Monthly Archives: January 2012

Dreams of Summer Food

Whilst winter food is so wonderfully comforting and can be fresh and salady (what with the winter salads I keep eating), there’s still nothing like good food eaten outdoors in wonderful weather, something which I find hard to replicate in the winter months. This summer we had an amazing holiday for food – staying on the lovely island off the West coast of France called the Ile de Re, we basically just ate beautiful food for a week in beautiful surroundings, some of which I think is very much deserving of a post, so what follows is a review of these beautiful food experiences – hopefully it will inspire you as it has done me!

A particular food highlight of the holiday for me was a rather decadent lunchtime trip to fish restaurant Le Skipper in Saint Martin (right on the harbour front). For starters I had a rather tasty creamy scallop dish, which was followed by a beautifully citrus-y octopus tagine (pictured below)…

Octopus tagine at Le Skipper

 While the savoury courses were very good, it was after these that I was really sold when the most exciting plateful was set before me – a ‘cafe gourmand’ (below), which hit the spot unbelievably (I have real trouble choosing desserts and a bit of everything couldn’t be more ideal!). With the fresh chocolate macaroon, creme anglais, mini trifle (which was boozy), bite sized piece of chocolate torte, the absolutely stunning caramel cake thing (I’m struggling to remember the name of it) and a hot espresso with a wonderful crema this was a dessert to remember!

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As there were a few couples holidaying together, one evening we decided to split the cooking between us and each create an element of one meal – naturally we ended up with the most colossal feast! Here (below) we have griddle chorizo, falafel burger, flat-bread, grilled aubergine, humus, tabbouleh, green salad and tzatziki (all home made). Needless to say, after this ridiculous feast no one could move for the rest of the evening and some serious swimming in the sea was required the following day!

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A standard meal by the coast, but one that cannot be missed, especially by the coast in the France is  moules, cooked in white wine and garlic…

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… These were stunning, with crusty French bread and the moule-infused white wine source you can’t go wrong! There were also prawns cooked in a very large amount of garlic and a little chilli but alas, no picture exists (they’re probably far too messy to have gone near my camera whilst eating them).

An interesting discovery for me was the fish ‘Ling’ which we came across in the bustling fish market of Le Bois Plage en Re. This we cooked on the barbeque, wrapped in a foil parcel full of lemon, dill and garlic.

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And which turned out wonderfully alongside some fantastic meguez sausages…

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So I’ve spent the evening drinking G & T and surveying my summer food snaps… It’s certainly inspired me to make plans for the summer and in the mean time to make some gorgeous summery food as a winter pick-me-up!!

Watch out for a follow up post on learning to prepare oysters!

Hannah

Side Dish Steals the Show

Last night was a lazy one, I was cooking for myself and decided to keep it simple just do pasta and pesto with a little salad. However when I surveyed the cupboard for ingredients it turned out a standard salad was out of the question so I needed to get inventive. Therefore below is the result of what I did, it wasn’t until I sat down to eat it that I realised it was worth sharing (hence the dodgy photo after I’d started eating), and that it was in fact far more than a side dish; it was the best bit! There is no excuse for not giving it a go, took less time than the pasta to cook.

One lesson to take from this, for me anyway, is that when cooking with ‘healthy’ foods I should be bolder with my seasoning. I never shy away from using enough salt or oil when cooking a standard dish but the second part of my meal is to be healthy I under season and avoid cooking in butter. However I now realise I would eat such food more if I conceded even a little to putting enough taste in! Another idea to bulk this meal out into a main course would be the addition of lentils… easy enough.

Unexpectedly Good.. unlike my photography

Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 Big Handfuls of Spinach
  • Bit of Butter
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tomato – diced
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Start by dry frying walnuts and seeds, quantity depends on how much you want (obviously)
  2. Then chop up your garlic and fry in a good knob of butter… on a low heat
  3. Before the garlic starts to brown put in the spinach with a dash of water – remember you are trying to wilt it not fry it. So you may even want to take it off the heat and just use the residual heat of the pan (or put a lid on)
  4. If you put too much water in the drain some off… no drama.
  5. Once the spinach has wilted and taken on the lovely garlic buttery sauce your pretty much there…. chuck in the diced tomato and seeds before seasoning to taste
  6. Enjoy!

 

Jack

Bread: The Search for an Everyday Loaf

My bread making has been a long time in the making, first taken up during my undergrad dissertation writing as a way to stay sane during long hours in the house. After about three or four attempts at a Cob Loaf I had still not managed to stop it from being undercooked in the middle. This lead to ‘project bread making’ being shelved for a long time and I returned to my normal cooking. However after I found myself at a loose end over Christmas, injured and unable to do much other than work, I decided to step back into the apron and give bread making a second chance.

I decided to start off by banishing my nemesis, the same Cob Loaf recipe by Paul Hollywood, which had defeated me before. Alas this time I came up good and slowly improved in my attempts. I have to say the single best tip I picked up, which seasoned bakers will know is obvious, is that wetter is better! My only previous successful forays into baking had been flatbreads where dry is good. Secondly being aware of the temperature you are letting the dough rise at is important, kitchens can vary in temperature greatly and thus ‘room temperature’ is essentially a useless term. So while a thermometer is definitely overkill  a conscious thought of the temperature (e.g. are you wearing a jumper?) helps replicated good results. The recipe for this cob loaf can be found on the BBC and is definitely worth a go, makes a great sandwich!

The one issue with this bread was that I do sometimes get bored of white bread, and wanted a slightly healthier wholemeal loaf I could make more regularly. Importantly though it also had to be a simple recipe that wouldn’t put me off regularly making it. Therefore after much playing around with quantities and various recipes, including 100% wholemeal loafs, I have decided that for me this recipes hits the perfect balance. Not white mush but at the same time not a dry disappointment.

The ingredients for a good sized loaf are:

  • Strong White Flour – 400g
  • Strong Brown Flour – 280g
  • Salt – 2 tsp
  • Yeast – 8g (2.25 tsp)
  • Butter – 28g
  • Warm Water – 400ml
  • 1 Egg

And to turn this into bread I suggest you:

This photo is taken after I'd eaten most the bread and remembered to blog it...

  1. Mix the flour in a bowl and add the butter, cubed, into the mixture. Then rub the flour into the butter until it becomes a bit ‘breadcrumby’
  2. Add the salt and yeast (opposite sides of the bowl so the salt doesn’t kill the yeast) before adding half the water. Mix it together before slowly adding the rest of the water. Could need less/more depending on the batch of flour etc. It should be a relatively firm dough, but if in doubt remember wetter is better! (think I stole that saying from a Dan Lepard book Catriona has)
  3. Need the dough for 10 minutes… put some effort it!
  4. Return to a bowl, cover with damp tea towel, and leave in a warm place (like an airing cupboard) for 1.5 to 2 hours… essentially it should at least double in size.
  5. Knock it back and shape into however you want it to be.. but remember this effects the cooking times. I tend to go for a fat baguette/loaf thing which makes good sandwiches and is easy to toast. Probably between a 1ft and 1.5ft long placed on an oiled baking tray.
  6. Cover with damp towel again and leave at room temperature for 40 minutes… do not put somewhere too warm! The second rise should be slower. Also this is a good stage to put the oven on, get it nice and hot… about 230 degrees.
  7. Once the second rise is complete put some slices in the top and paint with an egg glaze… makes a lovely shiny crust!
  8. Place in the oven for 15 minutes at 230 degrees, then reduce to 200 degrees for a further 15-20 minutes. (remember that these numbers and times can change slightly with different ovens, so don’t be put off if the first attempt isn’t spot on, its almost always edible!)
  9. Leave to cool for 30 minutes before eating… if you can.

Any questions.. just ask!

Jack

Broccoli Winter Salad

A few weeks ago I found myself wanting something really fresh and garlicky and inspired by an earlier discovery of raw sprout salad, I decided to give raw broccoli a go, this is the resulting salad, made up largely of what happened to be around and it really seems to work – it’s certainly made my tastebuds happy. I found myself fancying this for lunch today, so am currently eating a big bowl of this salad whilst I type.

Serves 1

A very large handful of quite small Broccoli florets
A Handful of Cherry Tomatoes, or to taste
A Lump of Stilton Cheese (other cheese will do too)
Seeds – Pumpkin or sunflower
Curly Kale
Avocado
A clove of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
Bread for croutons (optional)
Chilli (optional)

The ‘cooking’ part of this is more of an assembly –

1. Broccoli – This is lovely with completely raw broccoli but if you don’t fancy that or if your broccolis not looking at its best, I find that a very quick blanch in boiling water for no more than 1 minute leaves in crunchy but easier to eat. Be sure to run cold water over the broccoli the minute you drain it to stop the cooking process straight away and avoid soggy broccoli. The broccoli florets should be quite small – small enough that in a salad, you could spear broccoli and a taste of something else on your fork and still get it in your mouth!

2. Cherry tomatoes – quarter these to give nice little sweet hits throughout the salad.

3. Stilton – chop up very fine, the stilton adds nice little salty savoury touches to the salad – other types of cheese work great too – I sometimes have cheddar instead if there’s no stilton in the fridge.

4. Seeds – Toast these gently over a medium-low heat in a frying pan, being sure to move around regularly to avoid burning. After a few minutes they should begin to change colour and toast up nicely

5. Curly Kale – Tear the most tender and small looking bits up to give little penny sized bits of kale. Don’t cook this at all – as long as you go for only nice leafy bits (and no stalk) its really lovely raw. Don’t forget to wash it though!

6. Avocado – Chop smallish but not too small – do this last to stop it browning before you eat it!

7. Croutons – Chop bread into nice dainty chunks, coat in olive oil and seasoning and bake or grill until crispy. Make sure to check on these and turn them as required otherwise its easy to end up with a very burnt side and a not very cooked side on each crouton!!

8. Dressing – combine lemon juice, crushed garlic (about half a clove is plenty for 1 person), a good glug of olive oil (the amount of olive oil to put in should be roughly twice the amount of lemon juice) and add the sea salt and black pepper. If you like a chilli kick, add either finely chopped chilli to taste or a splash of tobasco at this stage.

9. Assembly – Mix together everything except the croutons, put in a nice wide bowl and sprinkle the croutons over the top.

Enjoy!

Hannah