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leftovers (05.10.2016)

5 Oct

prawns and whelks

Recent leftover suppers include: the remains of a potato gratin whizzed up with chicken broth and cooked red peppers for a hearty soup, the first of the autumn. Green lentils with lardons and red wine. Coriander, almond and lemon pesto, originally served over burrata (my one true love), later mixed with cream cheese for savoury croissant tartlets with salmon. More croissant dough sprinkled with cardamom sugar and twisted up following this gif for Swedish cardamom buns.

In ice cream experiments:

I’ve been following David Lebovitz’s recipes since they are consistent and delicious. So this includes his chocolate sherbet, mango sorbet and quick coconut ice cream (with cardamom in place of saffron). I will have to invest in his book. Also a success, Lucky Peach’s pecan brittle ice cream.

In food for thought:

Lucky Peach is killing it at the moment: Should I go to culinary school? and Where are the women chefs? and Power condiments for cooking vegetables.

In the New Yorker: Figs as inside-out flowers (and the reason wasps exist). In the Guardian, Syrian sweets and lost memories.

And in self-promotion:

I was flattered to provide some soundbites for an article on food illustration (the other featured blogs are stunning) and one on British women chefs in Paris, which includes many of my culinary idols.

Over on A Pocket Feast, I have a map for Marseille, a chaotic and lively city. I recommend the fresh seafood, and staying on an AirBNB boat in the harbour, as long as you don’t get seasick. And for the last days of sunshine, try and eat the 10 best ice creams in Paris.

sumathi’s mint rice

17 Feb

mint rice new

Our Indian trip started in Puducherry. Or, in fact, we arrived in Chennai and took two buses south, standing up and swaying in the wind from the open windows. One woman near me had come prepared for the three hour trip, with a tiffin box full of steamed idli that she ate dipped in a red sauce. Jen chatted to the girl behind us, I daydreamed.

We made our way to the guesthouse on foot, our backpacks turning us into unwieldy turtles, then went straight out for lunch, a vegetarian thali served on a banana leaf that cost all of 70 rupees. We wandered down to the sea, taking in the families out for a Sunday walk, the occasional French signage (Alliance Française, Café de Flore) in an otherwise Indian city. I drew pictures of the kolam, intricate swirled chalk designs at the entrance to each house.

One morning, we woke early for a cycle tour on colourful bikes, for lessons in local culture – including the kolam – and in assertively ringing the bicycle bell.

The cooking class at our guesthouse started with a trip to the market for ingredients. We bought vegetables, herbs, ginger, green peas from one stand, and individual packets of nuts and masala spices from another. A skinny cat sat under the tables in the fish market. Outside the chicken stand, cages of birds waited. As we watched, our chicken was killed, spun in a centrifuge to remove the feathers and cut up with confident strokes of a heavy knife. Less than two hours later it became chicken masala with a paste of ginger and garlic and peppercorns, the freshest meat I will ever eat.

Back in the kitchen our hostess and teacher, Sumathi, prepared the mise en place, each ingredient in its gleaming metal dish. I didn’t know what the mint rice on our menu would be. A side dish? boiled rice with a few mint leaves? In fact it was close to a risotto, not as creamy but bursting with flavour: a base of sweated onions, a diced potato and those green peas, plus a vibrant pesto of mint, ginger, coconut and chili. The rice was finished in a pressure cooker in a few minutes, turning out fluffy grains in a bright green.

It actually reminded me a little of the Italian dish, pasta alla ligure, with its basil pesto, beans and potatoes. Sumathi was like an Italian mother too: eat eat, have some more, please, mangia! Her little son clowned around, showing off his English and playing tennis with the racket-shaped crisps still warm from the fryer. Our homemade meal was served on banana-leaf plates – and despite being full, I couldn’t resist a second helping of the rice. Good with the sauce from the chicken masala, but perfect just as it was.

Sated, we napped the rest of the afternoon under the whirring fans. The next day on the bus to Tiruvannamalai, we proudly opened the tupperware box Sumathi had packed for us and snacked on her rava kesari, a buttery semolina-cardamom dessert, while we waited for the bus to fill and to move on.

~~~

Sumathi’s mint rice

I have made this several times at home, and have adjusted the recipe slightly. No need for a pressure cooker. The mint rice works equally well as a colourful side dish to a meat or vegetable curry; or in a bowl, risotto-style, with extra steamed greens on top. Leftovers can be re-heated in some broth with a squeeze of lemon for a hearty soup. I make a big batch and use it throughout the week, often taking a portion to work in my new tiffin tin.

Do use dried (unsweetened) coconut if you can’t or don’t want to get and smash a fresh, whole one.

makes enough for 4 as a side dish

1 tbs oil

2 tbs ghee (or butter)

1 small onion

1 medium size potato (200g ish)

140g / 1 cup frozen peas

40g fresh coconut (or 40g / ½ cup dried coconut)

2 small, red, dried chilis (depending on how how you like it!)

20-25g fresh ginger (a thumb-sized piece)

large bunch (40g) fresh mint – save a few leaves for garnish

200g / 1 cup rice

1 1/2 tsp salt

Heat a large saucepan with oil and ghee on a medium heat. Roughly chop onion in food processor then sautée for 3-4 minutes. Dice potato, add to pan with peas, allow to cook for 5 minutes.

In the same food processor, finely blend coconut, chilis and ginger with 60ml / 1/4 cup water, then blend again with the mint leaves, until it makes a kind of pesto.

Rinse rice in a sieve and give it a good shake to remove excess water. Add mint paste to the pan, along with the rice, salt and 375ml water (1½ cups). Bring to a boil, stir, then cover and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes for the rice to finish steaming – do not remove the lid! Fluff up the rice with a fork, serve warm.

notes from a food conference

9 Nov

notes from a food conference

Doodles from the notes I took at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking, 2015. I still need to re-read everything I wrote down – all the stories from ancient to modern, from Greece to Japan. I still smile at the line “old cookbooks were just lists of ingredients, no verbs” (and no photos, bien sûr) – we have come full circle with some modern cookbooks all neat info-graphics, no words at all.

leftovers (08.12.2014)

8 Dec

octopus lisbon

Recent leftovers include:

Too many roast potatoes turned into soup with a whole roasted bulb of garlic and lots of coriander.

Tartines of onion jam, goat’s cheese and caramelised fennel at 5 o’clock in the morning. Perfect midnight feast food.

Thumbprint cookies made of scraps of buttery tart pastry from the salted caramel pecan tart, rolled into balls and covered in coconut. Pressed each ball firmly with a thumb, indent filled with raspberry-tangerine jam. Baked until golden.

Recently reading/writing:

Since Paris seems to be enjoying a second wave of japonisme I am  re-reading the first few chapters of The Hare with the Amber Eyes.

Both David Lebovitz and Tim Hayward in the FT magazine (free registration necessary to read) have been talking about travelling and the fine balance between wanting to find the “undiscovered” away from any other tourists, and of course, needing a guide. Which I thought about when I went to Lisbon last month with a friend: some places live up to the hype, are worth repeating, worth the queue. (The pasteis de Belem really were fantastic, although now I know the Paris version comes a pretty close second.) Some, selfishly, I did not want to spoil by sharing, like the fantastic octopus at Jeronimo.

This weekend I am off to Madrid. I will be packing an Everyman/Cartoville guide: my favouite guidebooks (apart from my own of course!) since they are simple and condensed with fold out maps for each area. This article about Hemingway’s Madrid. And a new sketchbook – I have been playing with watercolour, trying to do more rough sketches to capture the feel of a city, like the lovely Sketchbook from Southern France.

And totally un-related to food, for a diversion from work on a Friday afternoon, I look forward to Ann Friedman’s newsletter in my inbox. Full of links for recent funny, thought-provoking words around the web.

Bonne semaine!

rebecca’s salmon and lychee salad

8 Feb

salmon salad 3

Travelling is best when you can put on someone else’s life for the weekend, see a city through a local’s eyes. Visiting yet another cousin, I was happy to bypass Parliament House and go straight to the farmer’s market early Saturday morning instead. I tagged along to a yoga class and ran a race with her in the nearby mountains. I liked her version of the green city that involved a lot of walking, with breaks for vegan chocolate chip cookies in a bar decorated with skulls and cacti. I liked that it was small enough that we bumped into her friends everywhere we went, to the extent that one of them joked he had been paid to make her seem popular. I liked that the woman in the Chinese supermarket knew and joked with her when we bought lychees and coconut milk.

Maybe it was all of the outdoors that made me hungry, the scent of gum trees and crackle of leaves underfoot, but I especially liked the supper we cooked together, better than any restaurant. It was her weekly standby, one she is happy to eat again and again, changing a few ingredients but keeping the basics: salmon marinated in fish sauce, pan-fried to give it a crisp brown edge; a bowl of greens, cucumber and lettuce and onion; the unexpected addition of lychees, canned were fine; and a lime-chili-fish sauce dressing. It was fresh, salty, tangy with plenty of crunch and bite from the chili. The generous handfuls of herbs and that addictive dressing made it totally addictive. I made it twice more in the next ten days, not always giving Rebecca the full credit! So here is her official acknowledgement; this will go down in my cavallo di battiglia folder to be made over and over.

~~~

For an easy dessert along the same theme, mix equal quantities of leftover lychee juice and coconut milk to make a quick and unusual granita: pour into a shallow metal dish and freeze for 3-4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes to break up the crystals. Serve plain or with fresh mango.

~~~

Rebecca’s salmon and lychee salad

Originally adapted from Bill Granger

Feeds 2-3 people, depending on appetite

2 salmon steaks

3 tbs fish sauce

1 tbs brown sugar

1 bag mixed leaves

1 cucumber

1 red onion

½ bunch coriander

½ bunch basil

1 tin lychees

Dressing:

1 small red chili

Juice of 2 limes

1 ½ tbs fish sauce

2 tsp brown sugar

Marinate salmon in fish sauce and sugar. Meanwhile slice the red onion as finely as possible, cut the cucumber into rounds, tear up the herbs, tip it all into a large salad bowl with the leaves. Drain lychees, reserve the juice and add the fruit to the salad. Cut up the chili (remove the seeds if you don’t like it too hot) and mix with lime juice, fish sauce, 1 tbs of the lychee juice. Taste and adjust accordingly, so it makes a nice balance between sweet, sharp, salty and hot. Pan fry the salmon until crisp around the edges, breaking it up into chunks in the pan as it cooks. Tip onto salad and pour over the dressing. Toss the salad, taste again and add more salt-sweet-sour if necessary.

edinburgh patisserie: lovecrumbs

6 Jun

This. This, this, this.

(That’s internet-speak for “you took the words right out of my head and shaped my thoughts more skilfully than I can express.”)

Lovecrumbs is everything I would like for myself: an open light cafe filled with brick-a-brack. An old drum for a table. Mismatched silver coffee spoons. Big cushions in the window seat so customers can curl up with tea as a live window display.

A wardrobe full of layer-cakes: classics like the Victoria (Vicky) Sponge, twists on favourites like Chocolate and Pink Peppercorn. Cheerful chef-owners who offer you strawberries and bring over extra hot water for the fresh and interesting teas (lemongrass and marigold, anyone? delicious) without being asked.

This, I want this. I want my own cake shop to look like this. Probably a good thing it is in Edinburgh so I can’t pillage all their beautiful ideas.

Lovecrumbs 155 West Port, Edinburgh EH39DP – open Monday to Saturday

mohnkuche (poppy flour cake with lemon glaze)

20 Apr

A parcel of steely powder and a blue flower-printed card. The International Gourmet Penpal Project has begun.

Poppy seeds with lemon is obviously a classic combination, but I had never heard of Mohn (poppy seed flour) until Mary sent it to me. The sandy texture of ground almonds, it is a beautiful dark grey colour with a bitter taste like walnuts. My German friend scoffed when I told him about it – just a normal boring cake for him, nothing special.

And yet it bakes up to be almost blue! Looks like granite, but soft as anything. You could ice it in layers with thick buttercream, but I preferred the lemon juice and sugar option – just a thin white crust over the nutty base. (No flour, for you gluten-free people!)

In the end I had to give the last two slices away to the picky German friend, else the whole cake would have been gone by the end of the day. (He liked it too!) A grown-up sponge cake, I suppose – a sophisticated colour, a bitter twist and simple sweet icing – Mohnkuche may be my new favourite afternoon snack.

So, who’s next? What crazy ingredients can you send me?

~~~

Mohn cakewith lemon glaze

makes a large sized cake – I halved the recipe and still made 6 generous slices

150g soft butter, at room temperature

50g icing sugar

6 eggs, separated

a pinch of salt

zest of 1 lemon

200g Mohn flour

100g ground almonds or walnuts

110g caster sugar

for glaze: juice of lemon + 100g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 20-22cm round tin or line it with baking paper.

Cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the egg yolks one by one and beat well. Fold in the salt, lemon zest, Mohn and ground nuts.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites. As they become stiff, add the sugar a spoonful at a time and keep whisking to thick glossy peaks. Mix the whites into the Mohn mix a dollop at a time, folding gently so as not to lose the airy volume.

Tip cake mix into tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until it comes away from the sides of the tin and the top springs back when pressed.

Mix a few drops of lemon juice into the remaining icing sugar, adding more until it makes a thick pouring consistency. Smooth over hot cake as it comes out of the oven.

 

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