September 29, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:21 pm

Ever since seeing the stuffed burgers that  Amanda made on What We’re Eating, I’ve been wanting to have a go myself. I’m not usually a burger person (I’m more taken by fried chicken ;) ) but making stuffed ones looked fun. I also quite fancied the idea of home made chips.

Stuffed burger +chips

Last night was supposed to be the first time I cooked in my new flat but as usual things didn’t go to plan. So I ended up back at Latymer Court to make my burgers with goon there to help. For some reason no one objected to me trying some deep frying either.

So we started with the burgers. A week or two ago I’d found packs of venison mince at Borough and I’d picked them up with this project in mind. The mince got mixed with some finely chopped fried onion and garlic plus a tablespoon of minced rosemary leaves. I added some beaten egg for binding and then made them into thin patties which I topped with the burger stuffing.

Making burgers

A few slices of brie and a good dollop of cranberry sauce went on. Then I covered these with the rest of the mince to make some massive burgers.

While the burgers were in the oven, we dealt with the chips. I’d already got goon to chop the potatoes. I parboiled them for 5 minutes in salty water, drained them thoroughly and then dropped 5 or 6 at a time into hot vegetable oil.

 

cooking chips

 

As the chips turned golden brown I fished them out of the pan with a slotted spoon. I tasted one and was very impressed by its texture. It was really crispy on the outside but soft and floury inside. This was absolutely perfect but for some reason they didn’t seem to have as much flavour as I expected. I dusted them with flour, black pepper and a touch of cayenne but for some reason that didn’t help either. I wondered whether the oil was to blame. 

home made chips

Soon the chips were done and the burgers came out of the oven. There had been a bit of leakage from one but nothing too serious. I topped them with some extra brie and let that melt. We would have put them in buns but the burgers were too big to fit!

As goon poured the wine I had a nibble on a rocket leaf from our salad. It was strangely bland, not like rocket. Then it dawned on me what had happened. The cold that had been bothering me all day had bunged up my nose to the extent I couldn’t taste ANYTHING at all. That’s why the chips seemed to have no flavour. My suspicions were confirmed when I tried the wine. Bland chianti? Unlikely.

So I have very little idea of what the burger tasted like. According to the goon the flavour was milder than normal venison but still a bit gamey and the cranberry came through really well. The brie added creaminess and a mild flavour. Apparently my malfuntioning tastebuds causd me to overseason the chips a bit but they were still damn good. I think the brie stuffing worked pretty well although it leaked a little.

Stuffed burger

For ten minutes before we ate I tried everything possible to decongest my nose, but nothing worked. We tried mustard, chilli powder and even inhaling ouzo! :( I’m going to have to make these again just so I can find out what they really taste like.

September 28, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mediterranean, Central/Southern European, Offal — ros @ 6:31 pm

I’m often looking for ways to do lamb liver, mostly because it is very, very cheap and quite tasty. Unfortunately most people seem to reserve it for liver and onions or a tomatoey pasta thing.

So I was rather delighted when I came across an idea in a Turkish Recipe. This suggests you cook the liver with pernod, peppers, parsley and onions. The result was really delicious! It was a bit dry so I added a bit of chicken stock to make more of a sauce and then added a lot of ground black pepper.

Liver with red pepper and pernod

Really, if you like liver try this! The vegetables are just allowed to sweat until soft, then mixed with pernod, stock, black pepper and parsley then mixed into a pan of cooked lamb liver. Who’d have thought of combining aniseed and liver? Well, apart from the Turks.

The downside to this recipe is that pernod is expensive. This didn’t bother me last night as I hadn’t paid for it but I might try and recreate it with ground star anise some day.

Here is my version of the  Turkish Liver with aniseed recipe (Arnavut Cigeri) 

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:21 pm

I’m going to be rather poor in a few weeks time. The PhD funding’s run out and tutorial students seem thin on the ground at the moment.

To partially remedy this, I have decided that I will continue to do what I have been doing for the last few days. That is cooking for my friends and myself in return for them buying the ingredients and some wine.

I think it is a good idea. I get free food. They eat something that isn’t pot noodle. Bulk cooking makes things cheaper. It would make sense to try and convince them that is a great idea by cooking something they like that I know I can do well.

Unfortunately I don’t do things that make sense. Instead, on Tuesday, I decided I was going to make a dish that I hadn’t cooked before. Worse than that it was a dish I have never EATEN before, and neither had they. So there I was making swedish meatballs, a dish with an unknown flavour to us, in a return to 1960s culinary fashion to try and impress some people who were born in the late 80s. I must be an idiot. 

I had read several recipes for swedish meatballs and seen a lot of variation. Generally the meat is a mixture of pork and beef and has ‘warm’ spices for flavouring. Often breadcrumbs soaked in milk are mixed into the meat. They are either served with gravy or a cream sauce, boiled potatoes and lingonberry. For some reason this dish was super-popular in Britain and America in the 60s and 70s but is not so common now.

I decided I would opt for pure beef meatballs (beef mince was going cheap at Tesco) flavoured with allspice, cinnamon and mace and served with a sour cream and dill sauce on pasta. Potatoes didn’t appeal to me that day and I had no idea of how to get hold of lingonberry!

Swedish Meatballs, linguine and dill and sour cream sauce

Luckily for me, the reaction to the meal was one of positive suprise. Goon said “these don’t taste like meatballs.” But he liked them anyway. MJ ate some even though she’d already had dinner so I think that must be an endorsement. Personally, I thought they were good but could have done with something… ……ginger maybe. Is that too strange? 

Anyway, we had the meatballs with a side salad. It appears that it is difficult to make goon eat salad so MJ had a go at the “here comes the aeroplane” trick that works on most three year olds.

Here Comes the Aeroplane

Apparently goon bit her finger.

Here’s the swedish meatball recipe.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:47 pm

I don’t know why I get such immense pleasure from proving fussy eaters wrong, but I do. So, on Monday, while cooking for goon at his flat, I took advantage of an opportunity to get him over one of his food fears. 

To be fair, Andy can’t really be classed as a fussy eater. He will try almost anything once (apart from cod roe) and seems to be actively adventurous in restaurants. However he has three major culinary flaws.

  1. He doesn’t like figs unless they’re in fig rolls
  2. He prefers normal brocolli to purple sprouting
  3. He’s not all that keen on oysters

Number 3 is an absolute crime but there wasn’t much I could do about that. Number 1 seemed like a good one to deal with, especially since there are some lovely juicy  figs around now. I picked up 3 from the Iranian store on Hammersmith Road and thought about how I could find a way that Andy would like them.

Since goon is a simple creature, the easiest way to make him eat something is to cover it in cheese. I went one better.

I cut the fig into little pieces, caramelised them and then spread them over a pork spare rib chop which had been slow cooked in ruby port, so it went really juicy and tender. Then I covered the whole thing with loads of melted blue stilton and served it with a port reduction, mashed potato and cabbage.

Cheese covered pork rib

No sign of the figs! 

The plan nearly failed as goon came into the kitchen while I was slicing the figs. He asked me ‘what I was doing with the passionfruit.’ Bless. I didn’t tell him that I was actually holding a fig but I did let him know that it definitely wasn’t anything tropical.

In the end, the trick worked. Goon ate the figs and liked them and was suprised when he found out what they were. I was very pleased with how the pork turned out. Slow cooking in liquid makes these cuts go beautifully tender. The port, cheese and fig combination is a classic!

I’m never happy making mash with no butter or cream though. Ah well, I’ll have my own fridge soon to stock up with full-fat goodness.

September 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 5:14 pm

Why? Partially because of a story I heard last night. A friend of mine occasionally visits family in a small seaside town where the pier is designed to catch shellfish. Apparently you can just walk out with some carrier bags and stock up on oysters, mussels, crabs and other things that find their way there.

And if you don’t fancy cooking for yourself, there is another incentive to hop on the Eurostar. You can head into a restaurant and order …

huge assiete de fruit de mer

an enormous TOWER of fish! That’s James’ uncle, Chris, in the photo by the way. Apparently the gargantuan dish was rather cheap too. Beats half a lobster for £12 here, eh?

Contrary to expectations, I have been able to cook for the last couple of days. Unfortunately I’ve been cooking at the Andy the goon’s flat and he has a tendency to walk off with things, like my camera. As soon as it is located and returned there will be pictures and posts of a blue cheese- pork thing and swedish meatballs.

September 25, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 1:20 pm

and I still don’t really know what I’m doing but I thought I’d mark the occasion anyway.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to do a lot of cooking right now as the estate agents for my new flat made a bit of an error and I’m without a home until Thursday. :roll: So my stuff is at my parents’ house out in Surrey and I’m crashing at friends’ to make my commute into college less painful.

The biggest irritation in all of this is I’m having to eat a hell of a lot of (mostly Chinese)takeaways. I’m dying to make my own food again and eat something that doesn’t involve MSG!

As soon as I have a kitchen again, there’ll be more food posts. In fact I’m hoping to do something quite exciting on Thursday so stay tuned! In the meantime, the next post down has something I’ve been meaning to comment on for a while….

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 12:28 pm

I have a thing called “Counterize” on this site. It tells me the IP addresses of who visits here, what referred them here and, if they got me from Google, what questions they asked to get here. It also tracks what pages they look at.

Believe it or not, the search engine hits  make an interesting and amusing read. For a start there are the bizarre searches for things such as  ‘woman eating live fish,’ and ‘vegetable porn.’ 

Also, a load of people seem to look for BBC or Waitrose recipes on here. You do know they have their own recipe websites, right? The links are right there on the sidebar.

Then there are the people who are obviously confused when Google refers them here and their search item is not at the top of the page. They then click randomly on various pages befire giving up in frustration (or so it would seem). Almost without fail, these people are looking for ‘beef mince recipes.’ 

So if you are one of the  frustrated ‘beef mince recipe’ searchers, I’ve got two things to make your life easier. There is a link to recipes at the top of this page and I’ve also moved the site’s search facilty to a new, more prominent position.

If you’re looking for vegetable porn, I’m about to share a flat with a man who starred in this video,  so you may yet find what you’re looking for.

PS. What’s with all you lurkers? Over 800 visitors and about 10 have commented. :p

September 24, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:26 pm

I’m in the middle of moving at the moment, for the second time in three months. Renting is a pain in the backside.

So, for the last week or two, I’ve been avoiding buying food and have been making an effort to empty my fridge and freezer. It would have been a bit easier if I hadn’t decided to buy a cabbage a few weeks ago. I used last night’s dinner to help me get rid of unwanted fridge items, like leftover bits of carrots, onions and so forth.

I decided to go for an adaptation of this Rick Stein recipe for sausages and puy lentils since I already had some cumberland sausages in the freezer. The basic idea of my version was the same, except I added my fridge leftovers of chopped carrot, pancetta, onions and extra rosemary to the lentils.

The bubbling pot of lentils was tasting great but I had a small problem. I had nothing to serve it with. I’d already used up all my potatoes. I thought rice would be good but I seemed to have run out of basmati and long grain. However, I did have a box of  arborio which I decided would be better than nothing.

Cumberland sausages with puy lentils

I was right, it was better than nothing but it really, really was not anywhere near as good as plain old long grain. It had a strange, almost waxy texture that wasn’t very nice.  It seems there is a good reason why this rice is reserved for risottos!  Fortunately the sausages were yummy, which more than made up for it.

So the moral of the story is, don’t try boiling arborio. But you probably knew that anyway.

September 21, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:30 pm

Last night I tried out a restaurant just near my flat. It’s a Chinese called Yi-Ban. The highlight of the meal was this amazing thing.

 Beef Rose from Yi-Ban

It’s a thinly sliced beef fillet with a pomegranate dressing made into the shape of a perfect rose! How cool is that?! I’ve written a full review for Yi-Ban here but, for this post, I’ll just say is was very good indeed and probably the best Chinese restaurant I’ve been to.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 1:37 am

I thought I’d better share this recipe. If any of you also get hungry looking at the squirrels in London parks, this is for you.

This recipe comes from a very, very old book, “Poultry and Game”  published by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. This was very kindly lent to me by Jean Skillen. I really should return it soon. I think that the book has been out of print for so long, reproduction of the recipe shouldn’t bother anyone.

Squirrel Stew

dinner

Skin, draw and thoroughly wash the squirrel. Cut in pieces. Put in a basin with 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 teasponful mixed spice, 1 small diced onion and a few celery leaves. Cover with water and leave to stand for 2-3 hours. Drain. Brown in moderate oven (375 F). Add salt and pepper to taste, 2 sliced onions and  diced carrots, water to cover. Cover and cook slowly until tender. Thicken the broth with flour and butter mixed and simmer until it is the consistency of thick cream.

Serve with watercress or chicory salad.

Sounds interesting. I don’t think I’d suggest eating London squirrels though. I’ve seen what they eat! I wonder what they taste like…

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