Garlic is a most important ingredient. It’s rare in our house we don’t use it. Whether it’s starting a tomato sauce by frying an onion or crushing into teryaki sauce it’s unthinkable to cook without it. You shouldn’t taste it in the dish, but it rounds out the finished product nicely.
The example above was acquired at the food festival in cardiff bay for a whopping £2.50. It’s from the Pyrenées and I’m sure it’ll be worth at as soon as we’ve eaten the garlic I got from the Italian deli. I blame the TV chefs of the ’80s who woke British cuisine up and stole everyone elses. Food in the UK is not streets ahead of where it used to be.
We also had Keralan fried chicken from Purple Poppadom for lunch which is always good.
Homemade pizza. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this. The ingredients:
Pizza base. You can buy this pre-made from the supermarket. Please don’t, it’s awful. We have a sneaky trick to a good base. Get your bread maker to do the kneading cycle on either your own bread recipe or supermarket bread mix. So much better. And fresh. And you can claim homemade.
The tomato sauce. At its simplest level, this can be San Marzano tomatoes straight out of the tin, possiby warmed. Alternatively, my easy pasta sauce: heat a tin of tomatoes, a crushed garlic clove, a drizzle of good olive oil, and a small handful of chopped basil. Heat until the olive oil is blended in and the sauce is bubbling slightly.
Mozzarella. This can range from the supermarket’s own up to artisan burrata. There’s not much to choose here. It melts and is slightly burned. As long as it’s cheesy and stringy, you’re fine.
Toppings is where it gets really funky. My favourite place has the following toppings at the moment:
Margherita. As simple as it gets.
Goats cheese and chutney.
Pepperoni. A classic.
Laverbread, samphire, cockles, local artisan lardons. It’s Wales. What do you expect?
Nduja. A spicy, melty sausage. Very good.
A white, tomato-less one of some sort.
Equally, my favourite Pizza Express topping, the Veneziana:
Pine kernels, red onion, baby capers, black olives, sultanas. Such a lovely combination of sweet and savoury.
And finally on my list, the one that is the Marmite of pizza toppings:
Ham and pineapple. Do this with good artisan ham and the saltiness is offset by the slightly charred sweetness of the pineapple.
And there you have it. The werewithal to make your own pizza. For extra points, make a sourdough base!
Have you ever wondered how to make felafel? Felafel is one of those things you don’t think too much about, especially after a night on the tiles.
Being British, it probably came to the UK both with our adventures in the Middle East and also with immigration. Certainly it didn’t enter the English language until 1941. In Arabic, it’s ÙÙ„Ø§ÙÙ„â€Ž.
I’ve had really nice felafel wraps on the Edgware Road in London and elsewhere. Wikipedia says the origin is shrouded in the mists of history, and is not “owned” by any one country: it’s disputed by Egypt, Israel, the Lebanon and so on.
This recipe turned out quite “rough” in my kitchen but was no worse for that. My food processor, whilst being pretty rubbish did a passable job.
The one recipe I’ve made a slightly coarse version of was from Epicurious.
1 400g tin Chickpeas
1 Onion (chopped)
4 Cloves Garlic
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Chilli
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Baking Powder
6 tbsp Flour
Pickled Chilli, Cornichon
Throw that lot except the flour into a food processor, blend until it’s a slightly lumpy paste and add the flour. Form into balls. I got 15 or so out of mine. Deep fry in batches in 2″-3″ hot oil until golden and crispy on the outside.
Then this is where I diverge from the Epicurious recipe. First of all, I think a wrap is better than a pita. Then the content inside the wrap will be hoummous, shredded iceberg or Romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato. If you can summon a pickled chilli like you get with a kebab, so much the better. A gherkin if not.
You should end up with a nicely wrapped thing with the crisp of the felafel inside. Lovely!
After Googling, I’m none the wiser wheere felafel came from. Any idea how such a disputed dish ended up in the UK? I’m going with our Middle Eastern adventures.
Sometimes you’re walking past the last day shelf in Tesco and a chicken for £2.50 just leaps out at you, you just can’t avoid it!
You think “I can get at least four meals out of it for the two of us!” And you do! As an example meal plan:
A proper Sunday roast. Beautiful crispy roast potatoes, some fresh seasonal vegetables or two. I still haven’t cracked the secret to lovely crunchy potatoes here, but given a variety like King Edwards, they will still be tasty. It’s summer so we just picked up some broad beans from the farmer’s market. Don’t forget the gravy! I should pontificate at length on gravy at another point.
Then do something with the leftovers. In this case a chicken pie but I was too lazy to make the lid ? This one had some frozen peas, and chopped red pepper in. And obviously, that thing that makes everything better, sweetcorn. You can put in pretty much anything you like. Chop up a leek or throw in left over vegetables. Swede on the side is a nice touch, and fry up left over roast potatoes. Obviously, with the bones, you’ll get between a pint and a litre of stock. You can either just boil the bones or throw in some garlic, chopped onion, carrots, celery, herbs and so on.
Then, with that stock, make soup! Possibly with some leftover gravy added for extra flavour. This soup has noodles, an egg mixed in, some veggies and a soft boiled egg. We get through the eggs in this house! Cantonese chicken and sweetcorn has been perpetrated in this house and that’s good too,
Last but not least, you’ll probably have a chicken breast left over. That’s easy to dispose of: a chicken sandwich. Me, I like nice fresh bread and mango chutney. That’s the right combination of solid and savoury. The other option is to load it up with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and mayonnaise. Either way.On the bread note, we mostly make our own. Either from the components or supermarket mix, and throw it in the bread maker. Good fresh bread for half the price.
And that’s how you get four meals out of some discounted chicken!
There’s plenty you can do with a chicken: lemons, put vegetables in the roasting tin. Me, I put smoked paprika and garlic salt on the skin before rubbing with olive oil. The skin is the best bit. Or just buy the thighs and roast them!
There was a half price bargain to be had, so we took the plunge and got a couple of HelloFresh boxes at half price. Tuesday morning they arrived by truck incredibly well packed. The refrigerables packeded in insulated bags and all the other ingredients portioned into little boxes of a size appropriate to the recipes, or in some case more.
Over two boxes, the recipes we got were:
Paprikás Csirke – a Hungarian paprika chicken dish. A dash of honey and soy sauce at the end, lifted the dish somewhat.
Beef Enchiladas – There were enough tortillas left over, we had this again for lunch again the following day. Probably my favourite.
Pan Fried Chicken with tarragon sauce – a simple sauce of tarragon simmered in crème fraîche.
Honey mustard sausages with read onion gravy – the sausages were tiny and the gravy a cheaty version of the one I do, but the real revelation here was cabbage that was quartered, fried lightly then baked in the oven in stock. This I will cook again!
Jamie’s grilled chicken with green bean salad – fairly classic, lemony Jamie.
Salmon baked on a bed of walnut-herby mushrooms with cerleriac fries. Sorry, there’s nothing to commend celeriac, it’s a vegetable of winter desperation. The mushrooms however, were awesome. The texture of the nuts and the flavour of lots of fresh herbs. Amazing.
So there we have it. Would I do it again? Probably not. The recipes were easy enough but nothing you couldn’t do with a recipe book and a supermarket. I think my expectations were for more umami and more exotic flavours. Good enough though and if I were a busy executive with a career, wife and mistress, it might be tempting. 3/5.
Saturday was a win again at the farmer’s market. As well as scoring some excellent broad beans and lovely Crafty Devil beer, Charcutier Ltd again had an offer on their spare ribs so the quest was on to cook them even better! This time, I went for this recipe from the BBC:
A neighbour is going on holiday and gave us some tomatoes.
So I made soup.
Gently fry an onion and a medium carrot in olive oil for ten minutes, add 1lb of chopped tomatoes and a pint of stock (boullion in my case), a squirt of tomato puree and a small handful of basil leaves. Simmer for ten minutes then blend. Salt and a small amount of sugar to taste. I topped it off with freshly made garlic-y croutons, more basil and a quick grate of parmesan for umami.
A friend said he was cooking this which immediately gave me a yearning.
First thing was that my paprika was supermarket and stale, so I ventured to the Spice Shop in Brighton, purveyor of all things herby, spicy and tasty.
Then it starts getting religious: is it a soup or a stew? Sour cream or not? Served with potatoes, rice, pasta, dumpling or some form of bread? Whose grandmother is the one true queen of goulash?
Ultimately, it seems to me at least, it boils down to distinguishing it from any other beef stew and that means NO WINE and NO tomatoes, however tempting that may be. The guardian recipe recommends faffing with green peppers, I didn’t and they were fine. Use lots of onions, they cook right down to the volume doesn’t matter. For a pound of meat, at least three, fried gently.
Hungarian joke: “what do you want for dinner tonight to go with your sour cream?”
Having stocked up on shiny new paprika it was disappointing to find that my caraway was dead. The end result was good enough but we both thought “needed mushrooms”.
Last night I did it again my way:
Put in a bunch of quartered button mushrooms
Used most of a bottle of red wine (Hungarian! Undrinkable!)
Use a tin of chopped tomatoes
Threw in a handful of pearl barley just because
Bought fresh caraway seeds
Scored beef shin from Morrisons which was fatty, marbled and so tender.
I threw in some garlic at the onion frying stage
I put a tablespoon of flour in with three of the paprika when coating before frying. Threw the unused in anyway