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Wednesday, 25 July 2007

a tasty ear for a cosy night in

After getting a bit sauced on Friday night, Saturday laziness demanded comfort food for hungry bellies. I had the mac cheese craving but wanted something a little more silky and luxuriant on the taste buds. A rummage around the cupboard, fridge and herb pots gave me the splendid chewiness of orecchiette pasta, a handful of olives, a bag of mushies, fresh basil and parsley and, to really kick it up a notch, some truffle infused olive oil... all punching around the thigh-bulking cheeeeeesiness of cheddarfied white sauce.

Before I give you the shizzle I want to point out that the original recipe came from a North American book. I looked at '1/4 cup butter' for a long time hoping it would make sense. In the end, all I heard was... "I knew these people, these two people. They were in love with each other..." So I cut off a slab and hoped for the best. It seemed to work. That's as precise as I can be. Also, it really is worth using orecchiette pasta here. The name translates as 'little ears' and they are THAT satisfying to chew threw.

This is adapted from Jennifer Warren's basic mac cheese recipe in her book, Vegetarian Comfort Food.

What you need

Orecchiette (or your favourite noodles) for 2
Olive flesh cut off the pip (about 10 olives)
A dozen (or so) sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1.5 cups soy milk
Good pinch of sumac
A little girl's handful of chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
1 cup of grated cheddar
Fresh basil leaves
2 spring onions (sliced)
Truffle oil

Making it

This is a multi tasking affair. Turn the oven onto 200(c)/400(f). Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook your pasta while you make the sauce.


Melt the butter in a saucepan, sift and whisk in the flour then gradually whisk in 3/4 cup of the milk. Remove from heat and continue whisking while you add the sumac, parsley and 1/2 cup of cheese. Return to the heat and add the rest of the milk. Stir constantly, bringing it to the boil for a couple of minutes. Season to taste.


Drain and season your little ears then toss them in a bowl with the olives, spring onions and mushrooms. Empty the mix into an oven proof dish and pour your sauce all over it. Give it a shake and sprinkle the top with the other 1/2 cup of cheese then pop it in the oven for a good ten minutes. Nuke the top under the grill or with a cook's torch, blow torch, lighter & aerosol. Scoop out into bowls, drizzle with truffle oil and sprinkle the top with fresh basil leaves. Get comfy and press play for...

"...The girl was very young, about 17 or 18 I guess. And the guy was quite a bit older. He was raggedy and wild..."

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Crunch time

Stir-fried celery
Here's an easy dish I picked up during my travels in China. It's simple, delicious and refreshing.

What you need
4 stalks of celery cut into 2 cm chunks
roasted cashews
black bean and garlic paste (from the Chinese grocer)

The do
In a hot wok or frying pan, heat some peanut oil, throw in celery, then add 1-2 tablespoons of black bean paste. Mix well, then add half a ladle of boiling water. Fry for another half a minute then throw in cashews. Mix. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and top with a little sesame oil. The key with this dish is speed. Don't overcook or the celery will lose its crunch.
Serve with hot white or brown rice.
Serves 2-3 people

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Having Nat around has been great because it has motivated me flex my culinary muscle. The other night I decided to make sushi rolls. I had wanted to do this three weeks prior, but got sidetracked and now the cucumber I purchased for the occasion has turned into brown mouldy mush held together in its original form by the plastic wrapping. After disposing the ex-cucumber, I suss out the contents of the fridge. Eggplant, chestnut mushrooms from the mushroom guy, avocado, salad leaves. Not typical sushi roll ingredients, but I'll make them work because I can't be arsed walking to the shops.

What you need
2 small eggplants, thinly sliced
3 handfuls of mushrooms (I used chestnut and portabello), thinly sliced
2 handfuls of salad leaves
half an avocado
miso paste
teriyaki sauce
salad leaves (like rocket, or mizuma - japanese rocket/parsley)
Kewpie mayonnaise

The do

The mushroom filling
In a hot pan with a little oil, fry the mushrooms with a few shakes of teriyaki sauce. Cook until all the liquid has disappeared then remove from heat and set aside.

The eggplant filling
Mix 2 tablespoons of miso paste with 2 chinese teacups of boiling water and a teaspoon of sugar. In a medium pan with a little oil, add eggplant and miso mixture. Cook until soft, remove from heat and set aside.

Now you are ready to roll!
For full instructions on sushi rolling, look here

I filled mine with:
Avocado + Kewpie mayonnaise + black sesame seeds
Eggplant mixture + salad
Miso mushroom + salad

Serve with the usual wasabi and gari (pickled ginger) combo

Saturday, 14 July 2007

broccolini salad

Moving out of SE1 and into EC1 has meant bidding a sad farewell to Borough Market and a frosty hello to Waitrose as the nearest provider of groceries until I get my arse around to having a weekly box delivered. After avoiding all big supermarkets for two years it is frankly depressing. But a curious thing happened the other day. I found myself buying all sorts of fancy veggies the likes of which I wouldn't normally look twice at on a market stall. Broccolini might be de rigeur for some but I've never so much as given it a sideways glance before. And then there's the plate arrangement. Odd, very odd.

What you need for the salad

Broccolini spears
1 witlof
Lemon juice

Getting it on

Chop off the witlof stalk then discard any crappy outer leaves and the core. Separate, wash and dry the remaining leaves then arrange 6 to 8 of the bigger ones on your plate in the shape of flower petals if your posh heart so desires. Chop the rest into small pieces. Bring some salted water to the boil. Add the broccolini for two minutes, then drain and plunge into cold water to stop it cooking. Drain, toss with the chopped witlof, a bit of lemon juice and salt'n'peppa then arrange the broccolini mix on the witlof leaves.

For the pesto cream

I didn't want the hardcore oily richness of a regular parmesan pesto so I improvised.

A large handful of big basil leaves
A handful of pine nuts
A generous glug of olive oil
A generous glug of red wine vinegar
About 6 cornichons (optional)
A generous tablespoon of cream or yoghurt
Salt and pepper to taste
A squeeze of lemon juice

Getting it on

To make the pesto, all you really need to do is mix all the ingredients together in a blender. But I'd advise adding the oil, vinegar and cream/yoghurt a little at a time to taste until you achieve the desired tartness and creaminess. And hey presto, fancy pesto is all yours.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

ravishing Ravioli and comely cupcakes

Guy dropped into our new flat on Saturday evening then we strolled to his for dinner. I say this because it's amazing to be able to walk between houses in London at all, it's so huge, rather than it being some sort of progressive dinner party (especially given all I offered by way of nibbles was a bag of twiglets).

When we arrived at Guy's he pulled out the kitchen stadium big guns; scrumptious potato, rosemary and parmesan ravioli with wild mushrooms followed by his signature dessert: cup cakes (this time, Lemon Four Ways). Adam and I waddled home trashed and very, very full.

Here are Guy's recipes, straight from the horse's mouth (with a few editorial changes so they make sense). It looks stupidly long but, remember, we are making pasta, sauce and dessert from scratch, people!! So deep breaths and leave your ADHD at the door...

Both the pasta recipe and filling were adapted from Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy: Food and Stories. You will get four decent serves.

For the pasta:

500gm strong flour
3 eggs
2 extra egg yolks
Olive oil

Making it:

Make a well in the flour and mix in the eggs, first with spoon then your hands. I also then push a small hole into the dough and fill it with olive oil and knead for about 10 minutes until well combined. Cover in a damp cloth and sit for 30 minutes.

Roll out with a pasta maker (or rolling pin). Cut into circles to make ravioli pockets.

For the filling:

200gm potatoes
100gm paremesan cheese (grated)
100gm butter
Sprig rosemary
Salt and pepper to season

Making and cooking the ravioli:

Chop, boil, drain and mash the potatoes. Melt the butter with the rosemary sprig in it then remove the rosemary. Add the melted butter and grated cheese to the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and combine. Fill the ravioli circles using either a mould or buy placing a blob of filling onto the centre of one side of your circle, then folding it over and pressing the edges together. Locatelli added a mint leaf to each ravioli which I did not.

You can make the ravioli ahead of time. Just cover them and put them in the fridge until you need them.

When the sauce is five to ten minutes away, drop the ravioli into boiling, salted water (a few at a time.) Let them rise to the surface then carefully ladel them out with a slotted spoon and place them in dishes.

For the sauce:

Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup of veggie or mushroom stock
Salt and pepper to season
3 lots of fancy mushrooms. I chose enoki, oyster and some orangey ones (girolle). Choose them for looks. I like enoki as they taste great and have an interesting texture.
Grated parmesan to serve

Heat some oil, add crushed garlic, then the mushrooms and thyme. Add the more robust mushrooms first (enoki only go in for a few minutes at the end). Once the first mushrooms are starting to soften, add 1 cup of red wine, follwed by some stock and salt and pepper. Cook for no longer than 10 minutes so they don't shrivel too much, but enough to reduce and thicken the sauce.


For the cupcakes:

125gm butter
125gm flour
125gm caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
Zest of two lemons

Making them:

Beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla together. Mix in the sifted flour and baking powder. Melt the butter and stir it into the mix. Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake moulds. Bake for 8 mins at 180C. (For a base cupcake recipe, omit the lemon zest.)

Once baked, I drizzled the cupcakes with lemon syrup (heat the juice of 2 lemons with 150g of sugar until the sugar dissolves) and then made a cut in the cupcakes and filled them with lemon curd.

For the frosting:

125 gm butter
small box of icing sugar (500 gm)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Whisk all the ingredients together until fluffy. You can cut down on butter and add milk or water if it is too buttery.

It's a blood sport

It was brilliant to see the Guardian food blog, Word of Mouth, include us as their 'photograph of the week' on Monday. Not only is it a lovely thrill to have our topsy turvy little blog featured on someone else's website, reader responses couldn't have been funnier if we'd crafted them ourselves. One food forensics expert managed to gather the following from a single glance at our photo:

'It's not an English tart, its a French tarte. It's too big and sloppy and it has very little of the gooseberry about it. It's just a flanified tart, with stewed gooseberries on top.'

I'm not sure how Sarah Raven -- the originator of the Gooseberry Tart recipe in question -- would take to that. Another reader implored the Guardian to lift its game rather than publish 'mediocre photographs of people's attempts to cook recipes from the latest Guardian food monthly.'

So good we have decided to add a new column to our blog: In Praise of Lily & Chew. Please feel free to throw any mud pies our way and we'll add them to our honour roll. After all, 'nice' is so 1974. Even we know it's much more fun to anonymously bag the shit out of someone!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

at home with two kittens and a squashed leg

Today, our home is a hive of activity with our two new kittens, Oscar and Rocky, and our good friend Natalie, recuperating after a road accident.

Nat's leg has been covered in dramatic bruises, and swollen like a Quorn sausage. Thankfully, it's a lot better than it was, and she is in the clear now. She sits on our sofa with her foot up, drinking Darjeeling tea like a princess, so we watched the most pointless film ever made, Marie Antoinette. The cakes looked nice though, which made us think about food.

This dish is inspired by one of the best things on the menu at Huong Viet, the wonderful but maddening restaurant on Englefield Road, N1.
It combines tofu, aubergine and dill - the dill takes a back seat in this dish and comes through in the aftertaste.

What you need
2 small eggplants, sliced 1 cm thick and halved
half a block of tofu chopped into big cubes
a third of a chili, thinly sliced
a few sprigs of dill, chopped
1 tablespoon of bouillon powder dissolved in a Chinese teacup of boiling water
1 small teaspoon of cornflour dissolved in a a splash of cold water
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Spring onions, chopped

The do
Splash some oil in a medium heat frying pan or wok. Add garlic, stir a few times, then add chili. Brown the eggplant. Add tofu, stock, dill and cornflour. Simmer until eggplant goes soft. The goal is to end up with some juice that you can spoon into rice. So if the pan goes dry, add a little more water and stock, mix well, and simmer.
Garnish with chopped spring onions and serve with rice.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

The most amazing carrot EVER

Check out this carrot Guy got! Woweeee!!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

A Gooseberry tart to warm a Glastonbury heart

I have never been happier in my kitchen than this past week; my clean, hygienic, well stocked, fully functioning kitchen. But then five days eating mud pie garnished with the fetid odour of fermenting portaloos will do that to anyone. Yes, I survived Glastonbury. A filthy, festering, fabulous, crazy escape from anything remotely resembling regular life. There was food, of course, including an astonishingly good range of veggie fare. But then there was cider (pear, apple or strawberry). As quick, regular hits of happy energy go when you are observing a fifth consecutive hour of torrential rain and you can't see your gumboot for the river of mud it's been sucked into, there really is no contest.

Upon our return to London I quickly set about restocking our nutrient depleted bodies with steaming greens and hearty bakes. But I also felt the urge to reach deep into my oven's potential and produce something so delicious it would wash away the memory of baby wipe showers forever. So I gave in to England's current obsession with the gooseberry, something I've never come across before let alone cooked with. (Which explains why I tried to eat one uncooked and I don't really recommend it. The fruit itself is quite sharp and tart, not dissimilar to rhubarb.) This recipe comes from the Glasto weekend edition of the Observer's monthly food magazine.

What you need for a Gooseberry tart

450g Gooseberries (I think you could substitute rhubarb or raspberry)
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 x 285ml pack of double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the pastry

I'll give you the pastry as it appeared in the recipe. It did the job but was a bit crumbly so if you have a preferred sweet shortcrust pastry, go for it. You can get a good base from Tamasin Day-Lewis's book, The Art of the Tart.

150g plain flour
50g caster sugar
75g very cold butter (chopped)
1 egg yolk (mixed with a little ice-cold water)

How to make the pastry

Mix the flour and sugar together before adding the chopped, cold butter.
Pulse in a mixer (or rub with your hands) until it has all crumbled together.
Add the egg yolk and a little ice-cold water and mix it all together with your hands until it rolls into a neat ball.
Roll out on a floured surface and use to line a floured 26 cm tart tin. Mine fell apart a bit and I had to do a bit of cut and pasting but it all came out fine.
Leave in the fridge for 1/2 hour and preheat your oven to 180.
Remove the pastry case from your fridge and bake blind for 10-15 minutes by pricking the base, placing some ovenproof paper over it, then covering it with a layer of dried beans or rice before popping it in the oven.
Take it out and let it cool for a few minutes but leave the oven on. (You don't want the edges to brown much but you don't want the base gooey. If it comes out a bit too moist, remove the beans and pop it back in the oven for a couple more minutes.)

And for the filling

Wash, top and tail the gooseberries.
Mix the eggs, caster sugar, double cream and vanilla extract in a bowl.
Fill the slightly cooled pastry case with an even layer of gooseberries then pour over the egg mix.
Cook for 35 minutes (or until the centre is just firm.)
Gobble with thick cream in your most comfortable jim jams. For best effect, make sure you are warm and toasty inside while your mud caked wellies are in full view on the balcony outside.