February 12, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 12:29 pm

After my previous unsuccessful attempt at cooking ostrich liver, I was compelled to have another go, this time having the advantage of knowing what it tastes like.

Before my previous attempt, the flavor had been described to me as ‘comparable to calves liver.’Not that ‘comparable’ really means much. :roll: After trying it I decided that the flavour was a stronger, more like chicken liver but more … sort of… grassy.

I decided I’d try out my chicken liver with mavrodaphne recipe substituting in the ostrich liver. The result was a very good flavour balance. I think that in future, I’ll continue to treat this liver like chicken liver not calves’. Maybe I’ll even make ostrich and brandy paté!

Ostrich liver with caramelised onions, mavrodaphne and parsley

Unfortunately I seem to have encountered a problem. Goon is one of those odd few who likes liver but only when it is very well done. He has a problem with the texture when it is cooked pink in the middle. I have a problem with the texture when it isn’t :razz: . It looks like I’ll be cooking liver for just me in future. Either that or I’m going to have to do something clever like cook it in two batches and then add it to the sauce just before serving it.

Goon is a nuisance sometimes. :razz:

February 9, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:51 pm

This is what happens when a alcoholic pyromaniac like myself gets in  the kitchen. :D

Boar steak, sauce and veg

I’d picked up these steaks at Borough market because I hadn’t had boar in ages. I remember the first time I tried this meat very clearly. I was in an Italian restaurant  (Casa Vallée) in Leamington, with James, and my starter was a creamy, truffled wild boar pasta dish. It was delicious and I made myself a similar dish several times after that.

This time I wanted something different so went for a dish that was a bit more traditional. I marinated the boar in red wine, orange juice, juniper, rosemary and thyme then flambéed it in gin.

Well, actually, Goon flambéed it in gin. With my hair the way it is, I was going nowhere near those flames in case I ended up bald! He was having immense fun with it too. It seems that a bit of my evil side has rubbed off on Goon because he used the burning pork to play a mean trick on the blonde flatmate. It went something like this…

Blonde flatmate enters kitchen while Goon is holding the flaming pan, staring absent-mindedly out the window,

GOON: Huh?

(a fairly long pause follows as Goon thinks)

GOON: Oh my God! It’s on FIRE!!! HELP!!!!

 (She runs out of the flat still screaming)

It’s a good thing she’s too daft to call the fire brigade, or we’d have been in real trouble!

While Goon was enjoying the blue flames I made a vaguely traditional sauce to go with the boar. I took some red wine and reduced it with orange peel  and rosemary then added some redcurrant jelly at the end. I discovered that I prefer Tesco redcurrant jelly to the Ocean Spray one, which I had bought before. The Ocean Spray jelly has quite a high sugar content and can easily make a dish too sweet.

So the boar was served with the sauce, some new potatoes and buttered spinach with nutmeg. I have to say that the flavour of the boar was just perfect. It was subtley orangey and loaded with juniper. I adore juniper so I was really happy. The texture, however, needed work. I think I should have tenderised the steaks. I’m sure I shouldn’t have cooked them any less (mine were slightly pink in the center)  but they were on the chewy side in places.  

Next time, I try boar I’m going to go for the spare rib chops. I think that these slow cooked with similar juniper and orange flavours will be really gorgeous. If anyone can give me tips on how to better deal with wild boar steaks, please let me know!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:47 pm

Firstly, I apologise for the lack of pictures. I regret it now, but I wasn’t sure how formal the restaurant would be and so I didn’t take my camera with me. To be honest, it’s so old and rubbish that it couldn’t have really done the beautiful food justice anyway. The pictures on the restaurant website look very similar to what we were served and give an accurate impression of what the presentation is like.

Claridges hotel really is spectacular. We got in through the small side entrance on Dawes street and I was blown away by the grandeur. I found myself at the top of a long, stylishly decorated, corridor leading into a large reception area with a huge roaring fire. I was so busy gawping at the magnificence of it all that I didn’t notice the small set of steps in front of me and so , very elegantly, went tumbling face first onto the black and white  art-deco flooring.

Fortunately no-one apart from Goon saw me do this and, once he had picked me up off the floor, we spent a good ten minutes trying to locate the restaurant.

Eventually we found it and were seated. At first I found the situation a little intimidating. The restaurant  seemed to be filled with immaculately dressed, beautiful, rich people and, while I had tried to make some effort, I felt a bit outdone. But, with the very attentive staffThis feeling soon evaporated and the sounds of relaxed chatter and jazz piano from the lounge next door helped us to relax. 

The decor in there was interesting. I liked the art-deco styling although I wasn’t convinced by the orange-brown colour scheme at first. Oddly enough, it did grow on me after a while. There is something very ’20s’ about everything here, including the staff uniforms.

Before I start raving about the food, I should mention how good the restaurant staff are. I have never experienced service quite like this before. It was perfectly efficient without being at all intimidating. They obviously go to a lot of effort to make the experience of eating at Claridges so special.

To start the evening and to help us relax a bit, we ordered two bellinis. These were perfect, if a bit pricey at £12.50 each. A selection of canapés were presented to us including some smoked chicken pastry cigars, parmesan flatbreads and tiny pastry discs topped with crab.

Whilst nibbling one the crab, I tried to  decide between the A La Carte and the Prestige menu. They both looked utterly amazing and it took me a very long time to choose. In the end we both went a la carte. After a bit of debate, Goon and I decided on a bunch of things we both wanted to try. I spent ages changing my mind from wanting monkfish and chervil parpadelle to the canon of lamb with roasted sweetbreads, and back again. I eventually settled on the latter preceded by the smoked haddock vichysoisse topped with a poached duck egg. Goon went for the assiette of blue fin tuna two ways followed by pork cheeks cooked in honey and cloves with dauphinoise potatoes.

Once we had chosen food we turned to the wine list. We didn’t get very far. It was an enormous book including around 1000 wines. Fortunately, the two sommeliers that evening were superb. The first we spoke to made an absolutely brilliant choice of a French white, ‘Trelan Chebanon,’ that suited our meals perfectly.

With food and wine ordered, along came the amuse-bouche. This was a beautiful, delicate pumpkin soup with parmesan and, I think, white truffle oil. There was nothing to find fault with here -  the soup was light and creamy and very subtley flavoured by the parmesan and truffle. But, with the amuse bouche came my first small gripe. I was asked twice if I had finished, when I hadn’t. I didn’t really feel hurried but I did get a bit embarrased and stopped talking to finish up my soup.

Not long afterwards, the starters arrived. My vichysoisse was done in a very classic Ramsay style. Chunks of smoked haddock were piled in a small bowl and the poached egg sat on top. The soup was poured into the bowl at the table so the green liquid covered the fish but the duck egg was left visible on top. The soup was gorgeous… creamy and fishy with a really good flavour from the leeks. The poached egg, however, turned out to be the only major gripe I had with the meal.   

Surely there is NO NEED for a restaurant this good to be using a poaching tool for poached eggs? Proper poached eggs are so much better. Poaching tools are rubbish! :-(

Goon’s assiette of tuna was amazing. The dish was made of a tuna carpaccio with pickled white horseradish and topped with slices of marinated seared tuna. There was nothing to complain about at all. The seared tuna was done perfectly and the carpaccio was gorgeous. You can tell they use the best ingredients here.

Then along came the mains. When I was told that the lamb was going to be served medium rare a little voice in the back of my head shouted “NO! DO IT BLUE!”  It was good that I managed toshut up the little voice because the lamb arrived exactly how I wanted it. Again, you could tell that they had used the best quality produce. The lamb really was unlike any I’d had before, with a much richer, almost gamey, flavour. Everything else on my plate was lovely too but the lamb stood out miles, even compared to the gorgeous herby sweetbreads.

Goon’s pork cheeks were excellent. I’d been apprehensive about trying them after reading about how many people hate them, but I needn’t have worried. While they still wouldn’t be my first menu choice, they were very, very tasty. The flavour of cloves had really permeated the pork and it had been cooked to perfection. The meat literally melted in the mouth.

By this stage I was in fits of giggles due to my sheer disbelief of how good everything was. This got even worse as our ‘pre-dessert,’ which I really wasn’t expecting, arrived.

It was a rhubarb soup topped a ‘milk foam.’  This, again, was delicious and a sensible colour, unlike anything I do with rhubarb. Somehow they’s manage to eliminate all sourness and we were just left with a subtle, sweet flavour of rhubarb.

After perusing the dessert menu we went for the recommended options: a cinnamon creme brulée and a Valrhona chocolate fondant tart. Time to enlist the help of sommelier number 2, who chose a totally luscious dessert wine (off menu unfortunately, so I didn’t see what it was,) to go with my creme brulée. Goon decided to have a glass of port with his chocolate fondant.

The chocolate fondant tart was probably the sexiest thing I have ever tasted. Shame it was Goon’s and not mine so I only got a spoonful. As the spoon broke it, it oozed gooey valrhona chocolate all over the plate. 

The creme brulee didn’t disappoint at all, even if it seemed more like a creme caramel than the brulées I’ve had before. The little apple doughnuts it came with were delicious!

So finally, we finished with petit fours. I have had better chocolates but these were still very good and I was very impressed how two of them had been filled with ice-cream. 

So we wandered back to Hammersmith discussing the merits of our bellinis, very, very happy indeed. This was the most expensive meal I’ve had, but it is undoubtably the best by a LONG way. If you can, save up for a trip here. It is astoundingly good!  

February 6, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:54 pm

Goon is taking me to Claridges Restaurant for my birthday! :D   I am very very excited indeed. I have just spent the last 20 minutes drooling over the menu

This is especially nice since my birthday yesterday was a bit of a disaster on the whole. With being greeted first thing by a rather large turd in the bathroom (someone got a big shouting at for that), the morning spent teaching a 17 year old how to add fractions (soul destroying) and the evening spent picking large shards of glass out of my foot, things didn’t go too well.

I was planning on writing a post today about the wild boar steaks I was going to make last night but a small accident meant I ended up doing no cooking and was stuck with an Indian takeaway. I managed to drop a 500g jar of mayonnaise  on my foot.

Hey! Stop laughing all of you! :razz:  It wasn’t actually my fault. Really. Someone had half closed the lid on the jar which meant that, when I picked it up, the lid stayed in my had and the rest of the bottle accelerated towards my poor foot. I guess that will teach me not to eat filthy junk food snacks with mayonnaise. :(

Anyway, the glass shattered and there was an unpleasant mess of blood and mayonnaise on the floor which was not pleasant to clear up. :( I haven’t been walking too well today either.

The boar has been having some extra marinating time and I’ll hopefully post about that tomorrow.

But hopefully, with the Claridges visit tomorrow, lunch at the Carlton Club on Thursday and a trip to Memsaab with my parents on Friday night, things should get a lot better. Fingers crossed.

February 3, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:44 pm

Have you ever been in the position where you’re so, so hungry that you can’t concentrate on anything? You know? The times when, whatever you try to do, all you can think about is food?  This was the position I found myself on Thursday evening, after eating nothing for the entire day and having the hangover from hell.

Wednesday night had been an interesting experience. Who’d have thought a group of PhD mathematicians could be quite such hardcore drinkers! I mean it isn’t exactly the occupation which makes you think ‘party animal’, is it?

I hadn’t been out drinking in about three months, after deciding that morning tutorials were less painful when I only had my compulsory glass of wine with dinner (and possibly a G&T to aid my creative cooking). However, I was convinced to head of for just the one drink……..

A couple of glasses of dodgy college wine on an empty stomach, while not excessive in themselves, were enough to convince me I could possibly handle another two small glasses. My very persuasive office-mate somehow turned those two small glasses into three large.  After five hours in the pub, I just escaped being dragged off to a late-license bar, then managed a semi-conscious stagger home.  Six hours later, I awakened with little memory of the latter part of the night (especially the half-eaten packs of Chinese food on my floor - how the hell did those get there!?) and realised that I had to get up to teach. Oh. Dear. God. :(

So after a very, very painful morning tutorial and a day of sitting at my desk, doing no work, shaking a lot and not being able to eat anything, my hangover gently started to subside. However, it was replaced by something almost as bad.


It was like I hadn’t eaten for three weeks! With this sitution of near-starvation, my mind started inventing dishes. Creamy, comforting, fat laden dishes, with lots of meat….. rare, juicy red meat …..(drool) . It didn’t take long before the rumblings in my stomach led me to invent this artery clogger.

fillet, risotto and jus

This is (lots of) rare fillet steak with a creamy stilton and wild mushroom risotto, crushed walnuts and a port reduction.

The risotto was made as a normal mushroom risotto except I substituted  soaked wild mushrooms. I added the soaking liquid to the stock I used too. At the end, I stirred in a ludicrous amount of stilton (about 100g) and then gently crushed some walnuts in a pestle and mortar before sprinkling them over the top.

I had a little trouble with not gagging as the port reduced. Those damn alchohol fumes! :( But once all the ethanol had gone, I was happy.

I seared my steak for 1 min 15 per side and let it rest for 5 minutes whilst I served up my risotto, then sliced the meat and arranged that on my plate.

steak, risotto, jus

Yes, it IS a lot of steak. What? I told you I was hungry! 

This was exactly what I needed after the pain of Thursday. Risotto is comforting however it is done, but adding great chunks of stilton to it made it even more so.

After eating I curled up into a ball and slept, vowing never to get drunk again. Well, until my next birthday, obviously. Oh, wait. That’s only until Monday. Ah well! :/

February 1, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:50 pm

For a while there’s been this idea in the back of my mind about a nice, unusual way of ‘barding’ a chicken. I’m sure it is not entirely my own. It probably found its way into my subconscious from a cook book or a TV programme, but I have not idea which one.

The idea is to stuff the skin of the bird. This in itself is not at all unusual, many recipes call for putting butter and seasonings under the skin of a chicken before roasting it. But I decided I wanted to stuff the skin with chorizo. In particular Brindisa’s chorizo picante. I love that stuff! :D My hope was that, as the chorizo cooked, the oils would leak out and baste the chicken, keeping it moist.

So, during the last Borough market trip, I got my chorizo and also decided to pick up a guinea fowl instead of a chicken. I much prefer these birds. Their taste is so rich. They are what I wish chickens would taste like. I sliced my chorizo thinly, loosened the skin on the bird and carefully pushed the chorizo over the breast meat. Then I did the same with the thighs, although I wasn’t quite careful enough and slightly tore the skin on one of them. Fortunately it was a minor tear and it didn’t to cause any problems.

Before roasting it I brushed the skin of the bird with a mixture of olive oil, cayenne and paprika and stuffed it with onion and crushed garlic.

uncooked guinea fowl

The chorizo made the guinea fowl look disturbingly knobbly. You can’t see it in the photo but it was one bumpy fowl! 

Roasting like this had a very interesting effect. In fact, I was mildly alarmed when I took it out of the oven.

roasted fowl

I’ve never cooked a guinea fowl that looked like that before. The skin was crispy, and wrinkly, which was probably a good thing, but I was worried that somehow the chorizo had been counter productive and dried everything out.

Luckily this wasn’t the case. The guinea fowl was delicious! The meat was gorgeous and moist. The oils from the chorizo had been absorbed by bits of the meat, giving them an even richer flavour that normal.

The skin was out of this world! Imagine biting through perfectly crispy spiced chicken skin into thick chunks of meaty, spicy chorizo. It was heaven! I’m going to make this again!

I decided the rest of the meal could also have a Spanish theme so I grilled some peppers and courgette with olive oil and garlic and also and made a kind of veggie-paella thing.

paella in pan

Well, I say veggie but in the end I threw in the unused half link of chorizo that was left.

the whole meal

So there it is all together, you can kind of see the bits of breast meat that had absorbed chorizo oil. They’re stained red. I tried to get a proper close up shot of the stuffed skin but this happened.

 chorizo stuffed skin

I think I mast have got my greasy finger onto the lens at some point. :( Anyway, I think its just clear enough to see what is going on. The skin was properly packed with chorizo, which was great because I just can’t get enough of the stuff!

Now I’m wondering what exactly caused the skin to crisp up like that. The 15 minute blast on gas mark 7 just after I began roasting it would have helped but I’d never managed to get crispy skin that way before. Ideas anyone?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:50 pm

I think chicken tikka masala is is a fantastic British (probably) culinary invention. You’ve all heard this story of how it was invented, right? A customer in a restaurant complained that his chicken tikka dish was too dry, so the chef whipped up a tomato and cream based sauce to go with it. I’m not sure how true the story is and, with several restaurants claiming to be the birthplace of the dish, I don’t think we’ll ever know what really happened.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken tikka masala is one of Goon’s comfort foods, which is why I ended up making it. On the evening after the cheese fiasco, Goon was feeling a little ill. He put it down to a restuarant he visited the previous night, although I suspect that inhaling gorgonzola fumes on the tube for an hour probably didn’t help all that much. :roll:

It is the sort of meal where I already have most of the ingredients I needed. All I had to do, was pop to the Tesco metro and pick up some chicken and some okra to make a  side dish.  

As well as being delicious, this curry is easy to make. The chicken is marinated in a mix of greek yoghurt and spices including cumin, fenugreek, caraway  and turmeric , which gives it a golden colour. I think it is a good idea to add a little lemon as this seems to keep the chicken moist as it cooks. Full recipe to follow soon! The chicken is left in the marinade  for a while (I leave it for at least three hours) and then baked in the oven until it is cooked through.

chicken tikka in the oven

The sauce is made from tomato, cream, cumin, garam masala, ground coriander seed and a cashew paste made by blending the nuts with cream. I usually blend all the sauce ingredients together to get a totally smooth sauce.  

See, how easy is that? The cooked chicken is just stirred into the sauce and then it is ready to be served with a rice or naan. Goon’s choice on this occasion was a saffron pilau. I fried finely diced onion until it was soft with some cardamoms and cloves, then I stirred in basmati rice, fried for a minute or so, then added a pinch of saffron dissoved in boiling water plus enough water to cook the rice.

It really is a nice comforting meal. This curry is rich and full of flavour but not at all hot. I served it garnished with coriander leaves and had some spicy okra to go with it.

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