Friday, July 30, 2010

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

I have a serious desire for steak so that may be supper Saturday did buy steak but made a thai salad with it which wasn't as great as I'd hoped but lunch will definitely be our fabulous first cucumber with buffalo mozzarella and basil oil and a little crusty bread. Sunday I have arborio rice in the cupboard and courgette in the fridge so am planning a tourte from an intriguing recipe from Anna del Conte, with a crunchy salad and leftovers for lunches for a day or two. Monday we are out at the Young Vic to see The Beauty Queen of Leenane so dinner will be Anchor & Hope. Yay. Tuesday I think the lamb shoulder from the freezer with garlic sauce and something beetroot made a proper roast dinner with roast potatoes, roast beetroot and steamed carrots and beans from the garden and it was fabulous which will make fine lunches for a few days after, Wednesday friton salad perhaps followed by jam roly poly the man was out so I made myself some pork chop soup, Thursday zigni from the freezer with couscous as I need to perfect making couscous that will have to wait as we had friton and gesier salad! Friday I do love an omelette but I shall be having warm camembert and crusty bread.

Saturday morning it was raining when I woke up. Seems like a long time since I lay in bed and listened to raindrops hitting the window. It was all splashy and wet getting to Borough Market, puddles everywhere. Meant the market was quiet though. Started at Ginger Pig where I bought a small thick slice of steak, having decided on thai dinner rather than simple steak and salad. Also bought some smoked oyster bacon which is now in the freezer - £9.20 the lot.

Then to Wild Beef as we had finally brought the egg box mountain back, it was perilously close to tumbledown. Bought eggs, of course. £1.50

Teds Veg had their lovely lincolnshire new potatoes salad for lunchboxes with the roast lamb and savoy cabbage piled up and some really really fat fennel for a salad Sunday night and then into lunches £3.80

Wanted mozzarella so seemed a good idea to have a sheet of parma ham as well, that sorts breakfast and lunch - £10.90

Garlic - I nearly forgot, but the man remembered. Got a couple of serious sized heads from Booths £1

Milk and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £4.70

Limes and shallots from Tony's - £1.20
Bread from Flour Power - £1.10
Spent £33.40 Also bought filo, spring onions, more limes(!), more bread, rhubarb and butter. And a pork chop later in the week from Ginger Pig at Waterloo to make my soup.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fennel Spaghetti with Crispy Topping

I am much taken with the addition of a sprinkle of this or that on pasta before serving - fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino, a dollop of pesto, a few toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley - they all add a new dimension. A change in texture, an intensity of flavour, a delightful surprise. Zing!

My pasta for the week this week was fennel spaghetti - fennel sausage, fennel bulb, fennel seeds - fennel three ways if you will. Each version intensifies and rounds out the others, each element retaining its own autonomy at the same time. Needed contrast though to really make the dish shine. Thought initially grated Parmesan but that didn't quite taste right in my head. I wanted a crackle of texture as well as flavour - pane grattato seemed like a better match.

But I wanted to have a go at a challenge to use whole grain cereal in a recipe. The man had first crack at this particular challenge and added shredded wheat to a strawberry smoothie - no idea what possessed him. Figured if toasted breadcrumbs worked a treat as a topping then crushed shredded wheat might well do the same. Or it might be disgusting!

I roughly crushed a couple of shredded bricks, finely chopped that heavenly duo rosemary and garlic, then heated olive oil, warmed the aromatics, added the shredded wheat, stirred to combine and hoped. Tried a it and it wasn't bad. Added a little salt and pepper. And it was good. Cooled and liberally added to the spaghetti it really added to the dish.

Fennel Spaghetti with a Crispy Topping

Serves 3 generous dinners or 2 for dinner and plenty for lunchboxes next day

300g spaghetti
4 Italian fennel sausages each cut into 4 or five rings with the skin removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 scant teaspoon chilli flakes
1 large fennel bulb, base thinly sliced, stalks and fronds chopped and set to one side
1 tablespoon falt leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the topping

2 shredded wheat 'bricks' roughly crushed
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 small sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Make the topping first. Simply warm the oil in a small pan, add the garlic and rosemary and cook gently, stirring, for a minute or so till it begins to smell divine. Add the crushed shredded wheat and combine well with the aromatic oil, stirring till the shredded wheat is well coated and crispy. Season with salt and pepper, take off the heat and set to one side.

For the sauce, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the sausages and cook over a medium heat till the meat is nicely caremalised and breaking up a little. Remove from the pan with a slotted spooon. Add the garlic and chilli to the oil in the skillet and fry gently for a minute. Toss in the fennel and cook for a few minutes till the fennel starts to soften.

Add the lemon juice, parsley and a couple of tablespoons of water and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. When al dente, put a ladle of the cooking water into a bowl then drain and rinse.

Take the lid from the fennel, increase the heat and add the cooked sausage, thinly sliced fennel stalks and fronds. Stir well and season.

Add the pasta to the fennel and mix thoroughly to combine, using some of the reserved pasta water if you need to loosen it a little.

Serve in deep bowls liberally sprinkled with the crispy topping.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Apple & Blackberry Duff

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot

Seamus Heaney - Blackberry Picking

Love blackberries, the mix of sharp and sweet and the extraordinary depth of shiny blackness, the tiny bursts of liquid released from their myriad of tiny dimples, the juice stains face and fingers and clothes. Food to make you smile.

With absolute certainty I associate them with autumn. How wrong I can be? Turns out that cultivated varieties ripen mid July and they are abundant through August and much of September. Then comes Devil Spit Day - I kid you not - on September 29th, which is when Satan spits on all the unpicked fruit. Really no putting them in your mouth after that!

Last week I bought a pudding sleeve with which to make steamed puddings. It may still be lovely and warm in London but one of the myriad joys of a steam oven is the fact it doesn't heat the kitchen, only the food, so it's great to use any time. The pudding sleeve is a funny little metal contraption in two parts that slot together and clip shut which comes with a tiny booklet of suggested recipes. Very pleased with my purchase I asked the man to choose what he'd like as the inaugural delight. Being the cakey pig in our relationship, with a particular fondness for trad Brit, he is far more qualified than me to take such decisions - and I was certain he would choose spotted dick. No. He liked the sound of apple and blackberry duff.

No problem. Except it's not autumn and I was sure there would be no blackberries. At my local fruit shop on Brixton Road on Saturday I discovered tiny boxes of well past it berries, from Kent. They smelt like they'd been kept in the dark since last autumn so wasn't tempted. Talk about not making the connection! In Jellied Eel, a magazine from Sustain that I flick through but don't warm to, there was a list of what's in season this month. Top of the fruit list? Blackberries. You really can learn something every day.

The main display at the entrance of the local Waitrose when I went in Monday afternoon? Blackberries. So I grabbed a punnet, a big Bramley apple and a packet of suet. Duff it would be.

Apple & Blackberry Duff

6 servings - with lashings of cream!

150g self raising flour
1/2 level tspn baking powder

25g caster sugar

75g shredded suet - ask your butcher or buy Atori from a shop

5-6 tbspns (fridge) cold water

1 large Bramley apple - peeled, cored and diced

1/2 level tspn ground cinnamon

1 tbspn caster sugar

100-150g fresh blackberries

If you have a pudding sleeve grease it lightly but thoroughly. If not, dampen and then flour one side of a cloth or tea towel.

Combine the flour, baking powder, 25g caster sugar and the suet in a bowl. Add the cold water and mix to a soft, but not sticky, dough.

Lightly flour the bench top and roll the dough out to a rectangle roughly 18 x 30 cms.

Arrange the diced apple over the dough, leaving a clear 1-2 cm border all the way round. Sprinkle the apple with cinnamon and the tablespoon of caster sugar. Dot the blackberries over the top.

Turn the clear edges of the long sides in over the beginning of the fruit, so that the filling is secured. Then, from the short edge closest to you, swiftly roll the dough to encase the filling.

Place the duff in the base (the slotted part) of the greased pudding sleeve. Engage the top part of the sleeve in the slots and secure the clip.

If you are using a cloth, put the rolled duff onto the short edge of the cloth and roll tightly, then sucure the ends with string.

Either way, steam for 90 minutes.

Serve immediately with thick cream or a dollop of crème fraiche.

Friday, July 23, 2010

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

I was VERY surprised to find this enormous (850g) cucumber hidden by leaves at the base of our plant

I am starting to worry about just how much food there is in the freezer and the cupboard. Many many fine things but I need to start using them not adding to them. For the month of August I will try and buy only fresh produce and make dinner from food already there at least a couple of times a week.

This week I have food chain so need to be fairly quick Saturday morning at Borough. I have some lovely Irish black pudding in the fridge so am thinking scallops, possibly atop pea puree (joke!)- made a spectacularly good Saturday supper with the addition of new potatoes fried with the chorizo and a peashoot salad on the side. Sunday needs simple, might red cook the ham hock and have noodles and aubergine did that but cucumber salad rather than aubergine. Monday a salad with at least one of the little cans of sweetcorn from the cupboard so long since we had a salad composé I had forgotten how good they are, followed it with a lovely duff. Tuesday pasta crispy fennel worked a treat, Wednesday duck and potatoes courgette in tomato with a crisp cheese topping and a side of garlic bread, Thursday tofu - I know I keep saying it and finally did it! Friday is still a mystery 'twill be duck and potatoes as the man came home this week with fabulous bounty from the garden of his colleague including the courgette we had Wednesday and the potatoes we will have tonight fried in duck fat.

I started at the Ginger Pig where Charlie had prepped lots of meat for food chain for me which is brilliant of him and it makes for really special meals next day. With that in my trolley I bought some pork mince for us which is in the freezer, had planned to have rice wrappers Friday night but it will be another day - £4,25

Then to Shellseekers for scallops but they were £1.70 on the shell so went to Furness instead and bought 6 for £8.10 - which is still expensive but they were exquisite

From Ted's Veg I bought a sweetheart cabbage steamed Thursday night and a fennel bulb for my fabby pasta- £2,15

Eggs from Wild Beef where Lizzie was delighted to have had someone bring back dozens of cartons, which I keep trying to remember to do as my mountain is ready to topple - £1.50

At Neals Yard I bought milk and pasta - £7.20

From Flour Power a loaf of toast bread - £1.10

So my use up what I have plan started well so far - spent £24.30 but also bought oranges, spring onions, lemons, ginger and coriander at Brixton Market and butter, cucumber and a pepper as well as blackberries, apples and suet at Waitrose.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I was on a bus one Saturday morning on the way home from Borough Market, laden with bags of lovely stuff in preparation for the week, the highlight of which was the arrival of my parents from Australia. They eat well - had to get it from somewhere! - and my mother is a total tea fiend. A pot of tea is the solution to every eventuality. It must be quality tea that is made with all the attendant rituals of warmed pots and precise quantities and, for her, milk before tea in the cup. Which obviously matches its saucer.

In Neals Yard they sell a small selection of wondrous goods as well as their exquisite dairy, one of which is boxes of Barry tea. I confess I'd never heard of it but I was sure that if they stocked it here it would be the best. So I bought a box along with my other bits for the week and thought no more about it till we were almost to Elephant & Castle. There was another couple on the bus, sitting across from us. She caught sight of the tea in my bag and exclaimed loudly to her man 'Oh look, they've got Barry tea. I can't believe it.' Then she leant over to me 'Where did you get it? I love Barry tea and I've never been able to find it in London. It's Irish!' When I told her she rang the bell, grabbed her man and jumped off the bus to go back and buy some.

I love those that love good food to the point where they must always seek it out.

On Wednesday night, along with a couple of dozen food bloggers, I was invited by Bord Bia to the Irish Embassy where we were whisked into this delightfully elegant room. The focus of the evening was learning secrets - of food styling and photography from consumate professional Alistair Hendy in order to spread the word of just how much brilliant food is produced in Ireland.

Alistair talked in detail about styling shots and, surprising to me, shooting only in daylight.

Extra Relish took notes

while he explained tricks like angling the camera for the shot on the left to give the impression of movement. Works!

Sunshine streamed through the enormous windows - shooting with natural light started to make some kind of sense - particularly if you were sitting with Maison Cupcake and Cook Sister ...

The room was full of gorgeous Irish produce - literally piles of it.

These extraordinary cheeses I was expecting - think Irish, think soft rain and green green grass and lots of fabulous dairy. I have bought the brilliant coolea from Neals Yard which has the richness of Parmesan.

We were let loose to shoot what we liked, Simply Splendiferous applying a little of what we'd just learned.

Such an extraordinary marbling.

Ultra unfussed honeycomb.

Exquisite jelly beans - and who knew they make Turkish Delight in Ireland?

I was intrigued by some of the surrounds to the photos being created

Scraps and discards

and 'faux amis' - the pink is not a savoury but an exqusite handmade strawberry cheesecake nestling up with to the flat leaf parsley. And they say the camera never lies!

There was this to one side

after check matches check

I can confirm that these yoghurt pots are simply divine

Tis an Irish crab to be sure.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vietnamese Cabbage Salad

Sweetheart cabbage - how I love thee! Others may call you pointed or hispi but they are dullards. Simply wrong. They miss your tender sweetness, and the prettiness you offer up when sliced through. Your pale heart offers unalloyed affection and always brings a smile.

Seriously. Those harder than concrete balls of standard cabbage are so difficult to get to grips with, resisting the knife and, when finally cut there is always a huge core veining its way through the centre. Not great for salad and needing far longer than the rest for cooking. Sweetheart cabbage offer delightful flavour and ease of use. They are gorgeous lightly steamed with nothing more than pepper and a touch of butter or lard. (I have various bowls of rendered fat in my fridge that I use to flavour different things, seems to be particularly good with vegetables.)

Raw in salad it works a treat too. After the delight of rediscovering hot rice paper wraps I wanted more Vietnamese inspired food. Figured it was perfect as a summer meal to dip rare roasted beef in nuoc cham, that blissed out sauce of lemon, garlic, chilli and fish sauce and accompany it with steamed rice and a crunchy salad with my sweetheart shredded plus carrot to make like slaw dressed with a different sauce using garlic, chillies and fish sauce nuanced with lots of rice wine vinegar and a handful of thai basil from the garden mixed through. The basic idea comes from Viet World Kitchen. It would be good with toasted crushed peanuts too.

Spicy Cabbage Salad

Makes enough for 6 salad servings

Watch it on the chillies. The mortar and pestle pounding releases all the oils and the dressing can be fiery -- enough to make you sweat...


1 or 2 Thai or serrano chiles, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
a pinch of salt
2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce
5 to 6 tablespoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
500g green cabbage, quartered through the stem end, cored, and cut crosswise into thin ribbons
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), cilantro, or mint leaves

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the chile, garlic, ½ teaspoon sugar, and salt together into a fragrant orange-red paste. (Use a sweeping motion at first to crush the ingredients and then pound.) This releases and combines the oils from the chile and garlic. Scrape the paste into a bowl and add the remaining teaspoon of sugar and smaller quantities of fish sauce and rice vinegar, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt and to combine well. Taste and add more fish sauce or rice vinegar to create a spicy, tart, savory, lightly garlicky dressing.

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrot and your chopped herb of choice. Toss to combine and distribute the ingredients well.

Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to mix well. The salad will wilt slightly. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing the sour, sweet, salty, and spicy. Transfer to a serving plate, leaving any unabsorbed dressing behind, and serve.

True love!

Friday, July 16, 2010

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

Saturday night special!

Decidedly cooler this week but there is promise it may creep up again next week. Quite fancy fish Saturday I twittered to find out what to do with beetroot and @corkgourmetguy suggested jelly with smoked fish so, intrigued, I juiced 2 beetroots added some red wine vinegar and leaf gelatine and made this lovely ruby dice to sprinkle over smoked salmon and dill potatoes, I have a small roast in the freezer that I bought at Oval Farmers Market last weekend that I fancy shredded into noodle salad Sunday it was good but not great in the way Ginger Pig roasts are but it worked drenched with nuoc cham, served up with hot cabbage salad, slow roast tomatoes and steamed rice. Monday the tofu may yet happen no! it was barley salad stained red with the rest of the beetroot jelly served up with grilled haloumi and pitta bread one version of a cheese sandwich. Tuesday pasta with smoked bacon, parsley, chilli and garlic, Wednesday I am out so the man might like pie he really liked fish and chips instead, Thursday he is out and I might like steak! Friday omelette probably.

We were a bit later than usual Saturday morning and the crowds were definitely thicker, lots of people everywhere. I resisted the temptation to go to the Ginger Pig for their £16.50 special on 45 day aged rump, but that could be a mistake. Rectified Thursday when I bought some on the way home! Instead we started at Booths where again the potatoes weren't up to much - don't know what is going on - so bought cucumber, lettuce and a couple of beetroot look at those lovely jelly cubes. Cost £2.30

Then to Wild Beef for eggs and minced beef for the freezer - £9.50

At Teds Veg I decided I would try their new potatoes as the young woman who runs the stall assured me they were lovely they were and so were worth the price, also bought onions - £2.20

At Chegworth I bought strawberries for smoothies and apples for lunches £4.40

Gastromica had no fennel sausages and when I tried De Lieto's near home they had none either finally got some at the deli near Exmouth Market but have yet to make my pasta

Smoked salmon from Ireland - £5

Coffee from Monmouth - £11.50

Lots of dairy from Neals Yard - creme fraiche, yoghurt and milk - £11.80

Small toast loaf from Flour Power - £1.10

Not an expensive week - £47.80 - and hopefully not a lot more through the weeek! There was steak and an avocado, some butter and biscuits as well as the sausages.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vietnamese Lettuce Parcels - Cha Gio

Having got right into making summer rolls lately with softened rice paper wrapped around lots of lovely fillings like prawns, cucumber, herbs, shredded lettuce and the like I had a hankering for the cooked variety served hot inside cold lettuce wraps with fresh herbs and cucumber for coolness and chilli sauce for prickly heat. I used to make them a lot in the years after I left home, they seemed wonderfully exotic and are pretty straightforward.

The original idea came from Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook where she advises that rice papers may be difficult to find so to use wonton wrappers instead. When I came across rice paper wrappers in a Chinese supermarket I took it as a sign and made my first batch of these little delights. I became quite adept at stuffing them and wrapping them and serving them up exquisitely crisp and delicious. They were a brilliant starter to many an Asian feast. And a delight crispy and cold next day as well earned treat for the cook.

Then, about the time I met the man, I stopped making them. It is coincidence, the timing, not an intentional thing. When I realised how long it has been I was a bit surprised, they really are good and the kind of thing we both seriously like and yet it was as if I had forgotten them entirely. Left behind unintentionally I ceased to remember their existence, no longer there to be considered as an option for any occasion. I don't know why. Perhaps it is like the wider world of fashion that things come and go without apparent rhyme or reason. And just as foolish!

Fried Pork & Prawn Rolls

One of the most popular snacks in Vietnam - try them once and you will know why

Makes about 20

1/2 cup cellophane noodles
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finley sliced white and green
250g pork mince
100g raw prawns, deveined and roughly chopped
1 tbspn fish sauce
1 tspn dark soy sauce
1 tbspn ginger, peeled and very very finely diced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
rice paper wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying
lettuce leaves
fresh mint and fresh holy basil
cucumber peeled and cut into long strips chilli sauce

Soak the cellophane noodles in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain and cut into short - 3cm/an inch - lengths. Mix with the shallot, spring onions, pork, prawns, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger and chilli. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Use a pie dish - half fill with warm water. Put a rice paper wrapper into the water and let it soften for a minute. Take it out and put it onto a board and put the next wrapper in to soak. PUt about a tablespoon of the filling onto the centre of the first rice paper. Fold the rice paper over the filling till it is completely enclosed, making sure the moist edges seal. Put onto a dinner plate, take the next sheet from the water and repeat till all the filling is used.

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium flame and fry the parcels a few at a time. They take about 3 minutes on each side - if the oil is too hot the filling won't cook properly. When golden put onto a wire rack and into a low oven till all the wraps are cooked.

Serve with the lettuce, herbs, cucumber and chilli sauce in separate bowls. Take a lettuce leaf, add herbs and cucumber, put a hot rice wrap on top then dollop with chilli sauce. Wrap the lettuce around the lot and eat.

Couldn't believe how brilliant they (still) are. They have the lot - hot inside cold, chilli, burst of fresh herbs and a hit of golden crunch. Total WOW.

So glad to welcome them back to the repertoire that I'm racking my brains to think what else I used to know. Have you remembered anything good lately?

Friday, July 09, 2010

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

Smoked mozzarella on toast for breakfast

Mega hot forecast for the weekend - perfect for cold collation, and we so love them! The flat peaches were so good last week, I'm thinking more of those and lots of salty things, ham, chorizo, olives and radish from the garden plus a couple of hot things like baby morcilla and padron peppers it made a perfect Saturday night. Beat the heat big time. Sunday is football final, had been thinking Spanish but now think Indian with chicken and lots of veg side dishes and dill rice plain rice and salads and saffron yoghurt chicken with the lovely Vicki and MR Johnson over to share. Monday we are out, Tuesday there is some tofu in the fridge needs using it's still there as we had red cooked aubergine, steamed cabbage and rice, Wednesday I am out for a while so spag bol from the freezer the man had some and I had fried eggs on toast much later, Thursday a pie perhaps, as I bought a second hand copy of Tamsin Day Lewis's Tarts with Tops that I haven't used yet went to see Django Drom and had dinner before at St John. Friday probably omelette and salad thinking make garlic bread to go with the rest of the spaghetti and a crisp salad.

Hot it was - just like a proper summer. Borough was cool enough though and a pleasant way to shop. Had a chicken in the freezer so had nothing to buy from Ginger Pig. Headed straight to Booths instead. Spent about ten minutes sniffing melons to find a good one, finally decided on a rockmelon dessert Sunday night, also sniffed a few little flat peaches before choosing the final selection. Also bought cucumber, cabbage, fennel, bananas and padron peppers - £12.90

From Brindisa I couldn't resist a bargain so bought a tin of mussels and a jar of pepper and tomato sauce as well as mini morcilla half hot Saturday night rest in the freezer along with a spicy chorizo - £11.20

From the Isle of Wight I bought a vine of tomatoes, lovely shiny red fat ones for a brilliant tomato, mint and spring onion salad Sunday - £2

Chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat - £2

No Wild Beef, no eggs!

A fabulous Pecorino from Gastronomica - £10

Milk and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £6.60

Toast loaf from Flour Power - £1.10

Spent £45.80 - cheap! Also bought aubergines, coriander and spring onions at Brixton Market

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Green Mango Salad

Through the week I no longer buy the Guardian in the morning. Obviously I can't live without it but I have taken to reading it online Monday to Thursday and then I return to the pleasure of the physical edition for the weekend, starting with Friday and the film reviews. Food and cinema - my twin delights. I cannot imagine life without them.

If Friday's rasion d'être is the movie pages, Saturday is food. In the last two decades their food writers have included the incomparable Matthew Fort most consistently for both restaurant reviews and recipes, and amongst others Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as well as Vistoria Moore writing on wine and Jay Rayner these days doing reviews for the Observer and lots of features to boot. My favourite Sunday of evey month is the one where OFM
is tucked into the fold.

To my delight this week's Saturday magazine was a special edition full of summer recipes from all and sundry. My plan for the week were a touch vague so I was fast engrossed in the possibilities laid out by 50 - count them quick and feel the joy! - sleb chefs. Jamie offered gravadlax. Sam and Sam Clark from Moro caught my eye with their accompanying salad of lentils, peas and herbs for tuna - it will be made, but not this week. Bill Grainger was spare ribs but I have favourites already, Fergus Henderson delights in ox tongue bap with horseradish - but I don't like horseradish! I don't like smoked mackerel either but I was intigued nonetheless by Rick Stein's thai salad that was otherwise green mango and carrot and a mix of crunchy salty sweet and sour. I'd seen him do it on the tele and liked the look of it and now I had the recipe in front of me. Got to be a sign.

I'd already bought a serious quantity of rump steak at the Ginger Pig so decided I could probably spare 250g to make the other dish I wanted immediately - David Thompson's beef stir fried with oyster sauce. It involves cooking the onions in a dry wok to caremalise them and I could readily imagine how good that could be. We were off to Brixton in the afternoon - to go to the Ritzy to see the utterly fabulous White Material. Loved it. Spilled back out into the late afternoon sunshine there was time to shop at my second most favourite London market - the extraordinary hubbub that is Electric Avenue. Easy as pie to find firm green mangoes, shallots and chilli as well as the silken tofu that was already had on my mind.

Tuesday night we sat down to a properly exotic meal with a myriad of textures and all the salt/sweet/sour flavours in deep bowls for the hot and tiny bowls on the side.

Thai Green Mango Salad

Generous side dish serving for 2

Asian shops are undoubtedly the best place to get green mangoes but most supermarkets sell their own produce hugely under ripe so you should be able to buy one there as well

1 green mango, weighing about 450g
1 large carrot (about 75g)
Small shallot, very thinly sliced

1 red bird's eye chilli, finely chopped

2 tbspns roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
2 tsp palm sugar - substitute caster if you need to
1 tbsp fish sauce

About 1 tbsp lime juice (depends on the tartness of the mango)

1 tbspn Thai sweet basil, chopped

Peel the mango and carrot, and shred, ideally using a mandolin. (There is a classic Rick Stein moment on one of his tv shows where he outlines how dangerous it is to use a mandolin incorrecty then proceeds to cut himself badly and swear virulently. It is remembered by all who saw it but, sadly, I couldn't find it on YouTube)

Toss in a large bowl with the shallots, chilli, and peanuts. Mix the sugar with the fish sauce and lime juice, add to the salad with the Thai basil, and toss again.

Pile into the centre of two side bowls and serve.

There was a little bit over that the man had as a relish with pork pie for dinner. East meets west in Stockwell.

Friday, July 02, 2010

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

I am intent I think on steak for Saturday supper as it has been a while. And it was brilliant. Had it with the above garden salad - always thought saying 'serve with a garden salad' is an instruction akin to 'exit pursued by a bear'. Then I moved to a place with a garden. Sunday I am thinking a savoury tart semi disaster, used a loose bottom pan which simply drained all the egg and cream into the pan underneath, tipped it back in (!) but ended up with a creamy crust topped with spinach and cheese with salads and leftovers for lunches. Monday some tofu and some aubergine steamed omelette and salad, Tuesday chilli pasta beef stir fry and green mango salad, Wednesday I am out with the french ladies so the man will fend for himself, Thursday maybe chicken and salad cucumber stuffed with pork and prawns then steamed served with steamed ginger cabbage and chilli sauce, Friday omelette and salad hot viet rice paper parcels wrapped inside lettuce with herbs and a spicy salad. I love salad!

Saturday morning and the sun was shining. Again! Loving this weather. The market wasn't too busy which adds to the pleasure. Charlie was back at the Ginger Pig after time away in Glossop working with Mettricks Butchers. Sounds like a different set up to Borough but much of the same ethos of caring properly for animals and producing great meat. One day - hoepfully soon - Charlie will use all this accrued knowledge to open his own business. For some reason he's decided not to try his first t-bone steak till he has his own shop - I cannot imagine making such a decision, even if we only indulge rarely. I guess he doesn't know what he's missing - but he's in for a treat when it happens. I bought a nice thick slice of rump dinner Saturday and stir fry Tuesday and some pork mince a quarter still in the freezer the rest to stuff cucumbers Thusday and make little viet parcels Friday - £17.85

Next stop Booths where they had no good looking potatoes which is unusual but none of them called to me so I bought cucumber stuffed it and steamed it! and flat white peaches instead they had a perfect scent, the man had them in his lunchbox but there will be more this week - £1.90

At the Calabrian stall, which has been there in the green market for a while but I'd never visited, I sampled some olive oils in search of something interesting for salads. One was very delicate, one was seriously grassy - apparently the one that is most popular in the market - and one was somewhere in between, which I bought - £5.50 Also sampled a great honey.

Over at Wild Beef Lizzie was cheerful as she's off on holiday this week to Cornwall so I bought 2 boxes of eggs to tide us over - £3

Tomatoes from the Isle of Wight because they are such lovely sweet fruit - £3.50

Teds Veg had new potatoes at £3.50 a kilo which is too steep for me and their fennel looked a bit sad too so bought nothing

Secretts had Cornish new potatoes for £5 a kilo - soooo absolutely not!

Gianni seems very cheerful to be back at Gastronomica, the woman ahead of me was most delighted with the samples of goat and gorgonzola she tried, so she bought both. I needed a chunk of Parmesan, also bought a lovely piece of bra to go with the peaches and he threw in a couple of small smoked mozzarellas that need melting then eating for true delight - £20

Bought a small pork pie for the man for Wednesday tea from Elizabeth King's - £3.50

Milk and yoghurt at Neals Yard - £6.70

Bread from Flour Power - £1.10

So didn't get potatoes here at all - got some in my local veg shop and made potato salad which was okay but not great, might need rethinking! Spent £63.05

Later in the day I bought rice and peanut oil and mango and tofu at Wing Yip in Brixton to round out the week a bit then butter and salt and biscuits from the supermarket plus another cucumber Friday to have with dinner

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Disappointments and laughter

Great wonton soup from last week

The lentil dish I have been planning to make for weeks now finally got made last night. It was bleugh. Not entirely nasty but not one I would make again, ever. Decided to be frugal and have leftovers for lunch which simply put me into a foul mood as it was really dispiriting to revisit a dud meal. So I threw half of it away, which also depresses me. Hate wasting food.

So as I can offer nothing by way of a recipe this week I will share instead a couple of things from other people's posts about Borough Market that I've read over the last few days. @ themostcake it was all about the delights of dating - Can we say how much we love dates? There’s something fantastic about the thrill of it all – dressing up, meeting up, setting off on some wild, unknown foray into… well. A bar seems to be most likely these days. But London is a city of many wonders, and your attempt at some kind of romance need not be a drunken fumble in some random pub.

... Borough Market is definitely one of my favourite places in London – and not just because I love the heck out of food. You and your date can walk through picking out ingredients for a meal to be made later, or simply grab a glass of prosecco from one of the
wine stalls and have a wander, choosing from a variety of soup, curries, hot dogs and much more from the surrounding vendors

Seems lots of people think of love and Borough, though not necessarily with great outcomes. In a very funny post about the time and costs of dating opeanfootw writes  MARCH 3: I have high hopes for Shaun, 32, an accountant. Thought seeing an older man might work. Remember Sex And The City’s Mr Big?

  Arranged the perfect date at Borough Market, a food market in London. We strolled romantically around the stalls drinking warm cider. He had lovely hazel eyes but was obsessed with the new flooring he was fitting.

  He couldn’t handle his booze and proceeded to tell me about his S&M fetish – I nearly choked on my drink! The dating rules state talking about exes is taboo, so rubber fetishes are a closed subject!

  Desperately, I tried to turn the talk back to flooring.

  COST: ? – new winter coat ? drinks ? fares ?

  DATE TIME: 4hrs – getting ready 1hr, date 3hrs.

There are some who go more for the food but still find a different kind of love. William Baeck could feel the food love all the way back to its beginnings - On the advice of a Londoner that Aline had once met by chance at a farmer’s market in San Francisco, we took the Tube to Borough Market to buy supplies for dinner....

Trestles overhead kept the breeze away. Molecules of every kind of food sold there, perhaps every food sold since Emperor Claudius first sent his hungry troops to the south bank, grew denser the further I wandered, gradually precipitating out of the air to settle in a rich snow on my tongue. I began ranging open-mouthed through the aisles, sieving the air like a Blue Whale sieving for krill.

For The Urban Hiker there was tears and joy - Somehow after buying almost a kilogram of chocolate I ended up at another chocolate place that sold the most incredible smelling truffles. I bought several different kinds and decided that I had to get some real food before I could buy any more sweets. I settled on a lamb burger with lots of spicy English mustard that made me cry, as all mustard should.

Finally I decided that if I didn’t leave soon I was never going to so I bought some fresh squeezed apple cranberry juice for the road and left the market behind. (If I ever do run away from home Borough Market will be my destination.)

A sentiment I fully endorse!