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Swedish Lapland: Indigenous Sámi Souvas (that’s reindeer to you and I)

Souvas in Lapland

It’s icy out there, bitterly cold and the grass is now a shade of mint green, each blade with it’s little frosty jacket. I do wonder what it must be like in Lapland. Definitely, much worse than this. When I was there, this Autumn, it was already starting to cool down and I had a brief insight to your upcoming, and now very much present, Winter.

I had many fine experiences on my trip, one was an afternoon with indigenous Sámi people, who introduced us first to their herd of reindeer, and second, to one of their defining traditional dishes, souvas.

Souvas in Lapland

The Sámi people are the indigenous people occupying Sápmi in Northern Europe, an arc of land consisting of parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They are the only official indigenous people remaining in Northern Europe. Traditionally the Sámi people traditionally rely on a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding but their food supply remains almost entirely dependent on their nomadic herds of reindeer. Berries, wild grasses and lichens are also collected during the two brief summer months to supplement this.

Souvas in Lapland

Only 10% of Sámi are now semi-nomadic reindeer herders. The life in the harsh long winters is extremely challenging, but it is culturally and traditionally and therefore it is maintained. For this reason, reindeer herding is legally reserved only for Sámi people in some parts of the Nordic countries.

Souvas in Lapland

We met some in Kiruna, and tried their traditonal dish: Souvas. Souvas are made from reindeer meat by the reindeer herders. The meat is dry-salted and smoked in a traditional peaked tent for eight hours over a roaring open fire and is then fried and served with dense unleavened bread and lingonberries which would have been foraged by the herders.

Souvas in Lapland

Souvas in Lapland

The Souvas themselves are smoky, as you would expect, and intensely flavoured. Thinly sliced (think the thickness of a rasher of bacon) and fairly lean, they are very tender when hot with the juicy sour lingonberries a superb, mouth pursing and tart accompaniment. Dessert was a delicious little cup of foraged cloudberries and cream with tea that had been made over the fire.

Souvas in Lapland

Souvas in Lapland

Souvas in Lapland

There is little waste when they kill their reindeer for meat, they eat all edible parts and cure and use the pelts. When the animal is first killed they make a soup with the bloody and some of the offal, they smoke the reindeer hearts which are delicious with a very soft delicate texture. We ate the reindeer heart with candied angelica. Quite bitter and stringy, I didnt really take to this, but if there wasn’t a choice? Well, you’d just have to eat ot. It’s actually the only sweet thing that Sámi children used to eat (they now have access to sweets like the rest of us).

Lapland

Lapland

It was a fascinating and all too brief insight into their culture, culinary and otherwise. They live by foraging and eating only foods that are locally available. They do occasionally eat bear, alhough not often as bears are half god/half animal. In fact, each nomadic tent has two doors, one for people and everyday use, the other for carrying in bears and bringing out their dead.

We visited Nutti Sámi Siida. They arrange nature and culture experiences like the souva eating experience above.

Nutti Sami Siida
Marknadsvägen 84
981 91 Jukkasjärvi
www.nutti.se

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‘New Nordic’ Danish Yule with Trina Hahnemann

Trina Hannemann

Trina Hahnemann is surfing the crest of our current Nordic food obsession with her wonderful books, The Scandinavian Cookbook and The Nordic Diet. I recently had the pleasure of meeting her, and she is even more inspring in real life than in print. Yesterday, she prepared a New Nordic Danish Yule feast at the Danish Embassy.

The recipes are all new (Trina seems endlessly creative) and really, were all wonderful. Bright, fresh, clear flavours and contrasting textures my favourites were a beautiful and very wintry warm apple drink, bacon and apple sauce with bacon croutons (seriously fabulous and comforting – a Danish traditional dish too) and “Rimsalted” cod served on baked celeriac.

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

I highly recommend her gorgeous book, it’s one of my recent favourites – The Scandinavian Cookbook – out now in paperback at £14.99 (or just over £9 on Amazon). Organised by month, every recipe is interesting, and most ingredients are easily accessible. A great Christmas gift, but do get one for yourself too.

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

Trina Hahnemann's Yule at the Danish Embassy

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Recipe: Balsamic & Thyme Duck with Aubergine & Tomato Mograbiah

Balsamic & thyme duck with aubergine & tomato mograbiah

I love a bit of urban foraging. Turning a corner and seeing rosehips, blackberries, wild garlic, the random edibles that grow in random places. This summer I even found a wild apple tree in the hedgerow at the end of the train track.

Another type of urban foraging I love is not really foraging at all, although I call it so. I love finding ethnic food shops and exploring their shelves looking for previously undiscovered delights that I can use at home in my kitchen.

A few years ago, one such forage yielded a bag of mograbiah in a Turkish shop. Like giant “giant cous cous” (really Israeli cous cous – widely available in the Jewish section of larger supermarkets and Jewish food shops), I wondered what it was. The instructions were illegible to me, so I chucked it in my basket and approached the counter.

I intended to ask the lady at the checkout for some advice, when she picked it up and looked at it, and I thought – SWEET! She’s going to tell me what to do with it. What she actually said was – I’ve always wondered what to do with this, do you know what it is?

Ah well. Not to worry, I love a challenge and a little kitchen adventure.

The mograbiah cooks like pasta, and in 15 minutes. It has a fantastically bouncy texture, and is great for supporting other flavours as it doesn’t really have a strong one of its own. Seriously useful then, and a little different too.

The duck, well it’s that season isn’t it? There’s game everywhere and I fancied a little bit of duck. I love roast duck, and duck legs with crispy skins and fork tender flesh, but I also love duck breast, cooked pink, with lovely crispy skin.

How to cook it? I often spice it, but I wanted to veer from that. Duck loves fruit (plum sauce, with cherries, a l’orange etc.) and I had a fantastically fruity and rich balsamic vinegar from Belazu that I knew would be a perfect partner. It’s rich and syrupy, sweet with a tang that would be great with the duck fat. Some aromatic thyme would give it some nice herbaceous notes,and smoked sea salt I find irresistible at the moment, although normal sea salt would do.

What to serve with it? I decided on a bed of bouncy mograbiah salad (why else would I rattle on about it at the start?), with some meaty fried aubergine, fruity fresh tomatoes, and some very thinly sliced acidic onions threaded through the other ingredients. Just one regret, it needed some flat leaf parsley, but you can add that when you make it at home.

It’s a quick dish. In total, if organised and excluding marination time, you could put it together in half an hour. It’s flavours belie this speed, big bolshy and still gentle, it’s a Winter treat. A quality balsamic is important, the Belazu one is really good being fruity and sharp. It’s £12.99 but worth it, a recommended kitchen investment.

WINE: this was lovely with an NZ Pinot Noir. We had one from the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Range which was actually very good when allowed to breathe for half an hour or so. It was a quite reasonable £9.99 too. Quite fruity and light, it worked well with the fruity balsamic vinegar and is a great partner for duck anyway. More traditional Burgundy Pinot Noirs would work very well too.

Balsamic & Thyme Duck with Aubergine & Tomato Mograbiah

Serves 2

Ingredients

Mograbiah Salad:

150g mograbiah
1 average aubergine, diced
8 cherry/baby plum tomatoes, halved
half a red onion, sliced down the middle, and sliced finely after that
a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Duck:

2 duck breasts
5 tbsp good balsamic (it needs to be rich)
6 or so sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stems
Smoked sea salt or normal sea salt, to season

Method

Combine the balsamic & thyme and marinade the duck in it, skin side down, for at least an hour.

Fry the aubergine in a little oil for 10 – 15 minutes until brown and cooked.

Cook the mograbiah by boiling in salted water for 15 minutes or until tender.

Combine the mograbiah, aubergine, tomatoes, onion and parsley and dress with some olive oil. Balsamic is optional but not necessary as there will be a strong flavour of that from the duck.

Heat a solid based frying pan to a low heat, and fry the duck breasts, skin side down for about 8 minutes until most of the fat has rendered out.

Take the duck out, pour off the fat and quickly rinse the pan (it will be quite sticky) before heating to a medium-high heat, and crisping the duck skin a little for a minute or so. Don’t worry too much if it looks black, the balsamic will do that.

Turn down the heat to medium, and cook the flesh side of the duck for about 4 minutes, when the duck should be cooked to pink. You can check by cutting through the end of one, you will be serving it in slices anyway. For the last minute or so, add the remaining marinade and let it reduce to a sticky sauce which you can pour over the meat. Yoyu may want to thin it out, depending on how much you have left.

Rest the duck for a few minutes, season, then slice and serve on top of the mograbiah.
Enjoy!

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Recipes from the Archives: Some Top Winter Warmers

November is a lovely month to spend indoors, cooking for friends and family around a roaring fire, mulling some wine or gin or confecting some hot port. Those weeks leading to Christmas demand a certain prudence in advance of silly season, when things can get a little too much.

There’s lots of old recipes on this little blog that have remained very popular over the years, and remain the most read. They could almost be called The Pork Files, however there’s a couple of great vegetarian numbers and others to enjoy also. Some newer readers might not know them, and it’s always nice to have a list of Winter Warmers, so here you are, my top suggestions for those toasty evenings in.

Prawn Curry

A spicy dazzler, and one of the most popular recipes on this site (second recently to it’s vegetarian sibling which will appear later in this post). Buy your spices whole and use the best tinned tomatoes and you will be rewarded with a warming and fruity curry with clear bright flavours.

Pea & Ham Soup

Pea & Ham Soup

A take on Heston’s version published in the Times, this offers lots of big flavours and comfort.

Slow Roast Pork Shoulder

Slow Roast Pork Shoulder

A 6 hour recipe, but chuck that in your oven first thing on a Sunday morning and you will be rewarded with a perfect roast pork shoulder with sensational crackling. You won’t need a knife for the meat, you could serve it with a spoon if you like. Lots of pork fat will render which will be perfect for roast potatoes.

Five Spice Duck Breast

Gentle, soothing, and very quick to make. The crispy spiced duck skin topping the pink tender meat is great for weekday evenings.

Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply

Simple roast pork belly is a winning recipe. The fat renders out leaving gentle, tender bit, and crispy crackling. Bone in is best giving a much richer flavour.

Roast Pork & Black Bean Chilli

Perfect for leftovers from your roast pork belly or shoulder above, it’s a great follow up to a Sunday roast on a Monday evening. Again, bright fresh spices and good quality beans make a huge difference.

Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This is one of the most popular recipes I’ve ever posted. People email about it frequently and meat eaters and vegetarians both love the big flavours. It’s healthy too.

Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

Another chickpea recipe that is also very popular, thbis makes a great snack and is perfect for lunch.

So, there you have it. A good starting point, I think and I do hope that you enjoy them. More Winter Warmers will be winging their way to you soon.

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Supper Club: Shed Likes Food

Shed Likes Food Supper Club

Shed Likes Food is good, it’s very good. Quirky and petite, not unlike host Nicola, it’s a warm, intimate and charming supper club based in Newington Green. They’re definitely not in it for the money, charging only the cost of ingredients. Madness! Some supper clubs are more about the experience than the food, Nicola comfortably covers both, and makes it look very easy.

On the night we visited, Nicola’s usual partner in crime, boyfriend Andrew, was away, so she was ably assisted instead by Alexis of Lex Eat (another excellent supper club, it’s a serious omission that I haven’t written about it yet).

The Supper Club is hosted in a great shed at the end of her garden. Beautifully decorated and warm, we ate dinner with a small and very friendly group of people, 9 guests in total, and our hosts. The food was rustic and very well executed. Lots of big flavours – very much the kind of food I love.

Shed Likes Food Supper Club

Shed Likes Food Supper Club

Shed Likes Food Supper Club

Shed Likes Food Supper Club

We started with appetisers of padron peppers, spiced seeds, marinated olives with a bottle of London beer provided by our hosts, before relocating to The Shed where we feasted on generous portions of shared starters. Delicious polpetine, smoked tuna with capers, shallots and parmesan, cheese with membrillo and savoy cabbage with chorizo were all very good, there really were no criticisms.

Shed Likes Food Supper Club

A bold and flavour rich main of Ossobuco with risotto followed. The risotto was creamy and fruity, really very good. The Osssobucco was tender and delicious. We finished by plucking any marrow from the bones with relish.

We finished with an excellent dessert of sticky ginger cake with clotted cream, salted caramel and pralines served with a hot glass of delicious PX Sherry followed by coffee. Wines are BYO and I had brought a delicious bottle of white Grillo that I had brought back from Sicily. Definitely a wine I will be seeking out again.

IMG_9510

I really wish she would request a higher donation. She charges only enough to cover her costs, a mere £15. Yes, FIFTEEN POUNDS for all of that lovely food, a beer at the start and a shot of PX!. We did, of course, leave a healthy tip, I could not have left in good conscience otherwise!

There are no further dates this year but Shed Likes Food should be back with a bang next year – look out for it. Nicola also has a very good food blog too where she posts recipes, check that out too.

http://theshedlikesfood.blogspot.com/

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Recipe: Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew

Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew

Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew

It has been a good week for cooking. I love it when Winter saunters in and I have so many excuses to retreat to my kitchen and cook up my own storm to match the one outside. A mid week shopping trip provided excellent ingredients, particularly the Iberico pork belly I used in my last recipe, I used it again today.

I tend to cook old favourites right now, and it occured to me that I haven’t really blogged them. I always like to cook new things and experiment for recipes that wind up here, but I’ve decided to start blogging my old favourites, those soothing winter warmers, over the next little while.

The Iberico pork belly is a big fatty piece of salted pork belly from those finest of Spanish pigs. It’s like super fat pancetta that when rendered, releases smoky rich fat that adds a beautiful dimension to any dish, I am not sure I’ve ever had anything quite like it. The lovely Iberico pigs  spend their lives happily wandering munching on acorns, and then they end up on plates everywhere, luxurious and expensive. This piece wound it’s way to me via Selfridge’s Food Hall.

In a previous post I said that it was 80% fat, really it seems to be more like 95%. It’s very, very, rich. I diced it into cubes, then sauteed it, watching it melt like ice cubes, the fat rendering and spitting, unhappy at being released but calming as it rendered further. When only small crisping cubes were left, I added the chorizo, letting it sparkle in the Iberico fat, releasing it’s own orange fragrant fat and joining the party. 

This is not an everyday dish, as this amount of animal fat ,whilst delicious, would surely cripple if regular. But treat yourself occasionally, with a bold glass of rioja to accompany and I promise you a lovely evening.

Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly & Chickpea Stew

Serves 4

Ingredients:

100g Iberico pork belly or pancetta
200g hot fresh cooking chorizo (I use Brindisa)
500g cooked chickpeas (substitute 2 tins)
1 tin good tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
500ml good light stock like chicken
A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

Dice and sauté the iberico pork/pancetta for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, and rendering most of the fat. Add the chorizo for anothyer 3/4 minutes, until seared and the fat is orange. Then add the finely chopped garlic cloves for 30 seconds or so.

Add the chickpeas, tomatoes and stock. Stir thoroughly, and cook for 30 minutes.

Take off the heat and stir in the parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve with good crusty bread or toast. With a compulsory glass of rioja.

Enjoy!

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Some Curling and a Recipe for Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch

Hendrick's Trip

Curling Stones

Folks, I’ve found my sport. SPORT, on a food blog? Does it help if I tell you we played for haggis? And what about if I told you that what this post is actually about is a recipe for Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch?

HOT GIN PUNCH? I know, so bear with me while I tell you about, *cough*, sport.

So, sport, eh? I found my sport, and my sport is curling.

I wasn’t happy about the idea of going curling initially, and spent the entire trip there thinking up schemes to get out of it, but one hot gin punch later, I thought I would give it a go.

Chasing a 20kg granite stone up and down the ice with a sweeping brush – I hate them too, almost as much as sport – sounds like a nightmare, but it proved to be fun. The ice won’t allow you to run, or it will take you with a fall, so measured giggly forays up and down the ice with a sweeping brush proved entertaining. SWEEP | SWEEP | SWEEP they called, and sweep I did. We came second.

Hendrick's Trip

Curling for a Haggis

We got to play for a haggis but sadly we didn’t win it. Next time! I hear I can play it in Surrey, and I actually plan to. It is fun you see.

Hendrick's Trip

Second! But I did get to wear this awesome hat.

We thawed out after curling with a delicious Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch. Magical in many ways, I love that it has been adapted from Charles Dickens’ own recipe. Now, where are my fingerless gloves?!

“Punch, my dear Copperfield, like time and tide, waits for no man”

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Hot Gin Punch

HENDRICK’S HOT GIN PUNCH for 6 people

Three brimming teacups of Hendrick’s gin
Another three of Madeira wine
Three cloves
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Large teaspoon of cinnamon powder
Two teaspoons of brown sugar
Six large lemon and orange twists
Small slice of orange
One fresh pineapple
Four large spoons of honey
Juice of two lemons

Mix all ingredients in a pot. Warm but not quite till ebullition. Let your concoction cook without boiling for 20 minutes to a half hour. While it cooks the taste will change, make it to your own taste balancing the sweet/sour balance with honey and lemon. You can also re warm the mix, sometimes the punch will get better and better as you cook it more and more. When you think it is ready, pour in a teapot and serve hot in tea cups with gingerbread on the side.

Adapted from the original 1850 recipe found in the book Drinking with Dickens by Cedric Dickens, Great-Grandson of Charles Dickens, this recipe is inspired by Charles Dickens’ own gin punch recipe, so it is the etiquette to quote while pouring the first cup: “Punch, my dear Copperfield, like time and tide, waits for no man”, David Copperfield, 1850.

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An Evening with Hendrick’s Gin and Bompass & Parr in Glasgow

Hendrick's Trip

The Hendrick's car with bar in the boot!

Hendrick’s. It’s not for everyone. Or so they say, but really who can resist? I love the stuff.

I quite like gin anyway. I am a big fan of boutique gin operations, as you may have seen, given that I have written about London based Sipsmith before. They love to experiment, as it turns out Hendrick’s do too. The appeal of Hendrick’s for me is the gorgeous complex botanicals and the freshness and aromatics introduced by the rose and cucumber notes  that are added post distillation. There are many other botanicals in there too like elderflower and coriander, but more on that later. More than anything, I do love the Hendrick’s G&T with ice and a slice (of cucumber). Try it sometime.

Hendrick's Trip

The flying cucumber at the front of the Hendrick's car

Recently, I found myself in Glasgow for a dinner which brought together an explosive pairing: Hendrick’s Gin and London’s own Bompass & Parr. Picked up at the airport by a gin mobile, the fabulous Hendrick’s car, complete with a rose for gear stick, a silver cucumber with wings on the front, and a bar in the boot – yes – BAR IN THE BOOT, we started our morning with a G&T with ice and that slice in the airport car park. I was won over.

Hendrick's Trip

Bath of Hendrick's G&T with cucumber & rose

For dinner we were whisked to a stately home outside Glasgow where we were greeted by the eccentric and well wrapped Lord Von Hendricks, smoking jacket and all. Cocktails were served initially from a bath in the entrance hall filled with G&T, slices of cucumber and rose petals. Gorgeous.

Hendrick's Trip

Lord Von Hendrick's with his highly strung wife

Hendrick's Trip

Trusty nervy lieutenant

A tour through the house with his trusty, although slightly useless staff, somewhat highly strung wife, and lieutenant in tow, brought us to the Bompass & Parr canapés and more lovely gin cocktails. Favourites were the Hendrick’s cured salmon, and the tongue-in-cheek take on a chicken nugget, whole breaded quail breast with cucumber jam.

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Gin Punch

Hendrick's Trip

Whole Breaded Quail Breasts with Cucumber Jam

Hendrick's Trip

Dinner in the wonderful kitchen

Dinner was in the kitchen, a most beautiful room that I could happily live in and never need for anything else. We had a two course meal (we had had rather a lot of the canapés) at a large table, dressed with pink and green jars and two pigs heads (freakishly with glass eyes), catered by Bompass & Parr with two Hendricks’s cocktails to match.

Hendrick's Trip

Crab Starter

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Cucumber Sours

We started with a light crab dish with cucumber jelly, cucumber and tomato served with a deliciously tart celery sour, slick with egg white. Not too much at all, I loved this, and it was necessarily light, as the main course, and cocktail were quite meaty.

Hendrick's Trip

Bath chaps, boiled potato bones with mushroom marrow and chestnuts with fried salsify, Hendrick’s mustard and Hendrick’s picallili

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Bullshot - Hendrick's Gin with Beef Consommé

Mains were bath chaps, boiled potato bones with mushroom marrow and chestnuts with fried salsify, Hendrick’s mustard and Hendrick’s picallili. A wonderful play on food with the potato looking like a bone complete with marrow. The bath chaps were a resurrection of an old recipe from, yes, Bath, are the lower half of pig cheeks, and these were tender, falling apart at the touch of a fork. The star of the show though was the carnivorous Bullshot, billed as a Matador’s Dream of Hendrick’s Gin with beef consommé. The rich, oily beef consommé provided an intense partner for the Hendrick’s gin and the meal. It was delicious but intense, almost too much. I loved it though, and it sparked the table, polarising opinion as it went.

Hendrick's Trip

Bompass & Parr

Hendrick's Trip

Er... some scientists :)

We retired to another room for dessert and indulged in a selection of Bompass & Parr gin jellies, and candyfloss Hendrick’s gin cocktails.

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Candy Floss Cocktails

Hendrick's Trip

Bompass & Parr Jellies

Hendrick's Trip

Piper

It was a wonderful evening, so much fun, so much great food and drink. And I am sorry that I can’t share it further by letting you know how you can go sometime soon. BUT, I did get some of the recipes and I will blog some tomorrow. One will be perfect for this weather, Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch. :)

Thanks to Hendrick’s and Bompass & Parr for a wonderful evening. Do keep an eye out for the events they host in London, like the recent Hendrick’s Horseless Carriage.

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Recipe: Roast Chicken with Chorizo, Iberico Pork Belly & Tomato

Roast Chicken with Chorizo

Just look at that chicken! How relaxed and happy does it look? It should have sunglasses. Languishing at the edge of that dish, resting on a bed of comforting sauce, leg draped over the side, sporting a golden tan. Ah, roast chicken.

Not just any though. This chicken came from the South West of France via my butchers. I find supermarket chicken so depressingly bland, all of them, not just the battery (which I won’t touch – it’s just not right), but all of them. And you may think me some kind of middle class horror professing that everyone should buy posh French chickens, but really that is not what I am saying. Any chicken from a farm that has received proper care and attention and that has been allowed to roam free is good. Eat less and eat better. Farmer’s Market chickens are great, I just couldn’t get access to one today.

Not cheap, this one cost me just shy of £13 but used well it can still be a bargain. How so? I jointed mine and roasted the legs & thighs with some chorizo, iberico pork and tomato sauce for a delicious dinner (that would serve two). Crispy skin on top, succulent meat underneath and rich, fruity sauce below. I spiced the wings with sumac & thyme and roasted those at the same time. That was a gorgeous snack. That was dinner and greedy extra sorted.

I skinned the remaining carcass and roasted the salted skin on skewers, swoooon, I am a sucker for chicken skin. I also added some skin to little roasting potatoes, the fat rendered giving the potatoes a gorgeous chicken fat bath. The breasts and carcass remained, the carcass was boiled for delicious broth, and I used it to make Tom Yum soup with the breast meat.

£13? Bargain!

Ethical concerns aside (and obviously they are very important), there is a huge difference in flavour. Supermarket chickens taste diluted and sad by comparison.

Roast Chicken with Chorizo

So, what was dinner tonight? I found some salted Iberico Pork Belly which was sinfully fatty (maybe 80%), pancetta would do too though. I fried about 100g of it and rendered some of the fat out, added 200g chopped fresh cooking chorizo, left it for a couple of minutes, glistening orange delicious chorizo juices and fat oozing out.

I then added 2 cloves of garlic. The garlic danced on top of the chorizo and pork fat, then I added a glass of red wine (rioja as that is what I had but any full bodied red would do), cooked it for a few minutes at a moderate to high eat and added a tin of good chopped tomatoes to calm things down and restore order. Good chopped tomatoes are essential, you will notice the difference. A further 15 minutes at a medium heat, then added to a roasting tray that would fit 2 legs & 2 thighs of chicken on top.

I roasted it for 10 minutes or so at 200 degrees to crisp the skin, and approximately a further 30 minutes at 180 degrees to cook it through without drying it out. A handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to lift the flavours to finish. Served with some potatoes, although not too many as it’s very rich, although perfectly so.

A glass of red wine in hand and this in my gut, take that November! Over and out.

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Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

My trips home of late have been hurried and frantic, but when I can, I will visit Cork’s English Market to indulge. I love to pop to the Farmgate Café for a toastie (either our famed Irish toasted special or sometimes something unusual like Ardrahan Goat’s Cheese & Beetroot), a coffee, or a rich and nostalgic Irish Stew for lunch. After that I will wander about picking up bits and pieces. This deserves a post on its own and it is way overdue.

One of the things I always do, is pop to Frank Hederman’s stall and buy my fix. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Frank’s produce. I used to get it at his stall at Midleton Farmer’s Market,and have previously called to his Belvelly Smokehouse to buy some for my market stall in Covent Garden. It’s wonderfully convenient now at the English Market. Better still, he has expanded his range.

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

For these fish cakes, I used his Beech Smoked Haddock. It is very gentle and rich, I haven’t tasted any other smoked haddock quite like it. Undyed (of course) it is a gentle pinky white with tones of beige, and imparts delicious smokey flavours, almost memories of their time at the smokehouse. It feels personal. It is.

I poached it gently in milk with 3 fresh bay leaves from the garden, and one medium onion, halved and studded with 6 cloves. I brought it to just below a simmer, and let it lull gently, careful not to scorch the milk. I wanted to leave the flavour shine, so added only mashed potatoes, fluffy local ones that tumbled over the flakes of fish.Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes 3 spring onions from the garden lifted it, some of the poaching milk added some needed liquid and helped pull it all together. Parsley (again from my sister’s garden) added some gentle herbal notes – not too much, just background).

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

I shaped them into burger sized cakes and tried two ways, one just floured and fried and one with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs always win for me. I used stale sourdough, panko work too. Shallow fried and served with some mayonnaise that has some chopped parsley and spring onion stirred in, it’s a lovely light supper or lunch. Also lovely with a soft poached egg on top with the yolk begging to join in.

This recipe serves 4.

Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes

Ingredients

400g smoked haddock (undyed preferably)
900g peeled mashed potatoes – (weight before cooking)
1 litre of milk
3 bay leaves
1 onion
10 cloves
3 spring onions/scallions
50g butter (optional – adds to the flavour but not essential)
a handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 eggs, beaten and seasoned
100g flour
200g breadcrumbs (rough estimate – I just blitzed a large chunk of bread)

Method

Half the onion, peel and stud with coves.
Add to the milk in a pan that can take the fish lying flat with the bay leaves.
Bring to just below a simmer, reduce the heat and add the haddock, ensuring it is covered with milk.
Leave to poach gently for 15 minutes of so, ensuring the milk never boils.
Allow the fish to cool and flake gently.
Add to the mash with the parsley, butter (if you are using it), spring onions with some of the poaching milk if required (you will need to do this if your mixture/mash is too dry to form a ball that will hold it together – you don’t want it sloppy though).
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Shape into 8 large or 12 smaller balls and flatten until they are no more than 2 cm thick.
Have the eggs in a bowl big enough to dip each fish cake in, and have a plate of the seasoned flour and another plate of the breadcrumbs.
Start by covering each fishcake in flour, then coat in the egg, and then breadcrumbs. If you want more breadcrumbs on the cake, egg and crumb again.
Shallow fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter over a medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, taking care they don’t burn.

Enjoy!

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So, you want to be a blogger? Some tips and some thoughts

So, you want to be a blogger?

I’ve been getting many emails from new bloggers and those that want to start blogs asking for tips and guidance. Rather than email every time, I thought it better to write a post about it. And here it is.

First things first. The anthropology of food blogging! We’ve been around for a little while now and some patterns exist. Food blogging is a broad field comprising two very different types of blogs and within this a sea of individuals. There are grey areas of course, and sometimes some overlaps, but generally they are split into two – the restaurant bloggers and the cooks.

The restaurant bloggers often don’t cook (although some do) and they eat out a lot. They tend to be urban, where most restaurants are. They vary from those focussed on geography (like the restaurants of a particular city area) to those that collect the high end restaurants, visiting the worlds 3* restaurants for example.

The second area is the cooks. These tend to be enthusiasts who like playing in their kitchen, writing recipes, obsessing over cookbooks and cooking for themselves and for friends. They aren’t tied to geography, or anywhere, they generally can be found in a kitchen or exploring food non-specifically elsewhere. This is where I started and mainly reside.

Food (well EAT like a girl :) has always been the focus of what I write here, and it’s where my passion lies. But it’s all encompassing. It’s what I eat at home, see in markets, reviews of restaurants that I like and want to recommend, and increasingly, (and very happily) the food that I see on my travels. I adore travelling and I get a buzz from all of the new foods that I encounter as I do. I love to recreate them at home, then go and find some more.

So, blogging about food – the practicalities. What should you do if you want to start one, or are a new blogger finding your feet? Here are my tips.

The first question really is WHY?

It’s an important question. You probably won’t make money, most don’t. In fact I don’t know anyone who makes more than a small amount of money to fund their habit through advertising. These have generally been blogging for a while. Some make the crossover to food media and earn a living that way, but there are no guarantees, and it’s an increasingly crowded field. You really need to have a passion and a burning desire to write about food and to blog, and that should be the only driving factor.

CONTENT

The most important thing (and it’s really obvious) is: write what you are passionate about. You can’t really write anything interesting otherwise, can you?

FREQUENCY

Write as often as you want, there are no rules regarding frequency of delivery, but if you are trying to write every day and delivering half hearted posts as a result, well no-one will read.

It may seem a cool occupation, and there are a lot of fun aspects, but the reality of it is, that it’s you at home in front of your lap top, cooking at home. It’s a solo occupation. You have to really love it to do it, and do it well.

FIND YOUR VOICE

Be as independent and individual as you can be. It’s a cluttered landscape but indivduals do stand out. Give yourself time to find your voice, don’t expect to be perfect straight away (or ever!). It takes time to build an audience too so don’t fret too much about that.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Photos aren’t absolutely necessary (as the lovely Simply Splendiferous illustrates) but I like to include them and they are a key part of my blog. If you choose to include them, and can, invest in a decent camera.

An inexpensive Lumix (with the excellent Leica lens) is a superb start. Portable and sharp they are superb value for money. Panasonic Lumix FS 30 (currently a bargain £130 on amazon) is compact, has  a wide angle lens and an impressive 8X optical zoom. It will do everything you need. My second camera for the blog, and one I used for well over a year, was an earlier version of this camera.

You could of course spend that little bit more and get the even better Panasonic Lumix TZ8 which offers a wide angle lens but a better one, an excellent 12X optical zoom and is currently 42% off on Amazon at only £174.90).

Should you want to get more serious, I would highly recommend the Canon EOS 500D. If you are photographing food at home invest in a macro lens like the inexpensive Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens, again reduced by almost 40% on Amazon. I find this really good for food photos at home in daylight. Most of the food photos I have published in the last 5 months have been taken with this lens.

You can of course spend a lot more and get more, I have chosen to start small and add more lenses when I can. I also buy on Amazon or in second hand camera shops as they tend to be a lot cheaper. That way I have more money for food & travel :) If you are starting out, it’s probable you have similar objectives.

TWITTER

I find Twitter a fantastic resource for meeting other bloggers and sharing information. Set yourself up on there and talk to other food bloggers, it can be a lot of fun. Don’t expect everyone to follow you back automatically, most won’t. Talk to people, let them know you are there, but never ever spam. Spam? Don’t send people your links directly, never send auto dm’s. People will unfollow/block if you do. Just normal friendly conversation is all that’s required.

BE RESPONSIBLE

Always write honestly, and carefully, when reviewing. We may not be bound by journalistic codes (yet) but I do think we should at the very least, consider them.

ENJOY IT

It’s just a blog after all. A little creative expression, entirely your own, if it’s a labour of love you’ll adore it. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy it. Otherwise, why bother? Life is short, after all. :)

My second camera for the blog, and one I used for well over a year, was an earlier version of the frist Lumix. So, it’s fine.
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Hawksmoor in Seven Dials & the Evolution of the Hawksmoor Burger

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials

Recession? What recession? At the rate that restaurants are opening in London, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we were in a boom, particularly with the surge in new openings in Soho and Covent Garden.

More interestingly, many of the recent openings have been second offerings (and sometimes third) from new London favourites. Places that have a solid following are opening new siblings, and not identikit chain restaurants, but ones styled along the original with a twist and with great care.

Which? The folks behind Polpo have opened their second restaurant, Polpetto, tucked away above one of my favourite London bars, The French House. Their third restaurant Spuntino is rumoured to open soon. Actually Polpetto was supposed to be the third, but that is a long story. Les Deux Salons arrived recently, from the folks behind Michelin starred Arbutus and Wild Honey. St John’s open St John Hotel just off Leicester Square in former stalwart Manzi’s. The folks behind Salt Yard open their third, Opera Tavern, in Covent Garden in January. A little further East Jamie Oliver has opened Barbecoa, his much talked about BBQ restaurant.

So many options, how to choose? I went first to Hawksmoor. Younger sibling to, well, Hawksmoor in Spittalfields, and now also in Covent Garden.

Why? Well, I love Hawksmoor. I had heard of the new one late last year and have been impatiently waiting since. Is that a little sad? I am mainly excited that there are finally decent dining options in Covent Garden, more than that, we have a choice. It has been a bleak culinary wasteland for too long now, more fond of my wallet than my belly. Such a great shame, for a central and otherwise attractive part of London.

I am a little biased as I now know them quite well, following on from their support for last years blaggers banquet, but really I was a devoted customer before then and a quick search online would reveal that I am not even close to being their number one fan. I have been to the new branch once, not bad as they’ve only been open a week. But wait! Tehbus had been five times when I visited on Thursday and I was told of one kimchi fan who has been everyday for the kimchi burger.

Am I meandering? I fear I am. So, Hawksmoor. Seven Dials. Behind some forbidding wooden doors, that speak of science fiction underworlds crossed with a secret members club, lies an underground lair that looks like it has been there forever. Previously a brewery, and following that until recently unused, it looks like Hawksmoor has been there forever. All deep brown wood and warm lights, a welcoming bar greets, with science lab tables behind, scorched from bunsen burners and now bearing cocktails. A bright lighter room waits beyond boasting blackboards with steak offerings, a tempting wine room, and a lovely private dining room to the side of the semi open kitchen.

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials - Menu

The menu is similar to that offered in Spittalfields, but it has been expanded. Impressively there are several attractive seafood and vegetarian options (this is a steakhouse after all). Most noticeably, there are three burgers offered (at £15 a pop with chips, but really they are very good, the champion artisan burger in London for me) and a much lauded lobster roll.

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials - Kimchi Burger in Brioche Bun (cheese on top, kimchi underneath)

It was lunchtime, and I had been reading all about the kimchi burger, so I had to have it. Other choices were the classsic burger and a burger van burger with sweet onions. I really wanted the slippery bright intoxicatingly orange fermented cabbage (yes, that’s right) with mine, and really, I was curious how that would work with a burger? The combination was tried by a member of the Hawksmoor team on a trip to Seoul, and he fell so in love with it, they have created a version, and it’s now on the menu.

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials - Beef Dripping Chips

There is no avoiding it, the kimchi dominates, but that’s ok, I love kimchi. The burger is big and bold as before, very intense and so very meaty. It fights your teeth, is very filling, and it’s big. I loved the bold aggressive flavour of the kimchi underneath, forcefully calming down the normally bolshy burger. The cheese worked well, I wasn’t sure it would. Like a soothing gentle murmur in the background.

Dan loved it too. Elly thought that maybe the smell alone overpowered her delicate lobster. That’s the kind of obstreperous flavour we are dealing with here folks (and I am sorry Elly!), but I promise, most of you will love it. The downside of that, is that it is polarising, and some of you won’t. I suspect it’s a LOVE/HATE thing.

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials - Half Lobster with Triple Cooked Chips (ordered seperately)

Beef dripping chips came with the burger (there are also triple cooked chips) and they were perfect with crispy outer shells and fluffy yielding interiors. We washed it all down with a very reasonable bottle of Grenache (£19) which tasted like it cost a lot more, and we ordered a second. Well, that’s ok, isn’t it? I was only in London for a couple of days, and it has been an intense few weeks, I needed to let my hair down just a little, but not too much.

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials - Manhattan for Two

We didn’t stop there. Who can resist the new bar? I’d like to meet them. Maybe I don’t, I doubt they’d be much fun. Coffee Martinis were stellar, Corpse Reviver No 4 frightening in a delicious way, and I am certain it would wake the dead. Manhattans for two speak of Victorian laboratories and taste of New York.

Hawksmoor, Seven Dials - Corpse Reviver No. 4

I liked it. I liked it a lot. Next, I really want to try the lobster roll, and shall do as soon as I get back. Go, try it. You’ll love it too.

http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk/

HAWKSMOOR SEVEN DIALS
11 Langley St
London
WC2H 9JG

Related post: My first post on the Hawksmoor Burger.

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Recipe: Mushrooms on Toast from The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Mushroom on brioche - Cooking class at the Tannery Dungarvan

Of all of the photos that I posted of my recent trip to Ireland, the mushroom on toast from The Tannery, in Dungarvan drew the most audible gasps. Gorgeous robust portobello mushrooms, draped in mushroom sauce (based on a beurre blanc) and resting on some brioche with a sliver of intense mushroom puree in between, it is perfectly autumnal in colour, texture and taste, and delicious.

It was one of my favourite dishes and I did promise to share the recipe, so here it is. Enjoy!

Mushrooms on Toast from The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

Serves 4

4 slices of toasted brioche or country bread
4 field mushrooms
50g butter
2 cloves garlic chopped
Pinch chopped thyme
Salt and pepper

Mushroom Sauce:

175g/ 6 oz butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
50g/ 2 oz of dried mushrooms (porcini or similar)
Half teaspoon cracked black pepper
75mls / 3 fl oz dry white wine
150mls/ quarter pint chicken stock
75mls / 3 fl oz cream
55mls/ 1 fl oz sherry vinegar
Squeeze lemon juice
1 sprig rosemary
Splash of milk to thin the sauce down if it is too thick

Start with the mushroom sauce. This is an adaptation of the classic beurre blanc. Less vinegar is used so the subtle mushroom flavour is allowed to come through. Once it’s made, never to boil it as it will split. Unsalted butter is best for this but at a push, use salted and don’t season too much.

Melt a knob of the butter in a pan and add the shallots. Fry until transparent and add the dried mushrooms and pepper. Cook gently for one to two minutes and add the white wine, sherry vinegar, chicken stock and rosemary. Reduce by two thirds, almost until the mixture is syrupy. Add the cream and bring to a gentle boil.

Chop the remainder of the butter and whisk it in, little by little until its completely amalgamated. Take off the heat and check for seasoning.

Allow to stand for 15 minutes and pass through a muslin cloth. Keep standing in a warm place until you need it. If you like, chop some chives and add them just before serving.

While it’s standing you can get on with the rest.

Mushrooms:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Melt the butter with the garlic and the thyme. Place the mushrooms, cut side up on to a lightly buttered tray. Brush with the garlic and thyme butter and bake in the oven until softish, approx 6-7 minutes.

Place on top of the toasted brioche and spoon the mushroom sauce on top. You could also serve Serrano or parma ham on top of this.

Cooking Class at The Tannery Cookery School, Dungarvan

http://www.tannery.ie/