Posts Tagged ‘eating’

“You got paid early in December ready for Christmas, so you are currently skint. Your New Year diet regime has now slipped and you are hoovering up food like there’s no tomorrow.” New Year’s resolutions start flying out the window and all those gym clothes you bought are a constant reminder of how little exercise you are actually doing! Using the following formula:

\frac{[W + D-d] T^Q}{M N_a}

where: Weather, debt, Time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low Motivational levels and the feeling of a Need to take action (D is undefined) scientists have predicted that the most depressing day of 2013 will be Monday 21st January .

So with five days to go until we apparently become depressed about life, the economy, the weather and complain about all and sundry – becoming a veritable Victor Meldrew – how prepared are you to face the year that is still at large?

Food Enhancement

There are many things that alter our moods that we have no control over but the one thing that we can rescue and take charge of is the food we eat. What you eat and when you eat has a big impact on how we feel.

lentils3

Choosing foods that have a lower glycemic index will help fill you up and sustain your energy levels for longer as they help your blood sugars stay stable. I have previously mentioned the health benefits of porridge in “Oat to a Good Start”. Other food items that have a low glycemic index are pulses and lentils.

“Lentils giving us a double whammy of health benefits and prosperity for the new year!”

Lentils are in the top six auspicious foods providing the consumer with luck and providence for the year ahead. In Italy it is customary to eat sausages and green lentils just after midnight as you see in the New Year. So with health and good fortune in mind I present you with my two favourite lentil dishes:

Pan Fried Salmon and Lentils:

lentils4

1st: Chop a medium onion and slowly fry in a saucepan.

2nd: Add your Puy Lentils and slick in the oily onion mixture.

3rd: Add 3 times the amount of water to lentils and add a stock cube. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25mins.

4th: Once the lentils have cooked for approx 20mins, put the salmon fillet onto a very hot skillet. Cook on its presentation side for approx 5mins and then flip it onto its skin side for a further 4mins. If you are cooking any greens to go with make sure these are ready to go once the salmon is cooked.

5th: Plate up!

Not only are the lentils great here but the salmon high in Omega-3 and the asparagus rich in antioxidants and nutrients makes this a power-meal.

Lentils and Sausages:lentils6

1st: Prepare the lentils as in the recipe above.

2nd: Cook your sausages on a low heat for around 15mins turning throughout they cooking until the colour all around.

3rd: Once the sausages are ready remove them from the pan and add a splosh of red wine / port to deglaze the pan. Crush some garlic into this and stir. Scrape the sticky bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and reduce until the ‘red gravy’ is slightly thicker.

4th: Plate up! Pour the juices over the sausages and lentils. Sprinkle with some fresh parsely.

Lentils love pork – my Gran used to make lentils with chopped chorizo pork sausage and I normally pick a herby variety however, the ones in the photo above are a venison and merlot variety.

So with a plate of lentils on my lap to warm me this winter’s night I wish you health and happiness for the year to come. Don’t leave it to fate – break the Blue Monday curse.

Enjoy…

Before any of you ask, this was not a student creation from my University days gone by!

Kedgeree is at its most basic, a dish consisting of boiled rice, flaked fish, curry powder and hard boiled eggs.  It is thought to have originated from an Indian rice and bean/lentil dish called Khichri, and widely believed that the dish was introduced to the Uk by returning British soldiers who enjoyed it in India whilst serving there during the British Raj.

During Victorian times it was served as a breakfast dish, as part of the very fashionable colonial Anglo-Indian cuisine that was sweeping Victorian Britain.

It is one of many breakfast dishes that, in the days before refrigeration

“converted yesterday’s leftovers into warm, hearty and appealing breakfast dishes.”

Kedgeree can take on many guises; some people fry onions until crisp to scatter over top before serving, others add sultanas into the mix, some use a variety of fish (e.g. smoked haddock).  Celebrity chefs have turned the recipe from a simple putting together of ingredients into a much more decadent dish by using every ingredient in your spice rack or by using ingredients that you need to spend your lunch break searching for!

My advice: keep it simple

Kedgeree

1st: Boil eggs until they are hard boiled.  Set aside and allow to cool.

2nd: Place a salmon fillet per person into a saucepan.  Cover with water and add peppercorns, salt and bay leaves.  If you’re feeling adventurous add a few crushed cardamom pods.  Simmer gently for 10mins.  Allow to cool in the liquid.

3rd: Chop a medium sized onion and fry in some butter.

4th: Once the onion is soft, add a couple of teaspoons of curry powder to the saucepan and stir.

5th: Add the rice (I use basmati) and coat the grains with the buttery, curried onions.

6th: Use the poaching liquid and top up with any extra water to cook your rice using the 2:1 method.  For depth of flavour I always use a stock cube – if you leave this out check for seasoning later.

7th: Once everything is cooked* it is just a case of assembling the dish:

a) remove the skin off the salmon and flake into pieces (take care with any bones)

b) sprinkle with fresh parsely

c) mix everything with the back of 2 wooden spoons and serve

d) squeeze a lemon over the rice

e) peel the eggs and chop into quarters but serve these equally to avoid argument!

*I like mine to have peas, so once the rice is cooked and whilst assembling the dish, I add frozen peas to the saucepan to cook them quickly in the residual heat.

Even though its intention was to be a breakfast dish, and it is relatively simple to make, it is just not practical for me to want to cook this for breakfast – not even at the weekend!  But it does make for a great light supper or a fantastic weekend brunch; especially a late-Saturday-morning-hangover-looming-brunch!  However, let’s simplify this even more: dispense with stages 1 & 2, don’t bother with the hard boiled eggs and poached, flaked salmon and just open a can of tuna into the boiled, curried rice.

“Good company, good food and good wine!”

That was the welcome and introduction that we received at El Capote’s 5th wine and food matching held Thursday 7th June.

The theme for this evening’s dining experience was Italian.  As pretty much everyone had already been to at least one of the previous four evenings, they knew the ritual that we were about to partake in.  And a most enjoyable ritual it was!  From the familiar board advertising the wines and food we were to enjoy to the charismatic interaction from Ian Gareze (and ourselves) about the sumptuous offerings we were about to be treated to.

To get our Mediterranean pallets going we were welcomed to an aperitif of sweet mosto (Manilva).  We all know this was not Italian but it most certainly got everyone in the mood for a great night of delicious food and wine, and we were proved right, once again.

1) Prosecco Teresa Rizzi with Gambones Frito and a Pesto Dip

The Prosecco, light, floral and fruity was very well suited to the gambones.  Admittedly I could drink sparkling wine as if it were water!  However, they were very well matched.  The Prosecco’s citrus notes cutting through the fried gambones almost cleansing the pallet with each sip (glug!).

The homemade pesto was delicate but heady with basil; bringing out the Prosecco’s floral notes.  I would have perhaps added more olive oil to slacken this and it would have gone a lot further, leaving it on the table to accompany several of the other dishes.

The gambones (King Prawns) were beautifully cooked.  Crispy on the outside but ever so delicate in the centre.  Every mouthful a feast!  The only downside of this was that there were only two gambones per person.  My voracious appetite desperately wanted more but the next course was nothing to be sneered at.

“Every mouthful a feast!”

2) Santi Pinot Grigio de Venezie with Calamares a la Plancha served with a tomato and olive salad

Simple; the natural culinary beauty and taste of this dish’s only ingredient was sublime.  Fresh, succulent and beautiful; to top it off caught be a local fisherman!

What an exultation of a dish – calamares a la plancha (grilled squid).  From cooking to tasting this dish was delicious.  The smell of grilled squid permeating every corner of El Capote; arousing the senses as we chatted and even attracting passers-by to venture inside to marvel at the delicious spectacle.

When it finally arrived to the table, with everyone in the room salivating like Pavlovian dogs, it was heralded by a metaphorical sounding of trumpets.

The calamares were so good the wine had no choice but to know that it was not the star of the show – hence keeping a very low profile throughout this pairing.  After discussing this dish with the other diners at my table – the tomato and olive salad, although fresh and light, also went severely unnoticed.  When considering the time spent on food preparation as part of the whole evening’s menu, the calamares a la plancha needed nothing else to make this a triumphant dish, therefore tumbling some lemon wedges around the dish would have been the way to say,

“Calamares a la plancha – enjoy!”

3) Melini Sangiovese, Toscana 2006 served with Sarde a Beccafacio & Caponata

A good unobtrusive red wine to be complimented with fish.  There is much wine snobbery that fish should only be matched with white wine.  Whilst the command is ridiculous, the sentiment is not.  Reds tend to be slightly more full bodied and overpowering than white hence its partnership with fish needs to be carefully monitored.

The food served to complement this red was rolled sardine fillets with a pine nut stuffing.  Never having heard of this before I discussed its origin with Ian (who having done his homework) explained that it was a Sicilian dish and were meant to represent birds.  Were they served with mouths pointing upwards and gaping at the diner?  No.  My research explained that warblers (beccafacio) were hunted in ancient time from Sicilian nobles and cooked with their own entrails. Common people began to copy this luxury dish adapting it with sardines and swapped the entrails with the filling that is currently used.

I thoroughly enjoyed this but would have preferred this served with the pesto as it would have matched the sardines’ pine nut filling, with its lemon backnotes cutting through the richness of the sardines.

Many of the other diners were raving about the Caponata.  I have to say, whenever I make Caponata, I take the easy way out and plonk all the veg into a saucepan and let it reduce gently until I’m happy that it’s the consistency that I like.  Ian, I could tell, followed the stages properly.  The aubergine was fried before being added to the onion and tomato mixture.  There were also acidic tones to this so I imagine that vinegar must have been used to help this dish develop the depth of flavour that is required of its simplicity.  However, what we were all in agreement with was that the Caponata was a dish in itself.  It just needed some bread sticks or Italian crostinis.

“This was a double-dish.”

4) Prunotto Dolcetto D’Alba, Piemonte (2005) served with Polpete al Forno

What wasn’t to like in this pairing?!  Meatballs in tomato sauce with penne pasta and finished in the oven with a soft, fruity red to go with.

Sadly we were all so full by this stage many of us could not eat another bite.  Everyone would have been happy to have finished on the previous course and go straight to the last pairing.  The noise levels in the room dropped a bit whilst everyone considered how full they were and realistically how much more they were going to be able to eat.

Nonetheless people did manage to eat and drink their way through this course.  Myself included!

I dare say that as a result of us taking a bit too long on the previous courses this overcooked in the oven.  I say this as I found the meatballs on the dry side of cooked.  Oh and some grated parmesan at the table would have earned some brownie points, but considering the veritable banquet we had just gorged ourselves with this was an error we were all more that willing to forgive.

5) Antinori Peppoli, Chianti Classico (2007) served with Roasted Rack of Cerdo Iberico and Patatas a lo Pobre

As I watched Ian bring this joint of meat out and carve it infront of us I was once again taken over by greed.  I immediately forgot how full-up I was.  I also pushed to the back of my mind how Spanish this part of the menu sounded!

The pork was succulent and flavoursome.  Rubbed and sealed with herbs and seasoned well.

I could imagine this dish served as a main course at a wedding.

The Chianti; rich, fruity with vanilla on the nose was a beautiful wine to drink in support of this dish.

6) Limoncello and Biscotti

My first comment to Ian as this came to the table was that these were not biscotti!  In fact they were clearly amaretti biscuits as the smell of amaretto filled the air and was present in every bite of these delicious biscuits.

Traditionally, biscotti are oblong shaped almond studded biscuits and dry from being baked twice in the oven.  Limoncello is served with the biscotti as they absorb the alcohol without it changing the flavour of the biscotti.

Indeed it was a shame that they were amaretti biscuits as I do have a fondness for biscotti, and ending the evening dunking my biscotti into a glass of chilled limoncello would truly have been Italian bliss.

Not that I didn’t drop several of these into my glass and sip the limoncello whilst having them bobbing around my upper lip!  Delicious!!

“Less really is more.”

As always, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening at El Capote.  Ian once again outdid himself with the food he cooked for us and the whole evening was great fun but I have to be honest; there was too much food.  I can’t believe I’ve just said that.  The polpete al forno was one dish too many.  In reality the Sarde a Beccafacio should have been served independently from the Caponata as these were two dishes which were tasty, delicious and could have stood proudly by themselves.

Not very often but sometimes, less really is more.

Well done to Ian Gareze and everyone at the Capote who made the evening possible.  I honestly can’t wait for the next one.

Pancakes…mmmmm! Which type should I make? American style, french crêpe, ricotta hotcakes, galette, gridle cake, pfannkuchen, pannenkoeken, poffertjes, palacinky, palacsinta, blini, drop scones, pikelets, crumpets, waffles the list goes on.  Or so the internet tells me!

“Ultimately, all of the above are a variation on a theme.” 

They all have flour, milk and eggs.  Some use yeast as a leavening agent others use baking powder some even use yoghurt or buttermilk. which as it hits the heat reacts creating a fluffy, light pancake.  On this occasion, and purely because I had a tub of it in the fridge when I planned this weekend’s cooking, I decided on Ricotta Hotcakes.

A surprisingly easy recipe to follow. 

Creating the batter for these hotcakes is simple.  You need to whisk the egg whites before mixing them into the batter mixture but to be honest, this is not strenuous work.  Even bleary-eyed and jauntily dressed in stripey Pj’s this is manageable.  I do have to say I was tempted to use the electric food mixer but I’m not quite sure my neighbours would have appreciated the racket it makes in the still of an 8 o’clock Sunday morning.  Top Tip: add salt to the egg whites before whisking as this helps them froth up a treat!!

Once you fold the egg whites into the batter you are ready for lift off.

The texture of these hotcakes was sublime.  They felt as if they had souffled in the pan.  The ricotta was so smooth yet tangy in the batter leaving a clean lemony taste in your mouth.  If I were to compare these hotcakes to anything, I would have to say that they reminded me of

a light lemon flavoured doughnut. 

It was due to this that I added the raspberries and blueberries.  Even though I am sure they would be just as delicious doused in maple syrup.  However, I wouldn’t recommend bacon with these! 

The only downside is that I’ve got to wait another 7 days before I’m going to be attempting them again!  Or perhaps next time I’ll dispense with the ricotta version and make american style gridle cakes.

“Oh Solomillo”

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Dinner
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I was looking forward to dinner since its conception in the shower at 7am!

There was a 600g pork fillet (solomillo de cerdo) with my name emblazoned across its sinewy flesh waiting for me in the fridge.

There was only one thing that I wanted to do to this cut of meat.

I removed any excess fat from the fillet as even though I am not anti fat; I am anti-pallid and tasteless food.

“I am not anti-fat; I am anti-pallid and tasteless food”

1st: Chop fresh sprigs of rosemary to cover the board you are working on.  Sprinkle rock salt and crushed black peppercorns and mix on board.

2nd: Once meat is trimmed and primed, roll it around on the chopping board coating all sides in a salty, peppery herby crust.             No oil need be added.

3rd: Sear all sides in a very hot dry pan.  I suggest opening a window or hitting the extractor fans as with or without oil it tends to smoke like hell!!

4th: Finish cooking in a hot oven.

I had decided to serve the fillet with boiled veg but did not fancy having to make any gravy.

As with many things that happen in the kitchen, I threw a few things together, to create a delicious jus to pour over the meat before serving.

5th: Whilst I let the meat rest, I heated the cooking juices with some chicken stock, crushed garlic and dry sherry.  I added a couple of fresh sprigs of rosemary and reduced the liquid by half.

As an optional extra: toast almonds in a dry pan and sprinkle over before serving.

DELICIOUS!!

The Five Senses

Posted: January 22, 2012 in Introduction
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I previously mentioned that eating was a sensory experience, however, there are some restaurants which actively campaign against this. They try to make the philosophy of their establishment about taste and not about the social experience that is a meal.

Dans Le Noir? serves food in a pitch-black room. Another serves food dyed in blue! By concealing the presentation of food, dining becomes a process whereby only taste and smell matter.

The theory behind these gimmicks is that by denying yourself of the sense of sight you highten the sense of taste and smell. Whether this works or serves mainly to attract customers I am not sure.

What I am sure about is that unless I am going to be treated to an absolutely divine, heaven made meal by the most talented chef there is no point to all this fuss. Food must fill your eyes before your belly, therefore colour and presentation are necessary to attract you to a particular choice.

Watching a sizzling clay dish of prawns pil pil come rushing from a kitchen and being placed in the centre of your table alongside a basket of crunchy bread is visually dramatic. As is the sizzle itself.

But what is just as important is the subtle silence that ensues as our eyes digest what has arrived and our mouths start to salivate.

As both bread and fork stab the dish, conversation resumes. Invariably, this is violently breached as everyone burns themselves on the bubbling oil from the dish!

Seen, heard, smelled, touched and finally tasted (albeit minus a few taste buds). The five senses have worked as one; a tour de force to provide a comforting, friendly and indulgent moment certainly worth repeating.

Gastro

Posted: January 21, 2012 in Introduction
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The name of this blog suggests that perhaps this is going to be another one of those frivolous wittering blogs written by somebody who pretends to know about food.  I wish to immediately push that idea out of your head.  It is no such thing.  This blog is a culinary voyage (so to speak) my journey with food.

As people who meet me soon realise: if I am not eating, I am talking about food.  Not just talking about food and its preparation but savouring the moment; recalling the sensory ritual of eating.  Whether it be fine dining or street food, gourmet or grub.  Food is at the centre of our cultural lives.

Through this blog I will attempt to share with you my passion for food.

Bon appetit!