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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Fresh and a bit wild looking this soup–adapted from a recipe in The New York Times–for the first day of March.

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You build most winter vegetable soups from the inside out—i.e. making a “soffrito” of finely chopped vegetables such as onion, celery and carrot, cooked slowly in olive oil, before adding stock—the taste “engine room” for a big winter-warming blanket.

But it’s March 1st today, so I’m lightening up a little–starting with plain water, not stock, adding the ingredients in stages, building the taste and depth gradually.

The lemon zest topping—sprinkled just before serving— is a touch of Spring.

First stage:

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Bring the water to the boil and add the first eight ingredients.

  • 2 pints water
  • 3 tsp salt–more to taste
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion–(for the taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 1 lb tinned (canned) chickpeas
  • a small piece of parmesan rind (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves–pulped

Bring back to a simmer and cook, covered, on a low heat for 30 minutes.

 

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Second stage:

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  • 3 carrots–peeled and sliced
  • 3 sticks celery–chopped
  • 1lb/450gm–tomatoes–chopped
  • 1/2 small cabbage–sliced and roughly chopped

Add the sliced vegetables and bring back to a simmer.

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Cook, covered, for a further 30 minutes.

Third stage:

During this second half hour of simmering, prepare the parmesan mix for sprinkling.

  • 3 tbs grated parmesan
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp milled black pepperIMG_9808

 Mix the three topping ingredients and sprinkle over the soup before serving.

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Fishcakes!

There’s a recipe in both my cookbooks–and they are the most visited on the blog.

I am not alone in loving them!

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They were always a favorite with me–but were off the menu after my diagnosis because they usually share the space with an equal mount of mashed potatoes (sometimes more, one suspects, in restaurants!). Potatoes have a very high glycemic index rating–mashed especially.

So when I spotted the alternative versions, I was delighted.

One recipe mixes the salmon with smoked haddock; another adds fresh dill.

These secondary ingredients are not always easy to find—so here is a third version with the perennially available smoked salmon.

My local supermarket sells 200gm/8oz packets of smoked salmon off-cuts—-perfect for this and less expensive than traditional slices.

LUNCH–with a green salad!

for 2

200 gms/8oz skinless salmon fillet

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200gms/8oz smoked salmon

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  • 1 shallot–chopped small
  • white of an egg
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour–or any whole flour
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp parsley–chopped
  • salt and pepper

Cut up the fresh salmon and the smoked salmon into pieces as illustrated above–roughly bite-size.

Pulse them briefly in a food mixer–they should not be mushy.

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Empty them into a bowl.

Carefully turn in the rest of the ingredients.

Taste for seasoning–delicious exercise!

Scoop out the mixture and form your patties (I use a tablespoon.) Don’t “overwork” the mixture.

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If you have time, cover and refrigerate for half an hour or so–it helps firm up the fishcakes.

Heat the oil to HOT in a frying pan. Very important that the fishcakes cook in hot oil.

Slide them carefully into the pan and flatten them a little with a fish slice/spatula to hasten the cooking.

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After a couple of minutes flip them over and cook briefly the other side.

When you see the milky liquid appearing from inside the fishcakes, they are READY.

Lift them gently out of the pan and arrange them on a serving plate with sliced lemon.

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Delicious served with a little yogurt sauce:

  • 1 pot yogurt
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • pinch of salt

Whisk the yogurt smooth and stir in the mustard and salt.

Whisk again.

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Guinea fowl stepping out in her high heels and lipstick.

Guinea Fowl (UK), Cornish Game Hen (US), Pintade (Fr).

Introduced to Britain by the Romans (apparently).

This is odd because I once saw a flock of these nervy birds, moving as one in a tightly packed phalanx (safety in numbers) that reminded me of the testedo–the Roman military formation.

As they approached a target, a platoon of legionnaires would use their shields to protect themselves top and sides, moving as one. The images relieved the tedium and frustration of Latin lessons at school!

ROMAN SOLDIERS IN TESTUDO FORMATION-ILLUSTRATION

“Left a bit, lads! Close-up, close-up! Not so fast at the front! Steady boys, steady!”

The testedo of guinea fowl–perhaps equally unsure of their fate–made a heck of a panicky row.

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The combination here of anchovies melted into a classic sauce of olive oil, lemon juice and capers works well with the gamier taste of the guinea fowl. It makes a nice change from chicken.

This recipe comes from Jenny Baker’s excellent Simple French Cuisine cook book.

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1 guinea fowl–cut up into quarters

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1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion–chopped

4 anchovy fillets–chopped into a mash

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1 glass white wine

1 tbsp capers

juice of a lemon

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salt and pepper

Heat the oil until hot in a pan large enough to cook the entire bird. Then add the guinea fowl pieces and brown, turning occasionally.

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Take them out of the pan and set them aside.

Soften the onion in the same pan–turning often.

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Mix in the anchovies–giving them time to melt into the oil-coated onions.

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Add the wine and bring the mixture up to a gentle bubble.

Add the guinea fowl pieces, the capers and the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Bring back to a bubble (Meredith thinks I should say that a bubble is more than a simmer but less than a boil!), turn down the heat and cover the pan.

Cook for about 30 minutes until the meat pieces run clear when pierced–being careful not to over cook them.

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(Guinea fowl can be dry.)

Served with brussels sprouts and brown basmati rice.

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Right lads–it’s shields down–time out–and off to the canteen for a tasty dish of numididae*!

*Latin for guinea fowl

 

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Meredith shows me a Breugel 16th century winter scene reminiscent of the world outside our windows at the moment–except for the skating.

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It leads her into thinking of other artists’ depiction of winter.

“Who was that painter we liked at the Metropolitan after we saw that Matisse exhibit a few years back? Industrial landscapes and the boxers. Remember?”

Club Night by George Bellows

“B-B-B-Be…”

I use my hands to mime the thing that fans a fire into life.

“Be-Be-Bel-Bello-BELLOWS!”

“George Bellows–brilliant realist painter–died too young–42, he was. Painted winter–town and country.”

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“Wow!” says Meredith. “Nothing wrong with your memory!”

Next day this article appeared in the newspaper–explaining why…!

Apparently the antioxidant, resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, some berries and peanuts, has a positive effect on the hippocampus–the part of the brain vital to memory, learning and mood.

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Cheers! Santé! Good health! Chin chin! Salud! Prost!

Now what did I say was for supper…?!

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A touch of heat in a consoling casserole for a cold night.

Inspired by a recipe in the River Café Pocket Vegetable Book.

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(Speak it softly but you could have a couple of sausages on the side–we did tonight!*)

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I love beans and especially white beans and I have a penchant for fennel, cooked or raw.

Garlic is a staple here–Lautrec’s pink garlic is grown under our feet–so to speak.

Adding tomatoes coalesces everything into a delicious dish.

for 2

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1 tbs olive oil

2 fennel bulbs–outer bruised parts removed and cut in thickish vertical slices

3 garlic cloves–peeled and sliced

2 small dried chilis–chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds–pounded in a mortar

8oz tinned (canned) tomatoes–drained and chopped

8oz white beans tinned (canned)–drained

salt and pepper

juice of a lemon

1 tbs olive oil (a second!)

 

In a shallow pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add the fennel and cook for a couple of minutes, turning the fennel over in the oil.

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Add the garlic, fennel seeds and chili and cook on for five minutes.

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Add the tomatoes and mix them well in.

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Add a tablespoon of water and mix again.

Check after five minutes to see if you need another tablespoon of water–I did.

Cover the pan and cook for fifteen minutes or until the fennel is tender.

Mix in the beans and season with salt and pepper.

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Re-cover and cook for another ten minutes.

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Add the lemon juice and the tablespoon of olive oil.

 

*The sausages–sshh!

Heat the oven to 190C (375 F)

Put the sausages in an oven pan with a splash of olive oil and sprigs of rosemary.

Cook for thirty minutes–shaking the pan occasionally.

Add a broken up bulb of garlic unpeeled.

Cook on for twenty minutes or longer to turn the sausages nicely brown.

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Serve with Dijon mustard.

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Endive/chicory are not just good for salads–they are delicious slow braised with a couple of additions if you like…

This was lunch and made a pretty picture.

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It was also light and a bit exotic.

This time of year there’s a local grower of these white torpedoes selling only them in Castres market on Saturdays.

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I chose fat ones for the long slow cooking that reduces them nicely into a super-soft state.

A poached egg (or two) on top and a couple of small discs of pancetta, crisped in the still hot oven, meld with the little sauce of lemon and olive oil.

for 2

3/4 fat endives–bruised outer leaves removed and the bitter root end skewered out.

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3 tbsp olive oil

juice of a lemon

4 eggs

4 thin slices pancetta

salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 170C

Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan with a lid.

Lay in the endive and season well with a teaspoon of salt and several twists of the pepper mill.

Turn the endive [confusingly it’s called chicory in the UK] in the oil and seasoning.

Let them color and caramalise a little.

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Pour over the lemon juice and cover.

Place in the middle of the oven and cook for two hours.

Check after an hour that all is well and turn them–taking care to keep them in one piece.

After about two hours take them out of the oven and let them rest, covered with foil.

Turn up the oven temperature to 200C and crisp up the pancetta pieces–about ten minutes.

Poach the eggs in simmering hot water to which you have added a splash of red/white vinegar.

The vinegar, in principal, will encourage the whites of the eggs to act in a more orderly fashion–doesn’t always work!

Arrange the endive on two plates and…

when you judge the eggs are done as you like them lift them out with a slotted spoon and place them decoratively on the endives.

Finish the plate off with the pancetta.

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“DING!”– said the chief taster!

 

 

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The name alone makes this sauce from Argentina worth a try.

The taste is fresh and piquant.

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According to Wikipedia, the origin of the name dates from the arrival of Basque immigrants to Argentina in the 19th century–at least that’s one theory!

Tximitxurri was a Basque sauce loosely translated as “a mixture of several things–in no particular order!”.

It’s appealingly vague–and has the ring of truth.

I had some parsley to spare and a good supply of capers in the fridge–add red or white wine vinegar, olive oil, red onion or shallots and garlic–in no particular order and…

I tried it with the mackerel at lunch.

Meredith thought it overpowered the fish but I enjoyed it–made up a bit for the disappointing mackerel.

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Ingredients–(INPO!)

1 tbsp capers

2 tbsp red onion or shallots–chopped

1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic–chopped

4 good handfuls of parsley–chopped a couple of times by hand;

3 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Put first four ingredients in a food mixer and add the olive oil, spoon by spoonful, after each pulse.

The parsley retains its brilliant green better if the leaves aren’t too bashed about.

Season and pulse once more before decanting the sauce into a favorite serving bowl.

Lamb chops with chimichuri or indeed chimichuri with lamb chops next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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