Sunday, 31 October 2010

A taste of Switzerland

Our time in the Swiss countryside was made extra special by the hospitality of our friends Ed and Barbara. They had lined up a number of activities and things to try while we were staying with them. The weather wasn't as hoped but still we did have a brilliant time with them.


We arrived in Darstetten late on the Friday with Ed meeting us from the train station, we then sat and listened to his band rehearsal for a short while before heading for the local bar to sample some beer and wine - much needed after a long day traveling from London. After the rehearsal we joined the band in a few drinks at a different bar.

We had been promised home made Pumpkin soup and Schnapps by Ed, and so when arriving at their house, bowls of steaming orange goodness were served to us. The soup was unlike anything we'd tasted before and we did quiz Barbara for the recipe, and we will try to replicate it another time. She told us that the key ingredients were interestingly orange juice and curry powder. She also served it with roasted pumpkin seeds on top and a spoonful of cream. The Schnapps that then appeared were all homemade by various friends and family members. All in various flavours of late summer fruits; blueberry, blackberry etc. Very fruity, without too much of a kick. A treat indeed. After a couple of glasses we happily rolled into bed.

The next morning, the weather still hadn't lifted, as so over breakfast of toast and as many homemade preserves as you could wish for we discussed where we should go. The original plan was to get up a big hill/mountain, but a quick check on webcams showed about zero visibility up high so we went out for a drive instead.

The first stop was the Callier Chocolate factory where we were told gave loads of free samples. Hurrah! You can't go to Switzerland without eating chocolate, and if it is free, all the better!
The tour of the factory was excellent, with exhibits explaining the history of chocolate and how Swiss chocolate in particular is different than elsewhere. You could even try the raw cocoa beans and nuts that go into the various products. Then came the tasting room.

Even for a chocolate addict like myself, it was difficult to sample one of each product available. It was fantastic! We then spent rather too much money in the gift shop.

On the way back we past through interesting villages, over (what would be, if the weather lifted) scenic mountain passes, and did a bit of a walk witnessing the beautiful autumnal colours of the countryside.
That night was our trip to the Panorama Restaurant, which we have written about here.
Again, upon return, the schnapps came out. And we climbed into bed full content.
The next day we we due to leave just after lunchtime to get the train back to Geneva, so as an early lunch Ed and Barbara prepared Raclette. The Raclette was served with the traditional accompaniments; over potatoes, sprinkled with seasoning, with pickles and cooked with bacon (or in our case sausage) and onion. They had a table top Raclette cooker, upon which mushroom were also griddled. Barbara told us that rather than being a restaurant dish, this is very much a family gathering type dish. We each had a mini pan onto which a slice of Raclette was placed, garnished with onion and sausage if you liked and then grilled until melted. It was then scraped across boiled potatoes. Which were kept warm in a potato warmer like this which I thought was brilliant!

The pickles which were served included gherkins, pickled curried garlic cloves, and homemade pickled marrow. Apart from the gherkins, both the garlic and marrow were new to me and delicious. Perhaps we'll ask for the recipe....The various seasonings included dried Alpine Herbs, curry powder, and paprika amongst others.
Ed told us that sometimes a large block of Raclette is either grilled or warmed by the fire, and then the top layer is scraped off onto the plate, but it seems much easier with a table top cooker as everyone can cook their own portions at the same time.
The meal was accompanied with violet tea, as Barbara said that tea is the drink of choice for Raclette. She also said that Rosti is generally made the next day with the left over boiled potatoes, as they are best left for a while after boiling for the perfect Rosti.
After stuffing ourselves with the lovely Raclette was settled down to a game of Jass - the Swiss card game. I won't try to explain the rules, as quite frankly I don't think I remember them all, but it is to do with card counting. Ed gave us a deck of cards, and a list of the various scores and rules, but we haven't tried to play it yet ourselves. No doubt when we do, it will involve a couple of texts to the Ed and Barbara household to confirm the rules!

After being dropped off at the train station to begin the next part of our Switzerland trip in Geneva we thought about the things we'd done. It seems that many of the dishes that we ate and were told about are completely seasonal, and in the village many things are local. There isn't a lot of bacon available, and meat is rather expensive. Rosti, Raclette, Pumpkin are all generally eaten in the autumn. The Schnapps would have been made when the fruit was in season, and the pickles made to preserve the seasonal veg. Even the favourite desert of Barbara's, the Vermicelli, is seasonal.

I wont talk at great length about each day in Geneva, as this post is rather long already, but will mention a coffee and cake stop in the city. After a large lunch at an Italian restaurant we were wandering around gazing into the windows of chocolate shops and delis and saw a large coffee shop/choclaterie. We though it would be rude not to go in. 

The delights on display looked fantastic so we sat down an ordered a coffee and a cake in the bustling tearooms.

I ordered the famous Vermicelli and Tim had a vanilla slice. Both were lovely, rather large and just what was needed! Both had chestnut as a prime ingredient. The Vermicelli being mainly chestnut puree or paste with bits of cream and meringue at the bottom of the cup, and the slice had a layer of chestnut puree within the cream. Another example of the seasonal use of ingredients.

Our short trip to Switzerland was fantastic, and despite the weather, we probably did pick the best time of year to go. The colours of the countryside were beautiful, and when the cloud did lift there were glorious blue skies. Also the seasonal food available was great, it's not all just chcolate and cheese! With Rosti, Raclette, pumpkin, marrow, chestnut, preserves and later the game available in the Geneva restaurants, all being seasonal specialities. We will definitely return to Switzerland and spend more time in the countryside, as this does seem to be where the "real" Switzerland is.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Panorama Restaurant, Hartlisberg, Switzerland

Our first full day in Switzerland was a mixture of experiences. Firstly being woken by cowbells in the morning was wonderful then all the delights offered at breakfast by our friends Ed and Barbara were lovely. We will report on the various local and interesting things we did and ate in another post.

We spent the rather cloudy day out in the countryside, up hills, on mountain passes, and wandering round picturesque villages, while building up an appetite for what was promised to be an excellent meal at the Panorama Restaurant.

Ed had booked the table in the bistro part of the restaurant as everything else was fully booked, but still this promised not to disappoint.
We arrived, and what would have normally been a stunning view, was somewhat clouded, but still impressive.

View from the restaurant
We were shown to our table and given menus. Unfortunately, only in German, but we did have our translators with us. The waitress spoke excellent English, and anything that we needed help with Ed and Barbara could obviously translate.
We were offered an aperitif of sparkling wine which the waitress described as similar to Champagne or Prosecco. For me, those being the magic words, we ordered a glass of the cranberry and one of the the apple based wines while we looked over the menu. Both of which were lovely and were served with breads, butter and oil.

Cranberry aperitif
There had been a slight mix up when booking the table as Ed had asked if they could serve the Chateaubriand in the Bistro - a dish which they always order on each trip there, and the restaurant took this to be a pre-order for the four of us rather than just for two. This perhaps actually made the choice of food easier! We'd never tried Chateaubriand before, and only vaguely knew what it was. With the normal checks of whether there is flour in the sauce proving negative, we were more than happy to go along with this. It was a little on the pricey side, being 62CHF per person, but Ed had described that eating out, and in particular, ordering meat in Switzerland was more expensive than in Britain. And after all, it is not every day we're over in his part of the world for a nice evening out.
We tried looking at the starters menu, but Ed warned us that the Chateaubriand was rather filling, and that we should actually leave room for desert. And anyway, not recognising a single word of German meant that every single ingredient needed to be translated for us, and some words didn't really seem to translate that easily. We decided against a starter.
We picked a Swiss wine, a white Merlot, on the recommendation of the waitress, and when it came Ed was offered the opportunity to taste the wine, with a separate tasting glass. Never seen that before, very impressed, and it was duly noted. The wine was excellent.
Shortly after placing our order, "A small gift from the kitchen" arrived. A little amuse bouche of beef carpaccio and mushrooms with Parmesan cream.

Beef Carpaccio with mushrooms and Parmesan cream
Again, this was a first for me. I'd never had Carpaccio, as I've always been a bit scared of it. This was nice, and for me just the right amount of raw meat. The mushrooms and cream sauce were very tasty, although the edible flower didn't really taste of much. At least I hope it was edible! The flowers we'd tried in the garden of Northcote were very distinctive in flavour, but this didn't stand out. But anyway, I'm not really complaining about what was actually just a garnish on an amuse bouche!

The main event. The Chateaubriand arrived, and looked spectacular.


The vegetables were perfect, each seasoned well, and carrying its own flavour, the foaming Bearnaise was creamy and light, and even the three little dots of mango wowed the taste buds. The meat was beautiful. And as Ed had said, you could practically cut it with a spoon. Extremely tender, juicy and flavoursome. The outside charred slightly and the inside rare and succulent. I have since read that Chateaubriand is the ultimate experience in beef, and I have to agree. This perhaps was the best plate of food I have ever eaten.

The plates were cleared away and we were wondering about what delights to expect on the desert menu from this restaurant.

Since returning from Switzerland I have done a bit of research on this place. There were a couple of accolades displayed outside the main entrance, but nothing that I recognised, or actually can remember, but I have since found out that the Panorama's restaurant Cayenne has been awarded a rating of 16 out of (perhaps the impossible score) 20 from Gault Millau and rated with Bib Gourmand and as Moderately Comfortable in the Michelin Guide. I have read that Gault Millau rate restaurants on their food rather than on the food and surroundings as Michelin does, and in my mind this food well deserved the rating. I say this purely as an ignorant customer as I haven't noticed if I've eaten in any Gault Millau rated restaurants before, and our only Michelin awarded experience was that at Northcote a couple of years ago. The food, to me, was on par with Northcote.

Anyway, back to the meal. As i mentioned before, we can't speak or recognise any German and Ed and Barbara had been translating for us. They were now whispering away in German, so we thought something fishy was going on. The waitress had put down another knife and fork each, and Ed said they were wondering why the desert menu was taking so long.
It then became apparent.
Another plate of the beautiful Chateaubriand came out.

Again, this was as before, superb. But I can no longer say it was the best plate of food I'd ever eaten, as technically there were two. Ed and Barbara then explained that the menu said that it was a two-plate dish and that they'd missed that too the first time they came. Our excuse is that we can't read German, don't know what theirs was! I was aware that Chateaubriand is a very expensive and fine cut of meat, and that it is served for more than one person, but I assumed that meant it was for two people or more. Is this the norm is restaurants, or is it usually a two-plate dish?
Needless to say, I now know what the word for "two" is! This is why we were talked out of a starter!

After finishing the main, and "sitting with the wine" for a bit, the waitress brought out the desert menu. Barbara pointed out to me which was the selection of ice creams and explained the selection. I'd already decided on this dish before we came as it had been recommended.
Ice cream selection

The ice cream and sorbet selection was a lovely light way to finish the meal. Each giving a refreshing clean taste.  Other deserts ordered were; Modern style Jelly with prunes and an Armagnac buscuit (above left); Chocolate Monolith with lychee sorbet (above right).

Coffees were then offered, and came accompanied with a choice of hand made chocolates. We each chose one - to Ed's dismay, we were offered more than one each, but we had spent some time earlier in a chocolate factory with as many samples as you could eat, so thought best to stop at one.

The meal, and dining experience at the Panorama was one of the best I've had, even with the view not being as hoped. The view as we left showed the lights of Thun and the surrounding villages and roads, but unfortunately not the mountains.

Clear view from the restaurant.
Via Google Earth, published on Panaromio by

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the area, but for a special occasion. It is on the pricey side, but I think, for a one-off, well worth the money.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Joe Allen

Here's the first post about our recent extra-long weekend to Switzerland. We planned our trip to coincide with one night in London to catch up with some friends, and to get some gossip about Carluccio! As previously stated, a friend is the TV producer for a forthcoming series with Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo and after speaking with him, we're very much looking forward to when this comes out - watch this space!

Anyway, we arrived in London, met a friend, checked into the hotel and set out into the night. We left it up to the resident Londoner among us to decide where to drink and eat. He took us to a small bar - no idea where we were apart from walking distance from Tottenham Court Road, but the beer and wine was good. He then presented us with a couple of choices of restaurant. One of which was Joe Allen.

We had never been there before, or actually heard of the place, but he did recommend it. He promised a piano and a burger. Which we weren't too sure about, seemed an odd combination.

We arrived at the restaurant, and it is quite safe to say that we wouldn't have found it ourselves, but maybe that is because it seems very easy to lose you sense of direction in London - or is that just me? We entered, explained to the receptionist that we didn't have a reservation, which didn't seem to be a problem, as we could have a table until 10:00, deposited our coats and were shown to a table.
The atmosphere was great, low light, interesting posters/pictures, very busy and buzzing, but no piano! Nevermind.

We looked at the menu, and there was no burger. Was this the same place we'd been promised? But then we were told that the burger is not on the menu, and that those in the know order it. This became known to us as "The Secret Burger". Burgers for me are not generally an option, mainly because of the inevitable bun, but unless made with plain meat (I've no doubt that this secret burger is top quality) generally have breadcrumbs or other such like to help bind. An even if this burger had the absence of bread, I suspect the full experience of the secret burger would not be mine minus the bun.
One of our party did order the Secret Burger, together with what seems to be standard, bacon and cheese and fries on the side.
Our starters were the Mozzarella with Stewed Aubergine and Pesto, and the Artichoke and Rocket Salad with Balsamic dressing. Another starter on our table was the Smoked Salmon with Capers.
Other than the Secret Burger, the main course was the Usda Beef Rump with Wilted Beetroot Leaves and Garlic Wild Mushrooms.

The Mozzarella was nice, and the pesto very tasty, but by the opinion of our TV producer friend, the cheese was nothing like the mozzarella available in Italy. The stewed aubergine was the highlight for me though. Soft and tomatoey, but very different to the Caponata we had made at home. I was expecting it to be similar, but I suppose if it was supposed to be Caponata, it would have said that on the menu. The artichoke salad, I am told was also nice. An excellent combination of flavours.

The beef was very good in my opinion, the beetroot leaves, and beetroot itself, very good. And the mushrooms excellent. Just a hint of garlic, without blowing you away making everything else taste garlicky and the right amount of seasoning. Tim thought that a side of carbohydrate would have gone nicely to fill out the meal, but I the main itself was adequate for me. Perhaps this was a bit of jealousy over the fries that came with the burger? ;-)

The burger I believe was excellent, and for our friend, it truly lived up to it's legendary status. He described it to me as THE burger, juicy - but not too much, not greasy in any respect, beefy and satisfying. The perfect burger. One thing perhaps that didn't meet his taste was the amount of raw onion which came as the accompaniment as he did dish out pieces to everyone around the table, giving us all onion breath!

I didn't feel particularly rushed, even though the food came out very quickly - I believe the restaurant does a lot of business in pre-theatre meals, but if we hadn't had a time limit on the table, perhaps we would have lingered longer.  The waitress was very helpful with pointing out the gluten free options - which there seemed to be many, after consulting with the chef. We think the steak was around the £22 mark, and we're not too sure of the drink prices. Not much help I know, sorry! I would recommend Joe Allen, and would go there again. Although unfortunately I will never be able to fully experience their famous secret.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Chicken and Broccoli with Pesto

I promised you another idea for what to do with chicken thighs and half a broccoli so here it is.  As is often the case I went to the BBC Goodfood website again for ideas and this seemed perfect.  The original recipe had some great reviews and I was intrigued by the use of Pesto at the end.  The recipe has been (slightly) adapted from the original in that I replaced the spring greens with leek and reduced the quantities to serve 2.  As it is October I felt I couldn't call it "Spring Chicken in a Pot" so I put my creative hat on and came up with this inspired title: Chicken and Broccoli with Pesto

Chicken and Broccoli with Pesto
 Now I admit it doesn't look particularly attractive but it was very tasty indeed.  The pesto gave an unusual twist to an otherwise light stew and the amount of pesto you use can determine how rich you want it.  Personally I used 2 tablespoons as per the recipe despite it serving only 2.  In hindsight maybe slightly less would be better perhaps by following the exact proportions.  It is, however, easy to add a little to taste and take it from there as it is the last ingredient.

What you will need (what we used for 2):

A small onion
1 leek (finely sliced)
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (chopped)
300 ml of veg stock (we used gluten free)
Half a medium broccoli (cut into small florets)
8 baby new potatoes
100g frozen peas
3 spring onions (finely chopped)
1 or 2 Tablespoons of green pesto
Olive Oil


First fry the onion and leek in a large, heavy pan in the olive oil for 5 minutes
Then add the chicken and cook till browned

Add the potatoes, stock and a little pepper and bring to a simmer
Cover and cook for 30 minutes
Add the broccoli, peas and spring onion, bring to the boil and cook for a further 5-10 minutes

Stir through the pesto, heat through and serve

So give it a go.  Its nice and healthy, great for the freezer and you can even pretend it is still spring!!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake

Well, it has been a little while since we have posted and a lot of food has been consumed!  A lot of very good food in fact which is why some posts are going to take some planning.  On Tuesday evening we returned from a short holiday in Switzerland and the food we had was wonderful (albeit often very expensive).  While we plan how to share these experiences with you I thought I would show you a couple of recipes we tried before we left.  These were basically to use up whatever food we had in the fridge so it didn't go to waste (we are good like that!).

The dish I will share today is a Chicken and Broccoli Bake:

Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake
 It is taken from the bbc goodfood website and the original recipe can be found HERE.  The only changes I made was to use chicken thighs (so needed to cook for a little longer), tomato puree instead of sundried tomato paste and I missed off the almonds.  All in a bid to save money for our trip I guess and I do not imagine it took a great deal away from the dish as it was still very tasty.

What you need (for 2)

200g of Pasta (we used gluten-free)
Half a medium Broccoli cut into florets
3 skinless, boneless Chicken Thighs (cut into pieces)
About 4 mushrooms
2 Tablespoons of tomato puree
1 Tablespoon of Boursin Garlic and Herb soft cheese
150 ml single cream
Olive Oil
3 spring onions and a small bowl of grated Cheddar (for the topping)

Pre-heat oven to 190c
Cook the pasta for 5 mins in a pan of salted boiling water
Then add the broccoli for 5 mins more and drain
In a large pan cook the chicken pieces (for 5 mins if using thighs)
Then add the mushrooms and cook for a minute longer
Add tomato puree, Boursin and cream
Simmer till the cheese melts and season
Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli and level the top
Mix the Cheddar and spring onion and sprinkle over the pasta
Bake for 20-30 minutes

And you should see something like this

A surprisingly light dish considering how much cheese went in.  It is also very versatile and the idea could be used for all manner of combinations.  A good way of using up whats left in your fridge.  I will post again tomorrow to show you what else you can do with 3 chicken thighs and half a broccoli.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Meatballs in Goulash Sauce

Here is another one for the comfort food vault.  As the Ragu we made recently only used a small amount of beef and pork mince there was some left over in the fridge.  The first thing that comes to my mind when mixing minced meats is meatballs.  Generally speaking when meatballs are an option I tend to choose them so this seemed a perfect opportunity to try something a little different.  I say different because this recipe uses a goulash sauce rather than a straightforward tomato sauce which is normally how I have them.

Delia's Smith's Winter Collection has been sat on the table for a couple of weeks now and this is the first attempt at a recipe.  It seems a bit strange to be talking about winter and comfort food seeing as the weather is so good at the moment - but the weather will certainly turn soon and this will be a nice little warmer for the family.

Meatballs in Goulash Sauce

I have taken the recipe almost word for word.  I didn't have Hungarian paprika so used normal and I substituted the bread for a slice Genius gluten-free bread (for the crumbs).

What you will need:

350g minced beef
350g minced pork
Half a red pepper (finely chopped) - save rest for sauce
Half a medium onion - save rest for sauce
1 fat clove of garlic (crushed)
2 Tablespoons of fresh parsley
50g breadcrumbs
1 egg (beaten)
1 Tablespoon of seasoned flour
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon of Hungarian paprika
Half a medium onion
Half a red pepper
1 clove of garlic
450g ripe tomatoes (peeled and chopped)
100 ml creme fraiche
Pinch of paprika
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper

First make the meatballs.  I made about 20 using these proportions.  In a large bowl mix the meats, parsley, chopped pepper, onion, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs and some seasoning.  Make sure they are mixed thoroughly

Taking about a tablespoon of the mixture at a time, squeeze and roll into a ball.  Then coat each one lightly with the seasoned flour.

Brown the meatballs in batches and set aside, leaving the remnants in the casserole to use for the sauce.

Next make the sauce.  Heat the oil and add the onion and red pepper and cook for 5 minutes.  Then add the garlic and continue cooking for a few minutes longer.  Add the paprika and stir.  Then add the tomatoes and season.
Bring to a simmer and add the meatballs to the sauce.
Put in the middle of the oven at 140c for 1.5 hours

Just before serving, carefully stir through the creme fraiche and garnish with parsley and a little paprika.

We served it with rice but it would be more authentic to serve it with noodles or pasta.

This was a lovely dish but there are a couple of things to note and a few changes we would make for our own personal taste.  Firstly make sure you add enough paprika - due to the way the recipe was written, we missed the tablespoon quantity and guessed at what she suggested as a little paprika - seemingly it wasn't enough.  Also I didn't season the meatballs enough, 20-24 meatballs is a fair amount to cook without stock so I would suggest quite heavy seasoning before cooking. 

We felt the dish was tastier heated up the next day as we added a sprinkle of crushed dried chilli before putting in the oven again.  This livened it up nicely and if I try it again I may put some spice in the dish before cooking (possibly chopped and put into the meatball mix).

Enjoy - this is a dish that can easily be adapted to your own personal preference - but if you keep the paprika and cream and you will still get the goulash effect.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Fantastic Ragu by Carluccio

One night last week we were trawling the books and web trying to find some comfort food.  I had the day off so we thought about a slow(ish) cooked recipe.  The recipe that nearly made it to our table was a Ragu by Delia.  Currently we have Delia Smith's Winter Collection which is rammed full of great comfort food ideas and we were particularly taken by the idea of doing a Ragu.  The only thing that bothered us was that her recipe was for 8 x double potions and as it is just the two of us we really couldn't be bothered trying to reduce the proportions to an eighth!!

That's when we hit the web and searched Antonio Carluccio's website for ideas.  Apparently Carluccio has a book and a TV series coming out soon.  How do I know?  Because my friend is the TV producer and I keep seeing pictures of Antonio on his facebook page!  Although I was very impressed that my friend is rubbing shoulders with such a food hero,  I was even more very impressed with Carluccio's recipe for Ragu see here.

Ragu Bolognese
Now Antonio says that it is only authentic if it is made with tagliatelle but unfortunately as Fran eats gluten-free we had to use the gluten-free spaghetti we had in the cupboard.  The spaghetti we use is delicious by the way but we take his point.  The sauce, however was wonderful and rich and we will definitely be making this recipe again and again.

First, finely chop the carrots, onion and celery and fry with the pancetta for 10 minutes.

Then add the meats and cook for a further 15 minutes.  Add the red wine and bubble for a few minutes and stir in a little stock.
Stir in the tomato paste and some more stock and leave to simmer for 1.5 hours
What you should be left with is a thick, rich, tasty sauce - note the colour change too.

As you can tell we loved this dish. The proportions made 4 (or 3 hungry servings in our case).  The recipe does not give quantities for the stock but we found a pint was ample.  We added a little from time to time to keep the consistency just right.  A little at the end and some seasoning is all that is needed.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A simple cheese and mushroom sauce

We had a very simple dish a few days ago that we didn't think really warranted a post but then sometimes an idea is all you need.  When we visited the Marple Food and Drink Festival we bought some Venison Burgers from a local farm shop.  I cannot remember the name of the farm I am afraid but pretty sure they were from Todmorden!  Sorry that doesn't help.  Anyway the point of the post is the sauce we made to go with the Venison.

Venison Burger with a Cheese and Mushroom Sauce
What you will need:

Shallots (finely chopped)
Mushrooms (roughly Chopped)
White Stilton (small cubes)
Double Cream
White Wine
Salt and Pepper to season

First fry the shallots and mushrooms gently for about 10 minutes until the shallots soften and the mushrooms deepen in colour. Then add about a glass of white wine and reduce it by half. Stir in enough double cream to get the consistency you want and enough cubes of the cheese to add the required flavour. This does involve tasting to get the balance right. I think I added too much cheese really as it seemed to over-power the mushroom flavour a little, but we do like cheesy sauces!

The sauce went well with the meat, and something similar could be used for steak and other cuts.  Perhaps think about the cut of meat when deciding how rich you want it.  You could use a different cheese or less of it to make it milder if the meat is very delicate.  The wedges you see were homemade by par boiling and baking with salt, pepper and Greek oregano.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Manchester Food and Drink Festival and Lemon Chilli Tart

Window Grow stand at the Manchester Chilli Lovers' Fair

Last Friday saw a very wet start to the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. We had planned to go into town and see what was on, and after studying the program we found out that the "Manchester Chilli Lovers' Fair" would be on in Albert Square. After splashing through the rain to Albert Square we found various tents and stands up, along with a stage which was to showcase the Chilli Eating Competition. Something which neither of us were particularly interested in. Maybe we're party-poopers, but we like chilli because of the flavour and kick it gives dishes, not because of how entertaining it is to eat so many your mouth hurts, or because eating the hottest thing possible would impress your friends. (Which it wouldn't by the way!)
The trade stands which were there were various different producers of chilli products, sauces, pickles, spices, plants, and even pastas. There was one particular stand, Window Grow, was selling self-watering growers, and they had samples of the various chillis which could be grown. We were chatting to the traders about their product as I've tried, and as yet, failed to grow chillis from seed this year, but I will not give  up, and as we were doing so noticed the Lemon Drop Chilli. 
This was familiar to us as a while ago, after reading Alex Rushmer's blog we had bought some Lemon Drop Sauce from the Cambridge Chilli Farm and attempted his Lemon and Chilli Tart.   
We ended up buying a few chilli pickles and sauces and headed off to find something more substantial than the samples to eat.

Anyway, our visit to the Chilli Fair inspired us to try the tart again. Recipe here.
Alex Rushmer's Lemon and Chilli Tart
(Not even half as pretty as Alex's but still tasted good!)

I was a bit panicked about the whole whisking eggs over simmering water thing, but everything worked how Alex described, and I did know when it was ready! I used gluten free flour for the pastry, which made it very crumbly, and almost disastrous, but that's just me getting used to how the flour works. We added more chilli sauce to the filling than in the recipe, which at the time seemed a good idea, but now seems a little too much heat, and probably not what he was getting at for the overall flavour. But still, we love the way that the tangyness of the lemon comes through first, then you're left with the slight heat, no warmth actually, in your mouth. Lovely. We served it with some homemade coconut ice cream.

P.S. We noticed that the number of eggs for the filling had been missed out from the recipe on Alex's new website, but he very kindly let us know, via twitter, that it should have 3 eggs. Thanks Alex!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

South East Asian Delights

Cambodian Aubergine Curry and Stir Fried Spinach with Nuoc Cham
After last week's Fish Amok success we still had some Kroeung left so it was back to the recipe book for more inspiration. Also, since discovering the price of Aubergines in Lidl, we always seem to have at least one in, so it was with little surprise that the recipe for Cambodian Aubergine Curry leapt off the page.
As with a lot of these recipes the ingredient list was quite substantial, and some items require a flick to the glossary, or to the ingredients or condiments section to see what exactly it is.
We did have most ingredients in for the Aubergine curry, but did have to make a few adjustments (Morrisons doesn't sell Shrimp Paste, and haven't ventured into China town yet to investigate these type of crazy ingredients, and Cambodian Fish Sauce? Sorry, Thai will have to do).
We served it with a side of stir fried spinach with Nuoc Cham, again adapted slightly, as this was normal British spinach and not oriental Water Spinach, and also by accident, the proportions got slightly out.

Ingredients: (Aubergine Curry)

2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small shallots, sliced
1 dried chilli
1 1/2 tbsp Kroeung
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp mollases
300ml coconut milk
175 ml chicken stock
1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
3 kaffir lime leaves
fresh basil

First of all, fry the garlic, shallots and whole chilli until things start to colour. Then add the Kroeung, fish sauce and mollases and stir fry until they start to colour.

Then stir in the coconut milk, stock and lime leaves.

Next add the aubergines and stir through.
partially cover the pan and simmer for 25-30 mins until the aubergines have cooked through and the sauce has thickened.

Ingredients: (Spinach)

Groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 green Thai chillis
500g spinach
3 tbsp Nuoc Cham - 4 garlic cloves, 2 Thai chillis, 1 tbsp sugar, juice of 1 lime, 4tbsp fish sauce
Salt and pepper

The spinach was more complicated, since we had to make the Nuoc Cham from scratch. This involved pounding the garlic, chillis and sugar with a pestle and mortar, then adding the lime juice and the fish sauce (which in the book is called Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese) - to confuse matters (not to be confused with Tuk Trey which is Cambodian.) Confused?)

The garlic and chillis were then fried in a wok with the groundnut oil for about 1 minute, then the spinach was added. As it wilts, the Nuoc Cham is added. All of this went in. The measurements for the Nuoc Cham make more than is needed for the spinach stir fry, but hey ho, it didn't offend and meant there was a bit of liquid left over.

The Cambodian curry was lovely. The flavours of the Kroeung coming through, and not overpowering the aubergine. We'd used light coconut milk, but this didn't have an effect on the creaminess of the dish at all.

The spinach (Vietnamese) was lovely and refreshing with the lime juice of the Nuoc Cham coming through, also with a satisfying kick from those chillis. We do like spicy food, but perhaps these two were not best matched. The heat of the chillis in the spinach seemed to overpower the delicate flavours and fragrances of the curry. We will do both of these again, and again. But probably not together.