Category Archives: Food

Your Detox-debunking article is Bullshit

It’s that time of year when a lot of folks’ thoughts turn to detoxing. It’s also the time when a lot of other folks’ thoughts turn to rubbishing the idea that detoxing could ever be anything beneficial. As a some-time scientist, logical positivist, gleeful-debunker and proud skeptic, you might hazard a guess at where I stand on this. No. I’m firmly on the side of the detoxers.

My anti-anti-detox-bullshit detectors went into overload yesterday when I saw a friend share a Cosmopolitan (I know, I know, fish: barrel) article entitled Why Your Detox Is Bullsh*t. I’ll happily admit I didn’t read the article – life’s too fucking short. My immediate response to the headline was:
Continue reading Your Detox-debunking article is Bullshit

Moro Good Food

It’s almost a year since I got hold of the Moro Cookbook. It’s been well used. Now I also have Casa Moro, and am expecting that to end up just as food-splattered as its big brother.

One of the problems I faced when I got the first cookbook was the availability of some of the ingredients. Fortunately, soon afterwards I paid a trip to Phil and Lola and stocked up on Spanish goodies hard to find in the UK. Since then, either I’ve got a lot better at sniffing out Spanish food, or it has become a lot more widely available in the UK. I think Brindisa are to thank for much of this (damn, they’re expensive though). Now even my local health food shop has a stock of

ñora driehd peppers. Decent ham is still pretty hard to come by though (and prohibitively expensive). I’ve only managed to find lomo in Brindisa’s own shop, where it cost me about ten times as much as in Spain (although, to be fair, it was about ten times as good). And I don’t know where I’d go for caper berries (alcaperrones). Still, I can get enough Spanish food to keep me very happy.

When I flicked through the new book, I noticed one new ingredient in particular which seemed to have crept into a great many of the recipes: pomegranate molasses. I had no idea where I’d begin looking for this, and even less desire to start de-seeding and boiling down pomegranates to make my own. So I was ecstatic when, only four days after receiving the book, I was walking through Upperthorpe, past the spot where the much-missed (by me at least) Red Sea Continental Food Market used to stand, and I noticed that it had re-opened as the Al Sultan Continental Food Market. I took a look inside and, guess what the first thing my eye landed on was? Pomegranate molasses (well, the bottle says concentrated pomegranate juice, but that’s the same thing). I bought it with a big grin on my face, and stocked up on a few other non-essential essentials as well, like rose water and pickled chillis.

Malted Ice

Last night I had my first really worthwhile worthwhile inspiration since getting the ice-cream maker (which was about three months ago): Horlicks ice-cream. Absolutely gorgeous stuff.

Recipe: make some custard, as if you were making vanilla ice cream. Then mix a wee bit of milk with some Horlicks powder, as you would when making a mug of Horlicks, except I used loads of powder partly because when frozen the flavour wouldn’t come through so strongly and partly because… it’s just not possible to make Horlicks too strong, is it? Then I mixed the custard with the Horlicks mix, added some cream and sugar, and stuck it in the ice-cream maker. It was superb: if possible, even better than I’d been expecting.

Gill tasted some of the Horlicks/custard mix as I was making it, and commented that it wasn’t really either sweet or savoury. This got us both thinking: Horlicks ice-cream (sans sugar) as a starter. I’m sure one of the courses we ate at Juniper contained Horlicks, probably Horlicks mayonnaise or something like that, and I reckon we could come up with some similarly inspired avant-flavourings. Personally, I reckon Horlicks ice-cream and roasted parsnips would be a good combinaton, Gill things roasted squash as well. It’s almost enough to make me want to hold a weird food dinner party.

Yoghurt

This week, I have been mostly eating home-made yoghurt, courtesy of the recipe in the Moro Cookbook.

The recipe calls for one litre of full-fat milk, 300ml of double cream and four tablespoons of live yoghurt (yes, you need yoghurt to make yoghurt, which begs chicken-and-egg type questions, but never mind that for the moment). I halved the quantities because the idea of getting through a kilo of yoghurt within a week sounded impossible, but now I’m started to wish I’d made the full quantity.

You boil the milk, and then simmer it until it’s reduced by about a third (which seems to take me about 20 to 30 minutes with the reduced amount). Then put it into a metal or ceramic bowl and stir in the cream. When it’s cool enough to hold your finger in for ten seconds, stir in the live yoghurt. Then cover with clingfilm and a tea-towel, and leave somewhere warm for about eight hours while the “friendly bacteria” do their thang.

The resulting lumpy white gloop is unlike any yoghurt I’ve eaten before: so rich and creamy tasting (a pox on all your “low fat” yoghurts). I can’t resist taking slurps of it out of the fridge. I took some camping this weekend, and toasted slices of cooking apple over the campfire to make burnt apple yoghurt (hmm). Gizmo likes it too, makes a great mixer with his dry food (and those bacteria are friendly to dogs too, apparently).

Yesterday I made a tarte tatin, from the recipe in Raymond Blanc’s Foolproof French Cookery. I was using up the remainder of the cooking apples which were in last week’s Beanies delivery (and they just sent us some: apple ideas gratefully received). Except we didn’t have quite enough, and as we have a glut of blackberries in our back garden and our allotment, I used them to fill the gaps. It was absolutely de-scrummy-licious (I was going to take a photo, as it looked pretty too, but it disappeared too soon). Except we didn’t have any of the recommended full-fat creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream to go with it, so we used the last of our extra-creamy home-made yoghurt instead. Which worked just as well. Except now we have none left to act as a starter for our next batch. Which means I have to go out and buy some more live yoghurt. Damn, what a waste.

Over-Rich Breakfast Bleurgh

Euurgh. I am so going to die of some obesity-related decadent disease.

I just had a bit of a special breakfast. Last week, I made some stuff, kinda like panna cotta, from a Nigella Lawson recipe. Basically, pick some elderflowers, boil them in double cream, leave them to sit for between 30 minutes and 2 hours (I accidentally left mine in for about 4 hours, hence the end product was overpoweringly, cloyingly elderflowerry). Then add some sugar, boil again, and add gelatine to firm it up (I used agar agar instead, worked fine). Stick it in the fridge overnight and eat. God it’s rich.

Anyway, I had some of that left over, needing eating. And I had some gooseberries that I’d bought to go with it. And also some very buttery biscuit mix left over from some baking I did with Lola last night. So I baked a big round of the biscuit mix, stewed up the gooseberries with sugar and water, and combined the whole lot into a sort of a gooseberry cheesecake-except-it’s-a-cream-cake thing. And ate it. All. For breakfast.

Now I can’t move, and I’m supposed to be walking into Broomhill to meet Gill. What do I do???

St John Bread and Wine & Thyme Restaurant

Have had a couple of good eating experiences these last couple of days. Yesterday I was in London, my mealtimes were totally out-of-kilter (I got up at 4am, had breakfast about 4.30 and continued having a meal every 4-hours or so thereafter). By 6pm I was hungry again, but what I fancied was meat in small quantities. “Perfect”, I thought, “that’s exactly what St John serve.” (wow, I see from their website they just won the Tio Pepe/Carlton/London Evening Standard Best Food Awards–well deserved).

I met up with Mark at Liverpool Street and we headed over there. Inside, Tracey Emin and Keith Richards were sitting at the table by the door, almost everyone coming in seemed to be a friend (or wannabe friend) and received/gave enthusiastic greetings. We settled down on a small table in the opposite corner, and made our choices.

I knew from our previous visit that their dishes are rather small and unaccompanied, so we decided to order a few. We got some of their delicious sourdough bread and some olives (crisp, fresh and green) to start, then Mark chose razor clams and I plumped for a boiled gull’s egg with celery salt. The egg was… well, I can’t really tell the difference between one bird’s egg and another (perhaps this one should taste of the sea?) but it had a gorgeous deep green shell cobbled with black, was cooked to perfection, and tasted great dipped in the celery salt. The clams too were good, although mine had a bit of grit inside which set off an internally-deafening crunch when I bit into it. It was strange having these long skinny shells, so familiar from any and every beachcombing trip, served up as food, but beautiful looking as well as tasting, floating in vinegary softened red onion strips and herbs.

For our main dishes, Mark chose potted pork which came with cornichons, and was again faultless although I would have expected it to have had more flavour. That was more than balanced out, however, by my selection. I noticed “chitterlings and radishes” on the menu, and remembered reading some reminiscent account of chitterlings only the day before (couldn’t for the life of me remember where though), but I didn’t have a clue what they were: some kind of small fish? A euphemism for some animal’s body part? I was having an adventurous day, so decided to risk it. Chitterlings, for those not in the know, are pig’s intestines. They were… interesting. I don’t think I’ll have them again. Pretty strong meaty taste, somewhat overpowering for a not-long-since vegetarian of 30 years standing like myself, with a slight livery irony aftertaste. Still, nicely cooked, the radishes (roots and greens) were great, and I managed to polish off my half of the plate without barfing. Washed it down with a glass of viognier.

I wasn’t going to have dessert, I really wasn’t, but… they all looked so tempting. And Mark decided he wanted something more: it’s not too common for Mark to go the whole three courses these days so I thought I’d take advantage… I ordered buttermilk pudding with rhubarb: beautiful creamy-dreamy panna cotta-type lump of vannilla-flecked buttermilk, with stewed rhubarb alongside (and, a real treat surprise, as I hit the end of the rhubarb I bit into a nicely spicey sliver of orange peel). Mark had the Lancashire cheese, which came in a huge triangle-slice with a piece of St John’s as-damn-near-perfect-as-anything-in-this-world-gets raisin bread. I helped him with the cheese but we still couldn’t get through it all. Mmm… a worthy meal, I hadn’t meant to get so damned f’llup, but sometimes it just can’t be helped.

And then tonight… Gill and I abandoned our usual Friday-night cinema trip and decided to eat out instead. I called Thyme Restaurant (or should I say “Richard Smith at Thyme” – god I hate it when chefs decide to stick their name before their restaurant’s, bloody pointless egomania). We’d already visited their more informal café a couple of times, where they serve up some pretty good versions of favourite dishes, but I’d been wanting to try the restaurant since I heard about it; there are so few “posh nosh” places to go in Sheffield. I was amazed that we managed to get a table (see previous sentence), albeit at 9.30. Before when trying to get weekend reservations at decent restaurants in Sheffield we’d had to wait up to two weeks. To kill time we headed down to West 10, an excellent wine bar (the best in Sheffield, I’m told) where Richard, Gill’s 18 year-old brother, works. Richard sorted us some house champagne, good stuff, we chatted over a bottle and then headed up the hill to Crosspool (getting slightly lost in the rain on the way).

To be honest I didn’t pay quite as much attention to the food as I should have done, given the money I was spending (the earlier champagne and the free-flowing chat with Gill took me elsewhere). It was all pretty damn good though. We got a bottle of Sancerre and I started with a fishcake, floating in a creamy sauce, Gill had… god, I’ve already forgotten what Gill had. Oh yes, some kind of ham thing, a block which was a little like a compressed version of the potted pork Mark and I had eaten yesterday (but with more colour and flavour), served with a lovely home-made chunky piccalilli.

For main course I had a slow-roasted salmon steak, which came on a slab of roasted potatoey… oh, I dunno, I wasn’t paying attention, and was served with a kind of red pepper salsa. The salmon did that teeth-sticking-together thing, which made me wince a bit, but that’s not to say it was badly cooked – certainly the centre was absolute melting perfection, I guess for such a big chunk of fish it’s hard to get it quite so dreamy all the way through. The vinegary taste of the salsa though stayed with me (still is with me) for far too long after the meal, and not in a particularly good way. Perhaps this is something about my taste (I have the same problem whenever I try to make romesco sauce), but it did slightly spoil an otherwise great meal (I didn’t actually notice this strong after-taste until we’d left the restaurant, whether this was because, again, I wasn’t paying attention or because it took a while for it to overpower the other flavours I’m not sure).

Gill’s main course was a piece of chicken, served in a lovely mix of vegetables which was overpowered (this time in a nice way) by mushrooms floating in their jus. It also came with a slab of layered slices of celeriac, far and away the best use of celeriac I’ve ever come across.

For dessert I had a Yorkshire… something or other, I forget. Anyway, it came with rhubarb and rhubarb ice-cream, and I’d imagined it might be something a little like yesterday’s creamy delight. But oh no, not with a word like “Yorkshire” in the title. It was a large triangle of a kind of oaty cake studded with raisins and lumps of some kind of cheese– something a little like Wensleydale. All good stuff but I was already well-nigh full, and it was hard trying to force much of it down. The excellent little glass of dessert wine did help though.

Then coffee, and some meltingly delicious petit fours, before staggering home drunk in the rain. A great evening, though I kind of wish I’d paid a little more attention to the food.

Pak Choi

Our Beanies delivery today included some Pak Choi/Bok Choy – I love it steamed with a bit of butter, but was wondering what to have with it. Rowan fancied a Chinese takeaway, so I went searching for some noodley pak choi recipes. I ended up making this recipe for Pan Fried Noodles with Tofu, Pak Choi and Soy Dipping Sauce. It was absolutely gorgeous (though, needless to say, the kids didn’t eat very much). Will have to make it again soon.

Moro Cookbook

I recently got my hands on the excellent Moro Cookbook. Bursting with must-try enthusiasm.

This weekend, I knocked up some gorgeous mezze – just-cooked carrots with chopped coriander and a sort of garlic-cumin paste, betroot with yoghurt and parsley, deep-fried aubergine slices with raw red chilli and a red-wine vinegar dressing. All made with fresh Beanies organic ingredients. Wonderful and incredibly tasty, reminded me of the mixture Mark and I devoured at Momo’s little sister restaurant in Heddon Street. The only problem with the recipes was that they all called for vast amounts of raw garlic in the dressings, something which burns my stomach and leaves me doubled up in agony and burping green fire. I used the quantities called for, but I poached it on the lowest possible heat in some olive oil for about half-an-hour, which made it far more palatable.

But even better than all this… the book gives directions for making your own live yoghurt (yeah, OK, it seems a little like cheating that one of the ingredients is… live yoghurt). Simply cook some full fat milk to reduce it by a third, stir in double cream, leave it to cool until you can stick your finger in the bowl for ten seconds, then add a few tablespoons of live youghurt and leave, covered with clingfilm and a tea towel, in a warm place for at least eight hours. The result is… well, it’s certainly not low-fat yoghurt! Halfway between cream and yoghurt, with gorgeous yellow lumps floating in it and with a richness that lingers around the inside of your mouth, and the satisfaction of something rustically home-made. Great on fruit salad.

They also give instructions for making sourdough bread. But I need a good couple of weeks free to try that.