Posts Tagged ‘prawns’

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I know this is probably an over-generalisation but in my travels in the USA (both in the past and more recently) I feel as if eateries in USA make a great deal of brunch as opposed to a normal breakfast – like a pumped-up breakfast; on steroids – You still get fresh OJ and a cup of coffee but you’ll also get fries with that!   Ask for plain toast and butter and some establishments would be offended that there was nothing in their extensive brunch menu that you wanted and they would struggle to provide this measly option for you as the toast would be considered a side to accompany your pancakes, Eggs Benedict or ommelette!

Some of the simpler breakfast options were a French patisserie and a cup of coffee to eat on the go, however, these occasions were few and far between.  Hence, on some days we were only able to have brunch and dinner as we were so full-up.

Eggs Benedict
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Eggs Benedict

One of my all-time favourite breakfast/brunch dishes is Eggs Benedict.  Poached eggs sitting on roast ham, resting snugly on English Muffins and covered with hollandaise sauce.  At least that’s the way they come in New York; which is magnificent.

On the West Coast, Eggs Benedict was an adulterated version of the classic and arrived on food platters to feed a family of four!  In LA, these were served with a side of oil drenched French fries and toast!

Hash House a Go Go; Las Vegas

Hash House a Go Go, advertises itself as “Twisted farm food” – saw its popularity rise after IMG_2355a Man V Food Challenge and is almost as much a tourist attraction as it is a 24hr cafe.  The menu choices and portion sizes are out of this world; if somewhat vulgar.  Drink combos such as their BLT Bloody Mary which arrives in a tall glass with a romaine lettuce leaf and a slice of bacon sticking out of the glass – I could do with one of those now – are just as obscene.

HHaGoGo’s extensive brunch menu of pancakes and waffles also has 4 different versions of Eggs Benedict.  I gave Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Hash House Benedict a go – the very same one that Adam Richman ploughed through on Man V Food.  I was amazed that the waitress could carry the huge platter in her hand with such ease and set it down delicately in front of me (let’s not forget she was carrying two dishes to the table at the time).

I remember holding my head in both hands and whispering, “Dear Lord, what have I done?!”

Picture a platter, filled with mashed potatoes topped with wilted spinach, slices of tomato, more bacon and a mountain of scrambled eggs; sitting proudly on this, a huge sage fried chicken breast escalope skewered in place with a rosemary spear, all smothered in a chipotle cream sauce.  Oh I forgot to mention the English Muffin that was in there somewhere as well…

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…as you’ve probably gathered, on 19th July; food won.

Seafoodseafood risotto OLIVES

The other ubiquitous West Coast food staple is seafood, more specifically prawn and lobster.  In Vegas, most restaurants have a plethora of lobster/prawn inspired dishes on their menu – you could devour a plate of prawns whilst playing on the slots if you wanted.

Of all the meals I had in Vegas, the stand out dish was at Bellagio’s Olives by celebrity chef Todd English.  A stunning seafood risotto that arrived loaded with clams, razor clams, shrimp, fish, crab and lobster set in a saffron broth.  Delicately divine.

Los Angeles

San Francisco

I’ve never experienced a winter so cold as a San Francisco summer!  – Mark Twain.IMG_2789 (Edited)

And on cold, misty days by the sea – a bowl of heart warming soup hits the spot.  I know
that clam chowder is a New England culinary creation but serve it in a hollowed out Boudin sourdough bread and you’ve got something that is totally San Francisco.  Even though the locals don’t eat this, tourists queue up at all of Fisherman Wharf’s seafood establishments for a taste of their chowder.  Boudin’s Bakery being one of the most popular.

Another delicacy is crab – Dungeness Crab – served whole either steamed or roasted in garlic butter or in crab cakes, or served with garlic noodles.  I enjoyed my snow crab legs thoroughly as they poked out of a mountain of shrimp and whitefish in Bubba Gump’s “Boat Trash”.

Cycling from Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Marina district, over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the village of Sausalito, you work up a pretty good appetite and the Seafood Peddler’s Daily Special of Clam chowder (in a bowl) and pound of lobster served with ‘slaw and corn on the cob was exactly what I needed.  Clearly not conducive to cycling back.

Therefore, a ferry trip back to Fisherman’s Wharf is essential to help the food settle as well as breathing in the sea air to open up your appetite for the next onslaught of sea-crustacean delights.

Please note that the photos above are only some of the food memories I’ve experienced throughout the past two weeks, more often than not, either excitement or greed, or a little of both would take over my usual self-control and I’d forget to take the photo before ploughing through the dish.

It has now been a week since I got back from my hols in Las Vegas, LA and San Francisco and even though I enjoyed every mouthful of food I am glad to return my belly (and gout!) to a proper food regime with enforced portion control.

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mayday18I normally arrive at these evenings a good half hour before kick-off and almost form part of the welcoming committee at the door.  However, this time around, I was probably one of the last to arrive.  As I turned the corner into Market Lane it was exciting to see the natural evolution that El Capote’s Food and Wine Evenings have taken.  A team of waitresses and Ian himself were circulating round the crowds serving glasses of beer to everyone with the occasional top up for those of thirsty disposition.  Enjoying the Spring evening we greeted eachother but it was interesting to note that out of a regular clientele of 30 people on these special evenings, only approximately 6 of us were part of the original crowd.  Speaking to Ian about this later he mentioned that all his allocated covers had been snapped up within the hour on sending out the invitation email; hence many regulars had been left out!

Good food, good wine, good company

Once we were all present, Ian invited us into El Capote where we took our places around bar tables; there was to be no seating tonight.  And we were quickly thrust into the tantalising delights the evening would have us experience.

Paper cones of beetroot crisps, potato crisps and spiced cashew nuts were handed out to everyone whilst the first course was prepared.

Tantalising delights the evening would have us experience

Glasses of a silky, kimchi broth were handed out to everyone with slices of red grape as well as sea urchin roe – huevas de erizo – hidden at the bottom.  If the sea urchin wasn’t surprise enough there were also bits of popping candy, crackling away.  This glass was a delicate breath of the sea.  I was however unsure as to the temperature of the dish.  The idea of a broth would indicate that it would be a warm dish but it was served lukewarm.  Was this to prevent the sea urchin from cooking in the residual heat?  Was it due to the time it took to plate up the dish?  Either way – around our bar table we came to the consensus that perhaps chilled it would have also been delicious.  We happily sipped away diving for the sumptuous sea urchin flesh so as not to waste a single morsel.

Next came a palate-cleansing cocktail made with elderflower cordial, Prosecco and a mint leaf.  Bright, fresh, bubbly and dangerously quaffable!  Whilst we sipped upon these we were asked to play a game to determine a winner from each table.  Some of us are still trying to get to grips as to how to play the game!

The winners from each table won a golden nugget of pure decadence – milhojas de foie y queso de cabra covered in gold leaf.  The rest of us were presented with the wooden spoon version of these milhojas (mille feuille).  Ours was not covered in gold leaf but delicious nonetheless.  The golden winners were treated to sheer indulgence.  With both versions there was accompanying jam/membrillo and hazelnut rubble adding sweetness and a texture to the finished dish.  Absolutely divine.

Golden nuggets of pure decadence

Our next dish was a carabinero prawn with its rich, red flesh and crunchy legs; served on a bed of braised chard (acelgas) and un ajo negro.  Simple, delicious but complex in flavour.  Carabinero prawns have a more distinct and robust flavour compared to a shrimp or prawn which can generally be very bland.  Accompanying the carabinero with the almost creamy chard was a beautiful concept.  It did however need another dimension in flavour brought by the ajo negro.  Black garlic, originally used in Asian Cuisine is a type of caramelised garlic that has been cooked for several hours at a low heat and this cooking brings out sweet, syrupy tones with bitter hints of balsamic vinegar and even tamarind.  Another texture made this dish sing; crispy carabinero prawn legs.  This dish was clean in flavours as well as delicious – I kept trying to cut the carabinero into tiny pieces so that I could make it last longer!

Papas con Choco a La Chef Lede was perhaps the most homely of the dishes.  When I was asked by Chef Lede which my favourite dish was I mentioned another dish but this one was sumptuous and comforting and thinking about it retrospectively was perhaps my actual favourite.

Papas con Choco is a typical dish of the region of Andalucía – in its simplest terms, a cuttlefish and potato stew with peas.  However, Chef Lede took this traditional dish and created it in his inimitable manner using gastronomic deconstructive ideology.

Imagine a baked potato that had been partially scooped out and filled with the cooked cuttlefish, turned upside down and sitting in a rich, flavoursome, fish stock (probably made using the heads of the carabineros in the previous dish!) and served with a salty, fishy foam on the side.  Beautiful.

The following dish – Thai meatball with green apple and prawn – was probably the most true to El Capote.  What do I mean by this?  Well, El Capote is a tapas bar and this skewer of meatball, prawn and green apple, could easily form part of their regular menu.  I believe so much in the success of this combination that I would highly encourage Ian to add it to their menu – even if just a tapa of thai meatballs without the prawn and apple – as it was the thai flavourings (lemongrass/lime/chilli) that really came through.

There were elements of the following dishes that I liked, disliked or did not understand.

Chocobon con crema de maiz y maiz frito – a small chocolate, rice and apple ball – almost as if intended to be a sweet Italian arancini (rice ball) served with a custard and toasted corn.  This dish did not appeal to me as much as others did due to the fact that I found the texture of the actual chocolate ball somewhat grainy and the overall flavour was that of toasted corn.  I enjoy churruca (toasted corn) as much as anyone else but it was too dominant a flavour.

I can only but apologise to Lede

mayday12Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and UMAMI (the fifth taste literally translated from Japanese as ‘pleasant savoury taste’ I think Brits would refer to it as being moreish) was heralded as a 5 taste sensation.  Sadly for me I was lost in translation with this dish – which I got the impression from Ian and Chef Lede – was meant to be El Capote’s flagship dish of the evening.  I can only but apologise to Chef Lede; I ate the whole lot and it was not pleasant.  Vinegar was the main taste I picked up from the dish.  It wasn’t until we spoke to Lede later on that he explained to us that we should have picked flavour combinations within the dish to eat and NOT the whole thing – DOH!

If food comes with instructions, follow them, they are there for a reason!

 

Two sumptuous deserts followed – one seasonal and fruity, the other a sharp clean taste.

A summery, strawberry gazpacho made with a strawberry confit (slow cooked strawberries) and fresh strawberries.  Followed by a deconstructed mojito.  A little almond cookie sitting in lemon juice and topped with soda water; finished with a refreshing mint granita.  Clean, sharp but beautiful.

No vulgarity, no excess

When I think back over the years to these El Capote evenings, the bar of fine dining has really been raised.  It started off with Ian plying everyone with loads of wine and mountains of food; gradually this changed to the event of today.  The mountains of food have been replaced by delicacies designed to tease your taste buds.  Chef Lede’s skills in the kitchen have transported us from humble El Capote, Gibraltar, to gastronomic heights parallel to restaurants such as Calima (Danny García) DiverXO (David Muñoz) and The Fat Duck (Heston Blumenthal).

Ian, through Lede, is educating us about good food.  Good food that has been prepared with the best ingredients, skill and finesse.  There is no vulgarity.  There is no excess.  There are no chips on the side.  If there would be chips they would be gold plated Maris Pipers sat in potato air!

Good food, good wine, good company!

We leave Winter behind and step into Spring but sadly even though the temperatures have gone up the weather does not really seam to be reflecting this yet.  So with the dreary weather hanging over us I still have penchant for comfort food.

So what does comfort food really mean to me?  If I were to really breakdown my thoughts on this I would have to say that comfort food for me is anything that can be eaten with spoon or fork in hand, whilst in PJ’s, sat on the sofa.  Every mouthful should have me nodding in approval with the occasional, “Mmmmm…” And when I finish what’s on my plate, belly full to burst, I should be thinking; “Would one more mouthful be just right?”

So what dish can honestly provide me with all these thoughts and emotions on a plate?  piePIE!

Pie, yes, pie.  This can be savoury or sweet, filled, cobbler-style or two crust.  By crust I not only mean pastry but anything that can be used to encase the filling, such as oats, potato slices or mash.

So which crust will ultimately provide the ultimate comfort?  Mashed potato does it for me.  In the Recipes section of my blog can be found my delicious Steak and Ale Pie.  So what other pies can be delicious topped with mash?  One of my easy to make pies is a simple fish pie.

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As Jamie Oliver himself says:

“The whole fish pie thing is one of the most homely, comforting and moreish dinners I can think of.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

Fish Pie

First of all – this does not need expensive cuts of fish, just make sure there are no bones.  Supermarkets now stock trays with different fish cuts specifically made for fish pies.  Also check your local fishmongers as they may have special offers too.

For the mash:

1st: Preheat the oven to 230°C.  Peel and boil 5 large potatoes.  Boil for 10mins.  Add 2 eggs and boil for 8mins.

2nd: Drain the potatoes and set aside.  Peel the eggs under cold running water.  Set aside.

3rd: Wilt 200g of spinach by rinsing the spinach and adding these moist leaves to a hot pan.  Once the spinach has wilted drain and squeeze out any excess water.  Set aside.

For the cream filling:

4th: In a saucepan, sauté a medium onion and add a small pot (254ml) of double cream.  If you want to use a large pot of double cream or half double half single feel free to.  Bring the cream to the boil.

5th: Remove from the heat and add 200g of Cheddar cheese, the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of mustard.

Assemble the pie:

6th: Add approximately 500g of different fish cuts to your pie dish (if making individual pies then share this out equally) I tend to use salmon fillet, cod fillet and prawns.

7th: Spread the spinach equally throughout the dish.  Pour the cream sauce over.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Quarter the boiled eggs and add to the dish.

8th: Mash the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and a rasp of nutmeg.  Try to cover the creamy fish base.  Don’t be too neat and if it does not cover everything better as this will provide areas for the sauce to bubble through the mash! (Optional extra: beat an egg and wash the top of the mash for a crispy finish).

9th: Place in the oven for 25-30 mins until the potatoes are golden.

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Enjoy!