shewhomust: (Default)
We had a lot of catching up to do with J: she has been house-hunting, she has been on holiday. So we invited her to dinner last night, and to stay the night, so that she could tell us all about it. As a result, [personal profile] durham_rambler has spent the morning searching the internet for information about the property with which she has fallen in love, and I have been looking for information about Trieste, which sounds like a good place to visit.

With that in mind, an interesting piece in the WSJ and Trieste Tourist Office. Best coffee in Italy, allegedly.

J didn't come empty handed. She brought me a blue shirt, passed on to her by F., and not quite right (there was a reason, but I've forgotten it): it is a shade of blue which always makes me think of GirlBear, so it may not have reached its destination yet - we shall see. Also the last remains of a putizza, a characteristic cake from Trieste and Slovenia which combines innocuous looking panettone with nodules of concentrated essence of Christmas cake, to which chocolate has been added. And half a panettone, which we didn't touch last night, and divided up this morning. I shall make bread-and-butter pudding tonight (without the butter).
shewhomust: (ayesha)
In the Guardian (where else?), taste testing home made posh crisps. I can't decide which is my favourite quotation from the article:
  1. Their size and fragility mean they’re not as filling as a real crisp, but they could work well as a crisp amuse-bouche before proper crisps are served.

  2. Because the idea of healthy crisps appeals to everyone.

  3. In terms of taste it’s right up there with the radish.

What do you think?
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Since it is still winter, the vegetable stall was at the Farmers' Market this morning. They sell the best carrots ever, but this year they have something new -


Sticks of sprouts we know (and I have learned to cook the tops as well as the sprouts, since they are excellent) but purple, frilly sprouts? Why, yes, look at the close-up:

Sprouts (close-up)

Very purple and very frilly. And now it's time to go and cook some for dinner.

ETA (03.03.17): Mystery solved! They are Kalettes, and they are one of the coolest trends of 2017.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I spent much of yesterday afternoon in Newcastle, failing at shopping: I caught an early train ahead of the Graphic Novels Reading Group, intending to shop for a couple of impending birthdays, and a pair of gloves for myself. And came home with only a tube of toothpaste (and a library book).

Saturday's shopping was less ambitious - all I wanted was food for the first half of the week - and correspondingly more successful.

Marks & Spencers had the first of the season's greengages. Mostly I resist the temptation to buy fruit from M&S - I buy their unwaxed lemons and their fairtrade bananas, because I know that my favourite greengrocer does not stock these things. Everything else, I wait until I reach the greengrocer - and mostly, I'm rewarded by their having the same thing, cheaper. I wasn't going to risk missing the first greengages, though: I bought two boxes, and they were sweet and plump and ripe.

For once, this was the right decision. The greengrocer didn't have greengages - but they did have huge fleshy globe artichokes, and we had one each for our dinner on Saturday. They were so big, they barely fitted in the largest of the glass saucepans, and I had to keep turning them with a spoon, because I was nervous that otherwise the side that wasn't submerged would not be done. The first few petals are always hard work, but very soon they began to come away easily from the base, and to surrender the tender little fragments of goodness. This is slow food, and we enjoyed it all the way down to the last flimsy purple petals, and then the reward of the solid disk of heart.

When I came to wash up the saucepan next morning, the last drops of the cooking water were not green but pink.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I thought I had written about the food fair in Bishop Auckland, but maybe not. Ah, well. Anyway, one of the things I bought there was some stewing veal, and yesterday I took it out of the freezer and made a blanquette de veau. It's a dish I haven't made in a long time (I don't manage to buy veal very often) and I was pleased with how it came out, the sauce all lemony and buttery, the meat sweet and tender. Since it's classic old fashioned French cuisine, I wanted a classic French wine to drink with it, and chose a bottle that we had bought at the Maison des Vins in Gaillac: the Domaine Philémon Perlé (information about the producer in English, and I wish I'd known about their Jurançon Noir, I don't remember seeing that). My only hesitation was that it might be too light, and I'm glad I didn't check the website which recommends serving it as an aperitif or with fish, or I might have been dissuaded from serving it with the veal. It was light and fresh, and the almost-fizz indicated by the name 'Perlé' accentuated that, but it had enough flavour, a good balance of fruit and acidity, to go well with the veal and its sauce.

Sometimes I wish I had asked the internet before deciding which wine to serve with what. D. brought us a bottle of Brana's Harri Gorri, which was particularly welcome as we had not been very successful in buying Irouléguy when we were there (short version: the domain we wanted to buy from was harvesting on the day we called, and too busy to sell; the local supermarket doesn't sell local wine and the Cave Co-op's wines are unimpressive. We bought some, but grudgingly). Harri Gorri (can't say that name too often) is much more elegant than we are accustomed to in an Irouléguy (I don't know how it manages that when it's 50% tannat, but it does), and would have been much happier with the following night's lamb stew, as the Wine Society's website suggests, than with whatever I served it with (don't remember). Then again, the Brana website says serve with game or grilled meat, which suggests something chunkier. It also uses the word "empyreumatique" which was new to me, and I had to look it up (show-off winespeak for the toasty flavours associated with oak, it says here).

One more bottle of Basque wine, this one from the other side of the Pyrenees, On the last day of our holiday we had made the most of our last chance to stock up at a Spanish supermarket. Choosing a last few bottles of wine with no better guidance than whether I liked the label, I picked an elegant little bottle of Beldui txacoli. All the text on the label was in Basque, so there were no clues about how to serve it. Eventually I opened the bottle and tasted it. At cellar temperature it was a little flat, almost musty, and I opened a bottle of red to drink with the chicken. But served chilled to accompany cheese and grapes for dessert, the txacoli's dullness was transformed into a subtle oxidation, an almost sherry-like edge. So that was all right. And oh, look, you can visit the vineyard...
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
One of the questions in the pub quiz last Wednesday (in a round of questions about blood) was: "Which town in Scotland is known for its black pudding?" I had no idea. It rang no bells at all: surely black pudding comes from Bury, in Lancashire? The team discussed it, and nobody knew the answer. Eventually, the majority vote went for Dundee. I wasn't convinced: surely jam, jute and journalism are enough industries for one town? Besides, Dundee felt too big, I wanted a smaller town... But since I couldn't come up with a better answer, we handed in our sheet for marking, and it was returned to us with a cross beside that answer. We carried on kicking it back and forth, while we waited for all the papers to be marked, and somebody said "Tomintoul", not because he thought it was the answer but because it was a good Scottish town-name. Something about the metre of it threw a switch in my mind, and, dammit!, I knew perfectly well where it was, of course I knew -

That lightbulb moment )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Today's word is 'pancheon'.

Last Saturday's word, if you want to be picky, but I didn't meet it until this morning, because that's when I was reading the 'Cook' supplement of Saturday's Guardian. Asked what is her favourite kitchen tool, Regula Ysewijn replies "my pancheon". There's no explanation, though it's obvious from the context that it's a large earthenware bowl - an image search turns up plenty of them - straight-sided rather than round, used for making bread or cream.

The column doesn't seem to have made it into the online edition (or maybe just 'not yet') but Regula Ysewijn's website has some wonderful photographs, and photo essays on subjects like 'Eels, pie and mash and her blog mixes historical recipes with essays about food production.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
The last two loaves I made have both contained a proportion of buckwheat. I was a bit hesitant about this, as none of my bread recipes mention buckwheat, and the bag has been at the back of the drawer for quite a long time. In fact, "quite a long time" is several years: it must be, because I bought the flour in France, and when did I last have an opportunity to do that? I buy buckwheat flour (sarrasin or blé noir to make savoury pancakes, as they do in Brittany, and just had to check that buckwheat really is the English name. My French/English dictionary won't tell me the French for 'buckwheat', but it's willing to tell me the English for sarrasin, so that's all right. Books tell you that flour becomes rancid if you keep it too long, but I've never noticed any problems.

Proportions were: the usual starter, made with white flour, plus a third each of (wholemeal) spelt, buckwheat and the crunchy wholemeal from Lode Mill.

First time round, I used sunflour oil, and added sunflower seeds at the last kneading, so that most of them were on the crust, for added crunch. I ran out of time, so it didn't have as long for the final rise as I would have liked, but it wasn't too dense, and had a good nutty flavour. It made excellent toast, but it was too crumbly to make good sandwiches (they tasted fine, but tended to disintegrate).

Next time, having remembered to buy some sesame seeds, I used sesame oil, and I may have been too mean with it (it's quite strongly flavoured, and I didn't want to overdo it) as the resultant loaf had a rather cracked crust. It tasted fine, but bits fell off when I sliced it. I meant to give it longer to rise in the tin, but forgot to do this before we went out for tea with J., so this loaf, too, had a short final rise; despite which it rose very nicely in the oven, and the sesame seeds made a very tasty crust.

That was the end of the bag of flour; no more buckwheat loaves until I've been to France to stock up again.

And in other culinary news, dinner was a gammon joint with Jersey new potatoes, asparagus and Provençal rosé, with raspberries to follow. Despite the grey clouds, I am trying to will it to be summer - we head north on Thursday.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
  1. Nigel Slater fantasises about what he would do if someone left a box of quinces on his doorstep - and then gives two recipes, one of which is, effectively 'serve poaches quince with gorgonzola cream' (sounds good); the other is for Quince and panettone pudding, but the proportions seem off: the recipe specifies 1.2 kilos of quinces (peeled and cored weight) to 220g panettone (or brioche): that's a whole lot of quinces.

  2. Mistakes do happen. In yesterday's Cook supplement, Henry Dimbleby concludes his introduction to a digest of his 'Back to Basics' series with the words: "And, finally, we have not included baked potatoes in the contents because I was weong. I am so sorry to all of you who sent me photos of your ovens looking like a culinary crime scene. Baked potatoes really can explode if you don't prick them with a fork. Quite violently, it turns out." Oh, yes. Been there, done that, washed the T-shirt. I've typed out the text, because I can't find it on the Guardian's website (though the column in which he claims that the exploding spud is an urban myth is still there).

  3. We had haggis for dinner. Since we did a big supermarket shop rather than going in to Durham yesterday, it was some fancy brand, i.e. not MacSween's, and it was not as good. The casing was some dark thin plastic, and the contents dense and claggy - not unpleasant, but, as [ profile] durham_rambler says, we'll be having the real thing on Burns Night.

  4. On the bright side, since I was cooking a haggis in the oven (in a bowl of water, because that's what you do), I was able to observe the effects of putting a bowl of water into the oven while the bread is baking. Today's chestnut loaf was rising very nicely even before it went into the oven, so this isn't conclusive, but it does seem to have helped.

  5. This is further support for the hypothesis that the wetter the dough, the better it rises - and the harder it is to get out of the tin.

ETA: some quince links, courtesy of [ profile] cmcmck and [ profile] browngirl: The NYT praises the quince, because there are quince trees at the Cloisters Museum. But there are more, at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon. Quinces seem to be having a moment, and there are several cookbooks (or cooking and growing) books devoted entirely to quinces. Barbara Ghazarian wrote one of them. She has a quince blog.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
In Saturday's travel supplement, the Guardian's restaurant critic recommends where to eat in San Francisco. [ profile] desperance, your mission is to try all of these before our next visit. Brunch at Verbena is currently top of my list (they have, and I quote, an illuminated wooden pickle wall), but I await your report...

Across the bottom of the page, readers contribute additional recommendations. One of these is for Hamburgers, in Sausalito - "just across the street from the ferry terminal. It’s a tiny place with a line of lunch customers along the sidewalk..." This explains something. My notes from Sausalito (which will be a post of their own when they grow up, but not yet...) remark that the big queue (much longer than the one in the Guardian's photograph) along the street was not for the nice Mexican restaurant where we lunched, but for the burger joint next door. Apparently it's a thing.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
A couple of weekends ago we went to a food fair in the grounds of Raby Castle: there were fewer stalls than I had expected, but they were good ones, and the gardens were in spectacular bloom, so it all balanced out. I brought home a handful of leaflets, which it's time to clear off my desk:

  • I bought some Seville mustard (mustard made with the juice of Seville oranges) from Cumberland Honey Mustard (and tried their mostarda, which I've come across in Italian recipes but never tasted, so I can't say whether mostarda is less interesting than I hoped, or just this version).

  • There was cheese from Winter Tarn organic farm (isn't that a great name!), and I bought the two they make themselves, both cows' milk, a nicely nutty Cheddar-style cheese and a very buttery blue.

  • We had a lengthy and interesting conversation with someone who wasn't selling food at all, but promoting, if I have this right, the Friends of Stewart Park in Middlesbrough are involved with a project organised by Kew Gardens to encourage the planting and appreciation of wild flowers. It's taken a fair bit of poking around thhe web to find this ("Look us up on FaceBook!" they say; "Hah!" say I. "Find us on Twitter!" they say; but I can't...) but scroll down to the end of this blog post to find what we were told about the project, and the leaflet we picked up about a walk in the park (which also includes the birthplace of Captain Cook, and a museum dedicated to him). The odd thing is that they are claiming to be shortlisted as finalists for the Grow Wild project, and Grow Wild seem to have other ideas. The park looks worth a visit, regardless...

Never mind, have a picture of the castle and gardens:

shewhomust: (bibendum)
The high point of the meal was a dark, mysterious-looking truffle. It was all I've ever dreamed of in a dish. It was a bit like chocolate, but with an acidic quality. It looked like a dessert and was sweet, but also savoury. It had the texture of damp coal dust, and legs like a glass of vintage wine. My face told them I had no idea what I was eating. It was a morcilla, they said, made with sturgeon's blood. A black pudding.

Chris Moss dines out in Malaga, Guardian 24.05.2014

I would be more surprised by this had the not been a high point of our pre-Christmas Argentine dinner with [ profile] helenraven - I described it at the time as "like clouds of savoury soot".

Still, sturgeon's-blood black pudding - who knew?
shewhomust: (dandelion)
We went shopping in Durham in the rain, and came home with golden beetroot and purple potatoes.

Also with purple beetroot, and white-with-golden(ish)-skins potatoes, but that's less interesting.

And English asparagus - perhaps it is spring, despite the rain.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
"All the way to the end of the bar, then turn right. It's on your left, up three steps, past the parrot."

I liked the ring of these instructions from the start, though I imagined the parrot as a picture, at most a stuffed toy on a perch. It turned out to be a parrot, patrolling the small lobby at the top of the three steps, curious about visitors but not bothered by, or bothering them.

There's a photo on the website of the Fox and Hounds in Cotherstone: they serve a good solid pub lunch, and you can have fruitcake with a slab of cotherstone cheese for pudding (of course I did).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
From the Guardian travel section, cutting edge Nordic cuisine in the Faroe islands: I'm more attracted by the scenery than the food, which is not like me, but I liked this quotation from John Gynther from the experimental cheese division ("really", says the writer) of a Danish dairy products company: "The humidity here is perfect for maturing cheeses, but nobody has tried it before... If it's successful, I hope some of the best restaurants in the world will give it to their guests. It'll be the true taste of the north Atlantic, expressed in a cheese."

The true taste of the north Atlantic, expressed in a cheese: isn't that what we've all been waiting for?

Via [ profile] sovay, photographs from Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 - 1917 Ross Sea Party, which spent time living in Scott’s hut after being stranded on Ross Island when their ship blew out to sea. Conservators found and processed the exposed cellulose nitrate negatives. The Antarctic Heritage Trust website is a bit shaky, but worth persevering with.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
It's been a while since I posted anything from the Guardian's Travel section; and this isn't because the papers have been piling up next to my desk, waiting to be dealt with. Oh, I admit, there may well be old travel supplements in the various piles of stuff which undeniably do accrete atound my desk, but recent weeks have been filled with tips about skiing and Christmas markets and other all-too-resistable offers.

This description of the Abruzzo in autumn, and the local produce to be enjoyed there, seemed worth saving. The author's blog is Rachel Eats (and the current post, about mincemeat includes a recipe for apple and quince mincemeat).

The same supplement, in list of ten new places to stay for a winter break in the Highlands (ours not to reason why) reveals that the John O’Groats Hotel really has been renovated. It was looking pretty dilapidated last time I saw it, and although there was talk of renovation, well, there's always talk. I would not, myself, have described John O’Groats as being in the Highlands, but I see that the Guardian is following the hotel's own website, which says it is in the North Highlands (then again, it says it has a view of "the Orkneys", so...
shewhomust: (dandelion)
It seems to be summer. I had completely forgotten how that goes. Seriously, not being funny about that yellow thing in the sky at all. There was a week on Lindisfarne with sunshine and flowers and not being rained on, and I thought "How nice, it's summer. And it's even quite warm when the sun hits my back just so..."

It is now doing actually warm. Not by the standards of my friends who live in actual deserts, but warm enough to make it quite difference to work here in the attic in the afternoons, when all the heat rises and the sun falls on my screen so I can't see most of it.

We took some miscellaneous rubbish up to the tip yesterday morning, and passed a field that was scarlet with poppies, a solid carpet of red sprinkled with something white - maybe those big daisies which have been so impressive this year. Didn't stop and look, as we were on a mission to the tip and then Sainsbury's.

Which is why dinner tonight was a sort of deconstructed salade niçoise (because a proper salade niçoise requires too many ingredients to be practical for just two people) with onion and olive rolls (mine, and very light - hooray! - but reluctant to part from the baking tray) and a Provençal rosé, pale pink, quite acid, very cold. A perfect summer supper.

But I'm still dreaming of heading north.
shewhomust: (Default)
I am reunited with my sourdough starter. It has been spending its holidays with S., who is the second-best and most serious baker I know (after [ profile] desperance), and had expressed a desire to try sourdough. The experiment wasn't a success - she felt, I think, that the soudough method required extra effort which the result didn't justify - but that's why we experiment, and my starter has returned to me rested and refreshed after its holiday (that is, it is full of bounce).

Not having to think about baking as we prepared for our holiday was certainly a relief; but something's been missing, too, and by the time I was ready to bake my first batch of bread, I knew it would be a saffron loaf.

A generous pinch - ah, I see that's what I said last time - in that case, a more than generous pinch of saffron set to steep until I was ready for it. Half white flour (which was all the white flour I had, but luckily, all I needed) a quarter spelt and a quarter rye made a bright yellow dough. Some candied peel (the citrus and grapefruit from the tub of pieces, must try to source some more now because I'm down to the last of the orange), a handful of pistachios and another of sultanas. I soaked the sultanas, but I think the added moisture made the dough harder to handle, and I can't discern any difference in the fruit, so I might not bother next time.

This made one big loaf, which - and this is obvious, but I didn't work it out for myself, I learned it from S - I cut in half before freezing it. And since I was slicing it down the middle, obviously I sneaked a slice for breakfast. Oh, it was good, a chewy mouthful of harsh saffron and mellow fruit.

Tomorrow it's back to the brick, the second half of which has emerged from the freezer. I don't care if it's solid. I love the flavour. I have this theory about cooking, which is that anyone who cooks at all secrety thinks that they are a much better cook than they will admit, because you get to cook things the way you like them.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
...and some gave them plums. F's tree fruits heavily every other year, and this being an other year, we had a phone call from her: "I'm going away for the weekend. I've eaten and cooked all the plums I can face, and I don't want to come home to a garden full of windfalls and wasps. Come on Sunday and gather plums in my absence."

Golden Harvest

  • So on Sunday we dined on porc à la vosgienne (well, I'm not entirely convinced that F's little yellow plums are mirabelles - but close enough).

  • I made a batch of plum compote, half of which I froze, and half we ate - it took perhaps twice as much sugar as I expected to produce a soft, intensely sharp-sweet compote; perhaps I should have persevered for a thicker if not firmer set, and called it jam. The half that comes out of the freezer will certainly go into a baked dessert of some kind.

  • After that, I was nervous that the plum and almond tart (Jane Grigson's recipe, and she called it a tart, although it has a lid) would be sour and inedible, but it was delicious - it looked a mess, but the taste was great. I'd do that again, but maybe use not quite such short pastry, as it was impossible to handle.

  • I found a plum mincemeat recipe in a collection of recipes from Farmers' Weekly: plums, cooking apples, sugar, vine fruits, candied peel and almonds. I halved the quantity of cooking apples, and used a higher proportion of currants than I intended, because we seem mysteriously to be out of sultanas, and the bag I thought contained raisins was more currants - and I spotted the missing ingredient, and gave it a good dose of armagnac. Some went into an oatmeal-mincemeat slice, and the rest is in the freezer. I know in theory I shouldn't need to freeze mincemeat, but I have no faith, and anyway this has stewed fruit where the genuine article has suet. That's got to make a difference.

  • I ate some, just as they were. Nice enough, but not the best eating plums.

  • We had the last handful, stewed with the leftover apples, for dessert tonight.

Meanwhile, I continue to bake bread, We checked the scales against [ profile] durham_rambler's fancy electronic scaled, and an unopened pack of butter, and established that they were perfectly accurate, and then [ profile] durham_rambler cleaned them and moved the adjustable counterweight, and I didn't notice, so there've been some random elements, but I think we're back on track. Briefly, then:

The plain wholemeal loaf was much enlivened by the addition of a handful or two of sunflower seeds. That's worth doing again.

The oatmeal and rye loaf that I made from the Tassajara recipe was a nightmare to handle. The dough wasn't sticky, which is the usual complaint, but the opposite - not dry, exactly, but refusing to cohere, prone to cracking (see above, scales, maladjustment of). I made a small loaf in the pan with 'LOAF' on the side, and four good-sized rolls, and it was probably the best texture I've achieved yet, pleasantly springy. Next time, either omit the molasses, use less, or save the bread for eating on its own.

I'm wondering whether I was so afraid of not giving the dough time to prove that I was leaving it too long. Cutting the proving time seems to have worked for the oatmeal and rye loaf, so I did it again today, with the loaf I made from the granary barley flour I bought at the market because I want to try making the barley flatbread with it), and that seems to have risen impressively, if rather lopsidedly - I don't usually bother with the cutting the top of the loaf, because it doesn't usually rise enough to show. This one might have been the better for it.

And the proof of the loaf comes at breakfast time.

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