Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mince pies with real meat

This is my first picture-less post for my newlook blog. I've been meaning to do 'real mince pies' for a while, but never got round to it. I resisted the temptation to feed any to my vegetarian niece (but I told you it was a mince pie!). The general verdict was that they were good. They didn't taste particularly 'meaty', and were a little less fruity and spicey than the normal version. I may try making them with a higher quantity of meat, or using something more gamey next time round.

The recipe and method are exact the same as for traditional mince pies: a two-stage process involving making the mincemeat and then doing the pastry and baking. The only change is to add some lean minced beef (or your meat of choice) to the traditional mincemeat mixture before filling the pies. I used a proportion of one part real meat to three parts mincemeat, but I think I could have upped this to 1:2 or even to 1:1.

Of course, when mince pies were first developed they contained meat, combined with spices and dried fruit. Over time, meat became classified as 'savoury' and was dropped from this dish, so this is really just a return to tradition.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Flamenco, Flamenco

I had a cookathon today, producing bread, chicken stock, bolognaise sauce, tomato sauce, tripe with chickpeas, rabbit with olives and some oriental meatballs all in one session. However, it nearly came to a very unpleasant end, as I was sitting in the cinema this evening watching Flamenco, Flamenco, when I suddenly remembered that I had left the bolognaise sauce on. The film was nearly finished and the cinema is only five minutes from home, so I nervily stuck it out to the end, then rushed home expecting the worst. Fortunately, the sauce was on minimum and had barely even begun to stick, its flavours just intensifying nicely after three hours of slow simmering.

Tripe with chickpeas (menudo gaditano)

Mention tripe in the UK and you're bound to get a chorus of disparaging remarks and expressions of outright disgust. The conventional explanation is that it came to be seen as poverty food during World War Two, but I don't think that is the whole story. There is obviously something a bit deeper behind the move away from offal in the British diet, and the same trend can be seen in Spain, although not to the same extreme.



I suspect a number of factors have come together to push tripe and other offal off our menus.
  • Increased wealth means that high prestige meats (steak, lean mince, chicken etc.) are now widely accessible and relatively cheap, so there is less incentive to eat the cheaper cuts.
  • This, in turn, means that these high prestige cuts become the norm, and set the standard of what meat should be like.
  • On top of this, increasing health consciousness puts people off consuming fattier meats or any meat (such as tripe) which looks as if it might be fatty.
  • More generally, there has been a move away from gelatinous textures, to the point where just about the only gelatinous foods eaten with any regularity in the UK are jelly itself and creme caramel. Meat can be tender, crisp or firm, but never gelatinous.
In Spain, tripe is far more widely eaten in the UK, but it is definitely still a little old-fashioned, the kind of thing generally eaten by people in their 50s upwards and a few younger men who think that 'nose to tail' eating is cool. (I guess that includes me.) I often eat it in bars, but have never made it at home, partly because nobody else in my family eats it.

However, I decided it was time to break it out of the ghetto, hoping that even if the tripe itself went uneaten, the chickpeas would be a success. I also took the liberty of adding some green beans and a red pepper to make it a bit more interesting, although this is definitely not part of the traditional recipe.

Ingredients
olive oil
500g mixed tripe (plus a bit of trotter)
500g dry chickpeas (soaked overnight)
plain flour
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves
1 red pepper
chicken stock
3 tsps salt
3 tsps paprika
1 tsp tabasco
white wine
green beans

Method
  1. Wash the tripe in cold water (it should already have been prepared by the butcher), and cut into small pieces.
  2. Peel and chop the onion, peel and crush the garlic, cut the red pepper into small chunks, and top and tail the beans and cut them into pieces.
  3. Put plenty of olive oil in a pressure cooker, add the onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes
  4. Meanwhile, dust the tripe in flour, then add it to the onion and garlic and fry for a few minutes until browned.
  5. Add the chickpeas, red pepper, paprika, a splash of white wine, salt, tabasco and enough chicken stock to barely cover the ingredients, bring to a boil, put the lid on the pressure cooker, bring up to full pressure, reduce heat to minimum and cook for 50 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat, allow pot to cool fully, open, add the green beans, cover the pot, bring back to pressure and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Like all stews, this benefits from sitting for a day.
Tweaking
When I made this, I more or less followed a traditional recipe. However, the result was a little watery and bland for my liking. It was partly my fault, for not using hot enough paprika, so I rectified it with some tabasco. I also made a little roux with some olive oil and flour and gradually ladled some of the liquid into it to create a thicker, silkier sauce - obviously the sensible point at which to add the flour is at the beginning.

A load of tripe (menudo menudo)
When I was buying my tripe, I made the mistake of being too vague with my ordering. I asked for a little bit of tripe (un poquito de menudo) but what I got was 2 kg of assorted cow's stomach, with a trotter thrown in for good measure. Next time I shall be more specific, but in the meantime I have a couple of bags of tripe waiting in my freezer.

Wild rabbit with Spanish olives

All of a sudden, it's hunting season in Andalucia. It's a bit of a pain if you go into the country, as the place is teeming with guys in camouflage and guns taking potshots at anything that moves, but on the upside stalls all over the market are suddenly offering rabbit, hare, partridge, venison and pigeon, which makes a welcome change from beef and pork.



When I went along to my butcher's the other day, a whole section of his counter was packed full of cute-looking furry bunnies, nestling in among the pots of manteca colorada, so I thought I would try a wild version of my rabbit stew with olives. It seemed only right to honour the wild rabbit with some of Matias' fat verdial olives instead of the tinned black ones I had used the previous time.

Ingredients
1 rabbit, cut into joints
plain flour
olive oil
6 sticks of celery
1/2 onion
2 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
250 g of marinated Spanish olives, together with their marinating liquid
4 ripe tomatoes
a splash of white wine
1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of dried rosemary

Method
  1. Peel and finely chop the onion, slice the celery, peel and slice the carrots, peel and roughly crush the garlic.
  2. Heat plenty of olive oil in your pressure cooker (with the lid off, obviously!), dust the rabbit pieces in plenty of flour, and brown them on both sides in the hot oil. Remove the browned pieces to a plate.
  3. Gently fry the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in the oil.
  4. Return the browned rabbit pieces to the pot, add the tomato, olives (including any marinade liquid), rosemary, salt and a splash of wine, and put the lid on. Bring up to pressure, reduce heat to minimum and cook for 20 minutes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Marinating olives: part 3

Having left my olives in to soak for another 5 days (making 12 in total) I reckoned it was safe to marinate. Part 1 of my olive marinating post describes what has to be done to prepare them, while part 2 provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of getting caught shopping around.


Me and Sammy made these this afternoon, after a rather frustrating morning in which it felt that nothing had really been achieved. So it was good to suddenly have 3 kg of home-marinated olives sitting in our kitchen and went some way to getting rid of our feeling of futility, and Sammy topped it off by taking a few photos for the blog.


We kind of made this up as we went along, ignoring the olive salesman's advice about only adding salt when the olives were ready to serve (bearing in mind that we will be away when these are ready to eat, so they have to last a little longer). I shall report back on the results in January.

Ingredients
3 kg of olives which have been soaked in water, changed daily, for 10 days (see earlier post)
250 ml of sherry or white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of fine salt
250 ml of boiling water
plenty of cold water
2 bitter oranges
12 cloves of garlic
2 large wild fennel stalks
plenty of wild thyme

Equipment
2 large jars

Method
  1. Drain the soaked olives
  2. Dissolve the salt in the boiling water, stirring well until it is completely dissolved. Add the vinegar.
  3. Chop the oranges into segments, squash the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves, and cut the fennel stalks and sprigs of thyme into short pieces.
  4. Divide the olives between the two jars, adding the the orange segments, garlic, fennel and thyme as you go.
  5. Pour plenty of cold water into each of the jars, until they are about three-quarters full.
  6. Pour half of the vinegar/saltwater mixture into each jar, then top up with more cold water until the olives are completely covered. Shake gently to dislodge any air bubbles.
  7. Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive into each jar, so it sits on top of the water, sealing it.
  8. Close the jars and leave in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks before opening.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marinating olives: cheating on Matias

Having soaked my olives and changed the water every other day for 6 days, as instructed by the man on the olive stall, I went back to the market today to get my ingredients for stage 2. He gave me a bag containing plenty of wild oregano, some wild thyme, some wild fennel stalks, a couple of heads of garlic and, to my surprise, two bitter oranges.


I wonder if these are the same bitter oranges which grow on the trees in Seville and Cadiz. They're not generally used in Spanish cooking, and as far as I know were treated as ornamental both by the Arabs who presumably brought them here, and also by modern Spaniards. In Cadiz, they drop to the ground and the few which escape the city's street cleaners are left to rot. These, of course, are the oranges which are used to make British marmalade and even quite recently in Seville, a British company had a contract by which they were harvested and then sent to the UK, although there is certainly no local tradition of using them for marmalade or anything else that I am aware of. But apparently they can be used to flavour olives.

I then got some very vague instructions about how to marinade the olives, which seemed to involve adding whatever marinade ingredients I fancied (whole sprigs of herbs, chunks of fennel stalk, squashed whole garlic cloves and chunks of orange) covering them in more water and then adding a small amount of vinegar (not much, half a wine glass) and no salt, which should be added when serving, to which a guy standing next to me nodded vigorous agreement.

My next job was to get hold of a couple of large containers to do the marinating in. I asked at a couple of stalls that specialise in market paraphernalia - bags, paper towels and the like - but had no luck, and realised that my best option was to buy them from my usual supplier of marinated olives, Matías. It felt a bit like cheating. Actually, it felt a lot like cheating, and on my first pass by his stall I was put off by the fact that standing there was the same guy who had been nodding away at the first stall I had bought my marinading ingredients from, so I wandered off to buy some fruit and veg. Ten minutes later I was back, and found myself unwittingly eavesdropping on the following conversation:

Lady customer: These olives are good. Nearly as good as you, Matías! If I had you in my bedroom you'd be in no hurry to leave!
Matías: If you had me in your bedroom you'd be too busy to talk.
Lady customer: Ah, but we're both married.
Matías: All the more fun. (Más morbo todavía)
Lady customer: I don't cheat on anyone.
Matías: Who's talking about cheating?

After Matías' horny customer had left, it was my turn, and I thought I should order plenty of olives to soften him up for my impending betrayal. I'd just asked for half a kilo of verdiales, when who should turn up but the guy from the other stall, who seemed to be trying to assemble a motorbike part for Matías with reference to an English-language manual which neither of them understood. Not wanting to draw attention to myself, I played dumb on the linguistic front, ordered another quarter of olives, and then pushed out the boat and bought some mojama (salted, dried tuna) too, before Mister Motorbike Parts finally left. And then I sheepishly bought a couple of 2-litre containers from Matías and headed home to get marinating.

I strained the olives, set out my marinating ingredients but thought I should actually taste the olives before I got started. The man on the olive stall said they should be 'sweet' at this stage, by which I assumed he meant they just shouldn't be overpoweringly bitter. I tasted one and it was fine, but the next one I tried was still completely inedible, so I decided to give the olives another few days of marinating, changing the water daily, and testing the greener of the olives for bitterness.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marinating olives: part 1

I am a creature of habit, and because I have always lived near one end of my local market in Cadiz, I have tended to concentrate my shopping in that area, too: my regular fruit and veg stall and butcher are both near the main entrance, and while I am more eclectic in my fish shopping, that still leaves a whole bit of the market that I never really wander into.


When I went to the market with my man trolley a couple of days ago, I decided to make a conscious effort to branch out a little (helped by the fact that it was a Tuesday, which is always much quieter than the pandemonium of Friday and Saturday mornings). At the very far end of the market, way beyond my usual territory, I came across a stall with the sign "Productos de la Sierra de Cádiz" (products from the hilly interior of Cadiz province) with a range of stuff including partridges, rabbits, wild herbs, snails and raw olives, and thought it would be fun to try marinating some olives at home.

I had a chat with the stallholder about what needed to be done, and he showed me how to gently crush the olives, then leave them in water for 6 days (changing the water every 2 days) before actually doing the marinating. So I went off with a 3 kg bag of beautiful green and black olives for just 5 euros, and a promise to come back next week to stock up with marinade ingredients.

Stage 1: crushing and washing

Ingredients
3 kg of raw olives
water

Method
  1. Put plenty of cold water in a large container.
  2. Put the olives on a table or board, and gently crush them by hitting them firmly but not too hard with a mallet or something similar. (We actually used some very sturdy Ikea drinking glasses.)
  3. As you crush the olives, transfer them to the container. Top up with more water if necessary.
  4. Stir the olives around well with your hands, strain off the water and then cover the olives with fresh water.
  5. After 2 days, strain off the water, rinse the olives well, and cover with fresh water.
  6. Repeat again after 2 days.
  7. And again after 2 days. Your olives are now ready for you to start marinating.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wholemeal sourdough with cereals and seeds

I started out with the idea of making one of those dense, seed-filled 'German' loaves, but somehow things changed along the way. First off, I came back with a bag of mixed cereal flakes from my local wholefood store (oats, wheat, barley, rye, malted corn) and some sunflower seeds, together with a bag of 'semi-wholemeal flour' (whatever that means). Then I opened the fridge and found my wonderful starter staring at me reproachfully, so I ditched the idea of using instant yeast and went back to sourdough. And finally I cast around on the net for recipes but didn't find anythng I liked, so decided to adapt my own. Surprisingly enough, it came out quite close to my original intention: dense and moist without being heavy, and packed with flavour.



Makes 2 medium-sized loaves

Ingredients

cereal
100g mixed cereal flakes (see above)
200g warm water

dough
200g sourdough starter (60% hydration)
200g wholemeal flour
200g white flour
300g warm water
10g salt
50g sunflower seeds

Method
  1. Weigh the cereal flakes into a bowl, cover with 200g of warm water and set aside. After 10 minutes, strain the cereal flakes in a colander and squeeze out any excess water. Measure 300g of warm water into a large bowl, add the sourdough starter to it, break the starter into very small pieces and mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps. Add the wholemeal and white flour, strained cereal flakes, salt and sunflower seeds to the wet starter mixture, and mix very well with a spoon until it comes together.
  2. With the dough still in the bowl, stretch and fold it, leave to rest for 15 minutes (placing the bowl inside a plastic bag), then stretch and fold three more times, leaving a 15 minute interval each time. Put the bowl back inside the plastic bag and leave to rest for an hour.
  3. Oil two medium-sized loaf tins very thoroughly. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Flatten each piece out into a rough rectangle, then form into a loaf by stretching and folding into the centre. Once you have a nice loaf shape, transfer to the tin. Repeat with the other piece, then place the tins inside a large plastic bag and leave to prove for about 4 hours at room temperature, until doubled in size. (See photo.) An hour before your loaves are due to finish proving, set the oven to 240oC.
  4. Remove the loaf tins from the bag, slash the loaves  lengthwise with a sharp knife or lame, open the oven and spray it with plenty of water, transfer the loaf tins to the oven and close the door. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 220oC, and bake for a further 25 minutes until the loaves are nice and brown. Remove loaves from oven, turn out of tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. (See photo.)

dough with cereal incorporated


shaped loaves in tin

risen loaves ready for oven


baked loaves

Satisfaction
I really enjoyed making these. I've spent a good few months mastering my sourdough and learning how to work with wetter dough (high hydration, for us bread techies), and it was very satisfying to be able to apply what I've learned by coming up with something quite different. The underlying dough is the same, but I changed the type of flour, added cereals and seeds, had to come up with a pre-soaking technique and baked in tins to create a denser loaf. I was worried it would all end in disaster, but the end result, though I say it myself, was a triumph! Hurrah. (And now back to that translation whose deadline just crept a bit closer while I was skiving off in the kitchen.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rabbit stew, hunter's style (coniglio alla cacciatore)

I posted a recipe for some rather dry lentils the other day, and was happy to receive a comment from a reader about the right proportions of liquid. I've since corrected my lentil post (lentils with chorizo and dried wild mushrooms) and updated the photo, but in the meantime I also took a wander over to my reader's site, which is dedicated exclusively to the art of the pressure pot and goes by the name of hip pressure cooking. This recipe is inspired by a version I found there, and I think the combination of a bit of non-pressure cooking (sauteeing, browning etc.) and then pressure stewing is perfect. Incidentally, I was a bit scared of tipping in the brine from my tin of olives, but I did, and the result was great. (For this reason, no salt is listed in the recipe.)


Ingredients
1 rabbit, cut into joints

marinade
150 g white wine vinegar
150 g white wine
150 g water
6 bay leaves

stew
plain flour
olive oil
3 sticks of celery
1/2 onion
2 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
350 g tin of black olives
1 tin of tomatoes
250 ml of red wine
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary (or a large sprig of fresh)

Method
  1. Put the jointed rabbit in a large bowl with the bay leaves, cover with the vinegar, wine and water, and leave to marinade in the fridge overnight.
  2. Remove the rabbit pieces from the marinade, and discard the liquid. Peel and finely chop the onion, slice the celery, peel and slice the carrots, peel and roughly crush the garlic.
  3. Heat plenty of olive oil in your pressure cooker (with the lid off, obviously!), dust the rabbit pieces in plenty of flour, and brown them on both sides in the hot oil. You will probably need to do them in three batches. Remove the browned pieces to a plate.
  4. Gently fry the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in the oil. After a few minutes, remove to a bowl, together with any oil.
  5. Deglaze the pan with a good splash of wine, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon, then add the rest of the wine, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes to boil off the alcohol.
  6. Return the browned rabbit pieces and fried vegetables to the pot, add the tomato, olives (including the brine) and rosemary, and put the lid on. Bring up to pressure, reduce hit to minimum and cook for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Banana bread

Nine months ago I started making a batch of focaccia in my kitchen, and today I finished! Okay, it didn't take me nine months to make the bread, but that is how long it took us to get the oven fixed. (It's a long story, and there were mitigating circumstances.) Anyway, I felt the oven needed to be shown who was boss, so I made a point of taking up where it had so rudely interrupted me back in January, and produced a tray of focaccia.

Next up for the great oven celebration was some banana bread. I got a recipe from the BBC Food Website, and tweaked it a little. Apart from being really easy, and quite delicious, it's a great way of using up those guilt-inducing overripe bananas which everyone seems to have in their fruit bowls.


Ingredients
275 g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
110 g margarine
225 g caster sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
75 ml milk
1.5 tsps lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g raisins

Method
  1. Set the oven to 180oC, and line and grease two loaf tins (20 cm x 10 cm)
  2. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar.
  4. Add the bananas, milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon and raisins to the margarine and sugar mixture, and mix well.
  5. Fold the flour into the resulting batter.
  6. Pour the mixture into the loaf tins, making sure there is a centimetre of space at the top, and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes until golden.
  7. Allow the bread to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spaghetti with salt cod, chick peas and green pepper

Salt cod is easy enough to cook, but it's not cheap and takes a fair bit of preparation (4 days of desalting, including regular water changes, in this case) and I am therefore reluctant to just bin any leftovers. I had already made salt cod mayonnaise out of the leftover pil pil sauce and cooking oil, and I decided to double up by bulking out the small amount of leftover cod with some chick peas and half a green pepper, and combining it with pasta.


Ingredients
1/2 a packet of pasta
leftover salt cod (about 200g)
1/2 a jar of chickpeas
1/2 a large green pepper
olive oil
salt cod mayonnaise

Method
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water. (I cooked the whole packet so I could make spaghetti fritters with the leftovers.)
  2. In the meantime, finely chop and fry the green pepper until it is done. Add the strained chickpeas to the pan, cook for a minute or two, then remove from the heat.
  3. Break the cod into flakes, removing any bones, and add to the chick peas and pepper.
  4. Strain the pasta, transfer to a large bowl, season with salt and add a little to prevent it from sticking. Pour the cod, chick peas and peppers over it, then dress with plenty of salt cod mayonnaise.

Salt cod mayonnaise

I made this with the leftover pil-pil sauce and cooking oil the last time I made bacalao al pil pil (which is salt cod in a warm mayonnaise). The original recipe has 500 ml of olive oil, of which only half is used in the pil pil sauce. So you already have 250 ml of cod-flavoured olive oil going spare. On top of that, there will probably be some leftover pil pil sauce. When I saw that I had getting on for 350 ml of top quality olive oil about to go to waste, I suggested to Gemma that I make it into mayonnaise. She looked at me as if I was a bit mad, but I made it anyway.


Ingredients
leftover olive oil and pil pil sauce from bacalao al pil pil

Method
Put the olive oil and leftover sauce in a bowl, and whisk gently until it liaises to form a light mayonnaise.

This made a really good mayonnaise, which was quite light and had a delicate flavour of cod. I knew that nobody else in my family would knowingly eat it, but I tricked them by using it to dress some spaghetti with salt cod, chick peas and green peppers, which they all ate happily. (I had an extra serving of mayonnaise on top of mine.) They will only realise they ate the mayonnaise too if they read this blog entry!

Googlewhack!
As I was writing this entry, I thought I would have a quick search to see if anyone else makes salt cod mayonnaise. I came across a reference to a restaurant in Dublin called Pichet which sometimes has it on their menu, but no actual recipes, so I think this counts as a culinary googlewhack.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spanish omelette with leftover chips

Yes! Today the repairman came and fixed our gas rings. No longer will I feel as if I have been trapped in a slow motion replay every time I cook. (Unfortunately he wasn't able to fix the oven - but he did at least depart with the broken element in his hand, promising to return in a couple of days with a new one.) To celebrate, I followed Gemma's suggestion and made a Spanish omelette with leftover chips from lunchtime.


Ingredients
a large plate of leftover chips
4 eggs (approximately)
1 onion
olive oil
salt

Method
  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion, and fry it in plenty of oil in a non-stick pan until it's done. If there still is a lot of oil in the pan, pour a little of it away.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the chips roughly, put in a bowl and add 4 beaten eggs. Add the fried onion to the potato and egg mixture (leaving the oil in the pan), and season with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  3. Gently heat the oil in the pan, but don't allow it to get too hot. Pour the potato, egg and onion mixture into the pan and cook on a medium heat.
  4. After a couple of minutes or so, once the underside of the omelette has cooked, slide it out of the pan onto a plate. Using an oven glove, place the frying pan upside down over the plate, then quickly flip it over so that the omelette falls raw side down back into the pan.
  5. Now cook for another couple of minutes or so until done. It should still be very slightly runny in the middle.

This is a great way to use up leftover chips. In fact, I think it would work well with chip shop chips too, which are fat and halfway between being fried and boiled. I will try to remember this next time I have a fish supper. (That's Scottish for "fish and chips", my English chums.)


Making a smallish tortilla like this also helps to remind one that a tortilla is indeed an 'omelette'. Non-Spaniards have a tendency to overcook their tortillas and turn them into solid, dry, egg-and-potato pies, inspired no doubt by the consistency of tortillas eaten in bars and restaurants. That's how you make them if you are really worried about undercooked egg, but a true Spanish home-cooked tortilla is always a bit runny.


And, in the spirit of John Gummer, I demonstrated my faith by feeding some to my daughter. Unlike the unfortunate Cordelia (yes, that was her name), Carmela gave my tortilla an enthusiastic reception.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cuttlefish and potato stew (papas con choco): pressure pot version

I have finally converted to using a pressure cooker recently, so this is the pressure cooker version of a gaditano staple I made in an ordinary saucepan a couple of weeks ago. I've tweaked the recipe a little, and been a bit less anal with the measurements. After all, this is a peasanty stew so the quantities are necessarily vague.


Ingredients
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1/2 green pepper
1 large tomato
2 carrots
500g cuttlefish (substitute with squid if not available)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon of saffron
1 teaspoon of mild paprika
1 teaspoon of salt
1 glass of white wine
4 potatoes

Method
  1. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. In a pressure cooker, fry it gently in plenty of olive oil.
  2. Roughly chop the pepper and tomato. Peel the carrots and cut them into slices. Cut the cuttlefish into chunks. Peel and cut the potato into chunks.
  3. In a small bowl or a pestal and mortar, crush the saffron well and mix with a little hot water.
  4. Once the onion is cooked, add all the other ingredients to the pot, stir thoroughly, put the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to the boil.
  5. Cook at 2 rings for 10 minutes.

Cutting potatoes
As I was making this I was chatting to a Spanish friend, Pilar. When she saw me chopping the potatoes on a board with my razor-sharp German knife she told me she had been given a tip by a gaditana that the best way to cut the potatoes was actually to hold them in your hands, use a blunt knife, and break off the pieces as you go. That way your potatoes have rough edges, releasing lots of starch into the stew and helping to give it a good thick texture.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lentils with chorizo and wild mushrooms

I picked up some good chorizos the other day at a birdspotting fair in Tarifa (!!) and decided to cook them with lentils. I also chucked in a pack of wild mushrooms I had brought back from Scotland. (The last packet of wild mushrooms I brought back from my travels - in Italy - ended up as food for moth larvae, so I was keen to use these ones before they met the same fate.)


This is a dish that is perfect for pressure cookers, although make sure you add plenty of liquid, as the lentils soak up a surprising amount. Ideally, they should be almost soupy at the end.

Ingredients
olive oil
2 medium sized onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
500g brown lentils
2 litres of stock
5 fresh chorizos
50 g dried wild mushrooms, soaked in a little hot water
500 g carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of cumin powder

Method
  1. In a pressure cooker, gently fry the onion, adding the garlic just before the onion is done.
  2. Add all the other ingredients, including the soaking water from the mushrooms, stir will, cover and close the pressure cooker and bring to a boil.
  3. When the pressure has reached the correct level, turn the heat to minimum and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat, allow to cool for a little and serve. If you like, you can season with a little vinegar at this point. (Spaniards usually add this individually at the table.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Morcón ibérico

Continuing with my trawl through the further reaches of Spanish charcuterie, today's featured sausage is morcón. It's pretty similar to chorizo, but with two differences. Firstly, it is made by stuffing the large rather than the small intestine, giving it its characteristic 'bulgy' shape. And secondly, it is made with leaner meat. (Because the morcón is larger than a chorizo, it is less prone to drying out and thus needs less fat to keep it moist.)

Chicharrones

Chicharrones are little crusty, salty bits of belly pork and are great for snacking. Every butcher's stall in the Cadiz market has a tray of them on the top of the counter, and you can buy a little paper cone full of them to take home with you.


Chicharrones are also popular in Latin America, and the great Eliades Ochoa has even dedicated a whole song to discussing what they are made of:

El chicharrón es pellejo
Tú te equivocaste, muchacho, cuando creiste,
que el chicharrón era de carne,
Siempre anda diciendo que que tu eres el rey de los carniceros
Y yo estoy seguro que de carne no sabe nada
Yo puedo creer que tu seas chicharronero
Lo que no creo es que tu de la carne hagas chicharrón
Claro que no!

(You were wrong, my lad, when you thought,
That chicharrón is made from meat,
You always go around saying you're the king of the butchers
But I'm sure you know nothing about meat
I might accept that you're a bootlicker
But there's no way you make chicharrón with meat
No way!)

Followed by a rousing chorus:

Nada más que pellejo, pellejo, el chicharrón es pellejo

(It's just the skin, the skin, the chicharrón is just skin!)

In Cuba, chicharrón, in addition to being a delicious meaty snack, is also an obsequious compliment, so the target of this song is being lambasted both for his ignorance of pork butchery and for his smarminess. Touché! (In Spain, however, chicharrón is not just made from the skin but from belly pork, which contains plenty of meat. No wonder I got strange looks when I sang this to an overfamiliar butcher the other day.)

Postscript
I had a slightly worried moment when someone commented that surely this was just a poncey Spanish name for pork scratchings. (It's never pleasant to be hit by the realisation that one has been openly bullshitting!) So I went off to the kitchen and sliced into some chicharrones just to check. The proof is below - as you can see, under the fat, they are quite meaty!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chicharrones especiales

Everyone is familiar with jamón serrano, chorizo and even salchichón (Spanish salami) but there are lots of other examples of Spanish charcuterie which are not exported. One of my favourites are the chicharrónes especiales, a speciality of nearby Chiclana. They are whole pieces of uncured streaky bacon which are cooked then served cold, thinly sliced and dressed with salt and lemon juice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pasta with chick peas, tuna and lemon

This is a really quick 'store cupboard' meal. I'm a bit wary of putting things like this on the blog, but have decided to record the ones that come out well to help jog my memory and get me out of my 'tomato sauce' rut. Pasta with pulses seems like an odd combination to British (and Spanish) palates, but is actually quite common in Italy.


Ingredients
1 packet of pasta
1 large jar of cooked chickpeas
2 small tins of tuna
1 lemon
1 teaspoon of oregano leaves
1 teaspoon of salt
olive oil

Method
  1. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water. When it is nearly done, add the strained chickpeas.
  2. Once the pasta is cooked, strain the pasta and chickpeas into a colander, drain and return to the saucepan. Slosh a bit of olive oil over them, add the drained tuna, the juice of 1 lemon, the oregano leaves and salt. Mix well and serve.

Carrillada (pig's cheek stew)

Carrillada or pig's cheek is a great cut for stews. It has plenty of flavour and a lovely moist texture too. The term 'pig's cheek' puts a lot of people off, but actually it is really the jaw muscle. I don't see why eating this should be any less appealing than eating a pig's leg or back muscles. Because it has plenty of connective tissue, it needs long cooking but develops a great texture and does not dry out.


The recipe below is deliberately 'rustic', with only a bare minimum of chopping or anything else, and is therefore perfect for children to make. And it's also good because it provides a basic stew recipe which kids can than improvise around, changing the ingredients and flavours as they wish, with only the bare minimum of adult interference.

Ingredients
olive oil
2 onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1 kg of carrilada (pig's cheek) - if you can't get it, substitute with any stewing cut
500g of carrots
2 large tomatoes
200 ml of chicken stock (more if not using a pressure cooker)
1 teaspoon of salt
4 bay leaves

Method
  1. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and smash the garlic. If using carrillada, it comes in small 'steaks' and can be cooked whole. Peel the carrots but leave whole. Top and tail the tomatoes and cut into quarters.
  2. Put plenty of olive oil in a pressure cooker or large saucepan. Add the onions to the oil and fry gently. When they are nearly done, add the garlic and continue frying for a minute or so.
  3. Then add the paprika, stir and fry for a few seconds, add the meat, stir to mix, and fry for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients.
  4. If using a pressure cooker, put the lid on, heat until the cooker whistles, turn to minimum and cook for 20 minutes. If using a conventional pan, cover and bring to a boil, turn to minimum and simmer for about 2 hours, check the liquid level occasionally.
  5. Like all stews, this is improved by being left for a day.

Pressure cooker
Like a lot of British people, I used to have a bit of a prejudice against pressure cookers. (Although oddly enough I remember a flatmate of mine at university having one - not sure that he ever used it, however.) In Spain, they are very popular, and are ideally suited to cooking pulses and wet stews.

They also have another great benefit, which I only realised when we started making this, and that is that they are perfect for use by kids. Sammy actually made this stew from scratch - my only intervention was to peel the carrots (every kid likes having his or her own personal kitchen porter), to do a bit of light supervision and to remember to turn the stew off at the end. You can make the whole dish in one pot, and don't need to worry about heat or liquid levels while cooking, or even to monitor it.

Manteca colorada con zurrapa

As an antidote to my healthy desayuno andaluz, I bought some manteca colorada. The literal translation of this is 'red lard' which is a pretty accurate description, as it is pig fat, flavoured with paprika. You can buy it with 'zurrapa', which is pork loin which has been fried in the lard and is then shredded, and you can also buy it plain (manteca colorada), without paprika (manteca blanca) or with whole pieces of pork loin in it (manteca con lomo).


'Colorado' is Spanish for 'red' (as in the Colorado River, whose muddy waters are a reddish brown). Apparently, it is not used in the north of Spain, and a friend of ours, upon being told this, replied in shock, "But how do they say "manteca colorá" then!?" Indeed.

Mediterranean diet
I'm always amused when people talk about the wonders of the Mediterranean diet. Manteca colorada, after all, is the culinary equivalent of asking a heart surgeon to open you up and spread a little cholesterol on your veins. And another popular Spanish breakfast, churros con chocolate, involves frying strips of batter before dipping them in chocolate. We may deep-fry Mars Bars in Scotland, but at least we have the decency to put the batter on the outside.

Iced mint tea

It's still rather hot and sticky in Cadiz, so a pot of iced mint tea seemed like a good idea. You have to make the tea very strong, as it is then diluted by the ice. We make ours without sugar. If you want it sweet,then it's probably best to add a lot of sugar directly to the teapot.


Ingredients
8 teaspoons of good quality green tea
1 smallish handful of fresh mint leaves
ice

Method
Put the green tea and mint in a teapot, and fill with boiling water. (I have a pot with a removable filter, which is good, because once it comes to the right strength you can remove it.)
Fill a large jug with ice cubes, pour the tea over it and wait for a few minutes until most of the ice has melted. Serve.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cuttlefish and potato stew (papas con choco)

Cuttlefish stewed with potato is one of the staples of gaditano cooking. Cuttlefish isn't eaten at all in the UK (unless you're a budgerigar) but it's actually very good. It tastes quite similar to squid, with the same mild slightly sweet flavour, although the texture is different. It is more tender than squid but because the flesh is much thicker, it has a slightly meatier consistency. This dish belongs to the category of peasant and working-class food which involves stretching a little bit of meat (or in this case seafood) with vegetables, pulses or grains. I guess the nearest equivalent in the British isles would be Irish stew.


Ingredients
olive oil
150g onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
50g green peppers, roughly chopped
500g of cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into chunks
250g of ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
750g potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
200ml white wine
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
2 bay leaves

Method
  1. Put the onions in a large saucepan with plenty of olive oil and fry gently. Once they start to soften, add the garlic and green pepper and fry for another few minutes.
  2. Then add the cuttlefish, tomatoes, salt, pepper, paprika and bay leaves, stir well and fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and white wine, bring to the boil, cover, turn heat to minimum and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender. (About 20 to 30 minutes.)
Protein vs. carbs
Perhaps inevitably, as we become richer and our diets have become more protein-heavy the tendency is to up the meat content in such dishes, and I have to admit that my version has slightly less potato than the original recipe I was working from (in Pescados y Mariscos Gaditanos by Carlos Spinola and Manuel Fernández-Trujillo).

Desayuno andaluz (Andalucian breakfast)

I don't know when the habit of defining 'typical' breakfasts started, but I suspect it is fairly recent. In addition to the 'full English' you can now get a 'Scottish breakfast' north of the border (which is suspiciously similar to its English cousin, give or take the appearance of a slice of haggis). And bars in Cadiz proudly advertise their 'desayuno andaluz' as if it were some culinary marvel. On closer inspection, it turns out to be a toasted roll with some chopped tomato but it still makes a tasty and healthy breakfast.


Ingredients
toasted bread
2 ripe tomatoes
large slosh of olive oil
salt

Roughly chop the tomatoes, squeeze out some of the excess liquid, and whizz them in a food processor with the olive oil and salt. Transfer to a bowl and serve accompanied by plenty of toast.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kitchen beauty

We are now back in Cadiz, having spent the summer in Edinburgh, and are surrounded by piles of our stuff that has come out of storage. There were six boxes of kitchen equipment alone (most of which have been sealed up again and stashed away in a cupboard for that distant day when we finally manage to buy our own flat). I did take the opportunity to grab a few essential items, including some saucepans, a chopping board and a couple of mixing bowls, but what gave me most pleasure was coming across the Japanese teacups. I think they speak for themselves: we all need a little beauty in our lives.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Curried baked beans

I first had curried baked beans at a barbecue in Stirling in the 1970s. At the time, it seemed incredibly exotic, partly because it tasted of curry powder, but also because it was the kind of thing my mum would never have made. I remember eating a lot of it and I think I can probably trace my tendency to splash chilli sauce on things back to that day.


Ingredients
1 tin of baked beans
1/2 teaspoon of curry powder

Method
Open the tin of beans, pour a little of the excess sauce away, put the beans and the curry powder in a small saucepan and heat gently.

Scotland in the 70s
Apart from making curried baked beans, my barbecue hostess and her husband were "fond of a drink" as the saying goes, and it may be that the addition of curry powder to boring old beans was an alcohol-inspired act of culinary genius. My other memory of her was that she happened to come for lunch the day my mum went into labour with my sister, Clara. As a result, my brother Mark (13) and me (11) were left in her care for the rest of the afternoon. She kindly shared her cigarettes with us to help calm all of our nerves.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Barbecue sauce chicken kebabs

A quick chicken kebab recipe.


Ingredients
500g chicken breast
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon chilli paste
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Method
  1. Skin the chicken breast and cut it into chunks. In a large bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken to the bowl, mix well with your hands ensuring that all the pieces are basted in the marinade, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight (or for as long as possible if you are making this on the day of the barbecue).
  2. Shortly before you are ready to start cooking, thread the pieces onto skewers - 4 or 5 pieces on each skewer at most. Grill over a nice hot barbecue.

Seekh kebabs with coriander

I've been a bit lazy with my barbecues this summer, as a result of which we have all eaten a LOT of sausages. Anyway, we decided to say goodbye to Edinburgh for the summer with a proper barbecue, so in addition to a couple of different types of chicken kebab, some plain mince kebabs, some veggie dishes and a bit of home baking, I made some spicy little seekh kebabs with fresh coriander.


Ingredients
250g minced lamb
250g minced pork
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chilli
1/2 teaspoon salt
small bunch of finely chopped coriander


Method

  1. Put the mince in a large bowl, sprinkle all the other ingredients over it and mix very well with your hands. If you have time, leave to stand for an hour or so.
  2. Take a small handful of the kebab mixture and shape into a sausage around a skewer. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture. (500g of meat should yield around eight kebabs, depending on the size.)
  3. Grill over a nice hot charcoal barbecue and serve with pitta bread and a chunky vegetable salad (lovingly prepared by your other half).

Hydration

When making bread, I've always tended to work by eye - starting off with a certain amount of water and then adding flour until things felt 'right', which generally gave me proportions of about 1 part water to 2 parts flour. However, one of the things I learned as a result of my sourdough quest was that wet dough is, at least up to a point, better - enabling you to produce tastier bread with a better texture.

The technical term for the proportion of water in bread dough is 'hydration', which is calculated by dividing the amount of water by the amount of flour and expressing the result as a percentage. For example, if you make a 1 kg loaf using 400g of water and 600g of flour, your hydration is 400/600 = 2/3 = 0.67 = 67%.

This may all sound needlessly 'techie', but you will soon find that expressing your recipe as a hydration percentage gives you a very good indicator of what kind of dough you will be working with. And if you want to scale your volumes up or down, or change some of the quantities then identifying how this effects the hydration percentage is essential to ensuring that you still produce the right kind of dough.

As we can see from the example above, calcualting the hydration percentage when making bread from scratch (using water, flour and live or dried yeast) is simple enough - just divide the water by the flour and express the result as a percentage. However, when making sourdough things become more complicated. This is because you are adding flour and water to your existing starter or ferment and so in order to calculate the overall hydration percentage you need to take into account not just your added flour and water but also the amount of ferment used and the proportions of flour and water it contains.

At this point, the maths becomes a little complicated and the easiest solution is to use a hydration calculator. There are several of these available online, but I decided to have a crack at creating my own from scratch.
The calculator divides into two stages: starter and dough, for each of which it allows you to work out the hydration percentage of any given combination of water, flour and starter, and also to perform a reverse calculation so that if you want to a specified volume of dough (e.g., 2kg) at a given hydration level (e.g., 67%), containing a given amount of starter (e.g. 400g), you can automatically calculate how much flour and water you need to use to achieve this.

Courgette with tomato and coriander

I always have mixed feelings about vegetarians at barbecues. On the one hand, it's great for there to be extra meat for the carnivores. On the other hand, vegetarians are often a little stringy and frankly flavourless. It is therefore a good idea to feed them up first with something suitable.



Ingredients 1 kg of courgettes
1 kg of chopped tomatoes
2 onions
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
bunch of fresh coriander

Method
  1. Roughly chop the onions and fry gently in plenty of olive oil. When nearly done, add the peeled, chopped garlic, fry for another 30 seconds or so, then add the chopped tomatoes, thickly sliced courgettes and salt.
  2. Stew gently for 30 minutes or so. A few minutes before serving, add the chopped fresh coriander.

Chinese takeaway
As a purist, I think that everything eaten at a barbecue should pass at least briefly across the grill (with the exception, obviously, of salad). Unfortunately, stews have a nasty habit of trickly through the grid straight onto the charcoal, so I prefer to put them in a metal container and ceremonially reheat them on the grill before serving.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dutch Jewish ginger buns (gember bolus)

I came across these ginger buns (gember bolus) in the cafe of the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam. I googled "ginger bolus", but all I came up with were reports of people choking to death in Thailand. Eventually, I found something which appeared to be related on a blog called Bake My Day! So I contacted the author of the blog where I had found that recipe and she very kindly got back to me with a version of what I was looking for. Needless to say, I then fooled around with the recipe a bit (well, quite a lot) and this is what I came up with.

Ingredients
dough
500g plain flour
7g active yeast
320g milk
30g water
20g brown sugar
20g margarine or butter

syrup
200g brown sugar
200g water

filling
250g ginger crush in syrup

for sprinkling
more brown sugar

Method
  1. Put the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat.
  2. Combine all of the dough ingredients. If you have a food processor with a dough hook, then knead for a couple of minutes on the slowest settng. Alternatively, mix the ingredients thoroughly with a spoon, then stretch and fold in the bowl until you have a smooth dough. Cover the dough and leave to rise for about 1 hour.
  3. Oil 16 muffin cases and put them on 2 muffin trays. Set the oven to 200oC.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide  into 16 equal pieces. Very lightly turn each of the pieces in the flour, then press out to form a rough circle. Put a teaspoon of the filling mixture in the centre of each circle, and form the circle into a ball, crimping it closed with your fingers. Place each of the balls into one of your prepared muffin cases, and when the tray is full cover it with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the clingfilm from the trays, glaze each ball with 1 dessertspoon of syrup, sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of brown sugar over each of them , transfer trays to oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Remove the trays from the oven, transfer the buns from their cases to a cooling rack. Pour a little more syrup over the buns before serving.




Friday, August 20, 2010

Light and dark soy sauce

I suspect a lot of people wonder what the difference between light and dark soy sauce is. Well, the dark version is thicker and slightly sweeter and the light one is, you guessed it, thinner and saltier. Dark soy seems to be sold as the default version (i.e., if soy sauce isn't labelled then it is likely to be dark). So if you are substituting dark for light then you may want to add a little sugar and salt to the recipe, and even add a teeny amount of cornflour. And if substituting light for dark, then remove salt. If you're not sure whether your soy sauce is dark or light, an easy test is just to tip the bottle upside down and see how much sauce adheres to the sides, as below.

Carrot soup

The other day my kids bought a big bag of beautiful carrots, complete with their green leafy bits, all contained in a lovely bag with a picture of the very farmer who had grown them and a little eulogy to the wonders of the English countryside and to the virtues of the large supermarket chain supplying us with these goodies. A week later, the carrots were still sitting in the bottom of the fridge looking almost as lovely as the day they had been bought, and I was beginning to feel guilty as I read about Farmer Roberts for the third time and imagined just how disappointed he would be with me if his carrots ended up in the bin. So I made this soup.


Ingredients
1 head of celery
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
750g carrots
500g potatoes
2 tsps cumin
2 tsps smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1 glass white wine
2 tbsps tomato puree
1 litre of vegetable stock

Method
  1. Wash the celery, separate into stalks and cut into thinnish slices. Peel and chop the garlic. Top and tail the carrots, peel if necessary, and cut into chunks. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks.
  2. In a large saucepan, gently fry the celery. When it is nearly done, add the garlic, fry for another minute, then add the cumin and paprika, and fry for 10 seconds or so.
  3. Add the carrots, potatoes, salt, wine, puree and stock, bring to a boil, turn heat to minimum, cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes, until the carrot and potato pieces are nice and tender.
  4. Allow soup to cool, then liquidise with a stick blender.

Honey and soy salad dressing

Carmela likes to put honey in her salad dressing, so I thought I should actually note down the ingredients rather than doing it on a trial and error basis each time. The combination of honey, soy sauce and sesame oil give it an oriental, almost sweet and sour feel.


Ingredients
1 teaspoon of honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

Method
Put your honey inb a small bowl and, unless it is very runny, heat for a few seconds in a microwave. Add the other ingredients, and whisk well with a fork. Pour over the salad just before serving and toss to mix. (I tend not to put salt into my dressings, but instead to add them direct to the salad before dressing.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why I make bread

The other day I was chatting with my mum and my brother about cooking things "from scratch". The conversation was sparked by my mum having had a bit of a disaster with some pickling cucumbers a few weeks ago, and their conclusion was that they really couldn't be bothered with things like making jam, pickles and (I suspect) bread at home. And I think they are right; not in the sense that these things are never worth doing, but in the sense that these (and other) procedures are not things which home cooks should feel obliged to do or should feel guilty about not doing. If you just want good jam, pickles or bread, then buy some. Jam and pickle making used to be done at home by people who grew their own fruit and vegetables and had to find a way of dealing with a seasonal glut. And bread was generally not made at home at all, but was made by professional bakers for the very good reason that it is difficult, time-consuming and frankly uneconomic to make on a household-by-household basis.

And it doesn't stop there. Recipes in cookery books are littered with instructions to peel and chop ginger, to grind and mix your own spices, to peel tomatoes and so on. Each of these steps may only take a few minutes, but once you add them together the end result can be to turn the job of producing a quick curry into an evening's worth of chopping and grinding. And it's not as if there are no alternatives. To take my examples, you can use minced ginger, good quality spice mixes or curry powders, and tinned peeled tomatoes (or leave the skin on fresh ones). Maybe cooking would seem less intimidating if cookery writers made an effort to reduce the amount of preparatory work involved to a minimum, instead of communicating to their readers the idea that failure to prepare everything from scratch is somehow cheating, and that the end result will inevitably be compromised.

There is, of course, still a strong argument for doing these things at least once - if only so that you can see how much extra work is involved, find out what difference (if any) it makes to the final dish, and decide for yourself which of these procedures is worth following in full and which are best replaced by a shortcut.

So, why do I make bread? It may sound odd, but it is not simply so that I can have bread to eat. In fact, anyone who makes bread at home solely for that reason either lives a very long way from the nearest bakery or hasn't thought about how long it takes to make bread. The only good reason for making your own bread is because you enjoy it - enjoy the physical experience of making and handling dough, enjoy changing the quantities and temperatures involved and observing the effects on the final bread, and enjoy the satisfaction of producing something for yourself. And if you don't enjoy those things, well you shouldn't do them and you shouldn't feel guilty about it either.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Arbroath smokies

I was at the Foodies Festival in Edinburgh and was lucky enough to see Iain Spink smoking his haddock on site. The process itself is pretty simple: the fish have their heads removed and are gutted and cleaned, before being tied in pairs and hung over a stick.


Next, the stick itself is placed over a half barrel, with a fire of beech and oak burning inside it.


Then the barrel is covered with a few layers of damp hessian.


After half an hour or so, the Arbroath smokies are ready.


Arbroath smokies keep for a while, and perhaps the most famous dish in which they feature is Cullen skink. They are also good in a potato salado. However, the best way to serve them is definitely hot from the barrel.