Thursday, 18 February 2010

Carrots and Balsamic

Carrots are so important and versatile. Either added to the pot along with onion and celery (to become the classic soup and sauce base soffritto) or boiled and tossed with a knob of butter, they add a vegetal sweetness rarely matched. Forget the hideous luminous strips of your school dinner days (you know, the ones that seem to have been boiled for half a day in Radox), carrots can be a treat. My favorite way to prepare the enormous winter ones we receive in our weekly veg box is to fry them in thick slices until golden brown and tender then dressed with a few drips of syrupy aged balsamic vinegar. A match made in heaven.
Peel then slice the carrots on the diagonal, about half a centimeter. Get a deep sided saute pan hot and add a good glug of olive oil. Toss in the carrots and sizzle until you get a good all over brown on them. Season well then turn down the heat and leave to cook until just tender and toffee sweet. Remove the beauties with a slotted spoon to a warm plate and dribble over some excellent balsamic. Belazu is a good brand that can be found in most supermarkets. Enjoy!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Crispy Squid!

Squid is one of those ingredients you either love or hate. There seems to be no middle ground. Enthusiasts are only too happy to polish off vast platefuls of this slippery cephalopod, while those who are in the hate camp lambaste it as being chewy or like eating rubber bands. Well I say to those that aren't in love with squid that they simply haven't eaten them cooked properly. Chargrilled over coals and served with a chilli sauce, deep fried till crisp with a squeeze of lemon are the fast cooking methods most suited to smaller, younger squid. While a long slow bubble with tomato, garlic, herbs and wine is best for anything larger than your hand. I usually go for the smaller squids and recently decided to deep fry some.

After being opened out and cleaned, I score the inside of the squid in a criss cross fashion. This helps to both tenderise the squid and help it curl and crisp up during cooking. The squid is then sliced up in any old style and dredged with fine semolina flour, salt and pepper. Get a deep fat fryer heated to maximum and drop the squid in, being careful not to overfill the pan. A few minutes should be sufficient to achieve tender squid surrounded by  a crispy armour. Drain, season, dump on a plate and drip over some fresh lemon. Eat quickly with as much gusto as possible. And don't be squeamish about the tentacles.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Cappelletti and Company

Last Saturday I invited Mum and Dad round for a bit of a feast. No particular reason other than I was desperate to spend a day in the kitchen. And to see the parents obviously!! 
After spending an exhausting fourteen hour day as commis at Theo Randall on Park Lane and eating the finest stuffed pasta I have eaten in London, I decided to put my own spin on his amazing Veal Cappelletti. Cappelletti literally means "little hats", although I can't say I have ever seen anyone wearing a hat quite in that shape.
I started the meal with a Prosecco and champagne rhubarb cocktail and some antipasti. I roasted the rhubarb with some beautiful Sicilian blood orange juice and vanilla before blending it up with a load of sugar. The resulting intense, cerise pink puree is then just mixed up with prosecco for a lovely seasonal tipple. I made some deep fried courgette chips, which I forgot to take a picture of, and we had some Coppa and Prosciutto with olives.

Then I served the cappelletti that I had made earlier in the day. I had slow cooked some beef with wine, herbs and tomatoes and roughly chopped the mix before combining with a good grating of Parmesan. This mixture  gets loaded into fresh pasta before being boiled then tossed in melted butter with a dusting of yet more Parmigiano. Heavenly.
For a second course I simply roasted some beautiful Halibut steaks with parsley and capers and served them with slow cooked fennel. I got the fish from the fantastic local fishmonger. A real fishmonger who only sells the freshest most sublime fish. I have even seen fish so fresh it arrives still in rigor mortis!
To finish this eating marathon I dished up a cake from Nigel Slater's book, Appetite. Hazelnut, Coffee and Chocolate in the same pud is something I adore. It was a grown up, luxurious treat to finish a lovely evening with good company and one I will probably end up making again and again as it was so easy.