Food corner

"Diet sensibility-wise I find myself straddled several yards short of the spooky Eat Nourish Glow brigade ... yet far from a woman who eats a double-stack patty with onion rings dipped in chipotle mayonnaise at lunchtime guilt-free. Although, if I’m honest, I can, and have done, and several photos of me exist on the internet standing at parties with my arms around gaunt, size 6 showbiz chums resembling, in relative terms, an amiable Tyrannosaurus rex that has entered a toddler’s sandpit."

Grace Dent

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Tapas no.1: Russian Roulette with Movida Rustica

I recently revisited a recipe book that has been sitting on my shelf for over a year but which I have never actually made anything from. This is not unusual; many of my recipe books only serve the purpose of making me hungry every now and then when I am silly enough to flick through them on an empty stomach.

When I started the blog I resolved to try out more new things. Instead of just using my recipe books for inspiration and then going off on my own tangent in the kitchen, I thought I should make an effort to try out the original recipe first time. In the process, I have become more open to new ideas. I have come to respect traditional recipes more, rather than trying to make things more interesting, namely by adding more of the things I like.

So when I flicked through Movida Rustica: Spanish Traditions and Recipes, apart from making myself very hungry – I resolved to make some of the wonderful tapas dishes that Frank Camorra discovered on the year he “travelled around Spain researching recipes from the Spanish people, from the chefs of Madrid to the widows of Galicia”.

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Jamie's Italian, for a balanced perspective

“Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story” my Dad has always said, and I have to say I quite agree. It is common practice to take a bit of poetic license when recounting an anecdote, particularly if it will lend comic value.

If you read my last post on The Nut Tree Inn you may see where this is heading. In that post I did not so much exaggerate the truth as leave out certain facts that would have given context to the boyfriend’s mood that day. I did make reference to his efforts to keep me happy in the food department but, since the small window where he showed his frustration provides more humorous material, the reference was fleeting and is likely to have been overlooked.  Therefore, I thought it only fair to follow up that post with the details of a meal earlier that weekend; this time the jokes on me.

Another perk of the boyfriend’s job is that he travels a lot overseas and so he also stays in a lot of hotels. As a member of the Intercontinental Hotels group this means he clocks up lots of points towards free accommodation. One of the facts that went unmentioned in Tuesday’s post was that he kindly used one of his free nights to treat me to that weekend away.

Now the boyfriend knows well that I have a one track mind and if I am to be convinced to set foot outside London food will have to be fairly high on the agenda. And he almost always acquiesces to my demands, often going well beyond the call of duty to appease me. Our trip to Jamie’s Italian was such an occasion.

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Sunday lunch at The Nut Tree Inn

The boyfriend loves a good freebie. Actually, that’s a lie – he likes any old freebie. He once entered an online competition 3 times to win a Mars football; he doesn’t play football and they sat in the bottom of the cupboard for a year, along with all the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner that he pockets when he stays in a hotel, until he realised he could get a few quid for them on ebay and sold them (the footballs, not the toiletries, which are still there despite my attempts to shift them).

I had thought that nine months working for a company who not only provides free breakfast, lunch and dinner, but free snacks, 20 per cent free time to spend on whatever he likes, free booze on Friday afternoons plus stock options and big bonuses would have cured him of this obsession, but a fortnight ago we went for a weekend away in rural Oxfordshire and what do you think was the first thing he did when we got to the hotel room? Yep, that’s right; checked the cupboards and bathroom to see what he could loot.

Another of the many perks of his job is that he has two memberships for the National Trust. This is a blessing and a curse.  Don’t get me wrong, I like visiting nice country estates and gardens every now and then, but I do not want  to visit every National Trust property within 100km of London simply because I can do so for free. On the other hand, a trip in the car to a country estate inevitably means pub lunch and, as it turns out, the home counties are choc-a-bloc with great places to eat.

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Middle Eastern mezze no.7: Fattoush

For those of you who haven’t heard of this delicious salad, Wikipedia offers a detailed explanation:

Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of pita bread (khubz 'arabi) combined with mixed greens and other vegetables ... To make fattoush, cooks use seasonal produce, mixing different vegetables and herbs according to taste, while making use of pitas that have gone stale ... Sumac is usually used to give fattoush its sour taste.

As you can gather this is not an easy dish to write a recipe for since the only constant ingredient is bread, and even with that there is a choice, albeit an obvious one. Toasted stale bread versus crispy, crunchy, shards of golden goodness; you know which gets my vote. 

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Middle Eastern mezze no.6: Baba ganoush


Back to the Middle East for a few days and then onto new things. The boyfriend will breathe a sigh of relief (a rather garlicky one); he does love a bit of mezze, but everyone has their limits.

Next on the list is baba ganoush, which I have just discovered means "My father is spoiled like a child by my mother". And I thought the Turkish version was a mouthful! I have also always called it a dip, but according to Mark Hix, in Turkey it is considered a salad,

You might think this is a dip, but I'm insisting it's a salad because that's what my local Turkish restaurant calls it. Their aubergine salat is more roughly chopped. My smoother version is one of my favourite mezze dishes, and forms part of a salady selection to start a meal with.

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