Now then. Here’s a waffling rundown of the latest set of recipes from the weekend’s broadsheets.
What makes a good recipe?
Saturday’s Times’ Weekend supplement housed five ‘Easy’ Vietnamese dishes from the Little Viet Kitchen cookbook. Grab your lemongrass and fish sauce as there are a few things that tempt. In fact, it might be because I’m level 5 hungover whilst reading and writing this, but I’m so desperate for the caramelised prawns and pork belly dish that I basically need to make and eat this right now …
… aaaand that was an interesting exercise (hi, I’m back btw), with the process making me ponder what makes a ‘good’ recipe.
On the one hand this one’s floored. The ingredient list seems oddly written, with ‘finely diced’ garlic and lemon grass (sliced, surely?), pork belly cut into 2mm dice (again, surely sliced, so, err, basically thick cut belly bacon is what anyone without an electric meat slicer is going to need) and 6 tablespoons of chopped lemongrass (it’d be more helpful, I’d wager, to know how many sticks to start off with). Further, I’m fairly certain the marinade quantity wouldn’t have been enough for the total prawns and pork required (I had about a third of the quantity of protein, but needed pretty much the full amount of marinade), and if anyone follows the instruction to fry thinly diced (sliced) garlic for a couple of minutes, before 6 minutes more of frying, well, that’s one bitter ass dish you’re going to get.
Yet in reality of course I knew what they meant about the slice/dice thing; the precise quantities didn’t really matter and could be resolved with a bit of common sense; and ultimately the dish I ended up with was delicious and absolutely something that I’ll add to my regular fridge forage fallbacks. So while strictly speaking this recipe struggles, it’s actually worked out well for me.
Pedants might mutter that Meera Sodha’s vegan noodle soup with a white miso, sesame and soy milk broth is not the ramen it proclaims to be as it uses soba noodles. But do semantics mean a recipe should be dismissed without further consideration? (clue: no). The broth appears layered with flavour, the toppings fresh and multi-textured (firm tofu, grilled spring greens). One to have a look at for sure.
Rowley Leigh’s FT Weekend Magazine recipes are often simply his interpretation of a classic dish, or indeed of someone else’s. This week he seems to go a step closer to basically copy-pasting the work of someone else, albeit with full disclosure and credit to the originator, Travis Lett of the Californian restaurant Gjelina. Now, I have Lett’s rather good recipe book, and Leigh’s version of skirt steaks with smoky tomato butter and cipollini onions is really pretty damn close to the original. He shortcuts the tomato butter process a little, tweaks the Madeira base the onions are cooked in, and sensibly suggests to cook those onions before rather than after the steak gets flashed. It’s an interpretation of a recipe akin to how many ‘follow’ recipes, adding a casual glug of a liquid rather than a strict measure, or substituting a prescribed ingredient with a fairly similar one as it’s closer to hand and won’t make much difference. Does this close re-telling of someone else’s dish make it a bad recipe? Absolutely not. Are most recipes a rehash of something that’s been done before? Yes — see Stephen Harris’s retro pork medallions in mustard sauce in the Telegraph, for example. Do FT readers benefit from being exposed to this one? Sure. But did it feel a little bit low effort? Mmmm hmmm.
In The Guardian’s ‘Feast‘ supplement, I’m drawn to Anna Jones’ salad of raw asparagus, macerated in lemon juice then tossed with toasted breadcrumbs, walnuts, green chilli and a little yoghurt. Refreshing.
I also find myself nodding to a number of Felicity Cloake’s observations on ‘the perfect’ rhubarb crumble. Specifically: “For some reason, rhubarb has gained a reputation as a fruit that pairs well with strawberries… I’m not convinced” and “I can’t agree that the topping is best cooked separately: surely the soggy, doughy layer where crumble meets rhubarb is the best bit of all?”
And while writing about panelle, the Sicilian chickpea pancakes, Rachel Roddy somehow manages to make an inanimate bag of chickpea flour seem utterly essential: “I have come to feel about bags of chickpea flour as I once did about packets of cigarettes: on on the go, on spare at all times. Chickpea flour is pastel yellow, and rather like talcum and cocoa in that it has an incredible fineness. Stick a finger in and it has a pleasing, silky nothingness.”
You’ll need to keep refreshing The Guardian’s food and drink page over the next few days to see Felicity’s recipe. (Look out, also, for six rather tempting one-pot meals from the likes of Alice Hart (chard gratin with gruyere), Anna del Conte (Il Ciuppin – chunky fish soup), Jordan Bourke (Korean spicy beef and vegetable stew), plus Thomasina Miers’ brilliant sounding sea bream fillets spread with anchoiade and sprinkled with sourdough crumbs.)
Online already (well, for those with the keys to The Times’ paywall) are a bunch of recipes from the ridiculously appealing Hidden Hut — an occasional, super casual pop up near a beach in Cornwall. I remember seeing the setting for this place somewhere last year and thinking it looks great, regardless of the food, but assuming the recipes in the Saturday’s Magazine reflect what’s cooked, it seems as though those lucky enough to get tickets get a meal to match the view. Basically, doable recipes with just enough of a twist to take them beyond standard fare. So things like tarragon crumbed sole; Buttermilk chicken and watermelon salad; scallop risotto with a herby oil and grilled vegetables; and samphire frittata with a warm, lemony courgette salad.
And as a Monday afternoon post script, there are now a bunch of Tom Kerridge picnic recipes on The Telegraph’s site. Of note: ham hock terrine with mustard seed and tarragon jelly plus, like cat nip for this Worcestershrie/Gloucestershire border boy, lardy cake.
Other bits and bobs
Xanthe Clay kept it real in the Telegraph, with a host of tips and bunch of recipes utilising frozen produce — from prawns, to green beans, frozen mixed mushrooms and artichoke hearts. I had no idea you could get shiitake and porcini or artichokes ready to go all year round. Assuming their quality isn’t affected that’s mighty convenient to know. Check out Xanthe’s recipes making use of freezer bits, not least a tahini and cherry frangipane puff tart, and a great side of artichokes, peas and leeks.
I’m not particularly excited by Yotam’s pasta and butternut squash cake (one of a handful of tray bakes in Feast), which I just imagine is basically a mix of mushy stuff in the shape of a cake. Baked spiced cauliflower with spices, spinach and tomato also leaves me a little underwhelmed, as it feels more like the result of chucking whatever’s left in the Ottolenghi test kitchen fridge in a tray and blasting it, then the usual brilliance. A heavily garlicked, herby cabbage and potato gratin with gruyere and ricotta, on the other hand, should feed four very nicely indeed.
Nigel’s recipes for Sunday Observer readers included a nutty shortbread base, on which to lob ricotta and oranges, and fluffy coconut and banana pancakes, topped with rhubarb baked with maple syrup.
Finally, the Sunday Times Magazine led with a shout out for Mary Berry (and Dan Doherty’s) new project, Britain’s Best Home Cook. There’s a lengthy interview, and then recipes by Jordan Bourke (I think, rather than the M Bezza who’s credited) for those sorts of things we really ought to be cooking at home: crab custard tart, courgette, pepper and mozzarella bake, Lancashire hotpot and chicken kievs. No doubt the show (and related book) will be a hit.
From the internet
On a similar theme to Rachel Roddy’s panelle, this socca (the French version of the same pancake) comes topped with sweet potato purée, greens and a fried egg and should probably be your brunch challenge next weekend.
Does this horchata, a brown rice and cashew milk drink, taste as pleasing and comforting as a warm cuddle between freshly made sheets, or like dirty bath water?
Actually, ignore that (as we basically know it’s the second option), and instead ask yourself this: how will you ensure that dinner tonight involves Helen Graves’ smokey steak and spring onion nachos? The recipe’s on the Pit Magazine website. Check it out and, while there, order a copy of the latest edition.
Weekend Menu, 21 & 22 April 2018
Panelle, greens, cold beer
Rachel Roddy, The Guardian ‘Feast’
Skirt steaks with smoky tomato butter and cipollini onions
Rowley Leigh, The FT Weekend Magazine
Felicity Cloake, The Guardian ‘Feast’
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