Monthly Archives: May 2010

Post-farmers’ market brunch

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Scrambled eggs & chorizo on an English muffin

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Chop some parsley. Halve an English muffin. Heat a frying pan. De-skin and cut chorizo sausage into small bits, add to pan. Melt a generous lump of butter in a saucepan on a medium heat. Put muffin halves in toaster. As butter foam starts to subside, but before it colours, pour in two beaten, seasoned eggs. Stir. Keep stirring. Stir the chorizo. Stir the eggs. Keep stirring. Just before they set, tip in the chorizo.  Give it all a final stir. Remove from heat. Tip over muffin halves. Scatter with parsley. Take two bites. Photograph. Eat.

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So, I quit my job

As per post title (and sorry to friends finding out about that on here), last night’s baking-for-the-office effort was one of my last. This time, though, not only were the results actually edible enough to bring in this morning, but my chocolate millionaire’s shortbread was so good that housemate R’s boyfriend NWSixDan actually DREAMT about it. Alas, this is another of those occasions when I can’t take too much credit: the recipe belongs not to me but to Rachel Allen, an annoying lady who nevertheless gives good cake. On the plus side, statistically I can now expect only one in every two of my baking attempts to end in disaster.

Allen calls these chocolate caramel bars, but that’s boring, so in honour of my soon to be ex-overlord, Mr Murdoch, I give you:

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Billionaire’s Shortbread, for Rupert

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Pouring soup on my cereal and other culinary disasters

The problem with worshipping at the altar of goddess Nigella and god Nigel is that their generous enthusiasm convinces you you’re a wonderful home cook, when in reality they demand nothing more from you than the ability to soften onions (Him), or lasciviously dribble cream into all and sundry (Her).*

But bless them, they are always encouraging their followers to wander from the fold, to trust our own judgement and use their recipes as mere guides rather than commandments. Frankly though, I’m a liability off-piste. One afternoon at university I tried to invent a new class of savoury snack by pouring miso soup on my Weetabix. Needless to say, the moral I took from that particular tale was that devotion to the Nigels He & She was crucial if I didn’t want my culinary skill level to plateau at misconceived Japanese/Kellogg’s fusion food.

However, as a very early post on here noted, I have been doing some serious homework of late.  Reading cookbooks will never be able to teach me how to make pastry – I’m not sure even a personal lesson from Nigella herself could do that – but after reading hundreds of recipes, you do begin to spot the underlying patterns that make for good eating, and to understand which leaps of food faith aren’t likely to end in a bowl of tepid, miso-sodden cereal.

Which brings us to last night, when I thought I might make some sort of warm salad with squid and sweet potato, just because it sounded – tasted? – in my head like it might work. I thought I might add some capers for a bit of salty spike, and plenty of chopped fresh herbs, and dress it with lemon, and olive oil…

And then, because I’m still a bit tentative about these things, I googled squid + sweet potato, and lo! it turned out the lovely Ottolenghi’s done it all before. Nigels above! The relief!

A few months ago I would have followed the big O’s instructions down to the last 3/4tsp of salt, but – aside from stealing his idea of using maple syrup in the dressing – I was just happy to know my culinary instincts aren’t completely out of whack, and would you believe it, I made a rather nice dinner all on my own.

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Warm squid & sweet potato salad with wild garlic flowers

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Chop a sweet potato into mouth-sized chunks. Drop into boiling water and cook for maybe 5 mins until just tender. Drain and season. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking together: 1tbsp lemon juice, 1tbsp maple syrup, 4tbsp olive oil, s&p, a finely chopped shallot. Tear some salad leaves (I used a red chicory and Romaine combo), and put in a bowl with the sweet potato and a roughly chopped, generous handful of any combination of parsley, mint and coriander. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, slice three squid into rings, and add when the oil is very hot. Fry for barely a couple of mins, until the the squid is just cooked through. Tip into the salad with a tbsp of capers. Because I bought some wild garlic last week, I had some of the edible flowers in a pint glass on the draining board, so I finished with a (smug) sprinkling of those.

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* If you want to see my gods together in truly sensual action, have a look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK61hlek064

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Mango glut

So the man on the Whitechapel Road who sold me my mangoes on Monday (see argh-Tories-I-want-to-cry post below) would only let me buy a whole box of 15, rather than the three I wanted. Thus, for the last three days, it has been mangoes for breakfast, dessert, and now dinner.

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Cold noodle salad with mango, radish & cucumber


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Boil rice vermicelli noodles for a couple of minutes, drain, run with cold water. Put in fridge.

Prepare veg: use a peeler to make pretty ribbons from cucumber (I used one of the small ones from an Indian supermarket) and radish (I used one of the big ones from an Indian supermarket). Now put these in a bowl in the fridge too.

Prepare the dressing: one tbsp each of light soy, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar (though white wine vinegar did for me).

Prepare garnish bits: roughly chop a handful of coriander, finely chop a red chilli, finely slice a spring onion or two.

Slice your mango.

Now assemble: Toss the noodles with most of the dressing, coriander, spring onion, chilli and a good sprinkling of sesame seeds. Gently fold in the veg. Now pile on the mango, scatter the remaining garnishy bits and dressing on top, and finish with a final pinch of sesame seeds and maybe, like me, a few nuggets of pure crunchy peanut butter (I didn’t have any whole ones).

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What I had for dinner the night David Cameron became prime minister. Sob.

In honour of our new potato-head PM, a new potato salad for dinner. One was vibrant, fresh and gorgeous, the other looks slimy and makes me want to vom. I’ll leave you to work out which is which.

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Roast radish, new potato and tomato salad

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According to the New York Times, roast radishes are popping up in restaurants all over that fine city. Enough of a reason for me to have a go.

Preheat oven to 220. Parboil some little potatoes, halved, until just tender. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a roasting tin. Meanwhile, chop the tops off a small bunch of radishes (reserve those greens) and slice the veg in half. Also halve a big handful of cherry and/or baby plum tomatoes and slice a fat clove of garlic. Tip everything bar the greens into the preheated oil, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, season, stir to coat in the oil and return to the oven. Cook for about 20 mins until the potatoes are golden and a bit crisp. Meanwhile, slice a couple of spring onions, roughly chop the radish tops and a handful of parsley. Stir these in to the roast veg when they’re done, and finish with one squeeze more of lemon, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a bit more s&p.

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Definitely an evening for dessert.

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Mango pots with creme fraiche, coconut & chilli chocolate sauce

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Our new lizard overlords may not like immigrants,  but I for one am grateful for the huge Indian community in the vibrant part of London in which I live, tonight particularly for the glorious Alphonso mangoes I had for dessert.

Layer in small glasses: chopped mango –> a dollop of creme fraiche –> melted dark chocolate mixed with a pinch or two of chilli powder. Sprinkle dessicated coconut and dried chilli flakes on top. Delicious, but also, fuck. George Osborne is chancellor.

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Bruschette

Well, the veg season may have moved on since I last posted, but I’m still stuck in my stuff-on-sourdough moment. In fact, I had stuff-on-sourdough for both lunch and dinner today. First up: yellow, cherry and plum tomato with avocado, goats cheese and wild garlic.

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And then, even better stuff for dinner:

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Poached egg, bacon, wild garlic & creme fraiche bruschetta

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Put a pan of water on to simmer. Chop two rashers of bacon into little strips. Fry until the fat colours. Remove pan from heat and stir in roughly chopped wild garlic leaves. They will wilt. Season. Slide two eggs into the water (barely simmering, so the bubbles don’t even come to the surface). Use a spoon to wrap the floaty egg whites around the yolk, leave for 3 mins, take out and drain. Meanwhile, put some slices of sourdough under the grill. To assemble: garlic & bacon, egg on top, tbsp of creme fraiche, seasoning, chopped parsley, pinch of cayenne.

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