Saturday, 23 March 2013

pan-fried sea bream with spiced chickpeas and gremolata

Despite imminent dole-bludging, we've had quite a busy social schedule this week; There was a pot luck night on Tuesday, whereupon I felt the urge to do the Persian-style lamb and rhubarb stew to initial skepticism, before winning over the Kew Riverside parental posse, and last night we attempted to repeat last year's triumphant Stepping Stones quiz second place. Sadly, we got a bit drunker this year and just about scraped second last spot.

Having thoroughly soaked ourselves in evil booze over the week, this weekend we've decided to get all healthy-like, with some experimental fish. Not that the fish itself is experimental you understand, that would be awful and weird - although it is the first time we've ever had sea bream.

Despite the myriad potential for disaster - skin! fish! skin on fish! fishy-flavoured fish! - this actually turned out to be a complete winner. The skin is super-crispy, the chickpeas give it some earthy creaminess, and the lemony gremolata provides a lovely herbal tang.

pan-fried sea bream with spiced chickpeas and gremolata - Delicious, April 2013, p135

Thursday, 21 March 2013

nigella lawson's hot and sour soup

After last night's school pot luck, we're both feeling pretty shabby today. Luckily one of us has to go to work, whilst the other gets to loaf around Hammersmith, lunching at The Lyric under the guise of 'looking for work'.

Still a hangover is a hangover, and given one member of the household has decided to collapse on the sofa, I've decided to resurrect a soup we used to eat loads when we were house-sitting at the Superwhite's Balham residence: Nigella's hot and sour soup.

It's perfect: It takes about 10 minutes to make, and is packed full of enough big, bold flavours to get a sweat-on, and drive a headache out.

Strangely enough it's not quite how I remember it, it's slightly less aromatic, which I put down to the fact we didn't have any Tom Yum paste. At least I think it's that, but I can't exactly remember what Tom Yum paste actually tastes like...

I also forgot to take a picture, sorry.

Wine Time
Gosh, what do you pair with spicy, hot water with prawns bobbing about in it? Given you're eating/drinking loads of liquid, I think whatever you do drink might as well be brilliant because you're not going to have room for much more liquid. Usual caveats apply - something with some sweetness and fruit to temper the heat, and aromatic to match the spices, so pick a good quality Riesling - and Dr Loosen is a pretty readily available, good quality producer - and you'll be dandy.

hot and sour soup - Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites c/o Delicious, February 2009, p83

Monday, 18 March 2013

gennaro contaldo's aubergine parmigiana

You can look at redundancy in a couple of ways. Obviously it's a bit annoying and there is a constant underlying paranoia to finding a job. But there's positive angle as you get maximum family time, and you can have slightly more elaborate recipes for dinner. The silver linings outweigh the dark clouds.

After a day's displacement activity - although I at least got my CV sorted - tonight's dinner is a case in point: It's an experimental vegetarian dish from the great Gennaro Contaldo, with the added bonus of setting alarm bells ringing in Ana Louise's head as it's almost entirely made of aubergine, which is her kryptonite.

I've already let her down on the job front, it's been lashing down all day, and now I'm feeding her aubergine. However divorce is unexpectedly not on the cards as it's bloody delicious:

I have to say I'm mildly surprised, not simply because it was aubergine, but because before you bake it you fry the slices in egg, which looks bonkers. It tastes divine though; there's creamy cheese, a punchy tomato sauce and rather than soggy and sloppy, the egg plant is meaty and juicy. I hesitate to say this, but we'll definitely be having this again...

...because I over-shopped on aubergine at the weekend and there's another one in the fridge.

wine time
There's something interesting going on here as generally I'd look for a juicy Italian or Spanish red to match this hearty, bake. However the mozzarella and the aubergine really bring a creamy quality to it, so I think you're looking for something crisp and fruity, especially as we had it with salad. Delicious reckon a Riesling, but I wonder if that's too austere? I'd go with a New World Chenin, or a good Pinot Grigio. Boom.

aubergine parmigiana - Gennaro Contaldo, Delicious, March 2012, p53

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

hugh's mexican tomato and bean soup

Having got away with being very, very drunk yesterday I rather chance my arm with Mrs Barnes today having nipped into the office to collect my stuff, only to return three hours later than scheduled, and with slightly more foaming nut-brown ale in me than planned.

She's even less pleased when I clatter around in the kitchen, attempting to knock something quick up for dinner, whilst she's trying to watch telly.

Luckily you can't really go wrong with Hugh's Mexican tomato and bean soup. It ticks a lot of health points as the cooked tomatoes are fully of lovely cancer-bashing lycopene, the pulses are obviously good for the digestion, and it's always good to get a sweat on!

I like to throw in some smoked paprika to give a sweeter edge to the ground cumin, plus the smokiness really pairs up well with the lime juice and the cooling creme fraiche. The other thing you can do is chop up some sweet peppers and add them with the garlic and spices. I'm just saying.

mexican tomato and bean soup - Hugh F-W, River Cottage Veg Everyday! P138

Monday, 11 March 2013

going out in style & spaghetti with roasted tomatoes, prawns, garlic & basil

If there's one thing I've learned through my multiple redundancies (thanks media "career"), is the value of leaving in style, but I think lunch at the Officer's Mess at St James's Palace probably tops the lot.

I would tell you about the menu but sadly I can't. Not for reasons of State secrecy you understand, but more because after several-to-many bottles of fizz and claret, some cigars and pretty much most of a decanter of Madeira later, I can't really remember what I ate. It was nice mind.

Luckily for what's left of this blog's culinary reputation, whilst I'm liberally stuffing snuff up my nose from this...

...and modeling a natty range of new headwear...

... Ana's at home cooking up delicious-looking storm.

Again, I can't tell you what it tasted like as I was asleep on eventual re-entry to the flat, but it looks amazing.

linguine with roasted tomatoes, prawns, garlic and basil - Debbie Major, Delicious, Februay 2008, p24

Sunday, 10 March 2013

mother's day curry

Having lost my job on Friday and thrown the SS Barnes into a bit of a spin, the signs for an auspicious Mother's Day take a further battering when we wake up to a gale outside, and then I realise by not going shopping yesterday, I don't actually have anything to cook a special breakfast with other than toast.

The portents of doom are slightly averted by Milo who sneaks into our room to tell Ana not to get up as we're cooking her some secret pancakes, and to give her his (and my) card. But that's about as lucky as it gets for most of the day: I go shopping in the rain and promptly drop our new tax disc in the car park, and then I forget to to buy some flowers. One argument later, followed by a trip back to Waitrose (somebody had handed it in), via our local florists, and the dark clouds lift, literally as well as figuratively.

Is there nothing snake-head fritillaries, a bottle of wine, Delia's lime chicken curry (even for Milo, as we've decided his curryfication needs to start now), and the looming prospect of Scandinavian crime drama cannot cure?

lime chicken curry - Delia, How to Cook Book Two, p107

Saturday, 9 March 2013

hot-smoked trout, pea and lemon risotto

It's funny how quickly time goes. A tasting one night, and going out and getting very drunk the following and before you know it, it's Saturday and not only have you got to drag your hungover self shopping, you've got to go via the swimming pool with an extremely loud five year-old. Parenting, don't do it.

Having spent months looking for it, the October 2011 edition of Delicious containing Dhruv Baker's mythical stew is firmly nailed to the shelf, and the latent project manager in me decides to halve the man-hours spent searching by cudgeling another dish out of it. Luckily the weather difference between October and March seems fairly minimal at this point of the year, but with one eye on the slim chance of us actually having a summer this year, we decide to give this healthy-looking risotto a spin.

I have to say I'm a fairly late convert to risottos. For some reason every time I tried to make them in our early Putney years, I never managed to get the rice properly cooked despite ending up with tennis elbow. In the last couple of years I've nailed them, and now I love the whole zen-like process of stirring, and the rich, creamy feast you end up with.

This one is a doozy, with the smokey fish and sweet peas contrasting beautifully with the creamy rice; Serve with a chilled Chablis and it's got Yummington Mummington stamped all over it!

hot-smoked trout, pea and lemon risotto - Delicious, October 2011, p139

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

bill granger's curried chicken rice

We're going through a massive Bill Granger thing at the moment, but rest assured it's not planned. Or at least it's only partly planned. Last night "yes", tonight "no".

Having dutifully chopped up a chicken last night and used the breasts, I'm casting around for something to do with the thighs that'll be more warming than simply roasting them with salad, when inspiration strikes in the form of Dave & Lucy. Flicking through our pile of cooking books I come across this really easy curry in Simply Bill. One Virginia Woolf stream of consciousness later and I can picture just how knackered that page is in Lucy's book, so I know it's going to be good even if it looks terrible:

Despite appearances, it's really very nice. Hot, warming and very satisfying, with lots of spicy depth which the rice soaks up - and probably more if you make your own curry powder rather than using up the last of the Veeraswamy moglai paste in the fridge. However the key is to over-indulge on the stock, otherwise it dries out pretty quickly. Cue another Ginny flashback, when I made this around 2005-ish, and undercooked the rice pretty spectacularly. Which would explain why I've not cooked it since...

Wine Time
Depending on how aromatic the spices you used are, and indeed how spicy, chicken curry loves a huge range of wines, from the default choice of Chardonnay to the more interesting Saint Emilion, but I think you can never go wrong with crisp, refreshing whites which have some residual sugar: Viognier, Gewurtztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris would all be magic, and if you wanted to team it with a red, look for super-low tannins and lots of fruit, like a Beaujolais or a young New World Pinot Noir.

curried chicken rice - Bill Granger, Simply Bill, p21

Monday, 4 March 2013

bill granger's crispy chicken with rainbow chard

Whilst there's a certain amount of meh going on tonight - I couldn't even be bothered to roast some potatoes, and how easy are they?

There is also an equal amount of secretive experimentation: Not only have we got some fried pancetta which was lurking at the back of the fridge, but there's a soupcon of seasonality with the appearance of rainbow chard on the shelves:

It's certainly sort-of successful. I think the salty pancetta works really well with the crispy chicken skin, as well as contributing some lovely juices, but I suppose that's not entirely unexpected as I nicked the thought from Billy G's quick roast chicken, with shallots and white wine.

The chard doesn't really cut it though, or at least not compared to cavalo nero which brings stronger flavours to the table, and doesn't quite go as floppy as its more colourful cousin. Still, I suppose that's part of the swings and roundabouts of eating in season.

Anybody notice we're using a hand-butchered chicken supreme? I'll be gutting badgers next.

Wine Time
This is quite a tangy dish with the combination of the lemon juice and salty bacon, with the added kick of chili, so whilst a crisp, clean Chardonnay would be a dream here, I wouldn't go for anything too oaky, or indeed tropical. If you want to stick with the Old World, a white Bordeaux with the extra zing from the Semillon would be good, as would a Loire Sauv.

crispy chicken, parmesan roast potatoes and cavalo nero - Bill Granger, Simply Bill, p38

Sunday, 3 March 2013

dhruv baker's braised beef shin

Following yet another day out for Ana Louise - this time living it up at Orange Pekoe for Kendra Kats' Champagne birthday tea, followed by going for a 'date' with Brenda at The Depot - today we have a family outing.

As we're all still slightly suffering from post-Hamilton blues, this outing does not involve an awful lot. In fact, we only get as far as Mortlake Park for a 'power play' in the cold, followed by an emergency trip to our favourite local deli, the mighty Pickle & Rye.

How delicious does this look? Ana and Milo went for their trad options: turkey club and a chocolate brownie, respectively. However I rang the changes and rather than my usual Toronto, opted for the pulled pork - It's a great combination of sweet meat and smokey sauce! There's so much to love about this place, from the fresh ingredients, the great coffee, friendly staff and the fact the sandwiches all made fresh to order. It's fab, and even better they've now 'super-sized' their portions with 'American' size sandwiches. Ana wouldn't let me have one though.

Outing over, we settle in to watch telly/play Lego whilst Dhruv Baker's beef stew ticks away... for three freakin hours! Lucky I'm full of porky goodness, otherwise I'd have gone mental with hunger cravings.

It's worth the wait mind. We've had it a couple of times now, although it's one of those recipes I can never find when I want it. In fact it's just taken me fully two hours to find it now. Anyway, it's unctuous and filling, and the parmesan and polenta chips he teams it with are fantastic. Sadly we don't have them this time, we have it with the equally Milo-endorsed cauliflower cheese and mash.

Wine Time
The great thing about stews is you don't need a massively beefy (ho ho!) red to team with them, because the flavours are so intense in the dish itself. Also, the long cooking time means using the tannins in the wine to break down the fat in the meat becomes a bit moot. I suppose we have these associations because you have stews in winter, and you naturally drink bigger, ballsier bottles in the cold months.

Anyway, a youngish Chianti full of floral notes, red cherry/rasperry flavours, and sweet spices would be amazeballs here: Rich enough to balance the gravy and to cut through the cheese, and with some soft, medium tannins that don't dominate the meat.

braised beef shin with carrot & saffron puree and polenta chips - Dhruv Baker, Delicious, October 2011, p61

Friday, 1 March 2013

a nice surprise, fish fingers and fries

Ana's out for dinner tonight with some of the nursery mums, and Milo is sparko. Under normal circumstances this would give me free reign to go wild and crazy, and get experimental in the kitchen. However it's blinking freezing, I'm a bit tired from last night's tasting, and I fancy watching ridiculous historical documentaries about the Plantagenets rather than crushing garlic.

It's my food blog, I'll do what I want.

Let's give this a thin veneer of foodie gloss shall we? Who prefers crinkle-cut chips to straight? I'm definitely in the crinkle-cut camp, but that's because my parents used to make chips in our B&B, so me and brother had to suffer huge, chunky chips rather than the crinkle-cut all our friends had. We weren't allowed Ski yoghurts either.

Hands up for crinkle-cut?