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The Girl & the Sleuth

Bisol
Announcing some exciting real world news.

Denise of The Wine Sleuth & I will be manning our very own stall in Covent Garden Summer Market next Thursday 6th August. We’ve been talking about doing a pop up bar for a while, so when Covent Garden asked if we were interested in holding a stall in their Summer market, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

This is actually happening in real life/off the blog/real people/real food & drink  and not just photographs! We’ll be serving some gorgeous prosecco from the talented people at Bisol, masters of their craft producing prosecco since 1542. We are going to match this with smoked salmon from Frank Hederman, my favourite smoked salmon in the world. Heston Blumenthal is also a fan. It will be accompanied by my homemade brown Irish soda bread and homemade cucumber pickle. Traditional, Irish and utterly delicious.

Sadly, we could only do it once, as we both work full time, but we are very excited, so do come down and say hello and join us for a tipple and some lovely Irish grub next week from 12pm to 8pm. We promise tasty food and drink and lots of fun.

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Burnt aubergine with sweet peppers and red onion

I have a confession to make! I published this post last weekend, and a few hours later a trusted friend queried my photograph, thinking that it didn’t do the dish justice. I took a look, and sure enough, they were right. It was like going out to work hungover and slightly frazzled wearing something that you think looks ok, and realising slowly that it was a horrible choice, ill fitting, and irritating for the rest of the day. So I took it down. I made the dish again today, same recipe, and here’s the post. In my defence, I made this dish for a friend and drank lots of wine as I was cooking (as did they!). So, lesson learned, don’t take food photographs drunk, and don’t rush blog posts!

One of my indulgences is cookbooks, I love them, and I have a ridiculous amount. Some are  very well thumbed with weakening spines, others are neglected, bought out of curiosity and never properly investigated. I love concocting my own food and creating recipes, but I also love to cook from cookbooks, entering the culinary head of another, and seeing how they do things.

A lot of the cookbooks that I have been buying in the last few years are from restaurants and cafes that I really like. Often they’re not as impressive as the restaurant they are associated with, but as always, there are exceptions. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is one.

I was very excited about this one. I worked reasonably close to the Islington branch for a number of years and would occasionally treat myself to a delicious lunch. When Yotam Ottolenghi started writing recipes in the Guardian I was always enthralled with his approach and combinations. Coming from Israel with a Palestinian business partner, there are some wonderful influences from that region. The first time I used orange blossom water was when I made an Ottolenghi salad and it was a revelation. He uses colour and flavour wonderfully, I remember reading sovewhere that if a dish doesn’t look great, it doesn’t matter how great it tastes, you won’t get it at Ottolenghi.

I’ve had the cookbook since it was published and I really don’t use it enough. I frequently dip in, for inspiration or just a good read, and a flick through the gorgeous pictures. I decided I really should start, and I can safely say after just one recipe, the book is well and truly broken in with splatters and thumb prints all over the page. Ah well.

Burnt aubergine is a gorgeous, intensely savoury flavour. It’s fantastic in a vegetarian dish as it confers a depth that could otherwise be difficult to achieve. I flicked through the book and came across a lovely recipe for a salad including this, so I endeavoured to adapt and try it with the ingredients I had.

aubergine

Burning an aubergine is as easy as it sounds. Rest the aubergine on a gas flame and burn it, turning it as each side is done until complete. Don’t worry if the skin splits, it happens a lot. Let it cool a little and peel the skin off, or scoop out the inside after cutting it in two. Drain in a colander for an hour or so then chop.

The rest of the salad is very straight forward, a simple dressing, some delicate spicing (cumin). This would be wonderful for a BBQ or similar summer event with the sweetness of the peppers and tartness of the tomatoes.

I altered the proportions of the recipe with two different colour peppers and a little less aubergine and tomatoes. I really liked it, and am very much looking forward to trying more of his recipes, and eating there again.

Ingredients:

1 large aubergine, burnt as described above, drained and chopped
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
a handful of small fruity cherry tomatoes or similar, halved
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Dressing:

5 tbsp sunflower oil or similar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp fresh cumin, toasted and ground or 3 tsp ground cumin (the first option is infinitely preferable)

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method:

First, make the dressing and check the taste and adjust if necessary.
Mix the other ingredients and add the dressing. Season with S&P to taste and serve.

This is really nice with khobez, pittas or similar.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

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Dine with Dos Hermanos at Casa Brindisa

Jamon at Casa Brindisa

I don’t write enough about the food & drink things I do, and I do alot. It’s an awful shame as I go to lots of great things, and always take lots of photos, so I’ve decided, rather than neglect to blog because I fret about having the time to write and do it justice, I’ll do it justice through my photos.

Dine with Dos Hermanos is a very fun and high quality event, run frequently by Simon Majumdar of Dos Hermanos and Eat My Globe fame. He does it for fun and not for profit, and showcases some really good places in London, some excellent producers that otherwise have a limited voice, and all at very reasonable costs.

That is how I found myself in the private room of Vinoteca in February with some blogger friends, seated across from an Artic Monkey no less, and how I recently found myself at a really enjoyable dinner at Casa Brindisa in Kensington.

Simon knows some very generous people, and the wines are often offered gratis, and they’re always good. There are always goody bags (nice!) and the meal is usually a bargain too, as was the case this time, with, if I recall, 5 courses for £40. Cillar De Silos provided some delicious wine to accompany the sherry supplied by Casa Brindisa themselves. The generosity doesn’t stop there, there are also prizes, and I was delighted to win a tea tasting from the Rare Tea Company to be held in my own home.

The nice thing about these events is Simon does them for his readers and he passionately promotes really excellent and often small producers, so if you’re keen, be sure to join his facebook group and watch out for the next one.

Simon’s write up is here. Over to the photos!

Sea bass with Morcilla de Burgos and Piquillo Peppers

Smoked and salted anchovies

Tortilla

Tempura Monto Enebro Cheese drizzled w/ Orange Blossom Honey

Prawns a la Plancha

Salt Cod & Jamon Croquetas

Pulpo a la Gallega

Iberico Pork Tenderloin

Crema Catalana

Esalada de frutas with olive oil

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Lentil & Spinach Soup with Harissa Croutons

Homemade chicken stock, and a bag of spinach. I foresaw a healthy dinner. I wanted it to have a kick, but I didn’t want it to be complicated, I simply didn’t have the energy. I had a tin of harissa, and I thought it would make a nice change to spice up some croutons and have them provide a lovely contrast in colour, texture and heat to a relatively mild lentil and spinach soup.

Lentils are ridiculously underrated. They are so tasty, earthy and dense, and work so well with spices, or as a supporting texture and flavour to other ingredients. There’s lots of types too, people describe lentils with offence, like they are describing one hideous smell to grace their table, the ingredient with B.O. as it were.

To those people I say pah! Praise the lentil, the puy and the red, the toor dal and the split pea. Adore them and cook them, nurture your body and soul.

Too far? Ok, back to the soup.

This was a great evening snack, comforting with some ooomph, and survived well for lunch the next day. I used about 1/3 of a baguette for the croutons (exactly 100g). This would serve 3/4, depending on how hungry you are;

Ingredients:

1 x 200g bag of baby spinach
100g split red lentils
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 mild green chilli, finely chopped
1.25l light stock, I used chicken but vegetable would be good too
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground or the equivalent in ground cumin
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp harissa
sunflower oil (or similar)
S&P
a squeeze of fresh lemon to finish
100g leftover good bread, cubed

Method:

Harissa Croutons:

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Combine the harissa and olive oil, and season with S&P.
Toss the bread in the mixture until coated well.
Toast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until crisp.

Lentil & Spinach Soup:

Saute the shallot until translucent over a moderate heat for 5 minutes or so.
Add the cumin, chilli and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the stock and the lentils and cook for 10 minutes or so until the lentils are cooked.
Add the bag of spinach, stir in to wilt, and turn off the heat.
Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice and season to taste and serve immediately while still a gorgeous green with the spicy croutons on top.

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Jai Shri Krishna

Moving to a new area always has a little bit of a thrill, especially if it’s relatively unexplored (by your good self of course) and has gastronomic bounty to offer. My move to Turnpike Lane in North East London has been particularly good in this respect. I’ve found some great new Turkish restaurants (Antepliler, I salute you, and I’ll bring my camera next time!), am addicted to Turkish Lahmacun, particularly weak for it after a few drinks, and I have found a number of great food shops and a local butcher that I like.

This time, I won’t talk about Turkish food. This may seem odd for Londoners familiar with Green Lanes, packed with Turkish restaurants, food shops and Turkish men’s social clubs. Like many parts of London, Turnpike Lane is full of surprises, and turning a street corner can throw up some unexpected flavours. On Turnpike Lane itself, for example, there’s multi-ethnic eateries and shops with Lebanese, Caribbean, Malay and Indian flavours.

The ones that really impressed me recently and that I will describe now, are the Indian ones. I discovered a great little food shop that sells all sorts of usually unattainable delights, from fresh turmeric to tinda, tiger tomatoes to a myriad of squashes. Every spice and rice you could think of. I’m a regular visitor now. Just before you get there, a gem of a restaurant is tucked behind an understated facade, looking utterly unimpressive.

Jai Shri Krishna is a family run South Indian Vegetarian restaurant. I love South Indian Vegetarian food, particularly Keralan, and when I discovered there was a local restaurant, I swiftly checked it out.

A first glance at the window revealed a very cheap lunch deal and half price thali at lunch nestled beside the menu. Not always the most encouraging sign, but usual for restaurants like this. The menu was fairly large offering Keralan staples, dosas, uttapam, idli and a wide variety of curries and dals. It was all very cheap too, predominantly circling the £4 mark. There’s no alcohol on the menu but it is BYO and at a very reasonable 30p for each beer and I can’t quite remember the specifics but something like £1.50 for a bottle of wine.

aloo gobi

Service was quick, we were promptly brought a menu and some paper and a pen to note our choices. Now this worried me a little, as this wasn’t like some places where you tick next to the food you want. I was to write it out, and my writing is really very bad. I once signed a birthday card with my name Niamh, spelled N-I-A-M-H, and my friend asked, who’s David? Oh, no that’s just me, that’s N-I-A-M-H.  So, as clearly as I could I wrote our order, and then, armed with the knowledge of my terrible, terrible writing, went through each one with the waiter when he came to take it.

dosa

We ordered the masala dosa, nice and light, with a light and delicately seasoned light potato masala in the centre served with a lovely sambar and cocnut chutney. There was lots of interesting paneer dishes, we went with the pumpkin one. I thought it might be too sweet but it was very light and not overbearing, very enjoyable.  Aloo Gobi was delicious, the potatoes had a lovely caramelised flavour, surely, the ultimate comfort food. The pooris were light and fresh,and it was nice to have the option of brown rice. We washed it all down with some lime waters which were very good indeed. The only dish which  I wasn’t overjoyed with was the mushroom dopiaza, all is forgiven though as everything else was great and at that price, fantastic.

mushroom dopiaza

The second night we went we got a big wave, and they came down to say hello and apologised for being rushed the day before as they were very busy. I love local enterprises like this, family run, friendly, great value and with lots of integrity. I’ve really enjoyed it and will certainly go again. It’s very reasonable, well flavoured and spiced, and good value. A local treat. Try it if you’re in the area.

Jai Shri Krishna, 10 Turnpike Lane Hornsey London N8 0PT

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One gorgeous morning

Courgette Flowers

I’m not a morning person. I never have been. One Christmas morning, when I was 3 years old, my mother came to my bedroom at 11am to find me still in bed. I asked if Santa had come. He had. I didn’t want to get up though so asked her if she would bring me my presents. Shameful! If you’re wondering, she didn’t.

I am trying to become one though, or at least be a little better. I am definitely better than that morning when I was 3! The consequences of my indulgent lifestyle are starting to show, and I am not being paranoid, I was offered a seat on the tube last week. No more empire line tops for me! For the moment at least. So, one bright sunny morning, determined to set the day off nicely, and to fit in a little walk en route to work, I rose at 6.15am (yes: 6.15AM), and set off to work at 7am. 7am. Yes, that’s right.

I got off the tube at Oxford Circus and strolled down towards one of my favourite spots, Fernandez & Wells. The last time I’d been in I had noticed a sign stating that they now do breakfasts and I was curious. So, off I went, a meander through Soho, culminating on Lexington St. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was.

I couldn’t quite believe it, but I was too early! So, I wandered further, then returned at 8am for a delicious crumpet with some kind of pancetta and a fried egg with some Monmouth filter coffee. Sadly I didn’t have my camera so I have no photo to show you my delicious and pretty breakfast. I made a promise to myself to treat myself to breakfasten route to work more often.

Time then to walk off breakfast. I walked to Green Park, then through the park to St James Park, quite near where I work. St James Park has an allotment, and it’s brimful of produce right now. I couldn’t help but stop and take a peak. A number of gardeners were there and one was eating a raw courgette he had just plucked from the ground. I spotted the plant, and spotted all the courgette flowers. SWOOON! I asked what he did with them, sadly there is a lady who gets them already. He asked what I would do with them and I told him I would stuff them with cheese and fry them in a tempura batter. He then kindly gifted me a few and made my morning.

I was chuffed! Lovely breakfast, gorgeous walk in the sun and now a bunch of courgettes with their bounty of glorious yellow flowers! I was so excited. I had never had them fresh from the plant before and had no idea how big the flowers are and that they open so wide. They closed through the day (all the better for stuffing them) and I rushed home gleefully and promptly fried them that evening.

It was very straight forward. As delicately as I could, I removed the stamens, then put some Crozier Blue cheese in half and Knockalara cheese in the other half. I made a standard, simple tempura batter and filled my cast iron pot half way with oil. When a cube of bread fried quickly, turning brown, I knew it was hot enough. I battered the courgettes and fried them for a couple of minutes and served them drizzled with honey (inspired by the beauties at Salt Yard & Dehesa).

They were so good. So good in fact that I promptly found myself a courgette plant which is happily growing in my back garden. My first crop of 2 courgettes will be ready any day now. Delicious! I’ll perfect the recipe and blog it with my own home grown courgettes soon.

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Spiced Roast Pork Belly

spiced roast pork belly

Spiced roast pork belly you say? Not a cut of meat you’ve seen here before? A new direction for Eat Like a Girl?

I jest. I have more than over blogged pork belly, but I tried a new spice mixture and a new way of cooking it, and it was delicious, so I thought that I would share. I had no intention of blogging it so I didn’t make an effort with the photos, however, the taste proved delicious, and I thought, hey, I should really be blogging more frequently anyway, and this is worth talking about.

I had pork belly in the fridge, 1kg, a really nice piece I got from a local enough butcher, with the bone still in. I asked the butcher for pork belly, and he asked if I wanted tenderloin. Huh? No, pork belly. Was I sure? Did I want to eat all that fat? Did I like the flavour in the fat? Hell, yeah. Gimme some pork belly please! I’ll get tenderloin another time.

I had guests staying and a friend popped over. Two meat eaters and one strict vegetarian. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere and I wasn’t much in the mood for the pub, so we decided that we would stay in and I would conjure up a dinner using, mainly, what I had to hand. I faltered and went out to get lots of fresh herbs and some fresh vegetables which were sadly lacking, but otherwise, I was good to go.

spices for roast pork belly

I had plans for the vegetarian food, two big salads, one with beans, and therefore reasonably balanced. Noone was going hungry on my watch! As for the pork belly, the Saturday kitchen recipe had piqued my curiosity. I decided that I would take a similar approach with mine. I hadn’t added lemon zest to my pork spice rub before, so definitely wanted to try that, and I added fennel seeds (always so good with pork), sea salt, some red pepper flakes that I had bought in a local Turkish shop and which have become a staple, and finally, some fiery chilli powder.

I’ve been experimenting with how I roast meats recently, starting at a low temperature and blasting it at the end to give some crispy crackling skin, and I think I have it down now. I ground the spices in the pestle and mortar and then poured some boiling hot water over the scored skin to part the bits that are scored and improve the resulting crackling. I dried the skin with some kitchen paper and rubbed in the spice rub, all over the pork.

pork belly

Ready to go! I had preheated the oven to 150 degrees celsius. In went the pork, snugly in a roasting tray that just held it, with 100ml water in the tray. I usually add cider, stock or wine, but with so many flavours on there already, water was right for this. I roasted it uncovered at this temperature for 2 hours, then turned the oven up to 220 degrees to crisp the crackling for about 20 minutes. And we were done.

It’s not the prettiest dish. The spice rub was well and truly charred at this stage but the crackling was crisp and the meat so, so tender, not to mention delicious. The rub conferred a lovely spiciness and citrus kick, which lightened it. Next time I might not put the rub on the skin, as it charred a little too much. This may become my regular pork belly dish. It’s important to play with your food, sometimes you improve something you didn’t know you could or should.

This recipe made enough for 3 and I served it with khobez (flatbreads) and 3 salads (more on those later). Enjoy!

roast pork belly with salads

Ingredients:

1kg good pork belly, on the bone, if possible

Spice rub:

1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp fiery chilli powder
Zest of one unwaxed lemon

Method:

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Grind your spice rub ingredients to a fine paste in a pestle and mortar.
Score the skin on your pork belly, if your butcher hasn’t already done it for you. Put the pork in a colander or on a wire rack and pour over some boiling water to fluff up the skin a little. Blot dry with kitchen paper, and rub the spice rub all over and in between the grooves in the scored areas.
Add to a roasting tray just a little bigger than the meat, and pour 100 mls water at the side, not touching the meat. This will keep the end of the meat moist and will prevent it drying out.
After two hours, the belly should be cooked through but still very moist. Turn the heat up to 220 degrees celsius for 20 minutes or so, until the crackling is crisped up but not burned. If you prefer you can do this under the grill.
Rest for 10 minutes and serve in slices.

Enjoy!

EDIT: I incorrectly said 180 degrees in the text. Typo – apologies. Should be 150.

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This is not mushroom soup

Picture the scene. Sore tum. Poor abandoned house guest. Need for healthy food, and need to feed a vegetarian. Vitamin B sounds like a good plan, good for the nerves, good for the metabolism and enhances the immune system. Sounds like everything I need in my current fragile state. Afflicted with an angry tum which won’t accept any food without severe complaining and, forgive the detail, swift ejection.

The underrated mushroom offers bountiful Vitamin B and I just happen to have lots of them in my fridge. Large flat portebellini mushrooms, their gills exposed to the stars, and small coquettish button mushrooms, less bolshy in flavour, and bright white in complexion. I wanted lots of flavour, and lots of elusive umami in a vegetarian soup. I also wanted it to have a bright summer flavour, so decided I would serve it with some chive cream.

The mushrooms had to be as intense as they could possibly be, so I roasted 5oog of the portebellini, with a liberal splash of extra virgin olive oil, some chives and some good sea salt for about half an hour at 180 degrees celsius. Then I sauteed 200g  button mushrooms in butter with a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, added the roasted mushrooms and 500ml of a nice vegetable stock. This smelled intensely of mushroom, almost meaty, I was very happy. I whipped some double cream and added lots of chopped chives. I shredded a bunch of spring onions (green bits and white) and added them to the soup, to preserve that summer flavour amongst the rich deep mushroom one.

I tasted the soup, it was ready, and it was delicious. Some good bread was just toasted in the oven, rubbed with fresh garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. It was crisp and fragrant.I reached for the blender and…

BOOM! The power went.

How annoying is that? It’s extra annoying as I am especially useless in these situations. I approached the fuse box cautiously flicking switches on and off, figuring it must have been the trip switch, which for the life of me I could not find. For those of you not in the know it is not a big red button labelled TRIP SWITCH – FIX EVERYTHING WITH THIS.

Damn!

Sigh. I called my flatmate, left her a voicemail, sent her a message, then went to appeal to twitter. But, no internet either. ARGH!

Headless chicken much? Just as I had reached the end of my rope, it came back on. It was a power cut.

But I had already given up hope, and had converted my soup to a rich mushroom bruschetta with chive cream. And it was very nice. So, the few hours I edged off the end of my life aside, it was a good result.

I’ll try the soup again another day.

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Five Spice Duck Breast

Fiev Spice Duck Breast

I can’t resist a bargain. It’s worse than that, I crave them and I look for them. I adore them. Whether it’s clothes, shoes, bedding, a gorgeous tiny swimsuit for my niece, or food and wine, I have to have them. My Irish Catholic sensibilities love the food bargains in the supermarkets born of food that’s nearing it’s sell before date. Not only am I getting a bargain, I am also preventing food waste!  Hooray. Of course I know that’s not true, but I’ll tell myself anything to justify the purchase.

Mostly it’s just greed and want. I am not proud of that. It’s always good stuff, mind, and I just can’t resist.

This is how I found myself with 2 free range English duck breasts last Sunday. I wondered what I would do with them. Duck is fantastic meat. Frequently roasted, it’s even better fried until just pink. Tasting light like it’s poultry friends, but with a depth expected from red meat, it straddles both and makes a perfect robust Sunday supper.

Duck partners beautifully with fruits like plums, and is complemented by spices like star anise and Chinese five spice. Savoury additions like soy sauce work nicely, and the texture and sweetness of honey paired with it, make a lovely sauce. Now, believe me when I say that this dish was random, and haphazard. That from conception to devour, there was no more than 30 minutes.

I couldn’t find my star anise (where the hell is it  gone?), so I used only five spice, and I am glad I did, as it befriended but didn’t overpower that lovely duck flavour. I made a very simple sauce with soy sauce and honey as above, 2:1. I served it with potatoes as I wanted them, it’s not a natural choice for this, most would go with noodles. I had brought some local delicious potatoes back with me the last time I visited home and wanted to have these. How very Irish of me. I chopped some spring onions up and tossed them with the boiled chopped potatoes, some rocket (any greenery will do) and some extra virgin olive oil.

Easy peasy and it was really delicious. It’s added to the repertoire. Next time, I might pair it with a Pinot Noir, and see how that goes.

Ingredients:

Duck:

2 duck breasts
vegetable oil or similar for frying
half tsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp honey

Potatoes:

300g new potatoes, chopped into bite size chunks, skin on
a handful of rocket or similar
2 spring onions chopped, incl green bits
a glug of extra virgin olive oil, not too much, the duck/soy should dominate

Method:

Cook the potatoes until just soft, toss in extra virgin olive oil and add the rocket and spring onions just before serving.
Slash the skin of the duck breasts with a knife at about inch intervals horizontally. Rub the five spice into the skin.
Saute the duck breasts, skin side down over a low heat for about 8 minutes, until the fat renders out.
Pour out most of this fat, then turn up the heat and crisp the skin for a minute or so. You can always crisp it quickly under the grill when finished.
Turn the duck breasts, add the soy sauce and honey, and cook for a further 3-4 minutes over a medium heat. Take care not to overcook it, you want it to be pink.
Rest for 3-4 minutes, and serve on top of the potatoes, sliced with a drizzle of the sauce.
Enjoy!

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The Providores Tapa Room

The Providores

I adore the tapas room at The Providores in Marylebone. Such a lovely place. Good food, fusion done well, one of the rare places that manages it, and delivers food that isn’t over powered by the sensation of the experiment. Great for dinner with a wonderful wine list to accompany the lovely food, and fabulous for brunch. I’ve blogged about my Sunday brunches there before and those wonderful Turkish Eggs. I also promised a post on the fine dining, but failed to deliver – apologies. I’ll need to go again!

For now, excuse this brief and effusive post, but I wanted to share my photos of a recent lovely dinner there with old friends. I’d recommend you try it. Everything was really good, except perhaps the snails which were too earthy for my taste, but still intriguing and comfortable amongst the deliciousness of the other dishes.

Effusive, yes. Good meal, yes. Recommended, yes. Enjoy!

Pimientos de Padron

Ginger and garlic roast pumpkin with Goat’s curd, grilled artichokes, cape gooseberries, black vinegar dressing, walnuts and sumac lavosh

Crispy crab and tapioca cakes with Sriracha yoghurt


Cyprus Lamb and bulgar wheat köfte with orange and olive salad, Turkish yoghurt and pomegranate molasses dressing

Sautéed garlic snails on chorizo mash with Oloroso and parsley

Twice cooked Middlewhite pork belly on massaman lentils with spinach and sambal bajak

Spring rolls of confit duck and chicken, shiitake and feta with green chilli jam

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Summer Pasta #2 – Broad Bean and Prosciutto Carbonara

One gorgeous summer evening, gloriously sunny in my little urban garden, I gazed out my window and thought, what can I cook that will be bright, cheerful, quick, colourful and tasty? A quick perusal of the fridge contents revealed broad beans, some prosciutto, a little cream and pecorino, and some parsley. The scene was set. I was going to make a twist on carbonara.

Broad beans and ham are such a gorgeous combination. Opposites attract, early season tender sweet broad beans meet the robust boldness of a cured prosciutto. It’s a cliche but it is a match made in heaven.

Carbonara is one of those gorgeous comforting dishes. Traditionalists and purists say DON’T TOUCH. But I do, I can’t help it. It’s one of those dishes that lends itself to lovely interpretations, and so quickly. I’ve made carbonara’s with many different ingredients, chorizo & kale was a lovely one, and now with broad beans and prosciutto.

Isn’t it difficult?

No. The dish (according to Marcella Hazan), was born in Rome during world war deprivation, when American GI’s had eggs and ham and little else. So, they asked the locals to make them a dish, and carbonara was born. Purists (and I am generally one), don’t add cream to their carbonara, the sauce gets it unctous creaminess from egg yolks, and egg yolks alone. Parmesan and pecorino romano add depth of flavour, saltiness and some texture, and should it require it, some water from the just cooked linguine pot will add moisture. Parsley adds colour and flavour, and some garlic, fried in the olive oil and removed when brown, adds a subtle garlicky undertone, which caresses each bite.

How did I make it? Recipe below, but  I did add cream, as sometimes you just must. The luxury it confers is delicious. I’ve written the recipe per person. I always cook for two, as I am generally just feeding myself, and I like my leftovers for lunch. This actually reheats nicely, it’s a different dish, but I love fried spaghetti the next day, and the eggy sauce almost scrambles. It sounds wrong, but it tastes very right.

Ingredients (per person):

100g spaghetti
2 slices of prosciutto, torn into strips
250g broad beans (weighed in the pod)
1 clove of garlic
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cream
1 tbsp pecorino
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Some grated fresh parmesan or pecorino, and some chopped flat leaf parsley, to serve
Olive oil for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

Double pod the broad beans, remove the outer green pod, then the little white casing around each one. Trust me, it’s worth it. The delicate sweetness of the broad bean lies within. Cook for a couple of minutes in boiling water until tender. Refresh in iced water to arrest the cooking process, and preserve that bright green colour.
Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions.
Add the cream, pecorino and parsley to the egg yolk and whisk until combined. Season. Leave to the side in a bowl big enough to hold the pasta.
Heat some olive oil and fry the garlic until brown on both sides. Discard.
When the pasta is almost done, add the broad beans to the oil, and heat through.
When cooked, drain the pasta reserving some of the cooking water.
Add the pasta to the egg yolk mixture. Toss so all of it is coated. Add a little pasta water if it’s dry.
Add the broad beans and prosciutto and toss. Season to taste.
Serve immediately with some parmesan/pecorino and flat leaf parsley as a garnish.
Enjoy!