Bits and bobs May round up….aubergines, Noah, rhubarb and Eggs Warhol…etc!

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Bits and bobs May round up....

Well. you can tell it is half term because I am eating breakfast! And so far, despite the Noah style rainfall yesterday, it has been very pleasant thank you for asking. This is a sort of catch all post – I have been experimenting a little and eating out a little and shopping a lot. Ok…this pic

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is this morning’s breakfast. It scores little, if anything, on looks… I agree…but the flavour was bang spot on.
2 eggs lightly scrambled with a slice of black pudding pan fried and then crumbled through the egg mix midway through scrambling. It mellows out the pud flavour and is immensely filling in a nice way! Anyway – there you go – it had a sort of Andy Warhol look – a good name maybe for it – Eggs Warhol.

At the weekend I marinated slashed chicken thighs in sloe gin, slivers of garlic and bay leaves for an hour. Then roasted them for about 40 minutes til crisping.

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I served them with courgettes oven baked ( I had pan fried them lightly first) with snowfalls of parmesan, drizzles of olive oil, garlic and a handful of Greek Basil – I love those gorgeously aromatic tiny leaves. Oh and I also did Jersey Royal new potatoes in butter and coriander on the side too. Got to make the most of these beauties whilst they visit!

Popped into Morrison’s near Basingstoke – as it is to me – one of-if not the best – supermarkets in this whole area. Nearest I have been to a French or Spanish affair. The veg counter is a work of art and has a huge variety of veg not normally seen anywhere unless you live in Brixton or some other marvellously multi-cultural spot. Everything from these gorgeous Graffiti Aubergines at the top of the page, to eddoes, fresh turmeric rhizomes, several different varieties of chard, cassava, different gourd, about 10 different types of chillies, elephant and rose garlic, hundreds of fresh herbs – all being sprayed gently with cold air. All fresh – nothing in plastic bags! The fruit counter is equally as fascinating – plus they have a phenomenal fish counter and a butchery populated by guys who are ACTUALLY butchers and know what they are talking about! If you have to shop in a supermarket then this slice of paradise is it.

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Right, enough sales talk – and I won’t even get commission!

Yesterday’s lunch was lemon sole in lemon beurre blanc sauce with spinach and new pots- again!

Not a great shot of it this – does not do it justice – still…

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Last night’s supper was a version of a Keith Floyd dish that I only seem to ever cook about once a year but I love it – it is simple and has a sort of Turkish / Greek feel to it.

He just calls it Minced Beef and Spinach – but I often miss out the spinach and I also like using minced lamb, which I did last night. Being someone who can’t just follow a recipe – I have to fiddle. But is that not what it is all about?

Anyway – I did. Fiddle on!

Ingredients:

3 spring onions finely chopped
12 okra trimmed
2 cloves of garlic chopped
butter
1 tbsp smoked paprika
500 gm minced lamb
1 cinnamon stick
1 chopped and deseeded red chilli – or you could use dried chilli flakes
2 large tomatoes deseeded and sliced
basmati rice

Stir fry the okra, onions and half the garlic for about 2 minutes in olive oil. Set to one side.

Next, in a mix of butter and olive oil, fry the minced lamb for about 5 minutes. Then add the cinnamon stick, the paprika and the rest of the garlic plus the chilli. Sprinkle in some black pepper too and a grind or two of sea salt.

I add a splash, no more of water, once the lamb is browned ( If you chose to add fresh spinach – about a half a kilo – at this point – no need for the water.)

Add in the tomatoes and the okra, onion mix. Continue to cook – it will be about 30 minutes in all. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

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I then cooked basmati rice – enough for 4 – and stirred it into the lamb dish. You could serve it separately if you wish with some plain yoghurt – I like the buttery texture of stirring it all together though.

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Simple and summery and perfect for supper. Right – out now to pick some rhubarb as the Ark appears to have docked for a while and the sun is considering making an appearance.

English: depiction of Noah's ark landing on th...

English: depiction of Noah’s ark landing on the “mountains of Ararat”http://www.facsimile-editions.com/de/nf/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

KEITH FLOYD – veni, vidi, coxi !

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English celebrity chef Keith Floyd

English celebrity chef Keith Floyd (Photo credit: Wikipedia

I really started to want to cook all the time – I mean all – i.e. not let anyone else near the kitchen even  – after I watched the first episodes of Keith Floyd‘s first television series. The opening series in 1984 was Floyd on Fish, but the ones that really hooked me (ouch!) was Floyd on Food in 1986 and then Floyd on France which aired in 1987. I think it is generally accepted that he was not a brilliant cook but he was so enthusiastic about food, and good at debunking myths about cooking, that I was smitten. It was all about taste and flavour, less about getting measurements spot on. And he did it all with a glass of wine to hand. Often times, some of his recipes would not work out, which was part of the attraction too. He made cooking seem so much fun and it made me want to go out and buy different ingredients, try different dishes and simply get in the kitchen and do it. I had grown up watching the rather curious and slightly scary Fanny Craddock, possibly one of the first television cooks. Then there was the very dippy and slightly irritating Graham Kerr, whose series The Galloping Gourmet ran from 1969 until 1971. Delia Smith had a series called Family Fare which ran from 1973 to 1975 but though I like some of her books she did nothing for my passion for food on the telly. She just seemed very dull in comparison to Keith Floyd. He was light years away from these folk. He made you feel that you didn’t have to be an expert, you just had to like food! He frequently also used wine in his recipes which was also, naturally, appealing to me! From Floyd on I never really allowed anyone else to do the cooking! He also in some way reminded me of my late brother who was equally eccentric in a lovable way.

Floyd also wanted to show how to prepare dishes that had been bastardised by fast food shops or had been ruined by companies serving frozen versions that turned people lazy. In his 1994 book, Floyd on Italy, he wanted to reacquaint us with real Italian food, not the food being served up in supermarkets as purportedly Italian. I am sure he must have inspired Jamie Oliver as he carries on the mantle of a chef who wants to open our eyes to the real food from countries such as Italy. Floyd says in his introduction, entitled, Et tu Pasta; ‘ What is Italian food? Spaghetti bolognese, lasagne with coleslaw and deep pan pizzas filled with assorted culinary garbage? No. A thousand times no. On the subject of pizzas by the by, in Britain at least they have gone the way of the noble quiche, which before it got ‘wine-barred’ and abused was an exquisite dish until, as the late Elizabeth David lamented, it became a culinary dustbin. Whereas thinly rolled dough spread with chopped tomato and chopped anchovies with cheese and zapped in a wood-fired oven is heaven- you just don’t need prawns and artichoke hearts, mushrooms and chicken tikka pieces in a pastry shell and even if you do, you can’t call it pizza.‘ And he continues in a similar vein regarding spaghetti bolognese which, as he says, is not a dish served anywhere in Italy and certainly not in Bologna! His writing like his programmes just oozed finesse and style and hooked me every time I watched or read. Here he is describing what Italian food really is. It’s poetry. ‘ A basket of fresh broad beans in their shells ripped open and dipped into salt and crunched. Fine thin slivers of Parma ham cut from the bone, toasted slices of ciabatta drenched in olive oil and rubbed with garlic, a mountain of vibrant red radishes, big green nutty olives as sweet as young hazelnuts. And big glasses of red wine. Then a groaning board of squid and clams and prawns and mussels and octopus, lightly cooked and served cold soused in olive oil and lime or lemon juice (not a drop of balsamic vinegar in sight). Then a steaming bowl of yellow egg yoked soft tagliatelle with melted butter, crisp slivers of aged Parmigiano and grated lemon zest. You suck it into your mouth. You smile. You drink. You talk. You laugh. You eat. They clear the plates , but not the glasses, and bring more wine. They bring lightly grilled lamb chops with oregano and a wedge of lemon….then plate of grilled peppers and aubergines. Followed by a soft, succulent wedge of Gorgonzola. And then you can choose an iceberg of ice creams. With a glass of Strega and a tiny cup of strong black coffee. That is Italian food’

English: Statue de Giordano Bruno sur le Campo...

English: Statue de Giordano Bruno sur le Campo di Fiori, Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How can anyone not be smitten by such writing? I get hungry just typing those words! I just want to be back in Rome sitting in my favourite bar in the Campo di Fiori watching the world go by and wondering where I am going to eat tonight. What he writes about pizzas takes me back to memories of the first so called pizza restaurant to appear in Manchester, Pizzaland, which later morphed into Pizza Hut. In those days my mate Andy and I popped in now and then as they served a lunch time special of half a pizza with coleslaw, and, wait for it, a baked jacket potato –  which you were supposed to split and put butter on. Pizza and baked potatoes?? The spuds were invariably caked in baked mud – perhaps they were organic ahead of their time ! – Andy often asked the waitress if the soil was an extra, and if so, could we not have it next time. She never got it. Pizza Hut, like Dominos takeaway, have done their best to ruin the pizza. Stuffed crusts? Just bizarre – disgusting and unnecessary.

English: Piazza Navona, Rome Français : La pla...

English: Piazza Navona, Rome Français : La place Navone à Rome Italiano: Piazza Navona, Roma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Go now to Piazza Navona and eat one of the many pizzas on offer there; thin stone baked bases with buffalo mozzarella, bresaola, piles of fresh rocket and huge slices of Parmesan. As Dexy’s Midnight Runners sang on Jacky Wilson Says –

I’m in Heaven !