I’ve come to realise that I have quite a serious cheese habit, it’s pretty broad ranging; taking in anything American and nacho cheese flavored to bank the breaking and artisan, and pretty much every thing in between. Put me in a cheese shop and I’m happy. Let’s face it cheese is never going to be a health food, but being a firm believer in a little of what you fancy doing you good, occasionally I throw caution to the wind and make something totally artery furring but delicious. This weekend it was a fried cheese salad, using a gorgeous piece of Gubbeen that The Man and I picked up at the market in St Albans. St Albans has a really lively market and a wonderful cheese stall run but two guys who obviously know their stuff and are happy to give advice and tasters.
Gubbeen is a cheese I hadn’t tried before, but is a semi-soft ring washed cheese from Ireland, creamy with I thought a slight tang and The Man felt, a slight barnyard smell; but by other cheese standards nothing terrifying! A quick Google suggested it would fry just fine, so after dusting in flour, egg and bread crumb I fried it for a few minutes on each side until it was runny but still holding its shape. I served it with a tangy salad of leaves, celery, apple and walnuts to cut through the creamy cheese and it was gorgeous, even The Man got over his “barnyard” reservations and loved it.
I really like squid but have been scared of cooking it a home as it is usually cooked very quickly, anything longer than a few minutes and it may as well be shoe leather. Then flicking through The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi I found a recipe for slow cooked squid. If you cook it long enough the squid relaxes again and becomes gorgeously soft.
For a pretty fancy sounding recipe it was very straight forward, after frying onion, garlic and chilli untill soft, throw in the squid and later white wine and tomatoes, simmer gently for and hour and it’s done and gorgeous. I halved the recipe in the book, but used a whole red chilli rather than half as they were quite mild and I think this gave it the right amount of zing. After an hour on the hob the tomatoes and wine had reduced to a thick sweet sauce, with a nice kick of chilli and soft chunks of squid.
The Man thought it was brilliant and as a straight forward but special dinner I’d definitely cook it again. I’d also recommend The Italian Cookery Course as a wonderful, thorough introduction to Italian cookery. It’s a beast of a book but is a fabulous step by step guide with a mixture of detailed and more straightforward recipes. Importantly, nothing we have cooked from it; so far, has gone wrong!
I love a bit of Americana! I’m not kidding, I even own a pair of plastic flamingos; they never made it on to the allotment and are now part of the ummmmm decor, in our flat! There is an American food shop not too far from us and The Man and I paid a visit before Christmas and came away with much more than we intended. I give you…more lazy baking!
Yup those are the ingredients, a box of powder and some chunks of something apple flavoured (it claimed to be apple), 1/4 cup milk and an egg. The mixture smelled as in, synthetic as I had thought, and secretly hoped! The flat reeked of cinnamon and the sort of apple that smells like nothing that has ever grown on a tree. Following the instructions was brilliantly easy; mix every thing together in a bowl, put in muffin tin, bake. 15 minutes later I had 6 gorgeous little, very synthetic smelling cakes.
I love corn bread, (part of the Americana thing), and these were no exception, slightly salty to balance the sweetness and not as synthetic tasting as they smelled. I’m sure they are easy to make from scratch but this mix is so easy and quick its hard to argue.
I haven’t posted much about the actual allotment on here yet, but that’s mainly because we haven’t mastered growing much through the winter and thanks to the recent cold snap any thing below ground (parsnips) has been too frozen to dig out, and above ground hungry pigeons have eaten all the cavalo nero.
Whilst the man and I are still working out what to grow this year over the past three years there are a few things which we have resolved not to bother with this year.
- Radishes; grow brilliantly but turns out neither of us really like them (I had a memory of not really being keen on them and suspect The Man was being too polite to tell me he didn’t like them either).
- Beetroot; for two years we’ve struggled to get them to grow, then struggled to use them. Cheap to buy either cooked or pickled, and with the latter someone else has dealt with the mess of cooking them.
- Broccoli; just can’t get it right, always tiny and then eaten by the pigeons!
- Melons; a bit of a “look at me” thing to try to grow, we’ve only ever really had one worth eating a year, which works out at the same cost as buying on one so probably not worth it really
Still, on a more positive note the rhubarb is starting to grow again; always reassuring when the winter has been so cold so far, and it does still look rather pretty.
I suppose the over all resolution is to grow things we like and to have more fun with the allotment, it can be difficult to keep on top of things when you can only spend a little time there a week, but we both agree that we love having the space, it’s great for a beer and bbq; and having a reason to get outside in the fresh air. Here’s to 2011!
Winter squashes can be kept for a long time and this one has been hanging round the flat since late September, but it’s the New Year, and a long with the Christmas cake it has taken on the air of a guest you can’t get rid of after a party!
I did think I might need a saw to cut it up but thankfully it wasn’t as tough as I was expecting, so after a bit of wrestling and some “don’t try this at home” knife work I managed to hack it into reasonable sized chunks. I roasted and froze most of it as there is only so much I can face eating, even if we have grown it ourselves and the rest go made into a pasta sauce with chorizo, ricotta and sage.
- Cook enough pasta for two (linguine or spaghetti are best, amount depends on how hungry you are).
- While the pasta is cooking fry chorizo chunks till they start to crisp and fat runs out, (drain fat at this point if you wish), add cubes of cooked squash to heat through and add a table-spoon of ricotta to make a sauce. Keep warm and season with additional salt, pepper or paprika to taste.
- When the past is almost cooked throw in some spinach or green leaves ( a concession to New Year healthiness) and drain when cooked. Add two more spoons of ricotta to the pasta, fresh or dried sage and some grated cheese and nutmeg and until the pasta is coated.
- Serve with the squash and chorizo mixture on top of the pasta.
I loved it, The Man said it was “a triumph” and I’d definitely make it again. Deeply savoury chorizo, sweet soft squash and comforting creamy linguine, gorgeous.
A New Year treat but one that didn’t require much effort, we went to a friends for New Year and I thought we wouldn’t feel like cooking much; but a treat on New Years Day is a tradition in my family so I thought I would try curing a piece of salmon. We had a great time at the party but my I was spot on about not wanting to cook anything!
1 salmon fillet
1 cup sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 star anise
tiny drop of liquid smoke
The method is more assembly than anything, rub the liquid smoke over the salmon flesh. Blitz the star anise, salt and sugar. Place a third of the mixture on a piece of cling film roughly in the shape of the fish and place the salmon skin side down and cover with the rest of the mixture. Wrap tightly in cling film and leave in the fridge for 24 hrs.
To serve, wash the cure off the salmon thoroughly, otherwise it tastes waaaay to salty, thinly slice and serve. Would be nice on blinis with cream cheese or sour cream, or scrambled eggs.
I’d definitely try this again, but maybe up the liquid smoke and tone down the star anise and sugar to try to make something smoked salmonish; as it was the cure was very stong and the salmon needed a good rinse, but if I’d used a bigger piece of fish it would have been less concentrated.