Friday, 30 July 2010

A recipe for blood and skin

Ok, so this isn't strictly the sort of thing you should post on a food blog, but it's too tempting. I found this at work in a big pile of things donated to us by the British Red Cross. It seems to date from around the 1950s/early 60s. Finally, a proper use for Bisto!

I recommend trying out a batch now in advance for Halloween!

Liquid blood

1 level teaspoon amaranta
1 level teaspoon gerenine
2 level teaspoons tartrazine
4 level teaspoons custard powder
2 level teaspoons liquid detergent
32 ozs. water (just over 1½ pints)

Bring the water to boil. Add colourings. Blend custard powder to smooth paste. When mixture is boiling add custard powder and stir well until it thickens. When cool add liquid detergent.

Dyes can be obtained from:-
Smithsons (chemist)
West Pier, Brighton

False flesh
Bread crumbs mixed with polycell, add either Bisto or blood to water for colouring.

Nylon stockings stuck to real skin with collodion or copydex.

Solid blood
Equal parts of greasepaint and vaseline together.

Congealed blood

Liquid blood with Dr. Wernets toothpowder stirred in.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Beautiful bentos

...while I'm on the subject of things Japanese, I just have to add that these bento boxes from Bento & Co. are simply the most useful and beautiful method of taking your lunch to work that I've ever seen. William Morris would have approved.

Each box has three leakproof compartments contained within the outer shell, perfect for sandwiches or sushi...frankly you could put crisps or a pot noodle in this and they'd still look chic!

I want I want!

A little slice of wagashi heaven

Oh sweet girly delight! The Minamoto Kitchoan Company is a tiny jewel nestled amidst the hustle bustle of Piccadilly. They only sell one thing - wagashi, the Japanese confectionary that comes in all manner of shapes and flavours, but every one a miniature work of art. This is the kind of food that you almost hate to eat - it's so beautiful that it seems a crime.

The gorgeous little fish above are called chogonosekkuka, a vegetarian jelly covered kumquat, all dressed up in a frou frou fish outfit. I dare you to resist!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Grilled mackerel with poached gooseberries

It works, surprisingly. This dish lives somewhere in the taste spectrum of pork and apple, or duck and plum sauce - the sharpness of the gooseberries complements and tempers the richness of the meat and adds a lively fruit note.

Serves 2

2 sparklingly fresh whole mackerel
200g gooseberries
Juice and zest of a lime
50g demerara sugar
Olive oil

1) Gut the mackerel if they haven't already been, then wash, dry with kitchen paper and lightly oil and salt.

2) Top and tail the gooseberries (i.e. cut off both little ends of the fruit) and place in a pan with the lime juice, zest, and sugar. Cover with a lid and cook on a gentle heat for about 10 mins, until soft but while the fruit still has some shape.

3) Heat a grill to a medium heat, then cook the fish for about 8 minutes (depending on size), turning once halfway through cooking.

4) Serve with the poached gooseberries and a crisp green side salad.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Insalata caprese

I think of this as a more substantial version of a classic Italian insalata caprese, the dish made of just tomatoes, sliced mozzarella and basil leaves, simply dressed with olive oil. Whereas insalata caprese is usually a starter, this has been zhuzzed up with added extras to be a main course for when you're truly ravenous!

It’s a free and easy dish that doesn’t need precise amounts, so feel free to adjust it to your own taste. Be sure to eat it with a nice hunk of crusty bread to mop up the basil oil though...

For the salad:

Lambs lettuce
Mozzarella, torn into rough bite sized pieces
Ripe baby plum tomatoes, halved
Avocado, sliced
Pitted black olives
Artichoke hearts in oil

For the dressing:

40ml extra virgin olive oil
30g basil leaves
1tsp lemon juice

1) Blend the basil with the olive oil in a jug blender until completely smooth, then add a pinch of salt and the lemon juice

2) Then simply scatter the salad ingredients over a plate and dress.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Tagliatelle with scallops, sage and fresh peas

A light, fresh meal for the end of a warm summers day...

Serves 2

150g scallops
200g dried tagliatelle
2 handfuls lambs lettuce
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
150g fresh peas, blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes
1½ tbsp salted butter
8 leaves fresh sage, finely shredded
Juice and grated rind of one lemon
olive oil

1) Boil the pasta in a large pan of water

2) ...meanwhile

3) Dress the raw scallops with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and a little salt. Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan until it's extremely hot - smoking! Add the scallops and cook for, well, it depends on the size of your scallops - mine were quite small so only took 3 minutes to cook. 30 seconds before the end of cooking, add the butter, lemon peel and shredded sage, then remove from the heat.

4) Drain the pasta and add the lemon juice, parsley, 2 teaspoons of good olive oil and then season to taste.

5) Plate the pasta on top of the lambs lettuce, then top with the scallops and spoon over the sagey butter.

Better late than never...

I bought the second River Cafe cookbook today (I was a little slow on the uptake I admit!). It's full of wonderful pasta dishes, more inspired ideas for flavour combinations than recipes that need to be followed to the letter. It's perfect for when you're stuck in a food rut and need someone or something to spur you on to new things!

It's chock-a-block with mouthwatering photography and the recipes are easy to follow. The ingredients are generally pretty easy to get hold of - though I won't be trying the Tagliatelle with White Truffles quite yet... There are loads of great veggie options in here too, I'm looking forward to trying some of them soon!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Lightly spiced prawn and nut rice

This is a staple dish in my kitchen; made in one pot, it's quick, easy and healthy.

Lightly fragranced with lemon zest and the creaminess of the softened cashew nuts, it's the meal that I can be bothered to rustle up from store cupboard ingredients at the end of a long day...

Serves 2

6 fl oz basmati rice
9 fl oz boiling water
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 strips of lemon zest, finely chopped
30g brazil nuts, chopped
30g cashew nuts, chopped
2 dried red chili, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
150g raw prawns
a large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
4 tbsp greek yoghurt

1) Fry the spring onions and nuts for a minute on a medium heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan (which has a lid!), then add the lemon zest, cumin, chili, cherry tomatoes and rice. Fry for a minute more, then add the boiling water and a pinch of salt.

2) Clamp the lid on and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. After 5 minutes, add the prawns to the pan and replace the lid. Continue to cook for a further 7-10 minutes, until the rice grains are seperated and tender. If it looks a little dry, add another drop of water.

3) While the rice is cooking, mix half the chopped coriander with the greek yoghurt and season lightly with salt.

4) Serve the rice with a good dollop of the yoghurt sauce, and a scattering of the remaining coriander over the top.

I scream, you scream

Hooray! Ice cream season is here! It felt fitting to celebrate a warm Monday evening with frankly the best ice cream I've had in years.

Gelupo, on Archer Street in Soho, does the kind of ice cream that makes you go weak at the knees; smooth, creamy and bursting with natural flavour. I tried a scoop each of the pistachio and bonet (rum, amaretti, coffee, chocolate), and both were fantastic. The flavours are true and clear, and not overly sweet.

In addition to a dozen unusual ice cream flavours (which the very friendly staff are eager for you to test) there are sorbets and granitas. The burnt almond granita had great flavour.

The savoury food choice is limited, but when they do ice cream this well, who needs it?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Something savoury to salve my conscience...

I've been invited to a garden party today, an afternoon of high tea style cakes and nibbles. It will be hosted by a wonderful cook whose sweet treats I've enjoyed before so I know I'll be be tempted to eat more sugar than I should, but why not?

As a salve to my conscience for such an unhealthy supper, I thought I should eat something healthy and very savoury for my lunch, and came up with this:

Cod with warm roasted vegetable & chickpea salad

2 cod fillets
1 can of chickpeas
2 sweet peppers, red, orange or yellow
1 large courgette
half a bulb of garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled
1 red onion
1 tbsp harissa paste
Juice of one lemon
2 tbsp olive oil

1) Chop the vegetables into 2cm cubes (or 1cm wedges for the onion), trying to create uneven shapes so they don't stick to the pan when they roast. Drizzle over 1 tbsp of the oil, lightly season, and then roast at 200c / 400f / gas 6 for 30-40 mins. Stir halfway through cooking to help them cook evenly.

2) Mix the drained chickpeas, lemon juice, remaining oil and harissa in a bowl, then add the vegetables once ready.

3) To cook the cod, heat a heavy based frying pan until smoking hot. Lightly oil and season the fish before placing skin side down in the pan, then cook for 2-3 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Turn, and cook for a further 1 minute, then serve on a bed of the vegetables and chickpeas.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

I ❤ Wilton's

Hackney is my second neighbourhood now thanks to a new job, and my foot was barely in the door before I'd scoped out the local cafe talent.

The front runner by a country mile so far is Wilton's cafe on Wilton Way. An achingly cool mishmash of vintage and modern style (put together by designers Dog & Wardrobe), it's usually filled with local hipsters settling in for a perfectly made coffee or something from the small but perfectly formed menu.

For veggie/pescatarians like myself, I'd recommend the avocado on toasted sourdough bread - a great example of something simple made wonderful through the use of good, fresh ingredients. They also have great taste in music and show an eclectic array of local artist's work on the wall. Go before the 26th September and you can also drop into Keep Me Posted next door, an exhibition curated by White Cube director Julia Royse.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Trout fishcakes with herby tartare sauce

An experiment that turned out really well! If you're feeling lazy (I was) you can buy the mashed potato pre-made. Yes, I know, I know...

Makes 12 fishcakes

For the fishcakes:

300g fresh, skinless and boneless trout,diced
120g smoked salmon, shredded into thin strips
3 spring onions, finely chopped
350g mashed potato, quite dry
2 eggs, beaten
about 150g of Japanese panko breadcrumbs
About 750ml rapeseed oil

For the sauce:

4 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp each of chopped chives, parsley, capers and cornichons
1 tsp finely chopped lemon peel

1) Mix the trout, salmon, potato and spring onion together into a paste, and season to taste with pepper. It shouldn't need any salt as the smoked salmon is salty enough already.

2) Divide into 12 equal patties, then dip into the egg, and roll in the breadcrumbs. Place the fishcakes onto a plate sprinkled with breadcrumbs to prevent them sticking.

3) Heat the oil until a cube of bread dropped in goes golden brown in about a minute, then fry a few of the fishcakes at a time for about 2 minutes, and drain on kitchen paper.

4) To make the sauce, simply stir all the ingredients together in a bowl, and season with a little salt.

Serve with a green salad, or perhaps a nice big bunch of watercress.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A recipe for courgette flowers

Hard to find, it's worth making a bit of extra effort to celebrate these beautiful flowers when you can get your hands on them! Perhaps next year I'll try growing them, but for the moment they seem rather rare and magical.

Crisp and lightly battered in a tempura style coating, these make a tasty starter.

Serves 4:

12 courgette flowers, washed and dried on kitchen paper
250g ricotta
30g parmesan, grated
A strip of lemon peel (no white pith), very finely chopped
A small bunch each of mint and chives, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying the flowers
100g self raising flour
175ml ice cold sparkling water

Lemon wedges to serve

1) Mix the ricotta, parmesan, herbs and lemon zest together, then season to taste. It won't need much salt because the parmesan will partly season the mixture. Then use a small spoon to fill the flower heads with the mixture, and gently twist the petals closed.

2) Heat 5cm of oil in a heavy bottomed pan until a cube of bread browns after being fried for 2 minutes.

3) Gently stir the flour into the sparkling water- don't worry if there are a few lumps, it's better not to overwork the batter. The consistency should be like single cream.

4) Dip the flowers into the batter to cover them completely, then carefully lower them into the oil, taking care not to splash oil onto yourself. You will probably only be able to fit 4 or 5 into your pan at one time.

5) Let the flowers sizzle for 3 or 4 minutes, until crisp and a pale golden in colour. Drain on kitchen paper and go on to the next batch.

6) Serve with lemon wedges

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Afternoon delight

Today we went strawberry picking and returned with muddied knees and mouths stained red. More in our bellies than in the basket, as always.

Picking at high noon means that my shoulders are now tinged pink, but it was worth it - the strawberries are perfect little bursts of pure, summery delight! And there's more to come: tucked away in the kitchen next to the strawberries are raspberries, gooseberries and courgette flowers.

The strawberries were be eaten as nature intended, with a glass of prosecco and two friends in the garden this evening. Heaven.

If you'd like to pick your own (and possibly test one or two), I can wholeheartedly recommend Garson's in Esher. It has fruit, vegetable and flower picking throughout the summer, and a mouthwatering farm shop to boot.

Peachy keen, jellybean

How cute are these flat peaches?

This type of peach goes by a few names: chinese flat peaches, saturn peaches, or more often just plain old donut peaches. I foung these in my friendly neighbourhood greengrocer, along with my first lychees of the year.

I thought they were a little sweeter than regular peaches, and perhaps a touch nutty, as if the flavour of the almondy kernal had seeped into the flesh. But most importantly the juice ran down my arm when I bit into it!

Friday, 2 July 2010

A recipe for rampant lettuce

For my Friday night supper, I am continuing my struggle to stay on top of the overburdened lettuce pots in the garden. I can only get through so much with lunchtime salads, so today a new tactic - cooking with lettuce.

This is a quick, easy supper that could be light and healthy too if you omitted the butter sauce; but then where's the fun in that?

Grilled plaice with braised lettuce, peas & parsley butter sauce

Serves 2

2 plaice fillets, seasoned and lightly oiled with olive oil
2 large handfuls of whatever lettuce you are cursed with
1/2 cup of peas
25g butter
1 lemon
small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
small bunch of chives, chopped
2 tsps capers

1) Turn on the grill to its highest setting and leave to warm up. Meanwhile, cover a tray with foil to place the fish on.

2) Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a small pan and heat until bubbling, then add 3/4 of the butter and thoroughly whisk in. If it seems too thick you can add a touch of water. Add the capers and parsley and put to one side.

3) Put the plaice under the grill - you can cook the vegetables while it's cooking. It will only need 2 minutes on each side, no more!

4) Heat the remaining butter in a large saucepan, then fry the peas for one minute before adding the lettuce and cooking for just one more minute.

5) Plate up and scatter over the chives - this needs some good crusty bread on the side to mop up all the sinful juices.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Stressed coriander?

This is the first year that I've attempted any sort of coherent schedule of growing food.

So far, there has been (with varying rates of success):

Rocket (easy)
Chives (weedy but tasty)
Parley (fair)
Coriander (not fair!)
Mixed leaf lettuce (rampant)
Spinach (slugged but still tasty)
Thyme (slugged before I could get to it)
Basil (still going)
Spring onions (not really worth it)
Wild garlic (non existent)
Pea shoots (brilliantly easy, tasty and pretty)
Tomatoes (watch this space...)

The lettuce is by far the most successful - I haven't had to buy a bag of lettuce from the supermarket in two months now. Finally, liberation!

The coriander however, was barely tasted before it went to flower. I looked up the cause of this and apparently the plant must have been 'stressed'. So now it's Bach before bedtime and a gentle rub of the leaves whenever a scary pigeon passes by. Poor baby.
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