February already. WTF? I can’t decide whether that’s depressing, or if it’s good to be done with January. Regardless, the food writers straddled the turn of the month nicely.
Carb it up
Bill Granger doesn’t want us to let our New Year’s Resolutions slip. So he produced a set of winter salads to ‘reinvigorate’ and ‘energise’. All really nice: salmon, fennel, cucumber; pumpkin, radicchio and goat curd; and prosciutto, cavolo nero, pecorino, pear and Brazil nuts. But, boy, was he in the minority.
Gizzi Erskine’s gratin recipes really got my love handles rumbling. Homity pie is essentially cheese and onion enriched mashed potato. No complaints from me with the suggestion that you ignore the pastry and just stick it in a lasagne dish, put more cheese and buttered breadcrumbs on it, then cook till golden. But, to be honest, my eyes and saliva were mostly over the four cheese orzo gratin. Same principle, just vary the cheese a bit and use pasta not spuds. Oui.
Stevie Parle bigged up the humble spud: hasselback potatoes; Dauphinoise; cumin coated potato and egg salad; and a potato, cabbage and sausage soup, which I suspect would warm the cockles nicely.
There were plenty of ideas for more complex carbs, too. I enjoyed a set of pulse based casseroles in Saturday’s Times from a chef called Vicky Jones. All tempting, though I particularly liked her recipe for an Ethiopian split pea stew, which included the ingredients and method for making injera pancakes. Now there’s a future ‘trend’ I could get behind. In the same paper, Donna Hay put forward some easy curry recipes. Slow cooked beef rendang stood out.
Thomasina Miers gave us a star anise scented squash with chorizo and lentil soup in Saturday’s Guardian, though I preferred her recipe for a chicken liver, chicory and pomegranate salad.
Cook‘s ‘Ten Best’ focused on barley. Favourites included Florence Knight’s barley ice cream, Rosie Birkett’s lamb shank, preserved lemon, dill (and barley) stew, and the barley bhel puri by the Urban Rajah.
Oh say can you see?
Remember The Telegraph‘s big launch of Deliciously Ella last week? Well, I couldn’t see her online over the weekend – I presume she’s back next week. Or mid week? Anyway, rather than Ella’s healthy ideas, we got a six recipe strong selection of American junk food. You know, for all those Super Bowl parties being hosted last night in the Cotswolds. Mississippi mud pie looked tempting (but can you spiralise it?).
Diana Henry stayed on the American theme in Sunday’s Stella supplement, focusing specifically on chowder. I enjoyed the message that “chowder didn’t really get created, it just kind of happens”, and her reassurance that you can pretty much make up your own, “so long as it’s thick and sustaining.” My favourite of hers was Nova Scotian themed, which was packed with scallops, salmon and wild rice.
Meera Sodha’s Cook residency finished with a nod to a (frankly genius) dish of her mother’s: Lincolnshire sausage curry.
Ruby Tandoh’s baking column, which is also in that supplement, was meringue based. Her twists on tradition included a chocolate meringue roulade with saffron cream (not for me – I refer you to last week’s toilet duck incident), toasted almond meringue nests and an intriguing coffee, blackcurrent and almond meringue fool.
Yotam ‘just call me Gregg’ Ottolenghi suggested a handful of pie and pasty recipes. I liked the idea of Jerusalem artichoke and spinach pasties the most.
In Sunday’s Observer, Nigel Slater turned his hand to ‘Scotch eggs’, without the egg. Breaded balls of black pudding filled with apple sauce sound ace to me. His chicken croquettes, enhanced by a tickle of tarragon and filled with Comté, brought back such strong memories of kievs stuffed with a cheese and ham sauce, that I almost made a beeline straight to the nearest Iceland. Almost.
And to finish on a high
Fuchsia Dunlop subbed in for Rowley Leigh in the FT Weekend Magazine and wrote about Pixian chilli bean paste, which is a mix of fermented broad beans and fermented chilli. A Sichuanese miso, of sorts. Her column reminded me that I really must write up my notes of a week spent in Chengdu last November. I’m very tempted to do that whilst cooking her red-braised venison stew.
In Saturday’s Independent, Mark Hix mentioned that forced rhubarb crops are low this year on account of a relatively mild winter in the Rhubarb Triangle. I have to say that, vivid pink though it is, I reckon the battery farmed version of rhubarb is inferior in flavour to the more naturally growing stuff. But I still love it. So lapped up his suggestion of lightly cooking forced rhubarb with just a pinch of sugar and vinegar, and serving with fresh mackerel on toast or ox liver. Yes please to a ‘barb and ginger fizz too.
Speaking of rhubarb, how about Niamh Shields’ buckwheat waffles topped with rhubarb, apple and candied hazlenuts over on Eat Like a Girl?
I loved the idea of Mark Hix’s fourth recipe: rhubarb blancmange. The wobbling pink wonder is overdue a come back, and matching it with rhubarb makes perfect sense. I was skeptical, though, about the amount of sugar and gelatine in the recipe (190g of sugar for 400g of rhubarb and a little cream, and significantly more leaves of jelly than I’d usually use for the amount of liquid involved).
Sadly, it was indeed a rare recipe fail. Far too sweet, and not nearly enough wibble. I reckon you could halve the quantities of sweetener and probably drop the setting agent too by almost the same proportion too.
Weekend Menu, 31 January and 1 February 2015
Chicken liver, chicory and pomegranate salad
Thomasina Miers, The Guardian
(Sichuan) Red braised venison stew
Fuchsia Dunlop, The FT Weekend Magazine
Barley ice cream
Florence Knight, The Guardian, ‘Cook’
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