Tuesday, 31 March 2009

veal escalopes and creamed spinach

when my dad wanted to call my mum soft and bourgeois (she was honest intelligentsia; he was peasant; we just needed some workers to start a communist revolution), he accused her of spending her childhood having creamed spinach and veal escalopes cooked for her. these two things were like some magic twin deities of the land of milk and honey inhabited by spoilt children, possibly rivaled only by the homemade potato chips fried by my granny in a small enamel pan full of sunflower oil. for him, who grew up quite literally hungry, a child of the second world war, the idea of sitting by warm tiled stoves, drinking milk and eating veal with spinach must have been the ultimate indulgence.

veal and spinach was the kind of food everyone liked. even my brother, known for his fussy eating, would relent when granny took the meat basher out and started pounding the escalopes. she dipped them in egg and flour, which i don’t do. a dusting of floor is hardly going to send your insulin levels soaring but i've always been a bit suspicious of coating the meat with anything: i hate gristle and you could never tell if there was a bit of gristly meat hiding under the crispy batter.

it was definitely fast food of sorts – it could all be done in ten minutes if you had some veg and bread to go with it (always bread - it doesn't count as proper food unless there is bread).

as for the spinach, creaming it may seem like hassle but it's worth it. generally speaking, i like spinach plain, steamed for a minute or so or chucked in a pan with a tiny bit of butter or olive oil. in fact, i like all my vegetables pretty plain - i don't often see the need for torturing them with sauces or transforming them into something unrecognisable. so i wouldn't bother creaming spinach every day. but for some reason, the addition of creme fraiche and the garlic does make the whole exercise worthwhile every now and again, when you fancy a bit of a quick comfort food.

CREAMED SPINACH
for two

400-500g spinach leaves
1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
knob of butter

wash the spinach and drain thoroughly. melt the butter in a large pan and when it's warm, put in the spinach. cook for a minute until it's starting to wilt - you'll have to stir it around a bit to get the bits from the top to get in contact with the bottom of the pan. then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, until the spinach is totally collapsed. you're not really looking to fry anything, just sweat the garlic gently. the stir in the creme fraiche and take it off the heat, then whizz in a food processor if you want a smooth mass.

i actually did it the longer way, mainly because i couldn't be bothered to get the blender out of the cupboard. so i blanched the spinach and then squeezed out as much water out of it as possible with my hands. i then chopped it very finely before returning to the pan with the butter and garlic. there's something quite therapeutic about chopping up the dark green block of spinach, first vertically, then horizontally, then diagonally. but maybe that's just me.

we fried the veal chops - they had been pre-bashed by the butcher so only take 2 minutes on each side to cook. while they're resting on the plate, the pan gets de-glazed with a mixture of lemon juice, a bit of water and a tiny bit of white wine left over from last night (about a quarter of a glass, if that). there are lots of caramelised bits at the bottom of the pan and the thin savoury gravy is very tasty as a result.

oh, and we have purple-sprouting broccoli. again.

Monday, 30 March 2009

green tomato relish


i think i am obsessed by roasting. the plain old boiled veg just doesn't seem to be good enough for me any more. instead, i want to roast anything i can lay my hands on. tonight, it's purple sprouting broccoli to go with the fish. i made it the same as this http://n1kitchen.blogspot.com/2009/03/roast-broccoli-and-prawns.html but without prawns.

actually, i am obsessed with purple sprouting broccoli too. you get a little bit bored of it towards the end of the season but at the moment it's all i want to eat. even r asked if we could get some more when we were in the arsey woman shop the other day, saying it's his favourite.


by the way, the reason i call it the arsey woman shop is because i can never elicit so much as a smirk out of them, let alone a smile. there are a few women of all ages working there, all perfectly nice, but it's taken me almost five years of going there all the time to get so much as a sentence. i try - i do my best shop chat, the one i use at the butcher's next door where it seems to work. you know the kind i mean - the pointless banter that makes these things work a bit more smoothly; it should pass the time for them while making me feel like a valued customer or something. so - it's arsey woman shop for now. there's a bloke in there too, mind - he grins a lot more. he has a front tooth missing and makes jokes about melons.

anyway, the dinner was okay though probably no more than that. the broccoli was nice, as was the grilled mackerel, and r enjoyed the fennel i just braised in a pan with a little bit of water. the most interesting bit about it was the green tomato relish i made to go with it. the recipe came from the mark hix cookery book (whose mackerel photo doesn't look any more exciting than mine).

abel&cole keep sending me green tomatoes and i never know what to do with them. when my indigestion was at its worse, just looking at a bunch of those buggers was enough to make me feel like i am being strangled by their green tendrils. so i'd leave them on a window still in a fruit bowl, hoping they'd ripen. all that would happen is that they'd go a little more red but still taste kind of...pallid. they'd invariably end up cooked, as heat and copious amounts of seasoning were the only thing to make them taste of something.

though, in a way, i quite like the idea of a green tomato. they're not let's-pretend-we're-italian tomatoes you see so often in supermarkets, the ones that can look the right shade of red but taste of absolutely nothing at all. (my pet hate, in addition to large chunks of red onion that have ruined many a salad: those hard, tasteless tomatoes, always quartered, served straight from the fridge, purporting to be salad. i think i'd rather starve, thanks.) they make no claims to be ripe, juicy or sweet. they're just a vegetable.

because they're so acidic, they go perfectly with the fatty mackerel. the hix recipe calls for quite a lot of sugar to counterbalance this acidity, which i leave out. i can see why it would be better for it but don't think you'll miss it too much.

GREEN TOMATO RELISH
for four

4 large green tomatoes
1 tbs of cider vinegar
salt and pepper
1 onion
small bunch of parsley

the original recipe calls for lovage instead of parsley. now, i don't even know what lovage is or where to find it, so forget lovage and just use something common instead. i should also add that you can make this with the normal tomatoes, as they're bound to be under-ripe anyway. 

halve the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds (this is fun though makes a bit of a mess as the seeds tend to explode everywhere - dig them out with a teaspoon instead), and chop roughly.

chop the onion and fry gently in oil until soft, for about 4 or 5 minutes. add the cider vinegar, cook for another minute, then add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 2 or three minutes. take off the heat, stir in the finely chopped parsley, and leave to cool.

wooohoooo

i had some very exciting news tonight but i feel like i might jinx it if i say anything so i won't. but i will have a glass of wine to celebrate.


Sunday, 29 March 2009

red snapper with chilli and coriander, and roasted cauliflower

i kind of wanted to write this post before i cooked the dinner just because i knew it'd be good. i didn't, of course, because that would be stupid, and because i am superstitious enough to think i might jinx it.

anyway, it was good. really good. sometimes there is little you can say about a recipe beyond that. i don't feel like describing the nuances of taste - i know it's evocative and i like reading other people's descriptions (well, not everyone's) - but there are time when you just have to go and cook and find out for yourself.

even if you don't eat fish, do the cauliflower and sauce. eat it with a green salad and maybe some salty feta cheese.

snapper is quite robust so you don't need to be shy with the flavouring. normally, we would marinate the fish in the herbs and spices half an hour before eating but this time we did it separately. i am sure both would work - in fact, stuffing a whole fish with this mixture would be great.

RED SNAPPER FILLETS WITH CORIANDER, WITH ROAST CAULIFLOWER
for two

1 cauliflower
2 red snapper fillets
seasoning
olive oil
a small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped finely
1 small clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 red chilli, chopped finely
1 lime, juice only

actually, that's a very short list of ingredients for a great dinner. the only thing i omitted are the salad leaves we ate it with. they were the only thing i bought at the farmer's market on sunday except flowers. (everything else still firmly belonged to winter and i've eaten enough cabbage - exotic or otherwise - for now, thank you.) they were a lovely spring mix of bitter, citrusy greens, some tasting exactly like mustard. you could, of course, eat anything else you like with it. in fact, i almost sliced some raw fennel very finely instead.

half an hour before you want to eat (or more, but i think half an hour is minimum), mix the coriander, garlic and chilli with lime juice. i tend to chop the chilli first, squash the garlic with the back of the knife and then chop the coriander on top of it so it's all mixed up. the amount of lime juice you need is inexact science - you need to taste it. i used almost a whole lime but it wasn't a particularly juicy one. stir in enough olive oil to make it into almost a sauce - you need to be able to spoon it over your fish. season with salt to taste.

now for the cauliflower. i would normally parboil it quickly for a minute or two but i couldn't be bothered this time and thought i would just roast it for longer. so all i did was slice it in four - it falls apart almost immediately but those little broken bits are the ones that go most caramelised so don't worry about it. put it all in a roasting dish, pour over about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix it all well with your hands. you have to do the hands thing - otherwise there'll be bits of cauliflower that aren't coated at all and they'll just go a bit dry and pointless. season with salt and pepper.

roast in a very hot oven - 220C - for about 40 minutes. check after half an hour and have a nibble at one of the little bits - sometimes the cauliflower will look golden brown but will still be too crunchy. mine was perfect after exactly 40.

for the fish, preheat the oven to 200C. i just opened the oven door after roasting the cauliflower - it brought the temperature down a little. season the snapper fillets with salt and pepper.

heat olive oil in an oven proof frying pan on medium to high heat. when hot, place the fillets skin side down and fry, undisturbed, for 3 minutes or so. if fresh, the fish will curl up - press it down with a spatula. when the skin is golden and crispy, turn the fish and immediately put the whole pan in the oven (or transfer to an oven-proof dish). cook for another 5 or 6 minutes. the cooking time will really depend on how big your fish is - it might need longer than this.

spoon the sauce over the fish fillets and the cauliflower and eat with some salad leaves.

terroirs

fruit trees are in blossom but it is still cold enough for gloves. london is very pretty on nights like these.

went to the terroirs restaurant and wine bar (http://www.terroirswinebar.com/) near trafalgar square. very french, in a good way (give or take a insincerely cheerful waiter or two). we ate: a terrine with pistachios and duck rillette (him), smoked eel with celeriac remoulade (me), roast quail (both), and cheese. we drank burgundy and coffee.

i woke up this morning thinking about the quail with pancetta, artichokes and gremolata we had for the main. it was baked in its own little lidded pot, swimming in savoury juices. the waitress caught us both sucking on bones with napkins tucked in collars, cutlery abandoned on the side. don't think she minded.

altogether - a very nice place, and not expensive though i imagine it sounds it, from reading this.

PS what's with the gremolata anyway? didn't know a mixture of parsley, lemon zest and garlic could be so good. might have to anoint some meat or fish with it this week.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

stir-fry

all you need for a quick lunchtime stir-fry:

clockwise from top left: finely chopped lemon grass (3 stalks, inner leaves only), a handful of fresh coriander, 1 sliced red pepper, chard, sliced coins of ginger from a thumb-sized piece, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1/2 chopped red chilli, mushrooms.

also, some leftover roast chicken and fish sauce. the only thing that's missing from the picture is half a lime.

in a wok stir fry the lemon grass, chilli, garlic and ginger on medium heat. after a couple of minutes, transfer into a bowl but try and keep as much oil in the pan as possible. add the chard stalks, the mushrooms and the peppers and fry till soft - high heat and moving the vegetables around works well. you can, of course, use other vegetables, in which case first add to the pan those that need longer cooking. when done, return the chilli, ginger, etc to the pan, squeeze over half a lime, put in a couple of glugs of fish sauce and chuck in the coriander. fry for another minute or two and serve.

roquefort and pear salad with radicchio

a bit of sliced radicchio, some crumbled roquefort, a ripe, sweet pear cubed and a nice dressing of olive oil and white wine vinegar. maybe some toasted walnuts.

if you've ever been to dinner at ours, you were probably given this salad at some point. it's a nice vegetarian starter and you can substitute chicory for radicchio (it has to be something bitter), and any blue cheese for roquefort (have made it with dolcelatte, stilton, gorgonzola...you get the picture) and apple for pear though make sure it's very ripe and not too acidy.

bunny boiling

i wasn't going to post a bunny recipe, on account of there not being many people who keep a rabbit in their freezer. but as this is tuning into a bit of an autistic catalogue of things devoured, r reasoned it should be included.

a word about bunnies - apart from being tasty, they are also cheap. our butcher sells them for around a tenner, which is expensive. don't pay that much. farmers' makets will have them for more like a fiver.

i think you need one rabbit between two people - you're aiming for small ones anyway as they taste better, and there's not a lot of meat on them. i suppose if you are less greedy and/or are eating something starchy with it, it will feed four. also, the meat is very lean so you do need some extra fat to keep it moist and add flavour. i used pancetta (cubed) but you can just use streaky/smoked/normal bacon. in fact, it's probably what i would do next time as the pancetta we had was too salty and just too flavourful somehow.

RABBIT STEW WITH WHITE WINE AND PANCETTA
for two, hungry

1 rabbit, jointed - jointing meat is under r's jurisdiction. i'm not squeamish about doing it but he does a better job and, i suppose worryingly, seems to rather enjoy it. maybe he thinks the years of putting balloons into rats' arteries have somehow qualified him for the task.
2 large spring onions (or just use shallots), sliced
2 bay leaves
bunch of fresh thyme
a knob of butter
olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or beef stock, i used one of those instant liquid things
2 large field or portobello mushrooms - or any mushrooms you can find
2 shallots, quartered, or a few of those small silverskin onions
3-4 slices pancetta, smoked/streaky/any bacon or the equivalent amount of cubed pancetta
2 heaped tsp of wholegrain or dijon mustard
seasoning - though i didn't salt mine at all as the pancetta was so salty. taste it before you add any.

melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan (with a lid) with a bit of olive oil and brown the rabbit joints quickly for a couple of minutes on each side. take out of the pan and set aside. put the spring onions or shallots in the leftover fat, and fry for a few minutes on gentler heat until translucent. then add the wine and the stock, scraping all the nice bits off the bottom of the pan. put the bay and thyme leaves in and return the rabbit pieces in the pan. bring to the boil, put the lid on and reduce heat so it's simmering nicely. leave it on for 25 or 30 minutes. check occasionally and maybe turn the pieces over.

in a separate pan, slowly fry the pancetta. it will release quite a lot of fat so drain it off it looks too greasy. you want it to become crispy. when done, drain in on some kitchen paper. wipe the pan and fry the quartered shallots or baby onions until soft and caramelised. add the mushrooms, a grind of pepper and cook till the mushrooms are dry (they'll release loads of water at first so let it evaporate).

when the bunny is done, whisk in the mustard. see how thick the sauce is - if too watery, boil it down rapidly for a bit so it thickens. if it looks okay, chuck in the pancetta, mushrooms and onions in and put in a handful of chopped parsley.

be prepared to eat with your hands - rabbits are quite bony so a knife and fork will get you nowhere. which always makes me think that a common or garden squirrel would probably look and taste similar....

Thursday, 26 March 2009

bouchons au thon

erm, or tuna corks to you and me. stolen, once again, from http://orangette.blogspot.com/ but changed slightly. i omitted the 3tbs of tomato pure, just because it sounded wrong, but feel free to include if you wish. i think this is one of those where you don't need to be too precise - it's basically a baked omelette of sorts. they make a perfect snack or breakfast.

BOUCHON AU THON
makes 8

1 tin of tuna in water, drained (160g, i think)
1 packed cup cheese - i used a mix or parmesan and medium goat's cheese, the original recipe calls for gruyere, so you can use pretty much any hard cheese
1/3 cup creme fraiche
3 large eggs
a spring onion or two, finelly chopped (i only used one but it was one of those huge ones, with a shallot-sized bulb)
a handful of finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper (taste and go easy on the salt as the cheese will be pretty salty already)

preheat the oven to 170C and grease 8 muffin tins. i am sure you can also make it in a small roasting tin and cut into squares afterwards. you'd probably have to adjust the cooking time but you can tell by looking at it when it's set.

put the tuna in a bowl and break it up into very small pieces. you can skip the tuna altogether and put some blanched and drained greens instead, like chopped spinach. mix in all the other ingredients.

that's it. i feel like i need to tell you something else but i don't. that really is it. you spoon the mixture into muffin tins and bake for 25 minutes.

how to make turkish coffee II

should have known not to meddle with yugo coffee making. have already been told that the real way, the old way, the only way goddamit, is the way my grandmother (and mother) used to do it. this involves dry-toasting the ground coffee with the sugar in a pan before pouring water on top of it. only for a few seconds though. makes sense - it's like dry-roasting spices to get them to start releasing their oils. so i stand corrected.

how to make turkish coffee

so. you invite someone round for a coffee. it’s tuesday (or wednesday, or thursday but probably not the weekend). the invite is a brief telephone conversation, the kind where you don’t need to say ‘bye’. this happens at least twice a week.

the lunch has been eaten, the dishes washed, the two newspapers read. an argument has probably been had across the dining room about who does the washing up and who gets to snooze on the sofa.

the visitors will walk in the long shadows of a sunny afternoon, past the icecream sellers, school children finishing the afternoon shift, and families going for a walk: just up and down, up and down – not going anywhere, not doing anything, just walking the main street, saying hello to friends, maybe having an icecream, or popcorn, or anything else that is being sold on the streets depending on the season – sunflower and pumpkin seeds still in their husks in paper cones of various sizes; sweetcorn boiled or grilled over hot coals sprinkled with salt, still covered in silky threads; chestnuts in the winter from circular metal stoves covered in rust, in big paper bags that burn your hands through gloves.

or, it will be winter and already dark, and they would have to slip and slide down the steep ungritted streets, on dirty grey snow with the city smelling of mountain fog and exhaust fumes from cheap cars. they would probably be holding onto each other, walking gingerly across icy pavements, taking particular care by the park on the polished stone slabs that someone put in as if this was dubrovnik.

you’ll buzz them in the front door without asking who it is and they’ll come in, in a cloud of a bustle of coats and shoes being taken off, special guest slippers being provided, shaking hands and greetings exchanged, all at the same time.

they’ll sit down in the lounge, the sun coming in through the open windows and billowing white curtains, the polished coffee table gleaming. someone would disappear into the kitchen to get the coffee from the pantry. almost always coffee beans, bought in small quantities already roasted (usually 200g or ‘two tens’ as everyone called it), kept in a blue melamine jar in the kitchen with a white plastic lid, or in a metal tin. water would be put on the stove in a small metal pot with a long handle, with a bit of sugar. this was the time for the coffee grinder to come out.

the beans would go in its top half with a rattle, and the grinding would start. the grinder would usually position him or herself in the kitchen door so they could still talk to the guests, one eye on the boiling water, the other on the conversation. women would usually wedge it on their left hip and turn with the right hand; men would simply hold it with arms slightly raised.

it was harder work than it looked. children would try and then give up after a few turns, the grinder slipping from their hands now smelling faintly of metallic grease and coffee. it probably took good five minutes for the receptacle at the bottom of the grinder to be filled with enough coffee for one visit. which is about the same amount of time as it takes for the water to boil on an electric stove.
the contents of the bottom half of the grinder would be added to the water that’s been taken off the boil and then the pot would be returned to the heat until the now creamy liquid rose to the top. the trick was to catch it just before it overboiled. it would then sit on a small rectangular metal tray which had raised edges decorated with dimples the size of a pinkie indentation, filled with tiny dirt marks that could no longer be washed away. the tray would also contain small cups and saucers, sugar bowl and spoons.

there would be a wait of a few minutes for the finely ground beans to settle on the bottom, then the coffee pourer – usually the grinder - would distribute the creamy top layer between the cups with a spoon, and top it with hot coffee.

there would also be cakes – something left over from the weekend, perhaps, like an apple cake dusted with icing sugar, or small coconut macaroons, or teeth-rottingly sweet urmasice. sometimes, if the brandy came out, there’d also be slices of cheese and ham with bread. this was always subject to a ritual play of polite refusals and even more polite nudging and pleading, with both sides knowing that the cakes and the ham and the bread will eventually get eaten, after three rounds of guests saying no and hosts saying but you must.

TURKISH COFFEE
for four

4 heaped teaspoons freshly gound coffee
1 level tablespoon sugar, or to taste
4 small cups of water

put the pot of water with sugar to boil. when it does, take it off the heat and stir the coffee in. return to the stove and let it rise to the top. don't overboil it - you're looking for just one 'turn' of the boiling water. take it off the heat and leave to stand before pouring. into very small cups, otherwise you will never sleep again.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

griddled courgettes with chilli and parsley

courgettes seem to be breeding in the fridge. i need to do something with them before the next batch arrives courtesy of abel&cole.

i generally find courgettes pretty boring, as veg goes, unless they are fried, preferably in batter. but batter would involve flour so maybe not.

a heavy griddle pan is pretty good for this kind of thing. slice the courgettes lengthways into strips around 1/2cm thick. brush the pan with some olive oil and griddle in batches until cooked. you can eat courgettes raw so it doesn't matter if you undercook them but i do think this is one veg that tastes so much better (and so completely different) cooked properly. when done, lay them on a plate and season, then sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and red chilli. pour some very good olive oil on top. it's also lovely with milky cheese like mozzarella. you could also sprinkle some nuts on top - i was thinking chopped pistachios.

i make this from about 3 courgettes so i have enough left over for lunch boxes.

grilled pork escalopes and green salad


while choosing a present for friends we went to see in france (mark hix's cookery book, as it happens), i noticed a slim paperback of elizabeth david's mediterranean food. now i've heard of elizabeth david, of course - she seems to be one of the seminal british cookery writers - but i've never seen any of her recipes and i certaintly would never have guessed that i would stand on the train on the way back from work transfixed by a description of how to make an omelette.

the pork i make for myself tonight is from that book. it's a very quick weekday supper but you do need to prepare it as soon as you get home and leave it to marinate for an hour or, if possible, more.

GRILLED PORK ESCALOPES
for 2

2 pork escalopes
finely chopped fresh herbs - i used a handful of parsley and thyme each and a spring of rosemary. i also put in a whole bay leaf which i took out before grilling
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lemon
tablespoon or thereabouts of olive oil
seasoning

beat the escalopes between two pieces of clingfilm until they are slightly thinner - don't bash them too hard or you'll break up the meat. place them in a shallow dish and cover with chopped herbs, garlic, squeezed lemon juice and the olive oil. season and leave for a couple of hours if possible.

cook under the hot grill for around 3 or 4 minutes each side.

i think it is obligatory to do what elizabeth david suggests which is 'serve them with a green salad upon which, instead of dressing, you pour the juices and the herbs which have fallen from the meat into the grilling pan'.

what i eat for lunch



butternut squash muffins




i don't really make muffins all the time. it just looks that way. and anyway, what's eight muffins for a hungry woman?

actually muffins are the perfect lunchbox food - a snack i can have mid-morning at work, especially if i am going to the gym. it's quite hard to find enough portable, snacky paleo food and i do get bored of just chomping on nuts on their own (plus they give me indigestion).

this was a total coincidence: i put some butternut squash in to bake (salt, pepper, chilli flakes, olive oil) and then i came across a recipe for pumpkin muffins on http://www.elanaspantry.com/. so instead of using the squash for my lunches this week, i thought i'd make this while waiting for my dinner to cook. it's sooo easy and takes literally five minutes to put together. and yes, i do read about food while cooking food.

incidentially, elena from elena's pantry is a genius. really. i never would have believed it is possible to make so much good, tasty stuff with almond flour. go and have a look at her blog now - it'll make your mouth water.

she does use hefty doses of agave nectar (you can buy it in health food shops or you could just use honey though it's not as sweet) but you can always use less or just do these once in a while as a special treat.

in fact, the original recipe here calls for 1/2 cup of agave nectar but i halve that, and make up the rest of the liquid (or a bit less, just under another 1/4 cup) with milk. they end up just sweet enough for me and i might even try and reduce it more next time. i use one tablespoon of walnut oil and one of olive oil - for no other reason than i could see them both on the counter while i was doing it.

i also get to use the coffee grinder mum bought me last time i went home. that needs a separate post, i think.
PUMPKIN OR SQUASH MUFFINS
makes 8

1 1/2 cup of almond flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
a pinch of ground cloves
2tbsp oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup (or just under) milk
1 packed cup or squash or pumpkin

preheat the oven to 180C and place your muffin papers in a tin.

in a bowl, mix the almond flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and all the spices together. in a blender or processor, blend the squash (make sure it's not hot or it'll scramble the eggs), agave nectar or honey, milk, oil and eggs until smooth. add the liquid ingredients to the dry, stir well and spoon into cups. bake for 40 or so minutes - i actually found the top went brown a bit too quickly so i suspect my oven is hotter than it says. if it starts happening, cover them with tin foil to stop them from burning. but around 40 minutes is probably about right.

by the way, probably best not to eat them scalding hot like i did. they'll come out of their paper a lot better when lukewarm or cold. i, on the other hand, practically burnt my hands getting the little buggers out of their cups.

figs and yoghurt


i know you're not supposed to eat dairy if you're doing paleo but i do like a bit of cheese or yoghurt every now and again. otherwise i find myself eating eggs all the time and that gets a bit boring.

so, i make fresh figs with goat's milk yoghurt and chopped up almonds, pecans and pistachios. it's nice but i think i'll be hungry again in a couple of hours, if that.

Monday, 23 March 2009

egg and goat's cheese salad


another simple breakfast: some frisee lettuce, some walnuts, goat's cheese cut into chunks, a couple of boiled eggs and a dressing made of walnut oil and lemon juice.

chicken with leeks and ham

tonight's dinner is the variation on the chicken theme from the other day http://n1kitchen.blogspot.com/2009/03/roast-chicken-and-chicory-with-parma.html i'm on my own and this is easy - a bit of prep and you bung it all in the oven while you go and watch the market kitchen. for example.

there's roast butternut squash, boiled savoy cabbage, some roast shallots and leeks topped with ham.

the thing i like best of all about this plate are the leeks. you just parboil them for maybe 3 or 4 minutes, drain them and leave them to dry in a colander or sieve. you then put them in a roasting dish with olive oil, salt, pepper and some thyme leaves and roast at 200C for ten minutes or so. then drape with ham and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes. of course, you can skip the ham and just roast the leeks - reckon they'll be great at room temperature in a slightly sharp olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

st jean d'aulps

and so we ate.

you’ve got to give it to the french – they know how to do this well. from the food you can buy in supermarkets, boulangeries and creperies, to restaurants half-way up mountains or by the lake, the food is consistently good.

we ditche paleo for the weekend because there is nothing worse than going to people’s houses and turning your nose up at perfectly decent food, or expecting them to go out of their way and prepare something special for you when you can eat and like what they're serving. plus i like eating too much too starve. so we see it as a carbs holiday, enjoy what we’re given, and get back to normal when we come back.

it started with a lunch in a converted stable half-way down (up?) a run on the st jean d’aulps circuit. we had to get two drag lifts to get there, which is a bit of a challenge with a boarder (it's much easier to fall off and we won't mention the meribel skidoo rescue). a big lunch is our reward. we ski down a completely empty red winding down through the forest, and it is beautiful. the sun is shining, it is warm, there is no wind, and we don't stop until the bottom. cheesy - but this is what life is about.

the restaurant is literally in the middle of the slope. it is certainly authentic – the original stable floor made of mismatched wooden slats has a groove running down the middle which was used for dispatching animal waste. there are framed photos of donkeys and crazy wizened old mountain people, and a wooden rake stuck on the wall next to what looked like a miniature plastic eagle with very realistic feathers. the chairs were so rickety i was worried i’d end up falling into the iron stove, which was, in any case, burning a hole in my thermals.

there was one other table of english people (old and posh, the kind who live in large country houses where women garden and men hunt foxes on foot or whatever posh country people do these days). the rest were french, having their very long lunches and very animated conversations stoked by bottles of wine and shots of eau de vie.

we order a plate of charcuterie to share, a cheese omelette for me and a steak with roquefort sauce for r. it all arrives at the same time. the omelette is amazing – still soft and slightly gooey in the middle, probably cooked for no more than a minute. the eggs taste like they tasted at home. i have no idea why that is, or how to describe it – perhaps it’s something the hens feed on – but i’ve not tasted an egg like that for a long time. belgrade eggs are nothing like it and neither are the organic ones i buy here. (i know i am turning into a bosnia bore, one of those people always going on about how much better stuff was then but some things really did taste better.)

the omelette arrives with a huge bowl of perfectly dressed lettuce leaves – the kind of simple salad that the french do so well and everyone else does so badly, especially the brits. i think part of it is because people are scared of fat, so there is never enough dressing and it's never mixed properly. r’s steak is enormous and it comes with croquette-like things resembling hash browns but with a lot more garlic. i never found out what they were called.

after a while, an old bloke appears with an accordion. he's got his ski boots on so i assume he's a punter. in fact, his bottom half is modern skier - gortex and shiny boots, but his top half is more like cows up to summer pastures - thick jumper that looks like it's been hand-knitted, and a grey moustache. he dips sugar cubes in a shot of brandy and starts playing, with random people singing along.


it's not hard to be enchanted by this very french scene but it is worth remembering they're all pissed.


when i go to the loo, i peek through the open door to the ‘kitchen’ and realise it’s no more sophisticated and certainly no bigger than a domestic kitchen, with a single stove and a bloke in a jumper weilding cast iron frying pans.

later, we eat crepes with nutella and drink vin chaud in the cafe at the bottom. can hardly justify it but the latter seems to improve my skiing immesurably.

in the evening, the locals do a crazy race uphill - yes, up hill, walking up a red run on touring skis and then skiing half-way down. it takes a bubble and a drag lift to get where they're walking and probably takes 15 minutes. the fastest man walks it and skis in 31. it's mind-boggling. everyone goes to a bar afterwards, where there is much beer, a man pouring brandy straight from a bottle into your mouth, and a sausage dinner for fifteen euros (no choice, you eat what you’re given - 2 large local sausages, some salty polenta, a bit of green salad and a pitcher of red wine. you can’t go wrong with that, really).

the next day, we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at home. dinner was going to be fish but we vote for cheese fondue instead. when in rome, and all that. the supermarket will select the cheeses for you and pre-grate them, which is genius. we pick up some bread, some local savoiarde wine called crepy, and various cured meats for starter. i also get a myrtille tart for dessert. somehow, we end up going to bed really late, after chocolate and sloe gin and jj's homemade plum brandy. seemed like a good idea but it takes a walk with the dog to blow the cobwebs away.
i wonder if i am too old to become a ski bum...

Friday, 20 March 2009

ratatouille

last night, while cooking the chicken and the chicory, i made some ratatouille. so now I have on the desk in front of me a box full of leftover roast chicken, ratatouille, braised chicory and some lettuce - and i am desperately trying not to eat it all.

10.00am i nibble on some lettuce
10.20am the chicory is gone
11.30am there is nothing left

the recipe for ratatouille is pinched from molly wizenberg’s book (http://www.orangette.blogspot.com/) but i vary the quantities as i can’t be bothered to measure anything out – this is just an attempt to cook the veg before they go off.

RATATOUILLE
for two

1 aubergine
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 courgettes
2 peppers, mine were one green and one red
tin of chopped tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes if they are nice and ripe, which they rarely are out of season)
olive oil
seasoning
bunch of fresh basil, chopped

preheat the oven to 200C.

slice the aubergine into rounds around 2 cm thick. spread on a baking sheet and brush with oil on both sides. season and bake in the hot oven for half an hour, turning once. remove, leave to cool and cut into cubes of about 2cm..

in a saucepan, fry the courgettes sliced into rounds 2cm thick in hot oil until browned. probably takes 10 minutes or so. you want them to colour and cook a little, otherwise they end up being too watery. remove from the pan, keeping as much oil behind as possible. add the red onion, finely sliced, and cook on gentle heat (do not brown) for about 5 minutes or until soft. add the garlic and chopped peppers and saute for another 7-8 minutes. return the aubergine and courgette to the pan, add the tin of chopped tomatoes and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes.

check the seasoning and, if satisfied, turn off the heat and stir in the basil. eat lukewarm or, as i did, cold. i think it would be nice with some toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top, or maybe some grated parmesan. also, a poached eggs oozing runny yolk into the vegetables would be lovely.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

ham

eating ham for breakfast, lunch and dinner is not the healthiest of choices, i suppose, but - in the fridge clearing spirit - i continue to eat random things that will go off by the time we come back from france.

next week - less ham, more imagination.

roast chicken and chicory with parma ham

when i sent r shopping on saturday morning with a hangover, he bought a whole chicken which the butcher jointed for him. the idea is that i freeze a couple of bits separately and roast quickly either to get lunchbox protein, or make stock or just roast for dinner. i would urge anyone to do the same – it’s so much cheaper than going to a supermarket. a whole chicken probably costs us around 7 or 8 quid and I can get 2 dinners out of it plus stock if i can be bothered.

unfortunately, r just puts the whole bag in the freezer. as a result, i can’t defrost a few pieces – it’s all or nothing. i decide to do the lot, eat roast chicken tonight and then have it for lunch tomorrow.

ROAST CHICKEN PIECES WITH LEMON AND BAYLEAVES
for 4

1 chicken, jointed into eight pieces (1.8kg in our case).
2 lemons
8 bayleaves
olive oil
seasoning
small bunch of thyme

preheat the oven to 200C. place the chicken pieces in a roasting dish, then squeeze the juice from the lemons over it and tuck the quartered pieces left over around the chicken, together with the all of the bayleaves. season with salt and pepper (sea salt, if you want amazing crispy skin) and then pour over a tablespoon or so of olive oil. roast in a hot oven at 200C for an hour and ten minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. you want the juices to run clear when you pierce the thickest part of the chicken. take it out of the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

you can add garlic to this - just cut a whole garlic in half and chuck it in. i would normally do it - i just forgot last night. also, you can make the gravy out of the juice left at the bottom of the pan - there'll be loads of it. just fish out the bay leaves and garlic if using, then pour out most of the fat. squeeze as much of the juice out of the remaining lemons as you can, then thrown them away too. place over high heat and pour in half a glass of white wine, stock or just water, and let it bubble till reduced. you get a thin, citrusy gravy which i find nicer than the gloopy stuff you usually see.

ROAST CHICORY WITH PARMA HAM
for two

2 large heads of chicory (what is the plural of chicory?? chicories??), quartered if large, otherwise halved
a small knob of butter
olive oil
4 or 5 slices of parma ham (or equivalent, this was san daniele)
small bunch of thyme
100ml stock, wine or water
seasoning

put a thick-bottomed pan on the hob - make sure it's the kind that can both go on the hob and in the oven. melt the butter with the oil, then place the chicory in a single layer and cook until slightly browned and beginning to caramelise. it should take around five to ten minutes. then tent it with foil and place in the oven at 200C (with the chicken) for around 45 minutes. after that time, take the foil off and place the ham on top and return to the oven for another ten minutes so the ham goes crispy.

the picture is a bit disgusting - it was an afterthought and it looked and tasted a lot better than it suggests!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

mackerel for breakfast

people always ask what you have for breakfast when you eat like this. the answer is often: leftovers. like this morning - some lettuce, some roast beetroot that's been knocking around the fridge since sunday, some mackerel from last night, a boiled egg (i boiled two yesterday and saved one), and the mayo/creme fraiche mix from two nights ago. with leftover parsley i chopped up last night.

took me about 2 minutes to put together and it tastes very nice too.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

mackerel with horseradish

last night, i nearly blew my head off with horseradish.

r and i concur halfway through that eating horseradish is actually really quite painful - but in a good way. r goes one step further in this foodie masochism and douses his fish in chilli sauce as well. (as i said, my cooking is wasted on him!) we eat every last scrap off the plate even though it feels like someone's set fire to our nostrils.

this dinner, though it looks poncey, was really an attempt to clear the fridge before going away this weekend. i like these exercises in thrift - i hate throwing food away and will go out of my way to rustle up something with moulding veg and wilting herbs.

this time, there are three tomatoes going soft in a fruit bowl on the window sill (one actually moulding, i have to cut off the bluish furry bit at the top), there is beetroot i roasted with garlic on sunday, and there is some creme fraiche that needs eating. also some swiss chard past its best.

the main ingredient is the slightly scary horseradish root that's been sitting in the fridge draw since saturday. they keep forever, though the browny skin gets mottled with mouldy patches. you just peel it off, grate and mix with about an equal amount of creme fraiche. i have tried to substitute creme fraiche but i think you can only really do it with sour cream - milk most definitely does not work, nor does trying to make normal cream more sour by adding lemon juice.

i think there are three essential ingredients to this dish - the rest is optional. those three are the horseradish mix, the roast tomatoes and the mackerel. you can either do the tomatoes by slow roasting them in a very low oven - this will dry them out and concentrate the flavour. you would have to put them, cut side up, in a roasting dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil (herbs are good, and i sometimes put the vine the tomatoes were on). roast in a 100C oven for a couple of hours. keep checking them so they're not totally drying out. or - if you haven't got time like i didn't, you can just chuck them in the oven for half an hour on high heat. i almost preferred the latter as the tomatoes were still quite watery, which worked for some reason.

MACKEREL WITH HORSERADISH AND ROAST TOMATOES

for two

4 mackerel fillets
3 ripe medium tomatoes
horseradish root
3tbs creme fraiche
olive oil
seasoning
handful of flat leaf parsley

first, prepare the tomatoes. wash, cut in two, place in a roasting tray skin side up, season and drizzle with olive oil. roast for half an hour in a hot oven, at 200C.

then, do the horseradish - finely grate about a 10cm piece from the thin end (less from thick, obviously) and mix with 2-3 tbs of creme fraiche. set aside.

season the mackerel fillets and fry in a thin film of olive oil in a hot pan for 2 mins, skin side down. don't move them or you'll risk breaking the skin. turn and fry for another minute or so, depending on how big your fillets are (ours were small). you will see the colour change from pink to pale brown.

for extra veg (there's always extra veg when you eat like this), i did some swiss chard - wash, thn chop the stalks and fry very gently in olive oil for about 10 minutes to soften, then add the chopped leaves and cook for another 3-4 minutes. i also had leftover roast beetroot - this was simply betroots cut in half (if they're large, leave them whole if they're baby ones) roasted in foil with a spoonful or two of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar, seasoning and some thyme, plus a few cloves of garlic, whole and in skins. roast on about 180C for an hour or so: stick a knife in one beetroot to check if it's ready. you can eat beetroot raw but cooked is definitely nicer in dishes like this.

to assemble, lay the chard (or whatever - you could just use lettuce) at the bottom of the plate, place the beetroot pieces (cut into half moons in my case) over it, then add a couple of tomoto pieces, a teaspoon of horseradish, top with mackerel, more tomatoes and a LOT more horseradish. finally, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

ms bosnia

for someone who took zero interest in cooking before i left home, it's amazing how much of what i think about food has to do with my childhood. i guess it's always like that: we just like to think we forge our own untrodden paths (or whatever you grandly think at the age of 17 when you know everything) but in reality the route has been set well before we were aware of it.

it's not even like i cook much of what my mum cooked. in fact, it's quite rare than i do. the way we eat has changed, and obviously i live in a different country. but wanting to eat fresh food, and getting the best quality i can afford, is something i took from home. also, the desire to make things from scratch, to faff around picking eldeflowers for cordials, or stripping leaves from nettles with rubber gloves on, or butchering piglets with meat-cleavers (okay, i made that up but i do remember my parents doing it) - that's definitely a legacy of that tiny kitchen in sarajevo.

pickled walnut and purple sprouting broccoli salad

i managed to smuggle pickled walnuts in their dinner. pickled walnuts!!!! to a man who hates nuts and another who professes to hate pickles. i thought that was a result. i wouldn’t say they positively relished the pickled walnut but i don’t think they objected either.

i remember those walnuts when i was little. in the yard of the house where my dad was born, behind the beehives and the linden trees, there was a walnut tree. maybe two, i can’t remember. i do remember that the shade it gave in the dry heat of the summer was so thick and so deep that you had to wait for your pupils to widen and could feel the temperature drop by a few degrees on your bare arms. you could also smell the tree – i would recognise the smell now though i can’t describe it. not like a fresh, herby or grassy smell, more like a heavier scent of something bigger and more substantial.

a leaf of a walnut tree is large and shiny, with thin veins you can fold and crack when bored waiting for your mum to finish talking about pickling. by august, the tree would be full of unripe walnuts – they were hard, like little green rocks but smooth, dappled with brown and almost velvety. i could never understand how you went from that to the walnuts we used to eat at home that my mum would grind in a meat grinder and bake into cakes later.

as children, we used to throw the little green bullets at each other (asyoudo).

by the end of august, the ground was littered with slightly moulding walnuts going soft underfoot.

my aunt, a formidable woman who kept everyone fed and watered, not to mentioned organised and entertained (including townies like us who descended every summer to ride on hay trucks and stick their heads down wells) would pick the walnuts and they would later turn up in jars, miraculously transformed from mossy green to dark brown, almost blue, as if someone had pickled them in a jarful of ink.

of course, my salad walnuts came from a much more prosaic source (though i suspect my aunt didn’t see climbing walnut trees as particularly romantic). the recipe is from mark hix's cook book. i ate an amazing hanger steak with grilled bone marrow in his restaurant in smithfield - that's what made me buy the book. it's not a pretentious salad by any means but i thought it was enjoyable.

for three people, you bake a whole head of young garlic wrapped in foil for about 45 mins or more on 200C. you then peel the thick outer layer and chop the soft cloves inside into bitesize pieces. you boil lots of purple sprouting broccoli until it still has a bit of a bite, and combine it with the garlic and one pickled walnut each, thinly sliced. i also put a bowl of mayonnaise mixed with creme fraiche on the side.

Monday, 16 March 2009

spring

it’s a beautiful day outside. the euro boys from jp morgan have taken their v-neck jumpers off and are sat around the guildhall yard, as if in worship of a pagan sun god. girls’ dresses are shorter and brighter and they wear their hair loose. everyone looks a bit less city and a bit more cheerful. we might not have jobs tomorrow.

pork chops with sage

it's rare that a day starts and ends with a pig but tonight we decide to have pork chops to try out the new pan. with a bit of sage and a squeze of lemon juice, it's meaty and juicy and somehow really savoury.

i never knew you could cook with sage until i came over. at home, where sage grows wild, it is a medicinal herb used to treat sore throats. it was something you bought at the chemist's, rather than a supermarket and it came in a green and yellow box with a picture of a staff and a snake at the front.

you'd leave a handful of leaves to infuse in a cupful of freshly boiled water, strain, then use to gargle with several times a day. i have no idea whether it worked but i don't remember ever using anything else for sore throats when i was little. did we have strepsils? i would imagine so but i suspect mothers went for sage leaves and boiled onion tinctures before they picked anything from the chemist's.

PORK CHOPS WITH SAGE
for two

2 pork chops, bone in
4 or 5 sage leaves
olive oil
lemon juice (1/2 lemon or thereabouts)
seasoning

preheat the oven to 220C.

season the pork chops and then press a couple of sage leaves into the flesh on both sides. they will stick, you just need to press quite hard. heat an ovenproof frying pan, add the oil and then fry the chops on one side for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are browned and golden. flip them over and put in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking.

after ten minutes, take the chops out, put them on a warm plate and pour most of the fat out of the pan. squeeze in some lemon juice, maybe add a little water or stock if you have handy and then reduce by bubbling on a hob until you get a sort of a thin, slightly tart and sage-flavoured gravy. pour over the chops.

veg is some romanesco cauliflower boiled for a few minutes, steamed spinach and roast butternut squash (you just cut it into slices, pour some olive oil over it, season and stick in the oven at 190C or so for about an hour).

Sunday, 15 March 2009

purple sprouting broccoli, black pudding and fried egg


breakfast is leftover purple sprouting broccoli, quickly warmed in a pan, a thick slice of black pudding from the farmers' market, grilled for ten minutes or so, and a fried egg. and a proper capuccino. very nice.

wtf

a food blog?? i mean, wtf? from a woman who once hid joyce under her school desk?

writing this has become like washing up: i eat, i write, i eat, i write. it takes no more than ten minutes.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

sausage salad


r insists i show a picture of what he has for lunch while i am out shopping. a bloke's lunch.

lemon sole with prawns and fennel salad

there's a massive queue outside steve hatt's and i leave r there looking grumpy and hungover. i'm off to town for lunch and clothes shopping - half a bottle of wine later, i come back with a jelly mould, a japanese mandoline slicer and an oven-proof frying pan.

i also buy a book at the daunt bookshop called the cellist of sarajevo, which i start reading on the bus home. it opens with a killer quote on the flyleaf: you might not be interested in war but war most definiely is interested in you - by trotsky, of all people. the second i start reading it though i want to tell everyone on the bus how crap it is. i think i roll my eyes and tutt and make slightly disgusted faces. it's pretentious drivel by some canadian do-gooder, full of fake empathy, piousness, platitudes about how we felt about the war and a cheap but predictable girl 'snajperista' who insists on being called 'Arrow' and who just so happens to be attractive. lord save us from more books about us.

it's saturday night so the dinner is slightly extravagant. we eat slices of ham from the italian deli for starter, drizzled with olive oil and, in r's case, jalapenos. i insist he spoils everything i cook with copious quantities of chilli - he claims it enhaces the flavour.

the bottle in the background is the rioja we were going to have the other day - it was worth the cash and the wait.

for the main, i make a fennel salad. you have to finely slice the fennel but so finely i think you can only really do it on the mandolin. it needs to be paper thin. i season with salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil and that's it. we also eat a mountain of quickly boiled purple sprouting broccoli. but the main event is the fish - i insist we try lemon sole which so far r has said he hated. i think what he hates are the milky, creamy sauces that are sometimes served with it. very seventies and i think very bastardised french. we agree to fry it, and have it with a 'sauce' made from prawns with butter and parsley. it's pretty awesome - the crispy skin of the sole and juicy flesh against the sweetness of the prawns and butter.

we watch kings of new york and all the shootings, blood, coke and sex don't put either of us off our dinner. we drink italian gavi white from the deli, and nibble on some roquefort afterwards.

LEMON SOLE WITH PRAWNS AND BUTTER
for 2, when you're hungry

4 fillets of lemon sole
8 prawns, raw and shell on (though you can do it with good cooked prawns, just won't be as nice)
handful of parsley, picked
50g butter
olive oil
flour for dusting
salt and pepper

first, do the prawns. if they're raw, drop them in a pan of boiling salted water for two minutes (max) till they change colour to pink. take them out, leave to cool and then peel. take the prawn shells, put them in a pan and cover them with water (so only a little bit of water, probably no more than 100 mils if that) and then boil for about 15 minutes to get prawn stock, of sorts.

season the sole fillets with salt and pepper, then dust with flour, shaking off any excess. in the meantime, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan - we actually use two because one is too small and you don't want to overcrowd it as this makes the fish (or meat, or whatever) boil rather then fry. wait till the oil is very hot and then put the sole dark side down and cook on medium heat, undisturbed, for about 2 or 3 minutes. put around half of the butter in the pan and then turn the fish and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, depending on how thick your fillets are. remove from the pan and keep warm.

in the same pan, pour the prawn 'stock' and boil briskly for a few minutes until reduced. put in some finely chopped parsley and whisk in the rest of the butter and prawns. pour over the fillets of sole and serve.

you can make it slightly healthier if you wish by skipping the buttery sauce at the end and just doing the stock reduction. i am sure it'd be just as nice.

Friday, 13 March 2009

prawn and coconut curry

i'm still wearing a winter coat but it's almost spring. you can tell by the late soft dusk and the smell of something in the air. the light has changed too.

going home, i walk past a group of boys, no older than 15 or 16, on their way out somewhere. all skinny jeans and long hair, and an insouciant attitude. i feel excited on their behalf - those friday nights in spring held so much promise, of friends, and fun, and forbidden things, of posturing, of smoking fags and drinking beer and talking about music, and daydreaming about unattainable boys in band tee shirts and enviable record collections.

i go home, listen to dizzee rascal, drink beer and cook. your kitchen is where it's at.

r is out for a boys' night out which apprently includes a curry, and it makes me want one too. for some reason, i fancy prawns again so i find a gary rhodes (horrible man, so i've heard) recipe for a bengali curry which turns out to be possibly the best one i have ever made. i do change it a bit, mainly by adding more veg and less oil.

PRAWN CURRY

for two, though i eat three quarters of it myself with some boiled broccoli


12 large prawna shelled

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 green cardamom pods, split

4 cloves

2 sticks cinnamon

2 bay leaves

2 whole dried red chillies, I used the really mild kashmiri ones

2 small onions, finely chopped

4 cm ginger, finely chopped

150g button mushrooms

1 pak choi

1 1/2 tsp mild red chilli powder - i used chilli flakes as i had nothing else. it just made it hotter, which is fine by me

2 tsp ground cumin

100ml coconut milk

50g freshly grated coconut - i use waitrose coconut chunks and whizz them in a blender with the coconut milk

2 tbsp chopped coriander

pinch garam masala


put the prawns into a mixing bowl and stir in half the turmeric and salt. set aside for 10 minutes. beat the oil in a wok or a large saucepan set over a medium heat. Add the prawns and fry for about a minute until the colour changes. remove from the pan. heat the rest of the oil and when hot, put in the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, and dried chillies. after about 1 minute, add the onion and ginger, together with the chopped mushrooms and fry until the onions are golden. stir in the chilli powder, ground cumin and remaining tumeric - fry for another 30 seconds to cook the spices. pour in the coconut milk/grated coconut and add the pak choi. when it's cooked, after maybe 3-4 minutes, add the prawns and cook for another 2-3 minutes, scatter over the chopped coriander, and sprinkle with garam masala.

i'm not sure the photos do it justice - it was hot and sweet and creamy and umami-ish and went ridiculously well with the bottle of india pale ale i bought for myself as a little treat. in fact, i might have the rest of it for breakfast, with a fried egg on top.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

cavolo, carote e sangiovese

the plan was to go out tonight but i decide not to in the end. i've not washed because i wasn't allowed to while i was doing the ph test and i feel a bit dazed from the lack of sleep - kept waking up every couple of hours entangled in the ph tube and feeling like i'm going to choke. shame, i was looking forward to a girly dinner.

instead, on the way back from the hospital, i stop by the italian deli to get some eggs (with a yolk so yellow it looks artificial), some san daniele ham, a ball of buffalo mozzarella and some very nice (and suitably expensive) olive oil to use for dressing. i also buy a bottle of cheap sangiovese wine to see if r can guess the price. yes, it's a stupid game and more often we will just do blind tasting (him, not me, i don't claim to have any knowledge beyond 'i know what i like' variety but i like the game). i fancy a little value-for-money test.

not sure why because tonight we were going to have nice food and an expensive bottle of rioja i bought r for his birthday to celebrate the fact that there is nothing wrong with me. instead, the food was average at best and the booze cost £6.50. (he guessed £12.)

the starter was just mixed bitter leaves, with some very sweet ripe pear and torn mozarella, drizzled with fruity olive oil. it's okay but the mozarella doesn't quite stand up to the overwhelming sweetness of the pear. i think the bland, slightly salty creaminess of cheese needs a less pronounced pairing. sweetness just makes it taste like a dessert and even the radicchio in the salad doesn't come through.

for the main we have venison and chilli sausages from farmers' market. i make the mistake of looking at the packet only to find out there's not a lot of venison in there but plenty of e numbers instead. oh well.

the chilli in the sausages (the packet even has a picture of a big red chilli on it) makes me think i should do a stir fry to accompany them, something with garlic and ginger. but the fridge is (still) full of random veg so i settle on carrots and cabbage....not the most exciting combination but i thought the spices might lift it. i slice them finely, boil them for a couple of minutes, drain them and then stir fry them with a crushed clove of garlic and some chopped ginger.

the sausages are way too salty - i bet a supermarket supplier wouldn't get away with that but somehow it's okay to sell it at a farmers' market - and the stir fry tastes how you'd imagine some carrots and savoy cabbage to taste: dull.

no picture, not worth it.

am asleep by ten.

omelette souffle muffin


as i am at home with a tube down my throat, feeling a bit rubbish and slightly sorry for myself, i thought i'd treat myself to a nice lunch to take my mind off it.

for a few days now i've been thinking it would make sense to cook something like an omelette in muffin tins so you can take smaller portions to work. then i thought you could make it more souffle-like by beating the whites separately, but without adding any flour. so like a slightly thicken, airier omelette.

we went through a phase of making these at home, when i was about 17. we just cooked them in a frying pan as you would with a normal omelette, and then slathered them with jam.
i fancy something savoury though so i chuck in some bacon and some leftover parmesan. not totally sure about measures as it was all a bit haphazard but i doubt you could go very wrong with it. you're aiming for that slightly runny, souffle-like consistency before you bake. if that helps!


OMELETTE SOUFFLE MUFFIN (christ, it needs a better name!)
for two

3 eggs, separated
2 slices bacon, grilled and cut into bitesize pieces
50g parmesan cheese (couldn't swear it was that at all - just think it may have been judging by the size of the chunk), grated
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp creme fraiche (cream will do)
pepper
butter/oil for greasing


preheat the oven to 200C. grease 5 muffin tins. or six if you want them smaller and even-numbered and don't want to fight over the last one).


mix together the egg yolks, mustard powder and cheese. season with pepper and mix in the bacon pieces. loosen with 2tbsp of creme fraiche.


separately, whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer till stiff. quickly add the beaten whites to the yolk, mixing lightly with a metal spoon. be brisk and decisive and don't worry about mixing it all in completely or you'll knock all the air out of it and it'll just end up being a plain omelette.
cook in the oven for around 12-15 minutes until risen and golden. if you need to check they're done, stick a skewer in to see but be warned - it will deflate the souffle.


i think as well as lunch, this would make a nice weekend breakfast treat. next time, i would probably leave out the bacon and chop in some chives. maybe use a different cheese too, like one of the nice tangy english cheeses like cheshire or lancashire.