Monday, 26 May 2014

Congratulations Fleet. An enjoyable weekend

Popped up the road yesterday to the first year of the Fleet Food Festival ( . I was worried it would not deliver. All too often I have attended local food festivals, been charged £5 to get in and found nothing of any real interest. Not this time.

First plus - no entrance fee. Closely followed by some great live music to queue to. Good ales and ciders to quench the thirst then came the food.

Thousand Hills sauces (
The 1000 Tomato Chili sauce has a deep flavour and enough heat to make it interesting. The sweet and hot Cranberry and Chili sauce is equally delicious. Can't wait to get that on some game in the near future. I also purchesed the garlic chili sauce and can't wait to try their tip of adding it to some mashed potato.

Lunch was a stunning Gurkha chicken curry from the Topher Ltd tent ( A local company who specialize in event parking but who have diversified into Gurkha curries to make excellent use of the skills of the Gurkha staff they have in abundance. The addition of the dal made this a perfect accompaniment to the Longdog beers ( I had enjoyed their Lamplight Porter earlier in the day. I changed to a Winning Co-Ale-ition followed by a Kismet.

The choice of lunch was extensive. From Burgers through to curries and paellas. These were joined by many excellent stalls at the fair from fudge through to fine wines. Some excellent demonstrations in the two demonstration tents and plenty to keep us occupied for a few hours.

My sincere congratulations to the Fleet Food Festival team who made this first ever Fleet Food Festival a great success. I do hope it will return and get better each year.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Citrus, Strawberry and Sunshine

Finally we got some typical British summer today. Hot sunshine tempered with cloud now and again to give a little shade. Doors flung open at both ends of the house to give it an airing it felt like it was time to get the kitchen sorted out. Having spent the morning clearing out and cleaning the cupboards and then sharpening all my knives it felt like time to play.

First on the menu today was an attempt to make some cocktail pearls. Basically, reverse spherified lemon pearls that I can store in sweetened lemon juice and use some time soon in a liquigel G&T. I am still a novice at the spherification techniques so, although there were a few pearls, there were a number of Nik Naks ( inspired shapes too. The result was good though. Small tart perls that burst in the mouth to give a zing of citrus. I have stored those away in the fridge ready for the bank holiday weekend. 0.5 % sodium alganate to de-ionized water in the water bath. 1% Calcium Lactate and 0.5% Xanthan Gum in to the lemon juice with some simple syrup to sweeten it to taste.

Next it was the drunk strawberries  turn. I made up a daquiri jelly using 200g of water into which I dissolved 70 grams of sugar, 5.5g of Agar Agar and 1g of Carrageenan Iota. Once everything was dissolved (with the help of an immersion blender a.k.a. the Bammix) then I added 400g of pineapple juice and 100g of Triple Sec. I had already cut up the drunken strawberries I pickled the other week so that a good chunk was placed into the silicon moulds ready for the jelly to be poured in. This made 36 2cm cubes that are currently setting in the fridge. Do not boil the jelly liquid after the alcohol is added or you will lose the vital spirit.

I now had the rind from the 3 lemons I had used earlier and a remaining 3 lemons which I took the rind from and juiced. These were huge lemons giving about twice the juice of a normal lemon. The rind is currently sitting in the souse vide at 70 C in a bag of vodka ready to make another. batch of limoncello (I'will add simple syrup to this later to taste). The juice was matched in weight with sugar and boiled until the sugar was completely dissolved. This has two great uses. Instant lemonade when sparkling water and ice are added or just drizzle it over a lemon sponge.

The last act of the day was to pass the strawberry flavoured rum through a coffee filter paper into a waiting bottle. I'm sure I can find a good use for that soon either in a cocktail, spherified or just poured over a good vanilla icecream.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Easy Supper in the Sunshine

For the first time this year it was really warm enough to eat outside. I was not overly hungry so a nice salad beckoned. I knew we had enough salad items in but what to put with it? A quick potter up to town and some small cooking chorizos and some pre-cooked king prawns came home with a cold bottle of Chenin Blanc. Once home, I popped the chorizos into some cider (enough to cover them) and brought the cider to the boil. Meanwhile I melted some carotene butter and laid out the salad. After a short while the cider had reduced down to a sweet apple and paprika flavoured sauce. Everything now ready I popped it all on the table outside the conservatory and we enjoyed the first of many summer suppers for this year (I hope).

I know this is hardly cooking but I cannot recommend the chorizos in cider enough. A very simple but satisfying tapas I learned about in La Palma  on a recent holiday. A great little tapas bar off the main street where we had to remind them to charge us for the meal.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Too lazy to cook - almost.

Got home from work and wanted something a little spicy but didn't feel like spending hours in the kitchen. Just one of those days when I just don't feel like cooking. The solution came courtesy of something I picked up at the last Tweezledown Artisan Market ( wandering around the stalls I smelt a warm and spicy aroma mix and just had to investigate. What I found was a stall selling tubs of red and green Thai curry sauces and a Goan fish curry sauce along with a few other sauces. A quick taste and the three sauces mentioned were bagged and on their way home.

Tonight my cooking went as far as chopping some chicken that had been marinading in lime, ginger and chili in the fridge into 2cm chunks. Putting my favorite wok on a good heat and bringing a tub of the red Thai curry sauce to simmer. In went the chicken, some sliced onion and sliced red pepper. I reduced the heat and simmered the dish for about 20 minutes until the chicken was properly cooked through. I thinned the sauce a little with the juice of a lime and served it on a bed of coconut rice. The result was as good as anything I have had in a Thai restaurant. If you are going to use a cook in sauce then my advice is to find one that is as good as this or just order some from these guys :

If you are feeling really lazy then just pop round to their restaurant at 94 Station Road, Liss, North Hampshire and save yourself the trouble of cooking.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Bloodless Orange, Sea Bass and Fennel

The sun was shining brightly and the azure sky is drawing me away from the winter staples towards salads, fish etc. A quick look at the fridge and fruit bowl revealed a nice head of fennel, a good sized sea bass and blood oranges (or not as the case may be). I love fennel and orange which both work well with sea bass so tonight's planned meal is pan seared sea bass with a blood orange butter sauce, fennel and some green olives to add a bit of bite. I only need the juice from the blood orange but I don't want to waste the rind so I will carefully removed it so as not to take any of the bitter pith. Placed it in a bag with a little vodka to start drawing out those tasty oils. This will get cooked off in the sous vide later at 70C with the rest of a bottle of vodka that will then be added to a cup and a half of simple syrup to make a pleasant orange liqueur.

Back to the meal in hand. First I de-scaled and filleted the sea bass. Trim the spines and fins carefully with scissors. Then lay the fish on its side on a chopping board. With a sharp knife, cut towards the gill as shown.

Now, turn the knife and cut along the spine as shown (you will feel the knife running across the spine and through the lateral bones) and a good fillet will lift off.

Turn the fish over and repeat the exercise. You now have two good fillets that still contain the lateral bones. You can either use pliers to remove these or try this method. Run the knife down either side or the lateral bones taking care not to cut through the skin. Now, using fish pliers, pull the bones and connecting tissue out in one ribbon (sorry about the colour the flash failed)

Now came the horror. The blood oranges are anemic !!! No rich red colour (though there might be more rouge when I speak to my greengrocer next week).

Never mind, apart from the colour (which I could have faked with a little beetroot) I can add a slightly more tart taste with a splash of fresh lime. Panic over I cleaned 3 oranges, juiced 2.5 of them and left a half to add a segment or two to the finished dish. I now brought the juice to the boil, added some fresh coriander leaf and reduced this down to a sticky consistency. A tablespoon of clarified butter, a few green olives and we are almost ready to go.

In the meantime I brought some salted water to the boil and added some sliced fennel to soften it. While this happened, I brought a skillet to heat and seared the bass fillets. Time to bring the meal together and in less than 10 minutes (cooking time, preparing the fish takes a minute or two with practice)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Twitter feed added

Many years ago (or so it feels) I played with Twitter but could not see the point of adding my mundane comments to a mundane world. After a little though, I decided to re-visit this now much used technology as it might give me a chance to add the odd tip or comment without having to take the trouble to create a new blog post. I've added a gadget to the blog so you can see my tweets and re-tweets without having to follow me. I do hope this adds a little interest to the blog.

Papas Arrugadas con Mojo

On a recent trip down to Gran Canaria I fell in love with a very simple bar food. Papas Arrugadas con Mojo. Simply small Canary Island potatoes cooked in their jackets and served with a Mojo sauce. At the bar I tried these at they boil the potatoes for a short while in very salty water before popping them in the oven to dry/crisp a little. This leaves the potatoes with a light coating of salt powder on the skin. These are then served with three different Mojo sauces. A fiery red pepper sauce, a sweeter red pepper sauce and a green pepper sauce that is heavy on the coriander leaf. I brought a jar of the spicy sauce back, partly to remind me to find out how it is made and as a guide as to whether I get it right. If you fancy a tasty snack, an ideal accompaniment to a few beers with friends then here are the recipes:

Red Mojo Sauce

1 bulb of garlic
2 red chili peppers (paprika type not birds eye)
1 teaspoon of paprika (sweet or hot depending on your chili tolerance)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1.5 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons of olive oil.
salt to taste.

Grind the cumin seed, peeled garlic and de-seeded peppers in a pestle until you have a smooth pulp. Then add the paprika oil and vinegar to create the wonderful hot red sauce.

The sweet red sauce is made in the same way but replace the chili pepper with sweet peppers.

Green Mojo Sauce

1 bulb of garlic
2 green peppers
1/2 cup of chopped fresh coriander
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1.5 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons of olive oil
salt to taste.

Same preparation as above.

Both sauces will keep in the fridge for some months in sealed jars.

If you cannot get Canary Island potato then I find that small salad potatoes have a similar taste and texture.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Setting out your stall

When I chat about food and cooking to friends I am often asked :

a/ How many ingredients do you keep in the larder?
b/ How do you find the time?
c/ Why bother ?

As to the ingredients, I have to admit that I have a good stock cupboard with flour, oil, spices, and cans of beans, coconut milk etc. I probably have way more than is necessary but when you want a basil infused olive oil rather than sunflower oil or vanilla sugar rather than just caster sugar then the extras can make the difference between mediocre and fantastic. When I am at home and get the chance to add to the weekly vegetable box with a few specialties from the market then the resulting fresh produce tends to look like this:

A lot of this will be pickled, cooked, packaged this weekend and put in the freezer or the fridge ready for the next few weeks when I might not have the time to be as creative. As for the expense, all this fresh fare came in at under £25.

That brings us to the second question. By pre-preparing dishes like methi coated chicken, pickled fruit and vegetables, packaged sauces and flavoured oils I can throw together a really tasty meal in minutes. As for the last question, nothing gives more pleasure than a good meal, home cooked, full of flavour and goodness. Today we have to go out for the evening so we needed a quick, energy giving lunch that would sate our appetites in case we don't get to eat later but is not so filling that if the opportunity of a pleasant meal with friends does come up then we are not too full to enjoy it. From the raft of the ingredients above and with the addition of some maple syrup pickled turnip, some home made wok oil, pak choi and beansprouts I created a flavour filled stir fry to compliment some stir fried chicken thighs that had been cooked and preserved in my own methi leaf sauce. (I promise I will add the recipes for each as soon as I can). Was the result worth the 10 minutes it took to get it onto the plate ?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Such FUN !!!

We have eaten out for the last couple of nights so I couldn't play. A couple of days ago some Zorbit arrived and I mixed 1 part sesame oil with 3 parts Zorbit to produce an intense sesame oil flavoured powder that melts on the tongue but had nothing to use it on. Last night my wife was out so I got to play with 'The Beast' (pet name for the new chamber vacuum sealer) and the sous vide. Our local market has a fruit stall that has a 'British' front and a mysterious back shelf, behind the people serving frequented by the owners of the local Asian and Indian restaurant owners on a Saturday morning. The odd intrepid British adventurer like me takes an occasional expedition here to look at the wonderful fauna and wonder at what you do with it. Once in a while an ingredient looks familiar, such as the fenugreek leaves otherwise known as methi that I purchased this week. These slightly sad looking leaves, thrown into a food processor with garlic, a few birds eye green chilies and olive oil (plus a little salt and pepper) turn into a dark green sauce to compliment chicken or a meaty fish such as monk fish. This blended sauce was added to some filleted chicken thighs and cooked for 2 hours at 70C last night before being plunged into an ice bath and left in the fridge (BIG saving time as the next purchase is a second hand blast freezer)

Tonight, I took this cooked but cold chicken, cut it into 0.7cm slices, and stir fried it with some 'Instant Pickles' from the Beast . This let me pickle turnips in maple syrup and five spice and celery (julienne) and white onion in lime juice and olive oil. These were then added to the chicken and cooked through for about 5 minutes before I added some fresh baby spinach leaves and served the dish onto a basmati rice. The result was a popcorn of flavours, the spiced chicken, the piquant celery (took on more of the lime) and the olive oil pickled onions counterpointed by the sweet turnips. All crunchy and exciting to support the warm in both spice and heat chicken. Finally, I put a few pinches of the sesame oil powder over the dish. All in all it took less than 8 minutes from slice to serve (yes I know the chicken took 2 hours to cook yesterday but I was enjoying London Pride at the club at that time). No photographs, it wasn't an art work, stir fry and rice rarely is unless you spend 10 minutes arranging stuff with tweezers but the flavours .......