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“There is no sauce in the world like hunger.”

Miguel de Cervantes

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Entries in versatile (4)

Monday
Oct252010

Prawn spaghetti, at long last

Several people have requested this recipe and it really is time that I provided it. Since my first post in July, which included a photo of the sauce, I have been making excuses. At first my excuse was the measurements (or lack of them), but given I have now had over three months to measure what is a staple dish in my household, that excuse doesn’t really hold much weight anymore. 

The real issue is that I make it differently every time. I have just been through the notepad that I now keep by the stove for recording measurements and in it I have found 3 recipes for prawn spaghetti, none of which are the same. This had been my most recent excuse until someone helpfully pointed out that I could provide the basic core recipe and then variations separately. Yes, thank you, I had thought of that, but I was feeling lazy!

I am embarrassed to admit that most of the time when I make this dish I use a bag of frozen raw prawns from the supermarket. In my defence, I remind you that even when you buy fresh prawns from the fishmonger, the chances are that they were frozen at some point. Fresh prawns would of course be better, but they are expensive in the UK and this is one of those quick and easy dishes that I like to make often. Also, as discussed previously, I am only able to get to the fishmonger on Saturday’s and given the amount of garlic in this I wouldn’t recommend eating it before a night out.

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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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Saturday
Aug142010

Shortcrust pastry from The Book of Old Tarts

Updated on Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 9:11PM by Registered CommenterVix

A very dear family friend, Elizabeth Hodder, wrote a wonderful recipe book called ‘The Book of Old Tarts’. Lizzie has always treated me as if I were her daughter; she is kind, gentle and doting, always willing to listen and give me her worldly advice. She is also extremely knowledgeable and very well spoken. This motherly image I have of her means that I still to this day find myself shocked and pleasantly surprised when she shows her cheeky side. She once sent my Mum an apron which read:

FUCK ME

WHILE

I’M COOKING

I thought this was absolutely hilarious, not so much because of what it said, but because of who’d sent it. The name of her book is another great example of this.  

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Friday
Jul162010

Rough puff pastry

Updated on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 8:22PM by Registered CommenterVix

Calorie counters read this recipe with caution, it will almost certainly change your waistline.

I discovered rough puff pastry last year and it changed my life, well that part of it spent in the kitchen which is quite considerable. I had made puff pastry once before, but it was a lot of pain for a short lived gain and I never got round to doing it again. Then last year I was watching repeats of River Cottage Spring on more 4 when Hugh explained that the pastry he was using for a mushroom tart was a quick and easy version of puff pastry. Did I hear correctly? Could this be? It sounded too good to be true. I quickly Googled the term and sure enough there it was in black and white ...and blue ...and purple.

The highest ranked link was to Gordan Ramsay’s recipe on BBC good food, so that is the one I first tried, but I’m afraid to say it didn’t really work. This is because he is not specific enough about quite how ‘loosely’ the butter should be rubbed in and, in fact, I think ‘rubbed’ is perhaps a bad choice of words since it implies rather more force than is necessary. Ramsay does note that ‘you need to see bits of butter’, but it is not clear that these bits should be large chunks. So I ended up overworking the butter and didn’t get the layered effect; a somewhat fatal flaw in puff pastry.

After a moment’s doubt (maybe it was too good to be true after all) I did a search on You Tube to see if there were any demos and found this one by Kate Lamont. As I suspected, the problem was the butter. As Lamont demonstrates, the butter barely needs to be rubbed or worked at all. What you want is large chunks of butter held together by the paste made with the flour, water and lemon juice.

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