Sunday, 29 June 2014

Huevos fantasticos

I love eggs. In all forms, at all times. I'm happiest when things are a bit eggy. But in particular I love what Spaniards and Mexicans do with eggs.

I've got a new recipe book - Real Mexican Food - which is full of delicious, easy stuff. I was particularly attracted to huevos con chorizo - simple to make, uses ingredients I've got in the fridge and perfect for brunch. So, here goes:

Chop some chorizo into fairly thin slices, then again into semicircles. Fry it in a dry pan (no need for oil, I promise) for a couple of minutes. Once that lovely red oil starts oozing out, add a sliced shallot (or a quarter of a red onion, sliced finely).

Mix it around for a few minutes, then throw in four beaten eggs and scramble them constantly with a fork. I like scrambled eggs to be on the wet side, so about 3 minutes is long enough for me, but cook them for longer if you feel the need.

And that's it. Serve it on its own or with a warmed flour or corn tortilla and a dash of smoked chipotle sauce (the Wahaca one is nice). Or you can serve it with tomato salsa, refried beans, a bit of grated cheese over the top, guacamole, etc.

And remember: if it's got eggs in it, you can eat it before midday and call it brunch!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Pie week!

So, this week was National Pie Week. It came at a bit of a bad time - weather just turned milder (not conducive to pies), I've had a fancy for sushi all week *and* it was Pancake Day on Tuesday!

Nevertheless, here's a few pie ideas to celebrate:

Friday, 13 September 2013

Slim-ish recipe inspiration

There's something so wonderful about getting a new cookbook. I love the first lazy look, the second thorough pore and the third detailed scour with pen and shopping list at the ready.

My latest is Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts by the lovely Gizzi Erskine. The concept is based around slightly lighter, fresher, lower calorie food during the week with blowout menus for the weekend (a sort of epicurean version of 5:2). I stumbled across it first in delicious magazine, in which a few of the recipes were previewed. One in particular, satay chicken Thai curry, was so easy and delicious I made it twice within a week!

Pork and chorizo meatballs
Gizzi's pork and chorizo meatballs
My next obsession was pork and chorizo meatballs with spelt spaghetti. Admittedly chorizo is quite hard to squish into a meatball and yes, I had a slightly bigger than stated portion but it was surprisingly delicious and didn't feel at all stodgy.

The best bit of this was actually the tomato sauce - easy, cheap and flavoursome. Soften some chopped onions; add crushed fennel seeds, garlic and chilli; throw in chopped tomatoes, sugar and red wine vinegar; leave it all to become lovely and mushy for 15 minutes or so.

So, what to do if you have all the ingredients except for the pork mince - key bulk of a meatball? Simple - make the sauce anyway, add in a few slices of chorizo towards the end and enjoy an even skinnier version. I discovered it by accident this evening when I was just about to cop out and stir tinned pesto lazily into some flabby fusilli. What a save, eh?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Blue House and The Cherry Tree

We moved into a new house a couple of months ago. You've guessed it: a blue house! When we collected the keys and started to explore I was thrilled to find a healthy-looking cherry tree at the end of the garden. I love fruit-bearing plants - or, basically, anything that provides a constant seasonal supply of free food.

I've been on a nervous, teetering knife-edge ever since we moved in - waiting for the perfect moment for the cherries to be at their ripest, without leaving it so long they get spoilt and wasted. Last weekend I decided to take the first plunge and pick the ripest-looking fruit.

And, blow me down with a feather if delicious magazine didn't email me with a batch of cherry recipes right in time, last Friday afternoon! After about ten seconds' hesitation I got straight onto the Ocados to order the ingredients for this delicious-sounding cherry bakewell tart with amaretto. Oh boy, was it the right choice! It's easy to make, gratifyingly attractive and completely delicious.

I may not be able to provide the cherries for all of you ...

PS: thanks KT Tunstall for the title inspiration!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Dublin's fine fare city

What a wonderful thing Twitter is. All those failed attempts to build online communities, yet Twitter succeeds where they fail, and it does so without even trying. It truly bring people together.

A few days before I set sail (metaphorically) for Dublin, I tweeted a cheeky plea for restaurant advice: 'Hey everyone (particularly @MarinaOLoughlin and @jayrayner1 ) - where's good to eat in Dublin?' Within a few minutes I had a reply from the lovely Marina: 'afraid I'm not up to speed with Dublin. Maybe try @tomdoorley or @TrishDeseine?'

And within hours, I had around 10 restaurant suggestions and had started a bit of a debate among those in the know about food in Dublin. Thanks to the Twitter community, particularly the very helpful and charming Tom Doorley, I was suddenly spoilt for choice.

Unfortunately my visit fell on a bank holiday weekend and many of the big name places were closed. But I found time to swing by Chapter One, Restaurant 41 and The Greenhouse just to salivate over the menu and see what I was missing. Next time, perhaps. Fortunately our wandering took us past Dunne and Crescenzi, an Italian enoteca and restaurant. We enjoyed well-presented, fresh food and an amazing selection of wine (by the glass, too). The Pig's Ear was also well worth a stop.

Lobster hot dog at Fade Street Social
On Sunday I needed somewhere to take a group of six, some of whom aren't really fans of eating out or spending money! Step up 777, a funky and fresh Mexican restaurant famous for its special offer on Sundays (and on the seventh day, 7 dinner dishes cost only 7.77 euros). I loved the food here - I ate breakfast tacos with chorizo, egg and a smoky sauce. Guacamole was chunky, flavoursome and topped with pumpkin seeds.  Cocktails were imaginative and delicious. Service was attentive and fast. Try it!

We definitely saved the best til last. Monday lunch was another family group - mixed tastes, budgets and expectations. Plus it was my husband's birthday, so I wanted something a bit special and different. The gastro bar at Fade Street Social sounded just the ticket, and completely lived up to my expectations. I very rarely take photos of food in public, but just look at how cute this lobster hot dog is! Presentation is second to none in this cool, buzzy restaurant. And it's no slouch in the taste department - I didn't leave a scrap of my leek salad with hazelnut and parmesan, huge though it was. We even enjoyed puddings - it's rare for the 'afterthought' course to live up to the 'real food' for me, certainly.

I didn't know what to expect from Dublin's restaurants, but having some great recommendations improved my experience for sure. I'll be asking Twitter for advice next time I'm off somewhere new.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A pizza the action

So, it turns out it's really easy to make delicious pizzas, right? Ever since receiving my Polpo cookbook I've been making pizzas fairly regularly. Well, one specific pizza. Well, pizzette. But the principle remains: it's really easy.

Measure out the right amount of flour, yeast, oil and water and mix it together. A little kneading and waiting later and you can roll out your pizza base, to whatever size you like. Toppings are fairly easy - you can't go too far wrong with some grated mozzarella. The only limitations to top quality are going to be your oven and a suitable baking tray.

Enter the pizza stone! A good quality pizza stone will make the most of your oven's heat, spread it evenly and make sure you achieve a perfectly cooked base. You can buy one pretty cheaply - mine is from Steamer Trading. It's probably my favourite piece of kitchen equipment at the moment - well worth the small investment.

It all beats Domino's into a cocked hat, whatever that is.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Trying out my new recipe book

Do you remember that 'Chris Tarrant's funny or culturally-different TV adverts' (probably not real title ...) show from the 80s? In almost every episode the had the man who was meant to say 'mamma mia, that's a spicy meatball' in a cod Italian accent but, for some reason, got it wrong about 17 times.

Anyway, before Venice and Polpo, that was my main cultural reference for meatballs. That and some Italian New Yorker called Tony (Soprano, Manero, etc) saying 'nobody makes meatballs as good as you, ma' as they twirled spaghetti round their fork in a gangsterish way.

In the now-famous Venice bacari Alla Vedova they serve delicious dry meatballs, lightly covered in breadcrumbs, that you pick up with a napkin and nibble (or snarf down) standing at the bar. Do Mori serves smaller meatballs in sauce on toothpicks. In London's Polpo there's a selection of meatballs in sauce - with pasta, on their own with bread or 'smashed' in a bread wrap.

Armed with my new Polpo recipe book I set out to make the pork and fennel meatballs, expecting partial success paired with a new urge to visit the restaurant for the real thing. But I was very pleasantly surprised to find them easy to make and hearteningly similar to the restaurant version.

It's just an assembly job - pork mince, toasted fennel seeds (not too many), breadcrumbs, seasoning and egg, mixed together and divided into balls. Start cooking them in the oven for 10 minutes, then poach in tomato sauce for 10 minutes. The book does include a recipe for making tomato sauce, but I used good-quality shop-bought passata. And that's it - really, that's all. Serve 3 per person with some kind of bread and either a green salad or Polpo's lovely runner bean salad recipe.

Yum, eh?

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