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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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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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Monday
Nov152010

Smoky eggplant (aubergine) and chilli relish

Inspired by David Thompson's Nahm and Longrain's Martin Boetz


I’m all about the relishes at the moment.

This one was inspired by a recent meal at Nahm, David Thompson’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in Mayfair. One of the dishes we had was grilled Chiang Mai chilli relish served with trout and lemongrass, pork crackling and herbs. The relish was the highlight, not only of the dish, but of the whole meal. Sadly, its accompaniments were rendered rather bland and tasteless beside it. The pork crackling should have worked, but there was little of it and what there was had been cut up so fine you would be forgiven for missing it entirely. I would have happily foregone the trout in favour of some chunky, salty, crispy strips of crackling for dipping.

Inspired to right these wrongs, I decided to make the relish at home suitably accompanied by lashings of crispy pork belly (more on that in a subsequent post). I did a search online, but was unable to find Thompson’s recipe at the time. Instead I ended up with Martin Boetz’s Roasted eggplant (aubergine) and chili relish from his book Modern Thai Food. I had an eggplant in the fridge that needed using so I decided to try out his recipe.

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Saturday
Nov132010

Tomato relish with ginger, coriander and chilli

Does anyone know the difference between chutney and relish?

I have tended to use the terms interchangeably, but with a preference for ‘relish’ since I think the double meaning is rather fitting; I certainly take delight in eating it.  I have always called this recipe a relish, but before posting it I wanted to check that I was using the right term.

I started by looking in the River Cottage Handbook No.2: Preserves by Pam Corbin. She begins by explaining that we “learnt about chutney-making from our Indian colonies in the nineteenth century, and authentic Indian chutneys are usually fresh preparations served with spicy foods”. So far so good, on this point I can find a general consensus. She continues,

The British interpretation of chutney is rather different: rich, highly spiced, sweet-sharp preserves, based on vegetables and fruit which are chopped small and cooked for a long time to create a spoonable consistency and mellow flavour. They often feature dried fruits too, which contributes natural sugar and textural contrast.

Relishes she defines as sitting somewhere between pickles and chutneys,

these are made from diced or chunkily cut fruit and vegetables but they are cooked for a shorter time than a chutney. They can be spicy, sweet, sour (or all three), may be eaten soon after making and should be kept in the fridge once opened.

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