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Friday, 30 October 2009

A decent little stir fry

Healthful and delicious.  You will need (for one)

Soba noodles (about the same or slightly less as a portion of spaghetti)
Rice wine vinegar
Sesame oil

Two eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil

Ginger, about an inch, peeled and cut into fine batons
One clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Four spring onions, sliced
One small courgette, cut into slender batons
Mange tout or sugar snaps, a handful
Soy sauce

Sesame seeds, toasted
Bonito flakes

Boil the soba noodles until tender.  Drain well and return to the pan and dress with a few drops of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.  Toss and set aside.

In a wok, heat a drop of vegetable oil.  When hot, pour in the beaten eggs and make a quick omelette.  When cooked through, transfer to a plate and cut into strips.  Wipe out the wok with kitchen towel.  Heat another drop of vegetable oil and quickly fry the ginger, garlic and spring onions.  Do not let them brown.  After about a minute add the vegetables, sprinkle with a few drops of water and soy sauce and stir fry.  After a minute or so add the dressed noodles and omelette.  Break up the noodles to distribute the egg and vegetables evenly throughout.  Add another sprinkling of soy.

Transfer to a plate and top with the toasted sesame seeds and bonito flakes. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Eggs is eggs

I can honestly say that I don't know where I would be without eggs, as my fondness for quiches and custard-based ices demonstrates.  As the basis of a light lunch or a brunch they are satisfying and filling, and are nutritionally sound, being high in protein but not too fatty.

I tend to buy medium-sized organic eggs after having heard that large eggs are more difficult for hens to lay, which makes sense really.  Mr. F and I are also lucky in that we live near a deli which sells italian "Machiavelli"-brand eggs which have vibrant orange yolks and which I am sure would make wonderful fresh pasta.

The following two recipes make regular appearances on the weekend breakfast menu at Chateau Forkful.

1.  Poached eggs with smoked salt and grilled bread (for two)

4 organic eggs
4 slices of good bread (this recipe works well with good rye bread that's not too dark or a really fresh baguette)
White wine vinegar
Smoked salt
Chilli flakes
Rape seed oil or best quality extra virgin olive oil

Boil a pan full of water and place a ridged griddle pan over a high heat.  Butter the slices of bread on one side.  Once the water is boiling add the vinegar and turn the heat down.  Using a wire whisk stir the water in one direction and then drop an egg into the well that's created in the middle.  Poach each egg for about 3 minutes, or to your liking, and then remove to a warm dish covered with a cloth.  When you have finished the third egg (or the second egg if you need to cook the bread in two batches) place the slices of bread on the griddle pan buttered side down.  Let the bread get darkly ridged.  When the eggs have poached place two slices of bread on each plate and top each with an egg.  Sprinkle the eggs with the smoked salt and a small pinch of chilli flakes and drizzle lightly with oil.  Serve at once, with a steaming cup of cafe au lait.

2.  Han's eggs (for two)

4 eggs
Three tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
Pitted green olives, sliced
Fresh coriander or flat leaf parsley, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

You will need two small frying pans to make this for two people who are set on eating together at the same time!

Heat the oil in the pans and when hot add the tomatoes, olives and capers.  Fry for a few minutes, then break the eggs on to the mixture.  Cover the eggs with the chopped herbs and season very well.  Put a lid on each pan and cook until the whites of the eggs are firm but the yolks are still wobbly, or to taste.  Serve immediately with hot buttered wholemeal toast.

This dish also works well when spring onions are cooked with the tomatoes.  For a more substantial supper, try scattering feta cheese over the eggs at the same time as the herb are sprinkled over.

Monday, 19 October 2009


I am now on Twitter (search for forkful).  Join me!


Mr. F and I treated ourselves to a meal out on Saturday evening.  A girl can't come up with delicious imaginative suppers seven days a week after all.   Never keen to venture too far from our locale, we thought we would give PizzaEast a try.  It's a new pizzeria/restaurant that opened on Friday and is situated at the bottom of the Tea building, at the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Shoreditch High Street.  I've often walked past this building and wondered what went on in there.  It turns out that since Friday it's a great space (the epitome of edgy industrial chic - all exposed brickwork and ventilation ducts), serving interesting pizzas and other well-priced tidbits.

We shared the following: a 500 ml carafe of the house red; Cipolletine onions with puttanesca sauce (from the "fried" antipasti section); a shaved fennel, rocket and parmesan salad with almonds; a pizza topped with clams, tomato, garlic and pecorino; a pizza topped with potatoes, fontina, pecorino and rosemary.


Pretty darned good.

Wine was decent and good value (£10 for 500ml).  The pizzas were really delicious: the dense, springy crust was toothsome and flavourful, and the toppings were lush.  They're not cheap (£10 for the potato job and £12 for the clams), but they are immensely satisfying and don't leave one feeling as though one's gorged oneself.  I could take or leave the starters that we shared.  The salad had been soused with too much lemon for my taste, and the onions were a bit too waxy and raw to make that dish truly enjoyable.  The puttanesca sauce was exemplary.

I would count on spending about £25 - £30 per head.  The antipasti and puddings are very good value, although I wonder whether they might creep upwards in a few months time.

Service was attentive, informative and relaxed, which was impressive given that it was only the second night that the restaurant had been opened to the public.  I'm pretty certain that we'll be back again soon.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Madhur made me mad

As it was Diwali yesterday Mr. F and I decided to make Indian food for supper.  He had a hankering for aloo gobi, so off I trotted down Brick Lane to purchase the ingredients specified in Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for potato and cauliflower curry in "The Ultimate Curry Bible".

Elements of the recipe work really well: asafoetida and cumin seeds are fried briefly, after which a paste of onions, garlic and ginger is added, followed by grated fresh tomato, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric and cayenne.  This makes a wonderful (and all purpose?) sauce.  But Madhur requires you to fry the cauliflower and potato in 8 tablespoons of oil before adding to the sauce and allowing them to simmer for a couple of minutes.  Mr. F and I concluded that this not only makes the dish rather oily,but it also prevents the veg from absorbing the flavour of the sauce.  Secondly, after the vegetables have been added Madhur states that a pint of water should be poured in, the dish brought to the boil and then simmered (covered) for two/three minutes.  This last instruction prevents any of the liquid from being boiled away and made the sauce very watery.

We ended up with an insipid plate of mushy, greasy vegetables, although the roti and raita were a success.  Does anyone else have a better recipe for aloo gobi?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Smoked mussel quiche and a recipe for roasted squash with sesame and sumac

Apologies again for being less than regular in posting on here (it would seem that I am blog-stipated).  Life has been pretty hectic recently, and not in a good way.  I've cooked on through though with varying degrees of success.  Here are some of the most notable highlights:


I must say that I find pastry an incredibly versatile and convenient substance.  I've never tried to make puff pastry, although I know a man who has.  When he made it for me it tasted exactly like decent shop-bought all-butter Saxby's, which was something of a relief.  Now I use and serve up ready-made puff with total impunity.  Short crust on the other hand is a different story because it's quick (save for the resting time) and easy.  Yes easy.  Anyone who wants to know more about why short crust (or pie crust as our American friends would say) can become tough if handled too much is directed to one of the later chapters in Jeffrey Steingarten's utterly brilliant book "The Man Who Ate Everything".  Essentially, the addition of water means that ones pastry is generally more likely to become tough and shrink.  A revelation.

200g plain flour, 120g unsalted butter, one beaten egg, and salt (usual method: fat and flour rubbed together with the salt, egg added gradually to bring the crumbs together, kneaded together to form a disc and then placed in the fridge for anything over 30 minutes) yields enough pastry for a shallow 25 cm fluted tart tin.  Some people insist that adding something acid to the mix (sour cream or Greek yoghurt for example) makes the pastry wonderfully tender, but I must confess that I've not had much luck with this mix.

A couple of weekends ago Mr. F and I went to the lavish wedding of two friends.  The starter was a mussel quiche which was absolutely delicious.  I decided to create an approximation of it using the smoked mussels sold by a chap on Broadway Market.  They're about £3-ish for around 150g which I think is decent if not exceptional value.  The mussels keep for a week or two and are a good standby: I've used them in a mexican black bean soup and also as an accompaniment to a glass of dry sherry.

To fill the aforementioned 25cm fluted tart tin you will need:

150g smoked mussels
A medium sized onion
Five eggs
Greek yoghurt or cream
Fresh dill
Smoked paprika (the sweet kind)
Salt and pepper

Blind bake the pastry case for about fifteen minutes in an 180 degree oven. 

Whilst the pastry is baking, saute the onion in a mixture of butter and olive oil until soft and translucent, not browned.  Beat the eggs and yoghurt/cream together.  I would reckon on needing three dessert spoonfuls of cream or yoghurt, but I don't like my quiche too wobbly.  Add more dairy if you do.  Season with the salt, pepper and paprika (half a teaspoon).  Roughly chop the dill so that you have about two dessert spoons worth.  Add to the egg mixture with the onions.  Mix thoroughly.

Remove the pastry from the oven.  Place the mussels in the case, spreading them about evenly.  Pour over the egg and onion, and return to the oven for about twenty minutes or until lightly golden on top. 

Once cooked, leave to cool for ten minutes before eating.  I serve this with a tomato and onion salad, with dill, capers and cornichons.


Living with a vegetarian I find I often tire of eating pasta, and am frequently depressed by the impact that a carbs-heavy diet has on my waistline.  I am always eager to try alternatives to rice and couscous.  On honeymoon in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany Mr F and I were struck by the deliciousness of various soups and stews which relied on farro to provide the bulk.  Farro is a type of grain, similar to spelt.  Unlike spelt however it cooks in around twenty minutes and does not need soaking.  It tastes similar to bulgar wheat: nutty and wholesome.

For this recipe (for two) you will need:

For the squash
One large butternut squash (or two small ones), peeled and cut into chunks approximately 2 " by 2 "
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
A teaspoon of: cumin seeds, coriander and sumac
Half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
A dessert spoon of sesame seeds
A medium sized onion
Salt and pepper
75g of feta cheese

For the sauce
4 dessert spoons of Greek yoghurt
Fresh dill and fresh mint (about a dessert spoon of each, finely chopped)
Cucumber, about 2 " worth, de-seeded and chopped
One clove of garlic

100g of dried farro
A lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Place the cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and grind to a fine-ish powder with the mortar.  Add the sumac, cinnamon and sesame seeds and reserve.  Finely chop the two cloves of garlic.

Slice the onion into half moons and place in an oven-proof dish.  Cover with the squash cubes, and pour over a generous glug of olive oil.  Season very well, particularly with salt.  Pour the spice mix on to the vegetables, scatter over the garlic and toss well.  Put in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes to one hour. 

Boil the farro in salted water for twenty minutes, or until soft.  When cooked, drain well and allow to stand for a couple of minutes.  Then transfer to a serving bowl and dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Mix the yoghurt with the fresh herbs, finely chopped garlic, cucumber and salt, and set aside.

When the squash is ready (golden and fragrant) remove from the oven and scatter the feta cheese over it.  Make a well in the middle of the farro and fill it with the roasted squash and cheese.  Top with the yoghurt sauce.

This is now a firm favourite in our household.  It is nourishing and delicious.


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