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"The Queen, in the 65th year of her age (as we were told), very majestic; her face oblong, fair but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked, her lips narrow, and her teeth black (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar)."

A 16th century German traveller
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Tuesday
Oct192010

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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Thursday
Oct142010

My new toy

The more avid of my readership (all eight of you) may have noticed that I have been a little slack on the posting of late. This is partly down to a temporary bout of sloth, but more to do with the fact that I have been spending much of my free time researching DSLR cameras, lenses and lighting. I have really enjoyed blogging over the last 3 months – I have no plans to stop anytime soon – so I thought it was time to take the blog to the next level, and the most obvious thing that I need (apart from a lot more content) is better photos.

After about a month of looking into the options, I have finally purchased a Canon EOS 50D. It gets great reviews on the key digital photography sites and many food bloggers whose photos I admire (and drool over) use cameras from the Canon EOS series. Also recommended by other food bloggers is the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. I was tempted to go with the cheaper option which many suggest as a substitute, but in the end I read too many quotes like this: OK, listen up.  The most important component of your camera is the lens.  If there is a place to spend the money, it's on the glass” to buy the cheapest lens on the market.

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Monday
Oct112010

Amazing cake, how sweet and round...

Deborah Mele's Rustic apple cake with rosemary syrup

‘That cake was absolutely f**king …’

‘Amazing?’

‘Yeah’  

I made this cake a few nights ago and it was by all accounts ‘amazing’. Normally, when the boyfriend is around I am only allowed to take in enough cake to share with my team, but as he was away on business I was able to take the whole thing to work. I should do so more often; my colleagues are certainly more vocal in their gratitude and, hey, even if I am buying the attention, it is nice to bask in the glory of an amazing cake for a few hours. 

Luisa Weiss, of The Wednesday Chef put me onto the idea of using rosemary in baking, when she blogged about her new discovery in Kim Boyce’s cookbook:

I did not think I would ever be a fan of rosemary in cake. I like it on my potatoes just fine, but in my desserts? Nah, no thanks.

Silly me ... I don't know how she figured this out, but the fruity olive oil, the dark funk of the chocolate and the herbal, aggressive rosemary combine in the heat of the oven to produce the most astonishing thing: a simple tea cake that tastes complex and deep and delicious, with a flavor that is very, very difficult to put your figure on. It tastes so bewitchingly good, you will find yourself thinking about the cake the day after you make it, and the day after that as well, trying to find excuses to bake another round of it.

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Friday
Oct082010

Chanterelles a blanc, inspired by Child, Bertolle and Beck (and the mushrooms themselves)

This is another of the recipes I made in France. When I saw these glorious golden chanterelles on the market in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, I had no idea what I would do with them, but they just looked too delicious to pass by. I had brought my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking to France (paperback!), as I thought it would be fun to cook something from it while I was there and so I looked to Child, Bertolle and Beck for inspiration.

When I packed the book, I was thinking along the lines of something a little more challenging, like a soufflé or quenelles, but the chanterelles needed very little doing to them, they called for something simple, yet elegant and I thought the light and delicate flavouring in the champignons a blanc would provide just that.

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Monday
Oct042010

From Angela Hartnett's Rabbit pappardelle to duck pie

 

A couple of people have requested the recipe for the rabbit ragù that I made when I was in France. The recipe is another of my favourites from Angela Hartnett’s Cucina. In Hartnett’s recipe she uses the ragù as a sauce for pappardelle, as is traditional in the Emilia Romagna region:

This is a very rustic creation from Emilia-Romagna, and in my view there’s no tastier pasta dish in Italy. The rabbit is slowly roasted, then stewed to make the most fantastic, rich meat sauce, and it’s served with wide ribbon noodles called pappardelle.

I agree that the rich meat sauce is delicious with pasta, but I have also taken to using it as a pie filling in the colder months.

I have made this ragù many times, but until my recent visit to France I had always used duck as a substitute for rabbit. Would you respect me more if I said I did this because I think the taste and texture of duck meat to be far superior? Probably, but in reality it was simply a matter of convenience. I could have gone to the butcher, but my local Sainsbury’s sells whole Gressingham ducks at half price on a regular basis, so I almost always have one in the freezer.

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