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Monday, 28 September 2009

Apologies....

...for the hiatus in posts.  Time has gotten away from me.  I have had some successes in the last few days and will post proper recipes and more in the next few days.


Saturday, 19 September 2009

A kitchenista's Roman Holiday

Mr. F and I were on honeymoon in Rome a few weeks ago.  As you can imagine, we ate and drank some remarkable things.  We also discovered a fantastic kitchen shop called "Cucina".  I think there is more than one branch, but the one we went to was close to Via Condotti.  Here are some snaps to give you a flavour...



Mocha machines.  We went wild and bought the tiniest Bialetti available.

 

I bought some of the fluted aluminium moulds on the bottom right of the picture above.  I think they'll be good for large madeleine-type cakes



This is me considering the bill at Gusto - a lovely restaurant albeit with an English translation of the menu which is prone to mislead.  It also has a lovely kitchenware shop attached to it



Fish: how to ruin it and how to save it

Fate would have it that as soon as I start a blog designed to inspire me (and you) to create delicious suppers I end up cooking one of the worst dinners I've ever made.  Or tasted.

To be fair to myself, it wasn't entirely my fault, but it was a disaster that I could have averted.

Last Saturday Mr. F went to Broadway market and bought a really lovely piece of cod.  We didn't eat it that day, or the day after, but I thought it would last until Monday.  Our fridge is pretty cold.  So, come Monday I had hatched a plan to cook roasted cod with roasted squash and chargrilled sweetcorn. 

I had three types of squash to hand, one turban, one butternut, and chunk of another with a really thick green skin.  I peeled them all (quite an undertaking) and cut them into cubes.  Whilst doing this, I melted butter and oil together, added an indecent quantity of salt, two cloves of garlic that I had minced, dried chilli flakes and pepper.  When that mixture started smelling wonderfully fragrant, I poured it over the squash chunks, tossed squash and butter together, and put the whole lot in the oven (at about 180 degrees, for forty minutes).

Then I pulled the fish out of the fridge and unwrapped it.  It smelt really fishy.  I called Mr. F into the kitchen.  He took a lungful, thought for a moment, and pronounced it fine.  I smelled it again. Whilst I was also able to convince myself that it was fine, a top note in the odour tickled some basic, primeval area of my brain which urged me not to eat it (it must be the same part of the brain which predisposes us not to like blue food).

Carrying on gamely I contrived to think of something that would mask the flavour.  I made a classic pesto (in the pestle and mortar to boot), and added breadcrumbs.  That mixture was packed on to the fish, which was then put in the oven for about seven minutes. 

Fish and squash emerged from the oven, both looking and smelling deceptively appetizing: the breadcrumbs had toasted up nicely, and the squash was burnished and bubbling.  I dished up.  We sat down.

My first mouthful of fish was bitter and mushy and completely inedible.  It went into the bin.  The next few minutes of my life were going to be spent in an almost-vegan suppertime hell.  I suddenly felt glad that I had used butter to roast the squash.  I speared a couple of chunks of it with my fork and made a start.

The squash was soggy, and one sort, the green one with the thick skin, had become so mealy that I had trouble swallowing it.  I ploughed on regardless.  The chargrilled sweetcorn saved the day.

So, the moral of this particular story is: eat fish on the day you buy it if you're not going to freeze it.  Not exactly rocket science.  I am filled with self-loathing.

If you do have a nice piece of fish and you're not sure what to do with it you could do worse than roasting or frying it and serving it with a buerre noisette and boiled potatoes.  My mother taught me a really good cheat version:
For two

Half a pack of butter (so, about 125g)
Soy sauce (1-3 teaspoons)
Decent balsamic vinegar (1-3 teaspoons)
Curly parsley (about 4 big sprigs)
Capers (1-2 packed teaspoons)

Melt the butter in a heavy-ish pan.  Let it cook until it turns deep golden brown (if it goes too dark and starts to smell burned then you'll probably have to start again).  Let it cool for a moment and then strain through a very fine seive (I have used kitchen towel for this procedure) to remove the milk solids.  Add a teaspoon of soy sauce and the same of balsamic.  Taste and adjust accordingly: you might prefer a sauce that is more piquantly tart.  Roughly chop the capers, and finely chop the parsley.  Add to the butter mixture.  Serve with roasted fish (skate is especially good in this context) and boiled new potatoes.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The wonder of custard Part II

So, the banana icecream turned out rather more like banana kulfi, which isn't that much of a surprise given that the principal ingredient was condensed milk. It's good, if slightly on the sweet side. I think it would go well with strawberries, particularly the less sweet ones that are available right now at the very end of the berry season.

I had rather more success with a malted chocolate icecream that I made at the weekend and which I adapted from a recipe for dark chocolate icecream that's in the new Morfudd Richards book on ices. I replaced the dark choc with milk choc, and substituted Ovaltine for the cocoa. I halved the quantities (to avoid uncontrollable gluttony and so the mixture would fit in the icecream maker all at once), and presto! Delicious icecream, the taste and texture of which improved after one day.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The wonder of custard

So, this evening has offered up a custard-based meal: a leek and gruyere quiche followed by homemade banana icecream. The latter is still churning away contentedly in the background whilst I write...

The quiche was the product of yesterday's efforts. Mr. Fork had been down to Broadway Market, our local weekly open-air extravaganza, on Saturday, and came away with half-a-dozen slim, creamy-white tipped leeks. I sauteed them in butter until they were soft and catching ever-so-slightly to the bottom of the pan. Then I added them to a mixture of 250ml double cream, three eggs and 130g of grated gruyere (plus S & P). I lined a fluted tart case (25 cm in diameter) with shortcrust pastry and blind baked it for about ten minutes. Then, I smeared the bottom of the crust with grainy mustard, poured in the custard and baked the whole thing for about 25 minutes. Mr. Fork pronounced it the best quiche he'd ever eaten. Personally, I prefer a quiche lorraine, but he's a vegetarian, so it may well have been the best he's ever had.

Now, I'm not one for puddings too often, but sometimes I have an insatiable hunger in my sweet stomach that simply refuses to be satisfied by another half glass of wine. Friends recently gifted Mr. F and me a lovely icecream maker (a Magimix Le Glacier 1.1), which has had a cataclysmic impact on my consumption of cream-and-sugar based foodstuffs. Despite being all out of cream (as a result of quiche-making), and having almost consumed my weekly egg allowance (how many is it nowadays anyway?) I couldn't resist attempting to whip up some banana icecream from the following:

2 perfectly ripe bananas
A tin of condensed milk
2 x the volume of the tin in milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt


I heated the condensed milk and the milk together until just below boiling and then took it off the heat. The condensed milk had browned a little, infusing the milk with a caramelly flavour and sheen, and dispersing small pieces of caramel throughout. I let it cool slightly and then poured it on to the egg yolks, which I'd whisked til frothy with the vanilla. Then I heated this mixture to 80 degrees (using a "candy" thermometer given to us by some other lovely friends) and mashed the bananas, finally combining the two. The final mixture (with the salt added at the end) went into the freezer in a jug to cool asap (I'm impatient), and is now being churned to perfection courtesy of Monsieur Le Glacier.

I'll report back on the finished product tomorrow if the gout doesn't get me first.

It's only 6pm and my stomach's already a-rumblin'...

Welcome to Forkful (has anyone else tried recently to set up a blog with a vaguely food-related name? It has taken me the whole afternoon just to get this far.), a little blog that I've launched to allow me to focus and develop my love of eating and cooking and thinking about food.

I work long hours in a relatively exacting job. As I suspect is the case for many people, obsessing/worrying about what I'm having for my supper takes up a good proportion of my day. So, the plan here is for me to share dinner-time successes, failures and discoveries with anyone who cares to read about them. And of course, contributions and suggestions will be gratefully received.

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