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Sunday, 13 April 2008

Pretty halloumi

Posting this halloumi means admitting to the fact that I have watched Jamie At Home...but what the hell, it just looks too great to not rip off. Jamie Oliver used a basil leaf on his, but I've chosen to go with mint on mine because it echoes the mint flavour in the cheese nicely and basil isn't in season right now.

Cut 1 cm thick slices and squeeze with a little lemon juice. Shake some ground coriander over the top, turn and repeat on the other side. Lay a mint leaf over the top. Put a frying pan on medium to low heat, and splash in a little oil. When the pan is hot, carefully place the halloumi in the pan leaf side up. The key is to fry the cheese slowly over a low heat, allowing it to develop a delicious golden crust. When ready, carefully turn and repeat on the other side.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

There's snow place like home...

Unlike Lily, I was foolhardy enough to venture out to the market for the weekly veg shop this morning. What is it about snow that makes you wanna get in amongst it, only to discover that it is much more fun to watch it through the window of your heated apartment?
Anyway, by the time I arrived home I was wet and freezing, but at least I had some lovely organic free range eggs and delicious fresh bread in my basket.
All I've done here is the usual mushroom, spinach and scrambled eggs combo, except I've cranked up the heat on the whole affair by mixing through a teaspoon of rose harissa to the raw eggs with a fork before throwing them onto the fire. I happen to have some raita (yoghurt mixed with cucumber and tomato) leftover from last night's little curry party that I have dolloped on top to balance out the heat.

I have the Sunday papers and the final season of The Sopranos in my hot little hands. So I'm going stay in for the rest of the day and leave the snowman/woman-making to someone else.

holey eggs, batman, it's a snow in!

This time last year we were sunning ourselves in Australia while our London compadres were experiencing the first flushes of warm spring weather. Not so today; as on Easter Sunday, we woke this morning to thick snow on the ground and heavy whirlpools of the stuff flying through the sky. That April warmth last year proved to be the best single two week spell of the year in London so I hope the continually crappy weather this time round bodes well for a hot, hot summer.

Not arsed in such climates to head out to breakfast or go to the market for supplies, I have only the local Tesco Express to supplement a fairly crappy fridge load; hence the egg sandwich in a hole trick to add a little bling to sliced bread (and to watch the flakes dance by).

Making it
Get your sides under way, including whatever sandwich filling you fancy (I cooked off some mixed mushies with red wine, stock, garlic and butter then popped them on some sliced cheese and added chopped spring onions.)

To do the egg thing, toast your bottom slice of bread on one side then lie it in a tight greased oven tray (or tin foil to prevent leakage) with the uncooked side facing up. Pile on your non-egg ingredients then take your top slices of bread and cut a circle in the middle with a pastry cutter or knife. Place them onto your sandwich base and push down gently so the sandwich is quite tight. Brush the top of the sandwich with butter or olive oil. One at a time, carefully crack the eggs into a cup so the yolk doesn't break and then, holding the cup low over the bread circle, gently pour the egg into the hole.

Cook on a fairly high heat in the oven for about 10 minutes, checking regularly to make sure the toast isn't burning. If need be, you can zap it under the grill for a bit at the end.

Friday, 4 April 2008

tasty little italian gnudies

Gnudi. Not only exciting to chow down on but also such a lovely word. Where gnocchi sounds a little crusty, gnudi is cute, happy and lyrical. Say gnudi repeatedly and you sound like a slightly constipated teletubby (which is probably how I looked after eating my way through Italy for ten days in February).

The best thing in Rome was not the food but the Forum - like walking through a crumbling world of giants. But Tuscany - ah, sweet Tuscany - proved the hands down shizzle for veggie hearts: postcard pretty and filled with dee-li-shus dishes every town, every truck stop. Two standout meals were ricotta and spinach gnudi with sage and butter in Florence and a pureed radicchio ravioli with leek in a village in Chianti. Tonight I'm flying with the gnudi and am well into peas at the moment so throwing them into the mix too.

What you need for 2-3
250g ricotta
250g small spinach leaves
100g finely grated parmesan
grated nutmeg (roughly a teaspoon)
3 eggs (2 whole, 1 yolk only)
Around 250g semolina flour
A bunch of sage leaves
100g butter
a couple of handfuls of fresh peas

Making it
Cook, drain and chop the spinach (you'll get most of the water out using Chew's sushi mat technique). Dump the ricotta into a bowl, break it up a little then mix in two whole eggs, followed by the third yolk (discard the white). Add the spinach, nutmeg and parmesan, season the lot and combine well.

Shake semolina flour into a tray, shape your gnudi mix into balls (mine were a generous teaspoon each) and roll them in the flour. You can cook the gnudi immediately or make them ahead of time and leave them covered in the fridge. They'll firm up and absorb the semolina to form a nice little jacket.

When you are ready to rumble, drop the dumplings into boiling water for a few minutes (until they rise to the surface). Meanwhile, boil your peas for a minute. Melt the butter in a pan and add the sage to crisp, careful not to let the butter burn, then add the peas. When the gnudi is done, use a slotted spoon to get them onto the plate then pour the butter, peas and sage over the top. Dig in with a nice big glass of Italian red.