Thursday 30 July 2009

Cook the Books - The Last Chinese Chef

Putting together my contribution for the latest Cook the Books was challenging. Nicole Mones' novel The Last Chinese Chef has many layers - there is cooking (of course), there is grief, love, dispossession, betrayal, nostalgia - the whole box and dice.

One aspect of the book that I really loved is the lack of a villain. It would have been quite easy to write a scheming woman pursuing a paternity suit, or rival chefs plotting sabotage. But Mones has avoided the facile and has given validity to conflicting motivations. Where disaster strikes, it isn't through enemy sabotage, it is through the agency of a much-loved uncle. I wanted to do justice to the book by having a many-layered menu and somehow show some of those themes in my food.

I didn't decide the menu in a straight line, but it is easier to write about in serving order.

Vegetarian Appetiser Platter

I knew my main course was going to be meaty and fatty, so to begin my menu I wanted something quite light. Full-flavoured, but delicate, and with a bit of a crunch and preferably some vegetables. I also very much wanted to cook something from Savouring China, by Jacki Passmore. I love this cookbook! The recipes I have made from it before have worked very well, the photographs in it are gorgeous and her stories about her experiences in China are fascinating. When I picked it up again to choose some recipes, I was also hit by a reference to Empress Cixi's taste for corncakes, familiar from The Last Chinese Chef.

I eventually settled on a vegetarian appetiser platter - dried black mushrooms simmered in rice wine, soy and ginger, boiled peanuts flavoured with Szechwan Pepper and star anise, and cucumber marinated in sugar, vinegar, garlic and chilli. Paul and I often ate at a restaurant in Sydney that served boiled peanuts as an appetiser. We liked the taste, and also found it useful as a warm up for our chopstick skills before anything messier came to the table!

I decided to serve the platter on a dish my grandmother gave me - as a child I always loved the almost bottomless blue green glaze on the heavy earthenware - and I thought the rich colour would look nice with the brown, cream and green of the food. And then when it came to the crunch I couldn't actually find where Paul had stowed those plates, and I used a big blue-glazed dish (year 10 art project) that still looked pretty good.

Pigeon Sang Choy Bao

For personal nostalgia, rather than a specific connection to the book, I had to have Sang Choy Bao on my appetiser platter. You don't see it so much on English Chinese restaurant menus, but in Australia every restaurant serves this richly flavoured mince (sometimes pork, sometimes as the second course of Peking Duck) wrapped at the table into crisp lettuce-leaf "buns". I also thought the crisp green element would provide a good balance in the meal. I wanted it to be leaner than usual, so I used finely chopped pigeon breast instead of pork or duck, and I left out the lup cheong that you often get in it.

Serves 2 as part of a banquet
6 little gem lettuce leaves
3 skinless, boneless pigeon breasts
vegetable oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1tsp grated ginger
1tbs oyster sauce
1tbs soy sauce
1tsp cornflour slaked with shaoxing rice wine

Brown the finely diced pigeon breasts in the oil with the garlic and ginger. Add the soy & oyster sauce and stir for a minute or two, then add the cornflour slurry and stir until the mixture thickens and is quite dry. Serve a teaspoonful or so of the meat cupped in each of the lettuce leaves.

Trotters in Black Vinegar

I have a book called Mumma's Kitchen (ed. Helen Addison-Smith & George Papaellinas), which is a collection of recipes and stories shared by Australian writers, cooks, comedians and politicians. A recipe that I have been particularly drawn to try is Annette Shun Wah's stepmother's pig's trotters, slowly braised in sweet black rice vinegar. Her stepmother loved this dish, and would make it for her friends even though that traditionally would have meant that she was signalling a pregnancy. I thought that nuance - a dish that tells a story - would be something Sam's Uncles would approve of. And it was a slow cooked dish that I could prepare ages in advance and not have to get too stressed about.

It was, sadly, pretty disgusting. I have never prepared pig's trotters before and now that I have no one can make me do it again. I stripped the "meat" - or rather, fat and skin - from the bones to try and divorce the dish from the memory of toenails and hair, but to no avail. The hardboiled eggs cooked along with the trotters were nice though. I garnished it with some carrots cut into flower shapes, but alas I don't have the talent for vegetable carving that Sam's Uncles have.

Spring Onion Flower Rolls

When it came to the starch, the fan element of the meal, I thought about rice and noodles, but then I decided that I wanted to do a bread. Partly, it has to be said, because I wanted something that I could serve in my bamboo steamer. I like my bamboo steamer. The power of Youtube made shaping flower rolls look much easier than I had thought, so I decided to follow this recipe but shape it according to the youtube tutorial. It was unexpectedly easy. I was very sceptical about kneading the baking powder slurry into the risen dough, but I did it and ended up with a texture exactly like the bao at yumcha, so it can be counted a definite success.

Lapsang Souchong Pannacotta with Star Anise Plums

As my final course, I wanted to take Chinese elements but move it back into the West. I thought that pannacotta (my fail-safe, go-to dessert) infused with smoky Lapsang Souchong tea, and served with some roasted plums flavoured with star anise would fit the bill. There are some nice British plums in the shops right now, and a firm-ish custard is reminiscent of the agar-set almond or coconut desserts you often get at yum cha. And of course, plum blossom is one of the national flowers of China, and my pig's trotter was served in a dish decorated with plum blossom (although Japanese) so I thought that gave another little nod to the sort of menu planning Sam goes through for the competition in The Last Chinese Chef.

170ml cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tsp lapsang souchong tealeaves
1tbs caster sugar
1 sachet gelatine
4 plums
2tbs sugar, extra
1 star anise

Make a strong cup of lapsang souchong tea, strain and measure 75ml into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatine over the surface and set aside. Put the cream, vanilla and sugar into a saucepan, stir until the sugar dissolves and the cream is just about to boil. Add the gelatine, stirring until the gelatine has completely dissolved (turning the heat back on under it briefly if necessary, but don't allow to boil). Divide between 2 wetted ramekins, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Cut the plums in half and remove the stones. Place cut side up in a small oven-proof baking dish. Sprinkle well with the sugar. It is a strange thing I have noticed that plums which are very sweet when raw take on a bitterness from the skins when cooked, so don't skimp on the sugar. Break the star anise into petals and scatter those over the plums. Bake at 170C for half an hour or so until the fruit is caramelly and smells gorgeous.

Turn the pannacottas out onto small plates (which should be quite easy because this is quite a firm set pannacotta) and surround with still-warm roasted plums.

Squid, chorizo and broad beans

It's not a stew, it's not a soup, but it is a tasty, summer-y one-pot meal that uses some fantastic fresh, seasonal vegetables.

Squid Chorizo and Broad Beans

1tbs oil
2 large squid hoods, cut into thin rings
200g cooking chorizo, cut into slices
a big handful of double podded broad beans (fava beans)
a tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 big handfuls of spinach, washed and torn a bit
5 baby courgettes, cut into slices
Juice of a lemon

Saute the chorizo in the oil until the red oil flows and the chorizo is crisp. Add the garlic and squid and turn in the oil for a minute. Add the broad beans, courgette and spinach, and as soon as the spinach wilts, add the lemon juice and serve in wide bowls with cheap red wine. Easy.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Cherry Pie for British Cherry Day

Last Saturday, the 18th of July was British Cherry Day. The British cherry is in dire straits at the moment: in the last 50 years we have lost 90% of our cherry orchards and we import 95% of the cherries that we eat. And those soulless bastards at my local council hacked down the ornamental double-blossomed cherry tree outside my house WHILE IT WAS IN FULL FLOWER. Arseholes. Paul tried to throw himself in front of the chainsaw but they got around him. They promised that a replacement tree of equal aesthetic value would be planted but since they have resurfaced the pavement, it is clear they were lying. But I digress.

To mark Cherry Day, I decided to make a cherry pie. Economics dictated that it was going to be a freeform pie - I couldn't actually afford enough cherries to fill my pie plate.

British Cherry Pie

500g butter shortcrust pastry
450g ripe British cherries
1tbs cornflour
3tbs ground almonds
2tbs caster sugar
1 egg
1tbs demerera sugar

Stone the cherries (which is a very messy business and made me feel like Dexter) and place in a bowl, trying to catch all of the juices. Sprinkle with the caster sugar and set aside for an hour, while the sugar draws some more of the juices out of the fruit.

Stir the cornflour through the cherries.

Roll the pastry out thinly into a circle. Brush the pastry with about half of the beaten egg and top with the ground almonds. Pile the fruit onto the middle of the pastry, scraping the juices on.

Fold the pastry around the fruit, leaving a bit in the middle to show the lovely colour. Brush the top with the remaining egg, and sprinkle with the demerera sugar to give a lovely crunchy topping.

Bake at 180C for about 45 minutes or until the pastry is beautifully golden.

Allow to sit for a few minutes for the filling to set up a bit. Serve in thick slices topped with very, very cold thick cream.

Monday 27 July 2009

Meat Free Monday - Smoked Tofu and Broad Bean Salad

This week's meat-free Monday dish is again a smoked tofu one. I couldn't help it - it was so tasty! But I wanted to see how it would go with a different flavour palette.

So. Delia Smith's wonderful Summer Collection cookbook contains this lovely recipe for Fried Halloumi with Lime & Caper Vinaigrette. In The Guardian last weekend, Rosie Sykes created a homage to that dish - Fried Halloumi with Runner Bean Salad. And now I present my homage to the homage:

Fried smoked tofu with broad bean salad
(serves 2 as a light dinner)

1 block smoked tofu
cornflour for dusting
olive oil for frying
3 cups double podded broad beans
3 spring onions, sliced
4tbs lime juice
1 tbs small capers
1 tbs white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
small slosh of olive oil
black pepper

Cut the block of tofu into 4 slices, dust with cornflour and fry in a splash of olive oil on both sides until crispy.

Simmer the broad beans in water until tender, then drain and mix with the other ingredients. Serve the warm bean salad with the crisp tofu.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Blue cheese pannacotta with roast beetroot

This is much easier than it looks and sounds - very strong flavours and very rich! We had it as a dinner (on a weeknight, seriously, it is easy enough to make after work), but I couldn't finish my pannacotta and it made a really delicious snack spread on a cracker a couple of days later. It's a firmer set than a normal dessert pannacotta.

Using agar, a vegetarian cheese and leaving out the bacon, you would have quite an elegant dish to serve your son's new vegetarian girlfriend, to let her know she is welcome in your home.

In my family we always use white wine, garlic and rosemary in fondue, and I love those flavours with cheese, so I added them to my pannacotta.

Blue cheese pannacotta
Serves 2-ish

100ml dry white wine
1 sachet gelatine
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp rosemary leaves, chopped
2tbs sour cream
200g strongly flavoured blue cheese (I used stilton), grated
roasted beetroot
crisp bacon or proscuitto (optional)
roasted sesame oil
balsamic vinegar

Put half the wine in a small bowl & sprinkle the sachet of gelatine evenly over the surface. Set it aside for a few minutes to sponge. Put the rest of the wine, the garlic and the rosemary in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Add the sour cream and gradually add the cheese, stirring constantly while it melts. Add the gelatine to the melted cheese mixture and stir until smooth - do not allow to boil.

Rinse a couple of ramekins out in cold water, pour the cheese mixture into the wetted moulds, cover with cling film and put in the fridge to set. I cheated and put it in the freezer for half an hour first to kick start it, then it only needed an hour to set.

Arrange your lettuce, beetroot and walnuts on your serving dishes. Sprinkle with a little balsamic and sesame oil. In a perfect world it'd be walnut oil, but I never have walnut oil on hand and I do have sesame oil.

Loosen the edges of your pannacottas with a palette knife and turn it onto your fingers, then place on the bed of salad and garnish with the crisp proscuitto.

Monday 20 July 2009

Meat Free Monday - crispy smoked tofu with carrot salad

Here it is again - meat-free Monday. I don't know if it is becoming an actual thing, but still, I am running with it.

I'd come across a block of smoked tofu, and since I love smoked foods, I thought that would be a good foundation for the meal.

Crisp smoked tofu steaks with chilli sauce (serves 2)

1 block smoked tofu
Cornflour for dusting
Vegetable oil
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped red chilli (or less. Or more)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tbs light soy sauce

Cut the tofu into 4 slices. Dust each side well with a little cornflour and fry until crisp in shallow, hot oil. Remove the tofu and drain on kitchen paper. Pour off most of the oil and in the small amount remaining, fry the shallots, garlic, chilli and ginger until soft and fragrant. Deglaze with the soy sauce. Add the tofu steaks back to the sauce and reheat for a minute.
I served it with Nigella's carrot & peanut salad - made with pistachios because that was what we had. The sweet, cool carrots were a very good accompaniment to the hot, spicy, salty, smoky tofu. The different levels of crunchiness from the crisp surface of tofu, carrot and pistachio also work well - very successful!

Saturday 18 July 2009

Making the best of it - hot tomato, basil & mozzarella

We hadn't been planning to eat at home. We thought a little wander out to a pub for a steak would be nice. But then we decided we were too lazy to leave the house.

I really didn't feel like pizza, so that meant we were at the mercy of the fridge contents. There were some rather limp carrots, half a butternut that had see better days, a couple of over-ripe tomatoes and some mozzarella that wasn't fresh enough to eat raw.

And a nice little rolled lamb shoulder.

The carrots, butternut and a couple of onions got tucked around the lamb, drizzled with olive oil and roasted. The tomatoes and mozzarella got sliced and sandwiched with (bottled) pesto and put in the other oven.

God I wish I remembered what temperature I cooked the lamb on, or how long it was in, because it was one of the best pieces of meat I have ever cooked. Perfectly tender and pink with a lovely crisp skin.

There was way too much melty mozzarella for the amount of tomato - it was delicious, but incredibly rich. I will definitely repeat this one, but with twice the number of tomatoes and less cheese.

The roasted vegetables were caramelly and nutty and just perfect. A delicious meal and the housewifely satisfaction of not wasting anything.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Rosé Wine Dinner

A couple of times recently I have mentioned The Crown, a pub we've taken to. Well one of the good bits about telling your friends about a place is that when they go, they chat to the management and the next thing you find yourself booked for promising-sounding rosé wine dinners.

We fronted up (slightly after the appointed time because traffic was a nightmare) to be told that everyone was "Out the back at the barbecue". Which sounded very promising. Seven other people were indeed out the back at the barbecue, well down their first glasses of champagne and surrounded by the debris of the first platter of canapes.

Rosie, the Innkeeper, quickly provided us with glasses of lovely André Roger Brut Rosé NV and topped up everyone else's glass. There was a lot of glass topping up over the course of the evening.

To go with the champagne were lovely little slices of ficelle, topped with grilled goats cheese with lavender and thyme oil. I may have to take back all the rude things I have said about lavender in food - the flavour was distinct but extremely pleasant. It was just what you would imagine a summer in Provence would taste like. There were also slices of cucumber topped with a smooth smoked mackerel pate, which was just lovely.

The chef, Mark Bristow, came out to have a chat about how he'd made the lavender and thyme oil, and to start cooking the fish skewers that we had as a first course. Which was pretty much our cue to move indoors.

We were all seated at a communal table, which was very nice. It just felt like a dinner party with people you don't know well. Although it turns out that the person sitting opposite me has read Foodycat (which made me blush profusely), so a big shout out to Fiona.

The fish skewers were OK - very moist but slightly overdone, so they collapsed a bit - but the sauce they were served with was amazing. A rich, slowly-cooked tomato and onion mixture, I would have happily had a plate of that with some pasta and left it at that.

The wines for this course were very pretty. I mean yes, of course they tasted good, but who really cares when faced with such lovely and different shades of pink? The one on the left was Les Olivades Rosé, Vin de Pays de la Méditerranée 2008, the one on the right was Château Unang Rosé, Cotes de Ventoux 2008.

Andrew, the wine rep, was very good value. He had clearly done the spiel more than once, but still managed to make it seamless and friendly. He ran us through glass- swirling and air-sucking and then left the poncery alone. I was having far too good a time to really pay much attention to the finer points of flavour and aroma, but I preferred the Les Olivades both with and without food.

The main course was a fabulous barbecued shoulder of lamb stuffed with tapenade, a fresh salad of red and gold tomatoes and some lovely little potatoes baked with peppers, garlic and rosemary. It was delicious. The lamb was just melt in the mouth, the tapenade wasn't too salty and there was a delicate flavour of cinnamon. There were too many potatoes and not enough peppers, but that would be my only quibble.

With the lamb we had Saint Andre de Figuiere Magali Rosé, Cotes de Provence 2007 (a magnum, which always looks fab) and Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes, Domain Boulon 2007. The rationale behind the Beaujolais was to show what other young, drink-now wines can be like. I didn't think either wine was a knock-out, but they were both pleasant enough and very well-matched to the food.

The cheese course was a nice Waterloo, with slices of barbecued peach, oatcakes and a Morgon. I like oatcakes, and the nutty flavour was good, but I think I would have preferred a thinner, crisper biscuit at this point in the meal. The Morgon is a more grown-up Beaujolais, with richer and more rounded flavours.

For dessert we had this beautiful creation. Not a cappucino - a rich, dark, bitter chocolate pot topped with smooth, unsweetened cream. Absolutely gorgeous. There was a slight roughness to the chocolate and my suspicion is that it was cocoa nibs. It certainly wasn't chopped nuts, which was my first guess, because the anaphylactic guest survived the experience. The shortbread was a revelation - not the slightest bit greasy but divinely buttery and perfectly short. The dessert wine was a Maury Mas Amiel 2005. I thought the wine worked very well - it had a bit of dryness but it was still sweeter than the bitter chocolate, so they supported each other nicely. It was a very nice way to finish a lovely evening. The hangover was thoroughly worth it.

Monday 13 July 2009

Meat Free Mondays - Oeufs à la Grecque

Paul McCartney thinks that having a meat-free day at least once a week will slow climate change and reduce world hunger. I don't know enough about carbon emissions to know if the first part of that is true. I am fairly sure that there is more than enough food to feed the world (sustainably? don't know) and that hunger in the world is caused by politics and economics, not steak.

However, I feel terribly virtuous if I eat plant-based meals a couple of days a week. Even more so if it is something low-carb instead of pasta with a vegetable sauce... So I have decided to put scepticism aside and buy into Meat Free Mondays.

Something that I have always loved is Oeufs à la Florentine - eggs on a bed of spinach topped with a cheesy, nutmeggy bechamel sauce. So I thought I would head in that sort of direction, but I had a big bunch of chard instead of spinach, and the only cheese I had on hand was a nice Greek feta. So I decided to take my Florentine by way of Athens and Greek up the flavours.

Oeufs à la Grecque
Serves 2 (served by itself or 5 if you stretch it with some rice and a dessert)

1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
1 big bunch of chard, washed and shredded
2 or 3 marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
olive oil
dried dill
5 eggs
1 block of feta

In a fairly deep saute pan, heat a slurp of olive oil and soften the onions and garlic in it. Add the other vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until the chard has wilted down. This takes much longer than spinach. Season with a sprinkling of dried dill tops (I don't often bother with fresh dill - the flavour is better but it invariably goes manky before I finish the bunch).

Scrape the vegetables into an ovenproof dish. My flat Le Creuset dutch oven is my weapon of choice for these things because it looks so pretty, but a pyrex lasagne dish would do the job and be easier on the wrists.

Make 5 indentations in the vegetables and crack an egg into each one. Crumble the feta over the top. Bake at 190C until the eggs are cooked. Maybe 20 minutes? Delicious.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Summer vegetables and chicken kebabs

The thing about a vegetable box is you end up with a bunch of stuff you don't often cook and no real idea how to use them...

Kat and Matt do amazing things with their seasonal CSA boxes but when my veg box turned out to contain small turnips, I didn't have any mayo for the baby turnip slaw they made recently.

So I asked a few people and eventually made a sort of vegetables printanier. But it is summer, so I shall call it...

Légumes d'été
Serves 2 as a substantial side dish

2 bunched onions
2 courgettes
1 cup double-podded broadbeans
2 little turnips
4 tiny baby carrots
knob of butter
1/4 cup cava (or any dry white wine)
Black pepper

Chop the onions and soften in the butter in a saute pan. Add the chunky courgettes, broad beans and cleaned and chopped carrots. Peel and chop the turnips and microwave for about 2 minutes to soften and speed up the cooking. Add to the saute pan and add the cava. Reduce heat to the smallest bubble and add a bit of rosemary. I meant to add dill but grabbed the wrong jar from the spicerack and the rosemary was just the most perfect flavour. When the liquid has almost all been absorbed/evaporated and the vegetables are just tender, season with black pepper.

We had it with some chicken thighs, marinated in garlic and lemon juice, skewered on soaked bamboo skewers and cooked on the Weber. The smoky flavour was wonderful, and worked perfectly with the sweet baby little crisply tender vegetables.

Saturday 11 July 2009

Cucumber Salad

Aren't these cucumbers the most amazing colour? We recently ordered an organic seasonal vegetable box (which will be a one-off, it wasn't particularly good value) and it contained this wonderful cucumber. I made a salad with some onion, freshly ground black pepper and white wine vinegar and it was just lovely. Very sweet and firm and refreshing.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Potted Shrimps

Potted shrimp is one of those terribly English things that peppered my childhood reading and fired my interest without me really knowing what it was.

In one of the Blandings books Lord Emsworth is horrified and outraged when his pig girl goes to get her tea and shrimps without sufficient concern for her charge the prize pig Empress of Blandings.

Then I got a bit older and (if humanly possible) more interested in food. And I discovered that mixing tiny brown shrimps with melted butter is not just a delicacy but a preservative. Using melted, clarified butter efficiently excludes air preventing the growth of aerobic bacteria. The traditional seasonings of nutmeg and mace add a bit of spice to mask the flavour of slightly past-it seafood and may also help to kill bacteria.

Most importantly, of course, they taste good. When I first arrived in England we went to a celebrity chef-run restaurant (which I shall tactfully not name) and were served two of the most abysmal steaks that anyone ever charged £30 for. But I can't be entirely down on the place because it was there that I first tried potted shrimps. And fell hopelessly in love.

Now when I go to 32 Great Queen St, I have to hope that the potted shrimps AREN'T on the menu, so I can order something else. If they are on the menu I haven't the strength to resist.

I've been wanting to make them myself for ages. The thing that has put me off is the thought of peeling all those little shrimp. I really don't have the patience for that sort of fiddle. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that The Fish Society sells peeled brown shrimp online. Nothing was holding me back but the need for a recipe.

I searched long and hard, comparing recipes from all over. But I decided that Marco Pierre White was the way forward. His recipe appealled because firstly it sounded right. All the flavourings that I wanted to see in it (white pepper, cayenne, mace and nutmeg) were there. And secondly he did away with the tedious clarifying process. I suppose in this day and age no one is actually planning to store seafood on a larder shelf for weeks at a time...

So I made it. Scaled down because I only had 200g of shrimp.

It made 2 tidy little ramekins worth, with enough left over to pile, still warm, on a couple of thick slabs of toasted rye sourdough bread for some quality control.

The next night we had some more of them piled onto a barbecued rump steak for an elegant take on "surf & turf". With an Oregon Pinot Noir it made an extremely fine dinner.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Pistachio meringue

I decided to make this dessert to take to friends. For simplicity of transportation I decided to make one large one instead of several small ones.

And then the wheels started to fall off. Blanching pistachios is not nearly as easy or as satisfying as blanching almonds or broad beans. I remembered that I am not very good at making meringue. And then I realised that I don't have a wide enough serving plate for this sort of thing.

So I ended up squashing the bottom layer of meringue into a tart plate, covering it with the filling (I just did mascarpone and some mixed berries, combined into a sort of fool, rather than mixing cream into the mascarpone and decorating with strawberries) and then topped it with the second meringue disc, tucked in around the edges.

It really didn't look bad. And it tasted nice. But it just wasn't right and wasn't what I wanted it to be. Very irritating.

Friday 3 July 2009

Fritto misto

OK, so I lied. THIS is the last British asparagus for the season!

A Friday night fritto misto of calamari, asparagus and onion rings, in an egg yolk & cornflour batter, seasoned with Old Bay, shallow fried in sunflower oil.

I microwaved the onion rings for a couple of minutes to soften them, and then cooled them before adding them to the batter. I didn't want raw onion!

Served with a big squeeze of lemon juice and a bowl of fresh, garlicky mayonnaise and a bottle of chilled prosecco.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Pinchos Morunos and the Last British Asparagus

It was a couple of days before pay day, and I decided to be virtuous and use the contents of the fridge and freezer rather than buying any new groceries. So I had a dig around and unearthed a UFO (Unidentified Frozen Object), which I soon realised was cubes of pork in a Pinchos Morunos rub. Although I have absolutely no memory of when I put it there. Surely the last time I made pinchos Morunos we were living in the other house? Surely it hasn't been 18 months in the freezer?

Anyway, I was pretty confident that the spice mixture they were sitting in would have protected them from freezer burn.

I spiked the chunks of meat onto soaked bamboo skewers with some pieces of onion, made up some tomatoes Andaluz with our last two, slightly sad-looking tomatoes, steamed our last bunch of British asparagus (the supermarkets are all stocking Peruvian again) and poured a couple of shot glasses of gazpacho (bought - a very nice one). We couldn't be bothered lighting the Weber, so we cooked the kebabs and pita breads under the grill in the kitchen.

It was a very tasty dinner, and a fitting way to farewell British asparagus for another year.


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