September 21, 2007
Hailing from land-locked Derbyshire I’ve never developed a strong attachment to the sea. Coastal towns make me a little nervous, partly, I think, because the sea cuts down your escape options. From wherever I’m standing I like to be able to move quickly in any direction, just in case.
Nonetheless, Mopsa’s mussel-foraging expeditions on the Cornish coast do have me feeling a tad jealous of his coastal lifestyle. London has a surprising amount of wild food, but unfortunately there’s no shellfish to be found clinging to the arches of Tower Bridge.
So here in the city we have to make do with what the veg box man brings. Last night was the first evening for a while that Maths Chick and I managed to sit down and have a meal together, and I cooked up a homely frittata from Marcella Hazan to mark the occasion.
Potato and Onion Frittata for two
1. Cut four or five small potatoes into 1cm cubes. Shallow fry in medium-hot oil (enough to come 1cm up the side of the pan) until cooked through and golden brown all over. Drain on kitchen paper.
2. Slice an onion finely and add to the oil. Continue to fry, on a lower heat, until soft and golden.
3. Whisk up 5 eggs in a bowl, season well and add the fried potatoes and onions. Add a good grating of parmesan at this stage if you like.
4. Heat some butter in a deep frying pan until it froths a little. Pour in the eggy mixture and turn the heat down to low straight away.
5. Cook slowly until mostly set through. Flash under the grill for a few minutes to finish off the top of the frittata if need be.
I served it with julienned cabbage and carrots, steamed then dressed with butter and fresh parsley and tarragon.
September 12, 2007
This dish is an adaption of a recipe from the first River Cafe cookbook. Basically, peel and slice the carrot and spuds into large chunks. Pour a quarter of an inch or so of oil into a saute pan and gently fry some whole spices – I put in a teaspoon each of fennel, poppy and coriander seeds and a whole dried chilli. Cumin would also be good. There was no garlic in the house (shock-horror) otherwise I’d have thrown in a few whole cloves in their skin. Add the veg and gently saute, turning the carrots and spuds occasionally, until nicely browned and cooked through. Season and serve immediately.
I had these with Black halibut, cut in to gougons, dipped in flour and fried quickly at a high heat. I’d never heard of this fish before (also known as Greenland halibut), and it was a tad mushy and mildly flavoured, but nonetheless a decent, and cheaper, alternative to haddock.
September 10, 2007
Here’s a tip the next time you’re doing a roast. Slice a few peeled spuds and onions thinly, season well and add some fresh herbs (e.g. sage with pork, rosemary with lamb or chicken). Toss them in a little oil and spread them out in the roasting tray or pan, pour over a small glass of white wine. Cook the joint on a rack above the veggies.
By the time the meat has finished roasting, the spuds and onions have soaked up the fat and juices from the joint and gone gooey and soft on the bottom, crisp and brown on top. A rib-sticking alternative to the traditional roasties.
September 3, 2007
Work starts again tomorrow for earnest, but for today I’ve been enjoying the luxury of having more than one gas ring and frying pan at my disposal. Here’s what I’ve been stuffing my face with during my last 12 hours of freedom…
Boudin Noir with sauteed apples
Not really food porn this one, more of a slasher movie. A big, bursting, bloody Boudin Noir sitting not-so-pretty on top of apple slices fried in rendered pork fat. It’s criminal to come back from France without a boot-full of their wonderfully sanguine take on black pudding. Just hope customs don’t want to search your car at Dover or there could be some tricky explaining to do.
Inspired by Over-Friendly Whittinstall’s latest ramblings in the Guardian I set out on a mission to make bramble jelly. Highgate Wood just up the hill is rich hunting ground for these little beauties, if you don’t mind the odd volley of verbal abuse from the local hoodies (e.g. “Watcha doin’ bending over in the bushes, weirdo?”). Shouldn’t they be back at school now? Great fun watching the bramble juice all roiling and tumbling as you boil up the jelly.
Raja spud salad
I’ve been enjoying the Raja spuds that arrived in the box this week. Neither particularly waxy, nor too floury, they look very cute in their girlie pink jackets. Tonight I made a salad out of them, dressing them with chopped tomato, red pepper, olive oil, parsley, garlic and white wine vinegar. Served up with grilled Derbyshire lamb chops it made a worthy last meal for a condemned man facing imminent office incarceration.
February 8, 2007
Sometimes Maths Chick muscles her way into the kitchen. Here’s a photo of her on Friday night, carefully constructing a potato pizza. As you can see, she’s a serious cook, focused and inclined to react violently against encroachments on her territory. I find it’s a good idea to leave her to it, going into exile in the living room with a glass of booze and a good book.
If I’m feeling particularly brave or hungry, I’ll sometimes attempt a quick grab-and-run ambush to the kitchen, snatching a few strands of onion or a pinch of grated cheese, before retreating quickly to safety.
Potato pizza is an unusual concept, although not as bizarre as the cranberry jam and turkey pizza I was forced to eat in New Zealand last year. Adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe, it’s a mild combination, and would benefit from a salty foil such as anchovies, capers or olives. It’s worth trying out if you’ve got a couple of stray spuds in the veg tray.
September 10, 2006
By far the most exciting debut in this week’s summer box was a generous bag of watercress. There are so many uses for this vegetable’s sharp, hot, clean taste. And I love that mild stinging sensation it produces in the mouth.
I remember going crayfish hunting in the River Derwent when I was working as a cook in Bakewell one summer. We didn’t find any of the wee crustacae but we did return to the restaurant with a placky bag full of wild watercress. It was pretty much the same as the cultivated stuff, except with smaller leaves and a more peppery kick. The customers loved it and, with a 100% profit margin, so did the boss. Fortunately, no one asked any questions about levels of pollution in the Derwent.
Potato and watercress soup is a great late-summer staple. In the past I’ve enjoyed making it into a ‘gusto’ – an old English sauce made with mustard and egg yolk, great with homemade fish and chips. I also find it’s a good foil, eaten plain, for very fatty meat or fish. We had a big bowl of it on the side with a shoulder of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary, roasted on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes.
In fact, we’re so excited by this week’s watercress we decided to write a letter. Here’s what we wrote…
Please can you fix it for us to have loads of watercress delivered by those nice Riverford people for ever and ever. Cuz it’s great.
Gastropunk and Maths chick
Anyone else got any favourite watercress concoctions to share?
July 28, 2006
Maths chick is on school summer holidays. The implications for the quiet life of a gastropunk are serious. My sedate morning routine has been blown away in a whirlwind of juicing, knitting and frenetic breakfast activity. I am no longer lured slowly into wakefulness by the quietly insistent voice of John Humphries interogating some hapless junior minister. The living room is now be-decked with half-knitted cardies and the bathroom overflowing with freshly-dyed skirts. Yes, the domestic goddess is in her full pomp and majesty.
Returning from work, I reclaimed the kitchen after a hard-fought skirmish and cooked up another mini-feast I’ve been fantasizing about since coming back from market with a sturdy ham hock a couple of weeks ago. What could be more English than a combo of boiled pig, pasley sauce and summer carrots?
Ham hock, parsley sauce and carrots
1. I simmered the hock in water, with a couple of onions, some cloves and peppercorns for about 3 hours. Then I drained the stock off into a bowl, let the joint cool and bunged it in the fridge for a night or two. This evening I cut the meat off the bone into thick, rough slices. You could just use slices of supermarket ham if you prefer.
2. Made a thickish parsley sauce out of a bechamel made of half milk, half hock-stock and a couple of gulps of double cream. I think parsley sauce works best with an extravagant amount of finely-chopped curly parsley – none of your flat-leaved sophistication for this dish, thanks.
3. Just peeled the young carrots and boiled them whole. Didn’t need any salt because the bacon was salty enough.
4. Fried up some whole mushrooms in butter and oil. These had started to go dry so I added a few tablespoons of hock-stock halfway through which re-constituted them nicely and created a potent funghi-flavour.
5. Made mash. You know how you like it.
6. Served it all up and bolted it down with lashings of mustard, Famous Five style.
You can keep your tapa, antipasti, schnitzels, coq au vin, tabbuleh and saurkraut. Let’s hear it for good honest English fayre. Stand up, I say, and sing with one voice…. Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free, da-da-dada-da-daaaa, That are born of thee… dum da-da-da-daaa-da….