Monday, 31 October 2011

Pasta with a Spanish twist: Manchego cheese or Serrano ham

Pasta with a Spanish Twist

After a long day at work this is a very simple dish to make and a great way of adding a Spanish twist to your evening meal. I absolutely love both Manchego cheese and Serrano ham so will often add both to my bowl.

Serves: 1 vegetarian, 1 meat-eater

Orecchiette (little ears) pasta (Approx 100g per person)
2 handfuls spinach, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chili, de-seeded and chopped
Handful pine nuts
¼ juice of lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil

V: Shavings of Manchego cheese
M: Slice or two of Serrano ham, torn into strips

Boil the pasta in lots of salted water until al dente (approx 1o minutes). Drain.

Meanwhile, dry pan fry the pine nuts for a few minutes, until golden brown and set aside.

In a separate frying pan, fry the garlic and chili in a glug of olive oil for one minute. Stir in the spinach until it starts to wilt, then season.
Add the drained pasta to the pan, squeeze over the lemon, fold in the pine nuts and mix the ingredients together. Include extra olive oil, sat and black pepper if necessary.

V: Serve with a sprinkle of Manchego cheese
M: Serve with torn Serrano ham

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sloe Gin Recipe

Sloe Berries

I couldn't wipe the horrified look off my face as I arrived at Didcot Parkway rail station and walked towards my friend Hannah- 7months pregnant and waving a bottle of gin in her hand!

'We're off to pick sloe berries’ she shouted.
I let out a deep breath, phew.

So, off we went on a wonderful walk alongside the river Thames in search of sloe berries to make sloe gin. My Sally sausage dog was tiny in comparison to Conner collie dog and they fought and played along the way.

After about 20 minutes we came across bushes and bushes of sloe berries. 
Picking The Sloe Berries

Hannah came prepared for this part and while Kev (Hannah’s husband) and I picked a kilo worth of berries, Hannah excused herself with pregnancy waffle and sat this part out. 

Hannah and Conner Taking a Break

We slowly strolled back in the gleaming afternoon sun and began the first stage of making sloe gin. 
Pricking The Sloe Berries
Sloe Berries and Sugar Awaiting the Gin
It should be ready in a few months -just in time for the birth of Hannah’s first child. I'll be back on the train to drink the first glass and celebrate.

The Sloe Gin Mix

Recipe makes: 1 bottle of Sloe Gin

500g sloe berries
250g of sugar
750ml gin

Wash the sloe berries and prick each with a pin or the point of a knife and place in a large sterilized jar.
Pour over the sugar and the gin. Seal the lid and give it a good shake.
Store in a dark cupboard and give the jar a shake everyday for a few months (if you can remember to!), allowing the sloe berries to steep into the gin.
After about 2-3 months, strain the gin through a muslin cloth and pour into a sterilised bottle. Kev recommended keeping the original gin bottle and pouring the sloe gin back into it once strained.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Sea Bass or Aubergine with Olives and Roast Tomatoes

Baked Wild Sea Bass with Potatoes and Tomatoes

The Autumn weather is pretty confusing this year, with sunny days but chilly nights, so here is a light Mediterranean dish that will keep you warm but make you feel that summer isn’t quite over yet. The aubergine takes a little longer to cook so get the vegetarian version of this dish in the oven first.

Serves: 2 vegetarian, 2 pescatarians

6 tomatoes, halved
3 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
1 slice wholemeal bread, toasted and made into breadcrumbs
Handful basil leaves
Handful parsley, torn
Handful black olives, pitted
1 glass white wine
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2tsp sugar
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

V: 2 small aubergines
P: 1 medium sized wild sea bass, de-scaled and gutted (I usually ask the fishmonger to do this for me.)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Roast the tomatoes in a little olive oil and seasoning for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile par-boil the potato slices for 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Blend the breadcrumbs together with the garlic, a dash of olive oil and seasoning.

Brush two baking trays with olive oil and divide the potato slices between them, layering each with the basil leaves.

V: Slice a few cuts into both sides of the aubergines. Lay the aubergines on the potato and basil. Place half the tomatoes and half the olives around the outside. Pour over half the wine, drizzle with olive oil and scatter half of the garlic breadcrumbs. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Squeeze over half the lemon juice and bake for a further 10 minutes.

P: Slice a few cuts on one side of the fish. Lay the wild sea bass, cut side up, on the second dish of potato and basil. Place the remaining tomato halves and olives around the outside. Pour over the remaining wine, drizzle with olive oil and scatter the rest of the garlic breadcrumbs. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Squeeze over half the lemon juice and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Sprinkle each with torn parsley and serve with a simple salad and crusty bread.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Yotam Ottolenghi cooking course at Leith’s cookery school

Six months ago, with an alarm set, following a sleepless night, I sat with my phone to my ear, waiting on hold, hoping my call would be answered.  I was hopeful, at least I was in the queue this time; last time, many months earlier, I couldn’t get past the engaged tone. With such a small window of opportunity for this very popular course, I was over-the-moon when my call was answered and I was allotted a place on the Ottolenghi cooking course at Leith’s cookery school in West London.
Me and Yotam Ottolenghi!
Yotam Ottolenghi is one of my favourite chefs and a revolutionary in vegetarian cooking (although he does not just cook for vegetarians). I could go as far as to say that he was the inspiration for my re-found love of food. Ottolenghi helped me be more creative in the kitchen, using ingredients I hadn’t considered before and, finally, The Vegetarian was getting exciting meals full of unusual food combinations.

At last the day of the course arrived. Saturday morning was full of excitement as we 35 students sat in the canteen, eagerly awaiting the man himself. We all had questions for him, as he talked through the day’s menu. Time was passing quickly so Ottolenghi recommended we move into the classroom, start cooking and continue our questioning there.

Once in the large classroom, on tables of four and in teams of two, we started cooking our multiple dishes. We began by preparing the dessert – poached quince with star anise, blackberries and vanilla ice cream. 
Poached Quince
My cooking partner Peter and I then moved on to making the Baked Okra with Tomato and Preserved Lemon. Tomatoes are no longer in season so Ottolenghi recommended we add a touch of tomato puree and sugar to thicken and sweeten the sauce. He also advised us to avoid using the larger okra as these have more stimuli (chewy strands). 
Baked Okra with Tomato and Preserved Lemon
Next we filled a baking tray with chunks of aubergine for the Aubergine and Herbs dish; then we started frying the fennel for the Quinoa and Fennel Salad. 
Quinoa and Fennel Salad
Finally, we used a rolling pin to bash out the pomegranate seeds from their skin and gently fried the haloumi for the Warm Haloumi and Chicory with Pomegranate and Walnut dish.
Our Delicious Feast

At the end, we plated up the food and had a glass of wine to celebrate the delicious feast we had in front of us. At that moment, Ottolenghi walked past and he was so impressed with our styling he took a photo and tweeted it with the note: Georgia and Peter should be proud. 
We Were Proud!

I learnt a few tricks along the way from the many Leith’s staff dotted around the classroom. I was taught a clever technique for dissecting lime segments that added a kick to the Quinoa and Fennel Salad: Use a sharp knife to trim the top and tail, cut down the side to remove the skin and white pith and, over a bowl, remove the segments from the lime by slicing between the membranes.

I was also taught the French method chiffonade – the way to stop soft herbs such as basil and mint from bruising: Gently roll the herb and delicately slice it as opposed to chopping it.

The Leith's Classroom

Yotam Ottolenghi did his best to walk around the class and talk to each table but some tables grasped his attention more than others. This was disappointing, as I know how to cook his dishes and, more than anything, wanted to hear about his experiences and inspirations, and have a good ol’ pick of his brain.

The course would have benefitted from being a bit more intimate, with half the number of students, and Ottolenghi at the front talking us through each dish, allowing everyone to ask questions and all to hear his responses. Perhaps this would help Ottolenghi, too, as I imagine that, as he walked around, many conversations were repetitive.

Nonetheless, my love for Yotam Ottolenghi will continue to grow. His cool, laid-back personality and outstanding approach to cooking is likely to keep me inspired for many more years to come. Having used his vegetarian book 'Plenty' to pieces, I am excited with my new signed purchase of his first book – Ottolenghi, The Cookbook. 
Signed, Ottolenghi - The Cookbook

Monday, 10 October 2011

Norfolk Autumn chutney

The Apple Orchard

This weekend became a rescue operation in more than one way. Not only were we gathering the last of the fallen apples but just as I was leaving the countryside, we realised one of the cats were missing. With one cat already in the car and a sally dog by my feet we began our pursuit of the missing cat. After spying her in the distance I did what I thought was clever planning and organised a  nifty leap over a wire fence to get into the field beyond - this wasn't so clever afterall as instead of the green grass I  looked down to find myself stuck to the fence, with a rip in my trouser and surrounded my stinging nettles. Whilst I tried to untangle myself, the cat elegantly walked past, through a gap in the fence, back into the garden. I'm pretty certain I saw her smirk as she passed by too.

Finally in the car, loaded with two cats, a dog, hundreds of apples and pears and a lots of jars of home-made chutney. 

Here is a recipe for you to try.

Norfolk Autumn chutney

Norfolk Autumn Chutney
This  spicy chutney is the ideal way of using up a glut of autumn fruit and veg. You can vary the quantities, adding more or less of each ingredient, depending on what is available.  Cut away any bruises on the windfalls, and keep the ratio of fruit/vinegar/ sugar the same.

2 kg windfall apples
500 g pears
250 g plums or greengages, stoned and halved
250 g tomatoes, quartered
1 kg onions, peeled and chopped
1 lb marrow, peeled and cut in small cubes
250 g seedless raisins and/or sultanas
250 g soft brown sugar
900 ml malt vinegar
2 tsp salt
Pickling spices, tied in muslin: 6 cloves, 10 peppercorns, ½ cinnamon stick, piece of mace, 5 allspice, ½ cm root ginger, peeled and chopped.
1 tsp cayenne
Cut away any bruises; peel and chop the fruit.
Place the chopped onions in a large, heavy-based saucepan, cover with water and simmer for about 15 minutes, to soften. Drain and return to the pan.
Add the chopped fruit and marrow, and the raisins and/or sultanas.
Add half the vinegar and the spices.
Bring to the boil,  turn down the heat and simmer until the fruit is tender, about 1 hour, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking.
Add the sugar, salt and the rest of the vinegar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
Cook gently until thick for another hour or so, stirring from time to time.
Remove the spices in muslin,and discard.
Warm about 10 clean jars and, while the chutney is still hot, spoon it into the jars. Cover quickly with wax circles and cellophane rings, and seal with the lid. (You can buy these in many household stores). Label the jars with the date.
You may want to eat the chutney at once but, to get the best flavour, leave it to mature for a month or two.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A Day in the Kitchen of The Colonel Fawcett

Prepping For The Day Ahead
Sizzling Pork Burgers with Caramalized Apples

Crispy Beer Battered Pollock and Chips

The Orders Just Kept on Coming!

My Handy Work - Placing the Figs on the Fig Tart.

Ouch! I just cut my finger and a blister is forming on my other hand. I’ve been cutting onions, chopping herbs and scrubbing potatoes for hours. Is this what everyday in a professional kitchen is like? I’m breathing in the aroma of caramelized apples, sizzling pork and sage burgers, and roasting garlic…while the machine next to me vibrates as it mixes the next batch of Foccacia dough. Behind me someone hurries past, balancing plates of beer-battered Pollock with pea and mint puree and tartar sauce on one hand, and a steak and kidney pie with puff pastry, parsnip mash and kale on the other, together with a bowl of amazing chunky chips, coated with Malden sea salt and crispy rosemary. Chef Kirk shouts to Chef Davis that the next booking has just arrived – a table of 20 people!

It’s Friday lunchtime on a brilliant sunny Autumn day, and it feels like the whole of Camden is heading here – to the newly opened Colonel Fawcett gastro pub. And I’m in the kitchen having my very first experience of helping behind the scenes. It’s hard trying to keep pace with the experts.

The two chefs, Dorian Kirk and Rupert Davis, have been working together since they left Hereford Tech College eight years ago. Bill Granger’s Australian restaurant, Bill’s No.1, is on their CV and they have been credited with the recent success of London’s Café Below – (vegetarians look away now!) - they introduced a meat menu to the formally vegetarian establishment.

At the Colonel Fawcett, the menu changes daily, the produce is sourced impeccably and everything is made on the premises – bread, jam, chutney, ice-cream etc.

There is so much going on. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and I can’t resist wanting to try every dish on the menu so far. A fantastic a la carte menu is coming soon. Could they be heading for a Michelin star?
If you want to get there first, hurry along now.

The Colonel Fawcett

1 Randolph Street, Camden, London, NW1 0SS.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tapas: Albondigas – Spanish Meatballs or Veggieballs

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)in Tomato Sauce is a very popular dish, usually served as tapas in bars up and down Spain or cooked as a main meal at home. Albondigas are usually accompanied by fresh bread to soak up the tomato sauce.

Serves: 4 Vegetarians, 4 Meat-eaters, as part of tapas

2 slices stale bread, made into breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Handful parsley, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 small glass of dry white wine
1 tbsp plain flour
Olive oil
1 can chopped tomatoes

V: 150g mixed nuts, finely chopped or crushed using a pestle and mortar
50g baby spinach leaves
150ml vegetable stock

M: 200g lean minced beef
150ml beef or chicken stock

V: Mix the nuts, spinach, half the breadcrumbs, half the parsley, half the garlic, ¼ of the onion and season with salt and black pepper. Form into small balls and dust with flour. Heat a glug of olive oil in a casserole pan and sauté the veggieballs until browned all over.

M: Mix the meat, half the breadcrumbs, half the parsley, half the garlic, ¼ of the onion and season with salt and black pepper. Form into small balls and dust with flour. Heat a glug of olive oil in a casserole pan and sauté the meatballs until browned all over.

Divide the remaining onion between the two pans. When the onion is translucent, add half of the tomatoes and wine to each.

V: Add the vegetable stock to the pan with the veggieballs.

M: Add the chicken/beef to the pan with the meatballs

Season to taste and cook covered over a low heat for 40 minutes. Give the pan a shake or stir every now and then, to stop anything sticking.