Thursday, 4 February 2016

Alpine foods: tartiflette recipe



The Alps, Europe's largest mountain range, passes through France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia and boasts a distinctive culinary culture. Alpine food is unashamedly heavy fare - stuff you can bolt down after a wintery day. Guilt-free carbs are one of the pleasures of skiing holidays, along with hot chocolate, gluwein and vats of bubbling cheese. 
More in January's Ham and High here. 

Tartiflette recipe
Serves 6

1 kilo of potatoes, waxy, unpeeled, cut in quarters
50g butter
3 or 4 shallots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 fresh bay leaves
A pinch of mace
600ml of single cream
1/2 tsp salt (truffle salt if you have it)
150g smoked salmon, turn into strips
1 reblochon cheese, slit horizontally in half

Prepare the potatoes and parboil them in boiling salty water for about five minutes. Drain.
Take a large deep frying pan or wide shallow casserole that you can also use in the oven. 
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
Melt the butter in the frying pan and add the shallots, sweating them down until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, the bay leaves and a pinch of mace. Then add the drained potatoes, tossing them in the butter and aromatics for a few minutes.
Add the cream and salt, warming it up, adding the smoked salmon at the last minute.
Finally, add the two halves of the reblochon cheese, rind side up, and put the pan into the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbling. Place a metal prong into the potatoes to check that they are cooked.
Serve hot accompanied by a green salad dressed with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette and a crisp white wine, preferably from the Savoie region.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Great Italian Tinned Tomato Taste off and a recipe for 'white' tomato sauce

Tinned tomato tasting
I wrote this article for The Guardian. It seems to have caused a bit of controversy...600 comments and counting. I've been reading below the line and howling my head off with laughter. I've been called 'part of the 1%' because I'm prepared to pay almost a fiver for a jar of tomatoes. Check out the Guardian facebook page for even funnier remarks.

On the best tomatoes for canning:

For preserving it's best to use a firm fleshed tomato with few seeds and little juice that can withstand the canning process. Neopolitans believe the best tomatoes are grown around Naples, aided by the volcanic soil of Vesuvius.

  • Roma are a generic plum tomato frequently used outside of Italy.
  • Dattarini, named after dates for their shape and sweetness, are small tomatoes from Sicily
  • Corbarino, from Corbara in Campania.
  • San Marzano tomatoes, originally from Naples, are the most well known. Look for the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) label because there are many imposters. 
  • Torpedino is a mini version of San Marzano.
Here are the raw scores:

Waitrose Own Brand: 4/10 'fine for a curry'
Cosi Come red: 5/10
Cosi Come yellow: 7/10 'colour puts me off' said Dino.
Heinz: 3/10
Napolini: 3/10
Tarantelli: 4/10
Strianese: 5/10
La Carmela: 5/10 from 'Great packaging' 
Cirio: 4.5/10 'sweet' 'tastes like a leather book' according to Joe. These did better cooked.
Giovanni Paudice: 5/10
Metelliana:4/10 'tastes as metallic as the name' 'disappointing'
Ocado Own Brand: 1/10 'crime against humanity'
Mr Organic: 3.5/10
Antonella: 7/10 These are from 'very good'
Puma Conserve: 5.5/10
Gustarosso: 3/10
I sapori di corbara: 9/10 raw
I sapori di corbara sua eccellenzia: 8.5/10 but the winner when cooked.
Agrigenus San Marzano: 7/10
Agrigenus slow food with heritage tomatoes:7/10

What did I do with the rest of 21 open tins of tomatoes? I cooked up a massive tomato sauce which I boxed up for the freezer.
pasta with 'white' tomato sauce

'White' tomato sauce with pasta recipe

Dino Joannides, author of Italian cookbook Semplice told me: 'One of the best pasta sauces I ever had was by Chef Gennaro Esposito from Torre del Sarancino. It was white, with no colour, but tasted intensely of tomato. He'd used just the water from fresh tomatoes.'
I want to try that. Many chefs are including the vines in tomato sauce now, to extract more flavour. So yesterday I used just the water from i sapori di corbara tomatoes. 

Serves one greedy person or two moderate eaters

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
Water from jarred plum tomatoes
a Sprig of fresh basil
1/2 tsp of good sea salt
150g of good pasta

In a good saucepan (I use a copper saucepan from Mauviel, this really makes a difference to cooking sauces) heat up the olive oil, add the garlic, soften, then add the tomato water, the basil and the salt.

Cook for five or ten minutes while the pasta is cooking.
Drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce.

Spending on what goes in your mouth

Depending on what I'm cooking, I'll buy a cheaper supermarket brand (especially as I live nowhere near Chelsea where the winning tomatoes are sold) especially if it's just for a curry or chilli where the pure taste of tomato is masked.
My interest lays in food and drink, so that's what I spend my hard-earned dosh. I come from a background where my family spent their money on interesting travel and food, while some of their friends forked out for first class hotels, designer clothes, handbags, posh cars, a big TV - things I would regard as 'status' buys. Spending over £50 on a handbag that might get stolen or over £20 on sunglasses that you will lose is a waste of money for many but everyone has their own priorities. What goes in my mouth, my body is very important. In Italy and France people spend a far higher proportion of their income on food than the British.
Good food is too cheap in this country although that doesn't help the thousands of people on the breadline. Farmers don't earn very much and that is why many of them are simply giving up. Last year I visited Featherdown Farms where the farmer no longer bothered to sell his potatoes, which were of high quality, because it wasn't worth it by the time distribution, transport, cut taken by the supermarkets was counted. The markup in supermarkets on fresh fruit and vegetables is around 45% whereas junk food is sold with a profit of pennies. It's all wrong, all topsy turvy.
Do you think we spend enough on food? Is spending a fiver on a jar of tomatoes absolutely ridiculous?

Friday, 15 January 2016

Two in one recipes: whole yellow bean curry and aquafaba pancakes #veganuary

Reasons for this post:

  • still on my aquafaba kick which uses bean cooking water as an egg replacer
  • which means I can make two dishes from one starting point ingredient: yellow whole peas
  • tis the season for blood oranges
  • tis Veganuary and this recipe is vegan
  • it's almost pancake day
Yellow whole pea curry
Whole yellow pea curry served with soy yoghurt, lime and chapati

Whole yellow pea curry

Serves two to four

250g Yellow whole peas, soaked overnight
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsps coconut oil
1 tbsp Mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
5 cardomom seeds, ground
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric or a small fresh turmeric root, grated
1 brown onion, diced
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
a thumb of fresh ginger, grated
1 red or green chilli, thinly sliced
Handful fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

Drain the soaked yellow peas and put in a large casserole with a lid and cover with water. Simmer for 2 to 4 hours or until tender but not breaking up. As I'm going to use the cooking water for aquafaba, I'm not going to salt the beans until the very end, when drained.
As soon as the water is strained through a fine meshed sieve into a mixing bowl (keep this water), add the salt and stir it around the peas.
Take a deep frying pan, sauteuse or saucepan and put on a medium to low heat. Add the coconut butter, let it melt, then add the mustard seeds. Let them pop a little, then add the cinnamon, cumin, coriander seeds, bay leaf, turmeric. After a couple of minutes, add the onion, let it soften. 
Then add the garlic, ginger, for a couple of minutes then add the cooked yellow peas. Cook for another ten or fifteen minutes then add the chilli and fresh coriander.
aquafaba pancake with blood orange and maple syrup

Aquafaba pancakes with blood orange and maple syrup

Makes 12 pancakes

10 tbsps of the liquid from the whole yellow pea cooking water
30g caster sugar

250g plain flour
a Pinch of Salt 
200ml soy milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 tsps baking powder
2 tbsps coconut butter
2 Blood oranges, peeled, cut into thin slices
Light maple syrup to your liking

In a stand mixer add the pea cooking liquid, now cool and whisk on high until soft peaks start to form. I've found this happens very quickly when using the water from home cooked legumes rather than tinned.
Add the sugar and whisk into stiff peaks (more or less)
In a separate bowl add the flour, salt, baking powder.
Add 6 to 8 tablespoons of the aquafaba foam/liquid carefully to the flour mix.
Stir carefully.
Heat up a flat frying pan or crepiere with the coconut butter. You can wipe down excess oil with kitchen paper and use that to dab the pan in between each pancake. Put two generous tablespoons onto the hot pan, using the back of the spoon to make a circle with the batter.
I can do three at a time on my cast iron crepiere but do as many as you can comfortably fit in the pan.
Once the edges start to lift and darken, flip over the pancake.
When both sides are golden, remove from the pan to a plate, add some maple syrup and a few slices of blood orange.
Very light, very seasonal, vegan, with who knows how much protein from the aquafaba?
vegan aquafaba pancake with blood orange and maple syrup