Sunday, 28 November 2010
A food fact for the party season!
It is dirt makes champagne fizz. Microscopic particles of dust in the glass allow bubbles to latch onto them. According to Moet and Chandon there are 250 million bubbles in the average bottle of Champagne...
Thursday, 25 November 2010
I love France, and naturally, I love French Food. I try and get over a few times a year to stock up on wine and tins of duck cassolet, almost always staying in my little house on the North Western coast of Brittany.
Right by the sea, I mostly eat at home, stocking up on wine from the Selier Goëlo and arrays of cheeses, salads potato croquettes and misshapen vegetables from the supermarkets of Plouzec. From time to time we eat out at the port side restaurants of Paimpol, taking advantage of the Fruits de Mer and Bretagne Tart- all the things that make me love the regional cuisine.
French Supermarkets are always exciting places from me. I run around gleefully, enjoying the packaging and reminiscing over the staples of my childhood- Cacolac and Madeline’s.
I like the little variations that differentiate them from their English counterparts. Frozen potato douphinoux are a novelty I would never buy in England, but always end up in the trolley in France.
Cheese is always bought in vast quantities- even pre-grated Ementhal, a supermarket classic that would seem lazy to me en Anglettere, but is somehow very acceptable over the channel.
I’ve yet to buy a ready-to-grill Croque Monsieur from the chilled cabinets, but seeing them always makes me laugh- especially coming from a nation that prides themselves on their cooking.
I love the Local Produce section, selling Bretagne tarts avec fourré a la crème dè Preneaux, and ‘Specialitie Brettagne Pur Beurre’ Gateux Abricot. I somehow couldn’t imagine anything similar in Sutton…
Bread and cheese is one of the best things about being alive. There aren’t many people I know who have managed to escape one of my raptures on these simple pleasures. Honestly, with some oil, balsamic vinegar and olives- I could live on it.
Growing up, I used to bemoan my summers spent in France on a diet of French bread and cheeses with varying degrees of pungency and hardness.
Now, I consider it a wasted opportunity and take it as a very serious task to catch up on lost time. I have to admit- I’m not the biggest fan of French bread. I find it too dry and porous, paling in comparison to soft and doughy English bread. I even prefer English baguettes!
That said, I now adore my lunches of bread, tomatoes, brie and Saint Nectaire Laitier, or Camembert and Chevre. The staple lunch, day in day out, accompanied with cous cous salad and tomato salads with ground pepper and balsamic vinegar.
I have happy memories of the traditions that have become ingrained in our routine-Bouchee on the patio, with bottles of red wine and cards in the summer, Mulled wine up by the Moulin de Craca and duck cassolet in the winter. It won’t come as a surprise to you that food plays such a large part in many of my happiest memories, and France wouldn’t be the same for me without the food opportunities it has presented to me. It probably even plays a large part in the relationship I now have with cooking and eating.
My little house en France doesn’t have an oven, so we have to make do with a hob and a tiny microwave-grill. I tend to cook almost entirely with a hob anyway, so it isn’t too much of a problem. I enjoy having to make the most with what we have.
Here are a few of the typically French dishes we served up on our most recent trip to Bretagne, from which I have just returned.
Goats cheese Gallettes:
Gallettes are just so damn French. The savoury equivalent of a crepe, a thicker, wholemeal wheat is used. You can make these yourself following a basic Gallette recipe (look up?) or just buy a pre made pack. In France, these are in abundance. Gallettes are a great opportunity to make the most of the quintessentially French ingredients and quality and freshness of their cheese and vegetables.
In a pan, fry some chopped onion or shallots. When they are softened, tip in a bowl of chopped tomatoes. You can also use a tin, but the tomatoes in France are so big and beautiful I prefer to use them fresh. Add a big handful of spinach and stir until wilted. Stir in plenty of Herbes de Provence (When in France…) You can also add some finely diced mushroom.
Open the Gallette and place on the plate. Be careful, as they are fragile and prone to tearing. Tip the mixture into one of the perforated quarters. Top with some thin strips of ham, a classic ingredient in gallettes. Crumble in some goats cheese.
Fold in half so it forms a semi circle. Sprinkle with grated emmenthal cheese- there is not a supermarket in France that will not sell this. Fold in half again.
In a small pan, fry an egg. When it is cooked, but still soft, tip onto the triangle. Sprinkle again with grated emmenthal and place under the grill for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and serve.
Alongside crème caramel and Tarte aux pommes, some kind of flambéed or alcohol soaked fruit is a staple on the menu of most French restaurants. My sister and I created this recipe using pineapple to recreate a similar dish at home. It is a real winter dish- warm and spicy. If you’re a fan of mulled wine, you should be a fan of this!
Chop a pineapple into slices, removing the skin. In a pan, caramelise some sugar by covering the base of a pan with caster sugar and heating without stirring until it melts into a golden caramel. Whilst this is happening, mix some honey in a bowl with cinnamon and some nutmeg. Brush this mixture over the slices of pineapple, coating them well. Once the caramel is ready, drop the slices into it and fry for a few minutes each side, turning them half way through. Remove the coated pineapple slices from the pan and drizzle with a splash of liqueur or spirit of your choice; Brandy is an obvious choice, but Rum or a fruit liqueur could also work.
Monday, 22 November 2010
Fruity Vanilla and Raspberry
In a pan, mix your oats with soya milk. I like to use soy for this recipe as it compliments the creamy texture. As it warms through, drop in a splash of vanilla essence. Tip in half a punnet of fresh raspberries and crush with your spurtle till the oats go a beautifully deep pink. As they thicken, loosen them up with a generous amount of pomegranate and grape juice. If this is a bit specific, you could use just pomegranate- or if you like, any other fruity berry juice, as long as it is red or pink!
Pour the contents into your bowl, and cool with a spoon of strawberry or raspberry yoghurt.
We may well and truly be into winter now, but this porridge reminds me of warmer, summery times. This was a work day recipe, but I wish I had a photo; as well as tasting really fruity and delicious, it’s really pretty to serve up- deep pink with swirls of red and a soft pink topping. It’s almost too pretty to eat…
Saturday, 20 November 2010
There are two root paths of the word ‘Booze.’
Similar vocabulary can be traced back to the 1320’s, when bous/bouse; meant to drink to excess, rooted in the Dutch, ‘busen’.
However, ‘booze’ itself became a common noun in the 1850s, when EG Booz of Philidelphia labelled his whiskey bottles with his name….
Friday, 19 November 2010
It is also my favourite time of the year for food. I absolutely adore root vegetables- Beetroot, Swede, and above all, the abundance of pumpkin and squash. I am a huge fan of pumpkin and tend to put it in everything whilst it’s about.
Being an intuitive cook, I throw together soups and experiment with casseroles, both of which lend themselves to the sturdy and comforting seasonal winter produce.
Here are a few of the things I’ve been cooking the last couple of weeks:
Yam and Sweet Potato Samosas
Having Brick Lane just down the road, I love to shop in the huge Bangla Cash and Carrys. I love the aisles upon aisles of spices, lentils and curry powders, as well as the stacks of plantains and nameless exotic vegetables.
On my last shopping trip I picked up and few yams and some samosa pads. They were surprisingly easy to do- I simply boiled the yam and sweet potato and then broke down into small chunks with chopped onion, chilli and curry powder. Its also good to add a few peas.
We then spooned a small amount of the mixture onto one end of the samosa tabs, folded into triangles and shallow fried for a few minutes each, draining on kitchen paper.
Not content with just getting yam and sweet potato into our meal, I made a pumpkin curry to go with the Samosas. This was a typical Lou-style throw everything into the pot; curry spices, pumpkin, coconut, baby thai apple aubergine and plenty of cumin seeds and turmeric.
White Fish Baby Squash Curry with lime, coconut and ginger
You may recognise this! For more details on this curry, made with white fish, yellow thai curry paste, fish sauce and a mix of lime, ginger, garlic and spices, check out http://loulovesfood.blogspot.com/2010/11/dinner-squash-bowl-curry.html
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
If you’re making as many pumpkin based recipes as me, you’ll also have pleny of left over seeds. When you hollow out your pumpkin, set them aside on a piece of kitchen paper to drain. Once they have dried out, spread them on some kitchen foil on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. Give them a shake and sprinkle with chilli, powdered garlic and paprika. You can also use powdered cumin or any other spice that you fancy. Toast them in the oven for about ten or fifteen minutes- but keep an eye on them as they can burn fast! They should be slightly golden but not browned, and crunchy to chew on.
Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Chorizo Soup
This recipe has been the highlight of my autumn so far! Taken from the Cooking with Pumpkin and Squash by Brian Glover, it's really rich and flavoured. I high recommend it!
This soup involves roasting the butternut squash in oil and garlic whilst frying the chorizo with onion and then adding to chopped tomoatoes and stock. Only blending half of the this mixture with the squash ensures that it stays thick and chunky. It’s a perfect recipe for the miserable weather.
If you’re going to be making this much soup, you will be wanting fresh bad to go with it. The highlight of the season for me has been learning to make bread- granary loafs, white rolls and herb or tomato bread. I love knotting them into a variety of plaits and twists.
A-ma-zing. Early in the season we went out and found our own in the woods. Its so easy to simply slash a cross in them and toast for about half an hour. They don’t need any flavouring- they’re perfect as they are.
Apple and Maple Cupcakes (with a maple glaze)
According to my sister, who I saved one back for, these are “the perfect muffin”; moist and soft and spicy. Apple and spices have a very autumnal flavour, and the maple glaze is lovely. They aren’t too sweet either, and the flour is mixed with oatmeal so they have a lovely thick texture.
The mix is a basic muffin mix, with half the flour being replaced with rolled oats. Simply tip in chopped and slightly stewed chunks of apple with a spoonful of cinnamon, a pinch of mixed spices and half a cup of maple syrup.
The glaze is made by drizzling icing sugar mixed with maple syrup over the muffins as they cool from the oven.
I hope you enjoy what’s left of autumn! If you have a recipes or autumnal ideas you would like to share than please do leave a comment and suggest it. If you have any recipes you would like me to try, or you have tried anything pretty special yourself and would like to send the recipe or some photos, just email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Venison Sausage and Cherry Tomato Porridge:
Prepare your porridge by soaking in water.
While the porridge is soaking grill your sausages. You could use any type of sausage but it should be something special such as Wild Boar, Leek and Herbs. I'm using Venison Sausages from Borough Market.
Put your porridge on to cook, adding a pinch of salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a heaped tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme.
When the sausages are nearly cooked put cherry tomatoes under the grill and sear till they are slightly browned and visibly sagging.
Chop the sausages into 1 inch slices.
Serve out the porridge. Drop 3 or 4 cherry tomatoes into each bowl and crown with a generous portion of sliced sausage.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
In the 'factory', based in Whiteley's Shopping Centre, you are invited to create your own gum; picking from 400 flavour combinations and mixing, rolling and cutting the gum yourself.
If you are (like me) indecisive, choosing from over 200 flavours and 40,000 gum combinations can be a dizzying prospect. That said- some flavours are more appealing than others. To make the selection process easier, glass jars of scent cover pillar like tables in a small and dark room.
Each jar is labelled with the scent it contains- It's like a sensory Russian Roulette.
Lilac is soft and lovely, the fruits are sweet and sickly, the herbs delicate. My favourites are the 'burnt' flavours- burnt orange and burnt sugar.
Others are less lovely. Sea Urchin, for example, is 'like death in a jar'. Shrimp is equally stomach turning. (As a general rule, I would avoid any sea-based flavoured gum.)
Scents that catch the eye of the public a little more than the generic strawberry and cherry include lobster, black truffle, chilli or ale yeast.
Once you have made your selection, you take it to the next door lab, where you are guided through making your own gum, mixing the melted down latex-y gum mix with the scent, stirring vigorously with icing sugar and food dye and kneading like dough till you have stretchy gum. Roll this out, cut it up and store away in your little Bompas and Parr box.
It's true, things are more exciting when they let you do it yourself.
I left my flavour selection down to the professional expertise of Chef Andrew. Returning from the store room of flavour, I was presented with pine- and though it genuinely did taste of pine, it was surprisingly appetising. Who knew having a mouth like a new car would taste so appealing. It's a more original oral freshener than Spearmint!
Lou is now the proud owner of the Flavour Thesaurus- It couldn't have come at a better time really! Maybe I should have taken it with me, and tried some of these combinations...
Coffee and Cigarettes: I read about this flavour prior to attending the factory and was keen to try it, despite being a non smoker, and therefore dubious of whether I would actually like it. But as my sister says, you should try everything twice.
As it was, it was actually an enjoyable chew. Apparently dealing twice the caffeine fix of a traditional cup of coffee, it had more coffee flavour to it than cigarette- though it resembled one of those rich filter coffees that are so strong they actually have that slightly ashy morning-after-a-night-in-a-pool-house taste. It was rich and enjoyable.
Chilli and coconut: I'm a sucker for anything with chilli in it. The classic chilli and chocolate may be a bit obvious, but how about coconut with chilli? According to Niki Segent, coconut 'soothes the heat of chilli, whose active component capsaicin is soluble in fat, but not water.' Beats coconut and rum in my book...
Strawberry and Black Pepper: You know, like strawberries and black pepper. Sweet, with a little kick.
Coffee and Cardamom: I've long been a fan of this Turkish inspired coffee combination. I tried the cardamom and it was pretty similar to the pine- Combined with coffee, and it would be like sitting in a blue tiled Brick Lane Turkish coffee shop. My happy place in my mouth.
Beer and Curry: Don't you be turning your noses up, as far as I'm concerned, that's pretty unappealing anyway... But you know, as my sister says...
Greek Yoghurt and Honey: Not especially creative, but I think I would enjoy it.
Rose and Cucumber: One for summer- or for the girls!
What combinations would you try? I'd love to know! Go forth and masticate...
Monday, 1 November 2010
It's Autumn! My favourite time of the year for food. I love casseroles, soups and root vegetables and in autumn I have these in abundance. Ever since pumpkins and squash started to sneak into every market and shop in London I've wanted to try using them to make a good squash curry, and serving them in their shells.
This curry was squash, carrots, onions and lentils, with coconut milk, yellow thai curry paste and plenty of lime, ginger, lemon grass and garlic.
I made the bowls by hollowing the squash and rubbing with oil and salt before baking in the oven for half an hour. After taking it out, I scooped out some of the softened flesh and added it to the curry, then ladled the curry into it.
I saved the seeds, which I then dried out and rubbed with olive oil, paprika, chilli and curry powder. These were roasted and served alongside the curry!
These curries taste gorgeous and also look so pretty! You can break up the shell as you eat and scoop out the flesh on the skin so nothing is wasted... Waste not, want not.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I seem to spend half my life in Shoreditch and half in Soho. I just love Soho- it's where life seems to happen. It's the little beating heart in the centre of London, pumping life into the city.
Naturally, it's unlikely I would spend long in somewhere without a great variety of food- Shoreditch has its big Bangla Cash and Carrys, Soho has its huge array of cafes, restaurants and bakeries. (Not to mention China Town... )
You may remember my 'Focus On... Wardour Street'; One road alone that could feed me for a month.
So it came as no surprise to me that the cafe that seems to be on every one's lips right now- Mooli's- was to be found on Frith Street. I had heard about it from a number of food bloggers and friends so it seemed natural that when I found myself aimless in Soho one lunch time I should drag myself away from my usual haunts and try it out.
Stepping in (and they will hate me for this) my first impression was how similar it was to it's Mexican counterpart Benito's Hat. The walls were painted cheerful colours, the tables flanked with high stools and the serving counter squatting at the back. But in the design stakes, Mooli's wins out. Bright patterns, blossom and birds designed by Rachel Mikulsky adorn the walls, one of which is dedicated to a series of bold statements- "Not to be consumed with low grain cocaine" and "This is not a f**king Burrito".
... You understand my reticence in name dropping Benito's Hat now?
It's very simple. Mooli's serves mooli's. And not a lot else. But really, who needs anything else from a place like this?
The premise of these mooli's are filling home made roti (Indian flat bread) with meat, veg or paneer and plenty of additional flavours; in the forms of sharp salsas, fruity chutneys and spicy potatoes.
They may have a limited menu, but the mooli's do come in six flavours- Chicken with a mint and coriander dressing and apple, spicy beef with coconut and cucumber raita, and Pork with pomegranate salsa (oooh!). The most popular flavour seems to be the Goat, spiced with cumin, coriander cloves, chilli's and Cinnamon and accompanied by potatoes sautéed with dry mango, red onion and lime.
There are also vegetarian options; Asparagus with potatoes, roasted cumin seeds, dried mango, yoghurt and tamarind or Paneer; Indian cheese scrambled in spices with tomato chutney and grated carrot.
Ok, so it doesn't look *quite* like this when it's served up... But considering how completely impossible it is not to make a mess of anything that comes in a wrap, does it really matter..?
Photography again, by Mowie. I am a big fan of his beaauutiful work!
It was, based on this, tough to choose. I went with the chicken, though in retrospect I'm now fantasising about the paneer... Though I do love the sound of the potato and cumin... And the pomegranate salsa... and the coconut with the beef... Oh dear.
We also bowed to pressure and got the goat.
They were both gorgeous! (£4.45) The sheer quantity of ingredients they crammed in all complimented and contrasted each other nicely. The cinnamon, cloves and cumin gave them a distinctively Indian taste without in any way resembling your local generic Indian restaurant.
Chunky, flavoursome and compact, these Mooli's makes for a great lunch break pit-stop. Amazingly, although they aren't in any way obscenely over-sized, I remained so full all day that even by the end of the night (I would say we had lunch about 2 o clock) I still wasn't hungry, and ate nothing more than an apple that day. That's value for money, right?
I don't want for burritos to keep rearing their ugly heads, but you do get more from your money with a mooli. Instead of chicken with salsa, guacamole and soured cream, beef with salsa, guacamole and soured cream or vegetables with salsa, guacamole and soured cream, you do get a lot more carefully considered ingredients rammed in. Don't get me wrong, I love a burrito... But in this race (for me) there can only be one winner.
So if you're looking for somewhere new to eat in the West End, or you want a food lovers variation on the (pale by comparison) Burrito, check out Mooli's.
50 Frith St
Westminster, London W1D 4
020 7494 9075
It takes 85,000- 140,000 crocuses to make a kilo of saffron.
Alexander the Great washed his hair in saffron- at a time when it was more expensive than gold.
In 15th Century Nurenburg, it was a capital offence to mix saffron- culprits were burnt at the steak or buried alive...
That is dediation to food, and I approve.