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 18, 2007
I guess posting a recipe for pasta with tom sauce is liking writing a recipe for a cheese sarnie – it’s a patronising statement of the bleedin’ obvious.
My excuse is I wanted to show off a recent addition to my gadget collection – a food mill. Being a luddite I’m suspicious of all things electrical in the kitchen (including my oven) and prefer the reliability and control of grinding, slicing, whipping-up and mushing by hand. I also like the shiny gleaming curves of the mill, and its exuberant handle, which looks like the gear stick on the old Renault 4 my mum had when I was a kid. It’s a bugger to clean, mind.
I guess most people have their own favourite way of preparing tom sauce for pasta, even if it’s just opening a jar of Dolmio. Another excuse for including mine here is that it’s also a way of using up any stray carrots cowering in the shadowy recesses of your veg tray. I like my tom sauce sweet and simple, without herbs, occasionally without even garlic, but always enriched and sweetened at the end with butter.
Tomato sauce for penne
1. Finely dice an onion, a carrot and a couple of sticks of celery. Slowly saute them in butter or olive oil (not extra virgin). After these have started to soften, mash a garlic clove and stir that in.
2. Add a tin of Italian tomatoes (or skinned ripe fresh toms if you’re lucky enough to have a supply) and season well. Cook over a high heat, stirring regularly, for a good 15 or 20 minutes until the toms have broken down and the veg are soft.
3. Pass the sauce through the food mill, using a medium-holed attachment. Put it back in the pan and, if too thick, loosen with a splash of water. Check the seasoning.
4. Add the penne (cooked al dente, natch) to the pan, a good schlep of butter and a grating of parmesan. Mix it all up well and serve immediately. Good olive oil, extra grated parmesan and pepper should be out on the table for everyone to help themselves to.
September 17, 2007
Maths Chick has started her own vegetable-free personal blog. Featuring wasp attacks, ingrowing toenails, her new job in a posh school and her mum’s struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, it’s funny and moving, and not for the faint-hearted.
September 15, 2007
My mum has always sworn by Northern Rock, saying you couldn’t get a safer investment. It’s a family truism that they’re the best folks to take care of your dosh – I inherited a handful of shares (now almost worthless) from my Grandad and have always had my saving account with them. I wonder how far our collective faith in this company has been due to its name – ‘Northern’ implying no-nonsense, sensible, honest – ‘Rock’ denoting safe, reliable – rather than any objective judgement of their financial acumen.
So now a pillar of my inherited wisdom has been removed, it’s a good time to celebrate those certainties which are left – of which one is surely the Riverford veg box. If you order it, it will come; and it will be good. A Southern Rock. This week’s small box was particularly pleasing aesthetically – a still-life cornucopia of vegetable matter, including…
- a bunch of young turnips, with tops
- a bunch of small, stubby carrots
- a butternut squash
- a bag of Maris Peer tatties
- a bag of onions
- sweet peppers – two green, one yellow
- a pointy cabbage
So I could spend all day down my local NR branch, queueing for my savings, or I could stay at home, pull out my most trusted cook books and plan a fitting end for these fine specimens of vegetablehood.
September 13, 2007
There’s a compelling ‘farmer’s eye’ view of the latest outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease on mopsa’s blog.
September 13, 2007
Last night Maths Chick was out galivanting and I was left in peace to watch England’s Euro qualifier against Russia on the box. I had a half bottle of decent Burgundy and fancied a dish of something crunchy and salty to chase it down while I gawped at the footie. These shallow-fried breadcrumbed mushrooms fitted the bill nicely.
1. Cut your button mushrooms in half, or leave whole if they’re very small.
2. Whisk an egg in one bowl, season it. Lay out some fine breadcrumbs on a plate next to it.
3. First, dip the mushrooms in the egg, shake off the excess and roll them in the crumbs until they’re well coated.
4. In a frying or saute pan heat about half an inch depth of sunflower oil. It’s hot enough if it sizzles when you dip in one of the ‘shrooms.
5. Fry until golden and crisp on one side, then turn over. When they’re done, fish ’em out on to some kitchen paper.
6. Put in a bowl, scatter over some more salt and pepper, and serve immediately with lemon wedges.
You could vary this by including some cubes of camembert prepared in the same way, maybe accompanied with a dollop of redcurrant jelly, in 80’s bistro fashion. This would transform it into a retro-classic, a bit like the current England line-up (4-4-2, Owen and Heskey up front, Terry Venable’s hair-do).
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.