Herbed Farro and Cauliflower

019aAny holiday centered around preparing and consuming abundant amounts of food is right up my street. In the United States, this holiday is Thanksgiving, and in the UK it’s Christmas. I love to cook for my friends and loved ones, and I consider my job well done when, after the meal, the people I have fed flop and groan like sunning walruses.  I have my tried and true methods (brined and convection-roasted turkey, always) and my favorite recipes (cornbread, apricot, and chestnut stuffing, and—I’m not ashamed to admit it—the Karo corn syrup pecan pie). Lately, however, my circle is expanding to include more non-meat eaters. Three years ago I was responsible for the vegan main at a Christmas dinner in London and this year, for the first time, more than half of our Thanksgiving table is vegetarian. I hate the thought of the vegetarian at a table of meat eaters feeling like an afterthought. The ‘you can eat the side dishes, that’s enough food, right?’ approach is both depressing and insulting. And mains intended to imitate the meat everyone else is eating (i.e., the dreaded Tofurky) are just plain depressing. So, over the next month (and especially over the next week), I hope to make and blog a number of tasty vegetarian dishes, hopefully to supply inspiration for your Thanksgiving (and Christmas) table. Continue reading

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Pan-Seared Octopus with Delicata Squash, Chickpeas, and Saffron

DSC_0278aMany people shy away from cooking octopus, believing that it is too difficult to cook. The truth is slightly different. Octopus is relatively easy to cook; it’s tenderizing the octopus that poses the challenges. Perfectly-cooked octopus definitely must not be rubbery, but one also must not commit the cardinal sin of mushy octopus. Everyone seems to have a different method for tenderizing octopus. Some people literally beat octopus with a rock, or, failing that, with a meat tenderizer. My friend Patrick sets up a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice water, and plunges the octopus in each water bath for about ten seconds, switching back and forth, about 30 times. I have heard that tenderizing the octopus sous vide works extremely well. I used to simmer octopus for about an hour in a pot of water to which some milk (the lactic acid works the trick) has been added. But I swear by my new method, which is time-consuming, but infallibly produces excellent results. 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

Salad Days

June has been a busy month over at Susan Eats London, or perhaps it’s just that I have been busy. I have been doing lots of running around (a whirlwind trip to New York in the middle of the month, and then I’m going back again at the end of the week), and I’ve had a month of wonderful eating – generally thanks to the benevolent interventions of others. There was the gut-busting Indian luncheon prepared by the phenomenally talented Asma Khan, to which I scored an invitation after serendipitously meeting friend Nayan at the Marylebone Summer Fayre. There was the oh-so-British celebration of English asparagus courtesy of Friends Jess and Will, featuring asparagus three ways (although I ended up making the asparagus risotto and the roasted asparagus). And then there was beef. Correction: there is beef. A lot of beef. Continue reading

Toasted Bulghur Salad with Spring Vegetables and Lemon-Tahini Dressing

In London we have had one of the coldest, wettest springs on record. This morning when I went to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market people were heroically sitting in the nearby park wearing wool hats and scarves. I was wearing a winter jacket, and I was still chilly. Nevertheless, my circadian clock tells me summer is coming, or at least I think that’s why I have stopped craving big dark wintry stews and instead hanker after light fresh-tasting salads. This bulghur salad is a request from my sister. (I LOVE getting requests for recipes.) She apparently has a lot of bulghur in her pantry, and as it happens so do I: last week I crankily picked up a sack of coarse bulghur for 70 p from one of the innumerable Middle Eastern groceries that dot northwest London so I could meet the £5 minimum to use my credit card. But how fortuitous! I love this salad. Continue reading

Braised Oxtail with Red Wine and Shallots

If you’re anything like me, you keep the bones from any meat you’ve cooked and use them for stock. I’m a bit fanatical about this: after I ate the Hawksmoor Breakfast, I was so distressed by the thought of all the lovely marrow bones and carcasses from our feast going to waste that I asked for the bones in a doggy bag. (The servers were maybe a little more snarky about my request than they needed to be – but who cares? The stock I made from those bones was fantastic.) I’ve blogged about making white chicken stock, and there’s also a similar concoction called white veal stock made from veal marrow bones, but 99% of the time what I have to hand is beef bones, and I make a brown beef stock. Continue reading

Winter Fava Bean and Fennel Salad

On Tuesday I finally had a long-planned lunch date with the lovely Sabrina Ghayour in  Brixton Village. Initially conceived as an outing for an Honest Burger (really good burgers are hard to come by in London), it morphed into a four-hour movable feast (hashtag: #Brixtonfoodcrawl). After a tasty lamb samosa at Elephant and a burger so blessedly rare it was practically mooing, somewhere in between sourdough donuts at Wild Caper and mussels at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen (a chilled out Caribbean café a far cry from the Tom Douglas eatery of the same name in Seattle), what did I do? I shopped of course. For food, naturally. Continue reading

Red Lentil and Chorizo Stew with Saffron and Roasted Garlic Chimichurri

When I moved to London, I had to familiarize myself with a whole new vocabulary. There are the obvious words, like “lorry” and “lift” and “loo.” There are the naughty words and swear words, which I won’t list here since this is a family-friendly blog. Then there are the words and phrases which totally mystified me, because there is no clear analogue in American English. One of my favourite of these Continue reading

Fried Smelt

In the Rue Montorgeuil, in Paris, is a fishmonger who’s got my number. Not literally! (Not yet, anyway.) He knows I can’t resist nice seafood – and, more than that, he knows I eat everything. Yesterday, as I was walking past, he beckoned me over. It was a hot day and most of the seafood was covered or in boxes. He lifted the lid of a Styrofoam box like he was unveiling a great secret. Inside were beautiful little bright silvery fish, 10 euros a kilo! In French, éperlan. In English, SMELT! Continue reading

Moules Marinières

There are as many recipes for this classic preparation of mussels as there are crotchety fishermen on the Normandy coast. Some people use butter, some use olive oil, some add bay leaves and fresh thyme. On a few things, however, everyone is agreed: the recipe must involve white wine, onion or shallots, parsley, and just a touch of cream. Continue reading