Thursday, 30 January 2014

Recipe - Fennel Pork Belly, Crispy Turnip and Potato, Panzanelle

I was watching young Jamie on TV recently being all 'you can use this leftover salmon in a pie' and I just thought GOD THIS ISN'T FAIR I CAN DO CHEAPER FOOD. But then I took a moment to consider how my recipes are all guesstimations. I have no clue how big a tablespoon is, ignore the quantities in recipes almost totally and am baffled by how Contrary can be bothered to measure things out in her fun silver spoons. (And this cba attitude of mine is what keeps me from making leeks as moreish as crack which is what Contrary cooked last night.) The only time I write useful recipes is when I write them for the Explorer and they are so specific. But that's what most people want from a recipe I guess. But I can't give that to them! I throw things into recipes and while I know how much I want to add, I have no idea how to quantify that to another. Anyway, you win, Jamie. You win because I can't be bothered to specificate (a word I have just invented) how this pork belly (reduced to £3.50) made two portions of Mediterranean-y roast, four portions of Thai inspired noodle and four portions of Spanish omelette. You bloody win.

Pork belly, about a kilogram in weight
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 cloves garlic

In a pestle and mortar, crush up 4 cloves peeled and chopped garlic with a teaspoon of fennel seeds.
Rub all over the inside of the pork belly and tie.
Heavily season the outside with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. 
Place in the oven at 220 for half an hour, reduce the heat to 150 and leave in the oven for a further 3 hours. 

For the potato and turnip thing, I stuck roughly to this recipe but using 1 turnip and 3 medium white potatoes.

For the panzanelle, I used Polpo's recipe but again, cut me some corners.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Review - Delisserie

It was the first Saturday after the Explorer returned! We went on an adventure to North London. We travelled for an hour and a half by bus, train and then bus again and eventually surfaced at Temple Fortune. We headed into our desired lunch spot. They said 'no tables'. We looked disappointed, they took a booking for in half an hour's time. We thought maybe we should invert the order in which we do brunch and charity shopping and headed to All Aboard. All Aboard in Temple Fortune observes the Sabbath. We stepped inside a jewellery shop and I almost bought the Explorer a new watch. But it had an ugly strap and despite the shopkeeper's valiant efforts to sell us a sub par replacement strap, we left. We still had twenty minutes to kill. We went into Waitrose to look at the wine. But the aisle was only three small shelves! So we went over the Marks and Spencers and there we were met with rows and rows of libation. After some dithering, I chose two wines of the month. We went to the longest checkout where I noticed the lady in front of me had a pack of black thongs. I decided now would be a good time to stock up on underwear and headed back to the 'non food' bit of the shop. Sadly, all the pants were size 18 and above and so I returned to the checkout empty handed. A lady tried to let us go in front of her but we insisted she go ahead of us and be slow about it. Then, at precisely 13:27, we returned to Delisserie. 
The menu immediately has that 'Ahh I don't know what to have because I would enjoy everything' effect. The front runners were the salt beef and chopped liver sandwich or the chicken schnitzel. I decided to compromise by getting a Broadway but asking them to replace the hummus with coleslaw. The Explorer had a rare steak sandwich which came with gloriously crisp shoestring fries. I went rogue and ordered latkes and chopped liver on the side. The combinations were so harmonised! Both the individual components of each dish and the dishes together. The steak was rare but lacking that slightly wet quality that often puts me off rare beef. The ciabatta tasted fresh and fluffy and resisted soaking up all of the smoky BBQ sauce. I can't tell you if the chopped liver was a good example of  what it tried to do but I can tell you that it was supremely enjoyable - sweet and luxe. The latke was both chewy and crisp and scented with a herb I can't quite place. The schnitzel sandwich sated my craving: tender, slightly stringy meat encased in robust crumb. I love crumb. And I loved the lightness of the coleslaw. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Pilaf recipes

I've made four recipes from Moro in the past two weeks. Dill is my new favourite herb. I no longer understand where the dill haters are coming from. Three of the recipes have been pilafs, possibly because I feel useful soaking the rice for three hours as the recipes suggest you should. I had intended for the aubergine and tomato pilaf to be consumed alone but then Moro was all 'we would serve this with some grilled chicken or lamb' and I had a MAD MAD craving for red meat and so that settled that. It worked equally well with some grilled salmon the next day. But really, on its own it was so delicious that to sully it with meat was my gout-prone failing.
Aubergine and tomato pilaf
50g unsalted butter
150g basmati rice, soaked in salted water for three hours
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp allspice
3 small aubergines, chopped into inch square cubes, salted and then roasted until soft
1 tin plum tomatoes
Half cinnamon stick
Flat leaf parsley, chopped

Melt 50g unsalted butter in a saucepan.
Add garlic and allspice and fry for five minutes until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, mashing up, and simmer, covered, for twenty minutes.
Add the cinnamon stick and rice and fry for a further minute.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the aubergines, stir, then add enough water to cover by an inch.
Cover with a tight lid and simmer over a medium high heat for five minutes.
Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for a further five minutes.
Remove from heat and leave covered for five minutes.
Add the chopped parsley.

Lamb and caraway pilaf
400g stewing lamb, chopped into small cubes
Half onion, grated
1 tbsp tomato puree
Half cinnamon stick

Place the above in a saucepan with a little olive oil, cover with enough water to submerge the lamb and simmer, partially covered, for around an hour - an hour and a half.

50g butter
2 small round cabbages, shredded
2 tsp caraway seeds
150g basmati rice, washed and soaked for 3 hours
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Melt the butter.
Add the caraway and fry for a minute until fragrant.
Add the cabbage and fry for a few minutes.
Add the rice and coat well in butter.
Add the lamb mixture, stir well, season with salt and pepper.
Add enough water to be about an inch above the mixture.
Cover tightly and simmer over a high heat for 4 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for a further 5 - 6 minutes.
Stir through parsley.

Broad bean and dill pilaf
50g butter
6 spring onions, finely sliced (including green)
Half teaspoon allspice
150g basmati rice, washed and soaked for 3 hours
Bunch of dill, finely chopped
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Melt the butter. Add the spring onions and allspice and fry over a medium heat for about ten minutes until very fragrant and sweet smelling.
Add the rice and coat well. 
Add half of the fresh herbs.
Season with salt and pepper and add enough water to cover with about an inch.
Cover and simmer over a medium high heat for about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Stir through the remaining fresh herbs.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Some more healthy (or at least meat-free) recipes

I'm maintaining my healthy eating and slightly healthier drinking lark. Beyond five drinks, I've always abstained. It's resulted in me feeling quite tipsy after only a glass and also in making me aware of how prone to alcoholism I am. I've also continued with my quest in learning to so things with cookery that I haven't yet 'mastered'. This is aided by Contrary and her highly elaborate and effortless dinner parties. She just whipped up a quiche! Pastry and all. Anyway, I was all 'it's time for soufflé' but then the Explorer kept me awake all night (not in a dirty way, in a drunk and needed tending way) and I cah to get out the electric whisk. So I changed my mind and wanted to make some fishcakes. I had my pots all simmering away and then I just thought FUCK IT let's make a fish pie. So that's what I did. (The picture below is of one of the other healthy-ish recipes I made though.)

Roasted aubergine and pepper pasta
2 small aubergines
5 small sweet peppers

Place the vegetables under a hot grill for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until soft and starting to blacken on the outside.
Wait for them to cool and then peel all and deseed the peppers.
Chop the flesh from the vegetables roughly

4 anchovies, chopped
1 tbsp capers
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
Small bunch of parsley, chopped

Drizzle a little olive oil in a pan.
Add the garlic and chilli and fry for a minute.
Add the capers and anchovies and fry for a further minute.
Add the flesh from the grilled vegetables and the tomato puree.
Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Toss with pasta (this makes enough for 2 large portions) and parsley.

Aloo bhaji
This is most commonly known to me as a Bengali breakfast food.

1 large potato, chopped into fine matchsticks
Half onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp turmeric
Coriander, chopped

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the onion and fry until translucent.
Add the turmeric and fry for a further minute.
Add the potatoes, season with salt, and fry over a medium heat for five minutes or so.
Cover for 2 minutes to let become tender.
Uncover and fry for a further 2 minutes to let the water evaporate once more.
Stir through coriander and serve with roti/chappati.

Smoked haddock pie
500g smoked haddock
300ml whole milk
2 cloves
3 peppercorns
Half teaspoon of ground nutmeg

2 potatoes, one peeled and one unpeeled, chopped into large chunks
200g spinach

30g butter
30g flour
30g grated cheddar

Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain well.
Steam the spinach and drain well.

Place the haddock with the milk and aromatics in a saucepan. Over a low to medium heat, bring to a simmer.
Remove from the heat.
Reserve the milk.
Remove the skin and bones from the haddock.

Melt butter over a medium heat.
Add the flour and stir to make a roux.
Add all but a tablespoon of the reserved milk, slowly, stirring to make a smooth sauce.
Stir in the spinach, haddock and cheese.

Mash the potatoes roughly. Add the remaining tablespoon of milk.

In a baking tray, pour in the haddock mixture.
Top with the potato and season with pepper.
Bake for twenty minutes until the top has crispy bits.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Recipe - Spaghetti and Meatballs

THE EXPLORER IS BACK. Now I have someone to join me in my inactivity. OR THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT. On the day of his arrival, I went to meet him from the station wearing my precious new coat, fried him an egg, hung out for a while and then he shooed me away so he could 'study'. So, I set my concentration back to cooking, with a particular focus upon making things bind. I helped Juicy bind some meatballs the other day. Well, I say 'helped', when I really mean she did all the hard stuff but then I got to put on a REALLY GREAT ikea apron and roll them into balls while she shelled some broad beans. But anyway, it got me to thinking: what's stopping ME from rolling meat into balls? Nothing.
Spaghetti and meatballs
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
A few sage leaves, finely chopped
A sprig of thyme, leaves picked off
250g beef mince
250g pork mince
1 egg
70g breadcrumbs

Fry the onion and garlic in butter until translucent. Let cool.
Mix the other ingredients in a bowl. Once the onion and garlic has cooled, add them to the bowl.
Mix everything together with your hands.
Form into golf ball sized meatballs - it yielded about 20.
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large frying pan and browning the meatballs in two batches, using tongs to turn.

1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes
1 can plum tomatoes

Place the cherry tomatoes in a medium heat oven for about 20 minutes until roasted.
Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil over a medium heat until browned.
Add the roasted cherry tomatoes and canned tomatoes.
Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about an hour.
Add the browned meatballs and simmer for a further half an hour.
I served this with spaghetti tossed with a little garlic and parsley butter and parmesan.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Recipe - Pork and Squash Enchiladas

Guys, all I do is shop and cook now. I have more time to write blog but nothing to say. I went to the shops no fewer than 8 times last week. The lowest point was on Saturday when I decided I would go and freecycle lots of stuff I will probably never use. The man offering the goods was all 'there's been a lot of interest so whoever gets here first will win' and that really set my competitive edge into gear. Well, actually, it set my 'oh I have nothing to do between getting back from tutoring and Stompy getting here and I feel that another episode of Gilmore Girls might be excessive' gear into gear. (It's a very specific bicycle.) So off I trotted to Whitechapel to collect a record player, projector and some pseudo-working cameras. I had to get a cab to schlep it all home. In fact, I had to call two but the first was twenty minutes late but then I had a nice chat (in Bengali!!) with the second one so I suppose that's a happy ending. This photo makes the food look gross but it was actually very tasty.

1 onion, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 large red chilli, finely sliced
400g pork mince
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 can mixed beans in chilli sauce

In a little vegetable oil, over a medium heat, fry the onion, garlic and chilli.
Once the onions have browned, turn the heat up and add the pork.
Once the pork has browned, add the spices.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the beans and simmer while the rest of the parts are cooked.

6 small, sweet peppers
1 can plum tomatoes
Handful of finely chopped coriander and parsley

Place the peppers under a hot grill for about 10 - 15 minutes until tender.
Peel and deseed the peppers. Place in the food processor and whizz until smooth.
Heat a little olive oil in a sauce pan and add the pepper mixture.
Add the tomatoes, season with salt and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the herbs.

4 large tortillas
Pork mixture
Tomato and pepper sauce
Handful of finely chopped coriander and parsley
Grated cheddar
Black pepper

Roughly split the pork mixture into four.
Place in a tortilla and wrap.
Place 'more likely to open' side down in the baking tray.
Pour the tomato and pepper sauce over the top of the wraps.
Scatter over cheese, herbs and pepper.
Bake in an oven heated to 200 for around 15 - 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and browned.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Recipe - Fish Tagine with Saffron Rice and Roasted Cauliflower

Hey, I rediscovered my Moro cookbook. As I'm fond of telling people, a law firm I worked for took me to Moro to make me want to work for them. It didn't have the desired effect but not because the food wasn't up to scratch - it was - it's just that I could eat good food without working in law. Anyway, after eating there, I paid a lot more attention to the Moro cookbook I received as a gift aged 17. And in second year, I remember paying particularly keen attention to it. But then my approach to recipes changed and became a lot more off-the-cuff. However, giving up my do-gooding has meant that I once more having the time to do very little in vast expanses of time. This is intensified by the fact that the Explorer's still isn't back yet. But I suppose it has also made it acceptable to read cookbooks, amble around the market looking for obscure ingredients, and follow recipes correctly. Well, as far as I can be bothered. Anyway, Juicy (this is Incredibly's girlfriend and she now requires her own nickname) had cooked for me a couple of weeks previously. She'd made a REALLY delicious meatball and broad bean dish of Ottolenghi's and it had made me reflect on the fact that when people come to eat at mine, I don't really make particularly noteworthy food. So I was determined to have her over and cook some Ottolenghi (chicken sofrito, to be exact) but then Contrary can't eat meat so I looked to Moro for inspiration and found this tagine. I exhaled a sigh of relief when Incredibly reached for seconds.

Chermoula marinade
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 lemon, juice only
Half tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil

Combine using a food processor/pestle and mortar. Place most of it (I'd say about three quarters) on the fish and stand in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Fish tagine
2 onions
1 large green chilli, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 thumb sized piece ginger
200g cherry tomatoes
Green peppers, blackened under a hot grill then skinned, deseeded and cut into strips

Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli over a medium heat in vegetable oil for around ten minutes until the onions are very soft and browning.
Add the cherry tomatoes and fry for a further two minutes.
Stir in the peppers and the remaining chermoula.

5 white fish steaks/fillets
20 new potatoes, peeled
10 pimento stuffed green olives
100ml water

Boil potatoes for about 10 minutes. Halve lengthways.

Layer the tagine: potatoes, tomato mixture, fish, a little more tomato mixture, olives.
Add water and a drizzle of olive oil.
Place fish on top and steam over a medium high heat for 15 minutes.

Saffron rice
80g butter
Half cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods
3 peppercorns
200g basmati rice
Rice water infused with saffron

Wash rice and soak in salted water for 3 hours
Melt butter. Add spices. Add washed rice, frying for a minute.
Pour in water and salt. Cover with greaseproof paper and lid.
After 5 minutes, drizzle over saffron water. Replace the lid and cook for a further 7 minutes.
Throw some caramelised onions on top.

Roasted cauliflower
Toss cauliflower with a quarter teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of ground coriander and 1 chopped red chilli and placed in oven for 30 mins until crisp.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Review - Stories

I went to the sort of restaurant I would never usually go to yesterday. We had plans to go to Little Georgia but I forgot to book so there was no room in the inn for us. We headed towards Broadway Market and ended up at Stories. Stories is a perfectly decent bar/pub/restaurant. However, I have reverse snobbery about the niche of bar/pub/restaurant that it is: the sanitised kind tailored to meet the requirements of the 'I make too much money to really be a hipster' crowd. There will probably be utilitarian seating arrangements and crockery. This will be offset by bizarre, vaguely tasteful ornaments. The toilets will have a faux 'rough American diner' feel and you may well have to be told how to switch on the tsp by a sign. All of these elements don't sound particularly offensive written down and, truthfully, they're not. Indeed, a lot of places I eat at could be reduced to exactly those elements. If a restaurant is not inhabiting the 'ooh a small, authentic (cheap) little place where they don't know how to decorate!' corner, it will almost certainly possess the above-mentioned elements. But I'd like to say the places I'd choose in that bracket make the cut because they're exceptional or noteworthy food-wise. The Breakfast Club and the Hackney Pearl both fit the description. However, I had to try the Breakfast Club at some point and the Hackney Pearl does serve a great brunch. If a restaurant doesn't have something aside from the decor and that type of seating that makes any place look quite smart, it seems quite generic. I suppose this is the equivalent of saying that it's not my thing because they didn't do it first and they don't do it best. Since I don't have the requisite knowledge to do that about music, it was only a matter of time until I started doing it about restaurants.
After having a conversation with the very nice (and pretty in exactly the way you'd expect) waitress, I went for the burger rather than calamari. It was, by all accounts, fine. Better than fine - to receive food that you can happily finish a plate of is a privilege that I shouldn't ignore because it's the norm now. But there's nothing special to say about it. The brioche was a good texture. The meat was too grainy. The pickles were a little too vinegary. The cheese too strong for the burger. I longed for more tomato. The chips were good. I can't say more than that.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

New Year Recipes

As I've discussed, home was almost pleasant (I used 'almost' for effect there, it was really quite pleasant) this Christmas. It was most pleasant on Saturday mornings when my mother wandered in and out of the chilly conservatory that she insisted I sat in because 'why did we build a conservatory if not for people to sit in?' (I don't know, mother, why did you?) with Saturday Kitchen and Nigel Slater on the TV. As you'd expect in the run up to New Year, it was all about his New Year's suppers. (I am sold on the Jerusalem artichokes but not so much on smoked salmon with bacon.) And that will be the theme of this post. While usually, not doing Christmas traditions drifts over to New Year where I don't arbitrarily choose that time of year to form a new habit in my life, this year I happened to make some lifestyle changes around the time anyway so we may as well call them resolutions. I started exercising (for literally 8 minutes a day but still) just before Christmas, eating better (not eating everything I want to whenever I want to) just after 1 January, and, most importantly, making a more rule-based effort to drink less as of 5 January. (I've also literally just signed up to give blood since, sadly for me but hooray for society, 5 years on, I'm certainly no longer too skinny to give blood.) Waking up on New Year's Day still drunk and then being unable to move until 5 really hit home the fact once again that I'm TOO OLD now. Later in the week, while having a 'last meal until May probably' with a friend who lives in France, I had the novel realisation that no one ever needs more than five drinks. So that's the new thing. Maximum three at a quiet social occasion and never, ever more than five, whatever the occasion. Oh, and rigorously keeping at least three nights dry every week. And this is to stick FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Anyway, this is some food I've cooked recently as the new 'fuck we're all getting old and haggard I must try to delay this' conscious Ari.

Bean and bean salad
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of capers, finely chopped
A few black oives
1 can cannelini beans, drained
2 sprigs thyme
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of green beans.
200ml chicken stock
Fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Fry the onion in olive oil until translucent.
Add the garlic and chilli, fry for a further two minutes.
Add anchovies, capers and olives, fry for a further minute. 
Add the thyme and tomatoes, fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the beans, stock and pepper.
Simmer, half covered, for about 15 minutes.
Add the green beans and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Stir in some parsley. 

Spaghetti with sage butter and tomatoes
Two portions of spaghetti
One tablespoon of butter
5 sage leaves, roughly chopped
2 sprigs thyme
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

Cook two portions of spaghetti.
Meanwhile, melt half a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over a medium-low heat. 
Cook for about 2 minutes then add the sage leaves. Continue to cook until deep brown but not burnt.
In a different saucepan, melt another half tablespoon of butter.
Add garlic and thyme, fry for a minute. 
Add the tomatoes and fry for about 4 - 5 minutes.
Drain the spaghetti but reserve half a cup of cooking water at the bottom.
Stir in the sage butter and the tomato mixture and toss. 
Season with pepper.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Recipe - Baked Eggs

I've been at home for almost a week now and surprisingly, it doesn't feel like that long. I mean, it's been boring, but in a mellow, enjoyable way rather than in an oppressive, soul-crushing way. Maybe this is what adulthood feels like. Anyway, I've done a whole lot of reading books I'd never otherwise read (Tristram Shandy), correcting my Quiz Up stats obsessively and cooking. I had another pop at the cakes I'd previously made to an unsatisfactory standard using my new Lakeland cookware they were BEAUTIFUL. I also did my (in)famous baked eggs and they were perfect once again.

Baked eggs on thyme tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
4 eggs

Melt a little butter in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic until translucent.
Add the tomatoes and fry for a further minute. 
Add the thyme and transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish.
Season with salt and pepper.
Crack 4 eggs on top of the mixture and season a little more.
Place in the oven for 12 - 15 minutes and remove when the whites are opaque and yolks are still gooey inside.