Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spicy Coconut Shrimp Bisque – It's the Besh!

This spicy coconut shrimp bisque recipe was inspired by a similar soup I saw Chef John Besh make during a demo I attended at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. As I watched him make it, I couldn't wait to get back to San Francisco to give it a try.

How close is this to his version? I have no idea, as I was drunk on tequila. Besides the coconut milk, I can barely remember what he put in it. After doing a pre-show shot with his assistants, Besh jokingly instructed the floor staff to pour the audience a shot. Minutes later, much to his delight, shots of tequila were distributed throughout the room.

Just that would have made for an amusing anecdote, but it didn't stop there. By the time the demo ended 45 minutes later, we had enjoyed five rounds of drinks, with Besh and his sous chef more than keeping pace. Remarkably, when the show ended, the well-oiled chef had managed to produce a seriously delicious looking bisque with dumplings. What a show off.

Anyway, I know it's been a while since I posted a real video recipe, but I really think this one will have been worth the wait. I loved how this turned out, and I think you will as well. I hope you give it a try, and maybe tweak it with some different combinations of seafood and garnishes. Cheers! Err, I mean, enjoy!

1 pound shrimp, shells reserved
2 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced jalapeno
1/4 cup flour
2 cups prepared tomato soup
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon red curry paste, or to taste
salt and/or fish sauce to taste
basil chiffonade
rice crackers

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New York Cheesecake with Chocolate Chip Crust to the Rescue!

Believe it or not, this New York cheesecake with chocolate chip crust recipe post was suppose to be a spicy coconut shrimp bisque video. Please allow me to explain.

When I woke up this morning, I could not have been more excited about the video recipe I was about to Asian-Cajun-inspired bisque that I've been tasting with my mind since I saw John Besh make it in Atlanta.

As I set up the camera, my shrimp-eating grin turning into a frown that would have put Droopy the Dog to shame. I realized I'd left my camera battery and charger in Santa Monica. D'oh! So, after the longest video drought in Food Wishes history, my plans to make it all right were suddenly dashed.

Anyway, the show must go on, so I'm posting this New York Cheesecake with Chips Deluxe Crust recipe, which was going to air tomorrow. This is part of a series of eight snack videos I did for Kellogg's, and while I'm usually a cheesecake purest, this is one of my exceptions, since it's works so well.

A little heads-up: when you click on the video player below, you'll be taken to their site where you can watch the video and get the written recipe. Do not be afraid – if you have questions or comments, you can come on back and post them here. Thanks, and please stay tuned for the aforementioned bisque recipe. Enjoy!


You may often notice and appreciate that I don't have much extra stuff on this blog. There isn't any advertising, flashing lights, signs telling you that I am number #457 on the Urban Spoon index of food bloggery, or links to Ocado, or Amazon, or other people's websites, or hit rate counters or links to my Twitter feed.

I pretend it's for a reason. I pretend that in this hyper digital age of techno-wackery, my blog is purposefully the most lumpen-footed, analogue and luddite. I pretend that I want it to be as limited in usefulness and snazzery as reading something on a piece of paper. Because, of course, I wish I was still at a newspaper but no-one will hire me.

The real reason, of course, is that I don't really know how to do any of that stuff. And I think my ranking on Urban Spoon really IS #457 so why would I want anyone to know that? And no-one wants to advertise on my blog anyway. At least no-one cool. If Krispy Kreme called me up and said "How bout it?" I'd say "Where do I sign, Mistah????!!" But they haven't. And I don't link to other blogs because I'm not really friends with other bloggers and don't read them and anyway they make me depressed because they all have more followers and cooler shit on them than mine.

But then Mumsnet rang me. Actually it wasn't Mumsnet, that would be weird. What would that sound like? Would you pick up the phone and thousands of cross-ish sounding voices all talking in unison would come down the line? Anyway it wasn't that. It was my old boss at The Times, who is now a mega cross-media troubleshooter-type headhunter asking me if I wanted to be part of the new Mumsnet blogger network. Or something called something similar. I don't really understand the details.

"They've got 1.6 million unique users," said Gill.

Fuck! I thought to myself. ONE of those users must work for Krispy Kreme!!!!!!

So I said yeah yeah yeah where do I sign, Mistah? And Gill said "It's not really like that. They won't pay you or anything. But from the 4th July there'll be a link to your blog on Mumset and we'll promote you on Twitter."

And then I stopped fantasising about all the free Krispy Kremes I was going to get out of this and started worrying hard about all those MASSIVELY FUCKING TERRIFYING Mumsnet users all reading my blog and leaving angry yet devastatingly accurate comments using a string of acronyms that would baffle Enigma.

But then I thought "Yes but they are probably your demographic anyway - esp now you've got a baby."
And then I thought "Oh god but they'll find out that I only breastfed for 5 weeks and come round my house with pitchforks."
But then I thought "I don't think they're that bothered about breastfeeding actually. I think it's Gina Ford that's the problem."
And then I thought "Okay well if there's an outside shot of some Krispy Kreme action I'd better do it. And the Mumsnet offices are just round the corner from my house, so if it goes bad, I can go and ring on their doorbell and then run away."

Part of the deal is that I have to carry a sort of Mumsnet insignia, which I've been given permission to hide at the bottom of the page. So, that's what I'll be doing, once I've worked out how. And this is by way of explanation as to what it's doing there.

Coming soon I PROMISE is a very excellent mutton stew by Giles Coren. (Mumsnet enemy #1, I'm told. Let the good times roll.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Almanac Beer – Won't Help You Forecast the Weather, But Will Help You Not Care

I'd like to congratulate my friend, and resident Food Wishes beer consultant, Jesse Friedman, who has recently taken the plunge into the wild and wacky world of self-employment. You may know Jesse as the publisher of Beer & Nosh, but very soon, you'll also know him as the wildly successful co-creator of Almanac Beer. By the way, if you're going to quit your day job, and say goodbye to all the safety and security it affords, then having lots of craft beer around is probably not a bad idea.

After years of hard work and experimentation, Jesse and his partner Damian will be officially releasing their "farm to barrel" brew on Thursday, June 30. I had the pleasure of tasting some this spring, and was quite impressed. I've just returned from LA after three grueling weeks, and way too tired to come up with the appropriate adjectives to describe the beer, so instead I'll simply invite you to watch the video below, and then give the Almanac Beer blog a visit for more information.

FYI: I'm back in the kitchen tomorrow and should have a long overdue video recipe up by the end of the day. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Metaphorically Speaking

Wow, it's been three days since my last post, and six days since my last video, and that my friends, is a new Food Wishes record. That's how insane the schedule's been working on the show down here in Los Angeles.

Not only haven't I had much time to film, but I also haven't had any time to visit with my SoCal food blogger buddies, which means I haven't been going to any fabulous restaurants. However, I did have a very nice Korean lunch on Friday, at a place next to our office called, Genwa, where I filmed this 100% cotton-based excuse for a lame metaphor. 

Right about now, I feel exactly like those tightly wound wads of gauze, desperate to be soaked with lots of clean, warm time. I'll be back in San Francisco Tuesday, and I can't wait to get wet! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Good News, Bad News, Good News from Hollywood

Photo (c) bdearth
The good news is that everything is on schedule and going great down here in Hollywood. The bad news is that the next few days are dawn to dusk television production insanity, and there will no time to post anything, not even one of my lame re-runs. 

The good news is that when I get back to San Francisco on Tuesday, my schedule is finally clear, and I'll have nothing to do except film video recipes – and believe me, I have quite an impressive list of dishes to share. Stay tuned!

Aubergine stew


I spent quite a lot of 2000 and 2001 trying and failing to sleep in cars. Or in fields. Or in tents. Or on a drunkenly-constructed bed made from beanbags. I also spent some of it trying to turf drunks out of my bed, or being turfed out of someone else's bed, across which I was drunkenly splashed.

I went to Bristol University, you see, and everyone just had to have a 21st birthday party. And everyone seemed to live in the countryside. So they'd put up a big tent in their garden and drag some chairs and tables in and serve up dry chicken and fruit mousse and then put on loud disco music and everyone would jiggle about like stupid tossers and then at about 3am everyone had to find somewhere to sleep.

They always ended at sort of 3am, those parties. No-one really took drugs, you see, which I hear is what you need to get you past that 3am stage. Drink will get you so far and then you need help. At Bristol, only weirdos took drugs. Normal people just drank. And drank. And drank.

Anyway, one day I decided that enough was enough. I wasn't going to go to any more parties where I couldn't be guaranteed a bed. I was too old, I reasoned, at 21, to do this any more. It was undiginified and stupid. I wanted a bed in the GOOD part of the house, I would say. Not in the living room or in an obvious first-floor location.

I wanted to know where they were hiding the good shit, the reserved alcove which would be kept sweet and clean and slumbersome - no room that might be stumbled upon by eight drunk engineering undergraduates for an impromtu de-bag and radishing session. And don't you dare put me in with a notorious snorer, you fucker!!! I know your tricks.

It worked. Every single party I went to from then on I got a bed in the inner sanctum boudoir. But I put my foot down too late because there was only one 21st left - and it was mine.

So I've decided to learn from my mistakes and get in early when it comes to aubergines. I've always salted aubergines and it's such a pain in the arse. I've never tried to skip this step because so many people (I'm talking about you, Delia) make out like if you don't do it, the whole world will collapse.

But I had my mind changed the other day by one of my favourite readers, Ian Brice. He scanned in and sent to me the recipe for an aubergine stew, with Mrs Brice's annotations, which clearly indicated that one was not to bother naffing about salting OR peeling the wrectched aubergines. So I decided to put my foot down that very day and henceforth never salt an aubergine again.

And it worked out just fine. I have changed the recipe slightly - it called for red wine, which I didn't have and garlic, which I willfully simply decided I didn't want in it, and I added mozarella on the top, because I'm just fucking crazy like that.

Provencal aubergine stew.
Serves 4 with a salad or bread or something.

3 aubergines
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 large onion
bay leaves, thyme, oregano, rosemary - or any combination of those you can get your hands on
1/2 bottle red or white wine
mozarella - about 2 cheeses
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar

1 Chop the onion and sautee gently in whatever pot you're going to do the whole thing in

2 Chop your aubergines into rounds, then heat up some olive oil to a medium temperature and start frying them off. They drink olive oil, aubergines. So don't worry to much about it, just ladle it on when you think the pan is becoming unacceptably dry. The aubergine rounds will be ready after about 5 minutes each side and they have taken on some colour and have started to collapse slightly.

3 Once the onion is soft-ish (about 10 minutes) throw in whatever herbs you've got and toss around a bit until you start to smell them. (I also at this stage added a chopped courgette and browned it - but you don't have to.) Then pour in a half or a third of a bottle of wine, turn the heat right up and let it bubble almost completely down to just a thin layer of liquid.

4 Add the tomatoes and then the aubergines once they've all been cooked off. Give the whole thing a stir and put on a very low heat for 45 minutes. After that time taste it then sprinkle over 1 large pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar (which takes the edge off the horrid sourness of tinned tomatoes). Add more salt if you think it needs it.

5 At this stage I layered on slices of mozarella, let them melt and then put the whole thing under the grill to brown. But you don't have to do this.

I actually haven't had any of this yet. I made it for my husband's dinner last night, while I went out and got drunk with my old friend Will. But Giles said it was delicious, and he wouldn't say that if he didn't mean it. I, meanwhile, now have a retro-hangover like it's 2001, with the additional burden of a full day of childcare.

 At least I got the best bed in the house last night. And I didn't have to salt any bloody aubergines.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Does this Hollandaise-less Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict Make Me a Traitor?

I'm probably not the first person you think of when discussing adapting high-calorie recipes into lower fat ones. I know I've done a few, but generally I believe one should make something in its full fat glory, or not at all. I hate to break it to you, but shredded, steamed chicken with fat-free yogurt on quinoa chips isn’t really "nachos."

This hollandaise-less smoked salmon eggs Benedict, however, has me on the other side of that argument. As promised, here is a video recipe for the plate you saw in the How to Poach Eggs demo. You'll have to take my word for it when I say that despite the absence of the traditional hollandaise sauce, it was really, really good.

As I explain in the clip, the dill butter spread, and the yolks from the poached eggs combine to form a fine substitute for the world's highest calorie sauce. I think this idea can be adapted to feature any number of compound butters and meat combinations, and I'd love to hear about any such breakfast experiments. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for the Dill Butter:
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons dill
1 teaspoon lemon zest
salt, fresh ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Food Woolf in New Orleans

I've been thinking about using my iPhone to do more quick movies for days in between the recipe videos. You may have seen my recent, How to Eat a Hamburger demo, which is the only type of thing I thought I should be using the ├╝berphone for. 

That was until I saw my friend Brooke's short film teasing a post she's doing on a recent press trip to New Orleans. When I finished watching it, two thoughts immediately percolated up. 

The first was why the hell wasn’t I invited on this trip? Hey, Louisiana Seafood Board, expect a call from my people Monday morning. Supplying us with delicious, sustainable fish doesn't get you off the hook (see what I did there? I think I've made my point).

Then I thought, instead of making one-note, me-eating-something-somewhere iPhone videos, why don't I actually try telling a story? So, thanks Brooke, for making me look at something in a different way. Every time I do, good things happen. 

Speaking of good things, after you watch the video, be sure to head over to her thoughtful and extremely well written blog, Food Woolf, to read the full post. Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

In Case of Emergency: How to Make a Tomato Rose

I like to have a few short, all-purpose how-to videos, like this tomato rose technique, already done and ready for a quick upload, in case something unexpected happens and I can't film a regular recipe.

You know, for emergencies like if my equipment fails, or I get injured saving a fireman stuck in a tree (he was up there trying to save a cat), or like in this case, I get called down to Los Angeles to produce a historically-based reality food show. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Father's Day Garlic Steak with Garlic Confit - Oh, Daddy!

If your dad is a fan of garlic, this garlic steak with garlic confit will surely put a smile on his face. And not just any kind of smile; one of those, "maybe they really do love and appreciate me, and aren't just pretending so I continue to work like a dog so they can have food and shelter. One of those smiles.

I have nothing against mothers, in fact, if it wasn't for them, most of us wouldn't be here. But, when it comes to Mother's Day vs. Father's Day foods, I have to lean towards the dad. You know, less artsy, more fartsy. When I think Mother's Day, I think flowers, fancy brunches, and maybe a couple Mimosas. Father's Day is more like a bad tie, a sizzling steak on the grill, and a few cans of domestic beer.

Speaking of bad ties, do the old man a favor, and don't get him one this year, and instead use that money to go to a real butcher and get an expensive, nicely marbled piece of beef. As I mentioned in the video, I was forced to use a couple unremarkable supermarket steaks, which came out pretty well, but try and treat dad to something a little more special.

I will be post a longer more detailed recipe for the garlic confit, but it really is quite a simple matter – cover the cloves in olive oil, and cook on very low until soft and sweet – and do NOT discard the oil, keep it refrigerated and we'll use it on some upcoming stuff. Enjoy!

2 NY Strip Steaks
8 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoon good aged balsamic
confit garlic cloves, as needed

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to Poach Eggs - Better Late Than Whenever

I mentioned in the recent Roasted Asparagus with Fried Prosciutto and Poached Egg video post that I'd be doing a new and improved "how to poach eggs" technique demo. I said I'd be doing it "soon," which to me means sometime this year, but apparently to many viewers that meant in the next day or two.

So, it's safe to say, this video recipe was truly "by popular demand." And by "demand" I mean constant harassment, and good-natured threats, or at least I hope they were good-natured. The lesson here is to never promise anyone anything.

In related news: I'm not saying exactly when, only that it will be in the future, but the breakfast I used as a destination for my poached eggs will also be turned into its own video recipe for a sort of hollandaise-less eggs Benedict, so stay tuned for that.

Anyway, this is fairly straightforward stuff, except for the fact that the really, really fresh eggs I bought to show how amazingly well they hold together in the hot water, were anything but. As you'll see, they spread out faster that a group of food bloggers in a free grand tasting tent. Enjoy!

For 2 quarts of water
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh eggs!

Friday, June 10, 2011

An Upside-Down Burgers is Right-Side Up

You'll be happy to know I brought all my equipment with me down to LA, and I'll be spending my entire weekend filming a bunch of new videos recipes – none of which will include my "face for radio."

This little quick and dirty cell phone video shows a burger eating technique I've been wanting to share for a while. I like to leave my burger upside-down on the plate, so instead of the thinner bottom bun getting even soggier, the juices drain into the usually thicker, drier top bun. You're welcome. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

No food today

Last night I made a kind of asian duck salad thing with dirty rice (which is rice with onions and peas and bits and bobs in it) but I made the whole thing with brown rice so it was an entirely brown dinner so I didn't take a photo of it.

But the duck worked really well so I will write about it another time.

Meanwhile, I'd like to share with you today an email a reader sent me, which was so funny I just have to post it here for you.

NB the previous sentence was talking about tedious "lifestyle" food TV.

"...who watches that shit ? I know I do, I can’t help myself.

Funky lady bakery telly is ruining my lazy Saturday mornings in bed not to mention the paintwork as I hurl the nearest object at the gogglebox ( remote control, vibrator) I just don’t know any women who have lives like that !? Or the time or inclination to think of recipes to match your mood (Sophie Dahl) what does melancholy even mean ?

I have 3 moods:
I’m fine
I’m fucked off
I’m hungover Pizza and Pinot works for all three.

Maybe the truth is I’m just jealous of their lives. Maybe I want my heart to skip a beat when I walk past a flowering zuchinni plant. This Sunday for instance I spent 3 hours making meringues with gorgeous summer fruits and raspberry coulis. Then I sliced my hand open cutting the meringues …it’s officially the gayest injury ever.

Too scared to go hospital I went to the rough as balls pub across the road, but first with the use of one good hand finished the coulis, put on some lipstick and took the pavlova with me.

Imagine their faces at the tavern… “Hi neighbour! I made you all a delicious pavlova, and check out this flesh wound wrapped in bog roll ! I’ve lost half my hand and I’m going to pass out !”

As it turns out I had access to the best medical advice from the landlord, a builder, a Jamaican barber and a gal who works for the Red Cross ( admittedly in marketing but good enough for me) I don’t doubt that they’ve all seen worse, and the general consensus was I could get away with no stitches. 

My medical team fixed me right up with Germolene, plasters, cheap Red Wine and Johnny Cash on the jukebox. The local Alkies lapped up the Pavlova and told me their life stories…now that’s a cookery show!

Happy Days. Please excuse the punctuation and grammar I’m typing with one hand."

Isn't that tremendous? I feel like I ought to retire. Or she ought to take over Recipe Rifle, in a Dread Pirate Roberts-style reincarnation.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Can't Boil Water" Starring…Me?

A couple days ago I mentioned that I was down in LA on some semi-secret business. Believe it or not, I was hired on as the Senior Food Producer for a new ABC pilot called "Time Machine Chefs." 

I'll be here for a few weeks helping make sure this is the biggest smash hit cooking show since Top Chef. I wish I could give more details, but for obvious reasons I can't. 

I was brought in by my great friend, Jude Weng, a very talented and accomplished producer who specializes in unscripted television shows (she worked on the very first Survivor!). Speaking of unscripted television shows, the video below is the sizzle reel (which is a sort of quick and dirty mini-pilot) we did together a few years ago for a show idea called, "Can't Boil Water." 

It hasn't been picked up yet, but who knows, maybe now that she's given me permission to post it, a bunch of offers will roll in. I'm joined by my student, Becky Nuse, her fiance Mario, and my good buddy, Sara (aka Average Betty). Enjoy!

Spanish omelette

Well you all went perfectly nuts for the vegetarian idea and I was inundated by your favourite vegetarian recipes. I mean... there must have been at least 10!!!!

I haven't cooked any of them yet because I haven't had a chance to go to the shops again for the ingredients - mostly more butternut squash and a large sack of lentils by the looks of things. But such is the life of a duty cook that when the evening rolled around again I had to make supper for my hungry husband with no vegetarian option available.

In times of stress such as these, I like to ask myself "What would Judge Judy do?" But this isn't very helpful in the kitchen because I imagine what Judge Judy would do would be to get a Chinese takeaway. Or have her own personal chef knock up a pizza. (She is worth $90m, Judge Judy. Ninety. Million.)

So instead I asked myself, what would K-Mid do? There was a lot of talk around the royal wedding of what an excellent short order cook the Duchess of Cambridge was at university. Short order cooking, for those of you who don't know, is stuff like macaroni cheese, bacon and eggs and shepherd's pie - simple kitchen suppers. So I asked myself "What would K-Mid do?" and the answer came back to me that she would probably make a spanish omelette.

It so happened that in Waitrose the other day I stumbled across a cooking chorizo by a company called Unearthed, who - if I'm not mistaken - are new to the shelves of Waitrose. And I like to investigate new things in Waitrose. So I had some chorizo and I had a potato and I had some eggs and I had some onions and off I went.

And it was great, as Spanish omelettes always are.

Not meat-free, but I never made any promises. I never signed anything.
Judge Judy would approve.

Spanish omelette for 2 hungry people, or 4 less hungry with a salad

5 eggs
6 Unearthed cooking chorizo sausages, cooked and diced. Or really any chorizo you like
a long sloop of cream if you have it but don't worry if not
1 large onion
olive oil
groundnut oil
1 large baking or waxy potato
some fresh oregano and sage if you have it
salt and pepper
monteray jack or cheddar cheese - this is optional if you think it's a calorie too far

1 Peel and chop your potato and then if you can, steam it for 25 minutes. I really advise the purchase of a steamer, I use mine all the time. It's Le Creuset. I love it. If you don't have one, you can balance a colander over a pan of boiling water and chuck any old lid that fits on top

2 Chop and sautee the onion in a sloop of groundnut oil, a sloop of olive oil and about 25g butter. Do this in a pan big enough to take the entire omelette. It doesn't have to be non-stick because this has got quite a lot of oil in it so shouldn't stick to the bottom too badly. But use a non-stick if you like.

Sprinkle over a large pinch of salt, which stops the onion burning. Don't know why so don't ask - and don't CARE so don't tell me. Throw in the sage and the oregano if using.

3 Cook and dice the chorizo. Incidentally, my husband is something of a tapas and Spanish food enthusiast generally and says that this chorizo is very good. You can either cook it in the oven or in a frying pan. It will leak orange gunk everywhere. I'm sorry about this, but it's just the way with chorizo.

Put on your grill to full bongos.

4 Whisk up the 5 eggs in a separate bowl with cream if using and season cautiously as the chorizo is quite strong.

5 Add the potato and the chorizo to the onion and shift around carefully so's not to mash the potato up too badly. Then pour over the egg mixture and give the whole thing a shake. Turn the heat up to medium and keep an eye on the pan. Little bubbles ought to start coming to the surface after about 4-5 minutes.

When you reckon the bottom's firming up (oh how I wish my bottom would firm back up) grate over some cheese and slide it under your redhot grill for another 3-4 minutes or until you reckon it's done.

Depending on your pan, you may not be able to turn the whole thing out, but you certainly ought to be able to cut triangles directly out of the pan without too much bother.

We ate this with a very crunchy salad, a lot of Tabasco sauce and some beer.

Why are children so keen on The Gruffalo? I read it for the first time this morning and it was okay, but its cult status is baffling. Mog the Forgetful Cat or Six Dinner Sid or The Tiger Who Came To Tea are surely more moving, generally. You will note a strong feline theme. I did call my child Kitty, after all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Cook Hamburgers So That Someone Like Me Would Like Them

I normally don't care too much about how absolutely accurate the color profiles of my photos are. I'm the video guy, so if the pictures are a little off, or my grammar's ain't perfect, I get a pass.

But here I was concerned that my average-at-best photography skills would give readers a false impression of exactly how cooked this hamburger was. You'll have to take my word for it, but this was a pretty perfect medium. It may have been the bright light, but the photo makes this look a little rarer than it was.

I'm not a big fan of rare burgers, as I've always believed the beef fat therein should be hot and flowing, not cool and flabby. If I want raw meat I'll make a tartar. At the same time, I do want to keep the burger somewhat pink, if possible, so it stays moist and tender.

The technique you're about to watch is fairly straightforward, but like any cooking methods, it takes a little practice. The good news is, once you get a feel for this "cook it just over halfway up" system, you should be a perfectly pink hamburger making machine.

By the way, I won't engage in any inane debates on the wisdom of eating less-than-well-done burgers. The topic's been covered online, ad nauseam (pun intended). Is it potentially dangerous to eat a pink burger? Of course, but so is crossing the street. Enjoy!

Butternut squash pie

I have been the executive decision-maker in this house for some time now.

Famous decisions I have executed executively have been to switch to quilted bog roll, to convert the loft, to stop giving Kitty baby rice and to buy a family diesel estate.

They've all been very successful decisions and riding the crest of this success-wave I have now decided executively that we need to eat less meat in the house.

For one, I don't like buying meat. Since Kitty was born, I haven't been able to eat lamb anymore. First, I've decided that it stinks. And second, I feel like I may as well go up to the nursery and hack one of my child's limbs off as eat a leg of lamb.

Every time I walk down the meat aisle in Waitrose in the back of my mind is the terrible worry that all these animals had a ghastly time, that they died in pain, that I am a monster. This is despite me buying only the most faithfully organic and free-range farm-based meat I can.

But my range of vegetarian cooking - that isn't pasta - is pitiful. I can cook a very good spanakopita but that's it. So recently I have been casting round for interesting vegetarian recipes.

This butternut squash pie is a sort of made-up thing inspired by a pie I saw in the Cranks Bible, which is a vegetarian cookbook, but which I mostly don't find that exciting. It's full of fucking SOUP and you know how much I hate soup. But there is this pie in it. The other ingredients I added because I thought they might be fun. It is also based on the spanakopita principle of using filo pastry as a casing.

I mostly fucking hate butternut squash. It dates back to the time when I was on the Atkins diet and ate it all the time. I grew sick of the sight of it. But once in a while, it's fine, especially when combined with a lot of cheese and spinach and pastry.

This worked very well but it is very rich and I would advise that you eat it with an extremely sharp, cold cucumber or tomato salad. This makes enough for 4-6 people and I used a 25cm flan dish.

So here we go.

Esther's butternut squash pie

1 butternut squash
4 sage leaves
some butter
1 bag baby spinach leaves
1 pack dolcelatte (about 150g)
some olive oil
filo pastry - about 8 sheets
salt and pepper
3 eggs
some cream if you have it but don't worry if not

Preheat the oven to 180C

1 Peel and chop your butternut squash and then cook it gently in a frying pan with a lid on for a good hour with the shredded sage leaves in some olive oil. Butternut squash seems so hard and unforgiving that you may doubt that it will cook down in this time, but it will.

2 Meanwhile wash and wilt the spinach in 0.5cm of water for about 5 minutes

3 Lightly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan and chop

4 When the buttenut squash is mostly soft, combine it with the dolcelatte (torn up by you) the spinach, the walnuts, the eggs and the cream - if using. Sprinkle over a very large pinch of salt and about 10 turns of the pepper grinder.

5 Lay about four sheets of filo pastry in whatever dish or tin you're going to cook this in. Brush olive oil between the sheets so they stick together. Pile in the fillling and then lay more sheets of filo on top. Bung in the oven for 20 minutes.

p.s. if you have any favourite vegetarian recipes that aren't pasta, potato or risotto-based email me: or leave a comment.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Coming Soon: How to Make Perfectly Pink Hamburgers

I just found out that amazingly delicious cheeseburger you saw in the Pinot-Glazed Mushrooms video can't air until July, 27th. It was a sponsored post, so I have no choice but to wait, however I did film some extra footage during that session on how to get a perfectly pink burger. I'm in Los Angeles on some semi-secret business, but I should have this hopefully helpful how-to up tomorrow evening. Stay tuned!

A Pickled Peck of Padron Peppers - Twist Your Tongue with Flavor

While I was at the inaugural Atlanta Food & Wine Festival a few weeks ago, I attended a demo by Donald Link, on the topic of working with hot peppers. When Link told the crowd he's used over 150 different varieties of peppers, we knew we were listening to the right dude.

During the presentation Chef Link made a quick and colorful batch of pickled peppers, and while they did look great, it was the vinegar they were brined in that really caught my attention. 

The James Beard Award winning chef said that every station in his kitchens have some of this spicy vinegar in it, and that this magic potion is used liberally in all kinds of things; rice, dressings, and marinades, just to name a few.

So, when Michele came home last week with a bag of oversized Padron peppers, I decided to give this a whirl. I was in one of those 'don't do any research before you start' moods, and just went for it. I decided to use vinegar and sugar, but no salt.

I know salt, and lots of it, is found in virtually all pickling brines, but I wanted to see what would happen if it was omitted. Since I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to use this vinegar on or in, I thought that would give me more flexibility

Of course, the only problem with an experiment like this is I have to wait a few weeks, at least, to taste my creation. I'm not a patient person, but hopefully I'll be rewarded. If you can't find Pardon peppers (see bonus coverage below), then any small fresh pepper will work, especially jalapeno or red Fresno chilies. Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: Like I said in the video, this is an experiment. Try this at your own risk!

Enough peppers to almost fill a quart jar
3 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Bonus Padron Pepper Coverage!

Padron peppers are such a fascinating fruit (yes, like tomatoes, they are technically a fruit), and I covered them in way more detail in this post I did last August. I've posted the video below, but I encourage you curious culinarians to go check out the full post here. Enjoy!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mahi Mahi with Spicy Thai Chili Mango Sauce and a Lesson Well Learned

Making this mahi mahi with spicy Thai chili mango sauce recipe didn't have me dreaming of tropical beaches, or some exotic outdoor market in southeast Asia. No, it reminded me of getting yelled at in the back of some dingy prep kitchen, a very long time ago.

I was given a recipe to make by an old French chef for a tomato pasta sauce. The first step was sweating a finely minced mirepoix in some olive oil. Since it was a fairly large batch, I decided to use the food processor to mince the carrots, celery and onions. Le chef was not le happy.

After teaching me a few new, colorful French phrases, he explained that while a mechanically minced mirepoix may look similar to a hand minced one, they were very different. He told me when you use a food processor, the vegetables are torn into tiny pieces, as opposed to being cleanly cut.

There is way more damage done to the cellular structure, and depending on the ingredient, that can create a noticeably different taste and texture than using a sharp knife and a little elbow grease, or as I believe it's called in France, elbow butter.

Anyway, this mango sauce is an example of how much I took that lesson to heart. For all I know that culinary theory has been debunked by Alton Brown, or some other food wonk a long time ago, but I don't care. I'll always believe my spicy mango sauce tastes better because I cut it by hand. Thanks chef! Enjoy.

UPDATE: I just listened to this video recipe again, and am proposing a new drinking game where every time I say "beautiful," you have to do a shot. ;-)

Spicy Thai Chili Mango Sauce Ingredients: (note everything in this is "to taste")
3/4 cup finely minced mango
1/2 small Thai chili, minced very fine
1 teaspoon sambal chili sauce, or other similar chili paste
1 large clove garlic, crushed fine
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
juice from one lime
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coming Soon: Grilled Mahi Mahi with Spicy Thai Chili Mango Sauce

I will explain all this later. Thank you. Come again. UPDATE: This was edited and posted during my IACP session (which explains the brief and cryptic first sentence), that I blogged about yesterday. It went very well! I'll be back in San Francisco tomorrow, and will upload the full video then. Thanks!

UPDATE to the UPDATE: I'm back in San Francisco, but will not be able to upload the video today...unless you want it without any narration. :-) Stay tuned!