Woe is me! My camera is dead! Please excuse me while over the coming days I post crappy photos to accompany my food. I am lost without it. It came to what I hope was a near fatal end on the hard stone floor of a moorish fortress in Almeria. Some feral cats took me by surprise at the water machine and the rest, as they say, is history. Sigh. Someone has kindly loaned me a camera until I get it fixed/replaced but I am still getting used to it and the results are not up to speed yet.
We landed in Granada on our first night a little weary following our delayed flight and very hungry! We had arranged to rent an apartment in the old Medina facing the Alhambra. I called our new landlord, Pedro, a really lovely guy, who gave me the briefest of Spanish courses advising how to pronounce Aljibe de los Tomasas in the Albaicin, our new address, a beautiful old moorish quarter set in a hillside facing the alhambra. Despite repeating it 14 times for him on the bus, I was not in the least confident (nor was he!), however, the taxi driver understood me and off we sped up the labyrinthine streets. It was midnight at this stage and Pedro advised that not many places would be open for food but we could try the place at the foot of the medina opposite the 16th-century Iglesia de San Gregorio church, I must find out the address but unfortunately I was too absorbed in my eating and drinking to think of it! Unfortunately, we were too late for tapas so we only had drinks, but, we came back the following night with some friends for more.
There’s a great Andalucian tradition of providing free tapas with drinks. We didn’t go explicitly for food but were hopeful we’d get some nibbles. Over four rounds of drinks we were given four tapas: a lovely rice dish, some cracked wheat with dried fruit and other bits, jamon on bread with green olives, and spinach and pine kernals on bread. Delicious and all free with very reasonably priced drinks. The bar itself has alot of character, it’s very small but has a large terrace where most people sit. If you’re ever in Granada I would advise a visit.
Some pics of the food follow, I will attempt to recreate in the coming weeks!
We had to do something to lift our spirits! The harsh reality of leaving our little Spanish seaside town and returning to the urban jungle that is London was a little hard to bear. Especially as it was raining. I love London but that contrast is too extreme and sudden. So, we decided we’d have a little Spanish night. We got home a little late so we didn’t have alot of time and limited it to two tapas and some Spanish rioja that we had brought back with us. We settled on a a Tortilla Española (or Tortilla de Patatas, Spanish Omelette) and Chorizo cooked in cider.
I have been making tortilla for years, it’s one of my favourite dishes, it takes a little time but you can squeeze it in after work, it’s a relatively low maintenance dish. Chorizo with cider is new, we had chorizo with cider in Andalucia and it was the first time I tried it. It was delicious, the sweetness of the cider combined with the intensity and sharpness of the chorizo. I have cooked it in red wine before so figured it can’t be much different and went with that. Easy peasy, slice the chorizo, fry it in olive oil, add approx. 150 ml cider and a bay leaf or two and braise for 10 minutes or so.
The tortilla requires a little more explanation. In Spain, they cook the potatoes and onion (otional) in about half a litre of olive oil. I haven’t done it that way yet but will soon. For those worried about the grease, don’t worry, they drain it off before adding the eggs :-)
Pic: Tapas in Granada, from top left: Jamon Serrano, Queso Manchego, Chorizo in cider, Artichokes with anchovies, Tortilla.
Ah, Andalucia! London seems so grim by comparison. It’s a wonderful part of the world: sunshine, sea, fabulous food, beautiful wine, lots of cheese & lovely people. We went to Granada for 3 nights, then, headed east to Agua Amarga on the coast for a weeks relaxation and a friends wedding. It was a great experience on many fronts, very relaxing, great & very reasonable food and wine, lots to see, cultural things to do, lots of friends about and a great wedding to finish it all off with.
I haven’t had a chance to get into the kitchen yet but I intend to this evening. I have lots of Spanish treats to tuck into: chorizo, morcilla, manchego, luscious olive oil, rioja and more. I did cook quite a bit in Spain though and will leave you with this quick and very tasty bite.
One evening we wanted something quick to snack on with wine. We had a fridge full of goodies, you’d think were there for a month with a family of ten! So, we pulled out a fresh loaf of bread, the jamon iberico, chorizo iberico, a big juicy tomato and a fine wedge of queso manchego. Jamon Iberico is a cured ham made from the black iberian pig (or cerdo negro) and made only in Spain. These pigs feed mainly on acorns in southern Spain. There are different grades of the ham but the best, bellota, comes from pigs that are only fed acorns after an inital few weeks fattening with barley and corn. The meat is flecked with fat and is delicious. Chorizo iberico is also made from iberico pork. It’s very expensive outside of Spain so we made the most of the cheaper prices in Spain. Queso Manchego (manchego cheese) is a sheeps milk cheese from La Mancha. It’s aged for approximately 3 months – the older the better for me, I love it when it gets a crumbly crystalline texture.
Bread with jamon iberico, chorizo, tomato and manchego
(Excuse my photo, my camera broke so this is taken with another one)
This is so simple. It relies on good quality ingredients so be sure to get the best you can.
Ingredients (for 4 people snacking):
Chorizo (Iberico if you can) sliced,
Jamon (Iberico if you can but serrano is also very good), sliced
a big juicy tomato, sliced
a loaf of crusty bread, sliced
Manchego cheese or similar, sliced
a good extra virgin olive oil
It couldn’t be simpler, put a slice of cheese, one of the meats and tomato on the bread and drizzle with generous amounts of a good extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy with a glass of rioja or whatever your tipple is.
I am off to the kitchen now to indulge. I’ll post some recipes over the coming days.
I am off to Spain for the next 10 days – let the foodie adventure begin! The only fishin’ I’ll be doing is for rioja, chorizo, manchego, gazpacho etc. etc. Watch this space…
Yet another very simple twist on a very simple tomato sauce. All in the great effort to maximise time in the evenings and garner a work-life balance. So, I’ll keep this post short!
This doesn’t require any weighing. It’s all about how much you like salami.
Leon should be a good place to eat. When it first opened it won the Observer Food Monthly Newcomer of the Year Award. Lots of people were talking about it. Fresh healthy food that isn’t overpriced and is very quick. Sounds like my cup of tea! We had to try it. We first went about a year ago and it was a bitterly disappointing experience – the food was just warm, the bowls it was served in were chipped, the service was haphazard and it wasn’t all that cheap in reality. We thought we’d try it again, perhaps it was an off day? They were expanding and maybe they’d sent some experienced staff to start up a new branch? Plus, everyone else seems to like Leon. So, we went yesterday evening to the the Carnaby St branch for a bite.
Last night was one of those nights where I just wanted nachos. Nothing else would do. I got home quite late and wasn’t up for making a big complicated dish. I also wanted something light to eat. So, nachos it was!
This isn’t a quick dish like my normal Monday-Friday dishes. It takes a little time as I like to roast the butternut squash. Roasting intensifies the flavour and leaves a beautiful sweet syrup on the roasting tray which I put in my soup. I also add chilli and herbs when roasting it which on it’s own makes a lovely side dish. Any pumpkin/squash will do, I just happened to have a butternut squash. The smaller the better, the smaller ones have a better flavour, large pumpkins tend to have more water. We cooked a giant pumpkin some years ago and while it was great fun and a challenge to use all of it, it just didn’t have that lovely sweet flavour of the smaller ones. I would love another one though. A friends neighbour grows them on his allotment. It was so big it had to be delivered in an old cement bag, it wouldn’t fit in a normal refuse sack. And we only got a quarter of the pumpkin that time.
This is a very comforting and warming soup. I made it up using what I had to hand so think I’ll tweak it in future iterations. I think some lemongrass would work well for example…
This isn’t exactly complicated but it was so pretty and easy I thought I’d blog it :-)
On a recent trip to the market I spotted beautiful baby santa plum tomatoes. I bought a pound of them with the intention of making a tomato, basil and mozarella salad. But, I forgot to buy the mozarella. So, I quickly threw these toasts together instead:
Chop half the tomatoes & 1 avocado. Season, then add some fresh lemon juice to taste. Toast the bread on one side and lightly toast the second side until slightly crisp but not brown (this ensures they won’t go too soggy when you add the avocado/tomato). Add your tomato and avocado mixture and sprinkle some grated manchego on top. Grill until the cheese is melted. Eat!
It’s been a few days since I’ve posted anything but I’ve got a few things to post from the weekend. I’ll start with a pasta dish that I made yesterday, one of my comfort food favourites. I tend to make this by eye and by tastebud, adjusting it as I go so feel free to be flexible with the recipe. My mood also affects it, sometimes I like it very soup-y with alot of stock, other times I prefer the pasta to be the star of the show. Yesterday was a pasta day!
I got the idea for it many years ago when I visited Italy with some friends, one of whom was a local. I got many ideas that holiday, we had some wonderful food, much of it cooked by my friends boyfriends Dad whom we were staying with. It was my first time having homemade pumpkin gnocchi and proper neapolitan mozarella di bufala. It was out of this world. You just don’t get that mozarella anywhere else and I have tried very hard to find one that matches it. The shopkeeper that sold it used to travel to the farm at 4am every morning and if I remember right used to sell out by lunch time. The slices of mozarella were like big, juicy mozarella steaks. It was also my first time having pasta e patate, which was a revelation! It’s now one of my favourite dishes much to everyones amusement, me being irish and the dish consisting mainly of potatoes, sigh. It’s a favourite for sick days and hangovers especially, it’s like eating a cushion for your stomach :)
I have heard many good things about Canteen in the new Spittalfields market in London since it opened in the Autumn of 2005. In the 2006 Observer Food Monthly awards it came second in best for breakfast (public vote) and in this years food monthly awards it won best restaurant. On paper it sounds like everything I love, quality ingredients cooked well and at very reasonable prices – starters are from approximately £5-7 and most main courses are under £10. It’s not fussy either, just good food. We decided we’d go for my birthday and booked a couple of weeks in advance.
It’s a nice looking restaurant, modern with a clean sharp look. The walls are glass facing out into the market so it’s great for people watching and there’s a busy open kitchen facing the diners. When we arrived tonight we were offered two seats squashed between two couples at a communal table. I know its communal eating but surely if you book two weeks in advance you can get a better seat? There was absolutely no room between these people and there was no sensible way of sitting there, the other diners didn’t look too happy to see us try and I can’t blame them. There were booths accomadating 2 or 4 people, so we asked if we could wait and have one of those. I played the birthday card and they were very good about it. So far, so good. We waited about 20 minutes and were seated at a very small booth facing the window but at least we weren’t squashed with other diners so we were happy. Service was confusing, at this point we had 3 people serving us but that seems to be the informal style of the restaurant so I’ll let that go.
Before I begin, I will stress that this isn’t truly tried and tested but it was nice so I will post it. It’s a curry sauce that I do already changed on a whim to fit a mutter paneer dish. I will change it next time I do it as I am not 100% happy with it – it’s a nice curry but it’s not truly a mutter paneer. The sauce is thicker than it should be and it’s quite tomato-y. I wanted to make it mainly with things that I already had and quite quickly as I want another quick after work curry to add to my quick dishes. I am over-analysing perhaps – I did enjoy it and I will make it again. I blame Sabras, I want all my curries to taste like theirs now and I don’t have any of their recipes.
Before I begin I should mention that the goats milk paneer is delicious! I thought it might be too strong but it was not dominant. The goat milk flavour was actually really nice and delicate (I don’t like drinking goats milk so was a little concerned). The texture was lovely and spongy too. It’s definitely worth making the effort to make.
With Sabras closing recently we have been deprived of their mutter paneer. It’s been a while since we made Indian food so I decided that I would make some paneer last night and follow up with mutter paneer tonight. I am lactose intolerant so can’t have cows milk, but this usually isn’t a problem for paneer making as living in London and so I can get my hands on buffalo milk quite easily. Well, I could, until Waitrose stopped selling it. So, it had to be goat’s milk which isn’t my favourite but it will do. Next time I’ll have to plan it and get some buffalo milk at the farmers market.
It’s very easy to make paneer. All you do is boil some milk, reduce the heat and add something acidic to separate the curds and whey – white vinegar, lemon or lime juice will do, and then press out the excess moisture. I had a lime to hand last night so I used lime juice, roughly, a couple of tablespoons for a litre of milk. Once you add the lime juice/lemon juice/vinegar you will notice that the curds and whey start to separate immediately. If they don’t seem to be seperating add more of your lime juice/lemon juice/vinegar. Give it about 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick or burn and the curds will get bigger and the whey will get clearer. After the 5 minutes or so are up, strain through some muslin or cheesecloth to separate the curds. You can suspend your ball of paneer in waiting from the tap or I usually just put mine in a sieve suspended over an empty pot. Leave it for about half an hour or so to cool down and drip then squeeze the excess liquid out. I place a weight on it (a jar of beans and a saucer) at this point for an hour or so and then it’s ready to refrigerate. Easy peasy!
We’ve just had a long sleepy bank holiday weekend in London with plenty of time for cooking. We brightened up a rainy Sunday with a tuna steak and a warm salad accompanied by some lovely rioja. It was very quick, the tuna itself takes only a few minutes to cook and the salad is very straightforward. The recipe is for one as everyone else was eating steak, double it for two.
Ingredients (for one):
Chorizo sausage – as much as you fancy
a handful or ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes
salad leaves – we used rocket, watercress & baby spinach
baby new potatoes – we used jersey royals
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chop the potatoes into halves or quarters (depending on how big they are) and boil until soft.
Finely slice the onion and squeeze some lemon juice over the onion slices.
Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Slice the chorizo and fry in some olive oil until tender (a few minutes).
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and season while hot, they’ll absorb the seasoning better this way.
Heat some oil over a high heat and fry the tuna for 2-3 minutes on each side. It should be scorched on the outside and still quite pink on the inside. I really like it rare but if you prefer it medium or well done cook it for longer.
Mix up all your salad ingredients and season. Dress with some fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
Serve immediately while still slightly warm.
I was extremely fortunate to have a work trip to Japan this year and while it was a very busy week I did get an opportunity to sample some of the wonderful food and sights that Tokyo has to offer.
I had never been to Japan before but had heard a lot from varied sources. I have always had a fascination with Japan, from the history and clothing to the food. I went through a phase of buying vintage kimonos from Japan for the beautiful silk, but, until now I had never had an opportunity to visit. I had heard that Tokyo was a very busy city and was very expensive – even worse than London. Well, I live in London, and thought, really, how much more busy/expensive can it be?! The answer is it’s not. Perhaps London is the best leveller for world cities, I have been to a few and each one has been calmer and less expensive (I haven’t been to NY yet before you comment). Relative to London, Tokyo is actually quite cheap, this is attributed to their lengthy recession, prices haven’t increased in years.
So, on my second day there, still very jet-lagged, I was determined to go out and eat some tempura. I had a list of food to eat whilst in Japan – tempura, sushi, sashimi, okonomiyaki, gyoza, unagi (eel) and tea in a traditional Japanese teahouse. I had brought two guidebooks with me – the Lonely Planet Guidebook to Tokyo and the TimeOut Tokyo Guide. Both great but for food I’d prefer the TimeOut guide. I had planned to visit Shinjuku and spotted a Tempura restaurant in the cheap eat section, Tsunahachi.
I found it without much difficulty, it was quite close to the seven floor electronics shop I had spent the previous two hours in (camera window shopping!). It had a beautiful old wooden front and was really understated and hidden in the mesh of neon lights in Shinjuku. There was one person waiting outside the door so I waited with him. I quickly discovered that not many people speak english in Tokyo so I had to rely on my *extremely* pigeon japanese. I must stress that I didn’t expect them to speak english, why should they, it’s Japan not England! A queue quickly gathered behind me and within 15 minutes I was seated at a counter facing the open kitchen. The waiter brought me a menu, most of which was in Japanese so I chose a fish set menu and some sake.
The waiter brought me a little tray with some rice, pickles, miso soup and green tea. The miso was beautiful with tiny clams at the bottom. The rest was pretty impressive too. I saw one of the chefs about to fillet a flat fish and it looked very wet still, well, not surprising as when he stuck the knife in him I realised he was still very much alive and on my plate within 5 minutes. Harsh, I know, but the fish was beautiful to eat, really light with delicate white flesh. Next up were two tempura king prawns, also fresh from the tank, some green pepper and half an onion. All lovely, crisp and fresh but the onion was astounding, intensely sweet soft flesh contrasting beautifully with the tempura batter. I thought that this was it so finished my rice and miso, when a cake of tempura prawns arrived. It consisted of 15-20 large very fresh prawns and again, was very impressive. This was swiftly followed by some unagi (japanese eel) which was not unlike a white fish, very light, sweet and delicate. All the time I was washing this down with the sake which was beautifully dry and the perfect complement. I finished my meal with some green tea.
I requested the bill, expecting it to be a little more than I had expected given how much I had eaten. It came to a total of 2,000 yen which was incredibly good value, just under £10 sterling. The staff were very friendly and accomodating of my poor communication skills. I would recommend to anyone visiting Tokyo, it’s a very pleasurable experience.
I fancied a quick snack so I raided the fridge. I had lots of leftover bits. What most interested me was feta left over from the risotto recipe and a big bag of orange baby peppers that needed to be used before they went bad. So, I roasted the peppers, we don’t have a gas cooker so I brushed them with olive oil and put them under the grill until they went black, then turned them around and did the other side. Don’t be afraid to completely burn them, the flesh is protected by the skin underneath. When blackened all over I placed them in a plastic bag and into the fridge to cool. Doing this ensures that they sweat and makes it much easier to peel their skin off. Once cool (takes half an hour or so) I peeled them and chopped them into strips and mixed them with crumbled feta. I left them in the fridge for a half an hour or so to allow the flavours to mingle. You could add honey to make it even sweeter but this was just perfect so once the half hour was up I spread them on toasted pita bread drizzled with a little olive oil. Yum!
There are many good reasons to make risotto. It’s delicious and perfect for a summers day. It goes very well with wine and is perfect after a long day in the office. It’s therapeutic to make, one of those dishes that requires alot of time and energy but is worth every little bit. My favourite one is: you can make risotto balls with the leftover risotto. When I make risotto, I always make twice what we need for dinner so that we can make risotto balls the next day.
Risotto balls are so easy and quick. All you need is leftover risotto, bufallo mozarella & breadcrumbs, egg & flour. Some recipes add egg to the risotto before moulding but I like my risotto quite moist so that when it’s cool it’s still quite sticky so usually doesn’t need it. I used leftover asparagus risotto. You can find the risotto recipe on my blog, it’s the previous post. I ommitted the feta cheese for the risotto balls as they should be all about the buffalo mozarella. You can use any leftover risotto though.
I have mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again, I *love* asparagus! After much trawling in the farmers markets I found a lovely asparagus stall with big bunches of asparagus. How could I leave them there? I usually like to cook them as simply as possible to keep their strong fresh flavour but it had been a while since we had risotto so I thought I’d make a nice summery one with it. I find asparagus goes really well with lemon and feta so thought I’d adapt a tried and trusted asparagus recipe. I prefer to use feta that has sheeps milk only as the cows milk ones (or even those with a little cows milk) don’t have as nice a flavour, I find them more acidic. Apparantly, the reason cows milk is added is it’s much cheaper and reduces production costs. Anyway, I found a nice organic sheeps feta so used that in this recipe. I always make enough for four people so that we can make risotto balls with the leftovers. Recipe to follow in my next post :-)
3 shallots, finely chopped
400g risotto rice (I used Vialone Nano but any will do)
200ml white wine or vermouth (noilly prat is a good one)
1 3/4 litre hot vegetable stock
700g asparagus, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, preferably unwaxed, zest and juice
Crumbled feta – about half a pack
Heat the olive oil in a wide, high-sided pan (a stock pan works well) over a low heat.
Peel the shallots and chop them finely.
Cook until soft and translucent ensuring it doesn’t go brown.
Stir in the rice on the heat until the risotto rice is hot.
Add the wine/vermouth and cook until the alcohol has evaporated off and the rice has only a little liquid left.
Keep the stock on a low heat throughout the recipe.
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and chop the rest into small chunks.
Add a ladleful of hot stock, turn the heat up to medium, stirring the rice until the liquid has almost disappeared. Add the asparagus reserving the tips.
Continue adding the stock one ladleful at a time as it boils down to almost nothing.
Keep stirring the rice. The stirring releases the starches and ensures that your risotto has a creamy texture.
After 15 minutes or cooking time add the asparagus tips.
The risotto will be ready when the rice is creamy is al dente (still has a little bite).
Season with salt, pepper and the lemon juice to taste. Garnish with some lemon zest and sprinkle some crumbled feta on each portion.
Quinoa is one of those foodstuffs that is so nutritious that I try to include it in my diet as regularly as possible. I like the nutty texture and as the flavour is quite subtle it mixes with almost everything. You can use it in the place of cous cous for a healthier tabbouleh or as a side dish in place of rice. It’s one of the few non-meat, non-dairy foodstuffs that contains the full complement of essential amino acids. I am not vegetarian but I was for 11 years and still keep to a predominantly vegetarian diet, mainly because I really enjoy vegetarian food and it’s extremely healthy once you take care to mix your proteins. I hadn’t had quinoa for a couple of months so I thought I’d drag it out of the cupboard and make a healthy lunch out of it.
I cook quinoa in a similar way to rice, twice the amount of liquid to grain. The only difference in the way I cook it is I like to fry/toast it briefly first in a little oil so that the texture is a little crispy in the finished dish.
This is a very flexible recipe. You can use different herbs or a mixture, nuts, especially pine nuts or hazelnuts are a lovely addition, I just didn’t have any to hand! You can eat it cold as a salad or warm – whatever works for you.
Ingredients (for one lunch):
200ml light vegetable stock
Half red onion finely chopped
75g beans (any really, I used tinned soya beans)
25g sesame seeds
A handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
Couple tbsp fresh lemon juice
Sauté the red onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until soft.
Add the quinoa and stir for approx 2 minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick or burn.
Add the stock and cook for approx 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa is cooked but still al dente.
Take off the heat and add the sesame seeds, parsley, spring onions and lemon juice.