Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Lentils I think have a bad name because of them being the food of the character Neil in the popular 80's comedy serial The Young Ones. Lentils I think have been portrayed as a tasteless gruel for vegans and hippies when they are in fact quite tasty. They're also a lot easier to cook than you think.
I've used red and green lentils and they both have their uses. The green ones are a bit heavier and meatier though.
I normally fry some diced onion with whatever vegetables I have to hand. Pepper, mushroom and courgette this time. Then add the lentils (give them a rinsewash first). Then I add a tin or two of tomatoes and cover everything with stock. If you then simmer it all everything should cook in under 35 minutes.
I normally add bay leaves, garlic and oregano and eat it with rice but if you add a little bit of mint to the mixture it's perfect as the filling for a vegetarian mousaka.
Monday, 30 March 2009
There's a small seasidy strech of road near one of the pebbly coasts on the Island named Leysdown. Leysdown is commonly known as the worst seaside town in Britain and it's there I had the good fortune of having my breakfast on Sunday morning in the Cozy Cafe.
The interior resembled your standard British greasy spoon cafe with one notable difference it was a lot cleaner. There's no priceier alternative in Leysdown and as a result the Cafe functions as it should do as a place to eat. It's not a budget consolation prize when you can't afford a decent cafe like a greasy spoons in London can feel like so as well as the cleanliness the food is cooked with a bit more thought and a lot less grease.
I had egg, sausage chips and beans. The chips were slighty undercooked which is a shame because if they were cooked for just a minute more they would have been perfect. The beans were standard sub Heinz and the sausage was one of those nasty things you get in these sort of cafs. The egg tasted extremly fresh and was well cooked. I did notice a box of fresh eggs next to the counter that had been delivered recently from a local farm.
My Brother had ham, egg and chips and it was a nice bit of tender gamon which was cooked well.
The ketchup was watered down with vinegar though.
Thursday, 26 March 2009
I can make the dough without measurement now. I think making bread has a lot to do with getting a feel for it. It's a nice feeling when you learn that you can alter the written quantities on baking recipes yourself to improve the quality of the bread.
I used brown flour this time but I've used various different kinds in the past. Make sure you use strong bread flour whatever the variety. This time I used approximately 200g flour, 3/4 tbsp of instant yeast, a tbsp of caster sugar, a little salt, a few splashes of olive oil and then added around 150-200ml of water. The water has to be quite warm but not so hot that it kills the yeast. A bit colder than the perfect bath temperature for me seems to do.
Mix it all together until the dough starts to take shape. If it's too wet and sticky add more flour, too dry then add water.
Once it resembles dough you can transfer to a large flat floured surface where the kneading begins. I've got unnaturally warm hands which as I mentioned in my previous post on pie can ruin pastry. For kneading bread however my heated hands are perfect. To knead I kind of pull out and stretch the dough and then fold it back in on itself. I do this for about ten minutes and stop when the dough feels spongy and elasticy.
The dough is then put in a bowl with a damp table cloth covering the bowl (not touching the dough) in a warm place in the kitchen so it can rise. It normally takes the best part of an hour. Once the dough is double the size it is ready to be beaten down and rolled into a base. If you've got time you can let it rise again, beat it down and then let it rise again. I've never bothered to do this, laws of diminishing returns and all that.
Now that may sound like a long process but with a bit of practice it becomes second nature. Besides I have this belief that making bread is an important skill that everyone should learn. If you make your pizza sauce and cut your toppings and cheese while the dough is rising you will find that everything is ready to go onto the pizza around the same time the dough has risen.
On this pizza I made tomato sauce with onions and topped with mushrooms, feta, tomato and basil. I normally use mozzarella and when I do I buy the cheaper heavy mozzarella that comes in a block as it melts much better than the delicate watery mozzarella you get in balls.
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
I've melted some cheese on top of some of these. Decent cheddar mind none of that Kraft plastic shit.
I stuck them in some buns to eat like you're supposed to. With salad and condiments.
I cooked them in the oven but I think it's better to grill or if you've got one a barbecue is best.
I also roasted some sweet potato wedges in olive oil and garlic which goes well with most meaty things. Also had bog standard oven chips which are always fun
I love the slow building burn of an Indian curry that only really hits you after you have made it through half a plate.
I adore the fresh hit of chilies in Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food, a different burn that dissipates after a swig of beer or mouthful of rice.
I can't get enough of the proper chili chocolate that Montezuma make, hot enough that more than two pieces is too much.
Encona sauce with scrambled eggs and a very generous shake of Tabasco in a Bloody Mary is my perfect hangover cure!
If you like the chili like I do you might enjoy this fascinating article, found via BoingBoing, about why it should be that chilies evolved to contain capsaicin, the compound in the plant that causes the sensation of heat.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
"I love fat. Whether it's a slice of foie gras terrine, its layer of yellow fat melting at the edges; rich, soft marrow scooped hot from the bone; French butter from Normandy, redolent of herbs, flowers, and cream; hot bacon fat, spiked with vinegar, wilting a plate of pungent greens into submission"
Fat is back: Rediscover the delights of lard, dripping and suet
Here is the cook book mentioned in the article.
On the same topic, Mathilde brought Lewis back some rillettes from a recent trip to Paris, amazing on toast!
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
I'm crap at making pastry. I've got abnormally warm hands that melt the butter as I rub it into the flour which is exactly what Delia says you should avoid. My pastry makes the pie look like a bucket full of dried cement.
This is the pie I make occasionally and I made it up the entire idea of it.
Things may change but I always roast butternut squash, soften a good amount of red onions then combine them in a pie dish with a few tomatoes and a medium size goats cheese round cut into small pieces then it's all covered with a thick layer of shortcrust pastry.
In this pie I've made my own pastry and not bought any ready made stuff. I used wholemeal flour as I prefer the flavour and mine has a lot more butter than shop bought stuff. I also roasted some large tomatoes and a large courgette with the butternut squash. I have before just chucked a pack of cherry tomatoes into the mixture in the pie dish before roofing with the pastry.
A sprig of rosemary with the roasting contents adds some herbyness to the flavour.
Monday, 9 March 2009
I will try most things once but even I draw the line at "a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw for several weeks to several months [...] the yolk becomes a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odor of sulphur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavour or taste."
Especially as the end product looks like this:
Read more, if you can stomach it, here
Onions and peppers were fried until soft, added some par boiled potatoes to the mixture and fried for a few minutes more.
The eggs were seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika and added to the fried mixture, the heat was reduced and the omelette was cooked for about 15 minutes before being put under a grill to finish off the top. I added some grated cheese and then grilled it some more until it was bubbling.
Next time I will add some chorzio to the onions so that all the smoky flavour seeps out of the sausage, dies everything orange and makes the omelette even more tasty!
Friday, 6 March 2009
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
I'm not normally into very spicy food but even though the scotch bonnet is hotter than other chillis I do find that the heat wears off quicker and doesn't leave that chemical burn in your mouth and on your lips like other chillis can.
Monday, 2 March 2009
Uncooked be prepared for the smell. It's a bit like decomposing armpits. Also admire the thin layer of fat that make the potatoes look like little amber jewels if amber was a bit more opaque.
While cooking: The instructions say to fry on a high heat for 3 to 5 minutes and them fry on medium for 10 minutes or when the potatoes brown. I fried it as hot as I could in the hope that the potatoes got that crunchy skin on them. And after a good 15 minutes I'm pleased to say they did. I thought it best to convert that oily plastic sheen into something fried and crunchy so I could pretend it didn't start life in a tin.
Eating: It's actually alright. If you cook it long enough it does resemble fried two day old roast potatoes. There's not enough cabbage or spinach to really give it that bubble and squeak flavour though. The main flavour is grease but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Grease is a flavour after all as much as we pretend we don't like it and say it's bad for us it's the second best flavour after salt.
I thought I didn't like Brussels sprouts.
It's not very often that they appear on my dinner plate. Christmas time was the only time at my parents table and as I child I remember thinking they were far to bitter so I would leave them till last then gulp one down to placate my Dad.
I ate them again last Friday (see my earlier post about the Hoxton Apprentice) they were very nice, like mini cabbages.
I do like Brussels Sprouts then.
It's similar to the the nearby Jamie Oliver restaurant '15' in that it is a "training restaurant which provides skills and training for homeless and long-term unemployed".
Apparently '15' is more geared towards helping people to become chefs whereas the Hoxton Apprentice tries to equip people with vocational skills for any work environment as well as training for chefs, front of house, bar, waiters and management roles.
You can find it in Hoxton Square on the same corner as Zigfrid's in a grade 2 listed building that used to be a Victorian primary school.
I had a bit of trouble booking the table as they didn't answer the phone for the whole of Wednesday, as it turned out they were using the restaurant for filming and it was closed, in the end I just booked using top table - even easier!
I ordered Gravlax salmon for a starter and a steak for my main course, Fran had a chicken terrine as her starter and Fish Cakes as a main course.
The waiter recommended a nice bottle of Italian white wine the name of which I can't remember, the wine list was reasonably priced though!
The salmon was tasty, a much less strong flavour to smoked salmon it came served with strips of pickled cucumber. I would say there was probably a little too much cucumber and not enough salmon other than that it was a light and fresh start to the meal.
The terrine was served with prune pickle, it didn't come with any bread, which we ordered separately, I'm not sure you would want to eat it on it's own. I didn't try it but Fran said it was delicious.
I ordered my steak rare, it was probably not as rare as I like but the meat was very tender and delicious, it came with some great chips and a salad. We ordered green vegetables on the side, broccoli, sugar snap peas and Brussels sprouts. I normally don't eat Brussels sprouts as I find them too bitter but these were great, just the right cabbagey flavour.
Fran's fish cakes were very nice just the right ratio of fish to potato to crunchy outside.
We had an enjoyable meal here, the atmosphere of the restaurant was relaxed, the service was good and the bill wasn't steep. However I probably wouldn't go back but that is not necessarily a criticism. There are so many places to eat springing up around this part of the world that it's only very rarely that I find somewhere that I go back to again and again, I always think it's much more fun to try somewhere new!
Sunday, 1 March 2009
I remember first seeing them in west London corner shops when I used to work in Notting Hill a few years ago. That's where I first bought and ate them. West London corner shops try to cater to a posher client and tend to sell imported snack foods you just can't get anywhere else. Now however packs of Choco Leibniz biscuits have become a regular buy one get one free in most supermarkets. My local Co-op in Stepney Green has had them on offer on and off every few weeks for the last two years.
I've done some research and the German biscuits are made by using a mould where the chocolate is poured in and then the biscuit part is laid on top of it before the chocolate has set. The effect is that the biscuit is the back plate to a rather well detailed chocolate relief. One of the only bits of English on the cover of the box states 'more chocolate than a biscuit' and this is absolutely true. It's kind of like a posh Jacobs Club with high quality chocolate and a nice crunchy biscuit the flavour of which reminds me of the biscuit sticks in a KP Chocolate dip.
Choco Leibniz come with the chocolate part in a few different flavours: milk chocolate, plain chocolate and orange milk chocolate. I also believe an orange plain chocolate is available but I've never seen it. One thing you will discover when you want to buy them is that they only seem to be on sale when they are on offer and they only ever have one flavour in stock when they are being sold. Maybe one on reasons why I like them so much is that you cannot plan their availability in the shops and your never certain of the flavour that will be in. It's a sales method that worked pretty well as I buy them every time I see them on the promo end.
Getting back to the taste they are a very good biscuit that is definitely a cut above any of you childhood favourite chocolate biscuits. The chocolate and the biscuit are of a high quality that European snack foods just seem to have. It's almost as if they design junk food biscuits to be a plausible alternative to a posh dessert. My favourite flavour is the milk chocolate topped variety as it lets the lovely taste of the biscuit come through the best and it's the most ongoingly eatable meaning that when you've bought two boxes of Choco Leibniz on a BOGOF offer you can actually sit down and scoff them all yourself without your stomach feeling too dark afterwards. If you've got to share go for the plain chocolate ones as the richness means you'll want to stop eating them quicker therefore less jealousy incurs.
They are also one of the only junk foods I can buy and bring into the house without my girlfriend looking at me like I'm a delinquent child.