Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The North South Divide all comes down to Fish and Chips.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Canteen to a Fish and Chip master class by Cass Titcombe the Baker Street branch of Canteen. After a brief introduction we were introduced to Cass Titcombe, who gave a quick run through of what makes good fish and chips.
Now been from Yorkshire, I truly believe that I know good fish and chips from a good 50 yards. Fish and Chips are somewhat of an institution back up in the Shire and were always the takeaway of choice in our house when I was growing up. Mind you that was probably due to the fact that there wasn’t really that much takeaway choice in a village which was miles away from civilisation, and the local Chip shop was the closest at some 3 miles away. Anyway I’m digressing, back to the evening at Canteen.
Mr Titcombe gave us a brief lowdown on how they make fish and chips at Canteen explaining that instead of a batter they use breadcrumbs, as it produces a less greasy finished product and also is far less messy in a busy kitchen. I must admit, I did slightly recoil in horror when the word ‘breadcrumbs’ was spoken. Breaded fish, what kind of Fish and Chip master class is the first thing that sprang to mind. Whilst I was recoiling in horror about been served a piece of breaded fish, we were told about how they cook their chips twice at two different temperatures to get the perfect chip – soft and fluffy in the inside and crispy on the outside. Thankfully Cass added that we would be also served a piece of battered fish as well - I was pacified. Not only this but also there would be mushy peas to accompany the fish and chips. Now I love mushy peas, always have done. For me there is no other accompiment for Fish and Chips apart from Mushy Peas, Sorry but Curry Sauce and Gravy just don’t cut it as an accompaniment for Fish and chips at all for me, it’s a whole level of wrongness.
So the verdict, okay it wasn’t a good piece of plaice or haddock cooked in batter in beef dripping like it is at the Magpie Cafe on Whitby or even Eastholme Drive Chippie in Rawcliffe where my dad use to get ours on a Friday evening when we were kids. But then I’ve been spoilt when it comes to fish and chips. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to taste a good piece of fish, that had been cooked well and the breadcrumbs gave it a finish that didn’t leave you feeling that had just ingested half a gallon of oil and your arteries hadn’t hardened up in seconds have consuming. Oh and no heartburn or indigestion, a sure sign of good Fish and chips according to my old dear. Extra points are given of course for the big bowls of Mushy Peas which were placed on the table as well. I could even go as far as saying that they were probably the best fish and chips I have tasted in the barren wasteland of good fish and chips otherwise known as the South. (Sorry as much as I hate been regionalist about things, I’m afraid that you just can’t get great fish and chips south of Sheffield in my humble onion).
Many Thanks to Cass Titcombe and Canteen for the master class, dinner and a copy of the Canteen recipe book which they have just released. (A great book full of good Seasonal British recipes, all of which are easy to follow)

Mushy Peas - food of the gods .....


Dried Marrowfat Peas
Big pinch of Bicarbonate of Soda
Malt Vinegar to taste (optional)
Salt and White Pepper
1.Place the dried peas in a pan and cover with twice their volume of cold water. Add Bicarbonate of Soda and leave to soak over night.
2.The next day, place the pan on the heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes or until the peas are soft stirrirng regularly. During cooking add more water if the pan looks too dry.
3.Season to taste with salt and pepper and a splash of malt vinegar to taste if you like.
Recipe from Canteen – Great British Food by Cass Titcombe, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone.

Monday, 26 April 2010

A bit more tart vicar - Lemon Tart

Finally it feels that the spring is in full effect at long last. The cherry tree in my very small gardens is heavily ladened down with its beautiful pink blossom, and it’s even warm enough to sit out and enjoy the sun and the delights of the housing estate.
New season means new produce in season and this makes me very happy indeed.
So at the Supper club on Sunday I jumped at the chance of using the first of the new seasons produce. The starter was the Nettle and Wild Garlic soup which I wrote about a few weeks ago, slightly improved by adding a touch more potato and nutmeg to the recipe. Jersey Royal potato’s (obviously slathered in lots of butter), British Asparagus, Chard and Spring Welsh Lamb with Green Sauce followed for main course.  Surprisingly the highlight for me for the first time in a long time was the desert of Lemon Tart. I say surprisingly, as the deserts which we have served recently have all been of the rib sticking variety due to the long cold winter. Let’s face it when it’s cold and dark pretty much all of the time, you can’t beat the comfort and warmth of a good crumble and homemade custard can you.
The lemon tart was the perfect way to end the meal, light, refreshing and of course filling. The recipe used was one of Marco Pierre Whites, which he used at Harvey’s and was passed on to me by the Boy Wonder.

Marco Pierre Whites Lemon Tart

500 g plain flour
175 g icing sugar
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, split open
11/2 eggs, beaten

Lemon Filling
9 eggs
400 g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 lemons
juice of 5 lemons
250 ml double cream

50 g icing sugar
sprigs of mint
1.Sift the flour and icing sugar on to a work surface and work in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add the lemon zest and seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. Add the eggs. Knead the mixture with your fingers, working as quickly as you can, until everything is combined to a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
2.Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
3.Grease a flan tin with a removable base that is 20 cm in diameter and 3.75 cm deep. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a disc large enough to line the tin and allowing an overhang of not less than 1 cm. Lay the pastry gently into the tin.
4.Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with enough dry baking beans or lentils (or indeed any dry pulses) to insure the sides as well as the bottom are weighted. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and greaseproof paper and trim off the overhanging pastry, then return the flan case to the oven to bake for a further 10 minutes.
5.Meanwhile, make the lemon filling. Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the cream. Continue to whisk until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Skim any froth from the top.
6.Reduce the oven temperature 120°C. Pour the cold filling into the hot pastry case (this will insure that the case is sealed). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and set for about an hour.
7.When ready to serve, preheat the grill to very hot. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the tart and place it under the grill to caramelize the sugar to a light golden brown. Alternatively, you can just sprinkle the tart with icing sugar without caramelizing it. Cut the tart into slices and decorate each with a sprig of mint.
The secret of a really good lemon tart is that the filling should be firm and clear and the pastry light and crisp. It should never be cut immediately after it is cooked as it needs time to cool and set for at least an hour, or the filling will be too runny.

What can be said apart from the fact that all plates which were brought back to be washed up where clean and all that was left to photo were two small slivers left from cutting the four large tarts which were baked. Mind you, these didn’t last long once the washing up and cleaning up was done. They were devoured in seconds by me, Lucy and Denise.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Supper Club Suppliers #1 - Syd the Baker

We always use to use St John Sourdough at our Secret Supper Club. well we use to, up until the Boy Wonder went on his adventures to Sweden. Mr Henderson's and Mr Piers Gellatly's Sourdough bread is the best bread I have tasted. I not going to write a load of adjectives describing how great it is. Its the best bread I have ever tasted, that's all there is to be said on the matter. 

These days I just don't have enough time to get to either Clerkenwell or Spitalfields on the run up to a Secret Supper to go get the Sourdough from St John. I voiced my concerns about not been able to get really good Sourdough Bread in Hackney, to a good friend and another supplier of the Supperclub and thankfully he pointed me in the direction of Syd the Welsh Baker. 

Syd use to bake bread in London for many years, but moved back to the valleys a few years ago. Unfortunately for Syd , but great for me, Syd and his family have to move back to London and thankfully have started baking bread again in Crinklewood. He is now selling  his bread at Stoke Newington Farmers Market, run by Growing Communities , each Saturday between 10 - 2.30pm.at William Patten Primary School on Church Street.

Going to see Syd brightens up each Saturday, a cheerful man who is willing to stop and talk to you even if there's a long queue forming behind you (which there always is).Syd will happily pass on advice of what bread is suited to certain dishes and to recommend something that you have not thought of, as well as explaining the different types of bread that he bakes.  Fingers crossed he's going to let me go and help out soon at the bakery for a day to pick up new skills and knowledge.

So I urge people to go buy a loaf of bread off him soon. Why settle for a loaf of bagged processed yeast and flour with some many additives and sugar thrown in to keep it fresh, when you can go buy a loaf of bread off Syd that will taste amazing and keep for nearly a whole week. 

Bless him, he even threw in a couple of free croissants in with my bread order this morning, to which I replied I thought that he was amazing. Humble as ever he reply was " why, no one has ever said that about me before", mind you it was said with a grin on his face.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tatties and Tarts

So after the horrific realization that I had managed to get sun burnt down one side of my body on a sunny Sunday afternoon in April, personally I blame the volcano, I cancelled my plans for this evening and invited Lucy (the lovely Green Onion Waitress) round to assess the damage I had done to myself and basically have a good old laugh at my expense.

Monday evenings really is the night where I really can't be bothered to cook some elaborate meal, so I didn't. 
Thankfully I had made a Gruyere Cheese and Purple Sprouting Broccoli  Quiche last night, half cut on the good old Lady Petrol. So the only to do was to make something  to go with it, and a quick potato salad was the winner, dare I say it something easy and a bit of cheating involved - Delia would be proud ...

New Potato and Garlic Chive Salad
Serves 2

Enough New Potatoes for two
Cornichon Gherkins
Good Quality Mayonnaise
Dijon Mustard
Garlic Chives
Black Pepper

1. Put potatoes on to boil 
2. Mix a large teaspoon of Dijon Mustard with 2 tablespoons of Mayonnaise. As much as I wish I could say that I made my own Mayonnaise  - I didn't as it was Monday evening and couldn't be doing with the faff, I used the emergency jar of good quality mayonnaise that I have in the fridge.
3. Chop up about 5 Cornichon Gherkins and add to the mayonnaise.
4. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water to remove excess starch 
5. Mix together potatoes and mayonnaise, grind fresh black pepper, add a touch of Maldon and snip garlic chives into the bowl with the potatoes and mayonnaise.
6. Mix everything together well and serve.

Was enjoyed with left over Gruyere and Purple Sprouting Broccoli Quiche, using the Garlic Chives in the Potato Salad made it taste quite refreshing in a good way. Also served with a can of Red Strip and the obligatory chat about life and boys.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

A year old but none the wiser

It's a year to the day since we started the Green Onion Supper Club. In some respects time has flown by and things have changed (for the better I may add). But with any story there have also been some troughs along the way, mainly the departure of one half of the original Green Onion duo to new adventures in Sweden (just don't tell him, I said that).

The celebrations were a low key affair, a quick swoop on Columbia Road, followed by a couple of pints of ale on Broadway Market and  a glass of lady petrol and some fresh oysters at the Towpath on Regents Canal in the sun.

A  good day all round  .......

Apart from the fact that I now resemble a bar of nougat - one half white and the other side a salmon pink, all because I forgot to put sun cream on.

Would just to say thanks for everyone who has helped out over the past year. Whether its coming and eating our food, lending chairs and tables, painting walls and ceilings, friends who came first of all and told their friends, waitressing, the borrowing of oven space, taking the piss out of me and not let me take things so seriously or even just making me smile and laugh. THANK YOU.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Leftover Delight

After the Secret Supper Club on Saturday night, I found that there was quite a bit of uncooked Purple Sprouting Broccoli left. I must admit after a recent trip to Vinoteca the other week, I have been craving PSB and Anchovy dressing constantly after been served it at Vinoteca with braised shoulder of veal. I even served it at Saturday nights Secret Super with the Mutton Pie.

So returning from work this evening I had a quick scout around in the fridge to see what else was knocking about and found half a pack of fresh lasagna sheets from the local Italian deli and a jar containing four fat Italian anchovies.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Anchovy Pasta

2 good handfuls of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, with the outer leaves and tough stalks removed
4 fresh lasagna sheets
4 Anchovies
1 clove of Garlic, finely chopped
1 red Chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
Grated Parmasan
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1.Put two pans of salted water on to boil
2.In a frying pan on a low heat,pour about a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic and chilli
3. Slice the lasagna sheets into slices and place in one of the pans of salted water
4. Add the prepped Purple Sprouting Broccoli to the other pan
5.Once the pasta and PSB have cooked for a few minutes drain.
6. Add the grated parmasan to the oil, garlic and chilli dressing and keep on the heat foe a few moments until melted in to the dressing
7.Add the PSB and dressing to the pasta, mix together and eat straight away

I must admit, eating this tonight was amazing. Just what I needed on a Monday night after work. It may even become the new Monday night easy comfort food, sadly knocking mushrooms and poached eggs on toast off the top spot. Oh well ........

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Sunday Soup Society

Last night's Supper Club was a joy, we had a full house of lovely people, good food, merriment and conversation flowing between everyone. After nearly a year of doing secret suppers, I still find it funny how a room full of strangers soon become friends with the aid of food and wine. The evenings merriment was aided somewhat by a small wine tasting for those attending, given by the lovely Guerilla Wine Tasting Team.

Needless to say I was feeling slightly fuzzy headed this morning. After a few cups of the Yorkshire Amber Nectar, I had what some people call 'a moment of clarity'.I quickly got my act together and headed out on to Hackney Marshes in search of some nettles.

I've waited curiously for a whole year, wondering what nettle soup tasted like and the best way to cook them. After going Elderflower picking last year with a Swedish work colleague, they were delighted to find masses of unpolluted young nettles in the middle of the Marshes. They quickly picked a few bags full and more or less ran off home straight away to make some soup. Apparently their Grandma use to make it for them when they were children holidaying in Northern Sweden, and always use to top the soup with grated hard boiled egg.

With the sun shining and an amble through Springfield Park,I managed to find a huge patch of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)pretty close to the canal. With a sharp intake of breath, a pair of washing up gloves and some strange looks off a few people. I quickly filled up two carrier bags with minor stinging damage, thankfully.

Once home I filled the sink up with cold water and donned the rubber gloves once again to give them a rinse. Turned the radio on and started cooking to the dulcet tones of Jarvis Cocker, with the sun beaming in through the kitchen window.

Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup

One large stock pot - this makes about 5 liters (I got carried away picking nettles)

2 x white onion
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
3 medium floury potato's King Edward or Maris Piper is fine
2 carrier bags of stinging nettles
Veg stock
Medium bag of Wild Garlic - another spring delight
Creme Fraiche
Black Pepper

1. Finely chop the onion and garlic and sweat in a pan with a knob of butter.
2. Peel and chop the potatoes into small pieces and add to the onions and garlic, and cook for a further 15/20 minutes.
3.Pour some veg stock into the pan and add the nettles to the pan.If needed add more stock, making sure that the stock covers the nettles (Covering the nettles and then cooking them takes away the sting).
4. Bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for a few moments until the nettles are wilted down, at the last moment I also added a bag of wild garlic that I had bought at the local Farmers Market the day before.
5. Turn the heat off and add Maldon,Black pepper,nutmeg and a dollop of Creme Fraiche.
6. Blitz in a blender or with a hand held.
7.Once blitzed, season to taste and heat through gently.

Then serve with a small amount of Creme Fraiche and Freshly ground pepper or grated hard boiled egg.