Scottish Oysters with Tabasco and Lemon or Friday nights in Edinburgh

This is a slightly delayed post. turns out I am more organised than I think- I wrote it all up and forgot to post it!  But I’m going to leave it as it is…brings back good memories of our decadent lifestyle. I miss Edinburgh!

So its Friday, and Tom and I have developed a great ‘Friday in Edinburgh’ tradition of having Oysters before dinner. We had them once and it was a great idea and its been a great idea since. Dinner is usually at 11pm on these days as Tom’s just arrived on the train and I’ve been attempting to study all day, so its a great way to start the evening proper! (to be honest oysters are a great way to start anything proper…) Also, I happened to walk into a designer kitchenware store today and decided to treat myself to an oyster shucker. This one even has a little safe guard so you don’t hurt your hand in the excitement of opening the delicious suckers. What a life…

Oysters used to be poor man’s food, and you often hear stories of the oyster bars that populated the underground vaults beneath South Bridge in Edinburgh in the 1800s – or Auld Reekie as it was called then because it was a bit smelly. When the vaults were excavated in the 1990s they discovered thousands of oyster shells which were the staple food of Edinburgh’s working class- the lucky beggars. They are not so cheap any more- 80p a pop, but Scottish oysters are the most delicious we have ever tasted, and a fantastic Friday treat.

 

scottish oysters are the best.

scottish oysters are the best.

Oyster with a squirt of lemon and tabasco

This is not really a recipe. Its pretty straightforward and the title is all there is to it, but the difficult bit (or difficult sounding bit) is getting the oysters open.  After that it is just yum yum yum.  So we’re going to show you how to shuck your oysters. It takes some practice to get the hang of it but once you do its a breeze and well worth the effort!

Tools:

Tea towel (the thick type)

Oyster shucker or a flat knife with a sturdy handle

As many oysters as you can afford

tabasco

lemon or lemon juice

ice (optional)

When you buy your oysters you want them to be tightly shut. Store in a cold fridge, curvy side down so if the oysters open all the yummy liquid doesn’t run out. Don’t buy open oysters- they might have lost a lot of their liquid and gone dry inside, or they could be dead.

Hold the oyster firmly in your weaker hand, curvy side down wrapped in a sturdy tea towel. Take your knife/shucker into the hinge of the oyster and press or wiggle down firmly, and then lever upwards twistly slightly. Once the flat top shell is loosened from the hinge, slide your knife under the width of the top shell seperating it from the oyster. The oyster is usually stuck to the shell by a little muscle, but the top shell should come of cleanly leaving your oyster in a curvy bed of liquid. Serve with a bit of lemon or tabasco on ice if you’re fancy, or straight into your mouth if you’re hungry and can’t wait! Dont chew just slurp!

Cinco de Mayo- Deviled Avocados and Tamales

So we know we haven’t posted for a while, but it’s not that we’ve not been cooking- we’ve just not had time to get blogging. So we have quite a backlog of recipes and photos that we’ve been waiting to tell you all about.

So… way back in May We made tamales and deviled avocados for Cinco de Mayo which were super yummy. The tamales take a little bit of prep time but they’re not too complicated. The recipe for both the tamales and filling are from Lupe Pintos ‘Two Cooks and a Suitcase’.

Deviled Avocado- for the hell-bound only. Do not try if you think you may be eligible for heaven (not likely). This recipe shifts the paradigm of deviling as we know it, and consequently is actually quite dangerous to your soul.
3 avocados
8 large eggs
1/3 cup mayo (CINCO DE MAYO!)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp white-wine vinegar
1 tbsp minced celery
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
Old Bay if you have it, paprika if you don’t
Deviled Egg

A sinner enjoys an egg.

First you have to hard boil the eggs. There is a technique to this and it is not “put it in boiling water for half an hour, I don’t know, whatever”.
To get perfect hard boiled eggs do the following:
Put the eggs in the pot. Add water until the eggs are submerged an inch below the water. Add salt and vinegar, a dash of each. The salt increases the boiling point of the water (he says to a chorus of “duhs”) and the vinegar keeps the yolk from dissipating if the egg cracks- devil magic.

Turn up the heat to high, until the water has been boiling for about a minute with big old bubbles, not the small ones like in your sody pop. Then take them off the heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Add cold water in the sink until they are cool enough to peel. Done and dusted, easy peasy, etc.

Now peel them, snappish. Cut them in half and take out the yolk which should be a sunny yellow and not a dull green if you did the boiling right. Put all the yolks in a bowl with the mayo, mustard, vinegar, celery, salt & pepper. Mix it all up. You can do this with a mixer if you have one. Spoon the devil-mixture back into the eggs.

Cut the avocados in half and remove the egg. Plant it if you wish. Remove the flesh from the skin. The easiest way to do this is with a spoon, the hardest is with a fire extinguisher.  Spoon some eggs into the holes, as in the pic below. Sprinkle some Old Bay on those bitches.  Eat.

Deviled Avocado

A technical innovation in the field of deviling.

ALTERNATIVE: Skip spooning the yolk into the white and go straight for the avocado. GET CREATIVE! Or else.

TAMALES

When we cooked these we didn’t have any access to corn husks or banana leaves usually used to wrap up the tamales to allow steam into the dough, so we had to resort to using tinfoil. While not ideal our cookbook reminded us that ‘ Tinfoil tamales are better than no tamales!’ They’re also a lot less fiddly and easier to handle if you’re trying them out for the first time, and to freeze.

Allow a bit of time to make this (filling takes an hour to simmer, and the tamales themselves will take another 45 mins to an hour to steam). We recommend making the filling first and while it’s simmering you can prepare the tamale wrappers.

Serves 6-8

Filling: Oaxaca style Mexican Chile

Oil for frying

500g pork diced

2 medium onions finely chopped

4 cloves garlic crushed

4 tomatoes roasted and sieved or alternatively ready-made passata

150ml fresh orange juice

2tsp vinegar

1 bay leaf

1 tsp oregano

2 Ancho chiles (remove pulp)

3 Guajillo chiles

(Don’t fret too much if you can’t find the right chiles- we’ve tried it with 3 rehydrated chipotle chiles instead of the two above and it was delicious)

2tbsp toasted breadcrumbs

a handful of crushed tortilla chips

25g toasted almonds

2tsp sesame seeds

3 cooking chorizo sausages chopped and sauteed

500g of cooked black beans

Oaxaca-Style Mexican Chile

Chile, Oaxaca style. Fry it up, boil it down, add chorizo and nacho crumbs. Easy as.

Saute the garlic and onions in olive oil until soft.

Add the pork and brown well.

Add the tomatoes, orange juice, spices, vinegar and chillies and simmer for 45 mins until the pork is tender.

In a food processor blend the breadcrumbs, tortilla chips, almonds, sesame seeds until you get a fine crunchy mix.

Add the crunchy mix, chorizo and black beans to the tomato-pork mixture.

Simmer for a further 15 mins to blend the flavours.

How to wrap tamales

How to wrap tamales- spread all that masa harina out on the foil, add some filling, then wrap over the top and fold over the end. Add to the pot for steaming.

Tamales

200g Masa Harina (finely ground maize flour for mexican stuff. It tastes a bit limey. Available from (my local) Sainsbury’s)

100g butter melted

250ml chicken stock

1/2 tsp baking powder

salt & peps

A load of tinfoil cut into rectangles about 150 x200mm, enough for a small conspiracy hat (cat size)

A large pot with a steamer insert and lid and tongs

Sift the Masa harina and baking powder into a large bowl. When using tinfoil the baking powder in the dough lightens up the tamales compensating for the lack of porosity.

Add the melted butter, and stir in the chicken stock and season with salt and peps.

Stir/knead well till the dough becomes the consistency of cake batter.

Assembly:

Spread a thin layer of the dough onto the tinfoil with a wet tablespoon.

Apply the filling in a strip down the middle. Fold the bottom of the strip up and then the sides over to form a filled roll. A bit of water will help seal the masa dough.

Try not to layer too much tinfoil on to allow them to steam properly. Make sure there is extra tinfoil to fold over the bottom of the roll and pinch at the top.

Fill the pot with about 2 inches of water and place the steamer insert in.

Place the tamales vertically (so they’re standing up) tightly in the steamer pot.

Cover and steam at a low temperature for about 45 mins to an hour. Make sure the water level isn’t too high so it boils and wets the bottom of the tamales. It may need a bit of topping up as well.

The tamales are done when the insides are soft and firm (not smooshy). Carefully remove from the steamer pot with tongs.

HOT TAMALES!

Unwrap this mess and pig out. And then tilt-shift the heck out of the photos.

Unwrap and eat! Delicious!

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FennelFest 2012

I have to say I love living in Edinburgh. Specifically I love living on this corner of Marchmont in Edinburgh. I walked to Eddie’s Fish shop after work to get my sea bass and crab claws which is around the corner, then had four different green grocers to choose from to get all my in season veg. They are open till 8pm so you can change your mind very late in the evening (and scotmid our local supermarket which is a stones throw away shuts at midnight). Then I wandered down to Peter Greens Wine Shop (the other corner) for a free wine tasting which happens every Friday evening from 5 to 7. Tasted some, bought a bottle of inexpensive but delicious dry white recommended for my dinner. Then I went home and started cooking!

Crispy Sea bass with fennel and lemon beurre blanc and a medley of mushrooms, broadbeans and asparagus

Although there are loads of vegetables in this, the butter evens out the healthiness of this dish. But its super yum – just don’t eat it every day. Tom has been very into fennel recently and its quite an underused herb/bulb.

Ingredients:

1 large spanish onion cut in half and sliced into half moons

2 cloves garlic– sliced

Stalks of one bulb fennel- chopped roughly ( keep fronds for later)

a sprinkling of thyme

1 Bay leaf

1 tsp coarse black pepper (or about 15 whirls of the grinder)

1tsp white wine vinegar

150ml dry white wine

100g butter in chilled cubes

A few stalks of aparagus cut into thirds

About 10 broad bean pods, shelled

6 large oyster mushrooms cut into thick slices

Two fillets of sea bream skin on

A plate of flour

Paper towels

Ingredients for Crispy Sea Bass

Ingredients for Crispy Sea Bass- go fresh, go local.

Cook the onion, garlic, fennel, thyme bay leaf and black pepper in 2 tbsp butter until softened but not coloured. Add vinegar and white wine and bring to the boil. Continue to boil for about 10 mins till the liquid is reduced to about 2-3 Tbsp. Gradually add the chilled butter cubes one at a time, till the sauce looks lovely and thick. Keep warm in the pan with a lid on and set aside.

Buerre Blanc

Buerre Blanc- french for “white butter”

Boil the broad beans and asparagus in a pan of water until cooked. Refresh in a bowl of cold water so the greens keep their colour. Scoop a bit of the buttery goodness into a pan and brown the mushrooms in them. Then add the broad beans and asparagus, and scoop up about three quarters of the onion fennel mix, but leaving as much as much runny butter sauce behind as possible. You will probs find that you will have a fair few onions left in the first pan but that’s OK. Discard the bay leaf. Add a dash of lemon juice and salt and pepper to the vegetables to taste.

Crispy Sea Bass

Crispy Sea Bass- with fennely goodness.

Why not do it one pan you ask? Because you want to fry the fish in the first one. So take your fillets of fish, pat dry with a paper towel and coat both sides with flour. Heat up the first mixture again on medium heat and fry the fillets for a few minutes each side in the buttery mix. Remove fish and set aside. Mix the remaining butter sauce used to cook the fish in into the vegetables. Place the vegetables onto a plate in a mound shape and top with the crispy but soft sea bass. Finish with a few fennel fronds . Yum!

What do you do with the rest of the fennel you ask now?

Roasted fennel with balsamic and parmesan

Ingredients:

The fennel bulb leftover from above
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Grated parmesan

baking tray and tinfoil

Roasted Fennel

Roasted Fennel- nature’s candy!

Preheat oven to 200 C. Trim the bottom off the bulb, cut in half lengthways, and then into one inch slices longways. Place the fennel bits on tinfoil on the baking tray. Pour over enough olive oil and balsamic to coat. Cook in the oven for eight to ten minutes, then remove sprinkle with parmesan and cook for a further five minutes.

Note: Best served immediately, or at least the parm sprinkling bit should be done just before eating.

Crab Claws with garlic, butter, and chipotle sauce

Serves two

This recipe is a slight variation of the recipe on Eat Like A Girl’s Blog on the internets. Crabs are in season here in Scotland, and when I was buying the fish at Eddies Fish Shop round the corner from our house I had an urge to get some oysters. But then I saw the crabs and changed my mind. And although oysters are always yummy this recipe was super delish!

Ingredients:

6 crab claws
50g butter
2 large garlic cloves chopped
1 tsp chipotle sauce or some rehydrated chopped chipotle chillies
100 ml dry white wine

Chipotle Crab Claws

Chipotle Crab Claws- Cor Blimey!

Reduce the white wine by about a third in a hot shallow pan. Add the butter, garlic and chipotle. I used Fox’s Spices Chipotle Chilli Sauce (from the Amazon Basin), which is 73% chilli. When the butter has melted add the crab claws and cook for 6 – 8 minutes over a medium heat until cooked through. Season to taste.

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Foraging

So the other weekend we took a walk on the wild side! We went on a foraging and cookery workshop with Floramedica medical herbalist Anna Canning and the chefs of Spoon at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Anna told us that all of the plants belong to the queen, but she doesn’t mind if we only swipe a few leaves, so lay off, beefeaters!

Anna was excellent- incredibly knowledgeable about plant edibility and nutrition, medical properties and folklore. She also knew all the pitfalls of foraging and made sure no one accidentally poisoned themselves. Among our foraged foods were nettles, rosebay willow herb, sticky willy, wild garlic mustard or jack-by-the-hedge which was our favourite because it tastes like garlic!, chickweed, daisies, and elderflower. Anna also let us sample a selection of her herbal teas. She was our herbal sherpa.

Foraging

From left: Nettles, elderflower, rosebay willow herb, daisies, ground elder; (next row up from left) lime tree leaves, birch leaves, garlic mustard; (at the top) chickweed

Afterwards we went to Spoon with all the plants we had gathered and the chefs at Spoon cooked us something like seven different dishes, right in the kitchen! We had- two different dips with rosebay willow herb and wild garlic mustard with veggie dippers, nettle soup, haddock patties with (I think) sticky willy, some squirrel stew with assorted herbs, pearl barley risotto, a wild herb and daisy salad, with elderflower pannacotta to finish, as well as three or four herbal teas. Head chef Rory even broke out some home-made elderflower wine for us to taste! It was such a great experience seeing the chefs work right in front of us, and the staff at Spoon have an intuitive knowledge of what taste combinations were going to work- they had to improvise a bit (it’s the nature of cooking with foraged food), and everything tasted delicious! The most important lesson was that it is really easy to integrate foraged food into dishes you are already comfortable with, and often the best recipes are the simplest ones!

Haddock Patty

Haddock Patty

Squirrel Stew

Squirrel Stew with Foraged Herbs

Pearl Barley Risotto

Pearl Barley Risotto

Elderflower Pannacotta

Elderflower Pannacotta

We were so inspired after we left that, as soon as we had finished digesting our huge lunch, we had to start cooking again! We made two pestos- a stinging nettle pesto, and a garlic mustard pesto (with a bit of chickweed and rosebay willow herb).  We decided to pesto-ise as we had picked a whole bunch of stuff and wanted to make something before we went on holiday.  We also picked a bunch of elderflower and made elderflower cordial which we will show you how to make.  But first:

Some tips on foraging:
Wear hardy waterproof shoes and bring a raincoat if you live in this country as it will always rain.
Dont pick plants that are near roads or that dogs might have weed on.
Bring a hessian or cotton bag for gathering herbs.  Some seperate plastic bags are good for seperating plants and also for storing herbs that you don’t want to mix (like nettles that will sting you) For plants like nettles bring some gloves or a plastic bag to help you pick them- a pair of scissors is also handy.
Do not uproot plants- usually the top few leaves of spring growths are best- but this can vary.
Go with someone who knows what they are doing, but if you go on your own make ure you bring a couple of books for cross referencing.  usually one with pictures and one with photos is best as the same plant can often look different.

For the stinging nettle pesto:
Nettles are pretty awesome.  Their stings are good for you-they get the blood flowing! Roman soldiers actually bought them to the British Isles, and used to hit their aching muscles with them after long marches in the cold to make sure they were still alive and increase circulation.  They are also the loveliest green colour- so lovely that in the second world war the british government requested 100 tonnes of nettles to be collected to use their dye for camouflage.  So if your greens need greening- just pick some nettles!

Nettles can be found during most of the year- Feb to Nov but the first spring growth is always best.  The top few leaves are usually the best, but don’t pick them if they have started flowering (wiggly stringy green bits).  Shady ones are also usually less bitter.

What you need:
A large bunch of nettles -4 or 5 cups worth
Grated parmesan cheese- a tbsp or two
A clove of garlic minced
200g Pine nuts- (or other nuts like walnuts)
a drizzle of lemon juice
About 1/4  cup of olive oil
salt and peps

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Stinging Nettle Pesto

So first carefully pick the leaves and put them into a pot of boiling water  for a few minutes so they don’t sting your mouth.  Drain- but keep the water to make yourself a hot cup of nettle tea while you continue pesto-ing.  Run drained leaves under cold water so they keep their colour.  Spin the leaves in a salad spinner or colander, then wrap in a paper towel to squeeze the excess moisture out.  Lightly toast the pine nuts in a pan till golden.  Toss everything into a blender with a tbsp of the olive oil and blend.  Check the consistency and taste- drizzle in more oil/ lemon/parmesan if needed to taste.

For the wild garlic mustard pesto:
For the wild garlic mustard pesto the recipe was quite similar although we used some rosebay willow herb, chickweed, and sticky willy to add some complexity to the flavour.  If you only have a few leaves just make a little pesto! You don’t need loads.  It’s so easy and delicious! You can vary the consistency for a drier chunkier pesto, or a smooth oily one.  It keeps in the fridge pretty well, and lasts longer if you remember to top it up with  a dash of olive oil.  Tastes great on toast or in your sandwich, as a soup topper, salad dressing, on pasta, in pasta dough, or on a lovely chunk of meat/fish.

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Garlic Mustard Pesto Ingredients

For the elderflower cordial:

8 heads of elderflower
An orange
3 Tbsp Lemon juice
100ml water
500g sugar
A large bowl, strainer, tea towel, and bottle

Elderflower Cordial Raw Ingredients

Elderflower Cordial Raw Ingredients

Boil the water and add the sugar.  Stir to dissolve- and when ready take off the heat and allow it to cool slightly.  Zest orange peel into the mixture, and chop orange into slices. Place elderflower heads in a bowl ( make sure there are no insects on them).Pour over orangey sugar water, lemon juice, and the orange slices.  Make sure as many of the flowerheads are covered with water as possible.  Cover with a tea towel and leave for 48 hours- stirring occasionally.  Strain mixture and place in a bottle. I used a lovely old whisky bottle that I thought I would never use (it pays to keep things you don’t need!) You can discard the strained out stuff although the orange slices taste yummy.

Enjoy this cordial diluted with water, soda, gin, or anything your heart desires!  Nice with a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint or tiny weeny eledrflowers floating in your drink.You can also heat a little bit up and use it to drizzle over desserts.

Notes: you can eat the flowers but don’t eat the green bits.  They’re bad for your kidneys.  An easy way to get lots of flowers off the heads if you need them is using your fingers or a fork to comb through.

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Seared Salmon and Bloody Mary Salad

This recipe was inspired by an Epicurious recipe for Flank Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad.

I say inspired by.

Salmon and Bloody Mary Salad

As you can see, presentation is everything.

The recipe is all about my favourite cocktail- the bloody mary. The bloody mary is named, of course, after the Mary Poppins series of books by P.L. Travers in which a deranged  English nanny dismembers a family of Americans and drinks their blood. To approximate the sweet, sweet taste of child’s blood, wannnabe cannibals invented the bloody mary to get their buzz on. Here’s my take:

Ingredients:

Tomato juice

Vodka

Celery sticks

Worchestershire Sauce

Tobasco sauce

Pepper and celery salt

Ice

Method:

First, roll out of bed. This is an important step to take to prevent spillage. Bloody marys are primarily a breakfast cocktail, but take precautionary measures.

Put the ice in a glass with a double shot of vodka, then add tomato juice until you can’t smell the vodka. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce- and take it easy, pal, it’s easy to think you can just go mental with it, but people can get hurt. Too much Worcestershire and the whole mess tastes like catchup.

Next add the Tabasco, and here do the opposite of what you did with the Worcestershire sauce. Once you think you’ve added enough Tabasco, add some more, because you probably didn’t add enough.

Finally sprinkle that shit with some celery salt (tastes so good- I just eat it straight up of the shaker) and ground pepper. Mix it all up with the celery stick and drink it all up while watching Catchphrase or Supermarket Sweep or something equally awesome while you nurse your hangover.

Now, I myself prefer the bloody caesar. Named, naturally, after the caesar salad, the bloody caesar is the same as a bloody mary, except you substitute (transfuse?) the tomato juice for CLAMato juice. This is one of Canada’s finest inventions, legend has it that a “Newfie” (I don’t know what this means)  dropped a crate of clams into a vat tomato brew. Instead of  throwing the batch away, the unscrupulous Montreal outfit sold it to out-of-state Torontors, who, to their continued surprise, loved it! Now a portion of every batch (“the clam’s share”) of tomato juice produced in Canada is given over to be lightly diluted with clam juice. Anyway, you can by Clamato juice at the big Sainsbury’s in Halifax. I encourage you to try it even though it sounds gross, as I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who buys it, and would like to continue to do so.

So back to the recipe.

Blood Mary Salad for deux personnes

Ingredients.:

Two handfuls cherry tomatoes

1 can green olives with pimento

1 red onion

3 sticks celery

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp horseradish sauce (Look at the ingredients of the horseradish sauce! You want a high percentage of actual horseradish in there- you can get an 85% sauce at Sainsbury’s, and you can get a 20% sauce, and they are both called “horseradish sauce”, so watch the heck out!) (Also, image Sean Connery saying “horseradish.” That is the correct way to say horseradish.)

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Tabasco sauce

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp celery salt

1 dash pepper

First, chop up the red onion using The Only Correct Way To Chop An Onion™. Put it in a big ol’ bowl with some red wine vinegar and mix it around. Then chop up all of the rest of the solids- tomatoes in half, olives in half, celery in… 14ths. Throw them- and I do mean throw- into the bowl.

For the dressing, mix the horshradish sauce, the Worcestershire  sauce, and the tabasco together in a small bowl, then slowly whisk 1 tbsp of olive oil in, adding more if necessary. Season with the celery salt and pepper. Throw (!) the dressing in the bowl with the rest of the salad. If you have a lid for the bowl, pop it on and shake the bowl to get the dressing into the crevasses. Put into fridge until you’re ready to serve with…

Spicy salmon

Ingredients:

Salmon steaks

Olive oil

Old Bay seasoning

Tabasco

Method:

Old Bay

Old Bay seasoning- so tasty, I MEAN.

First, a word on Old Bay seasoning. This stuff is produce of my homeland, THE Old Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA, and we use it there to cake Maryland blue crabs in an orange crust before we smash them open with tiny hammers and consume their innards (strange but true). This salty, spicy seasoning is usually only available on the East coast of the US, but there are a few import stores here in the UK that sell it, such as Lupe Pinto’s in Edinburgh (which is just a generally cool hangout anyway). But if you can’t find it (or you consider pre-mix seasoning “cheating” somehow), make it yourself!

Old Bay substitute (from about.com):

1 tablespoon ground dried bay leaves

2 teaspoons celery salt

1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground celery seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground mace

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Method:

Mix that shit up and put it in an old salt shaker– you’ll never look back!

So anyway, coat that salmon from before in Old Bay and olive oil and let it sit and mellow while you make the salad. Let the big flavours seep in. The once the salad is done, throw, Throw, THROW the salmon onto a frying pan on medium high heat, skin DOWN. Let the salmon sit there, down be flipping it and fussing over it, just sit there for 5 mins, until the skin is all crispy and delicious. The cooked pink of the salmon should have risen about halfway up the side of steak. Flip it over, and sear the top, and then the sides as well, for a total of 2-3 mins.

Place everything artfully on the pate (as shown above) and serve.

Hugs and whatnot,

Tom & Rasha

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Diots de Savoie and wild mushrooms in the French Alps

The Alps

The Alps near Annecy. If I looked this good half the time, I mean, jeez.

So last week we were in La Clusaz in  the French Alps for our spring vacation.  Its usually a ski resort but this time of year the scenery is really beautiful especially down near Lake Annecy where we spent much of our time.  This part of the world is known for lots of delicious foods- raclette, fondue, tartiflette to name but a few.  Cheesy and heavy these are often fed to skiers after a long day out on the slopes or to spring time tourists who like cheese 🙂  Speaking of which, there are also lots of delicious cheeses like reblechon- tres creamy, tomme de savoie ( and other tommes)- semi soft, and abondance-  a 2 year old hard cheese to name a few local ones which are all awesome. Although \i have to say this is the probably the first time in my life I feel slightly cheesed out. We ate out a lot, but on the few nights we were in we decided to try some local cooking at home in the Chalet Le Grizzly where we were staying.

Diots de Savoie au vin blanc, et champignons sauvages sur du pain grillé
or in anglaise Sausages in white wine and wild mushrooms on toast

Diots are a delicious french  meaty sausage lightly flavoured with nutmeg that can be consumed raw- often with mustard, or cooked.  When cooked, they are traditionally simmered in a white wine and onion sauce, and often served with creamy cheesy garlicy crozets which are teeny tiny square pastas.  We used the basis of the traditional recipe for the sauce but added some extra vegetables to the mix in an effort to be healthy. This recipe is happy to be cooked in a single large pot so its nice and easy.  The first time we made this we also had some wild mushrooms from the local markets on toast but sadly we have no pictures of these because we forgot and ate them up too quickly.  But the diots were so delicious we made them again for family so we had 10 sausages, and this time we took photos.  We’re going to provide the diot recipe for two (and the mushrooms sans photos), so don’t get too confused if you follow it and your pot doesn’t look like it has 10 sausages like the pictures. Here’s how its done:

Diots de Savoie -Serves two

Ingredients:

Four Diots de Savoie from your friendly french butcher.  We reckon yorkshire sausages or the like could also work.

One Tbsp Flour

One Tbsp Butter and one Tbsp olive oil for frying

One large white onion

Two large garlic cloves

Two large handfuls of small new potatoes

10-12 Asparaguses

500 ml Chicken stock

250 ml  Dry white wine such as Apremont

Pepper (no salt as the sausages are salty)

Herbs de Provence

Crusty baguette for mopping up sauce

One large pot

Wine: Usually served with white wine. We can definitely recommend the local Savoie Apremont Sec- quite light and dry and a good accompinament to a heavy meal.  Or if you fancy the red a bottle of Arbin which is also a nice local wine – quite full bodied and pleasantly peppery.

Method:

Chop your garlic into small pieces, and cut your onion in half and slice into thin half moons. In your large pot melt the butter and oil.  Once foamy, lightly sauté the onion and garlic.

Half-moon onions

Don’t make the mistake of cutting the onions as per the anchovy pasta, aka. The ONLY Correct Way To Chop An Onion. It is not the only correct way.

Big Garlic

I can’t believe how goddamn big the garlic is in France.

Add the diots whole and cook until golden brown.

Diots Cooking

Apparently you can just eat these things raw. Not for us.

Sprinkle with flour to make a bit of a roux and stir.

Roux

Roux is so French I want to kiss it with tongues.

Add the white wine, stock ,pepper, herbs de provence, and new potatoes (If the potatoes are not very small cut in half first). Cook over low heat for about 30 mins (lid off). The jucy salty oils from the sausages should meld into your sauce, and it should gradually thicken.  Add the asparagus and cook for a further 15 mins.

Stewing

Stewing away.

Scoop out into shallow bowls. Eat!

Serving Diots

Make sure none of the sauce spills. Wipe the counter with a baguette if this happens.

Tips: If your sauce doesn’t thicken like you want it to, add a little sauce to a bowl and gradually stir in some more flour.  Once incorporated slowly add to the pot.  Also, if you have any of the sauce left over you can add some more veg to it and make it into a soup!

For the wild mushrooms (morels and girolles) on toast:

This recipe is super simple but really really delicious.  Its a great way to prepare any kind of flavoursome mushroom.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Butter

2 garlic cloves

Salt and peps

250g morels sliced thickly

250g girolles whole

crusty baguette

Melt the butter.  Once foamy add the garlic and saute for a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and saute till soft.  In the meanwhile toast slices of your baguette in the toaster or oven.  Pour the buttery mushrooms all over the toast. Enjoy!

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Colombian Beer-Marinated Steak with Aji sauce and Colombian Guacamole

The day I made this I had a bit of a steak urge-this happens pretty often.  I have a thing for steak, especially thick rare steak. The ultimate way to fulfil a steak urge is Tom’s mom’s Masonic Steak.  She gets a giant cut about the size of a dinner plate and an inch thick from Elite Meats in Lincoln.  This is marinated up and grilled until medium rare. Served up with some salad and veg it is super super Yum.

So as Tom’s mom was not around I decided to look for a new and delicious steak recipe.  This one is adapted from one of Epicurious’ top rated steak recipes, and after tasting it I can testify that it definitely earned its place on the list. The steak is served with sharp and spicy Aji sauce, Colombian guacamole, and a dash of sour cream- I wouldn’t advise skipping any of the accompaniments.

If you live in Edinburgh and want to make this recipe just head over to Tollcross.  John Saunderson butchers provided an especially thick cut of steak on request, Lupe Pintos deli provided the chilles, delicious set sour cream and some tortilla chips for munching as I went along, and Scotmid across the road had the rest of the veg, pickled onions and beer.

SERVES 4

For the Steak:
1 kg inch thick steak ( I used two frying steaks but you could also use flank steak which the original recipe called for but the local butcher didn’t have)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
Salt & Peps
1 cup sliced spring onions
340ml out of a can of guinness beer
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

Marinated Beer Steak

Marinating the steak.

DO 3 HOURS AHEAD: Lay the steak out in a glass baking dish 2 to 3 inches deep, that the steak fits within comfortably.  Dont use too big of a dish as the marinade is quite runny and you want to make sure the steaks are covered fully. Using a sharp knife, score the steaks on either side in a criss-cross pattern at about 2cm intervals, and 1/2cm deep.  Sprinkle steaks on both sides with oregano, cumin, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Drizzle olive oil over the top, rubbing the spices into the meat.  Add both onions, beer, and worcestershire sauce.  Turn the steaks to coat either side. Cover and pop in the fridge, turning occasionally.  You can also do this the day ahead.

While the steak is chilling get your Aji sauce and guacamole ready (see below).  when you’re ready to eat, set the oven grill on high.  Grill steaks for about 4 mins each side or until medium rare.  Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let it rest for 5-10 mins.  Slice up into 1 cmish thick strips and plate up!  Serve with Aji, guacamole and sour cream.

Aji Sauce:
1/2 cup coarsely chopped seeded jalapeño chiles
1/2 cup coarsely chopped spring onions
1/3 cup coarsely chopped sweet pickled onion from a jar
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander
3/4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (or red wine vinegar) Lupe Pintos have these frozen lime concentrate pack for mixing up lime juice for margaritas.  You can mix up a pitcher of limeade or even margaritas and use a splash for the sauce.

Aji Sauce

Sharp and tangy Aji sauce.

Combine jalapeño chiles, spring onions, pickled onions, and coriander in processor; puree until paste forms.  Open it up and give it a stir and a scrape down a few times to make sure all the bits are incorporated.  Add the lime juice and whizz again until mixture is blended but still retains some texture. Transfer to small bowl and add the salt and pepper.  Give it a taste- and add a dash more lime if you think it needs it. Cover and refrigerate.  This lasts in the fridge for a good few days, and also makes an excellent dip for tortilla chips.  If its too spicy on its own, have it with a bit of sour cream.

Colombian Guacamole:
2 small/medium ripe avocados, coarsely chopped (keep the stones)
3 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh coriander
1 1/2 Tbsp coarsely chopped spring onion
1 1/2 Tbsp coarsely chopped pickled onion
2 Tbsp chopped serrano chiles with seeds
2  Tbsp (or more) fresh lime juice
Coarse salt

Guacamole

Lots of coriander in this smooth Colombian guac!

Combine avocado, coriander, spring onion, pickled onion, and serrano chiles in a processor. Puree until smooth. Add 2 Tbsp lime juice ( taste before adding the second Tbsp) and blend. Add more lime juice if necessary.  You want to process until its quite smooth, but not runny.  Transfer to a small bowl and season with salt, pepper, and a dash of lime.  Cover and refrigerate with the avacado stones so the guacamole doesn’t go off colour.

We had too much, so we used the leftovers with some buckwheat and sweetpotato noodles. I mixed the aji sauce with some sour cream to make a sauce and threw in some peppers and peas.  Yumzo!

Enjoy!
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Anchovy Pasta

This recipe comes from The Geometry of Pasta. It is known in France as pasta des anchois.  It’s quick, easy, yummy, and costs nothing to make. Anchovy pasta has become one of Tom’s weekday staples, and we thought we would tell you the best way to cook this salty treat.

Delicious anchovy pasta

The parsley goes on top so we don’t have to think about how gross the sauce looks.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 large onion

2 tins anchovies (Sainsbury’s anchovies in olive oil are fine, but if you are really flashing your cash, splash (rhyme!) on John West anchovies in olive oil. Mr. West, for my money, makes the best damn anchovies money can buy!)

250ml white wine (Go for something dry and not too sweet.)

125ml water (tap water is fine, but if you’re feeling fancy, bottled will work too – just nothing with extra flavour – orange, other fruits, etc.- this will ruin the pasta – trust me!)

Enough spaghetti for 2 persons (whole wheat pasta tastes better with the sauce, nuttier and nutmeggy for some reason)

Method:

Chop the onion. I don’t know if I mentioned the way to chop and onion in a previous post, but here is the correct way to cut an onion, and all the other ways of doing it are just people ruining perfectly good onions. You chop it in half across the middle, so when you look at the chopped faces, you see a bunch of rings. Put both halves on the board face down, and make about three horizontal cuts most of the way through, but not all the way through in the same direction of the original cut. This means cutting the onion with the knife sideways. Then cut down, perpendicular to the previous cuts, about 1/4 inch apart from each other. Then turn the chopping board 90 degrees and, holding the onion to secure the sides so all the bits don’t splurge out,  make downward cuts perpendicular to those previous cuts. You will then find yourself staring at a pile of perfectly chopped onions. It seems complicated reading it (it was complicated writing it!), but trust me, do it this way once and you’ll never go back!

So throw all that onion in a frying pan and put it over a low heat. I have a gas hob and I put it on the lowest flame on the largest ring. Then open the tins of anchovies and drain the olive oil from them into the frying pan. Stir occasionally until the onions are translucent and soft, about 8 minutes. Then throw in the anchovies. They will just melt in the heat after a couple of minutes into a brownish goo, giving you some small insight into the fragility of life. Mush this goo into the onions and add the water and wine. Once this has started to boil (still on low low heat), put on the timer for 23 minutes. Then let it all chill out. During this time, I like to watch a little TV, some New Girl or something, just to pass the time, but you do what you want. Just let you be you!

When the timer goes off, put the pasta in some water with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. The sauce should have boiled down to about a  quarter of its former glory. Stir the sauce constantly as the rest evaporates, and it begins to look a little dry. At this point, add about a quarter cup of the pasta water, to add a bit of moisture, and after 2 minutes, take it off the heat. This should be about the time the pasta has finished cooking. Drain the pasta and mix it in to the sauce. Split it between two bowls and rip some parsley over each.

A bowl of anchovy pasta

A beautiful helping of anchovy pasta.

That’s it, enjoy! And hold each other.

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Sunday Brunch

Today we made a most delicious brunch!

Sunday Brunch

Easy and quick, a yummy way to start the day. At noon.

On the menu was scrambled eggs, french toast with Tom’s special syrup, and bacon along with some yummy aeropress coffee.

Scrambled Eggs

So I always thought scrambled eggs was just making an omelette and squooshing it up. Turns out thats not really true. Real scrambled eggs are far more tasty.

Head Chef: Tom

Ingredients:

4 eggs

salt & peps

a few small knobs butter

4tsp cream

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then add a few small knobs of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Put the mixture in a frying pan over medium heat and stir constantly. This will give you softer, creamier scrambled eggs with smaller curds. If you like larger curds in your eggs, do not stir as much. When the eggs are almost but not yet cooked, add 4 tsp cream. Cook a few more seconds and serve immediately.

Scrambled Eggs

Fluffy clouds of scrambled eggs.

French Toast

For the french toast, we had never made it before, so we made a simple recipe.

Head Chef: Rasha

Ingredients:

3 pieces of sliced white bread, cut diagonally into triangles

knobs of butter for frying

75ml milk

1 egg

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp sugar

¼ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

+Tom’s special syrup for topping

Whisk all the ingredients except for the bread and butter in a bowl. Melt some butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Dip the bread into the mixture for 5 seconds on each side. Place the bread on the frying pan and fry on both sides until crispy and golden brown. Serve immediately, topped with Tom’s special syrup.

Tips: We used skim milk, and Weightwatchers bread, and it tasted delicious, so this recipe works for the (slightly) health conscious. We halved a recipe that serves 4, so you can double to serve 4.

French Toast

French toast with Tom's Special Syrup.

Tom’s Special Syrup

Tom’s special syrup is born out of a chronic lack of maple syrup in the United Kingdom generally and my house specifically.

Head Chef: Tom

Ingredients:

3 heaped tablespoons golden syrup

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

1 dash nutmeg

¼ tsp chilli flakes

Mix it all together with a fork. The mixture is quite viscous at first, but loosens into a delicious ooze on anything hot. The chilli adds a bit of an interesting kick to something which otherwise would just be trying (and failing) to be authentic maple syrup, so I think it’s a worthwhile addition.

It’s also recommended to serve all this up with a mess of bacon and coffee.

That’s it for today, have a good brunch!

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Stoodley Pike Tapas Birthday Extravaganza!

Our very first blog entry commemorates Rasha’s 26th birthday. We decided to go on an 11 mile hike and thought a lovely spanish picnic would make all the exercise go down easier. The spanish tapas recipes come from The Book of Tapas by Simone and Ines Ortega.

Eating tapas on Stoodley Pike

Yumzo!

Ham Croquettes (Croquetas de Jamon de York)

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 tbsp sunflour oil

40g butter

4 tbsp all-purpose flour

750ml milk

2 eggs

175g bread crumbs

vegetable-oil for deep frying

salt

fresh or fried parsley

200g Yorkshire ham, very finely chopped

Preparation:

When I was making the bechamel sauce, I consulted The Cook’s Book. It turns out there are two different kinds of bechamel sauce, one which takes a lot longer than the other. The first involves heating the milk with some aromatics to add some extra flavours before adding the milk to the rest of the sauce. The type I made was the shorter version, as suggested by the Ortegas. Heat the oil and then add the butter. The oil prevents the butter from burning too quickly. When the butter is melted, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in the milk and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. We added a bay leaf to the milk while stirring the sauce. Once all the milk has been added to the pan, it should take about 10 minutes for the sauce to thicken to heavier bechamel.

You can either use serrano ham or Yorkshire ham, but I thought I would go local and choose the Yorkshire ham. Stir the ham into the bechamel sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. It’s better to do the seasoning after the ham is added than to season the sauce by itself so the mixture doesn’t get too salty.

Pour the mixture into a large baking dish. We had about 2cm of mixture in the bottom of our dish. Cover it with cling-film and pop it in the fridge for at least 2 hours for it to set.

Croquette mix

Croquette mix- tastes much better than it looks

Set up your workspace while you are waiting for the mixture to cool. You will need a shallow dish with the beaten eggs in it, and another to put the bread crumbs in. Take out the cool mixture, and using two tablespoons, begin shaping the croquette mixture into quenelles.

Croquette quenelle

Making the quenelles of sauce for the croquettes- remember- use spoons!

As you make each quenelle, scoop it up into your hand and roll it in the breadcrumbs. Try and make sure the bread crumbs cover the entire surface, which make it easier to handle.  Then roll the croquettes in the beaten eggs, and then again in the bread crumbs. The pointed shape of the quennelle will naturally soften into a barrel shape. You can finish off the barrel shape with your fingers.

Bread crummin'

Bread crummin'

Some tips:

Try to clean off your fingers periodically through the process so the croquettes don’t get messy in your hands while rolling them.

Don’t start off with all the bread crumbs in the bread crumb dish, or the will start to get lumpy as you work. Top it up periodically so you don’t end up with a soggy lump of breadcrumbs.

Have a plate ready to put the croquettes on. It takes some patience and practice, but soon they will start to look like legible shapes.

Croquettes- pre-fry

Croquettes- pre-fry

And then the frying. Heat the vegetable oil to about 180-190 degrees C, or until a piece of white bread browns in 30 seconds. Watch out for spitting oil, and add the croquettes into the oil in batches off about 6 at a time. Cook them until the outside is brown and crispy. Transfer them to a plate covered with paper towels to soak up any excess oil, and put the plate into a warm oven while you cook the rest of the croquettes.

Before each batch, do the bread cube test to make sure the oil is still at the right temperature. You can serve immediately and garnish with fresh or fried parsley, but we let ours cool,, put them in tupperwares and had them the next day for lunch. They were yummy.

Spicy Chorizo and Gherkin Pinchos (Pinchos de Chorizo Picante y Pepinillo)

The pinchos are an endurance trial. The anchovies and onions are slippery, and the toothpicks start to dull after the 3rd ingredient. But the  flavour combination was something unusual that we wanted to try, so we persisted and made about 20 of them.

Ingredients

Deli-counter anchovy fillets (they crumble less easy than canned and are much less salty)

175g sliced spicy chorizo (the Ortegas say to remove the casing, but we found this to turn into a smushy mess, so left them on)

about 20 cornichons (you can use any kind of pickled gherkin, but cornichons are easier and cuter)

about 20 pickled onions (the smaller the better)

1 fresh red chilli, seeded and cut into slices (we used green)

about 20 cocktail sticks.

The method here is quite self-evident, see below, just remember to roll the anchovies!

Banderillas

Pinchos- they look like scarecrows

Spanish Tortilla (Tortilla de Patatas a la Espanola)

Ingredients

500 ml olive oil for frying

750g potatoes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (so you get half-moon shapes)

1 large onion, roughly chopped

100g gruyere cheese

6 eggs

1 cup roughly chopped spinach

2 tbsp olive oil

As this was a birthday meal, we opted for the classic fried Spanish tortilla. In this recipe, you pan fry the onions and potatoes, rather than a healthier method, so you may want to look around for something healthier if you aren’t interested in flavour. Ours is a variation on the Ortegas’ recipe, though they fry theirs too.

First, heat the 500 ml of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the potato slices and onion, and stir until softened and golden brown. Tip: If all the potato and onion mixture does not fit into your frying pan, do it in batches. Season with salt and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the potato and onions to the eggs, and then add the cheese and spinach and stir with a fork. Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in the skillet, and then add the mixture. Do NOT Stir! Cook until the bottom is set and lightly brown. Then flip it over. It may seem cruel for me to glibly suggest you just flip over this hot heavy tortilla like it was a playing card, but that is what you have to do, and if you break it, shame will follow you for the rest of your days. The method for this is to put a plate over the frying pan. If the plate is smaller than the circumference of the pan, it will slip inside and you will burn your fingers. If the plate is larger, the plate will probably slip as you flip, and shatter into a thousand pieces. Needless to say, it is a difficult and frustrating thing to try to do. If you can achieve this subtle art of the flipped tortilla, you then slide it from the plate back onto the frying pan and cook it until the other side is golden brown. Then you can slide it back onto the plate and serve like a pie or omelette.

You can put pretty much what ever you want into a tortilla. We added the spinach and cheese, which was excellent. They also travel well.

Tortilla

Tortilla- Why do half of people think that a tortilla is a wrap and the other half think a tortilla is a potato omelette? To be clear, this is the potato kind.

Olive caviar (Caviar de Aceitunas)

Easy and delicious.

Ingredients

150g black olives (pitted, to save yourself the effort of pitting them yourself, unlike me)

4 canned anchovy fillets in oil (not 4 cans, 4 fillets) drained

1 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

oaties or crusty bread (Nairns, obv.)

Method:

Blend the olives, anchovies and capers in a blender until grainy like caviar (you can do this in two batches). Stir in the olive oil. Spread on the oaties and jam it in your mouth. You won’t be able to stop.

Tapas

Up at Stoodley Pike Monument. After being hailed on for approx. 1 hour, food was welcome.

So that is our first post. Thanks to Kate, Jo, and Sama for coming up to Yorkshire for Rasha’s birthday! Stay tuned for more!

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