Food corner

"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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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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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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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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Stephanie Alexander's Moroccan-inspired chicken

About halfway through making this dish I thought I might have another Dalmatian disaster on my hands. Part of me was thinking what a waste of good ingredients, while the other half of me was eagerly imagining the comic potential of another culinary catastrophe. In the end I was left disappointed on both fronts; I was able to save the dish from disaster but not from the dull and the ordinary, the result being that I still felt I had squandered good ingredients on a dish that turned out to be perfectly pleasant, but rather plain and where is the comic value in that?

So why, you may ask, am I sharing it with you? Faith. And a lack of it. 

Faith: This is the first time I have ever been disappointed with a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. It seems so unlikely that a recipe with so many sumptuous spices could fall flat. Caroline Dewe of the Mostly Undaunted Cook certainly rates it (“Love this dish”) calling her post ‘Thank you Stephanie: Morrocan inspired chicken’.

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Roast breast of lamb with fennel salt

Updated on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 10:00PM by Registered CommenterVix

A colleague sent me an email last week asking whether I had any ideas for what he should feed his five flatmates on Friday night. My advice must sit within the following parameters: it had to be good and nothing “too crazily adventurous, just something I might be able to cook given my mediocre skills in the kitchen”. Well, where should I start? Are we talking one course or three? Animal or vegetable? Cold or hot? The possibilities are endless.

I wrote back to that effect and was given a few further pointers: meat yes, fish no, veg yes, mains only, and “wintery is cool though not anything too wintery like stew” (there goes that idea). This was slightly more helpful, though it still leaves the food enthusiast with far too many options than is sensible, particularly if you are not too bothered about the answer (I never did get a response).

Since he had not specified a type of meat (and as it gave me an excuse to deviate longer from the rather boring task I was undertaking at the time) I suggested a chicken, a lamb and a beef option, one of which was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Roast breast of lamb with fennel salt

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