Wednesday, 31 August 2011

courgette fritters

Green with envy?
'What a lovely big box of green goodness you have!'
'All the better to cook with my dear'

This was delivered to the door by some very kind neighbours...

              ...my mother also has some courgettes in the garden.

                       ...ever wondered what a courgette looks like growing?

Is it a snake? Don't be shy...reveal yourself

Peek a boo.

Wowza

Oooh, Hello There Sailor! Hmmm, the picture is rather self explanatory. There isn't much that I can add except to leave it open for your own pun insert! This one was particularly impressive, and was particularly ripe for the picking, as you can see by its 'grotesque' size. Turn your back for a day, and courgettes will grow out of control, so you have to keep a keen and watchful eye over them.

Do you like courgettes?

More importantly do you know what you can do with courgettes?

I do.

The Italians know how to use courgettes. A lot of us English assume this vegetable boring. I used to slice them into fat pound coin sizes and just pop them on a baking tray with oil, salt and pepper. After 30'ish mins (with flipping), they attained a sort of marmite covering. Now, however, I like to be a little more cosmopolitan.

...courgette fritters.

I've already covered sweetcorn fritters. I can't get enough of fritters. I just LOVE fritters.

Get grating! (use a grater if you haven't got a magimix - NEVER SAY NEVER)

This is a recipe from Jojo Tulloh's cookbook:
  • 4 small or 2 medium courgettes (about 350g)
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped herbs (mint and chives or thyme)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, peeled and shredded
  • salt and pepper

Grate the courgettes coarsely, salt and leave them to drain in a colander.

Let the water drain out of the courgette

Take a clean tea towel and place the courgette pulp in the middle. Wring the tea towel to squeeze out excess water.

A few simple ingredients

Put the flour in a bowl and add the beaten eggs, herbs, lemon zest, garlic, spring onions and courgettes (we didn't have any spring onions so we improvised with cumin).

Heat a large frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, take a heaped tablespoon of mixture and drop it into the pan, flattening it out slightly with the back of the spoon. Make sure the side is browned before flipping over.

Don't flip before the bottom is brown!

Once cooked, drain the fritters on a paper toweled plate or oven tray.

Ready to be wolfed down
Serve with mixed leaves or whatever you have (we had green beans and a fresh tomato sliced). Make a little tzatziki to have with or serve with chilli jam.

Eat!

They are good for breakfast too!

Monday, 29 August 2011

store cupboard supper

Have you any ingredients knocking about?


This is another winning recipe from my mother's 'Kitchen Notes' book.

It must be a terrible shame for mothers, after slaving over a healthy tasty hot meal, when their children request ketchup as an accompaniment and ruin every inch of flavour that was supposed to be enjoyed!

The thing is, taste is acquired. Taste buds change and evolve. When we are babies there is only one thing we like. Glucose. Sugar. It's a nature thing. An inbuilt thing. We want the pureed fruits. We want the pureed root vegetables. We might turn our noses up at certain things (I only disliked mushrooms, bananas, honey and milk on its own). It takes a determined mother to encourage tastings through major trial and error. The best place to start is in the breast milk (its flavour varies everyday depending on what the mother has eaten, so better prepares the baby for a wider range of foods). As children, we still like sweet things. It's taken me until age 27 to lean more to the savoury side of cravings...so there we go.

When you look at the ingredients in this dish, you can tell why children love it. I call it nursery food, which is why we still love it as adults. It is also incredibly easy and cheap to make (4 free range chicken thighs were just over £2), and you pretty much have all the ingredients already.

Chicken thighs - chef Bruno Loubet for L'Odeon

This is a recipe that French chef Bruno Loubet used to make for his staff at L'Odeon, which they LOVED.

So for those that can't read writing:
  • 16 chicken thighs (rub oil, salt, pepper)
  • 3 tbsp HP sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp malt vinegar (use less than this though)
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 8 spring onions, sliced
Make a marinade of the ingredients I've highlighted. Roast the seasoned/oiled thighs for 15 mins in a hot oven (200'C) to get them going and to get the skin crisping.

Hello birdies!

Then add the marinade, with the finely chopped onion (mine wasn't so fine!) scattered over and bake in oven until done (about another 30-40 mins).

Add the marinade and scattered onion on top

Perhaps after 10 mins of cooking put some foil over the top to prevent blackening on the top (like mine went - don't be alarmed though, this is sticky and toffee like). Take out of the oven and leave to sit for about 10 mins. Scatter over the chopped spring onion and serve with a plain green leaf salad and seasoned new potatoes. The sauce of the chicken is enough to scoop everything up with.

Finger licking good!

(NB Try and use chicken thighs with skin and bone, otherwise they will dry out and cook too quickly).

Saturday, 27 August 2011

le pain quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien...is this tempting you at all?



The first said: “Who has been sitting in my chair?”
The second: “Who has been eating off my plate?”
The third: “Who has taken a bite of my bread?”
The fourth: “Who has been eating some of my vegetables?”
The fifth: “Who has been using my fork?”
The sixth: “Who has been cutting with my knife?”
And the seventh: “Who has been drinking out of my cup?”
Then the first looked around, saw a little hollow in his bed and said: “Who has been lying in my bed?”
The others came running, and cried out: “Somebody has been lying in my bed too”
But when the seventh looked at his bed, he saw Snow White lying there asleep. 

Organic bread
The Seven Dwarfs had every reason to be suspicious and inquisitive about their unexpected intruder, but the happy vibrant 'whistling work' that Snow White casted on their lives, is the same spell that Alain Coumont has dusted over our cafe culture when he founded Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels in 1990.

Infact, he's created an atmosphere so relaxed and inviting I half expect to see Snow White, mouth open, dribbling and asleep on one of the long wooden communal tables, that dominates each store.

Le Pain Quotidien's bakery beginnings, ensures that bread is still the cornerstone of the menu (you don't need to hear my 'pro' carbohydrate talk again), but I'm just so darn excitable about their specially, expertly and organically made bread without yeast. After hearing that only organic stone ground flour, salt and water are 'kneaded' then you might think twice about picking up a loaf of bread from the supermarket that has 25 ingredients!

Kneading the right ingredients



Organic rye bread

Organic porridge, honey and banana
I have many fond memories of LPQ since it's hit London. I've taken clients for breakfast in High Street Kensington. I've picked up a fruit salad on my way to work in South Kensington. I've cured a heavy night with an organic ham, gruyere and mustard filled baguette in Parsons Green. I've filled up on wine, tarts and tartines during Nottinghill Carnival in Nottinghill. I've soothed aching 'invisalign' teeth with organic porridge, honey and banana on Kings Road. I've delivered fresh coffee, and hazlenut flutes to a friend in need, and I've spilled the entire pot of pepper over my scrambled eggs.

What keeps drawing me back is the quality of product. The environment keeps me in with its warmth. There is no pretence. One can whip out their laptop with sufficient work space, and you could stay all day and not be frowned upon. How would you like to entertain friends in your kitchen? How would you like your kitchen? Let's call LPQ your home away from home, where you don't have to do the work!
Cup of coffee or tea?

If you are not enticed by the bakery then there are soups, hot dishes, a dinner menu and Coumont's RN13 label of organic wine to tickle your tastebuds.

Are you salivating?
There are also plenty of kitchen cupboard essentials, like the organic jams or the 'to die for' organic artichoke spread with extra virgin olive oil, and then there are the 'Le Pique-nique Box' choices which I think are very reasonably priced (compared to another Italian chain out there) and even a canape service. Is there no sign of this chain slowing down?

Organic artichoke spread

Now that it's raining, all I can do is take my purchases home, curl up on the sofa with a slice of rye toast and make sure to spread it thick with a generous helping of Noisella!! (sorry Nutella, but I've been cheating on you!).

Noisella

cheers to the 'bank holiday' weekend

Cheers to the freakin' weekend, I'll drink to that...


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

gin + tonic jelly

G and T with a twist...

Got my Bombay Sapphire...now what?
 ...a gelatine twist!

Fine Leaf Gelatine

If you're not careful it will knock you sideways.

At 15 years old I announced that I would prepare my parents their anniversary meal. I took over the kitchen for the whole day. I screamed bloody murder at my mother, if she so much as peeped around the door. I made up the dining room table. I acted as Head Chef and Maitre D. The first year, I made for starter, a 'Sugar Club' spinach, avocado, pancetta salad with homemade croutons, for main, a Nigel Slater chicken casserole, and for pudding, Jamie Oliver chocolate pots and 'Sugar Club' shallow fried biscuits. The second year, I can't remember what starter I made (!), for main, a Delia Smith's green Thai chicken curry, and for pudding, Nigella Lawson's gin and tonic jelly and florentines.

My parents were so impressed, they were hoping for a third year in a row, but I was so exhausted, I thought I'd leave it there as an iconic memory (best not to overdo these acts of kindness!). It took 3 batches of the florentines before I got them right, and I spoiled them with a choice of white, milk and dark chocolate Lindt toppings. BUT, the main pièce de résistance was the jelly. Back then I made a little mistake and got the quantities slightly mixed up, leaving my parents in a hysterical sloshed haze (perhaps this is why they raved about my efforts?) and they marvelled at how the tonic retained its fizz (this only works very fresh). However you like to look at it, it is such a fun fun easy pudding to make and can be sure to impress pretty much everyone, or at least get them drunk enough into thinking so!

I've noticed there seems to be a little blue and yellow colour scheme running...

Golden wobbly jewelled magic
It went deliciously well with the crunch of the florentines, but it equally loves the creaminess of a good ice-cream to catch the punch of the alcohol.


Extremely simple to follow and make


Monday, 22 August 2011

al fresco dining?

Are you joining us for lunch?
The wonderful thing about when we actually experience summer in the UK is the possibility of eating outside.

Pork saltimbocca, is something that has had the nod of approval from our family for over 20 years and it is so so delicious and so easy, it makes for a perfect Sunday lunch.
Pork Saltimbocca
 ...infact...it is so easy it doesn't need much explaining...just a few pictures to tell its story.

Slice up a nice piece of pork tenderloin into slices
Using a heavy instrument, bash at the cut slices to flatten
Cut up pieces of bacon and place on top of the pork medallions
Press both sides into a plain flour/salt/pepper mix
Press a sage leaf onto each medallion and cover again with some flour mixture
Add each medallion one at a time sage side down into an oiled high heat pan
Brown both sides
Use a white wine that you have in the house -we used Rose
Pour a hearty glug of wine into the pan - turn the heat down a little
Add a knob of butter and allow the sauce to reduce
Prepare some mashed potato - using butter, salt, pepper, chives and splash of milk to mash
Prepare some summer coloured vegetables
Serve up and finish with some chopped parsley, salt and pepper
Tuck in!




Friday, 19 August 2011

hummus

It's hummus o'clock

I lived off a lot of hummus when I first moved up to London 5 years ago, which, at 600 calories a pot, might have contributed to my weight gain at the time (that and the treat tubs from M&S!). Apparently it seems that moving to a city equates to losing all sense of how to prepare a proper meal and look after oneself. When did this obsession with hummus begin? Suddenly heavy dense pots were cropping up on every desk of the female population. It was all my brain could comprehend in preparing as a snack. I too joined the back of the long winding queues in M&S on my sparse lunch break whilst working in fashion. Now the thought of the thick wet porridge like cement that most of the supermarkets offer up make me feel queasy. I don't think I can go back.

...please don't make me go back!

I haven't voluntarily chosen to have hummus for a very long time.

I have mentioned the Rainforest Creations one, but if you wish to serve up a little pre dinner snack, are intending to share and are not trying to drain the entire pot alone, then you should use a fork and make up your own.

Once you taste the flavours in homemade, you'll wonder what you have been doing (did you hear that little one with your Matzo crackers? I know you're listening!).

A few notes from my mother:

Basis: mashed chickpeas or cannellini beans, evoo, s and p, lemon juice, garlic, freshly ground cumin

Extras: tsp or so grated onion, tahini paste (if poss) cayenne, alternative: add coriander, lime juice instead of lemon

Options are endless. Read packets in Waitrose for ideas..they have one with red pepper in-throw in herbs you have left over

You might need a bit of water to slacken off if too thick, but gently...you don’t want it watery or too runny.

Fork top and add on top odd no of chickpeas (odd always looks better!) and evoo to go in grooves and paprika

Thursday, 18 August 2011

i need

...a pick me up.

Espresso and 70% dark chocolate

pronounced broo-SKET-ah

Bruschetta with tomato, feta, basil and blue cheese and beetroot
I think about Lunch before Breakfast. Does that sound familiar?

Something that does sound familiar after the week I've had is the word 'tall.' To set the record straight, I am 5 foot 9 and half inches.Very very occasionally I decide to wear heels, which bumps me up to 6 foot. I rather like it.

'Tall' however, seems to fit into the same bracket as 'thin' (this doesn't apply for 'fat') where people feel they can point out the bleeding obvious to your face, as if perhaps you hadn't already noticed it yet.

I find it all rather amusing...
  1. You're already tall enough, so it's not as if you need heels - 'to which I replied '...being short is not the only reason to wear heels, you don't see me asking the petite people why they're wearing flats now do you?'
  2. Wow, golly. You look really tall.
  3. A note left for me at work -How you don't fall over in them shoes I'll never no, plus you must have been a giant as ur tall anyway.
  4. A man and his wife next to me at the cross lights -My gosh, how tall are you?
When I was 15, my Granny used to say to me 'you're far too tall,' but I will also add that she had dementia, and so when I asked 'why?' she was only able to mutter the same story from the 50's as a reference point.

I'm surprised I haven't got a complex.

Something that isn't complexing is bruschetta. One of the easiest eats/snack/lunch/starter/supper/dinner to make. All you need is good bread to toast. Ciabatta. Sour Dough.

Homemade...

Mama's homemade bread
Make sure you have a big fat garlic to rub on and some ingredients. In Italy we stuck to tradition and had just garlic and fresh tomato rubbed onto the surface, leaving the odd tomato seed and bit of flesh. Back in the nest, it was what my mother had in the fridge. Tomatoes cut with feta and basil, and delicious Saint Agur blue cheese with slices of beetroot. Finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (for the glistening) and salt and pepper.

Ours was made with home made bread (which is very easy to make, from the back of the Allinson's wholemeal flour packet). Remember to buy the dried active yeast!

'Allinson's wholemeal flour details'

'The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread' Mother Teresa