Wednesday, 23 December 2009


i can't believe i've not written anything for almost a month. december has just disappeared, days spent lying down merging into one. weirdly, i was not exactly bored but neither was i relaxed. i wanted to kick myself for every time i had that thought, usually when busy at work, about how nice it would be to spend a dull winter day at home reading books or watching movies. the reality is, you only really want to do that for a day or two, and part of the sweet attract on of laziness is precisely because you know you ought to be doing something else - because it feels slightly naughty. when you've been signed off by your doctor and can legitimately spend a whole day watching the good food channel, somehow the appeal is not there. i tried to work a little - not easy lying down, i can tell you - i read a few short stories in french, i watched a film here and there, and i basically fretted over all the things i ought to be doing.

and the truth is, cooking has been the last thing on my mind. there's a lot of bending and twisting when you prep and cook, which was definitely not a good idea, and obviously there's also the job of getting food in, which is impossible when you can't carry stuff. also, when you do nothing but lie down for days on end, you're not really very hungry.

so, my breakfasts and lunches have been pretty weird, by my own admission. eating quickly lost all of the usual patterns and deteriorated into random things you can eat straight from the fridge, without the application of heat, or stuff cooked be cooked with the minimal amount of effort. plates rarely came out of the cupboard. i have eaten: raw carrots from the farmers' market, unwashed (too much effort); sauerkraut straight from a jar (oh yes), small pink radishes, ends untrimmed see carrots), roasted purple sprouting broccoli (in industrial quantities, sometimes with frozen prawns chucked in at the last minute, if available), nuts out of a giant jar in the cupboard, dark chocolate, dried figs, and anything else i could find in the cupboards.

i have cooked a bit and i promise i will post some recipes soon. so bear with me and, if anyone has any great ideas about how to cure a herniated disc in time for a skiing holiday, do let me know!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

slow roast shoulder of lamb with anchovy, rosemary and lemon zest

okay, i don't know how to rotate this picture. that makes me a bit stupid but i ahve tried everything.
i stole the recipe shamelessly from the chocolate and zucchini blog ( it's one of my favourites - it makes you realise the skill and attention to detail that you need to put into running a proper blog. very much unlike this thing, with its typos and random formatting.

you must forgive me for the former though - i am typing this lying down, with the small laptop propped up ingeniously on a couple of pillows, and almost entirely with one hand. i have, yet again, done my back in spectacularly - this time warranting a caudal epidural. don't ask. suffice it to say it involved a big needle.

anyway, this is a great recipe and i've made it twice already. every time we've been so eager to tuck in that i forgot to take a photo of the whole thing, as it comes out of the oven. so, instead, you have a half-devoured piece of meat, with only the tomatoes still intact.

there is something about the salty anchovies which, i promise, you can't taste once it's cooked, and the acidy bite of tomatoes cutting through all that fat.

i cut and paste from the original, as typing with one hand is a pain in the backside. the picture you see is of a half shoulder as there were only two of us, so i just halved the quantities.

Epaule d'Agneau Frottée au Romarin, Anchois et Zeste de Citron

For the seasoning paste:
- 1 bushy sprig of fresh rosemary (you can substitute 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, but fresh really is preferable)
- 1 organic lemon
- 10 filets of anchovies packed in olive oil, drained
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, germ removed if any
- 2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
- A few generous grinds of black pepper
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons olive oil

For the meat:
- 2.2 kg (5 pounds) bone-in shoulder of lamb (depending on the size of the animal, this may amount to one large shoulder, or 1 1/2 small shoulders)
- 8 small ripe tomatoes, about 650g (1 1/3 pounds)
- 4 cloves garlic, still in the last layer of their papery sheath

Serves 6 to 8.

Pluck the needles of rosemary and discard the tough central stem (you can leave it to dry and use it as a skewer on a later occasion). Peel the zest of the lemon using a zester or a simple vegetable peeler (save the naked lemon for another use).

In the bowl of a mini-chopper or blender, combine the rosemary, lemon zest, anchovies, peeled garlic, mustard seeds, pepper, vinegar, and oil. Pulse until the mixture turns into a coarse paste, scraping the sides of the bowl regularly.

Place the meat in a baking dish large enough to accommodate it, and rub in the seasoning paste, taking care to spread it well, and on all sides. (Clean your hands meticulously before and after the rubbing.) Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably 3 or 4.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it back to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Remove the plastic wrap from the baking dish. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves and the tomatoes, cored and halved, slipping them under and around the meat, wherever you can.

Place the dish in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 130°C (270°F) and cook for another 2 1/2 hours, basting and flipping the meat every 30 minutes or so. Cover with a sheet of foil if it seems to brown too quickly.

Friday, 4 December 2009

thai green curry

can't believe i have never blogged about this before. i have made this curry countless times, as you can tell by the food-splattered page in the nigel slater's cookery book. (ah nigel...i wonder what he does on wet saturdays like this one. jumpers, pots of tea, scones and writing? radio 4 in the kitchen?) not sure why i look at the recipe any more when i know it off by heart.

it's a dish that makes you never want to buy a thai curry paste again - it's just not a patch on this homemade version which, if not necessarily authentic, at least has the zing and the freshness of the real thing. don't be put off by a long list of ingedients - once they're all assembled in front of you, all you need to do is some peeling and a little bit of chopping.
you can vary the veg used - i have done vegetarian versions with squash, aubergine and mushrooms but the addition of chicken is very nice too. i think the aubergine is essential. the rest can depend on what you have in the fridge and your desire for authenticity.

the only thing is, you can't really make it without a food processor, or a very large pestle and mortar and someone willing to do the crushing. i have done it in a blender but you need to add some kind of liquid to get it going, and it will eventually blunt the blades. not to be recommended. (how exactly did i live without a food processor?)

for four, though not in our house

for the paste:
4 stalks lemongrass, tender inside leaves only, chopped
6 green chillies, seeded and chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 thumb-sized piece of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
a good fistful of coriander leaves
1tsp lime zest or 5-6 lime leaves
juice of one lime
1/2 tsp ground peppercorns

for the rest:
2 chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
4 small aubergines, or 2 large ones, cut into large chunks
200g button mushrooms (or any other kind of mushrooom)
1 400ml tin of coconut milk
300ml chicken stock - usually made from powder in my case
a handful of basil leaves - thai basil if you can get hold of it, chopped
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped

put all the paste ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth.

in a large pan, fry the aubergine and the chicken in oil over quite high heat. you want them to colour a little. when the aubergine is beginning to soften, add the mushrooms and fry for another couple of minutes.

add about 4tbs of paste, stiring so it doesn't burn, and fry it off for a minute or two, then add the coconut milk and the stock. leave to simmer for ten minutes or until the vegetables are fully tender. taste it and see if needs any more paste adding to it - which i always conclude it does, thus making the initial 4tbs game totally ridiculous. if you do add more, cook it for another minute or two.

that's it. just stir in some basil and coriander before serving.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

things to do with scallops

okay, this is very much the masterchef territory, and i don't mean the professional version either. i am half-expecting greg the egg to come along and say something totally banal and obvious like: she has got the right idea but will it work in practice??

cooking doesn't get tougher than this. and so on.

simple idea - you pair the scallops with a sweet, starchy root veg of some variety, and then you add crispy, salty bits of pig on top. you can't really go wrong with the pork and seafood combination. well, you probably can, but you know what i mean.

the first picture is fried scallops with jerusalem artichoke pure and grilled pancetta and the second is carrot pure with black pudding. i prefered the artichokes - for some bizarre reason they really do go very well with scallops (and i know because this was our christmas dinner starter last year).

for two
300g jerusalem artichokes, peeled
a knob of butter
6 slices of very thinly sliced pancetta (bacon won't really do)
6 scallops (or however many you want per person x two)
olive oil and butter for frying
some freshly chopped parsley

cook the artichokes in some boiling water until they are tender. they're tender like potatoes - you should be able to stick a knife in them easily. drain well and whizz in a food processor until smooth. return to the pan, reheat and add a knob of butter. season generously. that's the pure done.

in the meantime, grill the pancetta until crispy. drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

for scallops, heat some olive oil and butter in a heavy based frying pan or a decent non stick pan. season the scallops and fry for 2 minutes on one side, depending on size, and maybe a minute - if that - on the other.

to assemble, place a dollop of the pure on a plate, top with scallops and scatter over the crispy pancetta. sprinkle the parsley on top.

for the carrot version, it's the same thing - cook the carrots, whizz up with butter, grill the black pudding, and that's it.

celeriac and carrot remoulade

i kind of made this up, though it is loosely based on a crab starter recipe i am yet to post.

hilariously, i split the mayonnaise for it - AGAIN. i mean, what is it about me and mayo? it's a pretty simple thing to make. i've tried it with handheld whisk, food processor, wire balloon whisk, plastic whisk, i've tried it with vinegar, with mustard powder, with nothing, with one yolk or two, i've tried rescuing the split yellowy gunk by starting's all failed. all of it.

but i'm not bitter. i made macaroons with the egg whites and poured the rest down the sink. and then i went to sainsbury's to get a jar of their own. (the list of ingredients on shop-bought mayo is frightening, have a look when you get a chance. what the hell is all that stuff??).

the remoulade was a success, even with sainsbury's own. we had it with roast chicken and some wilted spinach but it would go well with cold meats too.

for four

1/2 celeriac, peeled
2 carrots
3 tbs grain mustard
1 level tsp dijon mustard
3 tbs mayonnaise
1/2 lemon, juiced
small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper

grate the celeriac and the carrot - magimix is great for this unless you press your thumb against the raised dimples on the grating disk and cut your finger so badly that your kitchen looks like a scene from a slasher movie.

put into a large bowl and add the lemon juice. stir. in a separate bowl, mix the mustards and the mayo. stir into the vegetable mix, then season (generously). finally, stir through the parsley. taste for seasoning and serve.

it was great the next day too.