Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday food pic

These Para-barristas cruise the streets of Michigan looking out for any morning casualties. What heroes!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The One

A lot has been going in in Casa del Psych, what with my starting a journalism course and preparing a wedding and all. Yes, dear reader, you heard me right: Psych boy and I are engaged!

As you can imagine, I've got wedding food on the brain, and I've got this far: whole lamb roast. I'm hoping my dad will have a couple of lambs ready for eating from his new farming venture in Dorset. Oh, and I would love to have a cheese cake (like, a cake made of tiers of cheese. Swoon.) Other than that... There's just too much to think about.

Speaking of love and food, I have a new cooking crush, and it's bad: Fuschia Dunlop. She recently released a new book on Chinese cuisine, Every Grain of Rice, and I'm a convert. There are heaps to tasty dishes in the book, which are quick and healthy. Her recipe for wontons is out of this world and it would be criminal not to share it with you on this gorgeous October day. Slippery, salty, spicy and savoury: if I could eat a single dish for the rest of my days, this recipe might well be the One.

Wontons in chilli sauce by Fuschia Dunlop (adapted from Every Grain of Rice - serves 2)

For the filling:

  • 150 g pork mince
  • 20 g grated ginger
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped spring onion
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 plump clove of garlic, crushed 
  • 1 packet of wonton skins (gyoza skins work too)

For the sauce:

In each bowl, add:

  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • sprinkling of chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp of sesame oil
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp spring onions, chopped 


Mix all the filling ingredients together, and prepare a large plate with a dusting on flour on it. With a cup of warm water nearby, you now need to place one wonton skin in the palm of your hand. Spoon 1/2 a teaspoon of the filling into the centre of the wonton. Now, dip your finger into the water and moisten the edges of the wonton and join two opposite corners. gently  press firmly around the edges, pushing out any air as you go and place on the floured plate.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then plop the wontons in gently, stirring delicately to make sure they don't stick together. Boil for 3-4 minutes, or until they start bobbing about on the surface.

Drain well, and stir through the sauce before tucking in.

The Contessa heads to Flour Town

Steve Green from Devour Sussex has very kindly let me loose on his website...

See the results here:

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Pots of Gold

Making home made stock seems to many people a little eccentric. I, on the other hand, would argue that nothing will improve your cooking more than broths made with some delicately teased essences. It can also be also very soothing process, with the frugal cook safe in the knowledge that nothing has been wasted.

Fish stock made with the shells of prawn or lobster is particularly delicious, and doesn't necessarily require you to buy expensive ingredients - some restaurants will give the shells for free if asked nicely. The day I made this particular stock, I had a lobster for the first time at The Melrose on the Brighton seafront (courtesy of a kind fairy godmother who likes to think of me living a higher life than I really do!). The waitress wrapped up the shell in a going-home bag for me – double bagged, too, so no suspect leakage! Usually, though, I like to buy un-shelled Atlantic prawns and use the meat for a different dish. 

My favourite thing to make with this stock is a seafood risotto. It tastes absolutely divine and you will have to pinch yourself to remember that it's not from a famous seafood restaurant. Yes, it really is that spectacular and everything is down to the stock.

For years, my mum has been sucking the juices from prawn remnants, and I always thought: 'Grim'. I was a fool: that's where some of the most exquisite flavours lie.

Lobster or prawn stock

“A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands.”  Byron

I substitute a lot of ingredients when I make this. It all depends on what I have in the house. I would not, however, lose the red pepper because the sweetness is key to the gorgeousness of the stock.

  • 1 lobster shell, or shells from 450g of prawns
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 fennel head or 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 tomato or 2 from a can, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • 4 black olives, stones removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 glass of dry white wine or vermouth
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 large pinch of crushed dried chillies

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions and garlic. Allow to soften for 5 minutes, then add the fennel (or celery), red pepper, chillies and wine and cook for a further 10 minutes. Now throw in the rest of the ingredients and pour over 2 litres of water. Simmer gently for 45 minutes. When the stock is colourful and tasting delicious, crush down all the ingredients to release as much flavour as possible, and strain.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Saturday scramble

We're getting back to the simple things in life today, and by simple, I mean scrambled eggs on toast.
For years, I thought I was ace at making scrambled eggs. I basically used lots of butter and cooked them very quickly, as one would an omelette. Then one day, I mistakenly turned the heat down and what emerged was a collection of quivering, oozy clouds, with a texture not unlike that of whipped cream cheese. Folks, I was converted.

Alice B. Toklas recommends in her eponymous cookbook that one takes 1/2 an hour to make this dish and says that only this method (along with loadsa butter!) will "produce a suave consistency that perhaps only gourmets will appreciate." I usually take 10-15 minutes, and the result is rich and heavenly. We have this for breakfast most Saturdays.

For two greedy people:
  • 6-8 eggs
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 40g of butter
  • 4 pieces of bread
  • Optional: chives, smoked salmon
Break the eggs into a bowl or measuring jug and whisk until light and frothy; season well. Melt a tablespoonful of the butter in a non-stick frying pan over a low medium heat, and add the eggs when the butter is lightly foaming. The eggs will form a thin crust at the bottom of the pan which you should scrape off, then turn the heat down a little. Stir regularly, keep adjusting the heat so that curds form a little on the bottom with the liquid egg starting to thicken. Break the curds up so that they're of a the right size for you. The aim is to end up with bits of properly cooked egg with some creamy thickened egg.

Meanwhile, put the toast and coffee on. Keep stirring until the eggs all start to stay together in puffy, oozing mountains. They are ready. Butter the toast, pour the eggs over and add what toppings you like. We usually have smoked salmon trimmings in the freezer which are super cheap, but feel quite luxurious.


Monday, 19 September 2011

Tender was the fishy

Let me just start this post by saying, I HAVE A TAN! Thank you Corfu sun. This is excellent for several reasons:
  • One, it makes my legs look thinner
  • Two, I am no longer mistaken for an IT geek
  • And three, tanning is a professional sport amongst the ladies in my family (natch tan though, no sun beds for us Dorset belles). I hope to win this year.
While I'm at it, sorry for being away for so long. Some may feel that it's acceptable to use social media whilst on holiday (yes, Gregg Wallace, I saw you updating your twitter account whilst on holiday, and you did it several times an HOUR). For me, it felt wrong to blog while I was away, plus, I couldn't be arsed to think about anything else apart from  tanlines, food and finding silly stuff to photograph.

Psych boy says I need to grow up. I think I'm getting there.

Clearly, few of my fellow holidayers had more intellectual concerns. I have a taste for the repulsive aspects of human nature, and staying in Sidari was akin to spending a week in an Iceland in Scarborough with a tanning bed and a Greek special. Suffice to say, there was a lot of flesh on show, with a "the whole world is my beach" attitude to throwing some decent clothing on.

There was the guy having dinner with his wife who leaned (leaned!) out of his seat to ogle a scantily clad Russian babe, and then did the old trick of turning the other way to eye-grope her arse before she passed him. His wife didn't talk much after that.

Then there was the guy with a black shirt (for God's sake!) who was making holiday chit chat to some women in our hotel bar, you know the kind of conversation, been here before? Where did you last go on holiday? Really hot, isn't it? How about these mosquitoes! Etc. Boring crap. The well-upholstered ladies were being polite and trying to add a bit of sparkle to the discussion. Anyway, I keep hearing the word 'misery' being bandied about which I though was a bit odd, given the calibre of the previous conversation, until I heard what the knob was actually trying to say.

He was saying: "You look like that bird, umm, whatsername, err, Kathy Bates. Yeah! You look like her in Misery!" Cue nervous twittering from the ladies. Total puddinghead.

Anyway, apart from the usual delights of package holidays, Corfu was beautiful, with lots of dramatic beaches and friendly Greek people. The food was lovely and fresh; I had seafood nearly everyday. And lots and lots of garlic. Heaven! Psych boy and I both got stuck into our Greek slow-cooked wonders like Moussaka and Kleftiko (lamb hot pot cooked with waxy potatoes and hella garlic, natch). We also had a swordfish steak poached in a spicy tomato sauce which was the most melting fish I have ever tasted, almost like a mousse so tender was this fishy. All this was washed down with cheap beer and local rosé which wasn't half bad.

Miss Greedypants forgot to photograph the grilled sea bream - d'oh!

I am now raring to go and try cooking some Greek dishes of my own, and suspect my slow cooker might get lucky with some lamb and garlic action. Uncle Rick has some sexy looking recipes so stay tuned for some post-Corfu feasting...

 Subscribe in a reader

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Quiche Lorraine or 'back from the dead'

I've just come back from my cousin's wedding in Suffolk which was, predictably, a massive family affair spanning four days. Being a dame de leisure until my supply teaching CRB comes back, I was able to stay until the Monday and so got all the gossip from the weekend... There were a few storm offs and a knocked over chair, but generally, we managed to get along famously. And no, I'm not going to spread any gossip, at least, not on the blog.

I did have what I would call a 'Sir Pitt moment', and I think we should all take a minute to bask in the imagery. A few years ago, the BBC produced an adaptation of Vanity Fair, which had the usual perky girls and sexily unsuitable men. The Sir Pitt character was singularly unattractive, all feathery comb-over, rubbery skin and yellow cheese-chasing gnashers. There's a moment of sheer horror when, upon Becky's departure from his crumbling house, he looms in for a snog and the audience is momentarily blinded in shock by the sort of teeth which gives Americans an inalienable right to feel superior. I shall not divulge names in a bid to be discreet, but I was subjected to not one, dear readers, but two (TWO!) shaky horse-like puckerings. He also had furry ears the size of my hand, if that makes you feel any better.

I also found out that my lovely Canadian cousin Caitlin (nice ring, oui?) had read my blog without knowing it was mine. Scream! I must be getting about more than I thought...

I'll be adding photos when I get them developed. I had thought that I'd lost my trusty little Ixus (and was slightly disappointed that I hadn't – need an excuse for an upgrade), so I blew the cobwebs off my dad's forty-year old SLR, but who knows what they'll look like...

As a head's up, I know I've not been around a lot, and I'm about to go to Corfu for a week. I'm sure that I will bring back delicious recipes for you guys to sink your teeth into.

In the meantime, here's a quiche that I made last week. Psych boy pronounced it 'a triumph' and he's not one to flatter. The pastry is deliciously crumbly (and layered – my first time making puff pastry!), the filling is deep and creamy and the bacon and onions play off each other marvellously. Feel free to change the filling to suit your mood, just make sure you cook everything first so no naughty water can ruin your masterpiece.

What are your favourite fillings? And what other things do you like to take on picnics?

And just for the hell of it, here's a pic of Beauty boy.

Quiche Lorraine (adapted from Felicity Cloake)

For the rough puff pastry:
  • 225g plain flour
  • 225g very cold butter
  • 100ml iced water 

For the quiche filling:
  • 2/3 pack of dry cure smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 300ml double cream
  • 5 eggs and 2 egg yolks
'Je me sens un peu quiche'

Sift the flour and a generous pinch of salt on to a cold surface. Cut the butter into 1cm cubes and stir it in, then gently squidge the two together, so the flour combines with the lumps of butter – the aim is not to mix it completely, so it turns into crumbs, but to have small lumps of butter coated with flour. Like the name, it should look quite rough, even unfinished.

Sprinkle a little of the water over the top and stir it into the dough. Add enough water to bring it into a dough, without overworking the mixture, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Lightly flour a work surface and shape the dough into a rectangle. Roll it out until 3 times its original length.

Fold the top third back into the centre, then bring the bottom third up to meet it, so your dough has three layers. Give the dough a quarter turn and roll out again until three times the length, fold again as before, and chill it for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C and put a baking tray in to warm. Grease a deep (at least 3cm) 20cm tin, and line it with the pastry, leaving an extra few centimetres overhang to minimize shrinkage. Keep any extra in case you need it for remedial work later. Line with foil (shiny side down) and weight down with baking beans or rice. Place on the baking tray and blind bake in the oven for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and patch up any holes with the extra pastry if necessary. Bake for a further 8 minutes, then brush the base with egg white and put back into the oven for 5 minutes. Carefully trim the overhanging pastry to neaten.

Fry the bacon for 8–10 minutes, until cooked through, but not crisp. Drain and spread half over the hot base. Now fry the onions in a little oil until soft but not coloured. They should be deliciously sweet.

Put the cream and the eggs and yolks into a large bowl (or a food mixer if you have one) with a generous pinch of salt, and beat together slowly until combined, then give it a fast whisk for 30 seconds until frothy. Pour over the base to fill and then sprinkle over the rest of the bacon. Bake for 20 minutes and then keep an eye on it – it's done when it's puffed up, but still wobbly at the centre. Allow to cool slightly before serving.