Thursday 30 August 2012

Tuna and Orecchiette

A few weeks back, Simona made orecchiette. As usual it was a very interesting and beautifully photographed post (I had no idea that orecchiette was made with different flour to other types of pasta) and it made me very keen to eat orecchiette, although not to actually make it from scratch.

I bought a packet of dried orecchiette and waited for inspiration to strike.

Then Paul said he wanted tuna steaks and I knew which direction to go. I decided on a version of the classic orecchiette with broccoli and anchovies, but using much more broccoli than pasta, and serving the tuna steak on top.

I boiled the pasta, and a couple of minutes before it was done, I added tender-stem broccoli (which is known as broccolini in Australia) cut into pieces. Then I drained them, and in the pan sauteed a couple of chopped anchovy fillets, a lot of garlic and a couple of chillies. Before the garlic took any colour, I added the pasta and broccoli back to the pan and added the zest and juice of a lemon, and a big handful of chopped parsley, and tossed it all together. Meanwhile, Paul was cooking the tuna steaks in a hot cast iron pan with a splash of oil and a bit of simple seasoning.

Monday 27 August 2012

Meat Free Monday - stuffed courgette flowers & peppers

One of the best things in life, in my opinion, is having a group of like-minded women to spend time with. About 8 years ago, I spent quite a lot of time knocking about Sydney with a bunch of excellent women that my now-husband affectionately referred to as the "Alco-tarts". We were all quite grown-up girls with fairly progressive social views who weren't particularly interested in clubbing but did like a bit of booze with some tasty snacks whilst we spent hours (and hours and hours) chatting and setting the world to rights.

Because of the varying dietary requirements of the Alco-tarts, we'd generally focus on some sort of vegetarian platter. There was one particularly good one, which featured little squishy-centred risotto cakes and deep-fried courgette flowers stuffed with cheese. I loved the courgette flowers! They were delicate and not at all greasy but abundantly filled with melted cheese.

When I saw that the people who supply my veg box were selling courgette flowers, I knew I had to try to replicate the ones I enjoyed all that time ago. The veg is delivered on a Monday, and because the flowers are so delicate I knew I'd have to cook them Monday night.

I scuttled into the kitchen as soon as I got home from work, and opened the veg box...

And discovered that the pretty little punnet contained just 4 courgette flowers. Totally scuttling my idea of eating just courgette flowers for dinner. Fortunately I'd also ordered some little peppers so I figured I'd stuff some of them to bulk out the meal. And discovered that there were only 4 of them as well.

I made a filling of 100g ricotta (leftover from another recipe), some garlic, some grated parmesan and a big bunch of chopped fresh basil, thyme and parsley.

Now, the theory with courgette flowers, as I understand it, is that you have to carefully unfurl the petals, take out the stamen and then stuff them. Well either I have ridiculously clumsy fingers (quite possible) or these flowers weren't in their absolute first freshness, but no matter how I tried the tips of the petals just sort of pureed in my fingers. I had to tear down them to get them open at all.

I stuffed them, folding the tears back up around the filling, and stuffed the little peppers. Then I dipped them in a light cornflour batter and shallow fried them for about 2 minutes a side, until they were all light and crisp, and drained them well on kitchen paper.

I served them on some chickpeas (canned), heated through in some home-made tomato sauce.

They were, actually, delicious. The flowers do taste delicately of courgette, and the filling was lovely, and the contrast of crisp outsides with melty, creamy middles was gorgeous. But given the fiddling, irritation and expense (did I mention that the punnet of 4 flowers cost £2.99?) they are definitely going to be something I leave to the professionals.

Friday 24 August 2012

Emptying the veg box in 2 dishes

Some weeks the veg box just gets away from me. An unplanned meal out, a craving for something different or a bunch of leftovers that need using up and all of a sudden the fridge is packed with vegetables that are slightly past their best.

I had one of those weeks recently. And I totally outdid myself by clearing the backlog in just two dishes.

I had some nice chicken stock made from the wingtips from my wings al ajillo, which always leads me towards a risotto. So half a marrow, a green onion, a big bunch of large broad beans and a handful of frozen peas went in that direction. It's a very good use for a marrow!

But of course, it meant I still had half a marrow. I also had half an aged butternut, a small cauliflower, another green onion and a couple of potatoes. I sliced it all up and put it in a pyrex dish, poured a mixture of cream, buttermilk and vermouth over it, then topped it with a really decadent bacon crumb topping (a couple of cloves of garlic, some bacon, some torn up bread and a spoonful of bacon jam, pulsed in the food processor until it is crumbly) and baked it until the veg was tender and the topping was crunchy and golden. Delicious. The crumb topping gave a real savoury punch, the buttermilk and vermouth added tang and cut through the richness a bit and the butternut and bacon kept it from being too blandly beige.

Bacon makes everything good

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Nigella's One Pan Sage & Onion Chicken & Sausages

This made 4 portions, with some steamed cabbage.

This is Nigella Lawson's recipe for chicken and sausages, baked with sage, onion and mustard. When I first got Feast I remember thinking it looked nice, but somehow I never got around to making it. Now that I have made it, I will definitely make it again! I used a pack of free-range chicken thighs, and didn't marinate it for very long at all (maybe 10 minutes) but it was still really delicious. All it needs is some greens - some spuds if you are really carb centric.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Foodies Festival

Not a bad view of the Thames
On Wednesday, I was pootling around the internet and discovered that Denhay Bacon were giving away tickets to something called the Foodies Festival, of which I had not heard. But the event was on this weekend, we had no plans and the Metropolitan line was running, so I entered. And won.

Paul and I have been talking for ages about going into London on a weekend when we have time to stroll about and look at stuff, instead of our more pressured daily commute, so this seemed like a good opportunity. Plus the weather forecast was for 28C, and being outdoors was desireable.

It turned out to be quite a long walk and actually a bit too hot for that sort of thing and we ended up collapsing onto a bus in Vauxhall for the final push to the festival.

Eventually though, we ended up at Battersea Park. Battersea Park is lovely! I had no idea. We need to go back and poke around a bit more, and take some pictures. By this stage, we were totally focussed on drinks and then food and couldn't really enjoy the massive trees and pretty ducks and whatnot.

We started with cider. This was possibly not the brilliant idea it could have been, as they were artisanal ciders (which in this case means still, not chilled and fairly alcoholic). However, I thoroughly enjoyed my half pint of Fiery Fox, which was just sweet enough and quite refreshing (although I really would have preferred it colder, even if that does dull the flavour).

Because the festival website is pretty poorly constructed (I felt it was more directed at getting suppliers to book booths, rather than at people planning to attend) I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to be seeing, so we did a sweep around while we drank our cider, to see what was there.

Clustered around the entrance was a series of food vans, doing a roaring trade. Sausage-inna-bun from many nations, hog roast, lamb roast, paella, tagine, the Mussel Men, cocktails, mocktails and wine. It was pretty obvious that a lot of people were coming through the gate and not getting past this inner ring of barbecue-scented heaven.

Beyond that, were rows of stalls. Some from restaurants doing little tasting plates (these weren't attracting nearly the attention that the vans were). Most selling food and food-adjacent stuff (I love the guy who sells the knives - he's at all these things). At this point I came across one of the downsides to being married to Paul - he hates accepting tasters. There were dozens of people offering us bites of bacon, mouthfuls of wine and whiskey (fortunately not in the same glass), cubes of feta, wodges of baklava and chunks of bread dunked in sauces and he just wanted to whisk by all of them. I did get to try a bit of a really delicious paratha, and a taste of a couple of really unusual sauces, but that was it.

Then it was back to the food trucks for lunch. We decided to get a few different things and share them, to maximise the variety of tastes.

Clearly, with a barbecue set up doing whole rib-eyes over a bed of charcoal, we had to have a sandwich from El Gaucho.

A simple, fresh white bread roll, stuffed with delicious meat and slathered with a chimichurri sauce. Even though those pieces of meat look like they have been cooked to buggery, the meat was still slightly pink in the middle and very tender. A very good way to begin our lunch. It was a bit difficult to get the second half out of Paul's paw so that I could try it, though.

For our second course, we had an Argentinian chorizo in a bun (I didn't get a good picture). It was, I think, the best chorizo I have ever had. Spicy, slightly smokey, very garlicky and delicious. It came with some rocket, grilled red pepper and some more chimichurri. Another excellent sandwich!

I asked where they get their chorizos from, and the guy behind the counter said they have a specialist butcher but wouldn't tell me who...

At this point another drink was in order, and because it really was a very warm day, we shared a pint of Pimms. Just perfect. It gave us the energy for our third course.

Banh Mi 11

Banh Mi 11 had one of the less-straightforward systems I have seen. You had to queue next to the boy doing the grilling, then order and pay one woman, who controlled the traffic, only letting you go up to the van window in twos and threes while your food was assembled. People who missed the memo and tried to queue directly at the window were sent away. The two girls who were actually putting the orders together were not the quickest or most efficient, so there was a bit of a wait.

It was worth it though. This was a truly delicious banh mi. It was their Imperial BBQ - thinly sliced pork belly, marinated in lemongrass, caramel and fish sauce. As much as I love the pate and mayonnaise you usually get in banh mi, this lighter version just stuffed with fresh pickled carrot and daikon, slices of cucumber and coriander really let the salty sweet meat come through.

At this point another drink was in order, so we shared a Sipsmith G&T. A double, of course.

None of the cooking demonstrations in the tent were floating my boat (Ed Baines, Clare Smyth - I hadn't noticed that there was a Middle Eastern food one on as well, I would have gone to that!) so we decided to do a final blitz on the stalls we knew we wanted to buy from and head home.

What did we buy? Seven German sausages (can't remember the name of the stall, but they were all Landjaeger/ salami sort of cured sausages with a lovely lactic tang), 3 packs of Great British Sausages, 2 Posh Pork Pies, and a bottle of King's Ginger. Not a bad haul for a day out. The wafting aroma of sausages from Paul's bag on the trip home was pretty funny though.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Deep-fried chicken wings al ajillo - best wings ever

As much as I love a buffalo wing (and I really do), I may never eat another one. Not because of the clear health benefits of avoiding deepfried chicken in a sweet and salty sauce, dipped in blue cheese, sadly, but simply because I have found something even better.

These Andalucian treats feature in José Pizarro's new book, apparently, and if all the dishes in the book are as good as this, then I want it! This recipe was in the paper last weekend though - I do like this sort of teaser. Hard to buy a cookbook without them, I think.

Deep-frying in batches
The wings are simply fried (no flour, no batter, just straight in the oil), then they are drained on paper and drizzled with a sauce of garlic, chilli, pimenton and sherry vinegar and sprinkled with salt.

Possibly not very good for proper tapas-style eating (I couldn't possibly manage to look sophisticated and keep myself clean in a public place while eating these!) but as a totally delicious snack amongst close friends they are ideal. And very, very juicy. Salty, spicy, a little bit sour and a little bit smoky, they cry out for cold beer, or chilled sherry. I think the sauce would also be delicious on sauteed potatoes.

Best wings ever
As a bonus, the trimmed wingtips made a nice little pot of good chicken stock, to squirrel away in the freezer  for risottos.

Sunday 12 August 2012

5th Blogoversary!

Happy 5th Birthday to Foodycat! 

5 years of taking pictures of my food and choosing my seat at the table based on the lighting. 5 years of telling Paul he can't have what he wants for dinner because I have to make something for a blog event. 5 years of making things I never thought I could make. 5 years of interacting with other bloggers all over the world and finding common interests and passions where I never thought they'd be. It's been a very good 5 years!

That 1M piping nozzle really does make the cack-handed decorator look professional.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Spring vegetable stew

This is basically Jamie Oliver's vignole recipe, adapted to what I had in the fridge at the time. So with baby turnips and bacon, but without artichokes, leeks, proscuitto and chard.

It was very, very good. But I think it is safe to say that the artichokes and leeks would have made it infinitely better. I don't mind a baby turnip from time to time but there was too much turnip on this plate. We just had it with some sourdough toast to mop up the juices.

Monday 6 August 2012

Meat-free Monday - Glazed beetroot and carrots

Urchin was fascinated by the mess of preparing beetroot
 Another veg box, another pile of carrots and beetroot. I roasted them separately (the beetroot whole, wrapped in foil, the carrots peeled and cut into chunks and rolled with a little olive oil) until tender, which takes much, much longer than you think it should. When the beetroot was tender, I peeled it and cut it into chunks and combined it with the carrots, and tossed it with a mixture of 2tbs maple syrup, 1tbs balsamic and 1/2 tsp chipotle paste.

Makes a good side dish, or a meal in itself with some cheese on toast. Or just some feta crumbled on top would be nice.

Amazing colour


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