Tuesday 30 June 2009

Warm lamb salad to woo women

My last flatmate before I got married was, shall we say, a socially active young man. Good-looking, funny, sporty and kind, while we shared that place there was a veritable revolving door on his bedroom and I considered getting the sofa steamcleaned.

But he had a problem. His first-date technique was superb - he would pack an insulated bag with strawberries, cheese and a bottle of chilled dessert wine, and take the girl to Balmoral Beach, for a lovely walk to a remote promontory, and there unpack the surprise picnic. Very nice. And then he had no follow up. What to do for a second date to match that show of sensitivity and caring?

So I taught him how to make this warm lamb salad. It's a good date meal because it isn't fiddly to eat, it's proper food but you don't feel weighed down after it, there isn't anything scary or exotic that might put a girl off. Unless she is vegetarian, which I think needs to be ascertained on the first date, not the second.

It's also one of Paul's favourites, and he got a bit grumpy with me for not having made it in ages. So I bought a part-boned lamb leg, he cooked it on the Weber over charcoal and hickory chips, and we made the best version of this warm lamb salad that has ever been seen. But I will write the recipe as I showed it to my flatmate, all that time ago. It really is a cracking salad. The butternut and veg can be prepared ahead of time and the dressing made and then the lamb gets a last minute flurry of activity.

Warm lamb salad (serves 2)

300g lamb backstraps
1/2 butternut, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 cloves of garlic, whole & peeled
1 bag baby spinach
1 block of feta
handful of toasted pinenuts
olive oil
dijon mustard
ground black pepper

- optional: ripe tomatoes, avocado, artichoke hearts

Toss the chunks of butternut and cloves of garlic in a little oil, place in a roasting dish and bake at 200C for half an hour until they are toasty at the edges, caramelly and gorgeous. Mash the soft, roasted cloves of garlic in a small bowl with a fork. Add a spoonful of mustard, some olive oil and balsamic and put the dressing aside until the end.

Season the lamb backstraps with ground black pepper, and pan fry them in a splash of oil to taste - about 4 minutes a side should be fine - and allow to rest.

In 2 big noodle bowls, arrange the spinach leaves, crumbled feta and toasted pinenuts (and avocado, artichoke hearts and anything else you are adding), top with the butternut. Slice the lamb on the diagonal into dainty girlie bitesize chunks and fan out faffily on top of the veg. Drizzle with the roasted garlic mustard dressing. Provide lots of napkins so she doesn't splash dressing on the silk blouse she bought to impress you.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Turkey Parmigiana

I don't know why it is, but recently I have been really craving chicken parmigiana. It isn't something I really had growing up, but it is an absolute staple of Australian pubs. And fair enough too - it is inexpensive, tasty and lends itself both to the bain marie and to eating with chips. It isn't something I have seen on menus in the UK, so I knew that if I wanted it I was going to have to make it myself.

And so I did. Taking shortcuts wherever possible. Still tasted good! After all, can you go wrong with bubbly, brown melty cheese? It's like a reduced carb version of lasagne.

Turkey Parmigiana (serves 2 healthy appetites with salad and enough leftover for a sandwich the next day)

400g turkey breast escallops
1 egg
dried breadcrumbs
a splash of oil for frying
100g baby spinach leaves
1 jar tomato-based pasta sauce (I used roasted garlic and basil)
1 block mozzarella
2tbs grated parmesan

Egg & crumb the escallops, then fry on both sides until browned. It's a texture thing, it'll be cooked really thoroughly again, so you don't have to be precious about cooking it through.

Line a dish (I used my trusty pyrex lasagne dish) with baby spinach leaves, and top with the escallops in a single layer. Pour over the pasta sauce, top with slices of mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 190C for about 45 minutes or until everything is bubbly and browned and gorgeous. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to firm up slightly. Serve with a green salad (and some buttered macaroni if you need to bulk it out to serve an extra person).

Saturday 27 June 2009

More Urchin

Sorry - couldn't resist. Here is another clip of my favourite cat - this time playing with her helicopter.

Friday 26 June 2009

For Ms Crankypants

The very readable Cranky recently asked for more pictures of Urchin. Better than a photo, here is the little beast discovering the sprinkler.

For someone who claims to not like water (she runs in screaming when it starts to rain) she doesn't seem to mind playing with the hose!

Thursday 25 June 2009

Warm chicken salad

If I had £1 for every time Paul has made this gorgeous, simple salad, we'd be able to afford quite a nice dinner out. It has very few ingredients, so they need to be good - free range chicken, properly ripe avocado and perfectly washed baby spinach leaves.

Warm chicken salad (serves 2 as a main course)

1 bag baby spinach leaves
6 chicken thigh fillets
splash of oil for cooking
1 ripe avocado
handful of something crunchy (we used sunflower seeds on this occasion - pinenuts, pumpkin seeds and cashews have all been tried in the past with equal success)
drizzle of balsamic
good splash of soy sauce

Divide the spinach leaves, avocado and sunflower seeds between 2 large bowls and drizzle with a little balsamic. Cut the chicken thighs into bite sized pieces and saute in a splash of vegetable oil until really well browned and cooked through. Deglaze the pan with soy sauce, and shake around while the soy reduces and glazes the chicken. Divide the hot chicken and pan juices between the two bowls and eat immediately.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Summer Berry Yoghurt Cake

Last weekend we went to Hampstead for lunch. At least, we set out for Hampstead, but after we'd spent an hour on the M1 and had travelled 1/4 mile, we aborted the mission and came (very slowly) home. And thus the beautiful Summer Berry Yoghurt Cake that I had nursed on my lap for the entire tedious journey only ended up with an appreciative audience of two. Which is a crying shame, because it was a bloody good cake.

I spotted it on Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook, and she had adapted it from a recipe on the wonderful Elle's New England Kitchen.

And now this is my version.

Summer Berry Yoghurt Cake

2 cups plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter (I only had salted in, so I didn't add any extra salt to the cake)
1 cup raw caster sugar
3 eggs (Farida's recipe called for 4, but I only had 3 and the texture was just fine)
Splash of vanilla extract (adds a little flavour, but it is mostly because I adore the scent of baking vanilla)
1 cup strained Greek yoghurt
1 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in this mix)
Finely grated zest of a lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup demerera sugar

Cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy with a wooden spoon, add the eggs one at a time, beating each one in well. Add the yoghurt and vanilla and mix well.

Add the sifted flour and baking powder and mix until just blended. Fold in the berries and lemon zest (I over-mixed at this point - ignoring common sense - and the cake went an odd purple colour).

Pour into a greased 21cm x 11cm loaf tin and bake in a 180C oven for 70 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Mix the lemon juice and demerera sugar, and pour evenly over the hot cake. Allow to cool in the tin before turning onto a wire rack.

Keeps really well - I had the last slice today and it was still moist and delicious 8 days after baking.

Monday 22 June 2009

Cardamom, Rosewater and Saffron Kulfi

About 10 years ago, a friend of the family was visiting family in India, and she very kindly bought me some kulfi moulds. So the other week when I made Dharm's lovely wife's curry, I thought it was about time I used them... and of course, by the time we'd eaten curry, aubergine, lentils, rice and pineapple, we really didn't have enough room for dessert!

Still, it never hurt anyone to have some icecream stowed away in the freezer.

The really special thing about the kulfi moulds is that they are handmade, so the thread on each lid only fits its own mould. Hence the purple nailpolish numbering so that I can keep them matched up.

This is a cheating version of kulfi that I made up after reading lots and lots of other recipes - it uses condensed and evaporated milk, instead of carefully cooking down fresh milk the way you are supposed to. Still, it tastes good; sweet and perfumed. I used reduced fat versions of all the dairy products in it, and it worked OK - but feel free to use full-fat.

Easy Kulfi

1 can reduced fat evaporated milk
1 can reduced fat sweetened condensed milk
300ml reduced fat thickened cream
The seeds of 3 green cardamom pods
Rosewater to taste
Pinch of saffron threads

In a mortar and pestle, crush the cardamom seeds and saffron to a powder and mix with the other ingredients. The specks of saffron will start to bleed beautiful patches of gold into the mix, and you can either wait until they have infused thoroughly, and the mixture is a fairly uniform colour, but I like the almost marbled look.

Pour the mixture into your kulfi moulds (or a loaf tin lined with cling film) and freeze. Kulfi freezes hard, so there is a balance to be struck between being too hard to eat and melting. Some passionfruit or other tangy fruit would be good with it, too moderate the sweetness a bit, but Indian desserts do tend to be very sweet! If I'd had a bit of edible gold leaf I think I would have had to use it.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Rabbit tortellini

I recently had a week day at home. A stolen treat; I'd taken a day of annual leave to get to an appointment, I couldn't go to the appointment but I decided that a mental health day was in order.

And at lunchtime, something tasty, quick, and slightly luxurious was called for.

Rabbit tortellini (serves 2)

1 packet cheese tortellini
2 cloves garlic
3 or 4 marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 jar of tonno di coniglio
1 packet of baby spinach leaves (120g)
2 tbs sour cream
2 tbs dry sherry

Cook the tortellini according to packet instructions.

In a saute pan big enough to accommodate both pasta and sauce, saute sliced garlic in some of the oil from the artichoke hearts and add the chopped artichokes and shredded rabbit and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the sherry, when it has bubbled off, add the sour cream and baby spinach leaves. As the sour cream melts into the sauce, add the drained tortellini and stir it around, letting it absorb the sauce and wilt the spinach. Serve in wide bowls with lots of freshly ground black pepper. No extra salt or grated parmesan is needed.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Strawberry icecream


becomes this...

Which then becomes this...

Lovely homemade strawberry icecream. 400ml of bought premium vanilla custard, a splash of cointreau and 7 or 8 perfectly ripe and luscious strawberries. Half of the strawbs were roughly mashed with a fork, the rest cut into halves or quarters. The fragrance of the strawberries ran all the way through the lovely creamy icecream. Just wonderful!

Monday 15 June 2009

Pork curry

After the not-very-successful pulled pork wraps, we had a large bowl of leftover pork and no particular inclination to do more wraps.

So Paul curried it.

Leftover Pork Curry

In a big enamelled cast iron dutch oven, he put the pork & some water and started to simmer it. In a small pan, he heated quite a lot of vegetable oil and fried some cloves (8 or 9), some cardamom pods (6 or 7) and about 5 whole star anise and a diced onion. After about 5 minutes, when there is a bit of aroma off the hard dried spices, he added a level teaspoon of cumin seeds (the whole seeds add a nice nutty texture as well as flavour) and a few dried kaffir lime leaves. The last thing to add to the oil is 1tsp turmeric, because it burns quite quickly.

In with the meat he added 3 tsp paprika, another 1 tsp turmeric and 1tsp garam masala and about 1tsp diced garlic and 1tsp diced ginger. Then he added the fried spice mixture, some diced chilli. We let it simmer for a while (not as long as normal because the meat was already cooked and tender) then added some salt to taste and a bag of baby spinach leaves. Stirred some cooked rice through it and there it was. Infinitely tastier than the original dish.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Mexican Pulled Pork Wraps

I made these. I won't be making them again. I gave it an hour longer than the recipe said, and while the meat was tender and succulent, it certainly wasn't fall-apart pullable. And not the slightest bit of the flavouring had penetrated it. I would have been better off roasting the pork for an hour or so and just doing it as plain roast pork wraps. Same flavour, fewer ingredients and more economical with the fuel. I love the idea of pulled pork, but I need a tried and tested recipe. Any suggestions?

Saturday 13 June 2009

Chilean Wine Dinner 09

As we sat down at the latest wine tasting dinner, and picked up the menus, I was hit with the most amazing sense of deja vu. Surely we'd had a seafood bake and beef and corn pie at the last Chilean wine dinner? Well yes. I looked through my archives and found that last May we sat down to the exact same menu. But I found it interesting to see how things had been done differently, so I hope you will too.

Last year they called the starter Jerusalem Artichoke Soup. I said "I don't think it was. For one thing, I haven't seen a Jerusalem Artichoke in the shops for weeks, and for another, Jerusalem Artichokes puree so very beautifully that I don't think you could achieve the effect of a clear green liquid with pulverised little hard vegetable bits." This year they mistranslated Sopa de Topinambur as Artichoke Soup and produced a lovely, creamy, lemony soup, with the occasional bit of artichoke heart in it. Last year's sauvignon blanc was replaced by a very nice (if underchilled) unoaked chardonnay.

Of last year's seafood bake I said "fairly large portion of very rich, very delicious seafood baked in creamy, cheesy sauce. It had nice chunky pieces of crayfish, mussels and squid". This year it was a smaller portion, scooped onto the plate instead of served in the individual gratin dishes of last year. Last year's crayfish and squid were replaced by little shrimp and crab. The sauce was overthickened and a bit stodgy, but it still had a very good flavour and a squeeze of lemon and the fresh green salad really lifted it. It was served with a buttery, lightly oaked viognier, instead of last year's chardonnay.

The pastel de choclo, beef and corn pie, was quite different. Last year "it was a casserole of mince with sweetcorn kernels, sultanas and slices of hardboiled egg, served with some rice". This year small pieces of tender, slow-cooked beef (shin, I think) in a slightly gloopy gravy was covered by a thick layer of creamed corn topping. Tasty, but too big a portion, and I have a faint feeling that the topping was probably supposed to be cornmeal rather than creamed sweetcorn. It was served with a very good carmenere.

Last year's Turron de vino was translated as wine and almond nougat and was "a glass with a layer of a sweet, loose almond paste, broken up with flaked almonds, topped by a strawberry puree and a generous amount of whipped cream". This year they translated it as "wine custard with meringue" and produced a very nice vanilla anglais, with a scoop of icecream in the middle, topped with a really horrible sickly-sweet grey foam that reminded me of the tideline at the beach when there has been heavy sewage pollution. It was served with a very big, inky dark cabernet sauvignon that didn't speak to the dessert in any way.

So. Some hits, some misses - the soup particularly was immeasurably improved, even if it still wasn't made with the right vegetable - but I can't do better than repeat last year's closing remark: "I just feel that if they hadn't tried to do Chilean food they would probably have been better off".

Thursday 11 June 2009

Cook the Books - The Little White Horse

The latest selection for the Cook the Books online bookclub is Elizabeth Goudge's classic children's story The Little White Horse. This was a suggestion that I made, and I am so pleased Rachel took it up! This has been one of my favourite books since I was a little girl - I am pretty certain that it was read to me many times before I was able to read to myself (I had aunts as well as my mother to read to me).

For me it is a comforting story, from the days before there were worries, when good would triumph and it was perfectly natural for a bossy 13-year old to confront evil-doers with God on her side. And of course the descriptions of the food were so captivating. From the brown eggs eaten with Old Parson and the fresh fish the Black Men grill after they have finished being wicked for the day, it is all wholesome and quite charming.

I think the fact that The Little White Horse was first published in 1946 is significant - all over England there were children who had been evacuated from cities and billeted in country villages with strangers, there was stringent food rationing and many fathers who were soldiers who had died abroad with their regiment. It's a feature of the childrens books of the era that I loved (I am thinking of the Narnia books and Enid Blyton in particular, as well as Elizabeth Goudge's books) that there are these very independent children, not a lot of interference from adults and lavish descriptions of delicious meals.

It took a lot of thought for me to decide what to make for my Cook the Books entry. I wanted it to be significant. I thought about making a veal and ham pie, like the one Marmaduke Scarlet is making the first time Maria meets him. But my pastry is just not good enough - not at all "more like sea-foam than dough". And I thought about pink-iced fairy cakes and candied cherries (it is cherry season here) or decorated sugar biscuits, like the dainties Marmaduke makes to ensure Maria is never for a moment hungry.

In the end I decided that it had to be a warm, comforting homely dish - something that had the emotional resonance of the book for me. So I settled on a dish that Maria doesn't actually get to eat in the book. When she comes home late after being caught out in the storm, she discovers that Sir Benjamin and Miss Heliotrope haven't been at all worried, but have tucked into a supper of pork chops and onions, baked apples and custard and haven't left any for her. A dish of pork chops and onions seemed to have the right amount of comfort in it, and I added apples to it for the nostalgia of the many dishes of sausages with apple gravy my mother and I have eaten over the years. And my flat Le Creuset dutch oven seemed just the sort of thing Marmaduke Scarlet would have tucked into the ashes of a hot fire to bake.

Pork chops with sage, apple and onion

Brown a sliced onion in a little butter in an oven proof dish. Dust 4 pork chops in seasoned flour, and brown well in the pan with the onions. Pour over chicken stock to come half way up the chops, tuck a couple of fresh sage leaves in and around, and arrange 2 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and cut into eighths) on top of the meat. Cover and bake at 170C for 50 minutes to an hour. Serve with green vegetables.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Sunday Lunch - The Crown

Last Sunday we had lunch with my sister in law. This is a pretty major achievement - despite the fact that she is our only family member who lives within cooee (and even on the same tube line, and she has a car), we don't see nearly enough of her (she has a very impressive social schedule). Unfortunately the day she was able to come and see us coincided with a day where I really could not be bothered cooking. At all. So I booked a table at The Crown in Amersham, knowing that Shiona appreciates a country drive and a roast lunch.

The last time we went to The Crown, they had elderflower-spiked prosecco on the menu as an aperitif - which I didn't try because I am not a fan of elderflower. Other friends who have been have said good things about the rhubarb fizz, so I was delighted to see that the fizz of the day was spiked with morello cherry. As well as being a lovely colour, there was a very delicate but true sour cherry flavour with the tiniest hint of almond. Just perfect on a lovely warm day.

As a starter Paul chose devilled kidneys. I wasn't really surprised - although he isn't the biggest kidney fan, we've been watching Great British Menu on BBC Iplayer and one of the contestants did a devilled crab dish which captured his imagination. Devilled kidneys are a really old-fashioned dish, usually quite heavily seasoned with mustard, cayenne pepper and worcestershire sauce. These were nicely flavoured and well-cooked, but didn't have the amount of spice you'd look for.

I had potted shrimps, which were warmed, sweet and lovely. They could have had a touch more mace to them, but I really appreciated not having to hack through mounds of over-chilled butter to get to them. It reminded me that I have some peeled brown shrimp in the freezer waiting for me to make my own potted shrimp.

Shiona had haddock brandade, which she said was nice but very potato-y. I suppose because smoked haddock doesn't have the slightly fibrous texture of salt cod, they had to use a lot of potato to bind it. We thought it was a little bit strange that all three of our starters were served on the same slabs of granary toast. A bit of variation would have been nice. Either the brandade or the shrimps would have looked better served in a ramekin with the toast on the side. But that is a minor quibble.

In addition to the regular Sunday lunch menu, because it was such a nice day they had a "summer barbecue kitchen" running. I ordered a Gloucestershire Old Spot pork chop, which was marinated in a slightly sweet and spicy glaze and barbecued to tender perfection. It was really fabulous. Simply served with a big pile of green salad in a mustardy dressing and some new potato salad with lots of chives and parsley in a creme fraiche dressing, it was clearly the best choice of the day!

Paul suffered a bit of menu envy, but the roast beef he had was very good too. Slightly over-cooked Yorkshire pudding, beautifully crisp but fluffy-middled potatoes, buttery crisp green cabbage, some little carrots and a pool of gravy completed the plate. He said he would have appreciated a bit of horseradish on the plate, but other than that it was a very good roast lunch.

Shiona had the roast lamb - which was cooked medium to welldone, just the way she likes it. It had the same vegetables as the roast beef (but no Yorkie) and again was a very good roast lunch.

Shiona and I decided that we still had space for dessert. Of course.

There were several tempting options, and I was quite surprised that she didn't choose the chocolate and coffee mousse (she is a serious chocoholic) and instead chose a banana cake with rum & banana icecream. It was a very, very large portion of cake, and it was seriously overcooked. It was very dry, although it had a good flavour, and I think it would have benefitted from some hot caramel sauce or custard or something to moisten it a bit. The icecream was delicious though - very smooth, very banana-y and with a good strong kick from the rum.

I decided that for a summer Sunday lunch in England, dessert really had to be strawberries and cream. The strawberries were enormous - five strawbs made a very good portion; they were the size of plums. And just simply hulled, topped with cream and a tiny sprinkle of sugar. In a perfect world the strawberries would still have been warm from the sun on the garden bed and the sugar would have been touched with vanilla beans, but we don't live in a perfect world and I was very happy with it as it was.

We took the scenic route home, then drank tea and skyped Paul's parents - who apparently have been reading my blog, so hello to Pieter and Marina!

Monday 8 June 2009

School Holiday Treat - Le Cafe Anglais

For our latest school holiday treat Jude and I went to Le Cafe Anglais in Bayswater. It's tacked on to the side of a shopping centre, which seems a bit odd, and the woman doing the meet & greet downstairs didn't seem to be particularly interested in being charming, but once upstairs in the airy, art deco-styled dining room everything got better.

After a very restoring gin & tonic, and a few little olives, we were shown to a large oval table at one of the pale eau de nil leather banquettes.

We didn't recognise the man at the table next to us, but we probably should have - everyone else in the restaurant was greeting him like he was Someone, and Jeremy Lee (flamboyant Scottish chef at the Blueprint Cafe ) greeted him like an old friend when he arrived for lunch.

Some lovely chewy bread, really good butter, excellent fresh crunchy radishes and fizzy water helped while we perused the menu.

We'd had some fairly definite ideas (god bless the internet and restaurateurs who put their menus on it) about what to have, but we realised that neither of us actually had a big enough appetite to follow through on those ideas!

The menu opens with hors d'oeuvres, so we decided to skip a starter in favour of a few of these to share. When I saw oeufs en gelee I knew I had to try it in honour of my mother, who introduced me to Elizabeth David. In French Provincial Cooking, David writes "This is not at all so easy a dish to get right as might be supposed. It is not common to find it well done even in a good restaurant. But when perfect, the egg yolk just soft enough to run when you break into it, the jelly firm and clear and delicately flavoured, it is an exquisite dish." This was perfectly executed. The jelly was well-flavoured with a hint of tarragon, the egg yolk flowed softly and the little salad of tomatoes that it sat on accompanied it very well. But I didn't particularly like it. I hadn't really thought through the fact that to encase an egg in jelly the egg has to be cold, and I find cold runny egg yolks a bit weird. But still, I am very happy that I tried it!

The other hors d'oeuvres we tried were much more to my taste. Some fat, crisp oyster fritters showed just how good a cooked oyster can be, and the minty Thai dipping sauce they were served with was just perfect, but they didn't rate a picture of their own. The parmesan custard with anchovy toast, however, was so good that Jude and I agreed we would be hard pushed to order anything else if we saw it on a menu. It was a baked custard (but with the texture of a bechamel) with just the right amount of cheesy crust on top, served with crisp fingers of toast, sandwiched with anchovy paste and flattened in a sandwich press. Oh my god it was good. We dunked the toasts in the custard and swooned at the flavour.

We also rejoiced at the fact that we hadn't tried to order starters as well - the hors d'oeuvres were really very substantial.

As our main courses we both chose fish. I am a sucker for fish & chips, so I ordered the battered haddock with tartare sauce, and some chips. Jude ordered the roast skate with sorrel and Jersey Royal potatoes. When the dishes were delivered we realised that we should have ordered some salad, but the busboy's English wasn't equal to the task. We thought he said he'd get salad, but he must have said he'd get a waiter - and then when the waiter arrived we said everything was fine because we thought the salad was on its way. The upshot being that we got no salad.

It didn't really matter though, because the fish was so damn good. The perfect light, crisp, thin batter, flapping-fresh, firm white haddock, breaking up into large, moist flakes. The good, chunky tartare sauce was perfectly seasoned. The chips were thinner than I like them, but still very good. Jude's skate was also lovely - it is such a good fish!

We both ordered glasses of dessert wine to go with our puddings. Jude had a 2005 Domaine de l'Ancienne Cure Monbazillac, I had a 2002 Chateau Delmond Sauternes. Both were lovely, but quite different.

I really liked that the dessert menu featured fruit. The notion of just ordering some Cox's apples seemed so chic... and I was very tempted to get mango with some coconut sorbet, but I realised that it wouldn't be beautiful, fragrant Kensington Prides so I ordered the pannacotta with rhubarb and strawberries. I have never had rhubarb that good before. It was perfectly tender, but firm, not the slightest bit stringy or mushy. The strawberries were sweet and delicious. Both fruits were complemented by the hint of ginger in the syrup. And the pannacotta was just lovely. Not too sweet, nicely vanilla-y and with the perfect amount of wobble to it.

Jude ordered the chocolate souffle with pistachio icecream, after some time kicking around some other options. And it was a very good decision! The souffle was perfectly light and warm and luscious, with a very good dark chocolate flavour, not at all too sweet. The icecream was incredibly nutty in texture and intensely pistachio-y in colour and flavour.

I finished with a pot of fresh mint tea. Just the thing to finish a large and rich meal.

Definitely one to go back to.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Malaysian Goat Curry

Dharm, in KL, is a hell of a cook. But what you don't always notice in amongst his amazing posts is that sometimes it is his wife who should be getting the kudos!

So this is a goat varuvel, as made by Mrs Dharm. I didn't put quite as much chilli in as she did, and I used garam masala wherever curry powder was called for (and goat meat instead of lamb). And it was absolutely the best curry I have ever made.

I served it with an aubergine dish called terung udang kering (subbing a little fish sauce for the dried shrimps), some dhal, some steamed jasmine rice and some chunks of fresh pineapple tossed with toasted coconut. Delicious.

Saturday 6 June 2009

Courgette Fritter AND Tomato and Bacon Hash

So it was time for brunch. There was bacon, we had more tomatoes but there were no more eggs. Fortunately, there was leftover courgette fritter. Another go at the tomato and bacon hash, with a side dish of room-temperature leftover fritter made a very good breakfast.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Courgette fritter

This was inspired by Historically Hysterical's recent effort - but I decided that I would rather stand out by the barbecue talking to my husband than frying individual ones. So I just made one big flat oven-baked pancake. I used grated halloumi (because that was what I had) and my last egg, so it didn't hold together perfectly, but it was a wonderful side dish for barbecued lamb shoulder. I've made a thicker, more substantial courgette slice often in the past, and with salad it is a wonderful meat-free meal.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Tomato and Bacon Hash - and a blogoversary

Well well well - who would have thought that my 300th post would sneak up on me so quickly?

Since starting to blog I have cooked and eaten a lot of new things, and been inspired by the stuff that others in the blogosphere have been cooking and writing about. The intricate creations of the Daring Bakers don't really float my boat. It's the simpler dishes, where all of a sudden you can see yourself sitting in their kitchen, sharing a plate of something delicious.

Most recently, the thing that has caught me this way is Nigella's bacon and tomato hash, as described by Esi. I read the post, I had the ingredients, it went on the plate. And it tastes so much better than bacon, tomatoes, garlic and worcestershire sauce has any right to. And with an egg on top? Best breakfast ever.


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