one for the barbeque: lamb koftas

June 26, 2008

Is it barbeque weather where you are? Even if it isn’t, why not try these lamb koftas? They’re really quick to assemble and taste great fried or grilled on a barbeque. Serve with couscous or with pitta bread and a yoghurt and cucumber dip.

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on Venezuelan Black: marinated roast pork

June 19, 2008

As I’ve mentioned before, we eat a lot more pork now that we’re living in East Anglia. Sometimes the best part of a roast pork dinner is the crackling. Yes, you read that correctly, sometimes the crackling is even better than the roast potatoes! We’re very lucky because the cuts we buy from our local farm shop yield the most delicious crackling. I didn’t think we could make it any better, but press some crushed fennel seeds deep into the fat and, oh my, the crackling is heavenly!

See, I’ve digressed already – back to the purpose of the post: the Venezuelan Black marinade. To inject the marinade into the flesh, you’ll need a syringe. I bought a silicone baster with a detachable stainless steel injector.

It did leave holes in the meat and some of the liquid did ooze back out but the cooked joint was moist with a delicate flavour and the juices in the roasting tin produced the best gravy we’ve had in a while.

We used boneless pork leg that had a lovely marbling of fat. Get your butcher to score the fat.

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lamb filo triangles

June 11, 2008

Filo pastry is one of those products that seem to last forever. No matter how many times I take out a batch of silky smooth rectangles, I never manage to get to the end of the box. After last week’s attempt at a variation on tarte tatin, which mrB said needed more work, I thought it wise to go for a savoury dish. There’s something moreish about moist fillings encased in crisp, buttery parcels. And this time, mrB was more than happy with the results of my baking efforts.

These triangular parcels are filled with a sweet and spicy lamb mixture. The sweet part comes from a handful of chopped dates and the spicy part from a harissa-style paste. If you have some harissa to hand, you can substitute it for the paste.

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the cupboard was bare: pasta bake

June 5, 2008

Besides tending the garden, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading in recent weeks, including chef autobiographies as well as the usual cookery books. One of the autobiographies I thoroughly enjoyed and found difficult to put down was White Slave. In this book, Marco Pierre White describes a party where everyone is hungry but the host’s cupboards are bare. He volunteers to cook and in the kitchen he finds some onions, pasta, tomato puree, garlic and bacon, and serves up an amazing pasta dish inspired by the way his mother used to make it.

I remember a similar evening when I was a student – no party, but the same empty cupboard scenario. Back in the early nineties, my weekly food budget was about ¬£10. In my shopping basket there would usually be a carton of milk, some rashers of bacon, a piece of meat, onions, carrots, potatoes and either some cheese or eggs, but never both. At the end of one particular week, I’d eaten all the interesting stuff and was left with an onion, a tiny piece of cheese and a limp carrot. One of my housemates rose to the challenge of cooking me dinner using those seemingly limited ingredients, together with whatever we could find in our store cupboards.

Using my leftovers she cooked the tastiest dinner I’d had all week. Carrot salad with a dressing to start, followed by a grilled pasta bake. I’ve tried to recreate the pasta dish here.

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a few pounds of rhubarb: turn it into a fool

June 3, 2008

I’ve been away for a few weeks now, tending our new vegetable plot and herb garden. The weather has been so miserable the last few days that I can no longer continue using the garden as an excuse for not blogging.

So what have mrB and I been cooking recently? A lot of rhubarb. One of my regular stalls at Bury St Edmunds market had a big display with lovely pink stems. I couldn’t resist and even got sucked into their special offer.

I made up a big batch of rhubarb and ginger and it’s been waiting in the wings for some action on our counter tops. Some of it featured in a crumble, only this time I swapped half the flour for some rolled oats to make a topping with more bite. Some of it appeared in a sauce for a pork belly and noodle dish, from¬†Jamie at Home. And the last of it was blitzed into this delicious rhubarb fool.

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on Venezuelan Black: hot chocolate

May 15, 2008

I drink hot chocolate on a regular basis. I always have. So today, it was definitely time to see how Tania and Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s choc shoc shapes up.

The hot chocolate starts off unpromisingly pale but as it heats up the chocolatey colour becomes more intense, as does the aroma that wafts up from the saucepan. It did become thicker as more steam started to rise but then I noticed the volume of liquid start to reduce. As you can see in the picture, there was nowhere near enough chocolate to fill the espresso cup. I suspect it was down to the giraffes. You see, in my experience giraffes can be rather cheeky, and I can only assume there was some secret slurping going on while I wasn’t looking.

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on Venezuelan Black: chicken mole

May 12, 2008

In the weeks leading up to Easter, Channel 4 television aired the series Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory. During four hour-long episodes, we watched Willie Harcourt-Cooze set up his chocolate factory in the South West of England and cook some twenty recipes. The programme also included fascinating footage from his cacao plantation in Venzuela.

Willie’s enthusiasm for Venezuelan Black (made from 100% cacao) was infectious and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a few bars. I was particularly intrigued by the use of chocolate in savoury dishes. But what would I start with? In the programme, we’d seen Willie make:

  • gaspacho with roasted red peppers
  • black turtle beans with sweet peppers served with corn bread
  • roast pork with fennel seeds and injected with ginger, apricots and white wine
  • porcini risotto
  • fish in coconut sauce
  • venison in port gravy
  • partridge wrapped in pancetta and sprinkled with thyme leaves
  • chicken mole

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back to soup: leek and potato

May 7, 2008

mrB had a wisdom tooth out this morning, bless him. He’s not feeling so good and looks a bit like Popeye. Despite the glorious weather, we’re back on soups because mrB is not allowed to eat solid food for a few days. Luckily, we’ve got plenty of vegetables in our veggie box. So it’s leek and potato for lunch and swede soup for dinner.

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on weaknesses: sweet things

April 30, 2008

mrB and I have been watching Lark Rise to Candleford, a period drama set in rural England at the end of the 1800’s. One of the main characters, Miss Lane, the postmistress of Candleford, confesses in almost every episode about her one weakness, which usually involves eating something sweet that her housekeeper has baked especially for the occasion.

She’s not the only one to have developed a weakness for sweet things. I love to eat cake in the afternoons, washed down with a good cup of coffee or tea. Last week, my afternoons were fuelled by a delicious fat-free chocolate cake baked by our lovely neighbours. This week, it’s the turn of my very own white chocolate cake. I was proud to return the clean plate with a few slices hiding under some foil. Only this time, the cake was not quite so healthy on the fat front. But sshhh, don’t tell the neighbours!

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cornish pasties: or are they?

April 28, 2008

There is much debate about how to make a traditional cornish pasty. Should the filling be raw or pre-cooked? Should the crimp be on the top or the side? And there is even debate about the origin of the pasty. A recipe from Devon found in a book dated 1510 pips Cornwall’s oldest pasty recipe by over 200 years, according to an article I came across in the Independent.

One thing is for sure though: if you don’t live anywhere near Devon or Cornwall, a homemade pasty beats a shop-bought pasty every time. The filling of a pasty I sampled recently consisted mainly of mashed potato, tiny traces of meat and the odd stripe of carrot. Not a bit like the real thing, which usually contains small pieces of steak, onion, potato and swede.

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