Friday, 25 September 2009

Butane Tagine

As the rest of the crew at Bags of Flavour would unhestiatingly agree, al fresco dining sits at the apex of summer treats. As such, it is important to find new ways of eating in the sun as the BBQ, whilst never failing to tick every possible box, cannot be the only way of cooking and eating outside.

I recently moved house and Jennie's mum bought me a butane gas stove as a housewarming present. Wow, what a present! We recently bought Steve (ourmaninegypt) a tagine for his birthday. An unlikely combination for outside cooking but god damn were the results spectacular.

So the story goes that one sunnny Saturday at the start of September, we decided to cook in the garden with the stove and the tagine. Steve prepared the food, which was Moroccan lamb (actually it was beef but dont tell anyone) with spices, aubergines, tomatoes and apricots. We covered it up and left it to simmer on a low heat for about four hours, checking it regularly. Just before serving it up, we put a generous handful of fresh coriander in.

Naturally, Alex turned up just as we were serving and we obligingly offered him some of the food, which was delicious. The meat fell apart perfectly, the apricot had gone sickly gewy and the aubergine had made the sauce thick, rich and tasty. I could not find a single fault with the food.

The drawback was that the tagine only feeds four people. Outdoor eating should involve more people so I would suggest purchasing the largest tagine available.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Monday, 21 September 2009

No Tears In The Rain

We'll it was going to happen once. We've managed to have quite a few barbecues this summer without being caught in the rain. Even though it's early September it was still hot enough Saturday to have one last barbecue for Mathilde's Birthday party. I lit the coals and when the flames died down and the glowing embers appeared eager to cook meat the rain started to fall.

Now most people would call it a day, go inside and put the food in the oven. Here at Bags of Flavour however we understand truly the importance of charcoal on the taste of the food and a canopy was constructed, a great canopy so that we could barbecue and eat outside without the rain bothering us.

My friend Jennie must take credit for not only suggesting the idea but also leading the gang with impetuous to construct the structure. Mike had two trips to the shops for gaffer tape and dust sheets and whole packs of recycling bags and black sacks were used.

We did have a bit of a problem with smoke build up from the barbecue but after a few careful cuts a convection current was created so we could breathe.

The food was cooked to decency. Here's a selection of it. Sardines burgers and lamb chops.

Here's a picture of the canopy from the roof. Looks a bit like a shanty town from above.

When in got dark the rain got a lot heavier. We did manage to sit for a while but eventually the plastic bags gave way.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

RIP Keith Floyd

Always remember watching Floyd on the TV when I was little, here he is making 'The Best Fish Stew in the world'

If anybody embodies the Bags-Of-Flavour attitude to cooking, eating, drinking and enjoying life it was Keith.

And here is the brilliant theme music to his TV shows, Waltz in Black by The Stranglers, of whom he was a big fan:

Sorry about the scary clowns in that last video...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Nando's Skank

New London sound 'UK Funky' exploded this Summer, the majority of it's producers used to make Grime until they decided it was less about the merking and more about the dancing so invented this fun new music. We all know how much Grime MC's love chicken so it's no surprise to find a tune in this new genre dedicated to the same thing.

Don't let this put you off this music by the way, it's great:

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Been Watching

I never actually liked reggae reggae sauce. I thought it tasted weird and was essentially a spicy tomato ketchup. I much prefer this stuff. Levi Roots performance on the Dragons Den was also strange because I kinda felt that he was belittling himself a bit and playing up to the cameras. I have however been enjoying his current TV show Caribbean Food Made Easy.

The show covers the staples of Caribbean cooking by visiting parts of the Caribbean and the UK. When Levi cooks to show us how to make the food the emphasis is on getting things to feel right when cooking and this includes all elements ingredients and atmosphere. Levi's real personality shines through and he's a great ambassador for Caribbean food.

The sunshine kit which I did find tacky at first is a great gimmick. A collection of spices, herbs and ingredients with which you should be able to make anything have a Caribbean flavour. That's when you realise what's so great about Caribbean food. It's mixture of good well cooked meat which treats and respects the natural meatyness in a way the nose to tail crew would agree with. The meat goes with the freshest vegetables, fruit and squashes and the flavours are elevated with traditional things like thyme and garlic and also exotic spices including pimento and ginger and then everything is brought to life with intense heat (and flavour) from the brilliantly delicious scotch bonnet pepper. Dare I say it's kind of achieved what all those fusion idiots tried in the nineties.

The first episodes lamb with dragon stout gravy plays on mind in times of hunger and now I know how to cook a yam properly. I'd like Levi to show us how to rehydrate those funny dried salt fish next.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tomato Tarte Tatin

The Tomato Tarte Tatin is something that is beautiful, ugly and impressive all at the same time. It's a pretty but sloppy mess with a damn fine combination of flavours. I came up with my recipe from cobbling together odd bits I'd seen on the internet like this awful youtube video was one on the sources I used along with some proper bits in 90's cook books. I think Gary Rhodes made one once. Whatever the reason the tomato tarte tatin is something I like to fix up on slow afternoon to cut through the dullness and bring a sense of absurd wonder back into the world.

To start you need to make sure you've got a frying pan that can go in the oven. You cannot make the tarte tatin without one of these.

You need a load of tomatoes at least 12+ good sized ones. They should be of reasonable quality, nice and red but I've made it with skanky value ones before. Cut the tomatoes in half, brush with olive oil, season and sprinkle with rosemary. The tomatoes need to be roasted in a hot oven on a raised roasting rack so they are not touching the bottom of the roasting dish. The aim here is to cook them into beautiful roastedness flavour while also drying them. place the tomatoes so the cut side is facing up as that needs to get a bit crispy.

How long the tomatoes take is up to you and the amount of time you have. It's this part of the cooking that determines the sloppyness of the finished meal. You can roast them on a high heat quickly for 40mins but they wont lose much water and will make the tarte sloppy. If you've got more time do them at 150c for at least 2 hours or even longer if you've got the patience. You can also peel the tomatoes before roasting but I've done this with or without peeling and it doesn't really make much difference.

While the tomatoes are roasting slice up 3 large red onions, put in a pan with a bit of olive oil and sweat them down gently. You want the onions real soft and looking a bit grey.

Once the tomato and onions are done it's time to build the tarte tatin. Normal tarte tatin with apples have a caramel syrup that wouldn't really work on a savoury dish. The tomato tarte tatin has a balsamic glaze. Put your oven ok frying pan on a high heat on the hob. Put a good dash of balsamic vinegar onto the pan. The aim here is to reduce the balsamic to a less vinegary thicker and sweeter substance. I normally put a spoonful of brown cane sugar in the pan to help it along. You really don't want it to be too vinegary or it can ruin the dish so taste it as it reduces to check the flavour. Be careful not to burn yourself. Once you've got a decent glaze syrup (you don't need much) take the pan off the heat and begin to build.

The tomatoes go flat side down onto the pan. Start in the middle and work outwards so you have an even and tight spread of tomatoes.

Next spoon the red onions on. Try to get these even again working from the middle outwards.

I crumble a block of feta and sprinkle that on next. You don't have to use the highest quality a cheap kind will do.

A layer of puff pastry comes next. Roll the pastry out and place on top of the pan. Cut off the excess pastry and push the rest into the pan so that the pastry has a tight seal on the innards.

The pan then goes in the oven at a high heat until the puff pastry has cooked.

Next comes the exciting bit turning the tarte upside down. Before we start please take care not to burn yourself with the molten balsamic glaze or brand yourself with the metal handle on your skillet/frying pan. Cover your hands with oven gloves and tea clothes so you don't get burnt.

Put a plate over the top of the pan so that it's covering the whole of the pan. You may want to experiment with different plates until you find one that you feel comfortable with turning. When your ready it takes one quick simple motion to turn the dish upside down with the plate held closely against it. Every time I've ever done it as soon as I move the upturned skillet away from the plate the tarte tatin has settled onto the plate below ready to serve.

Let the tarte cool a bit before serving. It actually tastes better at room temperature than as a hot dish. It's a decent beauty of a thing if you get it right. The tangy sweetness of the tomatoes and vinegar smudge into the salty mellowness of the feta and puff pastry.