Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And on a school night...!

Tonight I am on a flying visit to Cambridge, I have been lured over with the promise of oh joy of joys, a kitchen gadget party and arriving in D’s vibrant kitchen some enticing lemony, garlicky, chicken-y aromas are making me doubly delighted to be here. D has consulted the rather classic May delicious for inspiration, which has already helped me out this month, and from the article entitled spring chicken (which unsurprisingly, is chock-full of ‘chook’ delights) has picked the winner for this evening - Garlic roast chicken on potatoes with rosemary and pancetta.

Tying on her chicken garnished apron she has simmered the sliced potatoes, anointed the chicken in a garlic and lemon paste, doused it all with white wine and whipped up this admirable feast.

How this got past the chicken-hating fat and carb dodging GT is a mystery but I am so glad it did, it was a fabulous treatment for a frankly enormous beast - MC was buying for a village perhaps and selected a chicken crossed with an elephant!

And all this on a school night, D with your plump glistening bronzed bird you are spoiling us. And for another shocker, GT asked if he could have more chicken skin! A convert perhaps?

Update: I must make a public apology for daring to insinuate that G-my body is my temple-T would have indulged in the murky world of chicken skin. Whilst turning my plate to its good side for its photograph I hadn’t paid enough attention to the fact that his portion had already been denuded of the offending crispy and ever so fatty chicken jacket before deigning to appear in front of him. How could I have such cast such a slanderous aspersion that he may have joined the dark side, I feel suitably chastised!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A sweet parcel

Well I hope it was a sweet parcel anyway! When Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness matched me with Beth of Our Sweet Life, in the food bloggers’ equivalent to a Secret Santa I immediately set to work. The theme was “the littlest things” on account of a last attempts being so incredibly expensive to post and I needed some small ideas for inspiration so I started off by consulting Beth’s blog. One of her posts mentioned a desire for a sausage dog biscuit cutter (aka wiener cookie cutter!) and I set to work. A little browse through one of my new favourite shopping emporiums - eBay and I had the desired item. Whilst I was there I also procured some bone-shaped cutters, as I thought Leela might appreciate these and to continue the theme a proper gingerbread man cutter. And was I started I was on a roll, I procured a copy of Nigel Slater’s first book – the classic Real Fast Food, a set of my beloved Alessi heart-shaped espresso spoons, some retro looking blue foodie fridge magnets, little ladybird pegs and a cup cake charm which now adorns Leela’s collar. As I’ve been rather obsessed collecting cocktail sticks, I also found these vintage glass cockerel examples which definitely fitted the small theme. From my old favourite shopping emporium – Harvey Nix, I bought the dinkiest gingerbread men floating candles. So small that you could stage your own drowning in a teacup, I am sure Beth has more tasteful ideas for their use as long as Nate doesn’t eat them! There wasn’t much room for food after this little stash but I just managed to shoehorn a package of Mini Cheddars (though frankly, not as good as they used to be before they started improving the formula) and five tubes of Smarties.

And that’s another item that has changed radically from those highly coveted little chocolate buttons of my childhood. I used to sort the colours into separate piles, the orange ones (the ones containing an oil of orange) I would save for last, the black and brown ones that M convinced me were coffee flavoured I would set aside for her (coffee always being a particular bête noir) and the remaining slightly darker than pastel coloured I line up in single file and would eat. M will utterly deny this imposed Smarties tax, but it took me many years to tentatively taste a brown or a black Smartie for fear of that coffee hit. Now of course I know it’s only the orange ones that have any flavour but perhaps M didn’t make the whole story up as I believe the brown Smarties of her childhood were coffee but that was adjusted before I joined their ranks as a believer. And lots of other alterations have occurred, they introduced blue Smarties to much acclaim in 1988, but there is probably a reason we don’t have so many blue foods. I don’t recall the exact problem but I think the food colouring provoked a rather adverse reaction in their little consumers and turned them into hyperactive time bombs. So Smarties were reinvented again, this time with no blue and the colours were concocted from vegetable dyes, they seem darker and more homespun now. But deep down I guess they’re still the little oblate spheroids (how they’re described on wikipedia) that I loved even if they have changed colour. And the orange ones are still the best!

Beth seems delighted with her dinky parcel and I am so very pleased it arrived in one piece, I found it quite difficult to curtail my parcel stuffing so there was a danger of it getting to be another epic again as when I sent my previous one last year to the wonderful Bread Chick. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of my parcel before I high tailed it to the post office myself so have borrowed a few of Beth’s, she has more on her lovely blog.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A real good time at the Real Food Festival

If you like visiting farmers’ markets then you will just love the Real Food Festival at Earls’ Court. It a giant farmers’ market, jam-packed with small food and drink producers where you can meet the people who really know and care about their produce, who’ve grown it, tended it and now are here to sell it. You get to sample their produce, discuss the provenance and uses and in some cases you can even meet the produce. As soon as I entered I was intrigued by the sawdust strewn floor, this isn’t Earls’ Court as I’m familiar with and then the second thing you spot is a pen. A pig pen! And the two rather sleepy and porky inhabitants are Pinky – the Middlewhite and Perky – the large black pig (though he was quite small really).

I think they were the only livestock, I spotted a chicken but as it didn’t move from the spot where it was perch proud atop a pyramid of eggs, I am assuming it wasn’t live. After stopping to greet the porkers, I didn’t really know where to turn, I was literally like a child in a sweetshop, and it was truly a cornucopia of foodie delights. There were Pooh-hypnotising jars of honey and a petition to save the bees, stands chock full of chocolate, gardens of herbs, mountains of goats’ cheese (ughh), pots of tea, links upon links of sausages and cupboards full of every condiment imaginable.

To ensure I wasn’t absolutely laden within moments of arriving I vowed to flit from stand to stand like a butterfly and make a considered opinion after exploring the entire hall. Halfway round I found one of the cooking demos and thought I would watch for a while and then continue my grand tour. However they wanted more participants for the next session which is how I ended up making some dough and then a slightly wonky fougasse under the tutorage of Richard Bertinet.

It was a lovely idea, you got to shape (or butcher) the dough as Richard the French boulanger wandered around and wielded his scraper. He doesn’t believe in kneading and pummelling in the traditional way, he works the dough in a very distinctive fashion. And when your dough was “like a baby’s bottom” you dusted it with the merest amount of flour and returned it to the bowl to rest. As his audience might tire of expectantly lurking around the stand for an hour, he instead produced large bowls of previously proven dough which he portioned and handed out so we could each make our own fougasse loaf. These could be customised with black olives, tomatoes, rosemary and/or salt. Naturally I chose just the latter and after about half and hour returned to collect my warm, fragrant and surprisingly good-looking albeit rather arrow-headish loaf. And unsurprisingly I also furnished myself with Richard’s latest book Dough, luckily complete with CD so I can examine his unique dough working technique at leisure.

Whilst my bread is happily baking, I continue my culinary expedition, I wandered onto the white and airily modern Daylesford Organics stand to try and get another deliciously smelling ginger candle but they only seem to have grapefruit and horror of horrors, vine tomatoes!

I find a fabulous array of Richard Bramble gorgeously decorated plates, bowls, boards and linen. It is definitely a collection I would give house-room to if I had any room in my house or flat even.

I’ve hankered after the stunning mussel-festooned porcelain bowls for just so long but I always did wonder if I would feel obliged to only heap them up with creamy, garlicky, finely diced leek-flecked mussels. Such a quandary!

And the same theory applies to the limited edition Jersey Royals bowl, produced to commemorate 125 years of Jersey Royals. They are also on the Jersey stand itself, filled to the brim with the first-of-the-year flaky skinned tubers.

For once to be sensible I have to concede that I have neither the space nor the arm power to transport these highly covetable delights home I console myself with some of their cards itself. I think they will adorn my kitchen cupboards beautifully until I acquire additional enough cupboards to start housing my collection.

On my travels I bought some tasty free-range chicken liver pâté from Brookland White Artisan Poulterers and some of my favourite Stark Naked pesto (come on Waitrose, when will you finally stock this?), they have a bunch of varieties but I went for the usual basil and for a change, some chives.

Harvey Nichols were there promoting their wonderful Grana Padano cheese which I discovered at their cheese and wine evening back in October and have enjoyed ever since. I learnt two intriguing facts, the leftover denuded Grana Padano wheel is often use to house a risotto for a party (what a wonderful idea) and apparently it is also suitable for lactose intolerant diners. Though I've been unable to confirm either statement.

After tasting several balsamic vinegars I went for some unusual varieties from Apulia Blend, firstly a couple of gold meal winners balsamic vinegar syrup with white truffle, a balsamic vinegar with orange and a very intriguing white balsamic vinegar.

I was initiated into the world of granola with some tasty snack pots of jumbo oats, dates and apples from LoveDean. I’ve never liked adding milk to cereal and the fact that these granolas are promoted as milk free nibbles is all terribly interesting.

To enhance my green credentials I purchased some Onya Bags incredibly light nylon bags to use when weighing fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, instead of the usual plastic ones.

I pondered getting some oysters from Fishworks for a future ‘project’ but decided to get them nearer to home so in the interim grabbed a few photos of the magnificent looking crabs and lobsters – a veritable shoal of Pinchies!

Amongst the food and drink producers were also a smattering of the regular suspects at food shows, Proven Products selling my beloved silver Swissline Bamix, Woll Pans and a new one for me some rather fabulous Titan turbo peeler from the ebullient peeler man (who's not going to love a silver versatile peeler with turbo written down the side?) As astonishing as it may seem, I managed to find a shiny contraption that I didn’t possess so I just had to nab this new gadget.

Action against Hunger have been able to procure all sorts of treats for a “Love Food, Fight Hunger” campaign goodie bag. They kindly swapped the Hardens’ guide (which I get anyway) for the Tana Ramsay book (yes, another cookbook that I don’t possess, astonishingly!) and as well of the edible delights pictured there was also a big bag of porridge and another of crisps. It is of course an awfully good cause, and despite the alarming weight of the resultant bag, I hope they will be snapped up by everyone.

I don’t even think I managed to get round the entire show, by the final bell I was flagging considerably looking like a flour dusted packhorse toting all my exciting purchases as well as lashings of pamphlets and frankly couldn’t carry much more even if I did find more things I wanted. I am pleased that sanity prevailed and I didn’t squirrel away some Richard Bramble porcelain in my copious bags, well almost pleased now I’m home!

There are two more days left of possibly my number one ever food show. I noticed that their tagline is ‘fall in love with food all over again’ - I don’t think I needed to fall in love with food again but I’ve certainly fallen in love with food shows again!

Hurry, hurry, hurry to Earls’ Court tomorrow or Sunday, you will have a real good time!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A tale of two meals

Whilst catching up with D earlier this evening we ended up discussing what delights she was planning for dinner and for once I didn’t immediately hanker after an invite and start perusing train timetables! GT in his ‘my body is my temple’ phase had found an ‘interesting’ looking recipe in the latest issue of Muscle & Fitness (or something equivalent) and frankly I wasn’t keen to hear more. But as I didn’t have to eat it, at least I could poke fun at it! The sumptuous feast GT had set his currently and inadvertently little ginger heart on was tasty egg-white scrambled egg with a little shredded turkey breast, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm! Aren’t you just salivating?

Whereas I popped into M&S on my home from work and espied the last packet of those Lochmuir salmon fishcakes with a watercress sauce oozing from its pink interior. I had some fabulous purple sprouting broccoli to hand and whipped up couple of spoonfuls of a creamy butter sauce laced with Parmesan and a few scrapes of nutmeg to anoint the dusky spears with. A simple meal and rather tasty!

75 miles away D has wisely insisted that the scrambled eggs had to have the yolks also as it really sounded too excruciating for words otherwise, and also how many eggs would you need for a decent portion of egg-white scrambled egg for three people – an entire hen coops worth perhaps? And the considered opinion from D is that scrambled eggs (obviously with yolk) fine also enhanced with a side order of granary bread, the addition of the turkey breast, really not so fine! GT seemed rather delighted with his new hot recipe, maybe all that protein has gone to his head. I’ll stick to my fishcake thank you very much.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's on the street?

This month’s Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness blog party theme is street food and I was determined to try and attend. Last month I made the food, pizza – but never got around to posting those little cheese triangles. And the month before I totally failed to get my fried offerings out in time for the party, so I had a little party by myself. I know, very sad!

So after promising to do better I racked my brains for suitable street food inspired canapés and rushed to get my glad rags on and attend.

However I have to admit that yet again I am tardy, the party is already in full swing when I arrive so I hope to duck in the back, mop my fevered brow, maybe mingle with the other more punctual bloggers and hope no-one notices.

I am blaming my belated arrival on partly my struggle with my canapés accompanying beverage, which frankly is my monthly bête noir with regards to this event. When the theme is announced I generally have a few vibrant pictures leap instantly into my head, normally various food scenarios, often the presentation and tableware I might utilise but so far never the drink. And this month was the same old quandary. My first thought on street food was fish and chips. I’m not entirely sure why but I think the first image that materialised was eating fish and chips out of the paper (almost certainly no longer newspaper, I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten fish and chips out of yesterday’s news) was sitting on the wall looking out to sea during my brief sojourn in Plymouth. It was my first experience of living and working in a place where others go on holiday. It was surreal popping out to grab some lunch in the middle of a busy working day and rubbing shoulders with rucksack toting, camera clicking tourists. And fish and chips of course tasted so good here, the salt in the air mingling with the heavily malt vinegared and salted chips with the seagulls circling overhead hoping for abandoned crusty bits of fish in an ecstatic cacophony. And I am assuming that Stephanie was hoping that the mention of street food would conjure up evocative memories of hungrily devouring exotic titbits whilst meandering along foreign streets. For me a walk around Parisian streets would seem incomplete without a ham and melting cheese crammed buckwheat galette. Or if it’s earlier in the day, a fresh from the boulangerie delicious pain au chocolat.

I’ve never been a big fan of the traditional fast food outlets; the golden arches have never held any allure for me. H and I were known for the very occasional delve into the world of KFC but her curious reliance on those 11 special herbs and spices in the first trimester caused us both reach some hot wing overload and have never returned. When I discovered the joy or a lightly toasted bagel with chive-y cream cheese and salmon, I could see the point of portable food again but generally I like to sit down and enjoy my particular repast.

But considering the various en route grabbed meals the image of fish and chips was the strongest one so I made little newspaper cones out of the Sunday papers and got some sole goujons to take the place of the cod of my memories. Unfortunately I had to make use of bread crumbed fish and not that gloriously crisply battered fish but they still tasted rather fine. I accompanied the fish with the skinniest chips I could find, scattered with salt crystals and showered with the Sarsons.

I really struggled again with the drink to serve and thought what would normally drink if I was out and about? And that’s easy; it would be more than likely be a bottle of evian. I don’t ever drink coffee, tea still quite rarely and only from a cup sat down somewhere - so water it’ll have to be. But it is a party so it’s back out with the rather fetching and fabulous Christian Lacroix 2008 edition of evian. So very chic!

So sorry to be late again Stephanie, I guess you're getting used to me rushing in at the last moment and flinging my coat on the back of the nearest chair. But I am here now... and the rest will be here when posted.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The return of the risotto

I’ve particularly enjoyed the latest offering from delicious and olive this month. I generally find a couple of things to inspire me as I eagerly flick through the colourful pages but they’ve both themed their magazines this time around and they’re both a winner. For May, olive has gone all British again which I’ve admired in previous years. And to counteract that delicious have embraced all that is Italian, and it just looks, well bellisimo. Having some leftover dense potato and leek risotto from the dinner party the other night burning a hole in my fridge, I pounce on the Cheese and ham rice cakes recipe.

Traditionally your remaining risotto is shaped into little Arancini di riso but my abhorrence towards deep frying makes this unlikely. And it’s not deep fried food I object to but me wrestling with rivers of hot oil in my bijou and incredibly flammable kitchen. But these little risotto beauties are baked in the oven, no nasty combustible oil.

Last time I wanted to recycle some remaining risotto I pan-fried them which worked okay but the act of turning the cakes in the oil proved tricky and bits made a bid for freedom, so this ‘leave alone’ in the oven option might be a little safer.

The recipe used either freshly made or leftover risotto, and it suggested adding ham, mozzarella and an egg to the cooled risotto. I decided to serve my egg on the side instead and not having any mozzarella or ham to hand I just decided to stick to the tasty Jersey Royals and leek already in the risotto. With dampened hands I shaped my risotto into balls and then flatten into discs, popped them onto a baking tray, cling wrapped and slid into the fridge for 20 minutes. As the original risotto had been more robust than your average one, I think I was able to forgo the egg successfully. However if the original dish has been more all’onda as it should have been, I guess the eggy glue would have been more relevant.

The oven was set to 200o C, the cakes removed from the fridge and dipped first in flour, then beaten egg and finally some fine dried breadcrumbs. The risotto cakes were returned to the baking tray and baked for 10-15 minutes until a lovely golden brown.

And the result was truly delicious, next time I might bury a morsel of torn mozzarella or even a spoonful of pesto before shaping into cakes. Who need deep-frying?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

One perfect dinner party

Not that I think that my dinner party was perfect it was that tonight’s menu was based pretty much on Marcus Wareing’s new cookbook “One Perfect Ingredient”. When this latest tome arrived to join my ever-burgeoning shelves I was immediately struck by it. And I know I’ve said that before but I never cease to be amazed how whenever I think I surely must have reached some sort of limit to my capacity for cookbook-love, my propensity for those hard-backed faintly ink perfumed volumes just seems indefatigable. And despite not wanting to murder my darlings - obviously I have favourites, and this one has instantly joined the A–list (or should that be J-list!) I can’t really put my finger on what makes one cookbook shine above another, I guess it’s a mixture a feeling of instant gastronomic connection, the belief I could rely on it in a sudden culinary emergency and a old friend that I could curl up in a comfy armchair with.

The premise of “One Perfect Ingredient” is to take one ingredient and then to conjure up three very different meals. And on my first flick through I realised that it would be a perfect accompaniment for tonight’s extravaganza. I’d been meaning to have T and ML around ummm, maybe forever and now I had to concoct a suitable menu. I had a few ideas; T doesn’t really do red meat but has rather a penchant for risotto which would help my deliberations so with this in mind I consulted Marcus and I think he had some fine suggestions.

I wanted to use my lovely new lead crystal champagne saucers for the dessert so knowing that I can whip it up very quickly I went for the chocolate mousse Gordon Ramsay devised for his cook-along a couple of months ago, as Marcus didn't have something unctuous enough and chocolaty enough. With the crystal theme in mind I went for full crystal-tastic overload on the table décor again and also christened my crystal tea-light holders and crystal rose-bowl for a terribly grown-up table centre. I got some lovely white flowers as I didn’t want the more typical roses but I can’t recall their genus, unfortunately.

For the starter I selected the Leek and Potato Risotto. I did toy with adding my first handful of this year’s English asparagus spears (not counting those cooked by Mark Hix at Divertimenti forced in a Kent micro-climate) but I found out just in the nick of time that ML doesn’t appreciate the spear. I had a small pile of Jersey royals for the new potato ingredient but I actually had stockpiled over double what the recipe needed but T suggested that I boiled them all anyway and we could either have some with the main course or use the leftovers for another meal. I used the rest of my Acquerello risotto rice and boy was it thirsty tonight. I poured in the wonderfully gelatinous stock, the glass of white wine, more wine, some Evian (just because it was handy), more wine, more water and still it drank. It just soaked up every drop of liquid in its vicinity; I could only assume it was drunk when it finally reached that perfect creamy texture. I add the Parmesan, the butter and then the potatoes but was rather alarmed by the texture. This risotto could never be accused of assuming the infamous Italian rippling wave effect across the plate, the all’ onda. It was way more pert than that, actually positively gravity-defying, I assumed it was the potato but not having a picture to reference and more importantly, loving the taste I went ahead and served it. And we certainly cleaned our plates, and then I remembered, I cooked well over twice the amount of crushed potato that the risotto required and then somehow added all of it to this to the dish – mmm, that might explain it. And then there was also the delicious very welcome glass or two of Fortnum & Mason Brut Rosé Champagne (Billecart-Salmon in disguise nonetheless!) that made everything all a little rosé around the edges - that could have explained it also!

For the main course I chose the simple Chicken with Bacon and Pesto accompanied by a version of the Pea and Broad bean Salad with Manchego Cheese from the Pea chapter – clearly I had a premonition that by that stage of the meal I might need 'simple'. The plump organic, free-range chicken breast (yes, I have chickened out – but I have always been a devotee of a happy chicken!) were rather annoying three different sizes. I definitely had daddy, mummy and baby chicken to stuff with pesto and wrapped in bacon. Daddy was feisty and struggling out of its bacon jacket but I managed to pan fry it and wrestle it into the oven without losing too much of its oozy verdant core.

With the help of T and ML's frantic depodding the broad beans were swiftly denuded and I dealt with the frozen petit pois which had all bonded into one great fat pea and needed a little gentle persuasion to return back to their individual little peas. I didn't have any Manchego so used Parmesan and a slurp of double cream to loosen it up a little and then a handful of my favourite floppy lamb's lettuce also.
That all seemed to go down pretty well also. Obviously I didn’t serve potatoes with the chicken because a) it didn’t really need it and b) we’d somehow managed to eat all the Jersey Royals with the risotto in some freak pink Champagne induced accident.

Having produced this Chocolate Mousse recipe before whilst under great time pressure I was pretty confident I could get it to the table pretty sharpish i.e. ideally before either of my guests fell asleep but it didn’t turn out quite as smooth as I would have liked. I used some of the amazing Willie Harcourt-Cooze Venezuelan Black 100% chocolate that T had managed to get at their local Waitrose as mine had nothing but a photograph of smiling Willie and information about this special chocolate, which was hardly going to help my mousse. I read the recipe carefully and then perhaps due to the wine on top of the Champagne and the boozy risotto meant that I read it but totally ignored it so when I was supposed to stir the smashed shards of Crunchie into the chocolate mixture I just got T to heap some in the gorgeous Champagne Saucers (very Babycham but without the cartoon Bambi and way more diva-ish!) and then add a little golden shower on top and then some chocolate flakes. We didn’t eat it all, hopefully because it wasn’t too imperfect but because I made enough for four of us (frankly four people who hadn't had a meal for a few days) and we’d eaten quite a lot of risotto et al! And T and I managed to save room for a soupçon of gooey Camembert with Truffle Butter on French bread as it would have been rude not to!

Maybe not the perfect dinner party but hopefully pretty damn fine!

Oh, and I should really mention another little fabulous touch to the table - get a load of the Evian bottle, not just soon-to-be-recycled plastic but designed by Christian Lacroix etched glass definitely not for recycling - don't you know. Diva - moi!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another seriously good Serious Food

Those people at Serious Food are very good! I have adored their hot chocolate fondant in the dinky little cup from the moment I first clapped eyes on them in Waitrose and then met the ever so delightful Serious Fooders at the Taste of London festival last year. And they are as lovely as their desserts.

Then I discovered a new fabulous addition to their range in a new gorgeous little white ceramic pot. The revamped pot has three little dents for your middle fingers on one side and one more for your thumb on the opposite side. That means that you can grip your chocolaty dessert comfortably and not let one morsel slip through your fingers – clearly pretty critical! And you have to admit it looks ever so fine crowning my YSL heart-shaped (so beloved of N!) porcelain plates and finished off with a similarly shaped Alessi espresso spoon.

And the delicious new pot of loveliness? That would be (I hope you’re sitting down M?) Gianduja Mousse with Sea Salted Caramel and it has a twin. And what you get in your gently dimpled cup is a sea salted caramel sauce topped with a gianduja chocolate praline mousse, decorated with chocolate shards and roasted hazelnuts. Oh my! And it is as good as it sounds!

For the curious amongst you Gianduja or sometimes called Gianduia is a hazelnut and almond sweet chocolate speciality of Turin. I also believe that Nutella is a distant cousin, a product that I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever tried, perhaps my dislike of peanut butter sublimely armed me against it.

But the Serious Food dessert – I recommend you get your hand around that curvy little pot as soon as you can. And if Ocado had it on their books, my life would be complete and also M could taste what I am talking about. Hurry up Ocado, your public are waiting!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Food for thought

Today I had a positive windfall of cookbooks turn up to my desk, an embarrassment of riches no less. The first one I started poring over is Rose Prince’s new book The New English Table. And I utterly adore it already. It’s a book that manages to make you salivate but feel also slightly guilty at the same time. Rose’s rather fetching rose coloured tome is a manifesto for eating well, eating cheaply and eating ecologically. The subtitle of the book is “over 200 recipes that will not cost the earth”. She explains how diversity is essential for us and also absolutely everyone. If we just eat the same foods all the time we run the risk of being dependant on a dwindling set of ingredients that if some pestilence or disaster befell them we would be scuppered.

In the beef chapter she wags her finger at those of us who leap straight for the fillet steak when there are so many other cuts available. As the fillet is a relatively small part of a cow and if we always favour that cut, surely somewhere there should be a glut of all the remaining beefy parts. I recall considering such a conundrum many years ago when a crowd of us spent a happy afternoon in a tapas bar in Brussels and ate primarily chicken wings. In fact the European chicken wing mountain nonetheless! And whilst washing down these little poultry flying limbs with a glass or two of Sangria I started to worry about all the rest of the chicken, and how those flocks of wingless chickens were doing. Hmmm, maybe there was quite a lot of Sangria involved! But you get the point.

However all is not lost; Rose gives us lots of alternatives especially if you can find a meat purveyor that can butcher in the continental style. It seems that there are some great unconventional cuts that lend themselves to a medium-rare or even better, rare cooking and I can’t wait to locate such a knowledgeable butcher.

And it’s not just beef, my thoughts have been provoked by her prose on apples, asparagus, bacon, beans, barley and blackberries. Yes I'm already a fan and I haven’t even finished the B’s yet.

I’m not surprised I have fallen for this book as I was impressed by Rose when I first met her when she hosted a cookbook event alongside Jeremy Lee at Blueprint Café to launch A New English Kitchen a couple of years ago. In fact much of the barley chapter is inspired by Jeremy or strictly his mother who seemed to really know her barley.

I would wax more lyrically about this impressively substantial pink volume but I want to go back to absorbing it and having my conscience pricked further, so if you’re interested you should get your own, I don't think you'll regret it!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

And now we are two!

So this sadly slightly lapsed blog has staggered to its second bloganniversary. I’m sure you’re sick of reading my excuses for my dearth of posting despite a cornucopia of some very blog-worthy eating and frankly so am I for making them. So that's it, no more apologies, I will just promise to get back to blogging as often as I can. I now have 654 gastronomic musings and have had over 39,000 visitors - some of those must have had a shock! I guess some of the popularity must be due to the Food Network's travel and food show aptly named Have Fork Will Travel, but I got there first (two years ago if we're counting!) so if you've googled that particular show and got me instead please pull up a chair and have a bite to eat. You might enjoy it!

One of the issues has definitely been my Virgo tendencies that force me to post everything in order and I do always want to attach the correct date to an event. So in order to not be stifled by posting one occasion directly after another which can create bottlenecks when a particular meal doesn’t inspire me as much as others, I will add each new piece to the list on the right in the "order of posting" not in "chronological order". Then those whose tell me off for confusingly leaping back and forward in time in my own culinary Tardis (M that’s you!) will be able to check what is newly added to the blog and not necessary recently experienced. I must admit that I do get drawn to blogging events which are more photogenic that the murkily recorded meals and being able to just post as the mood takes me will hopefully help get all things flowing again.

So in honour of my new found resolve please see the latest shiny new posting under Most Recent Forkfuls, and there should be another new lengthy Anglo-French addition before the night is over.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The littlest parcel!

Oh my, it’s so very nearly two years since I started Have Fork Will Travel and I seem to be currently lingering in the category of “blog-dodger”. It’s all the usual excuses, work commitments, not feeling at my best regularly and then when I do get the chance seemingly hit by “toiling over a hot keyboard” fatigue as frankly that's how I spend much of my working day.

But I’m still eating, watching good and frankly culinary car-crash cookery shows, visiting fabulous eateries, whipping up some fine home epicurean delights and soaking up great cookbooks so enough with the excuses and on with the blogging!

I’ve have received a little parcel that has woken me out of my blogging reverie in the ever wonderful Blogging by Mail event run by the ever patient Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness. The theme this time was the littlest things as I guess all of us have been burnt by the ever increasing shipping charges to send our packages to our grateful fellow bloggers.

But Anne from Sweden of Anne’s Food sent me the dinkiest package crammed full of tiny little treats. I got some leopard print truffle cases which are fabulous and very diva-ish and I look forward to filling them with some gorgeous chocolate-y joy! A little black bird notebook flew out next and then I could start tucking into some wonderful miniature liquorice goodies – Kick – sweet liquorice, Salta Katten (Salty Cat, salty liquorice) and Lemon Lakritski which you may have guessed is lemon liquorice (Anne points out the rather politically incorrect packaging which looked like an alarmed golliwog!). There are some tasty biscuits called Ballerina which Anne says are a Swedish version of Oreos, though I haven’t had Oreos for a long time I think these were crumblier and shortbread-y. There were tiny boxes of Violet gums (Viol), Tutti Frutti orange gums and Zoo gums adorned with a rather guilty looking chimpanzee. It is a cornucopia of diminutive Swedish delights and I love that Anne’s delicious looking blog banner depicting chocolate adorned raspberries is also on her notepaper.

Thank you so much Anne, these were lovely, I've enjoyed reading another passionate foodie blog and how did you know how much I like liquorice! Thank you also to Stephanie who organises all of this and when my last blogging by mail parcel unfortunately never made it from Hong Kong, she ever so kindly sent me a surprise package herself - which will get full justice here one day! That special day when all I get to do is blog!