Friday, 13 August 2010

fried cauliflower with green sauce

you’d think i’d be blogging every day now i’ve resigned and working the hours my contract says i should. i am cooking often enough. but no. i’ve not written a word for weeks. it would appear that my decision to change jobs has come with an unexpected side effect: my brain has turned to mush.

i come in every day full of good intentions. i have a long list of things to do and i have arranged things is neat piles on my desk. some of it is urgent and important. for example, i have to get my head around the subject of otc derivatives and, trust me, it ain’t easy. it means reading paragraphs like these: ‘novation is what distinguishes ccp from a clearinghouse. the latter, in effect, performs only bilateral netting, interposing it between two or more counterparties in order to give parties only one point of interaction, but without assuming any risk on its own in the transaction. the alternatives to novation can be open offers or guarantee schemes.’ that’s that settled, then.

but i get distracted. by crap. i waste time lurking on twitter, i check my yahoo email, i read endless recipes and restaurant reviews, i google places to eat, i look at clothes i would like to buy...rubbish, basically. my favourite is twitter. if you follow enough people, you can waste an incredible amount of time reading what they say. most of which is of absolutely no use whatsoever but is, somehow, weirdly interesting.

in fact, i behave how i imagine people who work from home behave, which is why i could never do it: i need someone to crack the whip and shout every now and again. i know it’s not very mature but if i’ve not sorted this out by the age of 37, it’s unlikely i ever will.

all in all, i am astonishingly unproductive. i don’t think booking a restaurant online would count as an achievement, or an ‘outcome’ as they like to call it now, in anyone’s book. i mean, it is an outcome of sorts and i will hopefully have a full belly at the end, but it’s not going to get me ready for the new job.

anyway, here is something i DID cook the other day, and i am only blogging about it so i don’t forget i ever made it. it’s a cauliflower thing, and i am rather fond of cauliflower things, especially when they involve frying or roasting and not boiling. quickly blanched and then fried, cauliflower loses that mildly sulphuric blandness that most people hate (that was syntax worthy of nigella. see post from 25 july. and then kill me.)

as for the green sauce, it’s a pretty standard combination of ingredients, which you can vary according to what you have. you could also put in some capers, i think that would be nice. the quantities given are just approximate. you need to taste and add things and carry on tasting and adding until you have something you are happy with. i’d definitely not put all the lemon juice in at once as it might make it too acidic.

(PS i don’t know why i didn’t just call this salsa verde and be done with it – somehow, i like the ronsil-like approach of ‘green sauce’.)

for two

½ large cauliflower, broken into florets (i REALLY want this to be spelt ‘florettes’. isn’t that nicer?)
1tsp sweet paprika (i did not use the smoked spanish stuff, this was ordinary serbian sweet paprika)
½tsp ground cumin

for the sauce:
a small bunch of parsley
a small bunch of basil
a small bunch of coriander
4 anchovies
½ to 1 clove garlic
half a lemon, juiced – but only add half to start with
1tsp dijon mustard
olive oil

olive oil
salt and pepper

blanch the cauliflower in boiling water for about two minutes and drain, leaving it in the sieve for all the water to drip off. either on a big plate or in one of those sealable plastic bags, mix the cumin, paprika and a good grinding of salt and pepper. add the drained and hopefully pretty dried florets, and try and coat with the spice mixture as much as possible.

now make the sauce. whizz all the ingredients in a food processor with enough olive oil to make a paste. kind of like pesto, but maybe a bit runnier. taste, adjust the seasoning, and that’s it.

heat the oil in a big frying pan until hot, then add the cauliflower florets and fry until golden. don’t crowd the pan or they will be soggy – just stick them in and leave them for a couple of minutes on medium heat until they get a bit of a nice crust thing going. keep turning them over as much as you can to get the same effect on all sides. drain on kitchen paper, and eat immediately.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

beetroot and feta salad

have you heard of the flavour thesaurus? it’s fugging genius. someone – well, not someone, she is called niki segnit - has sat down and written a book about what goes with what. how brilliant is that!? some combinations you have heard of, some not - avocado with strawberry dressing, anyone? i am resisting the urge to go out now and buy some.

and it’s such a pretty book – colourful hard cover and an index to die for. useful too – for those of us who don’t really plan our shopping with military precision, it is not unusual to end up with random stuff in the fridge and no idea what to do with it. even though this is not a recipe book as such, if you have the basic vocabulary of cooking, it gives you enough ideas about what could work.

despite its brilliance, i should say this is the kind of project that gives me existential angst. my mind will not bend itself to this kind of order, precision and...well...analness, if that's a word (i know it's not). in particular, it’s how looooong it would take to compile something like this...i would have given up halfway through avocado, no doubt about it. i’ve never been very good at finishing things – i lose interest, and the little real satisfaction i get from seeing the end result does not outweigh the pain of doing it.

all that aside, the feta/beetroot combination was sparked from the book – though she talks about goat's cheese. goat,'s not that different. beetroot and sharp, salty cheese is something i have done before and i am sure there is a recipe somewhere on this blog for grated raw beetroot with feta. what was new was combining it with some leaves and a lot of chopped parsley – it was all i had but i would be inclined to use other herbs of the same ilk too – and adding some crunch with the toasted sunflower seeds. i had it for lunch at work, as you can probably see from the picture. not ideal as the beetroot bleeds everywhere so you end up with pink cheese and blood-stained leaves. probably best to assemble and eat immediately if you’re trying to impress.

enough for two lunches if you're greedy

3 small beetroots, whole
1tbs balsalmic vinegar
2tbs olive oil
125g feta cheese, cubed
a generous bunch of parsley
salad leaves - as many as you like
a handful of sunflower seeds
salt and pepper
more oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing

preheat the oven to 200C. take a big piece of foil and place the beetroot - whole, unpeeled but scrubbed - on to it. pour over the oil and the vinegar and season well. scrunch up the foil so you end up with a little parcel that will both roast and steam the beetroot. cook in the oven for an hour or so - actually mine took longer and you just need to test them: if you can stick a knife in them easily, they are ready.

once cooked, leave to cool a little and then peel. you'll have very red hands and i can't really advise you on what the best remedy for that is. cut into chunks, cubes or whatever you want.

finely chop the parsley. toast the sunflower seeds in a dry pan until fragrant and starting to change colour. be careful not to burn, as it happens very quickly.

in a large bowl, chuck in your beetroot pieces, the crumbled cheese, the leaves if you are using them, the parsley and the sunflower seeds. make a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar and mix in to the salad lightly - the easiest way to do it is with your hands. taste and season. that's it.

oh - and don't be alarmed when you next go to the loo. things might be a little pink. you've not had a hemorrhage, it's just the beetroot.