Friday, December 7, 2012

borek, manti and some stuffed vine leaves

Istanbul is brilliant, by the way.
I can't get enough of the energy and sheer enthusiasm the city radiates so effortlessly. It is where I eat like a King and sleep like an insomniac while generally just be with truly great people. 
Now, I am a bit of a dumpling fan, and the Turkish manti being a delightful version which are also served up in Armenia do resemble my more familiar friends from my part of the world. They are quite closely related to the east Asian mantou, baozi, and mandu and the Nepali momo, and are just as delicious.
As far as I can see, in Istanbul manti are typically served topped with a pungent garlic yoghurt which is again splashed with some dried chilli flakes that have been woken up in hot oil. There will always be a few pots on the side with some sumac, extra chilli and maybe some dried minto too for you to play around with.
Traditional Manti
Serves 4
2 cups flour
Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and water, mixing well with your hands. Add more water, if needed, to form a soft dough. Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Shred the onions and place them in a colander or sieve set over a bowl; drain the juice and discard. Combine the onion, ground beef, salt, and pepper; mix the meat well with a spoon until mashed.
Divide the dough into two portions and lightly flour a work surface. Keep one piece of dough covered while you roll out the second portion into a rectangle, rolling the dough as thin as you can. Cut the rectangle into 2-inch squares with a knife or pastry wheel.
Place about a teaspoon of the meat filling in the center of each square. Seal the dumplings by gathering the edges of the dough and pinching them together at the top to form a bundle. Transfer the finished manti to a floured plate, and sprinkle more flour over the manti to prevent sticking. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a small pan over low heat just until the pepper flakes have started to colour the oil; don't let them burn. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Stir the minced garlic into the yogurt and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook the manti until the filling hot, and the dough is tender, no more than a few minutes. Drain well. Divide the manti among four plates. Spoon the yogurt sauce over the manti and drizzle each serving with the hot pepper oil.
afiyet olsun

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

a little sandwich

Toasted plain bread, square sausage, a fried egg and tattie scone.

A thoroughly decent sandwich, an unmistakeably good start to the day, something I call a little bit of home.

Of course there isn't really a recipe for this, there surely doesn't need to be, it is pure assembly and totally interchangeable. That said, I'm not swapping out or replacing with anything for anybody this time round.

With great sadness, I'll be leaving Scotland in a couple of days, only for a while though, and not without some ingredients I'm going to struggle getting my hands on outside the country.

Home never escapes you, there will always be something taking you back. Even as the years pass, there will always been something, even if it is just for something so utterly simple as an outstanding sandwich.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

a little plate of haggis

Coming home
There's always a really good reason for doing it, sometimes it is with an unnecessary sadness attached, I wish it wasn't the case more often than not.
Haggis never really was something we grew up with, it wasn't an often sight or taste at mealtimes, and it honestly doesn't actually come across all that Scottish with me. It is utterly delicious though, and being fairly absent from my younger days, is now a bit of a treat now.
Try making a haggis just the once, and once only. All other times buy well and concentrate on making brilliant mashed potatoes and buttery, black pepper spiked neeps.
1 sheep's stomach, thoroughly cleaned
The liver, heart, and lights (lungs) of the sheep
1 lb beef suet
2 large onions
2 tblsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
2 lb dry oatmeal (the old-fashioned, slow-cooking kind)
2-3 cups broth (in which the liver, heart and lights were cooked)
You'll need a large spaghetti pot, 16 to 20 litre size with a lid to fit it; meat grinder; cheesecloth.
If the butcher has not already cut apart and trimmed the heart, liver and lungs, do that first.  It involves cutting the lungs off the windpipe, cutting the heart off the large blood vessels and cutting it open to rinse it, so that it can cook more quickly. The liver, too, has to be freed from the rest. Put them in a 4-quart pot with 2 to 3 cups water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about an hour and a half. Let it all cool, and keep the broth.
Run the liver and heart through the meat grinder. Take the lungs and cut out as much of the gristly part as you easily can, then run them through the grinder, too. Next, put the raw beef suet through the grinder. As you finish grinding each thing, put it in the big kettle. Peel, slice and chop the onions, then add them to the meat in the kettle. Add the salt and spices and mix.
The oatmeal comes next, and while it is customary to toast it or brown it very lightly in the oven or in a heavy bottomed pan on top of the stove, this is not absolutely necessary. When the oatmeal has been thoroughly mixed with the rest of it, add the 2 cups of the broth left from boiling the meat.
See if when you take a handful, it sticks together. If it does, do not add the third cup of broth. If it is still crumbly and will not hold together very well, add the rest of the broth and mix thoroughly. Have the stomach smooth side out and stuff it with the mixture, about three-quarters full. Sew up the openings. Wrap it in cheesecloth, so that when it is cooked you can handle it.
Now, wash out the kettle and bring about 2 gallons of water to a boil in it. Put in the haggis and prick it all over with a skewer so that it does not burst. You will want to do this a couple of times early in the cooking span. Boil the haggis gently for about 4 or 5 hours. If you did not have any cheesecloth for wrapping the haggis, you can use a large clean dishtowel. Work it under with kitchen spoons to make a sling with which you can lift out the haggis in one piece. You will probably want to wear lined rubber gloves to protect your hands from the hot water while you lift it out with the wet cloth. (You put the dish cloth in the pot only after the haggis is done; you do not cook the towel with the haggis as you would the cheesecloth.)
Note: Even if the butcher has cleaned the stomach, you will probably want to go over it again. Turn the stomach shaggy side out and rinse. Rub it in a sink full of cold water. Change the water and repeat as many times as necessary, until the water stays pretty clear and handling it does not produce much sediment as the water drains out of the sink.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

four birthday cakes and great sushi in Istanbul; everything's possible

If you don't expect it, you won't be blown away buy it. If you're not going looking for it, you really can't predict how you'll react to it. Really really good ethnic foods can and do sometimes travel outside of their comfort zone, and if we then declare the food in question here is Japanese, then this makes a wee discovery like this all the more remarkable.
The very best sushi I've ever had was in a place called Midori at the back end of an obscure shopping mall in Shibuya, where absolutely everything eaten was total heaven. Their sea urchin I can still remember today. The massive queue for a table was testament alone, and the fact it was in a location easily forgotten meant the treck there my the masses of fans made perfect sense after only those first couple of morsels. I do get a kick out of being the only non local in places like that, and to stand out from the crowd simply because its a local sensation makes it all the better.
Fast forward a few years and I'm in Istanbul, a city of no limits, no fears and no decent drivers on the roads! The well worn one foot in Europe, one in Asia tag couldn't be more clear as the city is a heady mix of absolutely everything international that you could imagine. And the passion...oh boy, now there goes a city leaking the stuff all over the place. They love their families, their fanatism for their football is like few other places on earth (and that is Glasgow included) tea is drunk like it's about to be wiped from the face of the earth (the very best is likened to the colour of rabbit's blood, but that's another story), and they drive their cars like they are all in indestructable bulletproof missiles. Oh yes, and they love their food. The very social aspect of it in particular. It is all very animated, social, loud and utterly energetic.

I'm actually writing this in Bangkok on my way back to Hong Kong, but my departure meal last night before I headed to the airport was a proper full on double header of tripe. A soup which was slightly milky and loaded with strips of tripe and some other bits of indsides, albeit a bit bland until it was then loaded with a ton of minced garlic and a sharp chilli sauce clearly meant to bring tears to the eyes. Follow that up with a brilliantly unexpected  tripe sandwich. You know the ones where you're not even half way through it when you want to order another two just incase they sell out. Think strips of stomach lining rolled up into logs about the size of a good fillet of beef and spit roasted over open coals until its charred and sticky. Sliced, chopped and re-fried on a griddle with chilli, peppers, onions and loads of local herbs. Stuff all that fatty crunchy spicy wonderment into a bread roll both crispy on the outside and chewy within and we're sorted for some time to come. Unbelievably good, and I'd go back to Turkey for this alone.
Anyway, the Japanese food. If you ever happen to be in Istanbul and in search of really really good sushi, I'd seriously reccommend tracking down Itsumi at İşkuleleri Kule 2 Giriş Katı No:43 4.Levent. In my humble opinion, this was the best all round Japanese food that I've eaten since Tokyo.
With Itsumi they seem to really know what they are doing, they keep the product true and un-fussed while concentrating on ensuring true flavours, textures and temperatures are at the forefront of everything they do.
The Miso soup was delightful. Nothing more than was needed, although personally I like a little red miso paste and maybe a bit more tofu in mine. The Unagi and Horse Mackerel were superb, texture wise was as good as it gets, and the subtlety of seasoning very good indeed. The sauce with the Unagi was just right for me.
Tepmerature of all pieces on the sashimi plate were perfect. The Otoro (I think it was Otoro due to the incredible fat content and as such being served so much colder, and it was incredible) the Scallop and the Uni in particular were very good, and the temperature of their rice was perfect, seasoning very very good and the quantity of wasabi on their Nigiri was superb. The Toro alone was one of the best single things I’d eaten all week until I discovered the tripe roll!
The birthday cake too was absolutely perfect, and as it was one of four I was incredibly lucky to have, I could afford to be choosy... If Istanbul is a bit of a hike for something Japanese, a comfortable miso soup might still hit the spot wherever you are.
Miso soup for a quiet moment of reflection
Enough for 4

4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons dashi granules
1/2 cup red miso paste
1 tablespoon dried seaweed (for miso soup), soaked in water
1/2 cup cubed tofu
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
Pour the water into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the instant dashi and whisk to dissolve. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the tofu. Drain the seaweed and add the seaweed to the pot. Simmer for 2 minutes.
In the meatime, Spoon the miso paste into a bowl. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot dashi broth into a bowl and whisk with chopsticks or a whisk to mix and melt the miso paste so that it becomes a smooth mixture.
Turn the heat off, add the miso paste to the pot and stir well. Top with green onions and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

hiking in the shadows of awesomeness

If you know Hong Kong, you'll highly likely to know of the MacLehose Trail in the New Terretories. If you know the MacLehose, you're for sure going to know that stages 4 and 5 on a hot day can break you like a cheap toothpick if you're not ready and prepared.

Starting at Kei Ling Ha to Tai Lo Shan and ending up on Tai Po Road after give or take 23k of some tough climbs and unforgiving descents, days out like these are what makes living in the metropolis that HK is something to utterly respect and appreciate. 

In the same way, whether you know of a fairly straightforward looking Cha Chaan Teng at the top of Nathan Road that's pretty famous for their egg tarts, but also do killer fried noodles and Ho Fun after a six and a half hour trek through the toughest hills is there for you to discover if not. Well done you if you know where I'm talking about, quite brilliant isn't it?

No pain, no gain is what they say, but I guess I'm one of the lucky ones where the hike is what it's all about on the weekend. A fast and hostile plate of noodles with an iced lemon tea served with all the grace and style you need not to distract from what is actually a really very good offering. The challenge, the escape, the wonderment of how you can be at the foot of an incredible little mountain already stretched up and ready to attack just 45 minutes after getting on the train at the bottom of another impressive climb, The Bank of China building in Central.

The opposite end of the day, we jumped in a taxi at the end of Stage 5 on the Tai Po Road with a couple of grazing monkeys giving us the look of 'you're doing all this climbing stuff wrong getting all sweaty and the like' and literally 10 minutes later back in the hustle of Kowloon and settling into that noodle reward.

Simply because a great bowl of noodles can be had here for a small fistful of dollars, what's the point of cooking at home I hear myself ask. Let's just say that there's always a time and a place.

Fried Nathan Road noodles

Serves 2

About 100g dried egg noodles
100g bean shoots
Half a handful of chopped chives
A splash of oil, pinch of salt
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

For the sauce
1 tsp each light soy, dark soy, oyster sauces
Pinch of salt, same of sugar and 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Cook and loosen the dried noodles in a pot of boiling water until just cooked and when done, immediately drain noodles in a colander and run them under cold water. Drain and dry off any excess water
Wash the bean sprouts and mix together the ingredients for the sauce, set aside.
Heat half tablespoon of oil in wok over a medium heat, toss in the bean sprouts. Quickly turn and stir, and add the noodles and the chives. Season with the salt  and then remove to a small bowl.
Add one more tablespoon of oil to the wok and turn the heat up high, toss in noodles. Stir them constantly to minimize their lumping together or sticking. Swirl in sauce, and stir well with noodles. Then, return bean sprouts and chives, turn over a few more times and remove. Serve up, sprinkle sesame seeds on top and any other chilli sauce you might want to add for an extra oomph.

Friday, September 28, 2012

eating salad with chopsticks

Isn't as difficult as all that. It is though the last few flakes of fish in the bottom of the bowl that will continue to sharpen my dexterity and keep arthritis in my chopstick fingers at bay.
In a salad where cold noodles appear, in my opinion, the noodles themselves need to be served really cold, and not at room temperature. Fatty fish on the other hand, is better served tepid than chilled from the fridge. This splendid pairing meet here in this salad, a good contrast to one another. I've used chives as the main seasoning here, but I sometimes add coriander leaves too, a good handful of them, roughly chopped and thrown in at the end. Great picnic fodder this, by the way, especially packed into takeaway containers.

Cold salmon noodle salad

Serves 2

125g rice noodles
2 pieces of salmon fillet approximately 200g each
Groundnut oil
3 tblsp soy and oyster sauce mixed
1 tsp caster sugar
3 limes
1 or 2 bird's eye chilli
A handful of chives, chopped
A handful coriander leaves
2 tblsp toasted sesame seeds

Bring a deep pan of water to the boil. Slide in the noodles, turn off the heat and leave for four minutes. Drain and tip into a bowl. Mix the nam pla and sugar with the juice of two of the limes in a small bowl.

Chop the chilli finely, removing the seeds if you wish (leaving them in will make it hotter) and add it to the dressing with most of the finely chopped chives (and coriander) leaves. Save a few for serving. Toss the dressing with the noodles and leave to cool. Refrigerate for at least an hour so that the noodles are well chilled.

Place the salmon in a grill pan. Rub with a little oil, season with salt and black pepper and squeeze over the remaining lime. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes or so, till the flesh is opaque and the flakes of fish can be pulled easily apart. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Divide the noodles between two plates, then break the fish into broad chunks and scatter with the toasted sesame seeds and remaining herbs.

Eat with chopsticks, naturally...


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

noodles rock

Is it this easy to be be back so quickly and so comfortably? Seriously don't bother with this recipe if you can get a piping hot bowl of noodles in soup locally, if you can't then all I can do is apologise. Food like this is what makes us
King prawn and scallop wonton soup
Serves 4
8 dried whole shiitake mushrooms
750ml just boiled water
2 tblsp ground nut oil
4 raw, large unpeeled king prawns
Small knob galangal or fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and cut into 5cm slices
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 banana shallots, peeled and sliced
1 red bird’s eye chilli, deseeded and sliced
2 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
Small handful fresh coriander roots, roughly chopped
500ml good vegetable or fresh chicken stock
50g glass noodles (mung bean vermicelli)
1-2 tsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce), to taste
2 small pak choi, trimmed, washed and leaves separated
Salt and ground white pepper
Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
Wedges of fresh lime, to serve
For the wontons
2 fresh king scallops, shelled, washed, coral discarded and flesh finely diced
4 canned water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and finely diced
1 spring onion, trimmed and finely chopped
¼ tsp of tamari soy sauce
¼ tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp finely chopped fresh coriander
8 wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen
Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
A little lightly beaten egg white, to seal the wontons
Place the mushrooms in a large bowl and pour over the just-boiled water. Set aside for 30 minutes. Peel the prawns, leaving the tip of the tail intact, and remove the dark vein. Cut into large pieces or leave whole. Put the prawns in a bowl, cover and chill until required. Place the heads and shells in a large saucepan.
Pour the oil over and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, stirring constantly. Do not allow to burn. Next, add the galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves, shallots and chilli. Cook with the prawn shells for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat before adding the garlic and coriander roots. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Drain the soaked mushrooms in a sieve and add the liquid to the pan with the peeled prawns. Stir in the vegetable or chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 15 minutes to release all the flavours. Put the noodles in a bowl and cover with just-boiled water. Leave for 5 minutes, then drain and refresh in cold water. Drain once more. Slice the soaked shiitake mushrooms thickly, discarding any tough stalks.
To prepare the wontons, combine the scallops, chestnuts, spring onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, coriander and seasoning. Place a little of the mixture in the centre of one of the wonton wrappers and brush the edges with egg white. Bring the edges up together and pinch to seal. Put on a plate, cover with a clean, damp cloth and set aside. Continue making the wontons until all the mixture is used.
When the soup base is ready, strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly. Add nam pla and seasoning to taste. Stir in the shiitake mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender. Next, add the pak choi, reserved noodles and prawns.
Carefully drop the wontons into the soup using a slotted spoon. Simmer together for about 3 minutes until the prawns are pink and cooked through and the wontons are tender and float to the surface. Ladle into four warmed bowls. Garnish with plenty of fresh coriander leaves and serve with wedges of lime for squeezing

Thursday, September 13, 2012

barbecued corn, and more of that beef

Incredible. Remarkable. Outstanding.

This wonderful North Devon beef just keeps getting better, and for a weekday treat, a fillet steak given some simple seasoning and a hard pan fry is all that's needed. If anyone wants some of this incredible meat, give Siana Yewdall a call on +447817 395924 to place an order for one of her brilliant beef boxes.

With a steak of this quality, a slightly fancier something on the side is always worth the effort when the main part needs no help to be splendid. So enter some spunky barbecued corn.

Barbecued sweetcorn with lime, chilli and parmesan butter

Serves 4

This recipe is a regular barbecue number at home, incredibly simple to prepare, and fun to eat.

4 whole corn cobs, in their husks
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g parmesan cheese, freshly grated
finely grated zest of 2 large limes
1-2 bird's-eye chillies, seeded and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lime, quartered

Place the corn cobs on a preheated hot grill and cook until golden brown, about 15 minutes, turning often.

Peel off the husks when cool enough to handle. While the corn is cooking, combine the butter, parmesan, zest and chilli, and beat until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper and smear each cob with the butter and serve with a wedge of lime, a crispy jacket potato and an outstanding piece of beef fillet.

A proper treat indeed.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

some of the best beef I've ever had

North Devon has always been a place in between with me. Somewhere you pass on through on the way to what I used to think was all the South West had to offer in the way of Cornwall, but I'm dead happy to be labelled a convert in more areas that I'd planned for. Truly brilliant people, quite beautiful places and their beef when it is correctly reared and handled is something utterly incredible.

You know when you've stumbled upon something a little bit special, it clicks effortlessly, feels instantly right and just seems to linger for ever. With proper beef, there constantly seems to be a search and demand for the next best thing; creamy fat, rich colouring, consistent marbling, depth of flavour - and on we could go... So when you find it, you need to do something decent with it.

Now, a steak is a wonderous thing, and I may have waxed on and on many times before of my love for just an unfussed and barely cooked slab of meat. I do more often than not need coaxing away from a primal cut, but the honesty of a harder working piece of the beast cooked slowly and lovingly never disappoints, it really is always worth the effort, and I sometimes kick myself for not doing it more often. Anyway, like all things quite brilliant, this beef has a source, and you can find it all from the amazing Yewdall family at West Webbery farm near Bideford. You can get a hold of Jonnie and Siana with their contact details here and ask them about their beef boxes.

An honest to goodness beef stew

Makes enough for 6-8, with enough  left over for a splendid lunch tomorrow

1.2kg shin of beef
A decent bottle of red wine
50g flour and 50g mustard powder, seasoned with salt and pepper
Beef dripping, or oil
4 onions, sliced
500ml beef stock
50ml each of Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce and tomato puree
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
8 big flat mushrooms
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky slices
4 small turnips, peeled and cut into chunks

Trim the beef of its main sinews and cut into large chunks. steep in the red wine for a few hours, then drain and reserve the wine. Toss the meat with the seasoned flour and mustard powder to coat. Heat a heavy-bottomed casserole on a medium flame and add a knob of dripping or a couple of tablespoons of oil. Brown the meat in batches, adding more fat if necessary – be careful not to overcrowd the pan, or it will boil – then transfer to an overproof pot with a tight fitting lid.
Once all the meat is browned, cook the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add them to the beef and then pour in the wine to deglaze. Add the wine, the stock, the herbs and the sauces. Bring to a simmer, then cover and pop into an oven at 140c for at least three hours.
Add the carrots and turnips, and simmer for about another hour, until the meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Leave to cool, overnight if possible, and then bring back to a simmer, adjusting the seasoning and finishing with freshly chopped parsley, mashed potatoes and some beans from the garden - a triumph with a story.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

a couple of ways with beef

When in the mood for Meat

Only Meat will do

So, a slab of sirloin, deep, dense, ruby red and well aged, and just a little bit too much to cook off as a steak alone did indeed lend itself to a couple of courses last night, and a generous trimming resulting in thin shavings of the meat was the way to get things started. There's something utterly luxurious about raw food - oysters, sushi and caviar being exemplary versions, and a carpaccio of sorts with terrific quality beef falls easily into this category.

Carpaccio in the traditional manner is a fine thing, although more often than not the true flavour of the meat lost a little in sauces that seem to have gone too far down the mayonnaise route. Much more preferable for me is very very good quality salt, pepper and olive oil - nothing more needed to pronounce the true taste of the beef. Adding a fist of rocket leaves, thinly sliced radishes, some raw asparagus and some Parmesan shavings and true completion has been achieved, but as ever there are no fixed set rules here.

Steak in particular is the one and only food item I think about when I'm in need for a proper treat. The first meal I'd go for if I hadn't really eaten for a few days. It needs precious little more than salt and pepper, particularly in this instance - natural in every sense. This little nugget might cause a bit of debate, but honestly a great steak doesn't always need a starch sitting along side, in fact I'd go so far as to say it pretty much doesn't deserve the unnecessary distraction.

If you can fill your house with the luxurious smell of beef charring on a hot grill then going out for an expensive steak dinner very quickly loses its' charm. One joint, two courses, thank you very much.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

tapas still has a long life to lead

London, the weather and the games have finally arrived. At this very moment there's honestly no city quite like it, and it is a privilege to be a part of it - so now onto championing the food of Spain...

The fad of tapas has come, gone, returned, faded and reignited more times of late than any other food stuff, but right here right now, there simply isn't anything else on offer (maybe a good barbecue aside) that ticks quite so many boxes.

London has finally stumbled upon the summer we've waited so long for, and simply anywhere with outside space to dine this week has never been so popular. Grazing the way through a delightful menu while watching the world pass you by is the way to go. If you have your own outdoor space, then there's little excuse not to have a go yourself, there really is nothing better than sharing some plates at home. Let the sun shine long!

Potato and octopus

Makes 8 plates

1 whole octopus, about 1.5kg
1 sliced onion
bay leaves 
1kg new potatoes, scrubbed
1 tsp salt flakes
2 tsp smoked pimenton
2 cloves garlic, chopped
100ml olive oil

Freezing octopus tenderizes it. No need to beat it. Blanch the thawed octopus in boiling water for one minute. Drain. Bring another pan of water to a boil with the slice of onion and the bay leaves. Add the octopus and let it cook at a simmer for about one hour. It should be tender, just a little chewy. Remove and let it cool slightly. 

When cool enough to handle, slide off the pinkish skin and discard. Cut the potatoes in half and add them to the same water in which the octopus cooked and cook them until tender. Cut the octopus into bite size pieces and if possible sear very quickly in a hot pan, a crispy edge to the pieces will make a difference. Arrange them on plates with the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pimenton, garlic, and drizzle with the oil.

Or a quick gazpacho

Makes another 8 neat portions

1kg really ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves
½ cucumber, peeled
75ml olive oil
30ml sherry vinegar

Put the chopped tomatoes, spring onions, garlic and cucumber in a blender and whizz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve 2 or 3 times to remove most of the pulp.

Put the mix back in the blender and slowly add the olive oil and sherry vinegar and season well. Chill in the fridge before serving. Top with anything you fancy - a crumble of toasted bread, a few slices of spring onion and cucumber, a splosh of olive oil.

Monday, June 25, 2012

sausages and mushrooms

or the full on fry up

Serves 4 very happy people

Everybody seriously must love a properly cooked breakfast. No one in the world cooks breakfast like we do - mushrooms, tomatoes, proper local sausages, fat bacon, black pudding, fried bread and potato, with lots of tea and toast. 

I've recently fallen back in love with something cooked in the morning, and as unhealthy as the whole notion of fried food first thing, it's no different to enjoying a pint or two on the weekend - everything in moderation. Timing is critical here as we greedily have a lot of components to bring together, so put the oven on a low setting to keep the plates and cooked items hot until ready to dish up.
3 tblsp vegetable oil, plus 2 tblsp to fry eggs
4 handmade pork or beef sausages
8 rashers of smoked back bacon
4 slices of black or white pudding
75g cooked potato (ideally leftover new potatoes)
2 slices of white bread, plus bread for toast
4 large vine tomatoes
4 large flat or field mushrooms
4 free range eggs
Butter for bread
Home made preserves or marmite
Preheat the oven to 125°C/gas mark 1. Place your plates in the oven.

Place a large, heavy frying pan on the stove and heat with 3 tblsp of the oil, until warm. Add the sausages, black pudding and bacon, and cook slowly for 6-8 minutes to release the fat but not brown the meat. Turn up the heat and continue to cook until the bacon begins to crisp and the sausages are brown. Transfer to the warmed plates.

There should be a surplus of fat in the pan, now heat the pan until the fat is letting off a sheen or haze, and add the bread and potato. Cook the bread quickly on one side until golden brown, and then remove and place on a piece of kitchen paper before transferring to the oven. Turn the potato over and cook for 2-3 minutes, then transfer that to the oven as well.

Lower the heat and add the tomatoes, cut-side down, and the mushrooms, stalk up. Season with pepper, then cover. Cook for 5 minutes and keep warm in the pan until required. 

Take a small omelette or frying pan and heat 2 tblsp of oil until hot but not smoking. Break the eggs into a breakfast cup and carefully tip into the pan. The egg, if fresh, should “sit up” and not spread all over the pan. Cook until the white of the egg is completely set and firm, and transfer immediately to a warmed plate. Add all the other components and serve immediately.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

cold noodle and tomato salad for the weekend

This here little bowl of lip smacking fun; an utter summer jumble of crunchy textures and fresh, bright flavours rather than a hot pot of msg enhanced amusement might be a box tick should the weather be right, and the time does much the same this weekend. That is unless someone else is bringing this together for you, and you're in exotic climes already. Cold noodles sadly don't get nearly the attention they deserve, more often than not due to weak seasoning. What's not to disagree with big punchy hits of acid, salt and sugar?

My eyes are shut, I'm in Chiang Mai, that's my fourth Tiger right there, I can hear the tac tac of pestle to mortar bringing my salad together, I'm in dreamland.

Serves 4

60g rice noodles
a large handful sprouted seeds
1 medium hot red chilli
1 red or orange pepper
 ½ cucumber
100g peas , shelled weight
125g cherry tomatoes
100g salted, roasted cashews
a small bunch coriander
4 sprigs mint

For the dressing:
3 tblsp lime juice
3 tblsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 tsp caster sugar 

Put the noodles into a heatproof bowl then pour boiling water from the kettle over them and leave for 2 minutes (or whatever it says on the packet). Drain the noodles and let them cool in a colander under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.

Rinse the sprouted seeds under cold running water, drain them, then tip into a mixing bowl. Finely chop the chilli and thinly slice the pepper then add them to the sprouted seeds. Peel, core and cut the cucumber into small dice, then add to the seeds with the raw peas. 

Halve the cherry tomatoes and add them to the bowl with the salted cashews and roughly chopped coriander and mint leaves, gently tossing the ingredients together with the drained noodles.

Make the dressing: mix together the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Drain the noodles and add them to the other ingredients, then toss them with the dressing. Chill for a good half-hour before serving with the coldest beer your teeth can cope with.