Rhubarb Lime Vanilla Bean Sorbet

DSC_0810aI rediscovered my passion for obsession with making ice cream when I co-hosted a dinner party with my lovely and talented friend Nicola last month. Nicola is the owner and founder of http://www.souschef.co.uk, a specialty food export company that sells hard-to-find cheffy ingredients and equipment to home cooks. (Sorry American friends, Sous Chef only ships to the EU for now.) Nicola had a surfeit of pistachio paste (what a wonderful thing to have too much of!) so we decided to make Orangette’s chocolate tart with salted pistachio ice cream for dessert. I took charge of the ice cream and I did not stint with the pistachio paste. The result was wonderful. (Nicola has since blogged a recipe for salted pistachio ice cream using the very same pistachio paste.) Ice creams and sorbets are a fun challenge for home cooks, involving in equal measure the palate and food science. Flavor is key, of course, and limited only by your imagination, but mouth feel is of equal importance. Continue reading

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Kohlrabi, Radish, and Golden Beet Slaw with Pickling Spices

DSC_0789aThe second installment in the “how to use my CSA box vegetables” series is one of my favorite salads. I like to say that it’s a ‘cheat’: it’s a fresh vegetable slaw made with a tart dressing and pickling spices, and the result is that it tricks your brain (or at least my brain) into thinking “pickle.” It is crisp and light and bracingly flavorful. It’s a wonderful summer slaw, and a good alternative to traditional creamy cole slaws.  Continue reading

Swiss Chard Spanakopita

DSC_0771aIt’s that time in late Spring when most well-intentioned locavores start to feel a little worn out. This condition, known to some as “CSA fatigue,” arises after about the fifth consecutive week that you’ve gone to the Farmers Market to find that each stall carries iterations of the same greens. Mustard greens, kale, more kale, chard, radishes. If you’re lucky, maybe the odd bunch of asparagus. You’ve eaten salads with every meal, it feels like. You’ve never been so ‘regular’ in your life. You’ve started to think longingly and guiltily about tomatoes – luscious, sweet tomatoes – no doubt flown in hundreds of miles and so verboten. In god’s name, how many different things can you do with Swiss chard? Continue reading

Spicy Cocktail Nuts

DSC_0673bAlthough nothing can substitute for a well-crafted cocktail, I have an abiding affection for good bar food. I have been known to drag friends to Mark’s Bar at Hix (where the drinks are undeniably excellent) simply because I craved the salty-fatty-crispy-hot pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce that you can get for a mere £3.95, which perfectly complements the sharp gin drinks I gravitate towards. (The freebie marmite sticks are another story – I still loathe marmite, after over three years in England.) Lately, when I host cocktail parties, I like to make my own bar snacks. Sure, it’s perfectly fine to dump a bag of potato chips (sorry, Brits – crisps) in a bowl, particularly if you’re hosting a large group, but if you have the time, it is so much more fun (and impressive!) to offer BESPOKE SNACKS tailored specifically to the drinks on offer. At a recent dinner party at which I served mostly Mexican dishes, I started the evening with margaritas, home-made Mexican pickles, and these spiced cocktail nuts.  Continue reading

Mussels with Wild Garlic, Grape Tomatoes, and Guanciale

DSC_0653aI do not fully understand the synergistic relationship between shellfish and pork products, but I do not question it. Clams are delicious with smoky bacon, and at Spanish restaurant Pizarro, I ate seared scallops, each of which was topped with a translucent sliver of Iberico pork lardo – pure cured fat – which softened and clung lasciviously to the scallop. It was seriously one of the most pervy things I have ever put in my mouth. Guanciale is unsmoked cured pork jowl. The fat in guanciale, of which guanciale is mostly comprised, is more delicate and tender than belly fat. Guanciale is the key ingredient in classic Carbonara sauces (until you have tried Carbonara with guanciale, you have not truly experienced Carbonara) and it is a remarkably fortuitous item to have in your fridge when you’re casting about for a new way to prepare mussels. Continue reading

Beef Tagine with Apples, Sesame, and Raisins

DSC_0540.aJPGI love summer food; love the shift from stovetop to grill and outdoor eating, the fresh vegetables, and the salads, berries, and summer fruit. But with the advent of warm weather, I have to set aside BRAISING, which is my favorite way to prepare meat. Braising, in which (usually) meat is (usually) first browned and then cooked slow and low in liquid, is the best way to cook cheap cuts of meat (unless you plan to barbecue them – more about barbecue and a fabulous weekend competing with friends at the British Barbecue Society’s Grassroots Shake and Sauce – and winning the prize for Best Newcomers! – in another post). But in hot weather, the thought of turning your kitchen into a sauna courtesy of a six-hour braise is only slightly less appealing than the thought of eating the stew that results. Moroccans, however, have mastered the hot-weather braise. I’m speaking, of course, of the tagine. Continue reading

Pomegranate and Basil Marinated Beets with Preserved Kumquats and Pistachios

DSC_0512aThere was a time, I remember, when I did not regard beetroot with the fanatical adoration I feel now. In fact, when I was little, I didn’t like beets at all. I hated beetroot’s sweet, iron-rich flavour and the cooked-fruit texture it acquires when roasted or boiled. I disliked the sweet-and-sour cooked grated beetroot, sour cream and horseradish salad that I was forced to politely eat at the homes of my mother’s Polish friends and relatives, and I despised hot borscht. I now love all of these things. In fact, I can only think of a single iteration of beetroot that I don’t adore, and that’s those flabby beetroot slices you find at salad bars, but those aren’t really beets at all, anymore than tinned corn is corn.

This is a beetroot-lover’s salad. Beets are not some shy accessory, but the main attraction. Continue reading

Preserved Salted Kumquats

DSC_0491aWhen I lived in Seattle, I had a chef friend who on slow Sundays would invite me to the restaurant while he developed new dishes. The restaurant was near the Pike Place Market, and on clear afternoons the sun shone from the west, glinting off of Puget Sound, illuminating and warming the timbers in the restaurant. I would get tipsy on prosecco or minerally white wine, and taste the nascent dishes. I only remember one thing I tried, but it made such a strong impression on me that I think about it still. Buttery yellowtail sashimi, studded with finely-sliced tiny golden pinwheels, crunchy flakes of salt, dots of basil purée, and extra virgin olive oil. It was the little iridescent pinwheels that threw me. They were deeply tangy, salty, and aromatic, with a concentrated, citrusy flavour that threw the taste of the rich fatty fish into relief. “What is this?” I asked. “Preserved kumquats,” he said. Continue reading

Rhubarb and Custard Victoria Sponge

DSC_0476bMany apologies for the long hiatus between blog posts. I have been travelling, eating, playing, and of course cooking. I’ve got fun posts coming up, including my new favorite restaurant in Paris and my foodie adventures in Istanbul. But for now I bring you this lovely cake.

I was unfamiliar with that wonderful British classic, the Victoria sponge, until I moved to London. As with many traditional English sweets, this cake is a keeper. In its simplest form, Victoria sponge is just two vanilla sponge cakes, sandwiched around jam and clotted cream, or whipped cream and fresh berries, and dusted with powdered sugar.  But of course this formula can be tweaked in numerous delicious ways. Continue reading

Chocolate Almond Lime Semolina Cake

DSC_0373aThis cake is the happy result of an experiment in gluten-free baking* for my Lovely Flatmate, who is gluten-intolerant, but lacks the willpower to resist my baked goods. It’s based loosely on a Greek cake called Revani, which traditionally is made of a mixture of semolina and almond flour, and sweetened with a sticky orange syrup. My version substitutes lime for the orange and adds plenty of cocoa. It’s a delightful crumbly-but-moist tea cake, with a hint of crunch from the semolina. It meets my ‘specialty diet’ test, meaning that I would bake this cake again for people without dietary restrictions. Lovely Flatmate consumed the entire cake in two days (hurrah! Also, slightly alarming). Continue reading