Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Hoegaarden

Sunday, August 13th, 2017 | Food

It’s my first time cooking with Hoegaarden. It is producing some interesting colours.

Making food prettier

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 | Food

Since finally giving in and watching MasterChef, I’ve been busy trying to up my game. Poaching pears, for example. And trying to make everything I put on a plate look a little prettier.

Results have been mixed.

This is pigeon breast, served with a sweet potato mash, with croutons, milk gel and chanterelles served two ways: fried and powered. The same ones we picked up in mushroom town, for reference.

Here I have served duck with the skin cooked separately, on mash with an orange gel, fondant potatoes, cranberry foam and a dressing of parsley. There are definitely issues with this dish:

  • My fondant potatoes are rather jagged. Do people use a cookie cutter to get perfectly round potatoes?
  • The duck skin curled up while cooking. I scored it previous to this to try and prevent that, but without success.
  • The cranberry foam was still quite liquidy, which rolled around the plate.

Confit duck on a bed of apple purée served with Asian roast potatoes, coriander and chilli jam.

Lamb leg with parsley, fried potato slices and peas. I like this one because it is simple: plain ingredients, not overcrowded or covered in fancy nonsense, but it still tastes good.

There are some weird combinations going on here. It’s fish and chips, with an added scallop, and some strawberries mixed in with the parsley. I served the chips in a separate bowl to avoid having to cram everything on to the plate.

Conclusion

A lot of the stuff just needs practice: mastering the different techniques, for example, is something I need to work on. But the big takeaway for me is to put less stuff on the plate. It is impossible to be elegant when you are trying to ram too much food on there.

Deceptive smoked trout

Friday, July 21st, 2017 | Food

In 1715, RR. Spink & Sons was founded. They specialise in smoked salmon and trout. And, to their credit, their smoked trout is very good.

However, it is also a little misleading.

You will notice that their packaging has a window in it so that you can see the smoked salmon before you buy. Very nice it looks, too.

But you will also note that the trout has been carefully shaped to fill the window, while, in fact, about half the size of the packet contains no trout at all.

Of course, you can see the weight on the packet. So you are not being duped in that respect. But I was rather surprised when I pulled it out to find so little of the cardboard covered.

Canapes

Monday, June 19th, 2017 | Books, Food

A lot of my cooking revolves around main courses. It is easy to slip into this pattern: I only do a three-course meal once or twice per week. Therefore, a lot of the starter, lunch and dessert recipes get forgotten about.

However, I have been making a conscious effort to expand this. Adding some new canapes to my repertoire seemed a good direction to go.

A lot of the recipes in this book were too fiddly for me to bother. However, there are some firm favours. The Asian pork balls, for example. And the mini-burgers were not that difficult either.

Pancetta and tomato with basil pesto crostini, and a citrus avocado puree crostino.

Filo tartlets with beef.

All in all, I’ll give this the thumbs up. It has provided me with some great little recipes.

Chocolate soufflé

Monday, May 29th, 2017 | Food

My first batch didn’t rise much and collapsed quickly when I took them out of the oven.

It wasn’t a lack of time because I baked this one to death.

For attempt three, I used Gordon Ramsey’s recipe. It was tediously complex. There were so many stages. But, as you can see above, it did produce better results.

Mushroom town: how a tiny corner shop beat Sainsbury’s

Saturday, May 27th, 2017 | Food

Unless you are from Yorkshire, you have probably never heard of Pateley Bridge. Why should you? It has a population of 2,000 people and a single high street that, if made any steeper, would be a vertical drop.

If you want to buy groceries, it’s a drive to the nearest supermarket. Or, you could try one of the two local stores located in the town.

This is a far stretch from my home city of Leeds. It has a population of over 600,000, and that is just the city itself. The wider metropolitan area makes up the biggest population outside of London.

So, you would think that the product ranges available would be incompatible. And, for the most part, they are. But, on a recent trip to Pateley Bridge, one store threw up a pleasant surprise.

Where to buy mushrooms in Leeds

If you want to buy mushrooms, a supermarket seems the obvious place. They sell food, after all. If you want to buy any mushroom more interesting than the standard varieties, you can find them at Sainsbury’s.

In a box called “speciality mushrooms”.

Which includes a selection from the following list:

“Shiitake, Buna-Shimeji, Shiro-Shimeji, Eryngii, Oyster mushrooms, Enoki, Golden Enoki, Maitake”

So, while you will end up with something more interesting, there is no way to know what you will get or in want quantities. There is no way to plan a meal, for example. And even if there was, because you get a selection, you never have enough of what you actually want.

Unless you buy a lot of boxes and throw most of the mushrooms away. Which, again, you can’t, because you do not know what you are going to get.

And there are no chanterelles anywhere to be found. Nor can they be found in Ocado’s spacious warehouse.

A surprising find in Pateley Bridge

Last month, we visited Pateley Bridge. On returning from our walk, we wanted to buy some bread and had a choice of the two convenience stores located in the town.

One of them advertised it was selling “paninis”. This quickly ruled the store out: as a pedant (yes, despite my awful spelling), I couldn’t possibly buy from a store that did not understand that “panini” was already the plural of “panino”.

By process of elimination, we entered the other store. And found this sitting on the shelves.

Despite never having seen chanterelle mushrooms in any supermarket in Leeds, nor at Kirkgate market of street stalls, here in this small town of 2,000 people, they were on sale.

Sure, they are dried. The store wasn’t having fresh chanterelles shipped in every few days. But that makes it even more inexplicable as to why you cannot buy them anywhere else.

Conclusion

There probably is an obscure shop somewhere in Leeds that sells them. If you know of it, let me know.

Until then, as I don’t fancy the hour’s drive to Pateley Bridge every time I want some mushrooms, it may be time to follow the adage “if you want a mushroom done right, you have to grow it yourself.”

Baskin Robbins: a review

Friday, May 26th, 2017 | Food

Baskin Robbins have a store in the Merrion Centre. We went in to try their wares: it would have been rude not to, really. I love Joe Deluccio’s in Trinity, so that was our main basis for comparison.

I had the chocolate mud and the mint chocolate chip. It’s not quite as smooth as Deluccio’s, but is still tasted great. The cone was a mixed bag: it was big, so contained the ice cream very well. However, it was a bit difficult to get to the ice cream and it collapsed towards the end.

On our second visit, they had no chocolate ice cream. No regular chocolate, no Mississippi mud, not even a mint chocolate chip.

The staff were surly both times. In fairness, they weren’t overly unfriendly, but they definitely are not pleased to see you. Which seems strange given they have so few other customers. Service at Joe Deluccio’s is also unfriendly, though.

The 4-Hour Chef

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 | Books, Food

Tim Ferriss is a super-star. Jeff Goins nailed it when he said that people didn’t love Tim Ferriss for the message he brings, but just because he’s such a cool person that you want to me like him.

Since rising to fame with The Four-Hour Work Week, he has gone on to push the franchise with The Four-Hour Body and this, The Four-Hour Chef.

It’s quite clever the way he sells it (or sneaky). He sends you the audiobook for free when you join his mailing list. But there are no recipes in it: every 5 minutes the narrator says “please refer to the print or eBook edition for recipe steps and sidebars”.

Ferriss suggests that cookbooks are written for those who can already cook. They are arranged by category and don’t explain what is going on. Instead, this book is arranged by technique, starting from the basics and building up.

It is arranged into five sections: meta, domestic, wild, science and pro. In meta-learning, he talks about how to learn faster and more efficiently. He then takes you through the building blocks of cookery in dom.

In wild, we are treated to a narrative of Tim’s adventures. How to survive a disaster and catch a pigeon, for example. Science is similar: there is some science in it, but also plenty of stories: the time he attempted Ben & Jerry’s Vermonster, for example, or his food marathon: 26.2 dishes in 24 hours. Something I would love to try.

Finally, in pro, he rounds off with talking to some of the best chefs in the world about how they do what they do.

I tried a lot of the recipes in domestic. They’re fun. None have made my regular rotation, but I made the Vietnamese burgers more than once.

I also really enjoyed a lot of the explanations. Why do you need to brown meat? I knew why already, but no cookbook ever takes the time to explain it: it’s more folk knowledge. Why do you need mustard in a vinaigrette? Why do you rest steak? It’s all in here.

The science is a mixed bag. It’s really interesting to learn about all of the different aspects of the cooking process, gels, emulsions, etc. However, I struggled to follow along with the theory. I more felt like I was getting starter points to learn about it on my own. And some of the science in here is a little dubious. Like his original book, I suspect Ferriss doesn’t let the truth ruin a good story.

If you’re a Tim Ferriss fan, this is a no-brainer. Get the hardback: it’s a monster.

How to poach a pear

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 | Food

Recently, I’ve given in to the sheer volume of people telling me I should be watching MasterChef, and jumped it. I’m enjoying it. But it also really undermines my confidence in my cooking: how does everyone on there know how to make their own pasta?

For dessert, they’re always poaching pears. That doesn’t take that much skill, does it?

It does look impressive, though. So I thought I would dive in.

For this, I filled a pan with water and dissolved some sugar in it. I then used a dessert pair and poached them for around 15 minutes. Results were okay. It was served with a vanilla cream.

For attempt two, I poached the pears in red wine. This involved a bottle of merlot (because that is what I had to hand) and some conference pears. I poached them for an hour to get them really tender and allow the colour to sink in on all sides. Along with the sugar I dissolved in the red wine, I also added some cinnamon and star anise.

I served it with some lemon curd. The tartness adds some nice contrast to the sweetness of the pair. A few pomegranate seeds and a simple biscuit crumb finished the dish.

Amazing Malaysian

Friday, March 17th, 2017 | Books, Food

Malaysia is a cool country when it comes to culinary history. They have the Malay people, along with large minority populations of Indian and Chinese people. They also have colonial influences from the British and Portuguese. Their food is almost fusion in itself.

I also like that they do not worry too much about food being hot: it all gets served together. This is nice because serving scorching hot food is, quite frankly, a hassle. A hassle worth going to when the food calls for it, but in this case, it is fine to let rice steam for 15 minutes after cooking.

The narrator is Norman Musa. He hails from Penang, but is better known for Ning restaurant in Manchester.

Most of the recipes followed a set pattern. You would start by blitzing a mixture of ingredients: typically chilli, garlic, cinnamon, star anise and onion (or not, in my case) then mixing it with some ground cinnamon and a pandan leaf, before frying it and adding some meat.

It turns out that you can get pandan leaf in Leeds. Many of the other rare ingredients we were unable to procure. Musa also uses dried chilis in most of his recipes. We managed to pick up a bag of a few hundred at the international supermarket.

Fish pate. I have no idea if I was doing this correctly.

Indian lentil patties.

Spicy baked haddock.

Beef with pineapple.

Beef with tomatoes.

Aromatic chicken curry.

Beef with rice.