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"Significantly, the charge (if it is a charge) has been levelled at the gastronomic essay and the 'learned' cookery book that they have an affinity with pornography. Certainly, both gastronomy and pornography dwell on pleasures of the flesh, and in gastronomic literature as in pornography there is vicarious enjoyment to be had." 

Stephen Mennell

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Wednesday
Nov102010

Prison lunch

Updated on Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 11:19AM by Registered CommenterVix

Today I had lunch in a prison.

It was just as vile as you might imagine.

A choice of meat pie, pasty or samosa with rice or potatoes (at least I think that is what they were, I can’t be sure). There was not a fresh vegetable or piece of fruit in sight. There was a "vegetable casserole" but I am not counting that since the only discernable components were peas and corn; ergo, it looked more like something that one’s body might expel than something one should be consuming. (Perhaps not so) sadly, I do not have a picture I can show you as we were not allowed to take cameras into the prison.

You would be forgiven for wondering what on earth I was doing eating lunch in a prison. The Howard League for Penal Reform is a charity which campaigns for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison. They advocate that in most cases prison is ineffective in rehabilitating offenders and inevitably leads to reoffending, suggesting community sentences as an alternative for people on short-term sentences or for those that have committed non-violent offences. They also provide a legal advice service for children and young people in custody.

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Wednesday
Nov032010

Smoked salmon fettuccine with dill and capers

Last week I posted a recipe for prawn spaghetti. This is another of my favourite pasta dishes which is quick and easy to make and always pleases. I would have no reservations about serving this at a dinner party, people always ask for the recipe when they taste it and are blown away when I tell them how easy it is. The basis of the sauce is much the same as for the prawn spaghetti; a white wine reduction with shallots, lemon juice and capers, but with cream. While the prawn spaghetti is more of a summery dish, the simple addition of cream transforms the smoked salmon fettuccine into a rich and hearty pasta best enjoyed when it is cold outside.

I use (responsibly sourced) smoked salmon trimmings for this pasta. You could use a higher grade of smoked salmon, but I think it is wasted on such a dish. There is nothing wrong with smoked salmon trimmings, as the fish fanatics online shop explain, “The flavour is just as good as our other Smoked Salmon products but cheaper per kilo as it's not in perfect slices."  When you buy a smoked salmon dip, it is almost certain they are made from these and by purchasing them you can feel good about doing your little bit for the environment by using bits that would otherwise be wasted.

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Sunday
Oct312010

Pan-fried plaice fillets with chunky salsa verde, puy lentils and garlic croutons

I tried out this dish for the first time the other night and it was fan-f**king-tastic. Wow! I would say this is the closest I have got to perfection for a while.

I thought it would be nice to follow up the salsa verde post with a dish that uses it, albeit not quite in its pure form. I would like to take full credit for the recipe, but I have a vague recollection of eating something like it at The Giaconda Dining Room last year. I was plied with several glasses of albarino (albarino, albarino) at the time, hence the hazy memory, but there are a few details which I remember clearly; white fish, lots of herbs, capers and croutons. The croutons were the key to the dish, giving it a wonderfully dynamic texture and providing a perfect contrast to the delicate flesh of the fish.

I have used this as the basic premise and taken it a step further by replacing the simple mix of herbs and capers with a roughly chopped salsa verde and I think it works, well, fan-f**king-tastically. The lentils I added for substance and because they go well with parsley. I found their earthiness well balanced with the tart, citrusy dressing.

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Thursday
Oct282010

Salsa verde, the green stuff

 

In English salsa verde literally translates as green sauce. This can be the cause of some confusion because there are many green sauces in this world.  Wikipedia cites five variations and suggests a shared history for the European versions:

The basic recipe is probably from the Near East and, as such, is probably at least 2,000 years old. Roman legionaries brought it to Italy, from where it was exported to France and Germany. Evidence suggests that it was introduced in Frankfurt am Main by the Italian trading families Bolongaro and Crevenna around 1700. A possible origin of the German variant are French Protestant immigrants emigrating to Kurhessen in the 18th century.

In this post, I am dealing with the Italian version.

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Monday
Oct252010

Prawn spaghetti, at long last

Several people have requested this recipe and it really is time that I provided it. Since my first post in July, which included a photo of the sauce, I have been making excuses. At first my excuse was the measurements (or lack of them), but given I have now had over three months to measure what is a staple dish in my household, that excuse doesn’t really hold much weight anymore. 

The real issue is that I make it differently every time. I have just been through the notepad that I now keep by the stove for recording measurements and in it I have found 3 recipes for prawn spaghetti, none of which are the same. This had been my most recent excuse until someone helpfully pointed out that I could provide the basic core recipe and then variations separately. Yes, thank you, I had thought of that, but I was feeling lazy!

I am embarrassed to admit that most of the time when I make this dish I use a bag of frozen raw prawns from the supermarket. In my defence, I remind you that even when you buy fresh prawns from the fishmonger, the chances are that they were frozen at some point. Fresh prawns would of course be better, but they are expensive in the UK and this is one of those quick and easy dishes that I like to make often. Also, as discussed previously, I am only able to get to the fishmonger on Saturday’s and given the amount of garlic in this I wouldn’t recommend eating it before a night out.

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