Wednesday, 29 July 2020

week 27 - Ice Cream Book - Humphry Slocombe

2020: another week; another ecancelled event; this time Wimbledon. And, although I wouldn't have been queuing in my tent in SW19 to sit on Henman Hill, there's nothing like getting home from work and watching several hours of sweaty sportsmen while sipping Pimms in your pants. To be fair, I don't need the tennis on TV to do that, but you get my point.

While there might not have been any sport to watch, there were still strawberries to eat. Apparently approximately 27,000 kilos of strawberries are eaten during the Wimbledon Championships, together with 7,000 litres of cream - with many English strawberries grown specifically to be perfectly ripe for those two weeks at the end of June. And I didn't want any to go to waste.

Ie cream may not be the first strawberry desert I would normally think of, and it appears that San Francisco-based frozen desert specalists Humphry Slocombe - whose shop we visited on our honeymoon, many moons ago -  feel the same. Demonstated by the fact heir plain strawberry ice cream is named 'here's your damn strawberry ice cream' and only was only offered for sale in their shop on one occasion, when they had leftovers after making sundaes for SF Pride.

While the original recipe has made it into their book, they also offer two alternative, and far jazzier, versions. One with candied black olives and one with candied jalapenos. Although the recipe includes a method to to candy your own chillies I had picked up a jar from our local farmer's market (our favourite place to hang on a Saturday during a pandemic) made locally by the Salsa King. Sweet but with a decent capsaicin kick.

Unlike the majority of their recipes this is a no cook, no trouble method that uses simply pureed fruit, double cream and condensed milk The sweetness balanced, like a good fish supper, with a touch of salt and vinegar. It also tastes of berries, rather than the odd chemicals that strawberry ice cream often tastes of.

By pureeing the fruit, as per the recipe, you won't get the mottled appearance of the ice cream in the book, but the chunks of candied chilli add a little extra colour that stops the churning mixture appear quite as disturbing similar to the pink goo that, according to urban legend, McDonald's chicken nuggets are made from. 

Best enjoyed heaped in a sugar cone while reclining under a parasol, licking rivulets of melted ice cream as they drip down your wrists in the heat. Or, if you're in England, inside with your nose pressed against the window, dreaming of sunnier afternoons while waiting for the drizzle to stop.

Here’s Your Damn Strawberry Ice Cream with candied jalapenos
Adapted from the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book

500g fresh ripe strawberries, hulled and halved
1 1/2 cups double cream 
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped candied jalapenos

Place the strawberries in a blender or food processor and process to a smooth puree. Strain into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds (you can also leave it unstrained, but your strawberry ice cream won't be as smooth).
Once the strawberry puree has been strained into the bowl, add the double cream, milk, condensed milk, sugar, salt, and red wine vinegar and whisk together until the sugar has dissolved. 
Place the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour, or until throughout chilled (this helps the ice creamy freeze quicker when churning, giving a better texture).
Transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker and spin according to the manufacturer's instructions. 
Just before the ice cream is ready, add the pickled jalepenos and stir through thoroughly.
Eat immediately, or transfer into an airtight container and place in the freezer until fully frozen if you prefer a firmer texture.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

week 26 - Kitchen Diaries II - Nigel Slater

The English summer is now in full flow (as I write this while sitting under a blanket) and so we've been spending even more time arguing down at the allotment after work. Thankfully the soft fruits are hitting their peak, and so now the Ewing gets some peace to do 'proper' jobs while I'm distracted, like a sticky fingered-child, by picking said soft fruits. Of which approximately half make it into plastic takeaway containers to take home.

There are blackcurrants, whose leaves I recently plundered for my panna cotta; and gooseberries; and tiny golden raspberries alongside their bigger red cousins. But best of all are the jostaberries - a black currant and gooseberry hybrid - which have been rampantly growing since the Ewing got the allotment and planted them for me, knowing they were two of my favourite fruits. Thank you darling. (Oh, that's ok - TE).

Like many fruits, they also go perfectly with almonds. Originally I wanted to make a bakewell tart and replace the raspberries with jostaberries, but, leafing through the often overlooked second volume of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries, I realised they would make a great addition to his frangipane and fruit-filled almond tart.

Additionally, as well as tasting great, jostaberries lack the vicious thorns of a gooseberry bush and are bigger than blackcurrants, making them very easy and much more satisfying to pick. Even someone with no patience, like me, can fill a tub (and their face) in no time at all.

I keep thinking the leftover berries would make a great flavoured vodka, or gin, but I never seem to have enough leftover to try it. Maybe this year....

Although I have given the frangipane recipe from Nige's book below, I have to confess I used leftover frangipane that the Ewing had frozen after making rhubarb danishes for me way back in March. Which we unearthed after doing one of our 'can't fit anything in the freezer' clear outs, which were supposed to have become less frequent during lock down but still happen with a predictable regularity. 

It turns out that frangipane freezes remarkably well, and I can also heartily recommend adding a slug of Grand Marnier and a dash of almond extract, if you have it.

My hot hands, combined with all the careful measuring that baking involves, make pastry a bit chore but I followed the recipe for the shortcrust faithfully (even though my tin was a little larger than the one specified) and it was glorious. Short, buttery and no hint of a soggy bottom. While I made it (honest), the Ewing was roped in to roll it out and line the tin. Thank you darling. 

Jostaberry and almond frangipane tart
Adapted from the Kitchen Diaries II

200g flour 
100g butter
1 egg yolk 
Ice cold water 

100g butter 
125g caster sugar 
2 eggs
125g ground almonds 
60g plain flour
Good splash of Grand Marnier (optional)
1 tsp almond essence (optional)

Large handful of jostaberries or blackcurrants
small handful of untoasted slivered or flaked almonds

Icing sugar to dust (optional)

You will also need:
a round 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin at least 3.5cm deep
beans for baking blind

Put the flour and butter, cut into small pieces, into the bowl of a food processor. Add a pinch of salt and blitz to fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and enough water to bring the dough to a firm ball. The less you add the better, as too much will cause your pastry case to shrink in the oven.
Put the pastry in the fridge to rest for at least 30 mins and up to 24 hours.
Heat the oven to 200C. Put a baking sheet in the oven to warm. 
Pat the pastry into a flat round on a floured surface, then roll out large enough to line the tart tin. Lightly butter the tin, dust it with a small amount of flour, shake off any surplus then lower in the round of pastry. Push the dough right into the corner where the rim joins the base without stretching the pastry. Make certain there are no holes or tears. Trim the overhanging pastry.
Line the pastry case with kitchen foil or baking parchment and baking beans and slide on to the hot baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and carefully lift the beans out. Return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes or so, until the surface is dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and set aside. 
Turn the oven down to 160C, and return the baking sheet to the oven.

To make the filling, using a food mixer cream the butter and sugar together till pale and fluffy. Lower the speed, then mix in the eggs and then slowly fold in the ground almonds and flour. Spoon the almond filling into the cooked pastry case, smoothing it lightly with the back of the spoon.

Scatter the fruit on top of the almond filling and sprinkle almonds in the gaps. 
Slide the tart on to the hot baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes till the filling is well risen and golden brown. 
Remove the tart from the oven, dust with icing sugar if you'd like, and allow to cool slightly before serving. Preferably with double cream.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

week 25 - Flavour Thesaurus - Niki Segnit

One of my favourite cookbooks isn't really a cookbook at all. Instead, Nikki Segnit's flavour thesaurus is a wheel of different ingredients that have been paired up with each other to create different flavour combinations. Ranging from the well-known classics -  avocado and bacon; cherry and coconut - to the 'well, I would never thought of trying that', combos like banana and parsnip; and lamb and rhubarb.

As well as suggestions and anecdotes under each pairing, the book is also peppered with recipes - some barely more than suggestions, some with more careful methods and measurements. In fact, one of the best uses for a tin of corned beef - the trashy yet transcendent big mac pie - has already featured on this very blog.

This time I wanted to keep it slightly classier, and turned to a half a dozen flavour match-ups in three different dishes, all with a South East Asian vibe. Som tam salad, featuring mango and apple; and tomato and peanut. A nuoc cham dipping sauce with lime and anchovy; and garlic and chilli. And finally, a pad krapow stir fry with pork and anise; and basil and clove 

Som tam - a green papaya salad originating from Laos, and also ubiquitous across Thailand - is one of the Ewing's (and my) favourite salads. There are multiple different variations but, at it's core, it perfectly balances salt, sweet, sour and spicy in a way which often characterises South East Asian dishes. 

While there are popular versions featuring salted crab or shrimp, banana blossoms and fermented sausages, this version uses green apple in place of the mango/papaya, as well as peanuts, green beans and cherry tomatoes. Although I did also add a little shredded supermarket mango as well, which are often sold on the unripe side and therefore perfect for this dish.

Som Tam
Adapted from the Flavour Thesaurus

handful of green beans, topped and tailed and cut in half
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
1 granny smith
1/2 green mango (or another granny smith)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice of half a lime

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for about three minutes. Refresh in cold water.
Finely julienne or grate the apple and mango (I've got a fancy peeler just for the job, which can also be used to make great remoulade). Mix with the lime juice to prevent discoloration.
Mix the shredded veg with the tomatoes, peanuts and beans and season with nuoc cham dressing (recipe below).
Serve immediately.

Nuoc Cham
Adapted from the Flavour Thesaurus 

1 red chilli
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar

Pound the garlic and chilli in a pestle and mortar.
Add the lime juice, sugar and fish sauce.
Taste and adjust as needed.

Finally there was Pad Kaprow - a deceptively simple stir fry featuring handfuls of heady anise-scented thai basil along with garlic, fish sauce, chilli and sugar. This version was made with pork mince, but chicken, beef or squid are also popular. Traditionally served with jasmine rice and often crowned with a fried egg, it remains one of the most popular dishes in Thai cuisine and for good reason. 

In fact, way back when my Dad owned a Thai restaurant, this was the dish I would always ask him to bring home. With seafood, if I was very lucky, but any version was a treat. And even better if you found some at the back of the fridge for breakfast.

Pad krapow
Adapted from the Flavour Thesaurus

3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 red chillies 
2 tbsp neutral-tasting oil
500g minced pork, beef or chicken
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (or use 2 tbsp of whichever soy you have)
1 tsp sugar (palm sugar, if you have it) 
1 tbsp of fish sauce
handful of holy basil leaves (available in Sainsburys and Waitrose, as well as many Asian grocers)

Crush the garlic and one of the chillies in a pestle and mortar.
Add the oil to a wok and heat on a high heat.
Add the garlic/chilli paste and cook for 30 seconds
Add the minced meat and stir fry until nearly cooked. 
Add soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and holy basil leaves and cook for another minute or so, or until the meat is cooked.
Finish with the second red chilli, chopped into rings.
Serve with steamed jasmine rice. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

week 24 - My Lisbon - Nuno Mendes

While the world is a very different place to the one we knew six months ago in many ways, for the  the Ewing and I at least, life has rolled on by without too much upheaval. We're lucky to both be working - albeit from home - and to both be busy at work (although it's sometimes hard to feel fortunate about that...). And while many plans have been cancelled, or postponed, and we haven't seen any of our family and friends for the last three months - save for two recent, socially distanced meet ups with one of my oldest mates, and the Ewing leaving supplies on her parent's gate post - this week things really hit home.

This week we were supposed to be going to the Algarve for a few days with my Dad - who was due to visit from Australia, where he now lives - and then take a trip over the border to Seville for some R&R with my wife (WHO is she? - TE). Of course, far more tragic losses and upheaval have been experienced over the past weeks than the fact we couldn't have a few days eating custard tarts and drinking vinho verde, but realising that we weren't going to make it to Iberia in June, and we weren't going to see my Dad at all this year, did feel like a bit of a blow.

Of course, the one thing we could do was try to create that holiday vibe from the comfort of home. (while managing to pick the week were the weather broke and it actually rained for the first time in forever...). And so I ordered Nuno Mendes - chef of Chiltern Firehouse fame - 'My Lisbon'. His celebration of the traditional Portuguese dishes he grew up eating - and, after taking holidays in the Algarve every year as a child, I remember well, too - while the Ewing scoured the supermarket for Portuguese wine.

As well as drowning our sorrows, I also made Carne de porco à alentejana, or pork with clams. Despite being faintly weirded out by the idea of the live clams being in the fridge overnight (and even getting up just to check they hadn't drowned - (They live in water the whole time!!! - TE)) this was pretty simple to chuck together. Although I did use a hefty glug of piri piri sauce at the end just to jazz it up a little bit. Or possibly that's just my jaded palette after annihilating it with chilli over the years.

There was also a batch of warm custard tarts with cinnamon caramel that tested our marriage and were almost worth it, if not a patch on the ones you can buy from the Pingo Doce supermarket that is just down the road from the apartment we were supposed to stay at in the Algarve. Although we did discover a little Portuguese supermarket just off the Headington Roundabout in Oxford during our few days off work that sold excellent bica and bola arroz.

The pièce de résistance of my week of Iberian cooking was Polvo à lagareiro com batata a murro, or octopus with 'punched' potatoes. The octopus, which thankfully came ready boiled, was pretty good, but the potatoes, covered in the coriander (I also learnt that Portugal is the only country in Europe that uses coriander in its cuisine) pesto, were even better.

Octopus with smashed potatoes, olive oil and piso
Polvo à lagareiro com batata a murro
Serves 4

600g boiled octopus tentacles, cut into large chunks
For the piso
a bunch coriander
1/2 garlic clove
1 lemon, finely zested and juiced
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
For the potatoes
8-12 floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or similar, skin on
olive oil
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, smashed

To make the piso — Mix together the coriander, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest with a generous pinch of salt and pepper until you have a paste. Nuno recommends a pestle and mortar, but I used the Nutribullet. Stir in the olive oil. It will keep in the fridge for a few days with an extra glug of olive oil on top.
To make the smashed potatoes — Preheat the oven to 210°C. Cook the potatoes in plenty of salted boiling water until just tender but not breaking up. Remove from the pan, drain well and leave until cool enough to handle. 
Murro means ‘punch’ in Portuguese, so press each one gently with the palm of your hand. Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, bay leaves and garlic and season with salt and pepper. 
Put them in a large baking dish (big enough to hold the octopus too) and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
Drizzle the octopus with extra-virgin olive oil and put the pieces on top of the potatoes. Increase the oven temperature to 220°C and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the octopus has lovely crispy edges. (The bbq would work well here, too)
Drizzle with the piso, and serve in the baking dish for everyone to help themselves.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

week 23 - Bocca - Jacob Kennedy

After my lofty ambitions following the last #cookbookchallenge, this week I dialled it back and just made a bowl of pasta. Orecchiette with n'duja, red onion, tomato and rocket, to be precise. Well, I say just a bowl of pasta, but (of course) I made both the sauce and the pasta from scratch, so I didn't make life too easy for myself....

Just as with Polpo last week, this week was the turn of another much-loved Italian-inspired classic, this time being Jacob Kennedy's Bocca Cookbook, a spin-off from his restaurant in Soho, Bocca di Lupo - again, as with Polpo, I haven't visited yet, but I have visited Gelupo, his ice cream parlour situated opposite the restaurant, more time than I care to mention. Probably my favourite place for a frozen dessert parlour in the Big Smoke. 

Of course, when you cook something so simple, everything has to be top-notch. From the n'duja (spicy Calabrian salami), to the cheese (more of the pecorino bought home in my suitcase from Sicily), to the pasta - which should be, despite the strong flavours vying for attention, the star of the show. This recipe calls for orecchiette (or, more descriptively when translated from the Italian, 'little ears'). Dried orecchiette can be difficult to cook well - when the thinner middle is perfectly al dente, the thicker outer edge remains hard and chewy.

The way around this, or so Mr Kennedy informs us, is to make your own. Normally I would scoff inwardly and open a packet, but clearly I have far too much time in lockdown and luckily, despite ordering a pasta maker, that is currently being employed as a foot rest under my 'work desk' (dining room table), the dough used here  is made from simply flour and water. No special equipment, multiple egg yolks or rolling into gossamer-thin sheets required.

Ideally use semolina flour (which, as with my previous post, I picked up from the Italian Store) which is made from hard durum wheat. It has a coarse texture and is high in gluten protein which helps make a more elastic dough, perfect for rugged short pasta, where you want the sauce to cling to all the nooks and crannies. It also gives the finished pasta its lovely yellow hue. At a pinch, I believe you can also use bread flour or plain flour with pretty good results. Although the amount of liquid needed to make a dough may vary.

The dough it's self is a cinch to mix and knead. You can use straight away, but I let mine sit in the fridge for an hour or two. To get the ear shapes I followed several videos on You Tube. While by no means absolutely perfect, I was pretty impressed for a first attempt. The dough is also pretty forgiving, and I re-rolled a few misshapen ones without much ill effect. Another advantage of a dough with no egg is you can spread the shapes on a board and leave out (in the sun if it's a nice day) until they are dry, before storing as you would dried pasta. Obviously ours went straight into the pot for dinner.

Orecchiette with n'duja, red onion, tomato and rocket
adapted from Bocca - serves 2

for the orechiette
200g semola grano duro flour
100 ml water

for the sauce
1 red onion, halved and sliced with the grain
120g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100g n'duja
50ml white wine
50g rocket, roughly chopped
Pecorino or Parmesan, grated, to serve


Knead the semola with half its weight of water. The texture of the dough should be soft enough to work but dry enough not to stick to itself too easily. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes, then make the orecchiette. Roll the dough into a sausage 1cm in diameter. Cut across to make 1cm dumplings.
Using a table knife, push the dough down and towards yourself. The dough should stretch and curl over the knife.
Take your thumb, and invert the pasta curl back over it, creating that inside-out shape.
Repeat until all the dough is used up. Allow to dry for about half an hour, or until the pasta shapes become slightly tacky (alternatively dry completely and store until required)

Fry the onion and tomatoes in the olive oil in a large wide pan over a high heat until softened and slightly browned.
Crumble in the n'duja and fry for a few more minutes, then add the wine and a small ladle of water. Let it bubble away for a few minutes while you cook the pasta.
Put the pasta on to boil in plenty of salted water and cook until it floats if it's fresh (four minutes-ish) or according to the packet if dried.
Add the drained pasta and the rocket, to the sauce and cook for a further minute
Serve with plenty of grated cheese and a glass of wine.