Food corner

"I'd sit around dreaming that the boys I saw at shows or at work - the boys with silver earrings and big boots - would tell me I was beautiful, take me home and feed me Thai food or omelets and undress me and make love to me all night with the palm trees whispering windsongs about a tortured gleaming city and the moonlight like flame melting our candle bodies."

Francesca Lia Block

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Tapas no.2: Alcachofas con jamón from Movida Rustica

In Andalucia, Southern Spain, it is rare to come across vegetables when dining out. Apparently, this is because the locals eat a lot of vegetables at home so when they go out they prefer to order meat and fish. Perhaps this is why one of the first dishes that caught my eye when I was flicking through Movida Rustica was the Alcachofas con Jamón. I love artichokes, but I never saw one in my entire time living in Andalucia, although the addition of jamón in vegetable dishes is familiar making a vegetarian’s passage through Spain even more trying.

“In Zaragoza there is a small suburban restaurant owned by a man who has made his life studying jamón. He is a brilliant cortador … who jokingly says he sold his soul to the devil to be able to cut jamón so well. ... This is one of the dishes he served me one day: brilliantly soft artichokes in a delicate jamón and sherry-flavoured sauce.”

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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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