Friday, February 25, 2011

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

Coffee beans - the start of every day

Food chain this weekend so need to be quick at Borough and have some easy things for the weekend. Saturday a simple pasta sausage and mash with a puddle of peas, Sunday venison faggots with onion gravy from the freezer omelette and salad that I brought home from food chain, Monday noodle soup faggots and mashed swede with a drizzle of onion gravy, Tuesday I have a jar of stuffed goose neck from France in the fridge that I fancy coated with breadcrumbs and served with potatoes and salad a sort of tartiflette for a different kind of decadent. Wednesday some tofu pork chop noodle soup, Thursday might be chicken and mushrooms my sister is here so we had a lovely chinesey feast with steamed tofu and aubergine and hot sticky ribs, Friday sausages perhaps a little stir fry and rice leftover from Thursday.

We were early and Borough was blissfully quiet. Started at an almost empty Ginger Pig where I bought some skinny little sausages and some pork spare ribs for £11.20

Then to Monmouth for coffee - espresso beans - £10

Eggs from Wild Beef - £1

Potatoes, lovely marfona, from Teds Veg as well as swede, carrots and Savoy cabbage - £4.80

A hunk of truffle studded sheep cheese from Gastronomica - £8.50

Bread, yoghurt and milk from Neals Yard - £9.70

Then run run run home - £45.20

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Curried Lentil Soup

Really this is a creamy curried soup, but made without cream.... Not entirely a soup, either, more a dal but not really a true dal as the lentils are small and green and French. An enigma in a bowl.

Winter is revisiting London and it's all a bit bleak and damp and not quite light during the still too short days. Spring has arrived in the garden - buds are bursting out all over, pale new leaves are shyly displaying themselves and the snowdrops and crocuses are looking a little bedraggled by their rainy welcome - but in the kitchen winter reigns still.

Veg being less than inspiring, most of it the last of the winter store, I'm turning often to pulses. I have a secret supply of an exquisite french lentil - lentilles verte du berry - which were the first to come under Label Rouge - a distinct sign of quality. The friend, who acquires these lovely little things on her visits home, assures me they are best when served as a base for sausages, preferably toulouse but definitely garlic in one form or another. I will try that for sure come spring, but this week they made for a lovely rich warming dish.

The man loves curried parsnip soup with something approaching an unbalanced passion so I was fairly sure a midweek offering of curried lentils would be welcome. What intrigued me when I found the recipe on Serious Eats was using a chickpea purée to thicken the lentils and make them, it turned out, intensely gorgeously dreamily creamy.

Curried Lentil Soup

Lentils, chickpeas, curry powder, water - a dish where the whole utterly transcends the sum of its parts. Serves 4 with a side of crusty bread

4 tablespoons olive oil,

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided

2 tablespoons curry powder, or more to taste

1 cup French green lentils

4 cups water

400g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed or a large handful of dried ones, soaked and cooked

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons butter

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 lemon, cut into wedges

In a large heavy pot, heat half the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, celery and carrot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, then stir in curry powder. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent spices from burning, until spices are fragrant.

Add lentils and water and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, and 1/4 cup of water. Stir puree into lentils, along with butter. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and/or additional curry powder, then thin soup with water until desired consistency.

Divide amongst soup bowls and serve garnished with green onion and with lemons on the side.

The man was delighted, so much so he suggested they should be packed into jars and sold in shops in the way the french do with all things good. Bonne idée, non?

Monday, February 21, 2011

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

Look at that bottom shelf - beer to the left of me, yoghurt to the right! Balanced lifestyles...
Thanks to Total for my yoghurt mountain

We are out with the man's folks Saturday for a serious lunch at the Anchor & Hope then on to Southwark Playhouse for Company so supper will be simple and light - a little toast and cheese and salami with olives after a really pleasant afternoon. Sunday have some ham, thinking eggs and chips we had an unfortunately fairly unpleasant lunch out after wandering the streets in persistent drizzle so had hot toast for comfort. Monday lentil soup pitta breads with roasted vegetables, haloumi and spiced butterbean paste, Tuesday we are probably out we were in for a bowl of lovely creamy lentil soup, Wednesday we are definitely out for the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle which was extraordinary even to me who knows little about classical music, Thursday chicken and mushrooms we were out (not in!), Friday omelette or perhaps pasta.

Market was quiet, bought some gammon from one of the new butchers at Ginger Pig, then got chatting to Charlie who dropped a bombshell. He's leaving! Moving on to hopefully better things he's off in a couple of weeks and I will miss him though I wish him well. Gammon cost £15.40

Eggs from Wild Beef, a dozen for £3

Skate wings from the new fish stall from Essex who till now have been next to the game people but no more. Turns out the game dealer was told they couldn't sell chickens so they had a hissy, insisted they would not be told what they could sell and so bof! they are gone. Bad news in the sense that they were the source of home made pork scratchings that were divine and, sadly, fleeting. Skate cost £7.20

Apples from Chegworth - £1.03

Saw Ian at Mrs Kings, his plans for a new venture outside Melton Mowbray are proceeding well, hoping it can be realised in all its glory

Olives from Fresh Olive - a mix of melange and chilli stuffed green ones - £4.50

Almonds and fried broad beans from Brindisa - the beans to try atop as crunch atop a salad - £5.25

Bought milk, yoghurt and bread from Neals Yard - £9.70

Home again spending £46.08 but getting veg locally and other bits and pieces in the week

Monday, February 14, 2011

Passionfruit Melting Moments

It is cold and grey and still February. On the other side of the world it is hot and bright and indeed also February. What they have, and we don't, is passionfruit. It is an integral part of Oz culture - it is hot, you have a passionfruit vine overladen on the back fence, there is to be a barbie on the weekend, dessert will be pavlova, and pavlova is topped with passionfruit, unfailingly and always.

They're a funny thing, small like an egg, thin black skins that are tinged with purply green and shiny smooth to start with, but that is when they are not yet ripe. They are not at their best till the skins are crumpled and puckered, the whole sort of collapsed in on itself. Open one then and you find a glorious burst of vibrant orange pulp full of sharp little black seeds. Suck the contents immediately into your mouth for an extraordinary hit of sugar and sharp, sticky and sweet.

Wandering past my local fruit shop last week I saw they had passionfruit 10 for £1. Bargain! Was on my way somewhere else but knew they must be mine. Found a recipe for melting moments, another oz icon, which are a 'sandy' textured biscuit often stuck together with some kind of butter icing for double the treat. The best of all flavouring for the sticking together stuff is, of course, passionfruit. Took myself back to the fruit shop to discover they were no longer 10 for a pound but rather 'pound a scoop'. Except that my shop uses plastic washing up bowls rather than metal scoops so, to my delight, I ended up with about 3 dozen little wrinkly fruit. Joy.

This recipe only needs the pulp from one or two, but the pulp freezes brilliantly. I did it in ice cube trays then packed the resulting blocks into a zip lock bag for future use. Each fruit seemed to contain a slightly different colour making for the gorgeous variations above.

Passionfruit Melting Moments

This recipe comes from Taste - an Australian site that has lots of other local treats to try

Makes 32 - they are nice as single biscuits with a cuppa but the passionfruit makes them special
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup cornflour
  • Passionfruit filling

  • 60g butter, softened
  • 1 large passionfruit
  • 1 cup pure icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

  1. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, vanilla and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flours over butter mixture. Beat on low speed until a soft dough forms.

  2. Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of mixture into small balls. Place on trays. Using a fork dipped in flour, lightly flatten each biscuit until 1cm thick. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm. Cool on trays for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  3. Make passionfruit filling: Using an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Stir in passionfruit pulp and icing sugar.

  4. Spread flat side of 1 biscuit with 1 teaspoon filling. Top with another biscuit. Repeat with remaining biscuits and filling. Dust with icing sugar. Serve

So now I have lots of pulp - am thinking cupcakes with passionfruit icing, possibly a cake, any other suggestions or favourites?

Friday, February 11, 2011

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

Riso gallo pronto - dinner in 20 minutes!

Am out for the day Saturday so thinking supper needs to be simple - perhaps fish - some lamb chops from the freezer with hot veg. Sunday I am ecstatic to say we have a reservation for lunch at Dinner, Heston Blumenthal's new restaurant. Thinking the following dinner will be minimal - a small amount of salami and toast. Monday we are out, Tuesday I think some risotto would be nice made venison faggots with venison liver that was gifted me by Jon and Marie, served up with mashed swede and cabbage, even better than the ones made with pig liver, Wednesday the rest of the lamb stew made a brilliant risotto with riso gallo quick cook risotto with porcini worked a treat with added chicken and the lot cooked in stock, Thursday pasta had the rest of the lamb stew with mash and Friday omelette and salad skate wings with leeks and new potatoes. Easy peasy.

Quiet at Borough - Charlie is back at the Ginger Pig complete with suntan from a couple of weeks in Sydney - least he got lucky with sunshine. Only bought some pork mince - £4.30

Espresso beans from Monmouth - £10

Went to the new game dealer, wanting venison and hoping for pork scratchings. My wants met, hope remains unsated £8.50

Loitered by the Essex fish stall for a couple of minutes but there was no one serving so I wandered off, fish free

A dozen eggs this week from Wild Beef - £3

A lovely crumbly piece of toma from Gastronomica - £6.50

Milk and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £4.90

Thought about bread from Flour Power but they had run out of small loaves and I still had half a rye loaf so decided to try for bread at Oval from the Old Post Office people instead

Bought veg locally on Brixton Road and a lovely bunch of muscat grapes

Spent £37.20

Monday, February 07, 2011


I was looking for a way to use the chicken carcass from last weeks' roast chicken as stock as well as half a bunch of parsley and possibly some potatoes and cabbage too. I'm not convinced that I am essentially frugal but I really hate throwing food away.

Recently I found a large cookbook in a charity shop in Brixton. Decidedly battered but holding together well between hardback covers, it is a copy of The Conran Cookbook published originally in 1980 but this was republished in 1997 with the original work of Caroline and Terence Conran now supplemented by additions from Simon Hopkinson - he of Roast Chicken and Other Stories, author of the 'best' cookbook ever. Had to be worth a look.

There's no way of knowing who wrote what but it quickly became clear why the book had been so well used. It's stuffed full of fairly simple recipes, real week by week stuff, largely European in style, with lots of interesting stuff about ingredients. Indeed the purpose of the book is to chart the progress of food from market to kitchen to table, with half the book devoted to the purchase and preparation of food before you even get to the eclectic collection of recipes. A seriously good browse that assumes a fair amount of intelligence in its readers.

Checking out the offerings in the soup section I found this Ribollita, an almost perfect use of everything I had still left on Friday, with the addition of a couple more veg for what turned out to be a deeply flavoured soup, with lots of lovely textures and properly robust.


You're aiming for a thick 'stewy' broth. It's traditional to ladle the soup over chunks of stale, country style bread but I had none, but fresh rye on the side made a great accompaniment

Serves 6

170g dried borlotti or pinto beans, soaked overnight
4 tbspns olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 red onion, chopped
A bunch of parsley, big stalks discarded, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
225g Swiss chard or curly kale, wahsed and coarsely chopped
1 sweetheart cabbage, coarsely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
Heel of old Parmesan rind
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm pieces
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock - use the cooking water from the beans for part of it
1 or 2 courgettes, halved lengthways then cut across into 1/2 cm slices

Drain and rinse the beans and cook in unsalted water till al dente. Drain but be sure to keep the cooking water for the soup base.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and soften the onions with the parsley and the garlic. Set half the chopped kale and cabbage aside, and add the rest, with all the stalky bits, to the onions. Put in the tomatoes, potatoes and cooked beans. Stir for a few minutes to coat all the vegetables in oil then add the stock, the bean water and the Parmesan rind and bring to the boil.

Simmer for an hour then add the courgettes and season with salt and pepper. simmer for a further 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, blanch the reserved kale and cabbage by plunging it into a pan of boiling salted water and boil for 2 minutes. It should be tender but still bright green. Drain and add to the soup. Bring the soup back to the boil.

Put chunks of bread into soup bowls and ladle the soup over the top. Everyone can serve themselves with extra drizzles of olive oil and sprinklings of grated Parmesan.

This reheats really well, the flavour intensifying int he same way as stews, without the vegetables collapsing. Deeply satisfying food.

Friday, February 04, 2011

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

I was just as surprised as Teddy to see how much he'd grown!

We are away for the weekend visiting the lovely Marie and Jon and the fast growing Teddy which is a treat. Am planning reheating soup Sunday night on our return - more cheesey crackers and a glass of red was all we needed after a wonderful and well fed weekend. Monday I think will be roast, perhaps with salads rather than hot veg hot roast beef sandwiches with grilled onion salad, Tuesday we are out, Wednesday could be the lamb stew that didn't happen last week the man was out so I had a grilled pork chop and salad and steamed the lamb stew, Thursday I think risotto stew with a hunk of crusty bread, Friday noodles the last of the roast beef with some olives and cheese and salad and bread = cold collation. And we have most of all of that and I don't have noodles!

Went to Borough Friday and it was so different to the scrum that is Saturday. Wandered around and chatted with people, only buffeting came from a gale blowing through every space. John at Ginger Pig found a beautiful piece of topside for me roasted Monday night and lunches in the week, along with a couple of chicken carcasses made stock for the freezer for £18.70

Then over to Wild Beef where the stall was momentarily unattended but I left £1.50 for a box of eggs with the guy at the neighbouring stall

Chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat - 2 bags for a treat - £4

Hoped for some pork scratchings from the game poeple, but alas, was not to be though they had lots of lovely looking produce as did the Essex Fish people on the next stall

With Booths gone and Teds not there on Fridays, got my veg locally as our greengrocer often has good Brit produce like curly kale and onions and cabbage

Was really delighted to see Ian back at the Elizabeth King stall - his son has been running it for a few months - had a long catch up chat about future hopes and plans, seriously enjoyed it. Bought nothing!

Bought milk, pasta and an exceptionally good rye loaf from Neals Yard £9.20

Not bad for the week - £33.40

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Aubergine Pasta Bake

Aubergines - silky, sexy, fabulous in so many forms. Its mild flavour and spongy texture means it can be transformed into the most extraordinary variety of dishes from hot spiced brinjal pickle (an absolute favourite), creamy moussaka, summer in a bowl ratatouille, extrordinary sea spice aubergine - it is one ingredient that has travelled the world and become integral to nearly every cuisine. They are popular in Asia, America, the middle east and across Europe ranging in shape from a shiny deep purple truncheon common here to small shiny white ovoids mostly in Africa where they are called garden eggs. See one and you will immediately understand!

I have been meaning to make this pasta dish for a couple of weeks - show me a new aubergine recipe and I will immediately plan to make it - and finally managed it this week. In her introduction Anna del Conte says this excellent pasticcio is another testimony to the aubergine's rare ability to blend with other flavours while retaining its own. Another reason perhaps for its ubiquity in world cuisine.

Pasticcio di pasta e melanzane in bianco

4 generous servings

The only change I made was to top it with fresh breadcrumbs before baking to add a tiny crackle of texture

For the bechamel
600ml full fat milk
2 bay leaves
60g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
60g Gruyère, freshly grated - I used the last of a piece of Coolea
60g Parmesan, freshly grated
Salt and pepper

700g aubergine
sea salt
1 small dried chilli
2 garlic cloves
a bunch of parsley
5 tbspn olive oil
350g penne

Handful of fresh breadcrumbs (optional)

Heat the milk with the bay leaves to boiling point, turn of the heat and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes.


Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water. Drain when very al dente.

As the pasta cooks...

Wash and dry the aubergines. Cut them lengthwise in 1 1/2cm slices, then into 2cm strips and finally cut these strips into 4cm length pieces. You're aiming to match the shape of the penne.

Chop the chili, garlic and parsley together and put it into a frying pan with the oil. Fry gently for a minute then add the aubergines. Sauté over a low heat for 10 minutes or so, turning them frequently, until soft and cooked through. Taste and adjsut the seasonings. Add the cooked pasta and sauté all together for 2-3 minutes, mixing it well with the aubergine. Turn into a buttered casserole dish.

Back to the bechamel...

In a large saucepan melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a minute or so until the flour loses its rawness and becomes biscuity in smell. Add the infused milk a little at a time and beat hard to incorporate. When all the milk has been added add salt and pepper to taste and bring to the boil. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Add the grated cheeses to the bechamel and stir until they have melted into the sauce. Taste and check the seasonings.

Pour the bechamel over the aubergine and pasta, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then bake at Gas 6/ 200C/ 400F for 20 minutes until there is a light golden crust. Leave out of the oven for 5 minutes before serving, for the flavours to blend.

When I read the recipe initially I wondered how much infusing the milk would really add to the finished dish. Don't be tempted to skip this step as it adds a deep savouriness to the sauce that perfectly complements the aubergine and so takes it from good to seriously great.