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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
Dec082010

Pam Corbin's Bramley lemon curd

How does it always end up getting so busy at this time of year? Two months ago I was starting to contemplate Christmas shopping and in an ideal world my next sentence would be: “A month later I decided to bite the bullet and get it done early this year”. No such luck. More important engagements have kept popping up and it has been sidelined, postponed, rescheduled and then put off again. As a result I have spent the past two nights on the high street in an effort to avoid the weekend crowds and am still going to have to spend at least two more nights there because, although I thought about the task a few months ago, I did not consider what I would actually buy.

I did have the foresight to save myself one trip though. Last weekend we had an early Christmas dinner with my Mums’s side of the family. There were quite a few people to buy for, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, so rather than getting them all a generic present from the gift section at John Lewis, I decided to make something. I cannot draw, paint, knit or sew so that meant cooking.

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Friday
Dec032010

David disappoints

“Why haven’t you written a blog about the Thai restaurant I took you to yet?” the boyfriend asked me as we were driving home from a more satisfying dining experience last Sunday.

“Umm... because the photos didn’t come out very well.”

“But you took loads (not true, he just gets very embarrassed about it). You must have got a few good ones.”

“It was really dark in there and the flash makes the food look unappetising and colourless.”

“So a fairly accurate representation then.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just didn’t think it was that great, that’s all. I liked the trout salad and the relish thing you wrote about, but overall it was nothing special and, to be honest, I felt a bit ripped off at the end of it.”

And so it came about that I was able to admit the real reason why I had not written about our experience.

The restaurant in question was Nahm, David Thompson’s Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair. I have long been a fan of Thompson’s book, Thai Food, and more recently, Thai Street Food, but had never been to one of his restaurants. I told myself afterwards that perhaps my expectations had been too high, but now I am not so sure.

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Monday
Nov292010

Leek and stilton tart

I have been on rather a long journey this evening to arrive at this post. Metaphorically speaking, I have visited Greece, Turkey, the Balkans and Thailand before arriving back in England to the comfort and ease of a leek and stilton tart.

I started out by writing about moussaka, but I got tied up in a longwinded history of the dish which I decided to leave for a day of the week when I am not feeling naturally depressed and lacking enthusiasm. A perfect day then to write about a disappointing restaurant experience; that is how I ended up in Thailand, but it did not bring the pleasure I sought and I thought it only fair that I re-read it in a more forgiving frame of mind.

So back to England for a simple dish which requires little or no explanation.  It is a well known staple of the Modern British gastropub or bistro. Served warm with some dressed leaves or green vegetables it makes for a substantial lunch, add some new potatoes and it is a hearty meal for a cold evening. 

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Tuesday
Nov232010

Jamie Oliver's "Spicy" lamb shanks

Updated on Monday, November 29, 2010 at 4:01PM by Registered CommenterVix

When I read ‘spicy’ I think hot and spicy, fiery, piquant. I am aware that spicy has several other meanings in relation to food (aromatic, fragrant, ‘seasoned with or containing spices’) but I think it is misleading to use the word 'spicy' in the name of the dish if it doesn’t pack any heat. This dish sits in the aromatic camp and, technicalities aside, it is a very nice recipe.

I have my friend Ray to thank for reintroducing me to Jamie Oliver; in admitting that I liked this recipe and the meatballs she made me, before I knew they were Jamie Oliver’s, I also had to admit that my dislike for him was mostly superficial.

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Thursday
Nov182010

Chinese crisp-roasted pork belly with soy and ginger dressing, steamed pak choi and rice

WOWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! This was good.

On Monday I promised to share the recipe for the crispy pork belly that went down so well with the smoky eggplant and chilli relish. Those of you who read that post might be surprised that the relish is not included in the title. My dinner guest, Katy, may beg to differ (she was rather taken by the relish), but I think the recipe has enough going for it as a standalone dish. Of course the relish made it all the more special, but it would have been pretty damn fine without it. 

The recipe for the pork is another from Stephanie Alexander’s trusty tome, The Cook’s Companion. I had made crispy roast pork belly in the past, but was looking for an Asian twist. Alexander’s method is much the same as my own, except that she boils the pork belly for two minutes before marinating and salting it.  I am not sure why this helps, but it seems to work wonders for the crackling, which was the crispiest I have ever achieved. As my colleague Thomasin said when I told her about it, “If I'm going to eat fatty pork (which is one of life's greatest pleasures), I want a nice crisp skin on it.” Agreed. 

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