Friday, 7 May 2010

Foodless Feast

No food to talk of this week, instead a smorgasbord of moving pictures to tickle your tastebuds....

Procrastination from Johnny Kelly on Vimeo.

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Celebratory Spring Sausagenese

As the name suggests it’s basically Bolognese but the beef has been swapped for sausage meat. I know that doesn’t sound as good as the Bolognese you probably make, but that is kind of the point. I have learnt that you must not mess with other people’s Bolognese. Bolognese for a lot of people is like a Yorkshire mum’s Yorkshire pud; sacred and untouchable and definitely not something you should dare to recreate.  So instead, I have created a sister to the mighty Bolognese, a different supper altogether. Related, of course, but with a distinct genetic different – sausage meat rather than mince. Sausage meat is obviously just minced pork, but with much more flavour, almost sweet, so the chilli is important. It’s cheap, easy, and most importantly its not competing with your Bolognese. And if you still want a Bolognese ask my friend Bert.

4  Sausages (they should really be good butcher’s bangers whatever flavour you like)
2 large onions finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
Not quite a whole tin of chopped tomatoes
A squidge of tomato puree
Worcestershire Sauce, however much you like
3 – 4 Anchovies chopped finely
Big dollop of French mustard
A few drops of Tabasco / a couple of dried chillies
A handful of fresh herbs – basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, whatever you can lay your hands on
And if you want to show off, a few bread crumbs toasted with some lemon zest to sprinkle decoratively on top.

Just think Bolognese: Soften the onions and garlic in a heavy based sauce pan until soft and see-through. Whilst they are cooking, slice open the sausages and scoop out the meat and drop soft little lumps of it into the pan with the onions to sizzle. It has a tendency to clump together so break it up a bit as you’re dropping it in. Fry off the meat until its sealed and golden, then add all your other ingredients. Give it a stir an leave to bubble quietly for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Boil up some pasta of your choice- in the name of tradition I normally go spaghetti, drain it and dress with a generous slick of olive oil. Toss your sauce through the spaghetti using a big fork-ish spoon and serve with some parmesan and if you’re doing the fancy bit sprinkle over your zesty breadcrumbs any other left over herbs. 

Friday, 16 April 2010

Chubby Cuppy Cake Boy

Aside from the fact that the poor child is about to have a cardiac arrest, this is just amazing.... "You're my yummy yummy yumkin..." Check out the eyebrows at the end.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

Rhubarb is my favourite fruit (or, to be pedantic, deceptively fruit like vegetable). Except for gooseberries. However rhubarb, unlike his socially inept friend, is much quicker to cook (excellent for Impatient People like myself) and less of a faff to prepare (again good for I.P.’s like me). And I think they are in season, just.

So this is a little rhubarb number I dreamt up lying in bed fretting about my six month review at work. Six month review now over and it turns out that it wasn't worth fretting about (phewf), but the upside of the fret was this.... please welcome in to your world the rhubarb upside down drizzle cake. Think lemon drizzle meets apple upside down in a big warm cake tin of rubarby almondy loveliness.

Baking and me don’t always get on; my first cake recipe, the indominiable Victoria sponge, was based on each ingredient being “the weight of two eggs” and I have never really moved on from this rather quaint, if unsophisticated method of measuring ingredients (largely, I should add, because it is fail safe, if a little one dimensional). But my hero, the rhubarb, is a complicated soul with his soft texture and tangy dark side, and he really does deserve a softer touch, so on this occasion I have dusted off my old iron weights and done things by the book. 

This is how it goes:

500g – 600g of Rhubarb (about 5 long sticks)
150g ground almonds
150g Self Raising Flour
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g thick full fat plain yoghurt
125g lightly salted butter, softened
Teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
Flaked Almonds
A spring-form cake tin, 23cm - sounds pernickerty but I think is the standard size
Pre-heated oven to 180 degrees

Start by washing and drying young rhubarb then chopping into one inch bits. Cover with a third of the sugar and leave to one side – the chemistry behind this is slightly lost on me, but I do know it is important – Rhubarb can be a little tart when he wants to be, so sugaring at this early stage just jollies him up a bit before the big bake.

Next cream your butter and remaining sugar until it is smooth, pale and soft. Beat your eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and slowly add to butter and sugar taking care to avoid the dreaded curdle (if you do find yourself in curdle territory don’t fret pet, I am not sure curdling is nearly as bad as everyone says it is. In mayonnaise yes, but in cakes I think its fine).  Next up is the dollop of yoghurt – add to the mix.  Finally the ground almonds and flour (sieved) need gently stirring into the mixture. Don’t go crazy here, just enough of a stir to mix it all together. Then in your cake tin (which you have obviously greased), put your rhubarb in first, then dollop your mixture on top.  Shake it about a bit so it all levels out and then in the oven for about an hour. Keep checking it, you may need to cover it a bit so it doesn’t catch.

When it is done (best test is putting a knife in through the top and if it comes out almost clean, you’re cooked), leave to cool for a little while in the tin. This is the tricky bit I know, but if you don’t, upon unleashing your bundle of joy from its tin, it will all collapse and you will cry. When you can wait no longer, tip him out onto a plate and sprinkle with flaked almonds (gently toasted) and serve with a high calorie dollop of something.  

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Listen and Wiggle

Thai Meat Balls

Now the name is deceptive – meat balls suffer badly from school-food-syndrome and arouse years of dormant retrospective revulsion, the foundations of which were probably laid in a school dining room. However a quick switch of the Italian ingredients for their Thai counterparts and the humble meatball can be transformed from the kid not picked for teams to blossoming Prom Queen. The only slight snag is getting your hands on pork mince which is not as readily available as you might think. When you do happen across it however, a) make sure it is lean and b) marvel at what good value it is.

I personally need no persuasion at all on the meatball front; aside from being perfectly formed little mouthfuls making for very easy dishing out duty, in my peculiar little head there’s something kind of gangster-retro about them, the sort of thing Michael Corleone might ask his Mama to cook for him having just come back exhausted after dispatching his twenty least favourite people – he would then sit at a little table with a little red and white table cloth, napkin tucked into collar, maybe even a rose on the table and some shady character in a trilby lurking in the background.... This is an absurd conversation, all I am saying is that whoever has been doing the PR for meatballs recently has not been doing a very good job and I think this recipe might amend your old school memory and with any luck could have you batting for the home team.

You will need (4 people)

500g Pork mince
2 Shallots / one small onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely sliced / grated
3 red chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced
big knob of ginger finely chopped
Stick of lemon grass / Kaffir lime leaves if you have them
One carton of coconut cream (not milk)
500mls of chicken stock
Large bunch of fresh coriander
A lime or two
Sesame oil
Fish sauce
White rice for four people (for rice and my relationship with, see Pot Curry)
Oil (any)
Salt and Pepper

To make meat balls that stay in their shape you have to get your hands dirty and really mush them. In a big bowl mix together the pork mince, shallots/onions, garlic, 2 chillies,  2/3rds of the ginger, a slosh of fish sauce and a shake of sesame oil. With your hands really bind all the ingredients – all the pork needs to be broken down from its minced curls into a pliable, almost paste like consistency. Once satisfied, roll the mixture into balls the size of prize conkers with your hands, patting down any stray bits of chilli or shallot/onion.

In a big frying pan, heat enough oil to cover the base, and begin to colour the meat balls – you don’t want to cook them, just a minute or two of rolling around in the pan should be enough to brown and seal them. Transfer them to an oven proof saucepan and pour over the coconut cream and chicken stock, the remaining chilli and garlic, and lemon grass and Kaffir lime leaves if using. Give the liquid a little stir, season with salt and pepper and cover. Cook in a hot (about 180 degrees) oven for 20 minutes. While the meatballs are doing their thing in the oven you could cook the rice and then serve with a decorative but essential, generous sprinkling of coriander and a wedge of lime.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Ugly Beautiful

Celeriac may be the ugly duckling of the vegetable world but with a gentle nudge in all the right places, she scrubs up rather well. I find she looks particularly good mashed with large dollops of cream or butter but unlike her infinitely more popular friend the ubiquitous spud, she has one extra little trick up her sleeve - celeriac tastes pretty darned good raw.

Following yet another week of mono-chrome weather and binging on butter laced carbs in a bid to turn my February frown upside down, I thought it time to rein in a bit… a week on and the sun now shining this is a perfect inbetweeny salad to see me through to Daffodil season. It has a enough stodge to satisfy but not enough to bring on the bikini sweats and is the perfect thing to sex up weekend left overs, especially meat. Also pretty good eaten straight from the bowl in a greedy hurry, or in a lunch box.

You need:

Big hunk of celeriac, maybe half of one, with all the unsightly dry skin warts and knobbles trimmed off, then grated

1 largeish apple / 2 small (I am a Cox girl myself but Russets would also be good – nothing too sweet), grated (skin on is fine).

Dollops of: Crème fraiche, horseradish, French mustard, good mayo (you can adjust the ratio to suit your tastebuds, - I personally prefer big on horseradish and crème fraiche, less on the others, but up to you) – you need enough to coat, but not drown the celeriac and apple

Lemon juice, a gutsy squeeze of

Salt and Pepper

Barely need to explain what to do – mix it all together and see how pretty she looks. Eat.

Other ugly beauties I found this week.....