Friday, 23 September 2016

Mozzarella recipe

home made mozzarella
I've mucked about with cheese making for a while with limited success. Finally I've cracked it with this mozzarella recipe. What I learnt:
  • Don't use tap water, make the effort to buy bottled water.
  • Don't use supermarket milk.
  • Use rennet that is in date.
  • Keep trying.

Mozzarella Recipe

Makes 1 large ball

Large lidded stainless steel pan
Fine stainless steel sieve
1 glass bowl
Plastic gloves or stainless steel slotted spoon

2.25 litres raw or only lightly pasteurised milk (not supermarket milk)
1 tsp citric acid dissolved in 25ml mineral water (not tap water)
1/2 tsp liquid rennet dissolved in 25ml mineral water
1-2 tsp sea salt

Put citric acid and the milk in the large pan. Heat to 31ºC, then remove from the heat and add the rennet. Stir for 20 seconds, put on the lid and leave for 20 minutes.
Cut the curds in 3cm squares.
Heat up the pan to 42ºC, stirring gently. 
Turn off the heat and leave for 20 minutes.
Drain the curds into the sieve, leave for 15 minutes.
Scoop the curds into the glass bowl.
Put the curd bowl into the microwave for 30 seconds. 
Put on the gloves or, using the slotted spoon, gently press the curds into a bowl shape, removing and draining the whey.
Microwave again for 15 seconds. Repeat the squeezing, draining the whey.
Add the salt and microwave a third time for 15 seconds.
Now knead and stretch the curds until they form a ball, working the cheese until it has a smooth shiny surface.
The whey can be used to make ricotta or cooled down and used as plant feed. I tried to make Brunost which is a whey based Norwegian cheese but I failed. (Literally I spent days on this boiling it down, to get a brown puddle). 
Anyway just keep swimming.

Mozzarella recipe

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Brindisa cookbook and overnight rice pudding recipe

overnight rice pudding

overnight rice pudding

Spanish tapas became popular in London in the late 1980s and have been influential, arguably setting the trend for grazing small plates ever since.  People returned from France and Italy raving about the food, but this rarely happened after a trip to Spain. The tapas revolution changed all that and today Spanish restaurants feature on all the global 'best of' lists. I wrote about this movement, inextricably linked with the end of the Franco era, in a previous blog post. Chef/writer Greg Watts has published a book Olé! Olé! Passion on a plate, detailing the rise of Spanish cuisine in London. One of the pioneering characters he interviews is former teacher Monika Linton.
Linton founded Brindisa, the Spanish ingredient emporium in London. Her newly published book Brindisa, the true food of Spain, a massive tome of knowledge and recipes interspersed with superb information on Spanish ingredients, was sent to me this week. The chapter on paella rice describes it as:
 "the Japonica type, which is plump and slightly opaque with a bright white concentration of starch in the centre of the grain". 
Towards the end of the book there is an Orange Rice Pudding recipe that jumped out at me which is something I've fancied cooking since I found an old pack of pudding rice while trying to use up ingredients in my dry pantry. This is a controversial dish, redolent of school dinners but I was one of the weird kids that actually liked rice pudding, tapioca and semolina. 
The Brindisa recipe specified La Bomba rice, and suggests a massive proportion of milk to rice: 2.5 litres of liquid to only 100g of rice. 
Following the recipe, I used my old pudding rice and a cinnamony bay leaf I brought back from Grenada. I added 75g of sugar, a stick of cinnamon, a vanilla stick and some orange peel.
They suggest cooking it for around two hours and adding the milk slowly bit by bit. Bollocks to that. I shoved all the ingredients in a Le Creuset dish that I found next to the bin outside. It's my only one. Then I put the lid on and put it in the simmering oven of the Aga and forgot about it.
This morning I got it out. The rice had dissolved into a mystery starch. It wasn't sweet enough and the orange peel gave it a slightly unpleasant underlying taste.

The next day I tested it again, this time with Spanish paella rice. Not La Bomba but better quality than the ole (very ole) pudding rice. I omitted the orange peel using only the zest as the pith is the bitter part. I added more sugar and less milk while leaving it in the bottom oven overnight.
And yes it's perfect. The rice hasn't fallen apart. There is no bitterness.

My version of Brindisa's orange rice pudding or

Overnight Rice Pudding Recipe

Serves 6 to 8

2 litres full fat milk
100g paella rice
100g sugar
1 vanilla stick
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of 1 orange

Put all the ingredients into a lidded casserole and bung in the lowest Aga oven overnight. Remove in morning. Eat for breakfast or leave till later.

If, and it's very likely, you don't have an Aga, then put it in a low oven (140ºc) for approximately two hours or overnight at 100cº. You could also try it in a slow cooker.
This also makes a very good breakfast as an alternative to overnight oats.
This can be made vegan by replacing the cows milk with nut milk.

overnight rice pudding

Monday, 12 September 2016

Grape Jelly recipe

grape jelly

Preparing food from scratch is mostly a very slow process, especially when you have also grown it.  It runs counter to everything else in a society which wants stuff fast. It's often not even cheaper.
I say 'grown it' but this part was effortless. You plant a grape vine in a hole in the soil in a sunny position and wait. This is the third year of the grape vine. I was lucky - it had grapes from the very first year. This year its arms have extended along my balcony while the trunk of the vine has drooped with the weight of green and purple grapes as if laden with gems.
The great thing about a vine is you can also use the leaves for wrapping food, making dolmades, barbequeing fish and halloumi, adding to home made pickles to make them crunchy. It's a very useful plant.
This year I finally got my shit together to do something with the grapes. They are wine grapes with thicker skins and bigger pips, rather than table grapes, so you can't really eat them straight.
What can you make with wine grapes? Wine? Don't have enough, don't have all the gear, it's a bit of a pfaff. Maybe next year there will be Chateau Kilburn.

Grape Jelly.

I did two recipes: one which required me to hand squeeze the juice out of every sodding grape. This took five hours. Added onto the hours I'd already spent: killing the woodlice hiding within the bunches, removing each grape from each bunch, plucking the bitter stems from each grape.
I tolerated this by turning it into a Netflix sesh. I watched the Gilmore Girls (themed supper club coming up) with my daughter. I even got her to help which made the pile go down more quickly. It's amazing quite how enjoyable, productive, fast and companionable mindless prepping tasks can be.
So we squeezed the juice from each grape into a bowl, keeping the skins in a dank separate pile in another bowl. The grape squeezing possessed the rewarding satisfaction you get from popping bubble wrap, but five hours is a long time to pop bubble wrap.
I boiled the pale green juice for five minutes and strained out all the pips. I added the skins which turned the concoction a deep purple and brought it up to a boil once more. I strained out the skins and left a bruise coloured sieve to drip the juice overnight. The next morning I added sugar, pectin and kept it on a rolling boil until I could see thick drops hanging from the edge of the spoon when lifted from the jam.
But I had lots more grapes and I couldn't face the hand squeezing again.
My second attempt I tried a short cut. I cleaned the grapes, removed all the green tendrils and vines and dumped the lot in a large copper jamming pan. I boiled for an hour or so until the grapes looked soft and mushy. Every so often I'd deflate bloated grapes with a spoon.
Then I poured the pan, bit by bit, into a cheesecloth lined sieve over a pan. I left it overnight again, covering the squashed grapes in the sieve with a cloth so as not to attract fruit flies.
The next day I squeezed the cheesecloth to remove the last juices and set the copper pan on a rolling boil again, adding sugar and pectin.
After around an hour it was ready, I'd reached 'setting point'. I'd already sterilised the jars in the oven and funnelled the hot jelly into them.
The second technique was less time consuming than the first but both worked well.
Grape jelly has an appealingly tart flavour. Even though I'm not a jam person, the glossy claret spread thick on warm bread with yellow butter for breakfast was pretty good.
I do like doing things slowly. It might seem stupid to spend an entire weekend making five pots of jam when I could go out and buy them. But there is a deep satisfaction in using the produce from my garden to make something delicious, without preservatives. I've given a jar to my hairdresser and I'll save one for my mum. Who is a jam person.
grape jelly

Grape Jelly recipe

Makes about 5 jars

3 kilos grapes, washed, deloused, picked free of vegetation and stems
450g caster sugar
1 tbsp of pectin

Prep the grapes.
Put in a large pan and boil until squidgy, helping it along with a spoon.
Strain into a cheesecloth lined sieve over a large pan.
Put the strained juice back into the first large pan.
Add the sugar and pectin.
Keep on a rolling boil on a medium high heat for around 45 mins to an hour.
The jelly will reach setting point. This can be ascertained by checking the drops from the edge of the spoon, they should be slow, thick and non drippy. Or use a cold saucer (I always keep one in the freezer), pour a little on and if you can push it with your finger and it forms a wrinkle, it's done.
Wash the jam jars very well then put them in a low oven for half an hour to sterilise. Use new lids if using screw top jars.
Remove the jars when the jelly is ready and pour it in.
secret garden club grapes


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Tapas inspiration from Seville

Go to Seville. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with amber lit streets shadowed by orange-scented trees at night, white horse-drawn carriages and walls covered with blazing pelargoniums during the day. Look up Shawn Hennessey who runs tapas tours. She will take you to some hidden gems, which you would be unlikely to find by yourself, little makeshift tapas restaurants in the back room of shops plus historic tapas bars. My favourite places to eat in Seville were:
  • El RinconcilloAn old tiled bar with antique shop fittings, there since 1670 
  • El Bodeguita Antonio Romeromerely 75 years old, this place is run by tall dusky Andalucians with abundant dark curls in crisp white shirts. Ahem. 
  • Casa Moreno, where you eat at the back of the shop on rickety boards set up on crates of soft drinks. It's chaotic and friendly. I ate montaditos (tiny bocadillos/sandwiches) with melted Cabrales, Spanish blue cheese.
  • Vineria San Telmo order La Serena (from Extremadura) sheeps cheese which comes with caramelised onions. 
  • Enrique Bercerra: Beautiful tiled exterior. Even the olives were great: crunchy, large, green, juicy, lemony. 
When ordering in Spain, remember that there are several sizes, tapas are smaller than raciones for instance.

Patatas Bravas Recipe

Patatas bravas pic: Keratin Rodgers/

It's so hard to get a decent version of this dish in tapas restaurants, the potatoes are either dry or stale or burnt, but so very easy to make it at home. Traditionally one makes a spicy tomato sauce to drape on top but here I've made a version of romesco sauce and added a little Tabasco.

1 kilo potatoes, peeled, chopped into 3cm squares

Sea salt
Olive oil

For the sauce:

3 large red peppers, grilled, deseeded and skinned
1 bulb of garlic
3 Nora peppers, soaked, seeded (can be replaced by mild Mexican chillis such as dried Anchos)
2 tomatoes, skinned, diced
100g salted almonds or ground almonds or hazelnuts or a combination
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
50ml good olive oil
2 tbsp of sherry vinegar

A few drops of Tabasco
Salt to taste

Prepare the potatoes and leave in a colander sprinkled with sea salt for 15 minutes. Grill the red peppers and garlic with their skins on. Place the nora peppers in boiling water in a pyrex jug and leave to soak for ten minutes. Use this opportunity to skin the tomatoes by scoring a cross on top, then leaving them to soak in the same boiling water for a few minutes. Remove the tomatoes and peel back the skin. Dice.

Once the pepper skin is blistered and the garlic bulb soft, I remove to cool. Strip off the skins and deseed the peppers. Squeeze the garlic from the bulb.

Put the red peppers, the roasted garlic, nora peppers, diced tomatoes, the nuts, the paprika, olive oil and sherry vinegar in a powerful blender or food processor and blitz until it forms a smooth paste. This can also be done in a pestle and mortar if you don't have any kitchen gadgets. Taste and add salt.

Take a large frying pan or a deep fat fryer, heat olive oil (at least 4cms deep) until 185cº and tip the potatoes in so that they cover one layer. If there are more do it in two batches. 

I don't usually use olive oil for frying but for this dish I do. It's worth the extra expense on oil. Fry the potatoes until golden brown, once cooked, lift into a bowl covered with kitchen paper to blot the oil. Then transfer into a bowl and serve with the sauce. 

Wine suggestion:
I'd drink Spanish red. 'Crianza' is part of the Spanish system of labelling wines by age - a 'Crianza' wine is under two years old. 'Reserva' means it has been aged for 3 years and 'Gran Reserva' has been aged for 5 years for reds and 4 years for whites.

Spinach with Chickpeas (Espinacas con garbanzos)

Spinach with Chickpeas (Espinacas con garbanzos)

Seriously, who knew such humble ingredients could be so magic? This was my favourite tapa in Seville, to the point that I ordered it in every bar to compare and contrast. They were all good. I've tried to approximate the dish with this recipe. It's not quite right but it's pretty damn good. Serve with fried bread and a chilled glass of white wine.

Serves 2

150g bunch of spinach, washed, chopped if big, left whole if baby spinach
300ml water
1 tsp sea salt
6 tbsp olive oil
3 whole garlic cloves, skinned
2 slices day-old bread
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
3 minced cloves garlic
200g cooked chickpeas (buy good quality Spanish garbanzos sold in jars which are softer than those in tins)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp vinegar
50ml water

Rinse and chop the spinach then, in a medium saucepan on a medium heat, containing 300ml of boiling water with salt and a tablespoon of the olive oil to keep it green. 

Once the spinach is tender, a minute or two, stir in the garbanzos and turn down to a very low heat. In a small frying pan on a medium heat, add the rest of the olive oil and sautée three whole cloves of garlic. Remove the garlic when browned then add the two slices of bread; fry on both sides until golden and crispy. 

Remove the fried bread and reserve in a mortar (or food processor) with the whole toasted garlic.

Returning to the frying pan, in the same hot oil, add the three cloves of minced garlic and the sweet smoked paprika, stirring them together quickly. Then add the oil, garlic and paprika to the saucepan with the spinach and chickpeas.

In a mortar or a food processor, grind/mash the garlic with the toasted bread, cumin, vinegar, and water (until you get a nice thick paste). Add this mixture to the pot, stir well and simmer over medium heat for ten or fifteen minutes to reduce broth.

Wine suggestion
People associate Rioja with red wine, but the whites must be tried. Great even as an aperitif with anchovy or lemon stuffed olives.

Deep Fried Blue Cheese Stuffed Green Olives Recipe

Deep Fried Blue Cheese Stuffed Green Olives Recipe

Spectacular and tasty canapé, perfect with cocktails, l'apero or any pre-dinner drinks. This recipe can easily be expanded depending on the size of your party. 

20 pitted green olives 
100g blue cheese
100g plain flour
3 egg whites
175g breadcrumbs (make your own by grating 2 day old sourdough in a food processor)
Oil for frying (sunflower or rapeseed)

Roll the cheese into small (approx 5g each depending on the size of the olives) pellets that can easily be slotted into the green olives. If the olive opening is small, poke in the cheese with a cocktail stick.
Then set up a little production line:
  • A dish of flour
  • A dish of egg whites
  • A dish of breadcrumbs
Consecutively drip each olive into the flour, the egg whites then the breadcrumbs.

In the meantime, if using a deep fat fryer, preheat it to 180Cº or, if shallow frying, pour enough oil into a small saucepan, approximately 6-8 cms deep, to fry the olives.
Carefully, using a slotted spoon, place the breadcrumbed olives into the heated oil and fry for 3 minutes or until golden. 

Serve immediately with cocktail sticks. You don't want everyone's paws on the olives - as bad as double dipping.

Wine suggestion:
I'm a huge fan of sherry, thinking that sometimes it goes even better with food than wine. While it doesn't contain 'umami' as Heston once claimed, it does bring out the 6th flavour in your food. When Fino is chilled and it's a hot day, I could swig this throughout a Spanish meal. Perfect with tapas. Fino is a sophisticated taste, which takes a while to get used to if you are more familiar with the sweet thick fig-like sherries such as Pedro Ximenez, San Emilio, Lustau. Refer to the latter as 'PX' if you want to sound knowledgeable.

Deep Fried Blue Cheese Stuffed Green Olives Recipe