We’ve been cooking again, really cooking. It has been glorious. Finally trying new things, creating delicious dinners, odd but tasty leftovers and everything in between. Partly this is because we’re trying to be a little more frugal so cooking at home is the way forward. Partly this is also because for my birthday this year I received three wonderful cookbooks. I love cookbooks and often flick through them for inspiration but I recently realized that I was getting into the habit of falling back to cook what I knew, rather than trying new things. So new recipes from new cookbooks it is.
The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy This is a beautifully written book with fabulous images to accompany the recipes. Recipes from across the middle east which I really like and inspiring flavours and colours.
The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage This is almost as much a reference book as a recipe book. Full of a huge number of recipes, some variations on a theme but all simple, straightforward and most importantly delicious. I made a lamb and aubergine stack last weekend which was yummy.
Ottolenghi by Yohan Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi I’m sure everyone has already heard about this but this cookbook is a delight. Full of great flavour combinations in the recipes, straightforward, good instructions and beautiful mouthwatering illustrations.
For some reason I decided I wanted to try making potato Gnocchi. I have never made it before, it couldn’t be that hard could it?! Well yes, as it turns out there is definitely a knack to it. One which with practice I will hope to achieve.
If you read everything on the web you are led to believe that potato gnocchi is almost like the devil incarnate, it will never work how you want it to, you will always over flour or cause some other trouble. Most recipes recommend an egg, then say that the real way is without an egg. Navigating potato gnocchi land is not so easy.
So I cracked on, boiled my potatoes with their skins on, peeled them warm, grated the warm potatoes (this was not so much fun, those hot little bastards hurt your fingers) and then mixed in the flour. And this was where it all started going a little wrong… I didn’t use enough flour, not at all. Even with the generous dusting I had put on the counter, even though it came together and rolled nicely it was not really a dough, more grated boiled potato with a tickling of flour.
I didn’t realise this though, they looked like they should they were gnocchi sized and shaped! But upon putting them in the pan for the briefest of time and pulling out gloopy little starchy falling apart-y blobs I realised the error of my ways.
So gnocchi, you had not defeated me yet, I will try again, I feel like this is one of those things that when you master it you’ll never turn back and it seems like a good dinner thing. Onwards with culinary adventures!
I had never tried making banana bread until last month. I had also never been that convinced of its worth. However with some very black bananas, a cold weekend and the help of Smitten Kitchen I gave it my first shot. It was goooood.
I tried it again a week later, with the recommended brown sugar and added pecans and to be honest it was even *better*, I wasn’t sure it could be but it really was. Now when we get bananas I shall hope that some get left until they go good and soft and then I can have the excuse to make this again. I would especially recommend it for breakfast spread with greek yoghurt.
I’ve not posted a recipe in a long time but tonight as I was walking round Whole Foods buying stuff for dinner I was inspired by the gorgeous fennels I saw. Then I remembered this recipe, I was introduced to it by my middle sister, I have no idea where she got it from but ever since I first had it I knew it was a good one. So I thought it was high time to get sharing again especially as this is one of my favourite salads, the perfect combination of citrus and aniseed. The final touch, it looks good too. Shall we begin…
Take one fennel bulb and one grapefruit.
Remove the fronds from the fennel for later, then finely slice the fennel, I used half of the above one this time but you can use as much as you want.
Then prepare the grapefruit to segment it. Slice the top and bottom off flat and slice off all the skin, ideally all of the pith too but I never bother too much beyond about the below point.
Over your sliced fennel segment your grapefruit, make sure to do it over the fennel so you catch all the juice. As these were big segments I chopped two out of each rather than have fewer fatter ones.
Finally put it all in the bowl together, drizzle over a generous helping of olive oil, sprinkle on sea salt and then gently stir. Be careful those segments are delicate.
Continuing on the theme of making conscious decisions (see last post) I decided that it wasn’t just about denying things but also the opportunity to explore and invest in new things.
I love cooking, making yummy food, sharing that food with friends and family, and yet I often find myself looking at recipes and deciding that they’re too complicated or include an odd ingredient I’ve never used before and stopping there. So this weekend I decided to do something about it and we bought a blowtorch. Not a mini chefs one, nope, a big ass proper DIY tools blowtorch. And I love it.
I made my first ever creme brulees on Saturday, admittedly not a resounding success but the caramelising of the sugar on the top with the blowtorch, that was awesome. Our guests quite enjoyed it too.
So there we are, the first of my experiments. No photos to prove what I did but the first step in trying new things, learning more and having a little more fun with fire in the kitchen. So now to try new things and to try and document that trial before the evidence is gobbled up.
One of my most recent dining experiences was courtesy of Bar Boulud, London. Based in the Hyde Park Mandarin Oriental, Bar Boulud is part of Daniel Boulud’s empire.
I had been recommended it by a good friend who had said the burger was excellent. So I thought that as my time in London was nearing an end I’d allow myself a little treat and go and check it out.
Being by myself I thought I might be seated at the bar but the Maitre D’ was incredibly welcoming and took me to a table where I could watch the kitchen and other diners. Not only did he make me feel so welcome they also had copies of newspapers ready for you to pick up as your companion to lunch.
I ordered the Yankee Burger, in preparation of my return to the US I thought it was appropriate. It was excellent, good bread, fabulous patty, pickles, tomato, lettuce and onion. I then followed the burger with a pear and nut tarte which was rather indulgent but excellent. Oh and a rather wonderful New Zealand Pinot Noir, so full of blackberry flavour, it was a fabulous accompaniment to the burger. I managed to resist the temptation to a pudding wine too.
I was delighted by the service, my waiter was very friendly, helpful and sweet. The restaurant in itself if beautiful, it feels formal, yet relaxed and I loved the fact that you can see the kitchen at work from your table. All in all I would highly recommend it as a place to visit when in London.
Now to go look at his website and see where else he has restaurants, I think a trip to NYC might be in order…
Having spent a few weeks in the UK by myself I had opportunities to dine alone which don’t normally arise. The first few times one walks into a restaurant and asks for a table for one are hard but the more you do it the easier it gets. In fact it can be rather fun.
I always try and take some reading matter with me, whether it be a book, kindle, newspaper or magazine all are nice as a companion to dinner. Then when you are caught watching someone or get too engrossed in eavesdropping you can always return to your reading.
Then for me it’s about relaxing and enjoying the experience of dining alone, the good food, the atmosphere and the service.
Being away from home and without your own kitchen makes it hard to cook so I am enjoying very much staying with friends who are allowing me into their kitchen. I find cooking very therapeutic and also appreciate knowing what I’m actually eating. So it has been rather wonderful to be able to cook up a storm again.
On Sunday J and I cooked a roast for our friends, with a wonderful silverside of beef from The Ginger Pig (one of my favourite places in London), we did all the trimings, roasties, yorkshires, gravy and of course veg. It was rather yummy if I do say myself. Then I whipped up an apple and berry crumble. Not being able to get Bramley apples in America it’s a treat to cook with them again.
Yesterday in need of something lighter I made a smoked mackerel pate (so simple, smoked mackerel, cottage cheese and creme fraiche all whipped together with a fork then add lots of pepper, a squeeze or two of lemon juice and a splash of tabasco) and we had that with salad.
Tonight, is one of my favourite dishes, Coq au Riesling. Courtesy of Nigel Slater and his real food cookbook. I’m not a chicken fan but this is well, wonderful really.
Sorry there’s no pictures, I’ve really been cooking for the joy not the blog. Perhaps tonight I’ll take a few and I will share that recipe because if you’ve never made it before you should, it’s delicious.
J and I went to Whole Foods today, it is quite possibly one of my favourite places in DC. The range and quality of the produce is amazing. We weren’t quite sure what we were after, just that it was going to be fresh and ideally seasonal. Look what we found!
Amazing, beautiful heirloom tomatoes… Yummy too once sliced, a sprinkle of salt, some dried oregano and a generous drizzle of olive oil had been added. Mmmmm, happy summer days.
Today we went to the DC BBQ Battle, held the entire weekend a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue was devoted to BBQ and the eating, cooking and general lifestyle of it. It was an experience. A lot of pork was being cooked and of course eaten…
This smoker/BBQ machine was pretty cute. They tended to range from the sweet and pretty like the below to the huge and pretty or just plain practical.
Mmmmm, prepaing the ribs. (Although I’m more of a pulled pork girl if I’m honest).
Couldn’t help but share this pic…
And finally, an entire lorry devoted to a sausage grill. Astonishing.
It was a great experience, one of those things you’ll probably only do once but once nonetheless…
And now for a few BBQ free days we think.