Thursday 30 June 2011

Chicken liver and potato salad

This substantial salad from Nigel Slater is very rich! The combination of the crisped new potatoes (I added a couple of cloves of garlic to the oil), tender chicken livers and sour cream dressing (I left out the dill) with the crunchy slices of pancetta was delicious. I piled it onto some salad leaves to make it salad-y-er but a green vegetable on the side, or perhaps a few steamed green beans added to the mix, would be good too. Still, it somehow tastes light enough to be a viable option in this warmer weather that has finally hit!

Monday 27 June 2011

Meat-Free Monday: Baked goats cheese marinara

This is another wonderful dish from Kevin at Closet Cooking. Rich, thick marinara sauce (I love the mahogany colour it goes after some time in the oven), luscious melted cheese, freshly baked baguette to smear it all on.

I used whole cheeses, so they didn't look cooked until the crust was broken, but slices of a goats cheese log will take on a lovely burnished brown colour.

Friday 24 June 2011

Fish Fight Update

The Fish Fight is rolling on. In May a debate was held in the House of Commons on CFP reform and the fish fight. I emailed my MP asking for him to attend the debate and vote in favour of the proposed motion. This week - 6 weeks after the fact - he wrote back to me. I can't say his letter was particularly enlightening. He made no positive statement about whether he had attended the debate or would be in favour of any such conditions attached to CFP reform, but he did spout a lot of stuff about how hard DEFRA are working to come up with a more sustainable way. Which they do seem to be. No thanks to him.
So I am continuing to do what I can by varying the types of fish that we eat and trying to make thoughtful decisions about where it comes from and how it is caught. Not exactly hardcore activism, but one does what one can.

Nigel Slater's mackerel and potato salad was a hearty meal in a bowl, using lovely day-boat caught Cornish mackerel fillets.

A recent curry night featured Cornish monkfish in a saag curry, a very successful prawn patia (from Camellia Panjabi's 50 Great Curries of India) and some light, flaky Kerala parathas (Hairy Bikers, made with coconut milk instead of milk and condensed milk).

And we are not suffering at all by regular meals of linguine with British clams!

There is new research suggesting that a ban on discards will be good for fisheries - so I do hope that the combination of grassroots work and a bit of good science will win the day on the reform of the CFP.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Scotch Egg Pie

Spring started so well. We sat out in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and planning a hot summer of barbecuing and picnics.

But now, in the height of "summer" the weather isn't really lending itself to eating outdoors. Drought has been declared in parts of the East of England, but in our bit of greater London we've had daily, torrential rain for a couple of weeks now.

Still, when you make something like this lovely Scotch Egg Pie, it holds the promise of outdoor eating to come. One day.

I used bought puff pastry and should have used about another 200g of sausages to fill it out abundantly, but even slightly underfilled it made a delicious portable lunch.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Cooking the Books: rose pannacotta for Garden Spells

This is our apple tree. It doesn't climb through the bedroom window or throw apples.

I'm seriously organised for the current Cook the Books round! It doesn't close until late July, so if you have been tempted to join our merry band of bloggers with a book in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other, you have plenty of time!

We're reading Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, Garden Spells. It's a magic realist novel set in North Carolina, and I found it quite charming.

Claire Waverley has been living alone in the family home for some years since her sister ran away and her grandmother died. She has made her peace with the Waverley "gifts" and runs a successful catering business, centred on dishes made from the herbs in the magical family garden. She is much sought after for the way her dishes affect the eaters, but no one gets close to her. It's a quiet life of contentment, until her sister returns and an attractive man moves in next door.

I thought the magic realist style fit very well with the Southern setting. There is something about the slightly quaint, mannered English (which I can only assume is an authentic Southern voice) that you find in books set in Dixie that lends itself to this treatment: a sort of timeless quality that makes magic likely, more than possible.

On the other hand, I also deeply sympathised with Sydney's flight from the family Gifts. Even reading about a town where your fate is determined by your family name was stifling enough to choke me.

What I wanted to cook to celebrate this book was decided pretty much as soon as I looked out my kitchen window. Our apple tree is very well-mannered. It provides shelter for many birds (and Urchin when she pursues birds) but it never tries to intrude, and under it one of my rose bushes was just coming nicely into flower.
Crystallised rose petals

I crystallised (beaten eggwhite, caster sugar, dried out over night) the petals from a couple of our (unsprayed, fragrant) roses. And I used them to garnish a rose and lime pannacotta.

Rosewater and Lime Pannacotta (serves 2)

170ml double cream
1tbs caster sugar
zest of a lime
50ml water
1 heaped tsp gelatine

Sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water and leave to sponge. Warm the cream, lime zest and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the water and gelatine and stir until the gelatine melts completely. Stir in rosewater to taste. It absolutely must be to taste - the slightest hint too much and it is like grandma's knicker drawer.

Strain into two wetted ramekins, cover with cling film and chill over night.

Turn out (and truth be told, I took a picture of it in the ramekin as well, in case the whole operation went tits up) onto serving plates. Serve with rhubarb and strawberry compote (also delicately flavoured with rose) and some of the crystallised petals. Utterly sublime.

Edited to add: oh bollocks - I was just googling for something else and came upon this remarkably similar recipe from Diana Henry. I regularly read her column so that must have been floating away in the back of my subconscious. I wonder if there are any genuinely original ideas out there now?

Sunday 12 June 2011

Dan, Dan, he's our man!

Dan Lepard is probably not as well known outside the UK as he should be, but I think most people who take an interest in baking bread come across him eventually.

I have become increasingly aware that he is my go-to guy for bread and cake recipes, and his forum is great for getting help when things go wrong (like thinking I killed my sourdough). Very accessible, very detailed, very good results.

His cornmeal muffins made a brilliant eggs benedict. I followed the recipe absolutely as written (I know, so unusual!) and found the technique of starting them in a pan and finishing them in the oven gave a very professional result. As you'd expect from these recipes really.

The more interesting thing about that brunch, to my mind, was that it is the first time I have split a hollandaise and had to rescue it. Very gratifyingly, the classic technique of starting with a fresh yolk and adding the split sauce little by little worked really well. It would have been a crying shame to have an imperfect sauce on those perfect muffins!

I actually poached the eggs as well, but for some reason I couldn't get the white to veil the yolk, and I ended up with eggs that looked fried but had the tender, melting texture of poached eggs.

With the baked upside-down cheesecake, I went a bit off-piste. I used cumquats instead of rhubarb for the base layer (because I'd had them in my veg box). Jude had had reservations about eating it warm, and I decided to take her advice and let it cool before serving. I thought it was brilliant that way - the sweetly acid cumquats, creamy cheese and slighty crunchy ginger biscuit layer worked brilliantly together. Maybe I would have loved the recipe as written, but I really, really loved my variation!

In Sydney I used to buy a gorgeous bread that had cloves of caramelised garlic kneaded into it. Best thing in the world with a runny cheese. I was delighted to find this recipe for something that sounded identical.

Unfortunately I got slightly lazy with this one and missed out one of the folding and turning steps - only later realising that they were all in there for a very good reason. So my garlic was not as perfectly distributed through the bread as it should have been. Beautiful flavour and perfectly textured crumb though!

I've had the recipe for halva flapjacks bookmarked for almost a year, waiting for a good moment and an open jar of tahini. I used apricots as my dried fruit, because I felt the condensed milk and sugar needed a little more zing to balance. I used the whole quantity of oats called for, and I actually think I should have added a bit more. And probably baked them a bit longer. The flavour was wonderful, but they were a bit gooier than I like. I think baking them a bit longer would have given me the chewier texture I prefer.

I thought last year I had found the perfect burger bun recipe (sorry about the music on the link), but when I saw this recipe for poppy seed & onion burger buns, I decided that I had to give them a go.

Turned out I didn't actually have any poppy seeds, so I topped these with sesame and nigella seeds.

My burgers were made from 450g buffalo mince, the grated marrow from a 5" chunk of marrowbone and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Most of the marrow renders out in the cooking, but it leaves the lean buffalo beautifully moist and succulent, with a fairly open texture.

So I think I have a new preferred burger bun. They were really excellent.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Tuna Confit Salad

Another brilliant recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi. I love the colour of the spuds boiled with turmeric.

My only changes: used a few jalapenos instead of piquillo peppers (which I couldn't get hold of), didn't toss it (didn't want to break up my gorgeous tuna and beautiful boiled eggs), didn't add extra salt (it's got olives, anchovies, capers and preserved lemon in it, extra salt is ridiculous).

A very delicious summer supper.

Sunday 5 June 2011

Strawberry season

Apparently this is a good year for strawberries. Biggest & best English strawberry crop for years, they say. And that is fine by me! Certainly our strawberries got off to a very good start with these fine specimens.

Hulled, quartered and thrown onto some of the best pancakes I have ever made (1.5 cups plain flour, 0.5 cups SR flour, 2 eggs, a leftover spoonful of sour cream and enough milk to make a batter, rested half an hour) with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a good sprinkling of crunchy sugar. Perfection.

Friday 3 June 2011

Tapas Revolution

A lovely bottle of Tempranillo, very reasonably priced.



Pa Amb Tomaquet and patatas bravas

Pinchos Morunos & romesco sauce - made with rib eye, yum!

Ox cheek in sherry


Manchego & membrillo, churros & chocolate


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