Saturday, 25 June 2011

Broad bean, pea shoot and pecorino sardo salad

Broad bean, pea shoot and pecorino salad

The weather hasn’t even been remotely summery today but I'm keen to make the most of all the amazing produce that is available currently. Eating seasonally means that in the winter months our diet consists of lots of leeks and brassicas. Enjoyable, but after a few months the novelty can begin to wear off and the excitement of the summer vegetable cousins coming to stay starts to settle in. Oh yummy asparagus, broad beans, peas, courgette flowers….

Broad beans 

Broad beans remind me so much of summer. My grandpa had a small vegetable patch at the bottom of his garden. Tomatoes, little gem lettuce and raspberries were the main staples but he would often dabble in a season of this and that. Runner beans one year, broad beans the next. Walking barefoot on the hot, rough slabs down to the bottom of his garden then eating his home grown delights straight off the bushes is one of my earliest and most enduring memories. The year was punctuated by different crops and I think it is this that has given me an appreciation of nature and seasonality.

Broad beans

Eating by the seasons wasn’t something my grandparents and their generation thought about, it was just the way things were. They weren’t eating broad beans in June because it was a trendy, middle class thing to do. They did it because that was option available. Today, in our world of readily available non native food such as bananas, broad beans can be quite tricky to get hold of in their short 8 week window. Some supermarkets stock them but your best bet is greengrocers or farmers markets. I got some today and was determined to make the most of them.

Broad beans, pecorino sardo and crusty bread - hello lunch

I’ll always remember my Grandma telling me about her first taste of bananas. Transatlantic shipping recommenced after the Second World War and it was then that my Grandma had her first taste of banana. She would have been about 15. Today 95% of British household buy them on a weekly basis. They are available all year round in every supermarket. Not exotic. Not exotic at all. The Oxford dictionary defines exotic as ‘‘strikingly unusual”. I guess you could perhaps now argue that the broad bean is more exotic than the banana?  Even if you disagree, it is difficult to class a banana as exotic despite the average 5106 food miles it has traveled to arrive on our plates.

Anyways rant over.

Broad bean, pea shoot and pecorino sardo salad
Serves 2

300g of broad bean pods
2 handfuls of pea shoots
50g pecorino sardo shards
juice of 1 lemon
good glug of olive oil, nice and grassy ideally
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the broad beans from their thick pods and boil in salted water for 3 minutes.
Personally I tend to then remove the beans from their inner casing mainly because I find it too bitter. I will not judge you for leaving it on. It is your diner, not mine, after all.
Mix all the other ingredients together.

I served the salad on top of some crusty bread brushed with more olive oil and then griddled on a high heat till crisp.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

6 hour slow roast shoulder of pork with dauphinoise potatoes - comfort food personified

6 hour slow roast shoulder of pork

Every lazy weekend deserves a lazy roast dinner – this week 6 hour slow roast shoulder of pork with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans. This is possibly the ultimate lazy roast, a beginner’s roast if you will. The reason it makes such a good beginners roast is due to the fact that there are only 3 components to get right and I can vouch that the slow cooking method is very forgiving with the timings. This was particularly helpful when I ended up having an impromptu mid afternoon nap. Ma bad. Again.

I am aware that a roast dinner isn’t very seasonal for Saturday in mid June but when the weather is behaving like a day in mid January (dreich and cold but with none of the excitement of a yet to come Christmas) it seemed appropriate. We ended up huddled around the open fire with the Saturday papers and in that moment I wanted to eat dauphinoise potatoes more than any other food in the whole world. Oh creamy, carby, garlicky wonderfulness…

One good looking piece of meat
One dauphinoise looking a little burnt
6 hour roast pork - the final product
6 hour slow roast shoulder of pork with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans
6 hour slow roast shoulder of pork
Serves 4 plus leftovers
Oven 200 degrees celsius

1.5kg – 2kg shoulder of pork (skin scored)
1dsp sea salt

Pour boiling water over the pork skin, and then pat dry with kitchen towel.
This helps to open up the scores, which makes for wonderful crackling.
Rub salt into the scores.
Pop in the oven for 30 minutes until the skin has all browned and puffed up.
Put a double layer of tinfoil over the top of the roast and then turn the oven down to 160 degrees.
Cook for 5 and half hours.
It does help it if you baste it with the rendered fat every so often, maybe every hour or so.
Depending how fatty your joint is you may want to take the crackling off the joint about 30 minutes before the end of cooking; roasting it separately fatty side up allows it to get really crispy.
When it is ready the pork should be able to be pulled apart, all succulent and lovely.
No need to rest this joint, which is just as well as it hard to resist.

Dauphinoise potatoes
serves 4-6

700g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into slices 2-3mm think (get yer ruler out - jokes)
400-500g of double cream
4 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 bay leaves
a few strokes of nutmeg
a couple of pinches of sea salt
good pinch of black pepper

Arrange the potatoes in an ovenproof dish
Mix all the other ingredients in a mixing jug and pour over the potatoes.
Cook in the oven at about 160 degrees celsius for 1hr and 15 minutes.
Mine were in for an hour and a half a got a little burnt.
Check the potatoes after 15 minutes, if the oven is too hot the cream can split, adjust the temperature as necessary.
After an hour check it isn't looking too burnt, it may need a tinfoil hat.


Thursday, 16 June 2011

Goat's cheese, honey and thyme flower feuille de brick parcel (an ode to N.)

I think it is time I wrote about N.. I’m sure I have alluded to her in previous posts but she is long overdue her own dedicated post (if not several). I met N. almost 7 years ago through a mutual friend when we were at university. We were “set up” so to speak. From my end I would say it was love at first sight, we hit it off straight away. We mainly bonded over our vehement foodie tendencies and a true love of twee Glasgow indie bands (B and S, Camera Obscura and such like). I think for us everything we love in life is covered in a blanket of fluffy sentimentality.

I am deviating here. I want to tell you about the feuille de brick pastry or just “brick” if you are proper French. (I’m a certified Francophile but not French so it is feuille de brick to me.) It originated in North Africa but was adopted by the French when they colonised Tunisia in the 1880s. It is incredibly versatile, in Tunisia it can be used to make a pastilla, a richly aromatic meat pie. In France it is often stuffed with ham and cheese to make a simple family super. Come Autumn I’ll use it as a dessert, maybe stuffed with spiced caramelised plums.

Feuille de brick with goat's cheese, honeycomb and thyme
N. made this for me the first lunch I had in her officially “bijou” studio apartment in Bordeaux that she shared with C.. I remember over looking the rooftops with the warmth of the sun coming through the window.  It was the lightest, crispest pastry I had ever eaten and with the creamy/sharp dichotomy of the goat’s cheese it was pretty magic.

Normally my attitude to pastry is a take-it-or-leave-it-kind-of-one but after this I was sold. When I spotted the packet in the chilled section at Waitrose I was transported back to that November afternoon in Bordeaux with N. and C.. I knew I had to get it. I’ll admit the thyme flowers maybe sounds a little pretentious but their lighter, more delicate flavour is more appropriate than thick sprigs  for this summery dish, plus they are very, very pretty.

Feuille de brick parcel
Goat’s cheese, honey and thyme flower feuille de brick parcel
Serves 1 – yep I’m cooking for 1 tonight.

2 sheets feuille de brick pastry
½ log of goat’s cheese
1dsp honey (I used honeycomb but acacia could be nice)
a wee sprinkle of thyme flowers - maybe 1/2 a teaspoons worth
oil for frying

Carefully take the pastry off the separating sheets.
Put the ingredients in the centre of one of the sheets and fold the edges over.
Put the edges side of the pastry in the centre of the other sheet face down and fold the edges of the second pastry sheet over.
Put the edges side down in a frying pan with some oil over a medium heat.
Fry for a few minutes on each side till golden brown and wonderfully gooey inside.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Spicy spatchcocked spring chicken (check that out for alliteration)

Spicy spatchcocked chicken
Food for me is never just food - it's the memories, the people I ate it with, the time of year, the weather, the beautiful ingredients, the story behind them and their producers.... Last night was a night of fun with food. We pretended to be cavemen and woman and ate whole spring chickens straight off the bones. The spicy sauce smeared round our faces like toddlers, hands all sticky.

Late afternoon on Saturday I went wedding dress shopping with E. She looked so beautiful. Dress shopping then turned into a full on confab over pear cider and chocolate truffles around the kitchen table which then turned into a quick trip to Waitrose to pick up a few things. By the time we sat down to eat it was 9.45pm. It was one of those dinners that just got later and later, we ate just at that point between dusk and night. I lit a few candles unwittingly adding to that caveman vibe.

Warning - this is not first date food. Very messy, very fun.

spring chicken or poussin if you are being posh
spatchcocked spring chicken
marinating chicken
Serves 2 - Spicy spatchcocked spring chicken
grill medium heat

2 spring chicken spatchcocked (see Marco Pierre "sellout" White spatchcock a chicken at
Marinade - good glug of olive oil
                 zest and juice of 1 lemon
                 1tsp chilli powder
                 1tsp paprika (smoked or otherwise)
                 4 fat cloves of garlic, smeared to a paste
                 an assaulting of black pepper (maybe 20-30 grinds)
                 salt to taste

Mix the marinade together and rub it into both sides of the chicken.
Leave it for a few hours ideally, I however was not waiting till midnight, it only got 10 minutes.
Grill the chicken for 25-30 minutes, turning once.
Maybe baste the chicken with the juices collecting at the bottom of the grill pan.
Once the chicken has cooked leave it to rest for a few minutes.
Scrape the sticky juicy bits form the bottom of the pan over the chicken and serve.


Spicy spatchcocked spring chicken with a simple green salad

Friday, 10 June 2011

Tea time tabouleh

Tabouleh salad with grilled chicken

Food blog + gluttonous tendencies = expanding waistline.

TWO extra belt holes since Christmas to be exact.

Time for a lighter diner me thinks - tabouleh and griddled chicken.

nice sweet tomatoes - hooray
Butterflied chicken grilling away nicely
Tabouleh - serves 2

80g bulgar wheat
80g flat leaf parsley (aka a massive bunch)
the leaves from a few stalks of mint, finely chopped
4 finely cut spring onions
handful of nice tomatoes, in small cubes
juice of 2 lemons
very, very good glug of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pour salted boiling water over the bulgar wheat and leave for 10-15 mins.
Its nice when there is still a little texture to the grain i.e. don’t nuke it.
Drain, the run some cold water over the grain to chill it.
Add the cooked bulgar wheat to the other ingredients.
Stir and serve.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Secret ingredient scones

Yogurt scones

I am continuing with my theme of simple pleasures. The work with the bathroom is dragging on, it has been 6 weeks with out a shower and I'm pretty sure that even the flies are avoiding me now. I’ve been to too busy and when I've not been busy I've been too lethargic to do any "serious" cooking this week. I got big into cooking through being big into eating so I would consider myself a "eater" first and a "cook" second so my desire for that foodie hit is still very much present. 

These scones are rather lovely. Very light and fluffy, which demand to be eaten with raspberry jam, clotted cream and a cup of tea. Simple pleasure personified. To achieve these scones' full potential they would be best enjoyed on some quiet mid summer afternoon in the garden. I, however, did not have that luxury. I brought them to work to cheer everyone up. Even in a windowless staffroom in Fife they were still pleasant enough for me to have 3 at morning break. 

I made a less successful version of these scones at the weekend to welcome the awesome M. and her new man S. who were staying for the weekend. In my excitement of seeing them I forgot to add in bicarb and sugar. Doh! Still edible but this is a much better recipe. I thought about making another batch but 30 minutes later they were all gone with only a few crumbs left as evidence of their existence. It was a classic case of "it was the thought that counted". Nothing brings warmth and welcome to a home more than scones fresh out the oven.

The secret ingredient, in case you are wondering, is yogurt.

Yogurt scones with raspberry jam and extra yogurt (clotted cream is better)

Secret ingredient scones/yogurt scones/my best scone recipe

Makes about 20 mini scones (I think, to be honest I'm not sure as I ate a few before I had the chance to count - ma bad)
Oven set to 200 degrees

500g self-raising flour
80g butter at room temperature
6 dsp caster sugar
8 dsp natural yogurt
8dsp milk plus a little extra from painting on top

Sift the flour into a big mixing bowl.
Rub in the butter until there are no more lumps.
Add in the sugar and mix.
Add the yogurt and milk to the flour mixture and stir.
Use your hands to make it into a ball.
Roll out till approx 2-3 cm thick.
Cut out yer scones and brush them with a little extra milk.

Bake for 10-12 mins


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Baked brie with pea shoot and apple salad

I am a great believer in quiet, simple pleasures. My Saturday involved being wined and dined Michelin style.  It was a great experience; the highlights included a beautifully cooked sea bass and a startling 2003 Monbazillac.  Despite all this it didn’t really match up to my effortless-by-comparison Sunday lunch of baked brie with pea shoot and apple salad. Maybe simple pleasures are perhaps indicative of a lack of sophistication but I want to think it is a love of something more honest, more cheek-smackingly-tasty.

Perhaps I am just over thinking the whole thing? It is, at the end of the day, just food. Nothing as noble as ending world hunger or eradicating T.B. If only I could apply myself…

Anyways, I’m going off at a tangent. You need to make this! Uber easy and tasty (unless you don’t like cheese).  I served it with pea shoot and apple salad to freshen the dish up a bit.

Baked brie – serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter
Oven set to 180 degrees

Round brie (camembert is good too)
1/2 teaspoon runny honey
clove of garlic

Take the brie out the packaging and cut the bloomy rind off the top.
Cut the garlic in half and give it a good rub over the top of the cheese.
Drizzle the honey over the cheese.
Put the cheese back in the wooden box and bake for 15 minutes till gooey.