Monday 28 September 2015

Purple kale, sausage and bean stew

This was inspired by a Portuguese caldo verde - but it turns out purple kale doesn't lose much colour when it's cooked, unlike a lot of other purple veg, so I guess it is caldo roxo?

Anyway, this is a one-pot meal that requires very little in the way of preparation. But the kale really does take a solid 45 minutes to become tender. I don't think it would have suffered to have an hour and a half.

This isn't a proper recipe. I just sauteed 4 or 5 whole cloves of wet garlic in olive oil, then added a couple of sliced Montbéliard sausages and a small diced potato that needed using up. A good slosh of vermouth, the washed and shredded kale and then I put the lid on for it to steam on a low heat for about half an hour. A tin of cannelini beans, a stock cube and enough boiling water to make it stewy but not soupy. If I was making it for three people I'd add an extra tin of beans but keep the rest the same.

Monday 21 September 2015

Yes, Chef! Doro wat and injera

I first heard of Marcus Samuelsson from Joanne's blog - she was publishing some of her recipes on his blog. And shamefully I didn't pay very much attention. They were her usual healthy but delicious-sounding vegetarian dishes but I never looked into who this Marcus Samuelsson was. If I had a mental image of him I guess I imagined he was a vegetarian chef from Minnesota or something. Then I saw an episode of The Taste and realised that he was definitely not a vegetarian from Minnesota.

It meant that I was delighted when his memoir, Yes, Chef!, was chosen as the latest Cook the Books Club selection. And the story of how an Ethiopian child was raised in Sweden and became a celebrity chef in New York is really quite something. In a Sliding Doors scenario there are so many little twists that could have changed everything - if his mother hadn't made it to Addis Ababa, if his grandmother hadn't taught him to cook - so many factors came into play, but Samuelsson's determination is the thing that shines through.

Having read Helen Graves' posts about visiting Ethiopia with World Vision, and the process of making injera, I was pretty keen to have that as part of my Cook the Books contribution. I discovered that Ocado sell teff flour in tiny quantities, but it was enough for me to have a go.

I followed this method, using 23g of teff flour and 60 ml water for a half quantity, every time it specified 1/3 and 1/2 cups. I did a seven day ferment, and it behaved perfectly. It bubbled when the recipe said it would bubble and had a fermented, grassy aroma when it was supposed to. I didn't do the bit with the food processor, because the flour was very finely milled and there wasn't any grainyness to get rid of.

The final addition of the self-raising flour was fascinating. This was my mixture when I added it - sitting just below the 400ml mark.

And this was the mixture a couple of hours later when I was ready to cook them. I guess the acid from the sourdough activated the raising agents in the flour and made it go nuts. Very satisfying.

I wanted to do something that would acknowledge both Samuelsson's Ethiopian and Swedish heritages, and I thought that little injera would be an outstanding base for very Scandi sour cream and cured fish. So leaving the batter a bit thick, I made canapé-sized bites.
They look like little crumpets
I meant to top them with crème fraiche, gravadlax and salmon roe, but laziness got the better of me and I couldn't be bothered making the gravadlax. I just went more lavishly with the salmon roe.

As a little snack these were perfect. The tang from the injera was the perfect thing with the salty salmon and creamy, sour crème fraiche. I might have to do these again, maybe for Christmas.

The main event, though, was the injera served with Samuelsson's own recipe for Doro Wat and a mustardy lentil salad. The lentil salad was not at all to my taste, but the firey Doro Wat was delicious.

I actually made this right at the beginning of August, but hadn't got around to posting. So now you only have about a week left if you want to join in! But it is definitely worth a read.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Square Pie's Pie World Cup

From time to time people (usually people who don't know us well) ask us how we co-habit, as an Australian and a South African. How do we manage about sport? Doesn't it get fraught? Are there hostile silences  and cross words about cricket? It's actually pretty easy - neither of us is particularly nationalistic and neither of us pays much attention to the sort of sports that people get nationalistic about. I knew the Rugby World Cup was coming but, well, it's not Quidditch is it?

So I haven't been getting too excited at the prospect of dozens of burly men running around in tight shorts. I mean obviously it's crossed my mind, but let's not get carried away. It takes a good food gimmick to get me really worked up.

Square Pie have come up with just that gimmick in their Pie World Cup. They've developed a pie for each of the countries competing in the Rugby World Cup, and on the days each team plays, they'll put the pies up against each other in their stores. They'll be tallying the sales and putting them in a league table for a chance to progress to the next round. So tomorrow, to coincide with the tournament opener, England's steak and ale will be up against Fiji's goat curry.
The Australian Pie
I've had the steak and ale - it's their classic that they sell through Ocado as wee canapies as well as full-sized pies. It's very good, and as a bit of a sweetener, Square Pie has partnered with the Dallaglio Foundation. 10p from the sale price of every Dallaglio Foundation steak and ale pie will go towards their work with disadvantaged young people.

At the launch of the Pie World Cup I was hoping that they'd have canapie-sized pies so I could try a good range, but sadly they were full-sized. With the best will in the world I can't eat more than two pies, and I was on my way to my dance class and the prospect of two hours of spotting spins on a full stomach inhibited me further. But I had to try the Australian pie - as I said, I'm not hugely nationalistic, but the combination of kangaroo, mushroom and shiraz sounded like a winner. The pastry was nice and flaky: it wouldn't pass the old Australian footy pie test of eating it out of hand, but as long as you have access to a plate and fork it's the perfect texture. The filling was richly meaty - I wouldn't swear to being able to tell the difference between kangaroo, venison and beef in a blind tasting but it definitely tasted good. Maybe a little too sweet from carrots, but that's a minor quibble. I didn't even reach for the ketchup which is my default when faced with a pie.

I only had room for a couple of bites of a second flavour of pie, and which pie to choose was a real dilemma. I would have liked to try the Fiji goat curry, or Georgian chicken, mushroom and sour cream, but I opted for Canadian moose. Now, I was expecting moose to be similar in flavour to kangaroo or venison, but it was much more delicate. More like veal than beef. The Canada pie is very peppery and, dare I say it? much more to my taste than the Australian pie.

The Pie World Cup is only running in store, so I am going to have to print out the fixtures card and plan some trips into Old Spitalfields Market to taste some of the others. I think the pie draw is more evenly matched than the rugby teams - but may the best pie win.
O Canada!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Summer pork hotpot

vegetable bed
 This is another slightly heartier dish that in no way acknowledges that summer is over. It's a one-pot meal but full of light, bright, Mediterranean flavours. It's also a nice way to cook pork rib chops so they are tender and delicious, and if you are a courgette grower, this uses a few up.

Summer Pork Hotpot (serves 2-3)

1 onion, halved and sliced
3 courgettes, cut into chunks
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
100ml white wine or vermouth
2-3 potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 pork rib chops (lean-ish but not super lean)
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 160C.

In the bottom of a casserole or ovenproof pan with a lid, spread the onion slices. Scatter over the courgette chunks, cherry tomatoes, garlic and some thyme. I used dried, but fresh would be nicer. Sprinkle with white wine or vermouth and season with some salt and pepper.

Top the vegetables with a layer of potato slices, then the pork chops. Season with more salt and pepper.

Cover with the lid and bake gently for an hour, then remove the lid, turn up the heat to 200C and cook for another half hour to get some colour on the spuds. Needs no other accompaniment.

Friday 11 September 2015

Unearthed Christmas

The view from The Globe
I mainly just potter along, posting what I feel like, when I feel like it and not really bothering too much about how I "grow my brand" or any of that serious blogger business. Which puts me in a position to be a bit smug when something like the tawdry #BloggerBlackmail hits social media.

But of course the week that unedifying hashtag blew up, I had a lovely invitation to do serious blogger business at a brand event. So obviously when I arrived at the Globe for the Unearthed Christmas Press Show I demanded £100 worth of macarons. They shoved a cocktail in my hand and told me to stuff my face with sausage. Fair enough. That sort of free and open communication prevents all sorts of misunderstanding.
Iberico meat platter
Unearthed have very kindly invited me to several events over the years, but this is the first one I've been able to attend. It was lovely putting a face to the twitter account! I am, however, very familiar with many of their products, because Paul has a two-salami a day charcuterie habit and Ocado often has the Unearthed range on discount. They hit a very pleasing balance of quality and accessible pricing which I like and often have delicious and unusual products perfect for savoury snackers like us. I'm still mourning the loss of the smoked semi-dried tomatoes that they ran as a temporary line earlier this year.

Brussels sprout salad. Delicious. Really.
While I love smallgoods, the salads were particularly inspiring. I'm a huge fan of fancying up a salad by chucking on deli items, but these were on another level: feta, artichoke and brussels sprout, and freekeh, tomato and smoked cranberry. The cocktail offered in lieu of macaron was a lovely combination of Makers Mark bourbon, strawberry purée, raspberry liqueur and lime juice which packed a punch but I don't think it addled my palate. So when I tell you that the brussels sprout salad was really delicious, you can trust me. Really. But follow the links to the recipes and see for yourself.
Freekeh, roasted tomato, olives and smoked cranberry salad
As well as trying the salads, I tasted a few of the new lines that are being introduced for Christmas. They are entering into "gifting" (horrible word) for the first time, with some snazzy decorative kilner jars of olives (the citrus Nocellara with garlic were particularly good) and glass beer mugs of snacking chorizo or fuet. Fortunately Kavey recently mentioned on Facebook that she had made fuet so I was able to assume a knowledgeable air on the subject. I think it is safe to say Paul is absolutely going to love those fuets and in a couple of months I will be trying to figure out what to do with a dozen empty glass beer mugs. I might have to open a hipster cocktail pop-up. I really enjoyed the pâté, unusually topped with rhubarb, packed in a cute earthenware dish and sold in a duo with an apple-topped pâté. The apple one looked striking, and the pâté itself was delicious, but I think as a garnish the whole slice of apple would be a bit awkward and it would end up being put to one side and discarded.

They are also expanding their range of platters, which should do very well for them over the Christmas entertaining season. The Iberico meat platter looks particularly good as a more expensive treat. I'm just hoping that the snacking fuet and Iberico meat platters are available on Ocado, so I don't have to venture into actual shops with actual other people.

DISCLAIMER: I was invited to attend the Unearthed Christmas Press Show and given a goodie bag of olives and a USB stick. No other compensation was offered or requested and I was not required to post a review. All comments are my own and some may be hyperbolic for comedic effect.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Kale & blue cheese mash

It's another Mystery Box Madness week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where, from a notional box of ten ingredients, you have to choose three and make a dish using them from one of the twelve featured writers. Which sounds like it needs a Venn diagram to explain, but I hope it makes sense. Anyway, this month's ingredients were Salmon (fresh, smoked or canned), Green Peas (dried, fresh, frozen or canned), Hazelnuts, Eggplant, Parmesan Cheese, Kale, Apples (any color/kind), Blue Cheese, Rosemary, Bread Rolls/Buns.

I ended up surprising myself and choosing kale as one of the ingredients. There are few dishes where I have enjoyed kale - mostly cooked long and slow with cured pork products - and the ridiculous kale health bandwagon has annoyed me so much I have pretty much avoided it on principle. I have never had a kale chip and I don't mind if I never do.

But Nigel Slater's mash with blue cheese and cavolo nero is pretty much the opposite of a worthy raw vegan kale smoothie. It's a little early in the year for cavolo nero, and that is a type of kale I really don't enjoy unless cooked very slowly, so I opted for tender baby kale leaves instead. His method makes the mashed potato, then tops with butter-sautéed cavolo nero which is then bathed in melted butter infused with rosemary (challenge ingredient number two) and blue cheese (challenge ingredient number three). I didn't do it that way. Instead, while the potatoes were draining, I sizzled the rosemary in the butter, added the potatoes back to the pan, mashed them with the rosemary butter, then folded in the raw kale and chunks of blue cheese. The baby kale leaves were tender enough to wilt in the heat of the potatoes and not need extra cooking.

My other embellishment was some of my garlic. I wrapped the whole head in foil and put it on the barbecue alongside the chicken we had with the mash. Then I squeezed out the luscious cloves on top of the potatoes, and added a little extra butter, champ-style.

It was an excellent accompaniment to the smoky chicken, but, in the way of potatoes, they really suck up the seasoning. I could have doubled the amount of rosemary and blue cheese and it wouldn't have been too much. And I think the addition of garlic is a must.

Monday 7 September 2015

Lamb shanks with borlotti beans and gremolata

It's only the first week of September, but apparently summer is over. There is a chill in the air, and although it's quite sunny today it rained all last week and it was cold enough that I had to get the winter duvet out. Mostly it's just been folded over my feet in bed, to the cat's delight, but I needed to know it was there.

I'm really not quite ready to embrace the colder months. I haven't had my fill of summer salads and fruits, lightly grilled fish and well-chilled white wine. But the other night I was cold and lamb shanks were discounted.

Lamb shanks with borlotti beans and gremolata (serves 2 with leftover beans)

200g dried borlotti beans (or 1 400g can cooked beans if you don't have time/can't be bothered)
2 bay leaves
olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled but whole
1 onion, finely diced
2 sticks celery, sliced
2 lamb shanks
white wine or vermouth
chicken stock
2 sprigs rosemary
Bunch flat leaf parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1 fat clove garlic, extra

Boil the beans and bay leaves hard in lots of water for about 45 minutes or until just tender - this does away with the need to pre-soak them. Drain.

In a flameproof casserole, warm a good slug of olive oil and add the anchovy fillets, garlic, onion and celery. Cook over a medium heat until the vegetables soften, then turn heat up, add the shanks and brown on all sides. Add a healthy glassful of white wine or vermouth, and allow to bubble for a couple of minutes to reduce a bit. Then add the drained beans and enough chicken stock to just cover them. Add the rosemary, cover with a cartouche and the lid and allow to simmer over a low heat. Depending on the age of the lamb and how long you have in hand, it'll be OK in an hour and better in two. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and additional salt if needed.

Mince together the parsley, lemon zest and extra garlic, and use most of it as a garnish, stirring the rest of it into the beans to give them a lift and a small reminder of summer.

Thursday 3 September 2015

Le Deux Salons

This is my thousandth published post. I can't help but think that with a bit of planning I could have published my thousandth post the other week on my eighth blogoversary. That would have been good. But that kind of strategy isn't really how I roll...

When I last went to Le Deux Salons, in 2011, I was a bit concerned that I was the last person to go and everyone else had moved on. Well, it wasn't as bad as that, but rumour has it that by the time it was sold to Prescott & Conran last year it was looking a bit wilted.
Reserve de Gassac Rosé
Then, suddenly, a couple of months ago I started to be bombarded by emails from Le Deux Salons and the other Prescott & Conran properties. I have to say things must have got pretty dire if my details from one lunchtime meal deal all those years ago were considered part of the goodwill of the business. I was on the point of getting really annoyed when one email caught my attention - a "Best of the French Riviera" menu, of a starter, bouillabaise, dessert and a half bottle of Rosé for £32. Not quite the three courses for £15.50 of my last visit but it still sounded like good value. And fortunately my lunch partner of the last visit was on her long school holidays, so we made a date for a holiday treat.
Crudités, fromage blanc
I don't remember an enormous amount about the décor from the last visit, but it's now looking just how you want a French restaurant to look. We were seated upstairs in the more formal restauranty bit where the tables are capacious and the tablecloths are crisply white. Lovely. Jude had the crudités with a herbed fromage blanc dip, which looked incredibly pretty. I had a platter of lovely jambon Noir de Bigorre, which I think is the French equivalent of Spanish pata negra. It was simply and generously served with some little cornichons. I do think the Spanish version, with the acorn sweetness of the fat is slightly better though.
Jambon Noir de Bigorre
I wasn't sure what to expect from the bouillabaisse. Most articles I've read about it make it sound quite rustic - Elizabeth David includes an account of an enormous cauldron boiling on a wood fire on the beach, full of a broth yellow from saffron and all the fish they could catch. What we got was not that. But was refined and delicious.
Three types of fish, fennel and potato
I do love a dish in multiple parts, so the sight of waiters coming towards us with many different dishes was very pleasing. We each got a copper dish with three types of fish (red mullet was one, not sure of the others), fennel and potato, a plate of toasted bread slices with a pot of aioli (I don't think it was red, spicy or saffrony enough to be the traditional rouille) and grated parmesan. The waiter then ladelled a couple of dainty spoonfuls of rich seafood broth over the fish and left each of us with a little tureen of the remaining broth.
Bread, aioli and parmesan
We ate the succulent, delicate fish with a little more of the broth, then I made a big delicious mess with the rest of the broth, thickening and seasoning it with the aioli and dunking in the toasted bread. Just wonderful. The white tshirt I was wearing was very much an error.
The waiter ladled on broth
For dessert we both had Brillat-Savarin cheesecake. The cheesecake I had back in 2011 was one of the finest I've ever had, and this was equally as good. The raspberries on the side weren't the best-flavoured fruit I've ever had, but they were just right to punctuate the rich, smooth cheese. All in all, it was an excellent lunch and I think well worth going back for. And it's very conveniently located right near Charing Cross station, so I might have to drag Paul in for a date night some time.


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