Sunday, 29 June 2008

5Rhythms and Fennel Risotto

Yesterday was the kind of Saturday that i like: loose agenda, time with friends, impromptu discovery and of course, good food.
The day started with a 5 Rhythms Open Space (Sweat Your Prayers) do at the Scout Hall in Partick. I've been wishing this would happen in Glasgow and Iona of Dance on Soul made it happen! Lorna and Kathy were there too and we spent 2 sweaty hours moving. Btw, the next gathering is on July 19 if you're in Glasgow and interested.

Afterwards we met up with Kelsie and went for some lunch. It was a toss up between Cafezique and Rio Cafe. We chose the latter. With our half pints of San Miguel, we got to catch up on each other's news since our wunnerful holiday together in Cabo de Gata. The food was ok-ish: me and Kathy had bagels with smoked Ullapool salmon and cream cheese; Lorna had a veggie bean burger with chips and Kelsie had fish cakes.

So, one of the loose agenda items was to get some seafood. A little background: Our veg box came on friday with a beautiful head of fennel. The whole kitchen smells of it still! As soon as Kels saw the fennel she emailed me saying she wanted seafood risotto this weekend. The past couple of times I made seafood risotto I just used a bag of frozen seafood from Tesco. Blech! In fact, Kelsie has now banned the use of that seafood. I have to say, I agree -- it's tasteless and rubbery, and why waste other good ingredients like fennel on that?

So, next door to Rio Cafe is a lovely little deli -- blas store which sells the same fine Scottish produce that is served in the restaurant by the same name. We got GORGEOUS scallops for the risotto, and clams for Kelsie's fave -- lingiune and clams -- which she's gonna make tonite. I had to restrain myself from picking up some langoustines -- they looked exquisite.

Back at home i got started with the risotto. The basic risotto recipe stays the same and you can vary it by adding in whatever you fancy. I love saffron, so did the milanese version of risotto which includes the addition of saffron and makes everything a lovely pale yellow.

Risotto with Seared Scallops
Serves 4

1.2 litres vegetable or chicken broth, hot
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 head fennel, finely chopped
325 g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1 glass white wine
olive oil
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan

For the scallops (note: this was for 2 servings):
6 large scallops, cleaned
olive oil

  1. First heat up the broth. I just use 2 stock cubes to the amount of water in the recipe.

  2. In a wide, shallow pan heat 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and fennel and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. You don't want any of it to colour, so watch the heat and stir it occasionally.

  3. Add the rice and stir to coat each grain. Again, you don't want it to colour, but you do want the grains to lose their translucence. It takes about 3 minutes or so.

  4. Add the wine and stir into the rice until evaporated. Sprinkle in a good pinch or two of saffron threads. Now add the broth 1 ladleful at a time. Each time you add the broth stir until incorporated. Keep the heat on medium-low and keep stirring so that the rice doesn't catch in the pan. The objective is to have the rice al dente but not too stodgy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. When the rice is just about ready stir in 1 knob of butter and the grated cheese.

  6. Prepare the scallops just before serving. Heat a frying pan with a knob of butter and some olive oil until hot. Season the scallops with a little salt and pepper. Sear in the pan for 1 minute each side. It's really important not to overcook them as they'll become rubbery and lose their flavour.

  7. To serve, put a portion of risotto in a shallow bowl and top with 3 scallops. Garnish with snipped fennel fronds.

Can i just say that these scallops were AMAZING?!? Sooo sweet and succulent. I'm drooling writing this. And the kitchen still smells like fennel! How cool is that.

Friday, 27 June 2008

raspberry and chocolate cupcakes

wimbledon time and none of this strawberry and cream malarky for me oh no! been there done that spilled the stuff down my top at wimbledon in the 90s mainly due to the fact that i had just realised how much i had paid for it!!!! so yes wimbledon is on the telly and i aint busy at the moment so i am enjoying watching andy murray kick ass. (steady steady its only week 1!!) so, after the deflation of my macaroon disaster
( i must remember to take eggs outa the fridge and age the whites: see post below) anyhoo i fancied sommot sweet and cupcakes are the way to go. basic cupcake, fairy cake recipe can be found anywhere so i aint gonna bother posting a link. for the topping i melted 125g dark chocolate and blended with 125ml of cream and splodged on top. oh and i added slightly mushed raspberries to the sponge mixture. now the perfect partner to these is beer. and sierra nevada is great. can be found in tescos and other annoying money grabbing supermarkets if you cant source it elsewhere. one of the better american ales. from california. hey they make good wine there dont they?!! unfortunately, they are much like the french and keep the best stuff for themselves. thats why im soooo looking forward going to nantes in sept/oct to try some. ian take note. start sourcing now. cant imagine it will be hard job tho. there is all of this on offer.
so yes eat drink and watch tennis. at least for a wee while.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

experimental macarons

yesterday i had a wee go at making macarons. kept seeing the damn things everywhere and as far as im aware there is nowhere in glasgow to buy them. i did find out tho that laduree have a shop at harrods in london i mite have to give em a quick call to order some if i or we cant crack the recipe. but im trying not to be too dissapointed. from what ive read over the last few days making these lil belters doesnt come easy to most and there are a few set rules or things to bear in mind. above and to the left you can see what happened to mine. they cracked and they cracked bad. they are not meant to do that. see the other pic as to how they should look. i used the recipe from serious eats (mel advised me to)
so what went wrong. i think that it could have been one or all of a number of things.
1. i may have overbeat the eggwhites.
2. i may have overbeat the eggwhites with the icing sugar and almond meal.
3. my oven could have been too hot or cold.
4. i may need to age my eggswhites for longer.
if none of this makes sense read the serious eats link above. lots of good info can also be found here:
ach well i might have another go this week or better still let mel try.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

naveens birthday dinner

this weekend mel and i headed up to aberdeen to celebrate our friend naveens birthday. the trip to aberdeen also consisted of mel getting referee signatures for her british passport application and of course to see our family there. dinner was provided by our good friend naveen at his house. and despite a hair line fracture to his wrist he and his south indian friends cooked us up a feast. the delight of the dinner was naveens dosa making lesson and the dosas
which accompanied the meal. the meal consisted of lamb curry, chicken curry and baby aubergine curry. mel also got a nice surprise when naveen presented her with an idli (steamed rice cakes) maker.
click here for recipe.
thanks naveen!!!!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Something new: Chickpea and pumpkin salad + little strawberry tartlets

Back in the groove here, and i've got a couple of recipes to share that i decided to try out tonite. The first is a warm salad, complements of one of my fave books: Casa Moro. For pud, the recipe is complements of the June 2008 issue of olive magazine. Both have made it into the 'keeper' category of my recipe database.
We drank a really crisp Sauvignon Blanc with the meal -- see the photo above. It worked perfect with the lemony tahini sauce.

Chickpea and pumpkin salad with tahini sauce
Serves 4

For the salad:
1 kg pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 3cm cubes
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 garlic clove, crushed (i used 4)
olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
250g cooked chickpeas or 1 400g tin drained
4 Tbsp roughly chopped coriander

For the tahini sauce:
1 garlic clove, crushed into a paste with salt
3-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice (i used juice of 1 lemon)
3 Tbsp tahini
3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Toss the pumpkin cubes with allspice, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and spread out on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.

  2. While the pumpkin is cooking prepare the tahini sauce. Mix together the garlic paste, lemon juice and tahini until combined. Thin to desired consistency with water. Finally, stir in 2 Tbsp olive oil. You want to be able to drizzle the finished sauce and it should be balanced between the lemon flavour and the tahini flavour.

  3. When the pumpkin is done, mix in a bowl with the onion, chickpeas, chopped coriander and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  4. To serve, transfer the salad to a shallow serving bowl and drizzle with the tahini sauce. NOTE: i served this with couscous

Mini strawberry tartlets

For the tartlet cases:
180g plain flour
1 Tbsp chopped hazelnuts
60g icing sugar
90g chilled butter, diced
1 egg

For the filling:
150ml double cream
200g white chocolate

To serve:
strawberries, halved

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C. First make the pastry. Whizz together the flour, hazelnuts and icing sugar together with the diced butter in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the machine on, add the egg and process until it forms a ball of dough. If the mix doesn't come together in a ball add a splash of ice water.

  2. Roll the dough out on a floured surface until thin. Cut out 16-24 small circles and place the circles in the holes of a tartlet mould or mini-muffin pan. Chill the cases in the freezer for 20 minutes. NOTE: i was able to get 16 tartlet cases, but probably could have gotten more had i rolled the dough out thinner.

  3. Remove the cases from the freezer and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until light brown. Cool on a cooling rack.

  4. While the cases are cooling make the filling. Heat the double cream over a bowl of simmering water and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk constantly until well incorporated. Pour into the tartlet cases and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

  5. To serve, halve a strawberry and poke into the tartlet filling.

lornas birthday posh nosh

last friday we were invited to michael caines at abode restaurant. it was for lorna's birthday posh nosh meal. the food was fab. the restaurant was half empty but we were pampered. not true to form tho i forgot to bring my camera so thanks to lorna for providing these pics via karen and antonia. on the left is melon soup with parma ham foam. on the right is halibut. i had the beef which was excellent but i couldnt finish. the meal started with mc blanc de blancs champers which according to the people sat at the table either smelled like grass or toasted almond biscuits. i was in the latter category. they have a good choice on their wine list too and myself and lorna's brother, roger, were assigned the task of choosing. a rioja for the red and italian pino grigio for the white. and no i cant remember the exact wineries. i didnt have my camera or a note book!!! we had other mise en bouche which means put in the mouth,
and amuse bouche which means please the mouth. foam was the talk of the table! well at least tween me, mel and roger. according to wikipedia foam is a culinary technique invented by Spanish chef Ferran Adrià and consist of natural flavors (like fruit juices, savory essences) mixed with a gelling agent such as agar, and extruded through a whipped cream canister equipped with N2O cartridges. Foams have been described as "airy," with the flavor taking precedence over the substance it is suspended in. oooo errr missus. mel and roger reckoned we could make a fortune with foam bars. look out new york city we are gotta beat you to it!!!

lunch in san jose

lunch in san jose
Originally uploaded by silamuta
mel and i recently returned from a holiday in cabo de gata natural park in the south of spain. The world is lucky that this part of spain was never developed for tourism. This was due mainly to the fact the area is so arid and that it would have been too much work to figure out how to get enough water to the place. So somebody came up with the idea to protect the area instead. fab coz when they finally figured out how to get water there it was too late. the area was already protected and now they cant touch it. unfortunately tho the area just outside the park is covered in poly tunnels which totally spoils the landscape. the spanish are divided over the use of poly tunnels. many claiming it brings industry and money into the area. part of the organic box scheme we get each week comes from a poly tunnel farm near almeria. i dont know enough about it to judge at the moment. all i do know is that i like my tomatoes and other veggies to have the sun touch em and affect the taste. anyhoo. i have long been tempting mel with the idea of grilled fish in the south of spain. one of my experiences of traveling in spain on my own involved walking along the coastline and tasting the sardines cooked fresh on the beach in little chiringitos. so yes we had lots of grilled fish in cabo de gata along with paella, meats and cheeses and lots and lots of wine. mel will elaborate more on all what we had later. for the meantime enjoy these pics.
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