Saturday, 17 April 2010
I like Bloody Marys, I can’t really see why so many people disapprove. Bloody Marys are not drunk enough in my opinion. I suppose the Bloody Mary is more then often the choice of drink for most middle-aged women or alcoholics concerned with their nutritional intake. It’s not very trendy, and requires a taste for raw tomatoes. It is disputed as to where the cocktail’s name actually came from; either Queen Mary I, infamous for her bloody killings; or Mary Pickford an early Hollywood actress famed for her red locks. I prefer the first, but highly doubt it, as cocktails were invented in America during the Prohibition, also around the same time as the beginning of Hollywood. I think a bit of history helps in gaining appreciation.
What goes into a Bloody Mary can vary. The best Bloody Mary I’ve tasted had: Tomato Juice, Vodka, Tobasco, pepper, wasabi, Worcestershire Sauce, lime, a salt rimmed glass and lots and lots of ice. I don’t understand why and where the celery stick comes into the Bloody Mary equation. I really don’t like raw celery, it’s rabbit food and should be left out. In my opinion it does nothing for the drink apart from getting in the way and tickling my nose with it’s spawning futile leaves. Why leave the leaves on? Is it so hard to chop them off? It’s impractical and a nuisance… in fact the whole stick is. Get rid of it. Leave it for making stock. Rant over…
I want to show people Bloody Mary’s are actually great. But I need to serve it in a way people wouldn’t normally associate with a typical Bloody Mary, as the tomato juice and celery stick can be very off putting. So I’ve had this idea in my head for a while, but never really thought it actually possible to execute well. You never know till you try I suppose. I wanted to create an eatable Bloody Mary shot using cherry tomatoes as my self containing shot. To get the alcohol inside the tomato, I used a needle and a syringe. I bought this online, as it’s not possible to buy over the counter from the pharmacist.
So in my mixture went:
I had a few problems with the pepper, and had to result in grinding it up in a coffee grinder. I kept it in the freezer so it was really cold and an extra surprise when bitten into. It also makes the vodka easier to stomach and makes the spicier ingredients less intense. I was debating whether to heat the mixture up, but think it may be too strong, and could leave a nasty taste in the mouth.
I injected the tomatoes, but had to be really careful not to over fill them. My syringe allowed for the maximum of 50ml. I put around 5ml in each cherry tomato depending on its size. I put a third of the tomatoes in the freezer, a third in the fridge and the other third served straight away. I wanted to see which batch tasted the best.
So I had my cherry tomatoes all set, but they didn’t seem special enough. I thought about how best to serve them and concluded, that, if they’re a bomb they need a shot glass in keeping with the theme in which to serve them. I thought some more and came up with the idea of a cannon shot mug. So I went about designing and making a “cannon shot mug”, big enough to contain an average sized cherry tomato. Okay… so I know cannons don’t shoot out bombs, but cannon bearings, but in this case my cannon shot mug contains a cherry bomb. Cannons and bombs are both instruments of distraction, and this is what I want to get across with my presentation. Lets say a bloody presentation for a bloody concept. After all, the Bloody Mary could have been named after the Queen of bloody acts, Queen Mary I.
So I served it up to some friends, who found the whole think ridiculous… until they tried it. I don’t think any of my food has ever created such excitement. The first batch of Cherry Bombs were cold, and even after a while of sitting out retained its cold temperature. The fridge batch was the best, cold in the mouth and colder when bitten into. The freezer batch was way too cold for my sensitive teeth although the inside was brilliantly cold. There wasn’t quite enough to get drunk on, but it was fun and even more fun to see people’s reactions when biting into the Cherry Bomb! Happy Eatings : )
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Bone marrow. Are we actually meant to eat it? Does it actually taste good? How does one cook it? Well this is all dependant on the individual. I love bone marrow. I love sucking the marrow out of the bone (especially if it’s been cooked for a while in a stew or curry), and I believe, if you enjoy this, you have the acquired taste for marrow. The texture is a little bit like kidneys, and this can put some people off. The marrow is where all the goodness is, nutrients and favour. When a stock is made with a carcase, the marrow in the bone is where the essence of the beast is and this is what gives the stock it’s flavour. I can understand that some people may find it a rather gross concept, and that’s fine. But allow me to try and convince you marrow is worth trying. I have decided to do a Vietnamese Spring Roll recipe, but using calf’s leg bone marrow to add a subtle taste of beef within a fresh crunchy oriental salad filling.
Firstly I headed down to Deptford to visit the oriental supermarket and the butchers. I asked the butchers for a calf’s leg bone. This is something most butchers keep as scraps. He showed me the whole bone, but the sight of it scared me a little. It was huge! So I asked for him to cut it in two. He did. It still looked daunting. I asked if he could cut it so it’d be easier to remove the bone marrow. He cut each half down the middle, resulting in four cross sections. The best part was the cost, a whole £1.50. Lovely!
It is recommended the bones go in the oven on a high heat for 20 minuets, but as I had more surface area exposed, I decided to keep them in for 15 instead, allowing the marrow to really crisp up on the top. The bone is done when it has turned golden. Whilst the bone sat in the oven, I stated on the salad:
I cut the following ingredients into long thin strips (it’s nice to keep things consistent):
• Salted, drained Cucumber (leave the cucumber in a collider with salt to drain off moister
• Unripe mango
• Bean sprouts
• The whites of spring onions
For the dressing:
• 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
• 1 tbsp fish sauce
• Thai Basil
• Green Chillies (according to taste)
• Scrapped out of the bone
• Chopped up as fine as possible
So I combined everything together, mixed it up really well, then set to work on the rice papers. These can be tricky buggers if not done right. Some people suggest letting the papers sit in warm water till they soften up, and use as appropriate. I don’t like this technique, I find it rather fiddly. So I got a plate and a cup of warm water; I place the dried rice paper on the plate and using my hand “massaged” 2 tbsp of the water into the paper till malleable. I then take my rice paper and start to roll. After many tried and tested methods of rolling, this is my preferred choice:
After rolled, they can be fried in a tiny bit of oil, to allow the skin to crisp up a little, but I decided to serve them as they were. I do advise leaving them to sit in the fridge for a bit, so they dry out and also have a clean, fresh crunch when bitten into. I toughly enjoyed my spring rolls, and so did my friends. I think it’s a good way of introducing the taste of bone marrow. I dare anyone to tell me they don’t like marrow done this way…. Happy eatings : )
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Like most people, I like a good roast. My meat of preference has to be lamb. Nothing beats a lovely cut of lamb, slowly cooked. Essential enhancements include the obvious rosemary or thyme; the sweet flavours of roasted garlic; the necessary aid of olive oil and maybe butter; salt and the debatable pepper…. and anchovies. Yep, anchovies. Fish and lamb is a bizarre combination, but anchovies are no ordinary fish. How does this work? Well, anchovies are in so many recipes, people sometimes don’t even realise. For example, it’s in Worcestershire Sauce; it’s also in most Caesar salad dressings. It appears (or doesn’t cause it’s hard to tell in some cases) in a lot of food. It acts as a flavour enhancer due to its salty quality, and because it’s so small, it tends to melt right down and leave no trace of fishiness. It’s defiantly one to try in spaghetti, or as I’ve done here, in a roast lamb.
I invested in a lovely cut of boneless shoulder of lamb. Around 950grams. The shoulder is not that expensive. As it comes rolled and tied in string, there is a good amount of fat going through the meat but still needs to be oiled/buttered well. There is the option of unrolling the meat, stuffing it and rolling it up again. This is great as shoulder can be quite tough, so stuffing can soften the meat and also help it take on some more flavour.
I started off by peeling 8 cloves of garlic and wrapping them in anchovies. I cut eight slots, four down each side of the piece of meat, being careful to cut only halfway deep. I stuffed each slot with my anchovies and garlic. This was satisfying. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I think it might have something to do with the oily anchovies and the plump meat. Even more satisfying was rubbing the meat with a concoction of olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper, and butter which I grinded together in a pestle and mortar. I like getting my hands messy, and massaging the meat and smelling the beautiful oils of the rosemary brought back memories…. Memories of the rosemary bush that sat outside my high school’s English department. The same bush I pushed a good friend into as a “friendly” joke. My poor friend smelt of rosemary all day, and when asked why she smelt of rosemary had to explain her unfortunate incident. For this I am very sorry.
So… anywho, I placed the lamb on two thickly sliced onions to help even cooking and flavour. My rule for cooking lamb is as follows; 15 minuets for every 450g, and an initial 20 minuets at the beginning in a pre heated oven at 230°c. The oven should be turned down to 180°c for the remaining cooking time. So in my case it went in for around an hour. I let it rest for a good 20 minuets. I cannot tell you how good the lamb was. The butter and the initial 20 minuets cooking time at a high temperature encouraged the fat on top of the meat to really crisp up. The anchovies disappeared, leaving a subtle and delicate salty flavour. The lamb was medium rare and was easy on the palette. Nothing’s worse then tough lamb that requires more energy to chew then gained when digested. A nicely cooked piece of meat deserves equally nice trimmings; honey mustard roasted carrots, parsnips; sweet red onions; crunchy trimmed beans; and my brother’s amazing roasted potatoes. From the meat came lovely juices to make a red wine jus. To help everything along was of course some mint sauce. Delightful. What more is there to say? TRY IT!!! Forget about anchovies on your dominos pizza, put them in your lamb. Happy eatings guys : )
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
I’m a big Sponge Bob fan. This is no secret. I know there are many out there who, like me, are a fans of the show. This is for you guys, and a tribute to the pure genius that is Sponge Bob Square Pants and it’s nautical nonsense.
So after watching so many Sponge Bob Square Pants episodes, one starts to wonder what a Krabby Patty actually tastes like. Every time a Krabby Patty gets served up, I wonder, what really is in those brown beauties? The idea of cartoon food is appetizing and one hungry afternoon whilst watching SBSP, I thought I should try make one. I thought about it, and thought, and thought some more, and couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to make this patty. I had to do it justice. I had to make something that would actually make me feel like I was having a Krabby Patty at the Krusty Krabbs. For those who don’t know, Sponge Bob works in an underwater Fast Food resturant called the Krusty Krabb, owned by a crab called Mr Krabbs. The Krusty Krab’s most popular selling burger (aquivilant to a McDonald’s Big Mac) is the Krabby Pattie. Sponge Bob is the dedicated fry chef who gets to make them.
After having watched so many episodes of SBSP I have subconsciously memorized the contents of the burger. Lame? No. So here it is:
Burger Bun with sesame seeds, ketchup, mustard, mayo seahorse horseradish sauce, cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and the all important patty.
Okay, so I decided to go all out. I needed to find a recipe for a crab cakes suitable to put in this burger. I found a really simple and uncomplicated recipe for MaryLand Crab Cakes on http://www.crabcakeguy.com/crab-cake-recipes/. It looked simple enough, and that’s what I needed because there’s quite a lot going on in the burger, including cheese. From experience crab/fish cakes can have a few issues with holding together and keeping firm during the cooking process. It’s not pleasant to have a weak crumbly burger patty. It’s annoying and creates a mess. So I looked for a way to over come this. I have been told by my dad, putting raw onions into meatballs/kebabs/fish cakes etc weakens its structure due to the moisture released during cooking. A good way to get around this is by sweating the moister ingredients before adding them to the mixture. Another good tip is adding extra egg whites as it acts as a glue Delia suggests frying them for 3 minuets on each side (depending on the thickness of the patty) and to avoid disturbing them until the 3 minuets are up.
I made few changes by using white crab meat instead of imitation, adding coriander to make it less dense. I also wanted a golden bread crumb coating, so the usual threesome of flour, egg and bread crumbs were used. It’s important to point out that I also put bread crumbs in the mixture. I shallow fried the patties in a mixture of oil, butter and garlic.
My Version of Krabby Patties:
White Crab meat
Seasoned bread crumbs
1 large egg
So the secret ingredient? Well, this is debatable. Many people believe there is no actual secret formula. It is said the missing secret ingredient is actually just love. This, I think should be the case for most food, and it’d be a huge copout to accept love. One of my “secret” ingredients was lemon juice. It cut through the bulk of the crab patty, and lift the flavors of the crab, which may be drowned in the sauce. Not so much an ingredient as a some times forgotten part of the burger ceremony had to be toasted buns. Toasting only the cut side insures the bun doesn’t dry out and fall apart. It also means it gets less soggy form seeping sauces. I am also going to sear the sliced onions a little as raw onions can be over powering.
Also on the Krusty Krab’s “Krab Land” menu is Krabby Fries and Kelp Shake. This makes the Krabby Combo. I’m going to make normal deep fried fries but with a seaweed dusting. I always have problems with frying chips. Everyone has different methods. I am reading The Man Who Ate Everything, Steingarth, and he suggests the process of hardening. Like any strong iron, or steel frying pans would know, being heated, then suddenly cooled down and repeating this process a few times, results in a stronger material. This as it turns out, works the same for potatoes. So I peeled and sliced some waxy potatoes up into thin strips, washed and rinsed them under cold tap water for a good ten minuets. I fried them in sunflower oil in small batches on a medium high heat. I stained and de-greased them, then put them in the fridge for 30 mins. This was done three times. I crumbled up some nori seaweed and sprinkled it over the chips after the last fry. This acted as a substitute to both salt and pepper.
My Version of Krabby Fries:
To drink? Kelp shake just wouldn’t have tasted very nice, so instead, I made a Kreamy Koconut Shake. I did this by blitzing together Swedish Glaze smooth vanilla ice cream with grated coconut and some full fat milk.
So the food’s sorted, but I wanted to go a little bit further. So I made some Krusty Krab Burger paper and a Krabby Fries Cup. The only thing that would have put me in a happier mood, would have been to watch an episode of Sponge Bob whilst eating my Krabby Combo, but instead, my house mate and my self ate our Krabby Combos whilst watching Eastenders. Happy eating!
Friday, 2 April 2010
A recent visit to The Water House on Regent's Canal, proved to be a gastronomical, educational and environmental experience. I had a essay to write about how I would turn a local eatery into a more ethical and sustainable environment. I did some research and found that London has a great collection of restaurants concerned with providing great food in comfortable surroundings, whilst lowering theirs and our CO2 footprints. Restaurants create a lot of waste, and this is a problem, not only for the environment, but also for the restaurant's efficiency. The Water House has won awards for coming up with smart ways to get around this. Every little detail has been carefully thought out to be as ethical as possible. How? Well, lets begin with the unique location. Situated right by Regents canal, and in a the middle of a newly built council block in Hackney, The Water House was part of a regeneration scheme started by The Shorditch Trust. The restaurant serves as a place for local people to come and enjoy a fine-dining experience, for a reasonable price. It also serves as a place for trainee eco-chefs to gain experience. Started by chefs from Jamie Oliver's 15, the strain is on making the chefs think more like gardeners as well as thinking like chefs. This hyper-breed, makes chefs more in tune with the seasonality of food and to think more locally. Food is sourced as local as possible. Most food, beer and wine is sourced within the London area. I got talking to our waitress and she told me even the rice is shipped over to cut down on CO2 emissions. Impressive? I think so. Especially as there was a good selection of food on the menu and everything ordered was a delight to my senses. Not only this, but i felt i was actually doing some good for once by eating out. The menu was laid out well, separating daily specials from monthly specials. For my first course, I order sour dough brochette with a selection of toppings. Once finished with my first course, the left over toppings were left on our table to be consumed at our own leisurely pace. This although, small would make all the difference to a restaurant.
Granted, The Water House aren't trying to win any Michelin stars, they want to create a relaxed environment, where people can come and enjoy good food. This couldn't be more different to a recent visit to The Princess of Shorditch, where although the food was sub-standered fine dinning, the atmosphere in there upstairs restaurant, was stiff, dingy and pretentious. I found i just couldn't let my self relax. I was even more disappointed when I had to fork out money for food i didn't really even enjoy and even more so for feeling unsatisfied. The Water House on the other hand is value for money. The bill did come out to £60, but this was for three courses, a glass of wine, and grappa (yes a shot of grappa after dinner, said to help digestion, but really not worth it) for two people. Not bad at all. I left feeling full and content, and better about life. Even the rain on the walk back to the station wasn't all that bad, knowing it was going to be collected by The Water House to be used in flushing their toilets.