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"I have done a quick calculation and decided that: You can reasonably expect 76,650 meals during your life, but to die only once. We can look on these everyday events as nourishment, sensual gratification, conviviality, cultural expression and, in accumulation, a commentary upon society and life. Surely that's enough for any intellectual."

Michael Symons

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Sunday
Jun292014

Shaved courgette and Parmesan salad

This is my new favourite summer dinner. I have had it countless times since I innovated it a month ago. I say “innovated it” because it is based on a lovely salad I had when I was in Sydney at Christmas time.

It was lunch with my sister at Fratelli Fresh. We ordered a pizza and the courgette and Parmesan salad. I wasn’t that keen on her salad choice as, until then, I thought courgettes were boring. Cooked courgettes are. Raw courgettes are a revelation. Yep, that’s right, raw. Shaved and dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan, courgettes are light and fresh, vibrant and summery.

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Saturday
May312014

Fried courgette flowers stuffed with spinach, goat's cheese and feta

I was really excited when I saw these beautiful courgette flowers (that’s zucchini flowers for my Aussie readers) at the farmer’s market near my work on Friday. It was a beautiful spring day so I felt it would be criminal to walk past them. 

In an ideal world I would have lightly battered and deep-fried these beauties, but I don't have a deep-fryer and I was worried about ruining them, so I decided to pan-fry them instead. The result was delicious, but quite different from what you might expect if you have ever ordered them in a restaurant. I managed to get a little crisp on them, but nothing like a batter and they were much more delicate to handle when they came out of the pan. I still highly recommend them though. 

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Wednesday
Apr302014

Edmonds Afghans

Yes, Afghans. New Zealand’s favourite, casually racist biscuits. I loved these biscuits as a kid and it never occurred to me that there was something inappropriate about their name until I made them for someone who had not grown up with a well-thumbed copy of Edmonds Cookery Book on their kitchen bookshelf.

We can perhaps excuse their name if we consider them as a product of their time. Edmonds Cookery Book was first published in 1908 and the recipe for Afghans is thought to have been in there at least since the 1940s. In a post called ‘Decolonising the Chocolate Biscuit’, one NZ food blogger (no name to be found) suggests that the problem is not with those who named the biscuit, but with the connotations it carries today. She/he suggests decolonising the biscuit by renaming it ‘Decolonisation Walnut Surprise’, among other suggestions.

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Thursday
Mar272014

Regan's beetroot and goat's cheese tarte tatin

“I think that this is the best thing I've ever eaten!”

I think that this is the best thing that someone's ever said about my cooking. I have called this Regan’s tart because this is what he said when he tried it a few years ago in the South of France. 

Usually such a compliment would have had me gushing with pride, but I had to show some restraint. Regan is my cousin Kirsty’s best friend. Kirsty loves cooking to and is very good at it. He said it in front of her. He was in the doghouse.

It has been much talked about since – both Kirsty reminding Regan of his thoughtlessness and Regan angling for a repeat. In this context it was with great trepidation that I offered to make it again this weekend, not just for Regan, but for Kirsty too. Eek!

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Sunday
Feb232014

Incredible Indian at The Red Fort

The Red Fort is not a typical Indian restaurant. No Bollywood music or Ganesha figurines in sight. Instead I am surrounded by tables laid with plush white tablecloths and elegant glass and silverware in a room of tasteful, muted tones. Am I in the right place? The smell of cloves and cardamom suggests that I am.

The Red Fort is in the Michelin guide and the prices on the a la carte menu reflect that, but they also do a set menu, which is a steal at £15 for two courses or £18 for three. Perhaps a little more than an average Indian meal, but the portions are quite substantial and the quality far surpasses anything else I’ve had in London, or anywhere else for that matter.

The elegance of the decor extended to the food. Flavours still packed a punch, but there was an element of delicacy and refinement which gave it an edge over most Indian meals I have eaten. Care had been taken in the selection and cooking of aromatics and spices, which could be singled out and identified, and it was far less greasy than your average Indian meal.

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