Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Salami & Pesto Muffins

What the Americans call an English muffins used to be known here in England as, well, a muffin. Bit like calling poodles French poodles when in France, just confuses things. While the French continued with their exquisite patisserie the Americans developed a fabulous line in muffins that has crossed the world and landed here. Trouble is they are almost exclusively sweet. Good for those who love desserts not so much for people like me that loves bread and baked and all things savoury. With the aid of Australian Women's Weekly Book of Baking I am on a mission to redress the balance with these lovely salami and pesto muffins, chock full of Italian goodness, they are a pale and gentle green inside from the pesto. Gorgeous.

Salami & Pesto Muffins

Makes 12, quick and easy, about 20 minutes for the batter and the same for cooking.

300g self raising flour
200g thick sliced salami, roughly chopped

80ml pesto

3 eggs

80ml vegetable oil

125ml creme fraiche

60g Pecorino, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 4.

Grease a 12 hole (80ml) muffin pan.

Sift the flour into a large bowl then stir in the salami, pesto, eggs, oil and creme fraiche. Resist the temptation to overmix!
Spoon the mix into the muffin pan and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes till gold topped. Stand the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes to cool slightly then pop them onto a wire rack to cool down to just warm.

The other local use of muffin term I know is aimed at those wearing their jeans low slung and too tight causing a sort of ruffle of fat to hang over their belt. Then you have a muffin top.!

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

Highlight of the weekend was definitely Jaey and Marie coming for dinner Sunday, the house in France was finally sold and they are the ideal people to celebrate with. Making a plan for the week Friday I was thinking tofu and steamed peppers made the tomato and aubergines from a recipe by Skye Gyngell with plenty left to be a side dish to sausages Saturday then aubergine and tomatoes baked with herbs Saturday, Sunday had to be whole ends of rump roasted rare with chips and watercress and bearnaise with pear and gooseberry crumble to follow turns out gooseberries are no longer in season so made a beautiful prune and almond cream tart and the whole meal kicking off with fish - cured mackerel, hot smoked salmon and cucumber lightly marinated with soy and sesame. Monday was bound to be a little quiet so figured leftover beef with salads creamy potato and steamed beetroot with the last of the cress for simple and perfect plate of food. Tuesday risotto lentils with a light topping of chorizo, Wednesday chicken with lentils realised I did fancy risotto so had it with wild mushrooms and the last little piece of smoked ham, Thursday there is always the noodles actually there was still the chicken so had it marinated with garlic, pepper and coriander then grilled and served with cucumber salad!

Went to Rippon Cheese in Pimlico to start as I wanted some aged gouda and they usually have some. They did and I also bought a small goat cheese, soft and delicate and wrapped in vine leaves. Spent £9.70 then back out to catch the bus in pouring rain

Then to Greensmiths for vegetables - aubergine and plum tomatoes, Maris Pipers, and a giant beetroot - cost me £7.40 when I added in a little seeded loaf. The rain set in before I made it back to the bus stop.

Then to Borough, set out in watery sunshine, first to Ginger Pig for some truly amazing end section of rump left in a piece to roast and some sausages, Cumberland are the man's favourites, spent £30.80

Neals Yard was busy, the market in general was building up for the Bank Holiday I guess, bought milk and yoghurt, £4.70

Went to the French salt and butter stall for creme fraiche, they sell it in little jars and it's the best - £2.20

Cheese from Gastronomica, a piece of Pecorino and a lump of Parmesan, £12.40

Eggs from Lizzie at Wild Beef as the skies started to darken - £3.40

Then off to find the Sussex fish stall via L'Artisan for a bag of chocolates - £2.50

But was no fish, bugger! Has been mega windy so wasn't sure if it was because the boats weren't going out or it was the Bank Holiday. Bought olives from Fresh Olive - £3.50 - and was delighted to eavesdrop the young man next to me explaining that though he didn't like olives he tried them once a year in the hope that one day he would as it was a really posh thing to eat!

Sampled some of the beautiful smoked scallops at the Irish smoked stall but bought a beautiful piece of salmon hot smoked with whiskey and molasses - £12.50

And the rain started teeming down. I popped back into the market to the MarchĂ© for a baguette - £1.30 then ran for the last bus of the day, skies black, streets awash. This is not summer!

Lack of fish to cure meant back to the market Saturday morning, with the man for the first time in ages. Went to Neals Yard and bought a white loaf - £3.90

Then to find the Sussex fish stall wasn't there, damn! Went to Shellseekers who had lovely mackerel but would fillet them but not skin them for me as the skin was too thin. Peeved I went off to Furness where they also tried to talk me out of skinning the fish but agreed to try doing one. It was fine so they did another - £5. It is one of the things that is really changing at Borough, traders used to always do what customers want but now they don't care so much, I guess the huge turnover of shoppers doesn't require it

Then back for more creme fraiche - £2.20 on the way to Gastronomica for a La Tur and a couple of interesting looking little discs of cheese marinating in chilli oil, £8.50

Off to the French cheese stall out the back for a tin of olive oil, costs £15.95 but lasts for ages

Finally picked up some apple juice from Chegworths, a bargain £5 for 3

Spent a massive £113.85 - it's good to celebrate!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Roast Red Onion and Cucumber Salad

Though it is August most of this week has seemed like deepest autumn, with days of rain, endless cloud and insufficient light. When the sun comes it is too low, the shadows thrown are longer, thicker and somehow insistent to be noticed.

I refuse to give in just yet, I still plan salads in my head to go with quick grilled meats and easy to rustle up and delightful to graze cold collations, as if trying to keep the kitchen cool against sultry summer nights. It's working, too well. I've been wrapped in cardigans for days, sandals gone in favour of shoes that keep the puddles at bay and my latest pedicure out of view. Pffff!

Fightback Tuesday involved little spicy meatballs tucked into pita with steamed beetroot salad topped with this wonderfully complex yoghurt dressed salad. I am endlessly taken with the pairing of yoghurt and dill, most herbs really but dill in particular, and here it was put to brilliant use dressing umami rich grilled onions and sweet cucumber with little sour bursts from tiny salted capers wrapped into the richness of tahini. It was the tahini that made me pair it with lamb but it would work equally well with chicken and perhaps grilled fish.

Roast Red Onion & Cucumber Salad

This makes about 2 cups and should be perfect at a barbecue but will have to wait till next 'summer' to test the truth of that!

Adapted from Weeknight Kitchen of The Splendid Table

1 large red onion, sliced into thick rounds
1 1/2 tbspns olive oil

1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes

1 tbspn salted capers, rinsed

150ml plain full fat yoghurt

1 tbspn tahini

1 tbspn lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tspn ground cumin or use cumin seeds lightly toasted

1 tbspn mint, finely chopped
3 tbspns dill, finely chopped

Brush the onion slices with some of the olive oil, and season lightly. Grill them under a medium-high heat, turning them once, until the slices are tender and a little bit charred round the edges, about 10 minutes.

When the onions are cool enough to handle, chop them into 1 cm dice and put them into a bowl. Add the cucumbers and capers and stir to blend.

To make the dressing, combine the yoghurt with the remaining olive oil tahini, lemon juice, garlic and cumin in a small bowl. Stir through the herbs then season.

Add half the sauce to the onion mix and stir to coat the vegetables. Add more dressing to get the consistency that works for you. Serve immediately though it will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, if it lasts that long.

Friday, August 19, 2011

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

Lovely little balls, no? Wish I'd taken the photo but it's not my food, rather a little of what's being served up at Meatballs, a new restaurant that has opened in the old Quality Chop House in Farringdon. I was invited to dinner by their PR and I was both intrigued and a touch troubled. I love the old site with its six seater booths from its days as a Victorian working men's dining room but it went bust and closed a while ago. Glad it has re-opened but I admit I assumed it was the first of what was no doubt intended as a chain - chasing 'roll-out' with concomitant mediocre food and attention focused too firmly on the bottom line. How wrong can you be?! What I found upon arrival is a shiny clean version of the old interior, a nice selection of meatballs with sometimes eclectic sides, a fab drinks list under the label Hard Drinks including a very seasonal blueberry G&T. Hard to resist. The food is good, freshly made and not expensive, and a chat with the new owner Hugh Fowler, who I know of old from the Pasta House on Shaftesbury Avenue, has no intention of expanding, he and his wife are putting all their attention and considerable skill into this one site. All in all - great balls!

Last week I made a vague list that didn't make it on to the blog but it included chicory cooked in cream and pancetta and lamb burgers with roasted onion salad, neither of which made it on to the table either. I did buy cream and used it to make pasta with lemon, chilli and cream richly scented with sage from the garden. The rest of it I used in fairly decadent scrambled eggs for lunch one day - the joys of being home alone with frugal tendencies and half a pot of Hurdlebrook Farm cream. The lamb is in the freezer and may well be defrosted for dinner next week. Or perhaps I'll defrost a tub of lamb and chickpeas instead and save the burgers for the week after.

Had a lovely fish based collation last Friday - fresh mackerel I lightly cured with coriander and ginger, fresh prawns, a whole dressed crab and some salmon that had been hot smoked with whisky and molasses. All totally wow with a little bread and salad. This week I think I shall repeat the cured fish as a little starter then have the chicory we missed last week cold platter of parma ham and sweetly scented melon. Saturday there will be some swearing no doubt as we rearrange the cupboard under the stairs, think we need soothing dinner, sausage and lentils perhaps spare ribs sticky and spicy with rice and greens. Sunday roast pork might be nice with roast spiced sweet potatoes. Monday I am out for a little while so shall make some savoury muffins for grazing both out early so great dinner at the Canton Arms later, Tuesday spicy chicken lamb burgers and a gorgeous grilled onion salad, Wednesday we are out, Thursday noodles because I love noodles salami and pesto muffins and a crunchy salad which was pretty much as good as noodles.

Started not at Borough Market but at Greensmiths on Lower Marsh SE1, a lovely little food shop with butcher and baker and high quality fruit and veg as well as a cafĂ© and lots of friendly staff. There was a huge and exquisite smelling canteloupe melon which I could not resist. There was my new favourite raw veg - runner beans - discovered after a colleague of the man's gave him some from her allotment, so fresh, so beany. Cucumber because mine are not quite there yet, beetroot because my current delight is steaming them whole then dressing with walnut oil and strawberry vinegar, tomatoes because they are sun ripe and gorgeous, cornish new potatoes because I like them even more than Jersey Royals - is that sacrilege? With carrots, a couple of endive and a fennel bulb it was £12.21 - not bad.

Then to Borough and the Ginger Pig for pork to roast, spare ribs because they inspired me when I was unsure what to buy, and some bacon to round out the piggy treats - £23.25 Elliots, the new restaurant/cafe is open, definitely on my list, all the produce comes from the market so a very good starting point. The little Turkish cafe is open too, from the Taste of Turkey, another that is seriously on the list. Didn't dally, headed to Neals Yard for milk and yoghurt and a tub of discount cream which freezes well and is handy for many things. Spent £8.30

At Gastronomica I bought a rocchetta and a different Pecorino to last time that is utterly extraordinary, rich creamy and moreish. £12.50

Wanted parma ham to go with the lovely melon, bought it from the ham and cheese stall - £6.70

Headed to Wild Beef for eggs only to discover was no stall, turns out Lizzie had a horse in a race elsewhere but will be back next week so I went to Northfields and bought eggs there £1.50

Olives from Borough Olives - I am currently much enamoured of their fat green ones with taragon - £3

Almonds and handmade olive oil biscuits flavoured with rosemary from Brindisa - £6.50

A good haul - spent £73.96

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ostrich Dinner

Is size important?

See that ostrich egg? It was my prize in a great thing to do with eggs competition. I am a huge fan of all eggs but I've never tried one of these enormous beauties. Though they often catch my eye at Borough on the Gamston Wood stall and I start to wonder... Was more thrilled than perhaps I should have been when my name came up. Unbelievable when it finally arrived, up close it's not just huge but HEAVY. We're talking an egg you weigh by the kilo.

At which point I suddenly realised I had no idea at all what to do with this exotic monster. It is a rare instance when google offers little by way of practical instruction - I was a touch flummoxed. The Clarence Court box it came in cheerfully informed me it contained the equivalent of 24 hen's eggs and suggested boiling 50 minutes for soft - 90 for hard - or scramble for a family size omelette. Hmmmm. We are but two.

I put it aside for a few days, thought about it, looked at recipes for eggs. It had to be special - slowly but surely the challenge was beginning to delight me. I found a recipe in Christine Manfield's Spice for kangaroo fillet atop a nori omelette and decided to adapt it. Out went kangaroo and hen's eggs, in came ostrich egg and ostrich steak to make a sort of mother and son ostrich delight.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The ostrich egg is a thing of simple beauty and I wanted, if possible, to keep the shell when the rest was but memory.

First? Drain your egg. Definitely needed the man's help. The shell is thick and strong so we used a metal skewer and a hammer to make a hole in one end and repeated the same thing at the other. Takes no time at all to realise these dinky holes will never let the yolk out whole so back to the skewer. Insert it far as you can into one hole and swizzle it round to break up the yolk - you will encounter some resistance to start. This is a bit icky but it gets no worse. Take the skewer out and reinsert it in the other end and repeat.

Place the egg on top of a large jug - I ended up with just over a litre of liquid - and let it drain. Patience is required - it takes about 45 minutes to empty out.

The man - though usually more patient than me - tried to help it along by blowing. Mostly it just made him go red...

While he helped in his own special way, I set about making the nori omelette - chosen in part because it uses 10 eggs. Ten! I loved the idea of this omelette - you make lots of little thin ones then roll them into a big fat one for an egg lovers treat.

Sesame Ostrich Fillet with nori omelette, ginger pikelet and chive cream

Serves 4

Though there are lots of elements, this is really very simple to make and very elegant to serve

1/2 tspn white sesame seeds
1 nori seaweed sheet

100ml olive oil

1 tspn mirin

1/4 tspn fresh ground white pepper

1/2 tspn dried bonito flakes

250g ostrich steak

4 tspns of sour cream mixed with 2 tspns chopped chives

Pikelet mixture
350g maris piper potatoes, peeled

1 large egg (or 50g ostrich egg)

1 tbspn plain flour

2 tspns chopped chives
1 tspn finely grated ginger

1 tspn salt

1/2 tspn fresh ground black pepper

50ml double cream

Nori omelettes
2 nori seaweed sheets

10 large eggs - or 500g ostrich egg

pinch of salt
1/2 tspn fresh ground black pepper

1 tspn sesame oil

1 tspn fish sauce
vegetable oil

Dry roast sesame seeds over gentle heat until just coloured. Toast nori sheet by running it over a direct flame for a few seconds, then chop it finely. Combine sesame seeds, toasted nori, oils, mirin, pepper and bonito, then add meat and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

To make the pikelet mixture, cut the potatoes into 2 cm dice. Put them into the blender with the rest of the ingredients except the cream and blend briefly. Add the cream and pulse until just incorporated. Pour mixture into a plastic jug, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the nori omelettes, toast the nori sheets over a direct flame - use a match or candle if you don't have gas hob - then cut into strips. Lightly whisk eggs (don't aerate them) then season with salt, pepper, sesame oil and fish sauce and stir in nori strips.

Heat a small 20cm non stick pan and brush it lightly with oil. Ladle in just enough egg mixture to cover the base of the pan, spreading it very thinly. Cook until just set over moderate heat, then turn out onto a clean tea towel. Continue process with remaining mixture, stacking omelettes on top of each other as you go.

Roll omelette stack into a roulade, then wrap firmly in plastic film and secure ends. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.

To cook the ostrich steak, heat a heavy based chargrill pan until extremely hot, then remove the steak from the marinade and sear quickly on all sides to just seal - this should take 2 minutes all up. Transfer meat to a plate to rest for a few minutes before slicing.

To cook the pikelets, heat a large non stick skillet and oil lightly, then pour pikelet mixture into 4 oiled egg rings. Cook over moderate heat until bubbles start to appear in batter, then flip them over and cook the other side, removing the egg rings as you do so.

To assemble this amazing dish, cut the omelette roll into 2cm thick slices. Place a hot pikelet in the middle of each plate and top with an omelette round. Finely slice the ostrich steak and carefully arrange 4 or 5 slices on top of the omelette, then season with a little black pepper, add a dollop of chive cream and scatter the rest of the chives.

Serve immediately.

This was as fabulous to eat as the egg that inspired it!

Obviously I still had a vast amount of egg to use - next day I made a decadently rich quiche and an even more decadent baked chocolate mud cake that kept us in treats for days.

Big thanks to James Ramsden for running that competition!