Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Salad of the Summer...

Goes to - Panzanella!

 Tomatoes from Cossano Belbo in Piedmont
Over the last couple of months I have been making panzanella at every given opportunity. This summer salad originates from Tuscany and combines stale bread (a perfect way to use it up) with the tastiest tomatoes, basil and cucumber in an olive oil and wine vinegar dressing. As with many recipes there are lots of variations so this recipe is a mere starting point for salad explorations.

If you are in London and want to try one of the best panzanella salads around then to head to Spuntino quickly, while they still have heritage tomatoes that will change your life or at least bring a smile to your face.

This serves roughly 4 people.

1 garlic clove, sliced in half
left over bread, country style such as ciabatta, torn into bite size pieces
6-8 ripe heritage tomatoes, chopped into pieces
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped into pieces
2 tbsp basil leaves, chopped
80ml olive oil
2-3 tbsp wine vinegar
salt & pepper

I like to toast the torn up bread under the grill for several minutes. Some recipes tell you to moisten the bread with water which is another option before adding the bread to the salad.

Rub the garlic around your serving bowl and add the tomato pieces and cucumber. Add the basil to the bowl along with the bread.

Make the dressing and add to the salad, leaving it to flavour the ingredients for 15-20 minutes before serving. Add salt, pepper and additional vinegar if you wish.

Close your eyes and pretend you're on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A Taste of Tahiti

Poisson cru au lait de coco
My first taste of poisson cru on the island of Moorea. Rum Punch in the foreground.

 As if my holiday on an island in the Pacific wasn't paradisiacal enough, my host approached me with concern to inquire whether I minded eating a lot of fish.   Fresh and delicious, fished straight from the ocean and cooked on an open fire.  Or alternatively not cooked at all; the Tahitian national dish, Poisson Cru, is a ceviche-like dish made from raw fish, preferably tuna.

UM hello did I mind??  I nearly fell of my deckchair in delight.

I feel it necessary to share the joy of this simple dish.  Unlike ceviche it does not cook in the marinade - the aim is to serve is raw.  So you need a really fresh, good quality catch, sustainably sourced of course.  It melts in the mouth and is good for the body and soul.  Take a taste and be transported to the paradise islands of French Polynesia.

Best served on a private island in the Pacific, with fish freshly caught by beautiful Tahitian men, with coconut milk freshly pressed from the laden palm trees, sitting on a beach overlooking a blue lagoon, at sunset.  Failing that, a dose of imagination is required.

Mass coconut shredding in preparation for Flo's wedding feast
Beautiful men fishing off the reef (le récif) into the Pacific
Poisson cru au lait de coco
(Raw fish in coconut milk)

With many thanks to Flo's Aunty for sharing her recipe.  (NB given age-old recipe and lack of scales on deserted island, this recipe is less exact than usual and quantities are approx - don't feel constrained by them)

Serves 6
500g fresh, sustainably-sourced tuna
3 tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 clove garlic
1/2 onion
coconut milk (2 tins but may not need all)
To season: lemon or lime (1 or 2 small ones), salt, pepper


1. Cut the tuna into cubes and rinse in salted water (pref. the sea!)

2. Dice the tomatoes and cucumber. Finely slice the onion and crush the garlic.

3. Season the coconut milk with salt, pepper and lemon/lime juice. (So if you don't have a bowl of fresh milk pressed straight from the day's windfall, I'd advise putting 1 1/2 tins in a bowl and seasoning.  You can add the rest later if you think it needs it).

4. Add all the veg and finally the fish to the coconut milk and serve immediately (you don't want to allow the fish to 'cook' at all in the lemon/lime juice).

Ma'a (aka food): Délicieux

by Jules 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Pork Pies - Dan Lepard

I have always wanted to try my hand at making pork pies from scratch.
Being my first attempt i did not want to make a huge cake sized pie so i opted to follow a recipe from one of my favourite cook books - Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard.
Another plus to this recipe is that it uses a stock cube and gelatine sheets to make the jelly so you don't have to make it your self from pork bones and worry about it setting - maybe i'll try that next time!

The recipe details as well as in the cook book are available on the Guardian website here 

They take quite a while to make, you really need to get the ingredients ready 3 days before you actually want to eat the pie but the processes involved are very simple and even achievable on a hung over Sunday afternoon.

I chopped the meat ingredients up and mixed them with the spice on Saturday.

On Sunday afternoon i made the pastry, because this type of pastry is made with hot water you need to allow an hour or so for it to cool down before you can actually use it. Don't put it in the fridge though as it would get too cold and become difficult to work.
I found shaping the pastry round the jar the most fiddly stage of the process, it took a while to get used to how much you can mess around with the fatty dough, i am used to shortcrust pastry which you handle as little as possible. Once I had squashed all the folds that formed, from draping it over the jar the pastry looked like it was going to be quite tall but i found the pie shells relaxed a lot once i removed them from the jar and made a wider shallower pie.

Once filled and the lids added the pies need to chill for a while in the fridge before they are baked in the oven.
While the pies bake the meat shrinks in size leaving a gap between the filling and pastry, this is where the jelly comes in.
After cooling for half an hour the hot jelly mixture is poured into the pies through a hole in the top, the pies then need to be returned to the fridge and so won't be ready for sampling until the following day.

This recipe makes 2 generous sized pies which will take you a while to get through, they last up to 2 weeks in the fridge though.

Best enjoyed with a picnic on Primrose Hill after playing rounders!

Rachael x