Friday, June 29, 2012

Balsamic Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta – Currently Trending

Some culinary trends are silly. I don’t want deconstructed soups or faux-Kobe sliders. Others are only silly when done poorly. The popular savory/sweet trend is a great example.

While it's often some kind of salted caramel bacon topped ridiculousness, It can be something as easy and approachable as this sexy strawberry goat cheese bruschetta. The way the tangy, slightly salty goat cheese works with the syrupy, balsamic-coated strawberries and crispy, charred bread is a thing of beauty. 

By the way, I’ve got great news if you stink at picking out sweet strawberries. Because we are using a balsamic reduction, this dish actually works very nicely with less-than-perfect berries.

However, one thing that will not work is poor quality vinegar. You’re going to want to use real, aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy. There’s just no substitute. Every large market sells it now, so pick up a bottle, and try this very tasty, albeit trendy treat soon. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Dishing Gourmet, for it was their lovely photo on TasteSpotting that inspired this post!

Ingredients for 12 Balsamic Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta
12 slices of Italian bread
olive oil, as needed
1 cup fresh goat cheese, room temp
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar, reduced to 1/4 cup
1 pound strawberries, washed and diced
salt and pepper to taste
fresh thyme leaves as desired

Later Today: Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Thursday, June 28, 2012

La Fuji Mama’s Buckwheat Crêpes with Avocado & Cheddar Cheese

This pretty pancake is from my friend Rachael, aka La FujiMama, and as I watched her video I couldn’t help but think, why hadn’t I thought of this? I love buckwheat crepes, and I love melted cheese, yet I never thought to grill cheddar inside a folded buckwheat crepe. 

Anyway, I’m going to try this crepe soon, and see what kind of wacky filling I can come up with. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the video, and thanks to Rachael for sharing! After you watch, be sure to head over to La Fuji Mama to read the post and get the original recipe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Miso-Glazed Skirt Steak – There is Nothing More American Than Foreign Ingredients

This succulent grilled skirt steak recipe would be perfect for your 4th of July cookout, and what better way to celebrate America’s birthday than with an ingredient from Japan. 

Our nation has lots to be proud of; and one thing I take special pride in is our willingness to integrate any and all culinary influences into our cuisine. We don’t much care where it comes from, as long as it’s delicious, we will assimilate.

There was a time, not that long ago, when only a lucky few “gourmands” living near big cities had access to imported ingredients like miso, balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, etc. Nowadays, these items are found in virtually every large grocery store, from sea to shining sea. When I hear the words, “immigrants built this country,” I don’t think of railroads, bridges, and roads; I think pizza, sushi, and foie gras torchon.

I’ll admit to knowing very little about miso, or why it’s so effective in this simple glaze, but that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with a little mystery in your cooking (think burlesque vs. full-frontal). How and why it makes the beef so juicy and flavorful is not nearly as important as the fact it does.

I’ve done countless variations of this glaze, and oddly enough I prefer a red wine vinegar in this, over more obvious choices like rice vinegar. Maybe it’s just because I associate red wine with red meat, but I really think there’s something else going on. What? No idea (see paragraph 4).

You’ll notice the ingredient list is relatively short, and it should probably stay that way, but of course I expect you to tweak this to your personal tastes. Not doing so would be downright un-American. I hope you give this great grilled miso glazed skirt steak a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 smaller portions:
1 whole skirt steak (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tbsp yellow miso
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 packed tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 cloves finely crushed garlic
freshly ground black pepper to taste
*Glaze should be spread over both sides of meat, and left out for 30 minutes.
**I think skirt steak has the best texture if cooked between medium-rare and medium. I'd remove at an internal temp of 130-135 F.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Squash Birds of a Feather

© Irvin Lin, Eat the Love
Those of you familiar with competitive yellow squash carving know how intense these contests can get, and an event I recently co-hosted with Allrecipes in Seattle was no different. The tension was so thick, you could've cut it with a swag-bag paring knife.

This battle royal took place at the conclusion of BlogHerFood weekend, and an exclusive group of foodies were invited based on their blogging experience, passion for edible art, and to a much greater extent, their availability.

The theme of the day was centered on my mascot and lifelong friend, the squash bird. After regaling them with the strange and mostly true story of how it came to be, and demonstrating how I make the bird, our honored attendees set to work creating their own renditions for fun and fabulous prizes.

Despite bottomless Mimosas, I thought the birds  these “gordiators” produced were extraordinary. Here are a few of the highlights. 

© Irvin Lin, Eat the Love
I only had my cell phone to take pictures with, so the blurry shots are mine. Thankfully my friend Irvin at Eat the Love was there, and graciously shared some of the pictures he took.

The winning bird was from Michael Procopio, the blogger/food writer behind the always entertaining Food for the Thoughtless. The classic combination of huge beak and fabulous hat proved irresistible to the judges. More subtle was the upright posture, which gave the bird an almost regal stance.

In addition to being a squash bird boss, the hilarious Mr. Procopio also gives good Twitter, so be sure to check him out there. By the way, be prepared to look stuff up on Wikipedia.

Speaking of fabulous, the inimitable Linda Nicholson, aka Salty Seattle, was also in attendance. As you can see, she was clearly trying to distract the competition with her choice of footwear, which mimicked the bird’s bright orange feet. Did it work? Not really, but who cares? Look at those boots!

© Irvin Lin, Eat the Love
Her squash birds were almost as striking. The saline siren attempted an ambition scene consisting of what appears to be two squash birds trying to land on the same rock. 

Unfortunately, during the lunch break, some mayo from her sandwich must have fallen on the birds, and she was disqualified for violating Chapter 3, Section 7 of the official rules, which covers inappropriate use of condiments.

Many attendees utilized "hair" and other eye-catching accessories to make an impression. Sean Timberlake from Hedonia tried to pull off the rarely seen cock’s comb/toupee combo; and DPaul Brown from's follic affectations not only dressed up his entry, but also helped indicate what kind of cigarette was in the beak.

© Irvin Lin, Eat the Love
Another favorite was this submission from Andrew Wilder at Eating Rules. I thought it was a smart approach to make the bird look like it was bending over feeding. 

We assumed Andrew was trying to show movement, although he did spend a lot of time making sure everyone saw just how anatomically correct the tail end of his creation was, so there may have been ulterior motives.

Anyway, we really did have a great time, and I want to thank everyone who participated. Also, a huge thanks to my friends at Allrecipes for hosting and organizing such a fun event! 

If you want to learn how to make your very own squash bird, check out this video, and as always, enjoy!

Egg and potato pie

We have got a mouse.

I say that like this is a new thing. We've actually had a mouse for ages. And when I say mouse, I dearly hope I do mean mouse, singular, not mice, plural. It's hard to tell, mice look similar. And if there are two mice living in this house, it's highly likely they are related and therefore even more indistinguishable.

The reason I mention it only now is that up until a fortnight ago, only other people had ever seen this mouse and I, of course, dismissed the sightings as fanciful imaginings of hysterical people.

"Okay," I would say, "if there's a mouse, where's the mouse poo?" But then one evening when my husband was watching football, I was sitting right here at the kitchen table, writing, and out from under the oven came a small, sleek mouse with a twitchy nose, beady eyes and very large ears.

It was indescribably cute.

Then it saw me and disappeared like lightning, leaving, in terror, a trail of poo behind it.

I didn't say anything to my husband, because my husband thinks we should get Rentokil in and I do not want this. I do not want to set glue traps or lay down some sort of ghastly poison that causes the mice to die slowly from internal bleeding. Neither do I want to get a cat. I like cats, but there are too many cats already on our street already and they kill all the birds. I have never been ok with death. I don't like it and I don't want it around me. I certainly don't want to be party to it.

I have purchased, online from somehere that calls itself "Tooled-Up" a humane mousetrap but when I catch and release this mouse on to Hampstead Heath I fully expect another one to replace it.

Anyway, aren't mice inevitable? These old London houses with their mouse-sized gaps everywhere and rubbish aplenty - surely every building, except hermetically-sealed new builds, has got a mouse somewhere. Rather than issue a mouse holocaust, we should all just try to get along.

(Incidentally, my sister in law told me that she heard on the radio that there is an influx of mice at the moment because it has been so rainy - the mice flee the flooding sewers and take shelter under, for example, ovens in North London. She has the same attitude to mice as me: live and let live.)

Anyway I know why we have got a mouse. It's because of Kitty. Or rather, it's because of me. It's because I allow her to roam freely round the ground floor carrying a variety of brittle foodstuffs, which rain little mouse-snack-sized crumbs hither and thither, which, later on, the mouse posts into its gob with both hands. I have seen it with my own eyes, while sitting on the sofa watching Breaking Bad and eating Green&Blacks.

The only thing to do is vacuum the entire ground floor every night before bed. I do not wish to starve the mouse, you understand - merely think that it might have better luck elsewhere until the sewers dry out and it can return to its natural habitat.

Speaking of natural habitats, mine is carbohydrate-based. I have been dieting like mad recently because I am still so traumatised by being fat while pregnant (yes, after 17 months. That's how fat I was). But recently, I have fallen off the starvation waggon and have been scoffing like my little mouse friend. It's partly because I am trying to have another baby and think maybe if I've got a bit more meat on my bones it might help.

Incidentally, I know what you're thinking: you're thinking - why are you trying to have another baby when all you do is complain on and on about how awful having children is? And my answer is this: Kitty needs a little buddy. If she didn't need a little buddy I wouldn't do it. No way. The thought of doing it all again makes me feel quite ill but at least I only have to do it once more. Then I can wash my hands of the whole sorry business and concentrate on dieting until I'm so thin a stiff breeze would blow me over.

But until then, here is a terrific recipe for egg and potato pie that my husband makes when we're feeling skinny and virtuous enough to risk letting such things pass our lips.

Giles's egg and potato pie
for 4

3 large floury potatoes
4 eggs
butter - about 100g
salt and pepper

1 Peel and boil the potatoes whole for 15 minutes but stop boiling if they look like they're falling apart, as floury potatoes are so wont to do. Boil the eggs for 7 minutes, cool and peel.

2 Slice the potatoes and the eggs. This is a reasonably fiddly job - especially with the eggs. If you have a purpose-made egg slicer, this is the time to extract it from the back of that drawer, wipe the grease off and deploy it.

3 Butter the bottom of a baking dish, then cover with a layer of potatoes. Dot with butter and season. Then add a layer of sliced egg. Repeat this until you have used up all your egg and potato.

DO NOT fret if this all looks a bit of a mess, it is an imprecise dish and will taste terrific no matter how it looks.

4 Put in the oven for 45 mins at 180

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fast & Easy Creamed Spinach – Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.)

When people ask me if I fear eventually running out of things to video, I say no, and then joke that even if I did, I’d just start filming them all over again to keep that sweet ad revenue flowing in.

While that wasn’t the reason, I did think about that while filming this new and possibly improved creamed spinach recipe. As I’ve admitted before, every once in a while I’ll film something because I feel like eating it, and not because it’s a food wish. This lovely side dish is one such recipe.

I was driving over the Bay Bridge a few weeks ago, and C.R.E.A.M. by the Wu-Tang Clan was on the stereo. As Raekwon the Chef and Method Man serenaded me over the foggy span, I started to crave a steak and side of creamed spinach. This happens more than I care to admit, where a song triggers a yearning for some sort of tasty bite. Please tell me this happens to you too.

This more contemporary creamed spinach recipe is very similar flavor-wise to our previously posted “Steakhouse Creamed Spinach,” but since it doesn’t use a béchamel, it’s a bit lighter in texture. You'll need to use a nice heavy cream, since it thickens beautifully as it reduces, leaving you with a simple, but still luxurious sauce.

The only way to ruin this dish is to not squeeze all the water out of the cooked spinach. If that’s covered, the rest is pretty simple. Keep in mind that even perfect squeezed spinach will still thin out the sauce a bit; so don’t be afraid to reduce the cream until quite thick. You can always add another drizzle of cream if you go too far.

Anyway, as the WTC would say, I hope you’re trying to hear what I'm kickin' in your ear. This would make a great side dish for your next steak dinner, and you should give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 pounds cleaned spinach
2 tsp olive oil
For the cream sauce:
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced shallots
pinch of salt, cayenne, freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
3/4 cup cream
2 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Coming Soon: Miso-Glazed Skirt Steak

One silver lining with this kitchen remodel is that I've had to do lots of cooking outside on the grill. That means playing around with lots of new recipe ideas, like this miso-glazed skirt steak I tried yesterday. I'm making a video of this meaty masterpiece for sure, and I'll post later this week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rusty Chicken Thighs – What’s in a Name?

When I first came up, dishes had cool names, but that eventually went out of fashion, and chefs just started listing all the ingredients on the menu instead. That’s all well and good, but the problem for recipes like this “Rusty Chicken,” is that if I called it “Grilled Chicken Thighs marinated with Garlic, Soy, Maple Syrup, Chilies and Rice Vinegar,” you’d be thinking about all those parts and not the sum (of the yum?).

Since no one flavor dominates this beautifully balanced, all-purpose grilled chicken marinade, I’d prefer it just be called “rusty chicken” – celebrating the color of the marinade and meat, instead of the individual ingredients. I guess what I’m getting at is this doesn’t necessarily taste like the ingredients sound.

Besides, I think recipes with unique names take on their own personality, and it only takes a few tall tales to build a mythology around it. One reason Buffalo chicken wings taste so good is because they’re called “Buffalo wings,” and not “hot sauce & margarine-glazed wings.” Anyway, call this what you want, just make sure you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 or 2 cloves garlic sliced
2 tsp to 2 tbsp hot chili sauce or paste, or to taste
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
*Of course you should taste and adjust this marinade before pouring over the chicken!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Classic Roasted Red Potatoes – Overlooked and Essential

This roasted red potatoes recipe is one of those food wishes that seems so basic I tend to pass it over for the more provocative requests. I’m sure this has been asked for dozens of times, and yet 725 videos in, I still hadn't posted this iconic side dish. Well, that madness ends today.

While I may take this procedure for granted, it really is a technique that should be mastered by all home cooks. There are three key elements necessary to achieve roasted red potato nirvana. You need a heavy, shallow roasting pan or baking dish, lots of olive oil, and the most precious ingredient of all…time.

I use a Le Creuset, which is glazed cast iron, but any heavy-duty pan should work. No need for expensive extra virgin olive oil for this; just choose whatever you’d use to sauté onions and peppers for Italian sausage, which, coincidentally, would pair awesomely with roasted red potatoes. As for the relatively long cooking time, we make no apologies.

These are technically overcooked, but that’s what it takes to get that perfect marriage of crispy-crusty outside and creamy-soft inside. The only real way to lose at this is to undercook the potatoes. This is considered a crime against nature, and will not be tolerated.

I served mine next to some grilled bass, which was topped with a very garlicky sauce, so I didn’t add any to my potatoes. If you do want some garlic flavor, add some crushed cloves to hot olive oil, and let it sit for an hour. Then strain and use olive oil as shown.

Anyway, I'm sorry I didn’t post this great recipe sooner, and I’ll be sure to pay more attention to these types of requests. This is the kind of beautifully humble dish that makes any meal better, and is more than worth learning to make well. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions Roasted Red Potatoes:
2 pounds red potatoes, cut in evenly-sized pieces
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
thyme sprigs, add whole and remove barren twigs after cooked
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded, cut in chunks

Monday, June 18, 2012

Coffe and hazelnut pissed cake


Stop me if you’ve heard this one already, but I only learned how to drive quite recently. I was 28 I think. Or 29. It was an absolutely ghastly experience. After a certain age, one doesn’t really have to learn new things and it’s such a relief because learning new things is awful - it’s mostly why having a baby is so horrible. I would sweat and shake before, during and after every lesson I had and used to weep and wail about how much I hated it to Giles at least twice a week.

“Just fucking do it,” he would say. “Don’t fucking quit like you quit everything else. Grow a backbone.”

I know that sounds mean but I am actually terribly tough, while simultaneously being a basket-case (if you can get your head round that), and that’s the kind of management I respond to best, alas. Just as, occasionally, if my husband is being a bit of a weed, I will say “Come on. For God’s sake pull yourself together – you’re an Englishman.” There really is no answer to that.

Where was I. Oh yes, driving. God MAN ALIVE I LOVE IT. Brum BRUUUUMMMMM!!! Out of my way, suck-ahs! It helps that my husband purchased, on the birth of Kitty, a shiny black BMW family estate that goes incredibly fast. It is designed specifically to go for long distances at Def Con II, very cheaply (it is a diesel) and I have, in my time, overtaken a convoy of boy racers in neon cars at 140mph while wearing a gilet and boot-cut jeans, without breaking a sweat.  Don’t tell the filth!!!

I have racked up many miles in my beloved car in the last 16 months, but I’ve never done a really long drive. So when my very dear friend from school, Izzy, announced that she was getting married in Norfolk I said to Giles “You stay here with Kitty – I’m going to take the beemer to stretch her legs up to Great Snoring.”

(A Twitter follower tells me that a Mr Gotobed once lived in Great Snoring and I choose to believe her.)

The wedding was marvellous. Izzy looked like a goddess and laughs like Sid James. In the days leading up the event I was terribly worried that there would be a lot of frightening people from school there who would all look at me and say “Oh hii Esther [scoff, chortle, snort] what are YOU doing here...????” but in fact it was just all my old mates, and we sat about and were mean to each other and bitched about people who weren’t there and smoked fags in a twilight field.

I raced back to London the next day in my rocket car, worried about Giles and Kitty alone together – even though I had been sent a series of picture texts, which showed what a rozzlingly brilliant time they were having together without me.

But of course they were: now Kitty is really walking she’s a piece of piss and just bumbles about the house without needing any entertainment, (for now). Just incidentally, the most surreal experience you can have happens when your child has just started walking and ambles into a room you are in. And you see them out of the corner of your eye and you’re like FUCK JESUS CHRIST THERE IS AN ESCAPED CHIMP IN MY HOUSE oh no, no it’s my daughter, phew calm down everyone.  

That evening, still recovering from the 3-hour-each-way drive and feeling rather smug at having left Kitty with Giles, successfully, for 24 hours, I got pissed and decided to bake a cake. The other week I made the most amazing pudding by layering leftover banana bread with Haagen-Daaz Dulce du Leche ice cream, (buy it nowit is amazing), strawberries and Pedro Ximenez sherry and have henceforth decided that one must have a cake on the go at all times for emergency puddings.

So I thought I’d give my old coffee and walnut cake another go. But I didn’t have enough butter. Or any walnuts. So I boinged drunkenly around the kitchen like a pinball, richocheting off walls and singing “Tell Out, My Soul” trying to find substitutes to the ingredients I didn’t have.

Incidentally, the bride Izzy would have been proud of my crapulence; I can tell you for a fact that she spent no fewer than three hours in the pub after school every day, (including Saturdays as Westminster is technically a boarding school), and got A+ and “Excellent” in red pen on everything she did. Needless to say I slaved away like a terrified spod and was still totally average at everything.

Anyway I learned this from my drunken cake excursion:

it is not ideal to substitute vegetable oil for the ground nut oil you don’t have, to sub for the butter you don’t have either. Not ideal. But possible. There is the merest hint of chip fat about things if you use straight veg, rather than ground-nut oil, but it’s possibly less noticeable if you don’t know that that’s what you’re tasting.

So, what you do with this cake is weigh out the eggs (2 or 3 – or even 4, depending on how big you want the cake) and then mix with the same weight of flour and sugar and butter (and coffee and other stuff – see “Coffee and Walnut cake” for details). But I only had 60g of butter, so I made up the rest in vegetable oil. Like I said – not perfect, but totally fine in a dire/drunk cake emergency.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Besides reminding me of my father,
this also reminds me how primitive
my audio/video equipment used to be!
I like reposting this video on Father’s Day, since it’s the recipe that most reminds me of my father John. Growing up, I used to tag along with him on the golf course, and after the round he’d take me to the clubhouse for lunch. I always ordered the exact same thing – an open-face, New York steak sandwich, medium-rare. 

I just loved how the crispy toast would soak up all those wonderful juices, and eating a sandwich with fork and a knife always seemed so grown-up. Sitting there eating, while the men laughed and argued about their rounds is one of my earliest and fondest culinary memories. I’d even get a glass of Coke with a cherry in it to mimic my father’s Manhattan, so I too could participate in the post-game cocktails, which even at that age I could tell were an essential part of the ritual. 

Speaking of golf, we’re heading to Sacramento to celebrate Father’s Day with my father-in-law, Al. Not only is Big Al is a great golfer, but he’s an even better father, and I only wish he and my dad could have played a round of golf together. That would have been a lot of fun. Anyway, whether you’re golfing or gardening, eating steak or tofu, drinking Manhattans or iced tea, I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day. Enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

How NOT to Roast Stuffed Artichokes

Everyone knows that before you stuff and roast an artichoke, you have to boil it first. I know this, and have used this accepted technique many times.  

However, somewhere deep in the memory banks were vague recollections of a stuffed artichoke appetizer that the chef claimed had been roasted raw. This video shows what happens when a cook’s heart ignores a cook’s brain.

The finished product was visually arresting (to put it kindly), and despite looking completely inedible had quite a nice taste and texture. No, that wasn’t the problem. It was the almost 2 1/2 hours (seemed longer) I spent making it that took the wind out of my sails. I love stuffed artichokes, but not that much.

So, I’m recommending we boil our trimmed artichokes in salted water for 30 minutes, or until they just start to get tender. Then, drain very well, stuff with the crumbs and roast until tender and crispy-brown. You’ll have the same amazing artichoke appetizer without the Monopoly-tournament time commitment. Enjoy!

For each artichoke:
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
pinch of dry or fresh herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove minced garlic
*boil for about 30 minutes in salted water, drain very well, stuff and roast at 375 F. until tender and browned.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Grilled Tuscan-style Flank Steak for Your Father

This very masculine Tuscan-style flank steak would be a great way to show the big guy you love him, and that you respect his grilling skills so much that you’re going to go ahead let him do the cooking himself. Of course, the grill needs to be cleaned, but he can do that after he mows the lawn.

I’ve only been to Tuscany once, about 25 years ago, but I do remember a grilled steak coming off a charcoal fire, which was then sliced and splashed with olive oil, lemon and rosemary. While I’m sure my version is far from traditional, it’s really tasty and the very user-friendly flank steak is the perfect cut.

I get a little sad when I see people buying those lemon-pepper-herb steak marinades, since they're ridiculously easy to make, and you can actually pronounce all the ingredients in it. Just to hedge our bets, we’re also going to do an equally simple, but flavor-amplifying dressing to drizzle over the juicy sliced beef.

No matter what you serve, don’t do it too late. If your father is as big a golf fan as my father-in-law Al is, the best gift you can give is to plan the day so they get to relax and watch the US Open Championship. What better way to reward your father than with a few hours on the couch, belly full of flank steak, watching their favorite sports? Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 trimmed flank steak (1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
salt and pepper to taste

For the marinade:
6 garlic cloves
1/2 cup rosemary leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt

For the dressing:
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp minced rosemary leaves
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch salt

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cold Strawberry Soda on a Hot Summer Day

Michele and I are still mid-remodel, so this easy, breezy, strawberry syrup recipe was a welcomed addition to the video schedule. I have my friend Jen Yu from Use Real Butter to thank for that, since it was her gorgeous post that inspired this answer to all those “summer drink” food wishes I’ve been receiving lately.

Jen publishes one of the best blogs around, and if you want to see how this beautiful beverage should really be photographed, check out her original post. Jen's fine food blogging prowess is only eclipsed by her photography skills. Speaking of which, don’t miss her photos of the recent eclipse!

I can’t think of many summer drinks this wouldn’t be great in, but for me it doesn’t get any better than a simple strawberry soda. Give me a big icy pitcher of this blush brew, an Adirondack chair, a little SPF 100 for my bald spot, and I’m ready to happily take on any heat wave. Of course this is only going to be as great as the strawberries you use, so bide your time until you come across those perfect pints.

By the way, the long-lasting aroma that will envelop your home is so enticing, so heady that the syrup almost seems like an added bonus. Michele walked in just as the berries had finished simmering, and couldn’t believe how wonderful the flat smelled. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Strawberry Syrup (makes about 1 quart)
Original recipe from Marisa McClellan’s highly regarded Food in Jars.

2 lbs very ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 cups cold water
2 cups white granulated sugar

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Breaded scallops

Before we got married Giles would, every so often, disappear off to have lunch with a friend, huffing and puffing as he bundled out of the house, always in a fluster, worried he was late, barking on about how he didn't want to go and god why did he agree to have lunch with anyone when he's so busy... the last thing he would say to me, as he returned for the fourth time for some forgotten item, was that he'd be home at 3.30pm and we'll have beans on toast tonight and watch an episode of whatever boxset we had on the go.

And then, without fail, he would go on a massive bender and not come home until 4am, calling at various points in the evening to say that he was just about to get in a cab, and then turning round and going back to the bar for another two hours before ringing again. "No really I am this time... I got distracted by that bloke, you know, that one with the face... I couldn't find a cab... I'm coming.. on my way... [muffled] one gimlet please, Geoff..."

I used to get incredibly pissed off about it. It made me feel like such an idiot. And also, when he rang at midnight to say he was getting in a cab and then still wasn't home by 2am, I would worry. Wouldn't you? My husband never tells lies usually - there was no reason why I wouldn't assume he was telling me the truth about the cab. I didn't have a problem with him going out all night - who cares? - but why not be honest about it and I'll make plans, too? Once or twice I'd even made him a nice dinner and had it waiting when I'd get phonecall no.1 of the evening from him, declaring that he was just getting in a cab and the dinner would sit there sadly until morning.

It took me a long time to get my head round how my husband really didn't think he was going to go on a bender, even though it would have been obvious to undiscovered pygmy tribes that that's where he was headed. I didn't understand how he could genuinely actually feel like he didn't want to go out and yet then, after merely spying a corkscrew tucked into a waiter's apron, find himself weaving his way home at dawn, usually having lost his shoes but with his pockets stuffed full of £50 notes, which he'd won on Blackjack, somewhere - he could never remember where.

In the morning, he would tear at his hair and tremble and shriek about what an awful time he'd had, how terrible he was feeling and how he was never, ever going to leave the house again. Wretched confessions rolled out; he'd passed out on the stairs, in a ditch, in a doorway, he woke up and someone was taking his photo with a bloody iPhone, he spoke for hours passionately to that awful bloke with the face.

He was reformed, changed. It was over between him and late nights. And then it would happen all over again.

After a good year of this sort of nonsense, I realised that the thing to do when Giles had finished his work for the week and was off out for lunch of a Friday, was to ignore his protestations that he'd be home at 3pm, make up the spare room, dig out some takeaway menus, pick a film to watch and settle in for a nice night in on my own. Once I went out with friends without telling him, got reasonably drunk myself, came back in the small hours and was STILL in bed before he stumbled in.

He's much better about all this since we had Kitty. But the thing is, unless my husband goes on out a bender every so often, he goes a bit mad.

He will claim, over and over again, that all he wants to do is bath Kitty, make dinner, watch something on the telly and go to bed and read his book. But after a straight 6 weeks of this, he starts to lose it and fray round the edges. If he was a parrot, he would start pecking out his feathers. He becomes catty, stroppy and unmanageable. He mopes about the house like a depressed King Kong. He starts wailing "Are we just going to go to bed at 9.30pm every night for the rest of our lives??"

At which point, I send him off out of the house and tell him not to come back until morning. Like on Thursday, when he left the house at 12.30pm for lunch and didn't come back until 3.30am. He'd had strict instructions to sleep in the spare room but he decided that this was not on and so came in and got into bed, waking me up. Then he woke me up further at 5am when he needed to wee, battering the door jamb with unsteady shoulders and stepping heavily on both outward and homeward journey on the really creaky floorboard that we both hop over in the night (when sober).

The next morning he was as contrite and pliable as a feverish child, his eyes trembling with pain as he tried to recall exactly what happened to him between 8pm and 3am. "And I think I've lost my black jumper," he said, sadly. "I'm sorry I'm such a terrible person," he added, wringing his hands together.

And just like that, he will be good as gold for at least a fortnight. Tee hee.

But when  he is not on a bender, or revving up for a bender - and is instead feeling uxorious, he often cooks for us. I am a terribly resentful cook, finding the whole thing an awful drag as I do it all the time, while my husband revels in it, when he has the time to do it, and cooks generously and imaginatively.

Anyway the other night he made us a starter of breaded scallops, which he found in Nigel Slater's fast food and they were really great

1 clove of garlic, crushed
finely grated zest of one lemon
3 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
75 room temperature butter
black pepper
1 quantity of scallops - about 3 handfuls small ones?
1 beaten egg
fresh breadcrumbs or medium matzoh meal would work just as well
butter and groundnut oil for frying

1 Mix the garlic, zest and parsley into the butter and season with black pepper

2 Dip the scallops into the beaten egg and then roll them in breadcrumbs

3 Heat some oil and butter in a pan until you have about a cm in the pan. Heat until hot and then fry off the scallops for about 3 mins each side. Set aside

4 Chuck out the oil and butter and then heat your garlic/parsley/butter concoction and spoon over your scallops when midly frazzed and melty - about 30 secs.

Eat and wash down with an Alka Seltzer.

Man, That Looks Like One Fine Loaf

I probably would have shared this great looking turkey chipotle meatloaf recipe from my friend Sara at Average Betty anyway, but the fact that she’s calling it MANLOAF sealed the deal. For the written recipe and more info, you can check out Sara’s original post here. Enjoy! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Baked Eggs Con Huevos

If you’re wondering why I called this recipe “baked eggs with eggs,” I didn’t. No, “huevos” has another meaning, and any of your Spanish-speaking friends will be happy to tell/show you what that is. Anyway, as I said in the video intro, don’t let the generic name fool you; this “baked eggs” recipe is way more delicious than it sounds!

If you enjoy huevos rancheros, you will love this. The way the spicy sauce mingles with just barely set eggs is very similar, and when you start scooping this up with toasted chunks of bread, it gets borderline magical.

If you happen to accompany this humble dish with copious amounts of ham and bacon, this would make for quite the Father’s Day treat. You can stay with my Italianesque version, but American, Latin, or Asian versions are only a couple tweaks away.

I gave a general time of about 12 minutes at 400 degrees F., but of course this is going to vary based on your exact dish size/shape, as well as how many you are making at once. I would start checking after 10 minutes, keeping in mind that the yolks will keep firming up even after they are out of the oven.

Anyway, whether you are trying to impress dad with your brunch skills (by the way, don’t call it brunch if it’s for Dad…go with “breakfast”), or simply want to shake up your personal egg recipe routine, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 1 Portion:
Shallow oven-proof dish, just large enough for 2 eggs
2 large fresh eggs
1/3 cup marinara sauce
red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh herb as desired
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp cream
generous dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano
lots of toast

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Minor T-Bone Mystery Solved!

I received a couple complimentary steaks to try out from

Spare ribs

I occasionally go on, what is known in our house as, "The Shitty Food Diet."

The Shitty Food Diet is very simple and very effective - if what you want to do is lose a lot of weight very fast and don't really care about the impact on your health.

What you do is eat INCREDIBLY shitty food - but hardly any of it. So on the downside you get quite hungry, but on the upside, you've got some sort of disgusting, shaming treat waiting for you and the thing about diets is that they're all about morale.

So a typical day's menu might go like this:

Breakfast: 1 latte with chocolate croissant

Lunch: nothing

About 2pm: McDonald's double cheeseburger and small coke

6.30pm: 1 packet peanut M&Ms OR 1 Krispy Kreme OR 2 Jacob's cream crackers

Dinner: 3 small glasses of oaky Chardonnay and 2 handfuls of crisps

This is the kind of menu I find myself eating quite often and I am thin as a rake. People say to me "You are so thin, what diet are you on?" and I say "The Shitty Food Diet" and they go "Ha ha ha, no really."

Except next-eldest sister. She said "You are so thin, what diet are you on?" And I said "It's called The Shitty Food Diet." And she said "Ooh really - what does one do on that?" But my sister lives in Notting Hill - nothing surprises her.

So this is what I do on my own time, but on my husband's time, it's a different story.

But as it happens, we are getting a bit slack about provenence in this house. My husband's strict rules about what, exactly, one is allowed to buy and eat basically allow for us to eat almost nothing except kale and roast chickens. He doesn't want to buy, from a supermarket any fish that isn't mackerel or any meat that isn't produced by Duchy Originals. So if we haven't been to the farmer's market recently (where one can buy, guilt-free, anything one wants), the menu round here gets a bit samey.

I used to observe these rules faithfully but recently I've got a bit loose around the edges with it. The other day I just wanted some spare ribs, damn it. We'd just been to a restaurant called Sonny's Kitchen in Barnes, which was AMAZING - just the best food I've had for a really, really long time and worth a trip if you're anywhere near it.

You would think that being married to my husband I get to eat a lot of amazing food, but it isn't so. A lot of new restaurants we go to aren't very nice and if you order wrong, well: yuk. Sonny's Kitchen genuinely stood out.

So anyway we had these spare ribs, which were like, out of this world and I wanted to re-create them, although nothing like as spectacular. But I couldn't find any free range organic spare ribs in Waitrose so I just thought - fuck it - and bought the essentials ones.

And they turned out gorgeous, drowning in a barbeque sauce, which contained the following:

5 tablespoons tomato ketchup
3 heaped teaspoons English mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1tsp chinese five spice
the zest of 1/2 an orange if you have it
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablepoons veg oil to loosen
1 tablespoon vinegar, any sort

1 Mix together the sauce ingredients and leave the ribs to marinade for as long as you can - all day for preference but even 30 mins will make a difference.

2 Put in the oven at 180 for about 25 mins.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Black Onion Relish – I’ve Never Wanted a Hot Dog So Badly in My Life!

This quick and very dirty recipe for black onion relish was quite delicious on grilled salmon, but with every bite I became more and more agitated, thinking about how utterly perfect this would have been on a grilled hot dog.

If you’re one of these enlightened souls that enjoy grilled onions on their ballpark franks, you will love this sweet and smoky condiment. 

There’s something about how the onion roasts in its own charred skin, buried in the white-hot coals, which brings a goodness not achievable in a pan. Believe me when I say, my next hot hog WILL be wearing this relish.

As usual, I played it straight with the seasonings, but if I had a dollar for every way you could adapt this relish recipe, I’d have enough money to pay someone to think of a real ending for this post. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 1 1/2 cups:
2 yellow onions
1 red pepper
chopped parsley, to taste
cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
*Dress with oil and vinegar to taste - I used about 3 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp vinegar
Taste and adjust!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grilled Jerk Pork Tenderloin – Because We're All a Little Jerky

Whenever I make this incredibly flavorful jerk spice marinade for chicken, I think to myself, “Man, I bet this would be great on pork tenderloin. I’ll have to try that next time.” Well, a few dozen summers have come and gone, and since I still hadn’t experienced that “next time,” I decided to finally try it, and it was great!

As expected, the spicy, aromatic marinade worked wonderfully with the lean, mild pork, and as long as you heed my warnings not to overcook the meat, you and your guests will be very happy with this. Of course your guests' happiness should be the most important thing to you, but let’s face it, it’s not.

No, a stunningly successful grilled recipe like this is all about you standing next to that platter of perfectly cooked pork – beer in one hand, tongs in the other – soaking in waves of compliments and adulation. Does that make you a Jerk jerk? Yeah, a little bit. Anyway, I hope you give this very easy recipe a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 6 portions:
2 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed, cut in 3 pieces each
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, about 1/3 cup picked leaves
1/2 chopped onion
1 to 4 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers, seeded
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup white vinegar
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp fine salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*cook until at least 145 F. internal temp

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jubilee Coronation chicken (for Harriet)

Yes I know I've done coronation chicken before, but it was at the end of a long boring post about me having a mental breakdown and I didn't use a picture so I feel I didn't really do it justice.

So this time, things are going to be more upbeat, okay? Ready?

This is also a special devotional post for my sister, Harriet. You haven't seen much of Harriet here. She is my eldest sister: blonde, mysterious, powerful in ways no-one in my family really understands. She has a degree in physics. She has two children and Kitty is always so excited to see her that she SCREAMS at the top of her tiny little tinny baby voice. Harriet is a master of not only Play-Doh but Mega-Bloks.

Anyway so Harriet is knocking about in North London quite a lot these days as she is waiting for her youngest, Emily, to start nursery in September and has sort of had it with all that swings/Rhyme Time/zoo crapola. So she mostly comes round to my house and sits in my new giant scary, over-bright kitchen extension and we talk about soft furnishings while Emily teaches Kitty about "sharing".

As we sat there gently photosynthesising, she mentioned that she has a flipping great shitload of people turning up at her house this Jubilee weekend and was pondering what to cook.

"Coronation chicken!" I cried.

"Is it on your blog?" she said, flicking through the Osborne & Little collection on my iPad.

"Yes but I must re-do it," I said.

And I thought maybe some of you also have a flipping great shitload of people turning up at your house like gannets, pointing at their mouths and expecting to be fed and you are quite at a loss of what to do. 

So - do this.

Take a large serving dish and arrange a lot of salad leaves around the edges, dollop a lot of coronation chicken in the middle (recipe below), and serve with mini baked potatoes. It is important that the baked potatoes are MINI, not big ones so that people don't think they are being given a JACKET BLOODY POTATO for their lunch and just think "my word, these potatoes are quite delicious".

This is not my recipe, this is courtesy of Julia Churchill and I am grateful to her for allowing me to reprint it here not once but twice

Julia Churchill's Coronation chicken
This makes enough for 4 people and the leftovers are really wonderful

I know I always say this, but please try not to be put off by the long list of ingredients, they are all readily available.

1 small chicken
4 large tablespoon dollops of mayonnaise
3 heaped teaspoon dollops of mango chutney
1 fresh red chilli (seeds discarded in only a slapdash way) or a pinch of chilli flakes
1 handful of chopped coriander
1 medium onion
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black onion seeds
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 cardomom pod
1 clove
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 lemon for juicing to taste
salt and pepper

1 Roast your chicken as you normally would - I'd say at about 180C for about 1hr15-30 depending on the size of your chicken. Leave to cool and then strip until you have a bowl of chic

2 Chop and fry the onion very slowly until quite dark - this will take at least 20 minutes.

3 Mix together your spices, including the chilli then scatter over the onion and cook on a medium heat until your kitchen is smelling like the Taj Star. Let it cool.

4 Mix together the mayonnaise and the chutney and then add your spice mix. Give it a good stir. Stand back and admire it a bit. Throw in the coriander and then add the lemon juice, salt and pepper until it tastes nice. Combine with the chicken.

I used biggish Jersey Royals for my baked potatoes. Prick them all over and put them in a 180 oven for 45 minutes. It is VITAL that you prick them all over because otherwise they will explode in the oven, as one of mine did the other night. I'm sure you all know this already but I didn't and it was quite a shock when the potato blew up.

I believe in overcatering when it comes to carbohydrate so allow 4 potatoes per person.