Saturday, 19 December 2009

Cooking the books

No, I do not refer to an accounting anomaly, nor to the tv programme that is hosted by the rather incongruous Jeremy Edwards, but to the fact that since eating out has become a bit of a rarity we have taken to doing quite a bit of cooking, some of which has been more sucessful than others. Rather than go into each recipe in detail I thought I would reference the book, provide a link if possible, tell you the pros and cons of each, and ultimately what we thought.

John Pawson and Annie Bell-Living and Dining- kedgeree
I love this. It's one of those breakfasts you have when its wet and cold outside and you feel like a treat. This book is a couple of years old and was given to me by my good friend John. I remember he made this for me for breakfast one day. I have to say though, Kedgeree is not Kedgeree without boiled eggs, so I add these quartered at the end.

Sunday Suppers at Lucques-Suzanne Goin
I first heard of this book on one of my favourite food blogs the Amateur Gourmet. He had made the spicy pork stew which is one of the tastiest things I have ever made. I got this book last year for Christmas but with one thing and another have only just got round to exploring it. I have to say the beef stew is very similar in concept to the pork stew but for some reason I find the pork stew to be better.

Beouf a la nicoise braisedbeef stew with red wine, tomato, olives and buttered noodles (spiced pork stew with polenta root vegetables and gremolata)
grilled pork burgers with rob's famous coleslaw

These pork burgers are amazing! How can something that contains 3 different types of pork loveliness not be delicious? A must. The coleslaw was also a revelation and could be eaten on it's own or with anything else you fancy.

Roast figs, sugar, snow- Diana Henry
Stryian venison with chesnuts cranberries and wild mushrooms

I don't think I really like venison which is a shame, for HI loves it and insists on putting it in everything he cooks. Having said that, I did quite like this stew. The mushrooms and cranberries are simmered down for ages and provide that earthy foil that venison sems to require.

Roast chicken and other stories/ second helpings of roast chicken- simon hopkinson
braised rabbit with white wine, shallots, rosemary and cream/ braised rabbit with cabbage, garlic and bacon
This is yum especially with goose roasties. We amalgamated the two recipes to end up with a pot of loveliness. I highly recommend both these books.

Nutmeg and custard-Marcus Wareing

poached and roasted chicken with almond and thyme crust and chargrilled cauliflower

Was not a big fan of this. The crust to me seemed pointless and was hard and tasteless and the cauliflower turned into an insipid mush. The book did not really have many things in it that I would want to cook and seemed a mish mash of recipes from various continents, going for that homely feel rather than exploring the fine dining cuisine that Marcus is known for, which seems a shame, as someone with his skill would have many things to teach.

Waitrose magazine
rioja pot roasted chicken vicky boghal

This is one of the tastiest chicken dishes I have had in a long time. The addition of chorizo results in a very, very rich and unctous sauce at the bottom. Very moreish, but probably quite bad for you as all that lovely chicken fat gets eaten up as opposed to thrown away!

Week in week out-Simon Hopkinson
Pot roasted chicken with potatoes, bacon, garlic and thyme.
Pot roasting is our new favourite way of cooking birds, and I amalgated this with the rioja chicken recipe so that the sauce was absorbed by the potatoes-very yum.

Sainsbury's magazine ragu, then ragu and mushroom lasagne April 2007

This ragu is probably one of the best smelling dishes we have cooked. It is also very tasty. I would forget about the lasagne and just eat it with rice. Unfortunately, I can't find a link online so you will just have to take my word for it.

Pot roasted guinea fowl with apples clavados and cream- delia online

Continuing on the pot-roasting theme, this was yum. Guinea fowl is a lovely bird and the sauce is rich and good with, you guessed it, goose roasties. The apples provide just enough sharpness to cut against the cream. It's the first time I had followed a Delia recipe, despite having the bible, but it will not be the last if, they all taste as good as this.

All in all only one dud. I would eat any of the others again and again and definitely cook them for my friends. Having said all that it must be said that my favourite food writer is Nigel Slater. His Kitchen Diaries is not only a beautiful book but beautiful to read. Forget Jules and Julia if you wanted to have a gourmet year try replicating what Nigel eats.. Now there is an idea. Shame my name is not Nigella, then there could be Nigella and Nigel. Book deal anyone? Forget the book I want the movie!

Anyway, although I love to read the Kitchen Diaries, Real Food is responsble for some of my most favourite meals- sausage pasta, coq au reisling, spicy chicken sandwiches, roast chicken lemon, basil and garlic, garlicky prawns. I could go on. The only problem being the liberal use of olive oil and butter, so, whilst these dishes were so very tasty they were also responsible, in part to, an expansion of my waistline.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


We won't be going back.

We had high hopes, locally sourced meat, burgers cooked medium and blue cheese as a topping, it all held so much promise but lacked in execution.
I guess it should have been a warning sign that the burgers come with at least four or five toppings. If a burger is good it should stand alone with maybe cheese or bacon to accompany it. The patties themselves reminded me of those birdseye hamburgers that we ate as children of the eighties. Their uniform shape and consistency was disconcerting. On the plus side the patties were cooked medium as adveritsed, a request for medium rare was politely declined, and juicy. But that in combination with the myriad of toppings lead to the bun disintegrating and a very messy meal indeed. The chunky chips were bad, undercooked inside and not crispy on the outside. Hardly once cooked let alone triple-cooked. The onion rings were a mistake too- very oily with onion that was raw on the inside. The chocolate milkshake was mildly amusing as it came in a milk bottle but that's where the wholesomeness ended, as it left a distinctly unnatural taste in the mouth.

Lunch for two came to £23 and all I could think was I could have had a burger at Stravaigin for that.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Stravaigin update

As usual, not much to say other than excellent food, and oh, I wish I owned the place.

a very good chanterelle in garlicky creamy bacony sauce on toast

standard setting haggis neeps and tatties

yummy rabbit and bean cassoulet

Livers with mash and a superb gravy

This place knows how to do heart warming well, whilst at the same time exhibiing a delicacy of touch.

La Valle Blanche

It was a rare opportunity to go our for dinner so we chose La Valle Blanche. As usual the staff were attentive and the place had a pleasant buzz. I started off with a champange cocktail

to celebrate our night of freedom and HI had a glass of white. We were offered freshly baked fennel rolls

and an amuse of duck rillets, which were very tasty and not too oily.

I had the rare steak salad which was quite generous in size

and HI had the beef cheeks as usual

We both opted for the duck confit and I kind of wish I had stuck to my rule, that we have to order different things, and gone with my first choice the halibut. It was not that the confit was not any good, as it was-moist, but not oily, however, I did think the skin could have been crispier. My main problem was that confit in and of itself is quite rich and when served with the very good and buttery pomme puree and a very hearty puy lentil and bacon creation, it was altogether too heavy a dish. My ideal duck confit can be found at Onde in Sydney where it is paired with caramalised apple, walnuts, mesclun salad and a side of frites.

Anyway, one of the highlights of the evening was when the very gracious Mrs Clarke who does FOH came to offer us a free glass of fizz and glass of white on the house to celebrate our night of freedom. It must be the only time in the history of forever that both of us declined- oh how times have changed! My alcohol tolerance being zilch now, a second glass would have been messy.