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Dusting Off The Red Wine

Now that the Great Baking Binge of May 2013 has come to pass without severe weight gain or artery blockage, its time to get back into cooking some savoury meals that don’t need blocks of butter and sackfuls of sugar. More’s the pity. This week I made use of Lisa Faulkner’s book Recipes From My Mother To My Daughter, which was a housewarming present from my lovely auntie. I really warmed to Lisa when she was competing on Celebrity Masterchef a couple of years ago; she seemed so sweet, likeable and performed pretty well under extreme pressure. Her food always looked like something I’d order in a restaurant and managed to avoid the ridiculous pretentiousness and clichés of some Michelin starred food. Keep it simple people. In short, she came across as a fantastic home cook. I love the title of the cookbook and the whole concept of passing recipes down through different generations. While I’ve inherited a cracking chilli recipe from my dad and am always being given recipes from my auntie, I wish I had some recipes from my mum that had been passed along to me. I have really strong memories of baking bread rolls with my mum when I was young, ‘helping’ her make cake batter in the food processor (by help I mean taking a spoon to the mix and shovelling it into my mouth….some things don’t change) and watching her decorate homemade birthday cakes, the best one being covered in green icing made to look like grass with plastic cows scattered on top. It’s clear where I’ve inherited my baking gene, but it would be amazing to have a battered notebook or pile of recipe cards in my mums writing to draw on in times of foodie need. Hopefully when I have a family of my own I’ll be a good enough home cook that my own children will want to cook the same recipes when they grow up. Better keep on practicing then. Lisa’s mother died when she was young too and her and her sister took on the role of cooking for the family using their mothers recipes which they grew up eating, and which feature heavily in this cookbook.

Feeling in need of some comforting food, I gave beef bourguignon my very first go. As you may know, I’ve grown fairly fond of French food yet have never tried this classic of the region. I know, as if I dared to call myself a fan of French food. Being the unsophisticated oaf that I am, I don’t drink red wine (again, the nerve of me calling myself a French food fan) but we had some bottles gathering dust in the kitchen. It wasn’t that they’d been there long, they were housewarming gifts, but everything in this house ends up covered in dust if left lying around for longer than 5 minutes. Just ask the cat. Beef bourguignon is traditionally made with burgundy wine, of which I had none. Faced with a choice between a French or a Spanish wine, I thought it would be best to stick with French, although being so clueless about wine I wouldn’t have put it past me to completely disrespect the French by chucking in a Spanish red wine. Gerard Depardieu would be furious. Anyway, the dish takes about three hours to cook in the oven after a little bit of stirring on the hob, and I served it with mashed sweet potato. The beef was meltingly tender from the slow cooking and the wine sauce had thickened into a luscious, velvety, rich sauce. I’m not normally a huge fan of mushrooms served whole but the button ‘shrooms had a pleasing texture and had absorbed a lot of the boozy sauce. It all went really well with the sweet potatoes and despite the fact I hate red wine, cooked down in a stew I completely forgot my dislike of the stuff. Annoyingly I chose to cook this recipe on the one hot day of the week so it felt slightly unnatural to be eating a wintry stew while the sun was shining outside. Ironic too as the rest of the week has been pretty dire weather wise and the beef would have gone down an absolute treat. Still, it tasted mighty fine and is another great staple to help me on my way to home cooked perfection. For tasty home cooked food as well as some more adventurous dishes for the brave amongst you, you can’t go wrong with this gem of a book.

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Posted by on May 25, 2013 in Books, Cooking, Food, French

 

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Southwestern Sunrise

I know that us Brits are very proud of our breakfast legacy what with the fry up known around the world as an English breakfast and most people being partial to a bacon sandwich at the weekend, but I’ve got to be controversial and say the Americans do breakfast better. You can get your fried goods there, sure, but on top of that they can also offer pancakes, waffles, muffins, hash, Florida orange juice, fruit platters, smoothies, proper coffee, granola, bagels, and a ridiculous amount of options for the humble egg. Even the cheap places to grab breakfast avoid instant coffee, such is the culture there for a decent, strong cup of Jo. They know what they’re doing when it comes to the most important meal of the day, that much is clear. I had planned on having today’s recipe for breakfast, but by the time I’d cleaned the house and gone to the gym it was early afternoon, so we’ll call it lunch. My lunch then was from USA by Sheila Lukins and is called Southwestern Sunrise and is one of the many options for eggs in the book. It’s definitely the tastiest thing I’ve eaten that only takes 2 mins to prepare and also packs a pretty healthy punch. You just chop up some red pepper and avocado, pop them into a ramekin, top with a raw egg and grated cheese then pop in the oven until the egg is cooked. Dollop with some sour cream, sprinkle on some coriander and you’re done. Totally delicious and extremely simple. The only tricky bit is getting the egg cooked to the point where the whites are cooked through but the yolk is still runny, a point that I missed and ended up with solid yolks. It still tasted good though, and I’d rather that than runny egg whites which have the same consistency as snot. The flavours of this make me summon up an image of New Mexico and the name of the dish really does have me thinking about a beautiful orange sunrise over the water starved landscape of the Southwest. I’ve never been mind, but I’ve seen enough movies and read enough books set in the USA to get those images. And Man vs Food has shown me that this is the sort of food you’d find in this part of America, although my portion was certainly a lot smaller than the ones Adam Richman gets served! The recipe called for Monterey Jack cheese but cheese is something the Brits really do do better, so I stuck with cheddar. All this recipe needs to make it perfection would be the addition of salsa to give it a spicy kick to really get your morning going with a bang.

The other night for dinner I delved into my new book The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo. If you saw her on TV a few months ago, then you’ll know that as well as being a cracking cook, she’s also adorable, has lovely shiny hair and knows how to pull off a pretty tea dress. Fine qualities in a woman! For my first attempt from this book, I made meatballs in spicy sauce with Alsatian pasta, which sounds much more like a French dish when you replace the word meatballs with boulettes de viande. According to adorable Rachel, the Alsace region of France is well known for its pasta, hence this suspiciously Italian looking recipe. Luckily, the spicy sauce is very French, what with it containing red wine and a bouquet garni, as well as cornichons, which are really just tiny pickled gherkins. The meal was really flavoursome with plenty of crunch from the gherkins, and the sauce had a deep wine flavour that went well with the meatballs which were made from beef mince and sausage meat. I think this book is going to quickly become a favourite of mine, the pictures of the food are beautiful and I love that she cooks these gorgeous looking creations in her teeny tiny kitchen in her teeny tiny Parisian flat. If she can create culinary delights in a kitchen the size of a broom cupboard, then what excuse do I have for not trying with my nice spacious kitchen? French food is looking to be the way forward for me.

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Books, Breakfast, Cooking, Food, French, Lunch

 

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