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Archive for August, 2010

Lavender Ice-Cream

The MasterChef final provided the usual mix of thumping beats, slow mo, tough cooking, Florence & the Machine’s ubiquitous warbling and contestants crying. Good on old Dick for refusing to shed a single tear even when goaded by the judges. Stoicism seems to be viewed as equivalent to emotional retardation on these reality shows and it was a delight to see someone like Dick Strawbridge, a man who never once mentioned a dead relative, go so far. I can’t not mention his moustache because it is utterly fabulous; a joy to behold. I’m not sure that a man with a ponytail hanging from his upper lip should really be cooking professionally though.

Like a lot of people I was rooting for Christine Hamilton to win and I’m sure like a lot of people I never thought I would root for Christine Hamilton to win anything. Lisa Faulkner did it in the end though and good on her. At times I was seriously concerned she might pass out from dehydration the sheer amount of bloody crying she was doing. It was quite pretty crying though, a sparkling tear elegantly sliding down her cheek rather than snot flying all over the shop. It’s so important to do the right sort of crying on these shows.

My highlight of the programme was when John Torode compared Lisa Faulkner’s panna cotta to a bosom with what can only be described as a filthy look on his face. John being more excited by a pudding than Greg the Green Grocer is unprecedented. Future competitors should take note and start designing puddings that look a bit like boobs; it’s a one-way ticket to the final.

Whilst watching Friday’s show I was also making some lavender ice-cream. This is a flavour that wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It is very floral and delicate but also densely creamy from the custard base. Now if I can just find a way to shape it into a bosom…

I used the recipe here. It mentions including glycerine and then doesn’t say when to put use it so I just stirred it in before freezing the mix. My father followed the same recipe without using the glycerine and it didn’t make any difference so it really is optional. I don’t own an ice-cream maker and I really don’t think you need one when making an ice-cream with a custard base.

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It seems to me that the best recipes have a strong foundation of classic techniques and combinations that are then elevated by the inclusion of some special ingredient. Hazelnuts in a fennel salad, sea salt in caramel or pickled walnuts in a beef stew all make a fairly conventional dish into something much more delicious.

In the case of this Ottolenghi recipe the foundation is an instantly recognisable combination of pastry base, filled with roasted butternut squash, goat’s cheese, cream and eggs. So far, so quichey and I have never been the biggest fan of quiche.

In this quiche though, before the cream and eggs make an appearance, blanched garlic cloves coated in a thick balsamic, rosemary and thyme infused syrup take to the stage. I think I could easily eat these sweet, unctuous cloves straight from the pan, although I would feel very guilty afterwards and possibly a bit sick.

 

This is the best way I have ever had garlic, better even than when you roast a whole head of garlic with sausages and onions then squeeze out the resultant puree onto your plate. They look lovely in the tart too, bobbing up through the cream like ancient life buoys.

I served this tart with a beetroot salad that would be worth making for the way it looks alone. I used a recipe from the Sam & Sam Clark Moro East book, although from memory so I ended up forgetting to add mint and I blitzed everything in the food processor which gave me a much more vivid green pistachio and parsley sauce.

 

The inky slices of beetroot contrast beautifully with the pistachio and parsley. Essentially all you need to do is blitz pistachios, parsley, lemon juice and zest, olive oil and orange blossom water. I can’t remember the exact amounts as I was in the process of cooking a meal for 20 people and just trying not to freak out. I was very excited to make something that looked so pretty with so little effort.

The full and proper beetroot salad recipe is here, the second recipe from the bottom. Clearly the Guardian love this sort of food.

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Pizza

 

I’m quite surprised that I haven’t already posted a recipe for pizza before as it is something I make at least once a month. Why you might ask? Well, I refuse to pay more than £5 for a supermarket pizza when that money could buy a bottle of wine. I am also deeply uncomfortable with the takeaway process.

If I were to order a takeaway pizza I would spend the entire 30 to 60 minute delivery time panicking that the driver had not been able to find my front door or that perhaps my doorbell had broken. Then there is the whole tipping palaver which is why I also hate going to the hairdresser and staying in hotels. Tipping a helmeted delivery boy is not easy. Should I shake his hand? Slip it in his pocket whilst he hands me the pizzas? Wink? All in all it’s much easier to make it myself.

This is a completely bastardised pizza recipe of course. Actual Italians don’t use Wright’s Ciabatta mix, I am sure. Much experimentation over the years had told me that this is by far the best bread mix for pizza. Don’t bother with pre-made pizza bases, they are horrid.

 

So, just open a bag of Ciabatta mix and pour out enough for your needs. To make a pizza to feed four you would need about half a bag. Probably more if you aren’t having salad. Add a glug of olive oil then enough hot water to form a dough, which is not very much water. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.

Whilst the dough is doing its thing fry a garlic clove in some oil until golden, add some dried oregano and a tablespoon of tomato puree then some balsamic vinegar or red wine. Finally add a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes or so then leave to cool.

Once the dough is ready roll it out to a rough square because square pizzas are better than round ones, fact. Top the base with your chilled tomato sauce and whatever else you are using.

Let me talk you through this pizza here which is the invention of my sister Felicity and the best home made pizza ever. It is topped with some roasted and skinned yellow pepper and mozzarella before cooking. It takes about 20 minutes in a hot oven. Once out of the oven add more chunks of mozzarella and strips of Parma ham before flinging over some rocket and a drizzle of oil.

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