always delighted to see it's crumbly fruity self, no matter the context. The chocolate and cheese combined worked really well - I had thought the chocolate might be a touch light but the balance of sweet/salty and smooth/crumbly was very good.

Halfway through and Louise introduces Valrhona Manjari with undisguised delight. It is the chocolate of her epiphany, the one that made her see what a complex thing it could be. First taste for me and her excitement makes a lot of sense. Made from cocoa grown in Madagascar it is citrussy with lime and perfectly roasted. Tiago matches it with tomme brulée. I am a fan of these ewe's milk cheeses and this one is new to me and decidedly special. Matured for 3-4 months before the rind is burnt for an intense flavour, strongest towards the outer edge. The separate elements were great but, as sometimes happens, they didn't go so well together. For me at least it was a touch too smooth but others rated it as their favourite.

Next is definitely the pairing I would choose. The Grenada Chocolate Co make a dark chocolate that comes in at 71% cocoa solids. Grown on the most famous spice island the cocoa trees have taken on their terroir. First chip of this in my mouth and it is all spice and delicate bitterness. The flavour goes through changes as it melts with almost wild peaks and troughs. As cocoa butter melts up to 300 flavour notes are gradually released (for context wine has 10 flavour notes) and with this chocolate I can start to understand. The matching cheese was a deceptively simple colline aux chevre - a goats cheese that is very fresh, ready in 24 hours, very light and sweet. These two together brought a blissed delight. It was a fabulous pairing, chocolate and cheese bolstered each other to make the combination more sweet sweet and more earthy than they are apart.

We ended with a crumbled scatter of Valrhona pure couverture - 100% cocoa. Very dry, chalky, intense and bitter. Though solid in the mouth it is almost powder. It was paired with a gratte-paille soft to runny triple cream cow's milk cheese, all pasteurised milk and double cream for a richly decadent result. I liked them together, the very bitter was good with the ultra creamy, but I wondered what the chocolate would be like with something like stilton. Already I am making new pairings!

The respective expertise of Louise and Tiago combined with their serious passion and considerable imaginations made for an unusual and engrossing night. If you fancy doing this - and I would seriously recommend it - more events will be held at La Cave from October 13. Book through

Friday, September 10, 2010

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

We have one more cucumber to eat before I rip the plant out to make way for some winter veg planting and I'm planning to honour its fabulousness at lunch Saturday with some milky buffalo mozzarella and a scattering of pea shoots. Saturday night I think a steak is a serious contender. Sunday pasta bake, probably broccoli as I've not had broccoli for ages. Monday spicy chicken noodles with stock and chicken from the freezer, Tuesday fried green tomatoes as I despair of ours ever ripening, Wednesday steamed silken tofu, as I'm out early evening and it will be quick when I get home. Thursday we're off to Dorset for a fabulous weekend courtesy of team wholegrain. I won the prize for my fabulous shredded wheat fennel pasta.

Feels like autumn is on its way - definite cool breeze Saturday morning for added chill at the bus stop. Even though we were early - not even nine o'clock! - there was a queue at Ginger Pig. Wondered idly about marrow burgers but went for steak when I got to the head of the queue. Do love a well hung rump. £16.67

Headed straight across the road to Monmouth for coffee while the man watched the weekly spectacle of a truck trying to turn into Stoney Street while hitting no parked cars - £11.50

Is no Booths - missing it badly - so off to Ted's Veg for potatoes, an enormous cabbage and some leeks - £3.80

Lizzie at Wild Beef was delighted to hear that Marie and Jon have a fine little boy called Teddy who will no doubt one day be taken to Borough - £1.50 for eggs

Bought both mozzarella and parma ham from the Italian stall - £11.90

And a hard sheepy cheese from Gianni at Gastronomica - £5 the hunk

Some pies from Mrs Kings - £5

Milk from Neals Yard - £1.90

Spent £57.27 in total

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Parsnip & Turnip Purée

On holiday last week we had dinner at a french restaurant in Bury St Edmunds - La Maison Bleue. The food was very good, particularly the side dish they served with the mains. The waiter set a steaming bowl before us and explained, in his very french way, zat zis was a purée of ze parsneep and ze turneep for us to share. And it was amazing - gloriously light, rich, creamy, buttery and delicately spiced with cumin. Eet waz true love for me on ze first mouth-ful.

Couldn't resist making it at home Sunday night to go with our lovely pork. It could not be simpler or more fabulous.

Parsnip & Turnip Purée

This will make enough for six servings so we had the leftovers in lunchboxes and it was as good cold as it was hot.

2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
1 turnip, about the same weight as the parsnip, peeled and diced
50g butter
Scant teaspoon of cumin
150ml cream

Boil the diced parsnips and turnips separately in salted water till tender. I started early and did them one after the other to save washing up! Drain.

Melt the butter over a low heat in the bottom of the pan and add the cumin. Cook gently for a couple of minutes till the butter is fragrant. Add the vegetables back to pan and take it off the heat. Purée with a stick blender. Add the cream and purée again till all is light as a feather.

Serve with roasts - spiced pork for us this week, but also worked a treat with the monkfish I had at La Maison Bleue.