My camera has gone awol. Who knows if we will ever be reuinited but it will be a couple of weeks until I get my hands on another digital camera so no photos for a while. Boooo! Look forward to lots of links to articles and food news though. Whether that will fill the void, we shall wait and see. If anyone has pictures of food they want to show off, please feel free to send them to me and I will post them up. The blog won't be the same without fuzzy looking food snaps.
To reflect my miserable mood, here is a miserable article about the downfalls of eating alfresco.
It is nice to hear that I am not the only person in the country to find wasps and wind the most inappropriate accompaniment to my dinner. Even if wasps weren't trying to attack me mid-meal, eating outside for 3 days of the year feels so self-consciously 'European' it makes me cringe. The fact that we live in a 1930's semi means that while we're braving the elements, I can hear next doors toilet flush and their washing machine on spin cycle.
If I ever move to Tuscany and live in the countryside, I will eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on my terrace whilst surrounded with citronella candles and bug spray. However, as long as I live in an English city, I will keep the great outdoors and my precious food separated by the back door.
In other news, check out Gordon Ramsay's face! Curiouser and curiouser.
In my kitchen I am going from plot to plate in less than an hour.
I have never had courgette flowers before but they've been on my to do list for a long while. So, when I spied the flowers on our courgettes in the allotment I was ready and prepared to stuff, batter and fry. A basic batter made of self raising flour and white wine, combined to the consistency of double cream. I picked my flowers from both male and female stems. The males don't actually bear a fruit but produce more suitable flowers for eating. As long as one male and one female is left untouched, they will keep producing juicy courgettes throughout the summer. As long as you pick them when they're still quite modest in size, you can fry the entire fruit with its' flower.
The stuffing was from a Jamie Oliver recipe. As usual, to taste and not a specific recipe. Crumble a pack of ricotta in a bowl and add salt and pepper, lemon zest, nutmeg and a finely chopped red chili.
Wash out the flowers very carefully, being sure to inspect the cavity as there are bound to be bugs in there and cut out the stamen using small scissors. Stuff the flowers using a teaspoon or piping bag and arrange the petals back to their original form.
Put a pan of oil on the hob and heat up until a cube of bread sizzles when dropped in. Dip the flowers in the batter and place in the pan, away from your body. Using a slotted spoon, roll them about to ensure even cooking, until golden brown.
Remove onto kitchen towel, allowing them to drain. Sprinkle with salt and eat immediately.
In my kitchen I am having a little 'pick me up'. Otherwise known as Tiramisu.
The Italians have such a way with words. Apparently there is a word they have to express 'the water clinging to the leaves'. As in, 'wilt the spinach in the water clinging to its leaves.' When I say that out loud, I sing it in a special Italian opera voice. I believe we have truly great produce here in Blighty but it's the Italian attitude I envy. So romantic and poetic.
I was stood in the queue at a supermarket the other day and I got talking to an Italian man in front of me. He was telling me how much he missed Italy and the food there. He couldn't understand why we would buy our lettuces cut up and wrapped in plastic when we could grow them for 5 pence each and 10 minutes of time with the absolute wonder of choosing how much you want of which variety. Shock! He told me how strange it was that only junk food was ever on special offer. Good point mystery Italian, good point.
Now I am working in the deli I am confronted with a bounty of Italian products. All of them more interesting, pretty and useful than the next. It is my dream job, talking about cheese and salami and pastas all day long and it is hard to resist buying a tonne of food at the end of each shift. Little Jen (my sister) loves Tiramisu and had been asking me to make it for a while now. The secret of good Tiramisu is down to a light and fluffy cream mixture and the not-too-soggy/not-too-dry biscuits.
It is also down to taste. If you prefer more cream, just increase the mixture. Simple. Although you will want to eat it straight away, Tiramisu is best left over night to set properly, just like a Trifle or a Charlotte. Also, I used cocoa powder between layers but grated chocolate is better. Whatever you have available, as long as it isn't too sweet. The bitterness matches the sugary cream so well.
from The Silver Spoon
2 egg whites
4 egg yolks
150g icing sugar
400g mascarpone cheese
200g sponge fingers
175ml freshly brewed coffee, cooled
200g plain chocolate, grated or cocoa powder to taste
Stiffly whisk the egg whites in a grease-free bowl
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in another bowl until pale and fluffy
Gently fold in the mascarpone, then the egg whites
Make a layer of sponge fingers on the base of a deep, rectangular serving dish and brush them evenly and generously with coffee
Cover with a layer of the cream mixture and sprinkle with chocolate
Continue making layers until all the ingredients are used ending with a layer of cream
I've had a bit of a break from cooking for a couple of weeks as I've just started a new job (in a delicatessen just down the road from me) and had my graduation. Lots of stress and rushing about required for both but that's done with now. Back to the blog.
I remember Egyptian Emily's mum making me stuffed courgettes with rice and various herbs and spices I'd never even heard of. It is one of the most interesting things to eat, in terms of texture. You have the soft, sweet flesh of the vegetables, the fluffy rice within and the crustier, chewy rice on top.
A few good quality ingredients and a bit of spare time is needed for this dish, taken from the lovely Falling Cloudberries cook book. It is an impressive dish to serve with its variety of colours and shapes. It is best served on a platter as people can pick and choose what they fancy. I do love food that encourages movement about the table as sometimes eating at a table can feel a bit formal and restricted. Pass it around and share and you will enjoy your food so much more.
The courgettes came from the allotment. The allotment should get a few mentions in the coming weeks as I have been handed the responsibility of picking the veg. I suspect we are all going to be sick of courgettes this time next month. With any luck though, we should be able to fry up some of their flowers, something I've never even tried before.
Although I am not the one who put in the effort of planting and growing them, it is very satisfying being able to pick your ingredients and cook them within an hour. The only way they could be more fresh is if I had a barbecue at the plot. Ha! There's an idea. I reckon this recipe would be great for a barbecue. Just stick the lid on and keep an eye on it and you'll get a lovely woody flavour.
The tops of the vegetables (I think they're fruit actually but I won't be one of those pedantic types) mostly blacken in the oven. People tell you to avoid this by keeping them moist at all times but I think it gives the dish character and a bit of depth. Embrace the peppers destiny to blacken and enjoy it, I say.
from Falling Cloudberries
900g minced beef and pork
2 large red onions
15g parboiled basmati rice
4 tbsps olive oil + 125ml extra
1 heaped tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsps salt
6-8 ripe tomatoes
3 tbsps butter
juice of half a lemon
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 6. Put the meat in a large bowl with the onions, parsley, rice, 4 tbsps of oil, paprika, mint, pepper and salt
Slice the tops off the tomatoes and keep to one side. Hollow out the insides over a bowl
Chop up the pulp and add to the meat with half the juice. Keep the rest of the juice and sit the tomatoes on a large oven tray
Cut away a top hat from each pepper, leaving a hinge on each. Scoop out the seeds and throw them away but save any of the fleshy pepper bits
Put the peppers on the tray with the tomatoes
Cut away a hat from each of the courgettes and scrape out the flesh with a teaspoon. Place the courgettes on the tray
Mix the bowl of meat and seasonings using one hand while turning the bowl with the other. Make sure you are fully combining the mixture.
Fill the hollowed out vegetables with the mixture, being generous
Pour the remaining oil into the remaining tomato juice and add the butter, lemon juice and 375ml water. Mix together and pour over and around the vegetables. Put the tops back on the vegetables and sprinkle with salt
Bake for about 1-1 1/2 hours, until the veg is goden and darkened in places
In my kitchen I am composing a little bowl of tabbouleh.
This is a lovely, simple recipe. Very summery and totally reliant on good quality ingredients. The original recipe suggests using fine bulgar wheat which can be just rinsed in water rather than soaked but I am in the habit of using what I have in the cupboard before I buy more so I have adapted it to suit regular size grains.
Bulgar wheat is a funny old thing. Much more substantial than couscous and better when it retains some bite, it looks like coarse sand when uncooked but all it needs is some seasoning and water to transform it into a light but satisfying side dish. The wheat will soak up all the tomato and lemon juice and if left to sit for a while before serving, the olive oil and herbs should infuse to make a brilliantly fragrant mouthful.
I dandered down to the shops to buy some chicken to accompany tonight's dinner and as I walked past the Lebanese deli I got a waft of mint, parsley and tomatoes. If I hadn't already decided to make tabbouleh I would have popped in and bought a tub right then. It's such a distinctive smell and it while it fills you up the way pasta or rice would, it tastes more nourishing and doesn't tend to make you lethargic after you've eaten it. It does what good food should basically.
The trick to good tabbouleh is how finely you chop your herbs. Nobody wants to chomp on a sprig of parsley but it shouldn't be mulch either. The herbs must be hand chopped as a food processor would turn this into more of a pesto; maybe do a few stretches before you begin.
YotamOttolenghi, who I pinched this dish from points out, quite rightly, that this is a parsley dish not a bulgar wheat dish. Apparently too many people add just a couple of sprigs of parsley. It appears to me that you don't really like tabbouleh if that's the case.
The mint washes over your taste buds creating a tingling sensation while you're chewing...
...whilst the allspice balances the heavily scented herbs. You won't even know it's there.
Everything needs dousing in lemon during the summer, in my opinion...
...plus, given enough time to rest it will combine with the olive oil to make a hint of a sauce.
adapted from YotamOttolenghi
150g bulgar wheat
4 medium tomatoes
2 medium shallots
2 large bunches flat leaf parsley
1 bunch mint
1 tsp ground allspice
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
120ml good quality olive oil
salt and black pepper
Place the bulgar wheat in a serving bowl with salt and pepper and just about cover with boiled water. Cover with cling film and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Once tender, drain off any excess water and fluff up with a fork
Cut the tomatoes into 0.5cm dice and put in the bowl with the bulgar wheat. Make sure you get all the juices in as these will soak in and add flavour
Chop the shallots as finely as possible and add to the bowl
Chop the parsley in batches with as sharp a knife as possible, you don't want to bruise the herb. Aim for the parsley to be no wider than 1mm. Discard the tougher stalk ends and add the chopped pieces to the bowl
Pick the mint leaves off their stalks and chop as finely as the parsley, adding this to the bowl
Stir in the allspice, lemon juice to taste, olive oil and salt and pepper