Sunday, 30 October 2011

What do you say? Chef’s salad

Chef's salad

Today has just been a bit surreal and I’m feeling a little weirded out. Today I walked past the amazing Molly Wizenberg of Orangette fame! It’s not often you happen to pop out for a walk and a baguette and bump into someone you totally admire/kinda want to be on a side street a mere two minutes from your home. It was very exciting but all I could muster was a smile and crimson cheeks. No words would come out but in a way I’m glad. I don’t think I would have been able to talk much sense. The boyfriend who was completely oblivious as to who had just pasted us thought I had experienced a small stroke due to my ever-reddening face. He proceeded to tease my blushing throughout the day. Charming.

I’m not entirely sure why I felt such a strong reaction. I think it may have been because I had just walked passed a person who’s blog posts have touched and moved me, who’s photos have inspired me and who’s humanity has humbled me. The amazing thing was she looked so down to earth and friendly. We were almost in matching outfits for Pete’s sake. We were just two girls, out with friends, taking a walk in the New Town. I guess, maybe in that moment, I felt my aspirations were more achievable. Maybe given enough time I could try to be as creative as her? Maybe given enough effort.

On a completely unrelated note I’ve wanted to share this recipe for chef’s salad for a week or two now. I had it as a starter for our anniversary meal and it was perfectly balanced, wonderfully simple and relied on awesome ingredients. It is a recipe just up my street, just like Molly!

Chef’s Salad – serves 2

1 echalion shallot – very finely cut
50ml vegetable oil
1tsp salt
300g new potatoes
100g smoked bacon lardons
100g comte – cut into 2cm by 1cm (ish) cubes
One head of little gem – cut into 2-3cm slices
50g mixed salad leaves – herby, flavourful leaves work best
2 eggs at room temperature
5 dsp extra virgin olive oil
1 dsp white wine vinegar
1 dsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Add the shallot to the vegetable oil with 1tsp of salt, stir firmly and leave to stand.
Add the potatoes to a pan of salted, boiling water and leave to cook over a moderately high heat.
Fry off the lardons over a high heat until very crispy. Set aside on kitchen towel until later.
Add the eggs to a pan of warm water and bring up to the boil, cook for 6 minutes, drain and leave to stand in cold water until later.
Slice the cooked new potatoes and add them to the pan used to cook the lardons, season well and cook until the edges are crispy then set aside.
In a jam jar, add the extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and seasoning to taste, shake well.
Remove the shallots from the vegetable oil and add them to a large bowl with the sliced little gem, salad leaves, lardons, comte and fried potato slices.
Add the salad dressing to this bowl and mix though.
Peel the eggs and arrange on top.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Elderberry and damson crumble - Where has all the time gone?


 I’m actually scared how fast time goes by. Autumn snuck up so quickly and winter is doing much the same. It’s bloody dark in the morning for Pete’s sake. I’ve really not made the most of the damson season that is drawing rapidly to a close as I write. I had the best intentions of making damson vodka, damson fragipane… Guess I’ll have to shelf those ideas till next year. I hope they aren’t too dusty in there. Chatting to one of my oldest chums at the weekend we were in such astonishment that we hadn’t seen each other in two months that she checked her diary. Sure enough, we hadn’t seen each other. All that time had gone by and what had I done? Eat, sleep, work, moan, holiday, hoover, kiss, walk, cook, natter, laugh…


My Mum forwarded me Steve Jobs' commencement speech to Stanford University in 2005 and these words resonated greatly with me, “remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only is what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

I guess our time is so precious here on this “pale blue dot”. Death and change really are the only constants. I’m going to make the effort to be more aware of my time and then maybe I wont miss the damson season next year (and might actually do something useful with my evening).

This is a lovely little treat of a recipe. I’ve kept the crumble topping simple, almost like shortbread, to really show off the flavour of the fruit and berries. Elderberries are also a great way to get into foraging as they are easy to recognise and hugely common.

Damson and elderberry crumble with a bit of vanilla ice cream

Elderberry and Damson crumble – serves 4 – 6
Oven preheated to 180°C

For the fruit filling -
600g damsons
100g elderberries (about 10 heads of berries)
70g caster sugar

For the crumble topping -
100g plain flour
40g caster sugar
50g butter (at room temperature)

De-stone the damsons if you so wish.
Add the damsons, elderberries, sugar and a splash of water to a pan over a moderate heat.
Whilst the fruit is cooking make the crumble mix by rubbing the flour and butter together until you get an even, sandy texture.
Add the sugar to the flour and butter mixture and stir.
Stir occasionally till the damsons are soft.
Once the fruit has cooked add more sugar to taste as required.
Add the fruit mixture to an ovenproof dish and add the crumble topping to the top of it and gently pat down.
Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until light golden brown.
Serve with ice cream or crème fraiche.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Home cured salmon with beetroot

beetroot home cured salmon with rye bread, cream cheese and dill

Sometimes I get an idea in my head, it sticks and no matter what I do, it is hard to shake it out of there. These ideas are almost entirely about food; my brain is a fatty. This recipe is one such example, I’ve been waiting months for the beetroot to appear again on the market stalls. Despite the long wait it didn’t disappoint.  The report card would say, “exceeds expectations”.

salmon with beetroot and vodka (russian porn)

Being shallow, this is an incredibly pretty little dish; deeply pink tinged fringes of the salmon, cut so thin it is almost translucent. The taste was also pretty special; slick, fatty salmon with a hint of umami from the curing liquor. Yummy (even if I do say so myself).

side of salmon with some of the beetroot curing liquor

I served it with rye bread, cream cheese, a smattering of dill fronds and a squeeze of lemon. It was a wonderful simple lunch.

Home cured salmon with beetroot

A side of sashimi grade salmon 500 – 600g
75g sea salt
75g caster sugar
200g grated beetroot
6dsp vodka

Ensure the salmon is clean and remove any remaining bones with tweezers.
Mix all the ingredients, except the salmon, together.
Put half of the beetroot mixture into a glass or ceramic container big enough for the fish.
Add the fish flesh side up and add the remaining beetroot mixture on top.
Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge.
After 24 hours turn the salmon over and cover with the mixture.
Leave the salmon for another 24 – 48 hours.
When you are ready to eat, remove the salmon and rinse it under cold running water briefly just to remove some of the salt.
Pat dry with kitchen towel.
Cut on a diagonal and serve.