Monday, October 18, 2010
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.
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
Then to Monmouth for coffee, a dark Costa Rican, £11.50
Potatoes, celery and fennel from Teds Veg - £4.70
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
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.
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
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
Friday, October 01, 2010
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
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!