Monday, 26 October 2009

Rabbit and Prunes

A couple of weekends ago, when the season started to turn I started fixating on Rabbit. All the recipes I've come across feel very autumnal. Most feature some sort of fruit or sweetness. I've never cooked or eaten rabbit before so it was a mini-milestone of sorts for me. The week before I phoned my ma who i usually consult for cooking tips. She's got a very acute sense of smell and said it could get quite smelly during cooking. Kelsie at rabbit growing up and seconded that opinion. In fact I had to promise her I wouldn't stink up the house if she'd let me give it a go.

After lots of hemming and hawing I decided to go with a variation on a French recipe I found in Laura Washburn's book Bistro.

I decided to mark the mini-milestone by getting a nice bottle of red wine. The folks at Soho Wine Supply were very helpful and recommended this:

NOTE: the book recipe said to marinate the rabbit overnight. Because of last minute change of plans the rabbit was marinated for almost 48 hours!

Rabbit with Prunes (serves 4)
adapted from Bistro, by Laura Washburn

1 rabbit, jointed into 7-8 pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh bay leaf
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bottle red wine
250 ml brandy or cognac
a few peppercorns

2 Tbs sunflower oil
30g unsalted butter
200g lardons (i used smoked back bacon)
100g well seasoned flour
2 onions, sliced
400g prunes
125ml port
1 Tbs creme fraiche
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. The day before, mix the marinade ingredients and place in a glass or ceramic bowl with the rabbit pieces well immersed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  2. When ready to cook, remove the rabbit from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen roll. Strain the marinade and reserve the liquid. Also keep the bay leaf and thyme.

  3. In a large pot heat 1 Tbs of the sunflower oil and half the butter. Add the lardons and onions and cook over high heat until brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

  4. Dredge the rabbit pieces in the flour, shaking off the excess. Add the rest of the oil and butter to the casserole. When sizzling, add the rabbit pieces and brown all over. Add the reserved marinade liquid, bacon and onion mixture and port. Add the reserved thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, skim off the foam, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

  5. Remove the rabbit pieces to a plate. Raise the heat and add the prunes. Cook until thickenedf, 10-15 minutes more. Stir in the creme fraiche, return the rabbit to the casserole and cook just to warm through. Do not boil.

  6. Serve with fresh tagliatelle and a glass of delicious red wine.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A Smokehouse Open Day at Forman and Sons

The twitterverse has been kind to us recently. We found out about the Wahaca Qype event on there and soon after also heard about an open day at a local smokehouse, Forman and Sons.

Having lived in Scotland for 5 years, I had images of the Achiltibue Smokehouse circulating in my head. We visited there a few years ago and were captivated by the lush surroundings.

Forman and Sons however, is distinctly urban. It sits in an industrial complex directly across from where they are building the Olympic village. Not exactly windswept dunes, but, in its own way still an oasis in a very urban landscape.

The smokehouse has been in business since 1905. In the entryway there is a wall-sized photo of Harry Forman the founder of the business. He was the one who developed the "London Cure' which uses less smoke than other smoked salmon you find.

The open day featured stands and presentations by some of the producers whose products Forman and Sons distributes under the name Forman and Field. They have a diverse offering of fine meats, cheese, chocolates and patisserie items which you can buy online. This was a great chance to meet the producers, sample their products and buy from a generously discounted selection of their goods. Visitors also had the chance to win a whole side of salmon by guessing the total weight of four sides they had hanging.

We also had the opportunity to take a tour of the smokehouse operation which was fascinating. We saw how they prepare other cured salmon with a traditional gravadlax cure, a pink beetroot cure and a pungent wasabi cure. The fish is expertly prepared for smoking and nothing goes to waste. Particularly interesting to me was their mechnical slicer with which the operator can slice the finest thin slices off the fillet in minutes.

After our tour we went upstairs to their bar/restaurant which at the time was still in the process of opening. A recent check on their website says they're now open for business. I hope to return for a lunch or dinner there, especially given the views of the work in progress at the Olympic stadium and of course the fine ingredients they have at hand.

Forman & Sons, Stour Road, Fish Island, London E3 2NT
tel: 0208 5252 390

Smoked Salmon on Foodista

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Autumn/Winter Flavours at Wahaca

Last Thursday, Kelsie and I along with 28 other luck Qypers, decended on the Westfield outpost of Wahaca. I've been to the Covent Garden one once, and rated it then though at the time it was a 'team lunch' with my new teamates, at my then new job, and I had to keep my focus on the team and not the food.

Always the eager beavers that we are, we were the first to arrive and were expertly guided to the mezzanine seating area which was still being set up for the evening feast. A couple of cold Modelo's soon arrived and then we met charming and enthusiastic Cecilia who runs the Wahaca blog. She recognised us from our twitter postings about Pozole making and my other comments in the blog. It was definitely cool to match an online entity with a name. Soon after that we met Tomasina and had a fabulous conversation about Mexican food, chiles, posole, one of my food idols Diane Kennedy (who btw is coming to London soon!), Tommi's recent recipe competition for creative chilli recipes and more. Alas, duty called and she had to get back to the prep as more guests arrived.

Creamy guacamole and zesty salsa were passed around with proper tortilla chips and fantastically light chicharones. Our server recommended a squeeze of lime on the crackling which made all the difference. Su-lin and I honed in on that and nearly finished a bowl ourselves.

Finally we were seated and Tommi and her business partner Mark welcomed all the guests. We got the run down on what we'd be served this night, and to my delight Mark also told us about a trio of tequilas that would be served alongside the dishes.

And then the food started arriving. The menu is split between Street Food; Soups and Salads; and Platos Fuertes.

We started with a selection of some of the new street food dishes. First up was a tostada with MSC smoked herring topping. The oiliness of the fish beautifully complemented by a sharp Veracruz style tomato sauce with flavours of olives and capers. This dish is definitely one to come back for.

Next, a taco filled with Pork Pibil. Succulent shreds of slow cooked pork, with an altogether different sauce.

And last from the Street Food section a Huitalcoche Quesadilla. I was really excited about this one as huitalcoche is a peculiar fungus that grows in between corn kernels, and not easy to come by here. As a result, for this recipe the corn fungus was mixed with sweetcorn and british mushrooms to round out the filling. I have to say I couldn't really make out a distinctive huitalcoche flavour but it was a good quesadilla nonetheless.

The next set of dishes were centered around the Soups and Salads section. First up was earthy black bean soup. I missed the assembling of it but enjoyed the texture and flavour layers in it. This could easily be a meal unto itself.

The Winter Fuerza salad was one of the evening's highlights for me. Frisee, avocado, crispy fried ancho chilies, queso fresco (or was it feta?), locally grown spelt, roasted squash all festivally presented in a big bowl to share. The vinaigrette tasted of lime but didn't overpower the ingredients.

Without missing a beat, the main dishes started arriving.

There was a pollock cooked Veracruz style, which arrived in a foil packet. I loved the big hits of cinnamon flavour coming through in the sauce, but was a bit underwhelmed by the fish. Not sure why, but it didn't seem to carry the sauce as a complete unit it felt like fish + sauce rather than fish in sauce. If that makes sense.

The absolute hit of the evening was next: a classic Baja-California Fish Taco -- crispy fried fish with just the right kick of chipotle mayonaise served in a soft taco. I could have eaten a whole tray of these alone and am now contemplating throwing a fish taco party in the near future. High marks for this one.

Next up was chicken enchiladas served with Oaxacan (wahacan) mole sauce. Think rich, chile/chocolate/spicy sauce. A perfect foil for the shredded chicken and tortillas.

The last main was a vegetable burrito. By this time we were glassy eyed and really struggling to find room for this. I powered on, heard snippets of conversation about cabbage not belonging in the burrito (i wholeheartedly disagree btw), and managed to finish my 1/4 burrtito.

Miraculously we all found room for the dessert which was a platter of light crispy churros served with a bowl of hot chocolate. Another inspiration i am going to try making these at home.

Add to the wonderful food an absolutely exhuberant group of people to share the love of good food and drink and it was an evening to remember for a long time. I had great conversations with, sulin, and made a new friend of thelondonfoodie.

Thanks again Qype and Wahaca for putting on this event!

Wahaca on Urbanspoon