31 December 2006: Avgolemono


So I got over my chicken stock/jelly horror, and we thus had avgolemono for lunch today, a small, perfect meal between the late breakfast of toast and the gigantic feast of mexican plus marguaritas we're planning for tonight.

This Greek soup was just right: very simple, very clean-tasting, the creaminess offset exquisitely by the lemon. Or so I thought, anyway. Ted wasn't quite so impressed, for reasons explained by our lunchtime conversation reproduced below:

Meg: This is divine!
Ted: Don't you think it's a little bit too sour?
Meg: No, the lemon cuts the creaminess just enough, I think.
Ted (looking completely bemused): Why would you want to cut creaminess???

Of course, Ted was also the one who ecstatically described the melting spoonfuls of chicken stock jelly in the saucepan as "like icebergs calving", so go on and decide for yourself whether you're going to take his word or mine on food matters. Anyway, two final points about this soup (which I believe we'd both agree on). First, note that the egg isn't completely cooked, so make sure you use good, non-battery-farm eggs (just like always). Secondly, I probably wouldn't make this with stock cubes or powder - there'd be nothing to mask that cup-a-soup flavour, in a simple soup like this. Make your own chicken jelly-stock, you know you want to!


2.5 cups home-made chicken stock
40 g white rice
1 large (fresh, free-range) egg
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper (preferably white)

Bring the stock to a simmer, season to taste, then add the rice, stir, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until rice is cooked.

Beat the egg and the lemon juice together until frothy. (I started off doing this in a cereal bowl with a fork, but switched up to a large bowl and a balloon whisk, and it really made a difference, so use those if you have them.)

Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the lemon and egg mixture, and keep whisking. Remove the stock and rice from the heat and allow to cool for one minute, then tip in the egg mixture. Whisk for a further minute or two until you have a slightly thickened, creamy soup. Eat at once.

Makes two quite small, but rich, servings.


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30 December 2006: Chicken... jelly?

Watch some possibly disgusting jiggling, below: my first home-made chicken stock, from the carcass of the post-christmas bird plus various fowl skeletons stored in the freezer for the last couple of months. The yellowy bits on the top are the remnants of the fat layer that separated out overnight, most of which has been scraped off.



Is it really supposed to be this gelatinous? The avgolemono I was planning to make tomrorrow suddenly seems less enticing.


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Awesome Dublin 3: Roy Fox grocer and deli


There are quite a few grocery shops in Dublin I'm really grateful for - I've been on a Fallon and Byrne kick for a while now, for example, and Asia Market is a good go-to store for asian produce and ingredients on this side of the river - but the one grocery store that I really rely on is Roy Fox. I love going here. It's about 20 minutes walk from our place, and in the opposite direction from work, but getting there is absolutely worth it.

If we haven't planned ahead for dinner, then the typical lazy outcome is for me to stop off at Tesco on Baggott St on my way home to pick up some veggies to cook. It works, but it's not a good solution. I hate Tesco in general, and the one on Baggott St is particularly awful: badly organised, selling 80% prepackaged processed food, and utterly wretched produce. It's feedlot groceries. If I've had a bad day it pushes me to the brink of misery.

Contrast with Roy Fox: bountiful, diverse, fresh fruit and vegetables. No crowding. Friendly and intelligent people running the shop, who recognise you and smile and chat. When I think of Roy Fox I think of plump aubergines, skins squeaking with firmness. Fresh pointy artichokes. Huge bags of fresh herbs. Quinces. The best and cheapest canned tomatoes and chickpeas. Every kind of weird flour and grain you could think of. The eminently affordable and delicious pieces of glace lemon peel, orange peel and angelica I used in my mince tarts and cantucci this year. The pesto that's so good and so inexpensive I've stopped making my own.

Roy Fox, thank you for being an awesome grocer and deli! It is a pleasure to spend my money within your worthy walls.

49 Main St (corner of Donnybrook Rd, opposite Eglinton Tce), Donnybrook. Phone 01 269 2892.


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29 December 2006: Oursin's gingerbread


An excellent dark, and spicy, and moist but not too heavy gingerbread. It's gorgeous warm but gets even better after a couple of days wrapped in wax paper and alfoil.

The recipe's slightly adapted from one on Oursin's livejournal, where she writes about the history of sexuality, reading, and cooking, amongst other good things - well worth checking out!


120 g plain flour (white or wholemeal)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 well-heaped teaspoon of powdered ginger
60 g treacle (or molasses)
60 g golden syrup (or honey)
60 g soft dark brown sugar
60 g butter
70 ml milk
1 egg
60 g small chunks of crystalised or stem ginger

Butter and line a loaf pan about 21 x 11 x 5 cm in size. Preheat the oven to 150 C.

Sift together the flour, bicarb soda, mixed spice and powdered ginger in a bowl. Gently melt together the treacle, golden syrup, sugar and butter over low heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the milk and egg. Add to the dry ingredients and stir together.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. (Start checking for doneness earlier rather than later - I slightly overcooked this one.) Cool in the tin.


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26 December 2006: Lentil, chestnut and pancetta soup


This soup was our main meal on chistmas day, and it was perfect for the weather and our mood of relaxation. There was a yellow french chicken in the fridge I'd originally intended to cook, but we'd been to Jeff and Autumn's for a superb turkey dinner the night before and come home with Flintstones-sized limbs of leftover turkey, so there was really no great incentive to cook our own bird. Instead, we got up late, had late breakfasts, cooked this intensely flavoured, wintery soup for a late lunch, and then just snacked on cantucci and good cheese with Dave and Miriam when they dropped around for a visit that evening on the way back up from seeing their families.

All good.


150 g Puy lentils
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
100 g pancetta, chopped finely
250 g peeled chestnuts, broken up into pieces
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage leaves
150 ml red wine
250 g tinned plum tomatoes
1 dried red chilli, or to taste

Bring a pot of water to the boil, and cook the lentils with the bayleaves for 25-30 minutes, until they are al dente. Drain them, reserving the cooking liquid.

Heat the olive oil over a gentle heat, and cook the pancetta with the herbs until lightly browned. Add the chestnuts, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the wine, and stir until it evaporates, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the crumbled chilli. Cook together for 20 minutes until much of the liquid is gone.

Add the lentils to the pancetta mixture, together with as much of the cooking liquid is needed to bring the soup to the desired consistency. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, then serve with sliced toasted ciabatta and an additional drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4. Recipe adapted from one in the "River Cafe Easy Christmas" supplement, published with the Observer Food magazine in 2003.


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25 December 2006: Merry christmas


Merry christmas, from Meg and Ted to all of you!



Thanks to our friends, family and readers (sticking with us despite the long silences between updates). You've been particularly lovely this year! We hope the new year is wonderful for all of you.

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24 December 2006: Cantucci


Cantucci for christmas, based on Johanna's recipe. I made two kinds, one with almonds and cinnamon and one with glace orange and lemon peel. I like these (especially the orange and lemon ones), but next time I'm going to try some with pine nuts, honey, and a tiny bit of rosemary.


250 g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
150 g sugar
50 g melted butter
2 eggs
either (a) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 110 g almonds (with skin on), or (b) 150 g glace peel, chopped into very small chunks

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Line one or two baking trays with non-stick paper.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon (if using) in a bowl, then add the melted butter and stir to combine. Add the eggs, and work them in (it will take a bit of stirring to get it to come together). Finally, add the almonds or peel, and mix through until they are evenly distributed in the mixture.

If you want quite wide cantucci (about 10-15 cm across), divide the mixture into two; for narrower biscuits divide into four. Form each portion into a snake about 20 cm long, one or two per baking tray. The logs will spread quite a bit during cooking, so leave at least 7 cm between them.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn it down to 150 C. Let the logs cool completely, then, using a very sharp and non-flexible knife, cut into slices about 1.5 cm wide. Place the slices back on the trays and bake for another 10-15 minutes, untiul they are becoming golden. (Remember that they will harden and dry a little more once they come out of the oven.) Remove and let cool on wire racks. Will last for days (and probably longer, if you don't eat them first).

Each recipe makes about 30-40 biscuits.


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3 December 2006: Great pizza crust


We've been looking for a good but easy pizza crust for a long time. This has become even more of an urgent issue in Dublin, where we still haven't found an excellent delivery pizza to match our beloved La Cucina in Brighton. The best we've found is Bistro Bianconi, which we were pretty excited about for a while. Their pizzas are certainly infinitely better than a Dominos (or this nightmare from Four Star), but they're not perfect. Base not quite crispy enough, too much topping, various issues with some of the toppings themselves... We really needed to get back to making our own.

For a long time we used this quick and dirty recipe, which again was fine but not great. Tonight Ted decided to try a new recipe, still sticking with the quick and easy style, and gave Dave's recipe (from weber_cam) a try. The fact that I'm writing it up should tell you that it was awesome. It's the perfect crust for making at home: fairly thin, but pillowy and chewy, no hint of heaviness. And dead easy.

It's written up in lots of detail, with photos and funny comments ("Especially set the timer for this if you're doing it over a glass of wine, if you know what I mean" - oh yeah, I know), at weber_cam, and you should definitely check it out there. What's below is total thievery (with the exception of the addition of olive oil to the dough), but I'm writing it down so I'll know where to look for it next time we make pizza. Thanks so much, Dave!



One more look at that crust before we get to the recipe. Today's toppings were mushrooms, blue cheese and fresh thyme, which was good but had too much mozzarella.


150 g warm water
7 g yeast (one sachet)
2 teaspoons sugar and/or honey
225 g flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature - at least 200 C. Place a pizza tile in the oven to heat up, if you have one.

Mix the water, sugar and yeast together, and let sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to froth. (You don't need to do this for most instant yeast now, but we still often do, just so you're sure that the yeast is still alive - nothing more annoying than mixing up half a kilo of flour with some yeast, and coming back 45 minutes later to a shotput, rather than the puffy risen dough that you were expecting.)

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt, then add the water and yeast mixture, and the olive oil. Mix together, then turn out onto a floured countertop and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is springy and silky.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a teatowel, cling film or an inverted bowl, and let rise until doubled in size. This will take about 30 minutes in a decently warm room, longer if the room is cold.

Punch down the dough, fold into a round, and then roll out to a circle about 35 cm in diameter. Place this circle of dough on a piece of parchment paper, and set aside to rise again, for about 20 minutes. While it's rising, prepare the toppings.

Top the pizza with sauce, cheese and whatever else you like (remember, less is more). Brush olive oil around the uncovered edge of the pizza, so it will brown. Slide the pizza, on its parchment paper, onto the pizza tile in the oven, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling, and the toppings and the edge of the pizza dough are going brown. Remove from the oven, slide off the parchment, and eat.

Makes one 35 cm pizza.


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Awesome Dublin 2: Llewellyn's apple juice


Above: this morning's rainy view, persimmons and pears, and best apple juice ever.

Loads of the things that I love about Dublin I discovered first at the Saturday farmers market in Meeting House Square, and this is yet another of them. David Llewellyn grows apples in north County Dublin, and sells both the apples themselves and the juice and ciders he makes from them at the market, year-round. In winter, you can also buy a cup of the juice, warmed and spiced, with an optional slug of whiskey, to keep yourself warm as you do your shopping.

I like his ciders, though they're mouth-strippingly dry, but it's the juice that I really love. I hated apple juice as a kid, and was never enthusiastic as an adult, but since I first drank this stuff I've been an evangelical convert. It's thick, more like a nectar than a juice, and sweet with a little tart sting at the end. A small glass is enough, but delightful.

That bit about a small glass being enough was initially a problem: I'd buy a bottle, force myself not to scoff it, then find the last quarter had gone off before I had a chance to drink it. But no longer, once I found out that you could buy it in a 5 litre box (like cask wine, for those Australians reading). It costs about 15 euro the box, if I remember correctly, with a discount for reusing your old cardboard casing. My box sits on the top shelf of the fridge, tap ready to dispense more delicious juice, but refrigeration is apparently not necessary. I've had this box going for about a month and the juice still tastes as fresh and lively as the first glass from a new bottle. (This is due to the oxygen-excluding properties of the box, not to preservatives, as there are none added. There's no added sugar or water, either.)

Apparently, David LLewellyn also grows grapes and makes wine from them in Dublin - I'll keep an eye out for it at the market.


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2 December 2006: Catch-up

Sorry for the lack of updates - life's been pretty busy. Can't promise that that'll change much for the next while, but here's a quick look at some of the seasonal stuff I've been cooking.



1. A chicken stew with lentils, mustard, and oregano, adapted from a recipe on Anne's Food. This tasted superb, with one caveat. Anne suggests using chicken thighs, but because I wanted to use free-range chicken I ended up making it with a whole chicken instead - bad plan. Another reminder for me that chicken breast, no matter what you do with it, is about the most boring piece of meat known to humanity. What I want to know is, where do all the free-range chicken thighs go? I can buy whole free-range chickens, or free-range chicken breasts (ugh), but I've never seen any other kind of free-range chicken bits sold anywhere. Surely they're not sold off for pot pies? Maybe the free-range farmers keep them for themselves? Anyway, this stew's highly recommended, especially if you use some interesting chicken parts.



2. Sloe gin! With sloes picked from just south of the Blessington Lakes in Wicklow. Thanks to Andrew for putting me on to a good sloe-picking location.



3. Pears pickled with cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Good with a dry, sharp cheese. From a recipe in an old Donna Hay magazine.




4. Salt cod, two ways! After walking around Howth Head one weekend in October, we stopped off in Howth itself for a good late lunch, and then a trip to the fishmongers. At Beshoff's, we picked up, amongst other things, a huge fillet of salt cod, which provided us with two meals, three weeks apart. After the second half of the fish had been sitting in the fridge for a week, I thought "oh no! better throw that out!" before remembering just why the salting had been done in the first place. Oh yes, that's right, preservation.

I feel about salt cod a bit the same way I do about fois gras: damn it for being unethical while so so tasty. I couldn't give a fig for fresh cod - I prefer oily, fishy-tasting fish - but once salted, it becomes really divine. Cod is, nonetheless, dangerously overfished, so I am going to put salted cod on the once-a-year treat list.

Our first salt cod dish, above: a airy-light brandade of salt cod, garlic, and cream, baked in a pastry shell first smeared with tomato confit. Another superb recipe from Orangette.



Salt cod the second, a rougher dish altogether: a room-temperature salad of salt cod, boiled new potatoes, roasted peppers and garlic, dressed with olive oil, sherry vinegar, flat leaf parsley, sea salt and black pepper.


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