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"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

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Monday
Sep062010

101 ways to eat octopus salad

The title of this post is slightly misleading (not just because it is outrageous hyperbole); it could just as easily be called 101 ways to eat grilled squid, fried squid or anchovies. My friends and I were pleasantly surprised with the quality of food on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, but one does have to be prepared to eat the same thing over and over … and over. Fortunately I am a big fan of seafood and five days was just long enough to feel we had sampled the best that Dubrovnik and the Elaphite islands had to offer, but not so long that we were chomping at the bit for more variety.

Wireless is hard to come by in Mazan, so for the time being, I will tell our gastronomic journey in images:

Dubrovnik old town

Our host in Dubrovnik, the ebullient Marko, was extremely helpful; a trait that was rather lacking in the service we received elsewhere. Marko runs the Apartments Lovrijenac and it seems it is his mission in life is to ensure that everyone he encounters experiences the best his fair city has to offer.

“I will do anything you want to make you happy holiday, that is what I am here for”

“We’re mostly interested in where to eat. We’d like to try something local and not too touristy”

“Ha ha! Everything is touristy in Croatia, but I can show you some good places for the locals and for the tourists”

His enthusiasm was infectious and we parted his company not only with four restaurant recommendations (helpfully pencilled in for us on a map of the city), but each wearing his exuberant grin and in a state of eager anticipation.

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Friday
Aug272010

Would you like some apple with that crumble?

Updated on Monday, August 30, 2010 at 12:09PM by Registered CommenterVix

Apple and pear crumble

Apple crumble was probably one of the first desserts I learnt to make; it is very simple, so I assume this is why Dad trusted me to do it. I cannot remember whether he taught me or just told me what went in it, but either way at some point it became my job rather than his when someone in the family (read sister) demanded crumble.

Over the years my version has become known as “crumble apple” because the crumble is really the central feature, the apple a token gesture to the dishes origins*. And why not? Everyone knows the crumble is the best bit! Indeed, the name crumble apple isn’t even especially accurate, because very often I include other fruits as well. I have always been very big on berries, as has my sister, so it was ‘crumble berry apple’ for most of our teenage years, and later when I became more adventurous, ‘crumble apple plum’ ...or rhubarb ...or pear.

Some may think this recipe too simple to warrant a post and it is true that it is fairly intuitive. It is for this reason that when asked in the past for my recipe (most frequently by Miss Ger-al-din-uhhh) I have not been particularly forthcoming. As she remembers it, I used to say that it was a secret family recipe, but the truth is there wasn’t one. I would just use as much fruit as I had, pick a dish depending on that, and then make an absurd amount of crumble to top it.

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Wednesday
Aug252010

White sauces - bechamel and veloute - two of 'the mother sauces' of French cuisine

Two of my best friends from Sydney are arriving on Friday to stay for the weekend before we set off for a week of island hopping on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. They will be arriving very early at Heathrow and, although they are both well known for their stamina, I figured it would be best to plan activities for the daytime, rather than evening, so that we will be homeward bound by the time the jetlag starts to kick in. Since one of these activities is lunch at one of the world’s top restaurants, I have decided that the usual four course dinner with which I like to treat my guests will probably not be necessary or even desired that evening, and after a couple of bottles of wine I won’t really be in a fit state to make such a feast. As such, I have decided to make a moussaka tomorrow night or Friday morning, so that there is something to pop in the oven when we get home from our outing. And, just in case you were starting to wonder how this was ever going to get round to the topic of white sauces, every good moussaka needs a béchamel!

I was going to try and keep this brief, but believe or not, there is a surprising amount to say on the subject. I decided to turn once again to Mastering the Art of French Cooking to check whether my recipe stood up to its classical origins and was shocked to find not one or two, but six pages on béchamel sauce and veloute, and that is before they even get into the variations which use these as their base.

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Saturday
Aug212010

Chicken, chorizo and cannellini bean casserole

Here is another of my seasonally inappropriate recipes from the comfort food binge last weekend. The temperature has stayed on the cool side, so I’m guessing it won’t be long before everyone is starting to crave winter warmers.

This recipe was an experiment, so I have only made it once. It worked very well, but I feel the need to highlight that it has not been ‘tried and tested’ in the usual way. The combination and balance of ingredients was just right, so I wouldn’t change anything there, but I would be interested in trying out alternative cooking methods.

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Thursday
Aug192010

"The tart" inspired by Elizabeth Hodder's Tomato, onion and goat's cheese tart

On Saturday I put up a recipe for shortcrust pastry from my friend Lizzie’s book, The Book of Old Tarts. That post was really just a preamble to this most important of recipes. It is not just any old tart, it is the tart, or so it has come to be known in my household. Indeed for a long time it was the only tart I ever made, because although I was very tempted by other recipes, it was just so damn tasty I could not think of any reason to make something new. My sister loves it so much that she would brag about it to all her friends, but not a single one ever got to try it because I was not allowed to make it for guests; the tart was not for sharing.

Until this week, I had only made the original recipe once and I now feel rather guilty for having written it off so quickly. The first time I made Lizzie’s recipe I found it a little bland; this is probably because I did not season it well enough, but also because at the time I was a teenager with little appreciation for the less is more approach to cooking. Having made the original recipe for a second time, I can now appreciate that its simplicity is its most appealing quality, a perfect balance of flavours and textures. As Lizzie says in her introduction to the recipe,

Successful tomato recipes are those where the distinctive taste of the fruit surmounts the other flavours. I think this tart succeeds in this, but partly through its soft texture.

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