Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The time has come to talk of many things....

Quick link to the cookery section over at Project Gutenberg. Fine people, and a great idea. Some oddities, odds and ends, and plainly weird and wonderful texts available for free download. (The Australian Project has a separate, less comprehensive, but annotated page here. With pics.)

Highlights include Mrs Beeton's "Book of Household Management",and The Presbyterian Ladies' Aid "Recipes Tried and True".

Theres also a history of crisco. But my sense of decency won't let me link to it. Mother of jabbering buddha.

Here is a list of online medieval cookbooks, in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese........

I particularly liked ANEVV Booke of Cookerie, by Thomas Gloning, 1615.

To sowce a Pigge.
SCald a large Pigge, cut off his headand slit him in the
middest, and takeout his bones, and wash him in two orthree warme waters. Then
collar himvp like Brawne, and sowe the collarsin a fayre cloth. Then boyle them
verytender in faire water, then take themvp and throw them in fayre water
andSalt vntill they be colde, for that willmake the skinne white. Then tace
apottle of the same water, that the Piggewas boyled in, and a pottle of
whiteWine, a race of Ginger sliced, a coupleof Nutmegs quartered, a spoonefull
of<>whole Pepper, fiue or sixe Bayleaues:seeth all this
together, when it is coldeput your Pigge into the sowce-drincke,so you may keepe
it halfe a yeere, butspend the head.

Class stuff, and a terrifyingly expensive recipe for the time. Can't wait to start scalding that whole pig. Beats my home cured bacon into a cocked hat.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Baked beans on toast.

I cooked up a batch of cannelini beans in tomato sauce, a rough and rude take on salsice fagioli. And not that crudely processed Heinz like super smooth sauced concoction those swine in Dunne and Crescenzi have taken to foisting upon their poor clients.

Without the salsice, its a fine thing nonetheless, and perfect for heating up cold souls on the wintry days of an Irish spring. Good for the heart. Good for the soul. And a reminder of sun in the taste of the thing. Which taste rolls off my tongue like the words that cannot entirely do the recipe justice. But hell. Such is life. Welcome to the human race, in the words of wiser, deader men than me.

But to the meat of the thing. A recipe, heavily adapted from several sources - Tessa Kiros's Twelve (nice interview in this link), Locatellis' Made in Italy, and the ever present in my cooking Carluccio.

You will need....

A Gogol Bordello cd. (Failing that the Breeders, and enough enthusiasm to make up the chaos. Rigoletto will fit the bill finely if neither is available.)
The gorgeous C. (for which, of course, no substitute is possible)
A rake of gorgeous C relations planning to deluge suddenly upon the house in a hungry horde of mouths. (Another, entirely unique and welcomed phenomenon)


Italian spicy sausage. Taste of Italy do a fine batch of the things from Negrini. Fine, herby, meaty fat filled little blighters.
Two tins of organic whole tomatoes, or a half a kilo of skinned tomatoes.
One can of cannelini beans, or circa 250g of dried beans, soaked overnight.
Sage leaves, 10 (though fresh rosemary or oregano make an interesting, and perhaps more robust, alternative)
2 undeniably fresh cloves of garlic, crushed under a chefs knife.
Sea salt.
Black pepper.
Olive oil, for frying and to drizzle when serving.
Bread to serve with.

To skin the tomatoes, if using fresh, boil up a saucepan of water. Cut a small cross in the skin of the base of each tomato, and drop them into the boiling water, a few at a time. After 30 or 40 seconds, plunge the tomatoes into cold water, and the skin should start to wrinkle, and be easy to just shrug off. For this dish though, good quality whole tinned tomatoes are fine. Organic seem to be particularly excellent. I used Biona, and the strong fresh scent of tomato filled up the kitchen in seconds.

Heat some olive oil in a cast iron pan, or a large saucepan.
Pop in the garlic, and saute. Do not let it brown. Really. Add most of the sage leaves (though I tend to use oregano or rosemary), and some salt. Be careful not to burn them. Dump in the tomatoes after 30 seconds or so, and higher up the heat until the tomatoes begin to bubble, stirring briefly, and then lower down the heat.

Leave for about 20 minutes, without stirring. Then....

In another, cast iron (no skimping here) frying pan, heat up some more olive oil, and fry off the sausage quickly, browning lightly. I generally use four. This recipe is fine without them, as a vegetarian option. Fish out the sausages before they are cooked through. With a superbly sharp knife, cut them up into thick slices, maybe an inch apiece, and dump into the tomato sauce to finish off for about 12 to 15 minutes, at a low heat. Avoid stirring too much.

Finally, if using canned cannelini beans, open em up, and wash them out in the tin under running water. Most varieties only need to be reheated in boiling water - they come precooked. Some don't, and may need cooking for longer. Check the can. In which case open them up earlier in the recipe. If using dried, cook them first, as they need about 1.5 hours. When the beans are cooked, add them to the tomato sauce mix, and cook for a further five minutes on a gentle heat. Avoid stirring, except to mix in the beans.

Taste for seasoning.

Add the remaining herbs, on top, without mixing - roughly chopped, and serve, with a small amount of grated Parmesan. Drizzle with a little extra virgin.

Ideally the tomatoes should still retain some texture, they should still be chunky. If necessary bulk out the sauce with some reserved chopped tomato at the end.

A good accompaniment is ciabatta bread, rubbed with raw garlic, and toasted briefly in a gas mark 4 oven, or straight and plain. The fact that its a third of the price of the somewhat processed crap being served up in that unfortunately voracious city centre eatery only adds to the taste.

I'm looking for suggestions for a herby vegetarian sausage, homemade, to replace that earthy Negrini taste. Any suggestions are welcomed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Giorgio Locatelli

Over on the right hand side of this raggedly designed webpage, in the links section, is a link to Giorgio Locatelli's webcasts for the UK Observer. They ran a series of 6 podcasts, with Locatelli talking his way through classic Italian recipes as he cooked them, live, with an Observer reporter chatting away happily to him in his kitchen.

For the record, we've got him working his way through bagna cauda, artichoke salad, monkfish with walnut and capers, steamed hake with parsley and garlic, veal with artichoke and potatoes, and spaghetti with tuna meatballs.

The sense of conviviality he talks about as centrally important in his life, cooking, and restaurants, shines through as he enthuses about the food he is cooking. Its a contagious entusiasm, sparkling with a warmth and intelligence that translates perfectly onto the plate.

Each podcast is available for download, with an accompanying recipe sheet, and its worth it to listen to a relaxed master at work, narrating each dish, its origins, its ingredients, and his thoughts on preparation, origin and ingredients, wrapping up each recipe with anecdotes about Italy, and London, and weaving food so naturally into life thats its as much a pleasure to listen as it is to taste. He's the best Italian chef in London at the moment, and seems almost entirely himself in the kitchen. I'd heartily recommend him. And the podcasts are just perfect.

Lorraine over at Italian Foodies has just posted his broccoli soup recipe from Made in Italy, and is a fan. AA Gill gave him the only five star rating he has given to date, as testament to both his food, and principled ethos in terms of food and staff.

Finally. Four words. Swedish chef. Pure genius.

Not to mention.....

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kim-chi restaurant

To the left is one of four starters from Dublins Kim Chi Restaurant. Located at the top of Parnell street, and recommended to me as an authentic taste of Korean cuisine, we chose it as a late night venue for a fond farewell to a work colleague.

The starter pictured is the rainbow roll, Korean style sushi comprising eel, prawn, salmon and tuna sushi rolls, with a dab of wasabi, and soy sauce on the side. The tastes cut through our drunken palates, cleanly, and crisply. The unexpected and gently building heat of wasabi combining terrifically with the pleasant purity of the sushi tastes.

We also had (pictured right) a starter of blocks of rice, daubed with wasabi, and a butterflied prawn, topped with roast, shredded sweet potato, with a side of pickled ginger and wasabi. The prawn had quite an amazing texture, fleshy and firm, and an unusually intact taste. The shredded sweet potato was addictively sweet, and the ginger the perfect side to cleanse the palate for another uncomplicated taste of simplicity.

This starter was a similar dish, but without the sweet potato, and topped with eel and salmon, to be dipped in soy sauce, and wasabi, and followed by a slice of pickled ginger to cleanse the palate. A fantastic introduction, accompanied by complimentary soup in small cups. And the aesthetic effect of these finely balanced, well put together, quite minimalist plates was startling.

As we moved on to main courses, I entirely lost track of what we ordered. It was, after all, a farewell party. For my own main, I ordered the Bulgogi, a beef dish marinated in soy sauce, pear puree, sesame oil, and a host of other ingredients, and served with a side of freshly washed lettuce, still wet, some boiled rice, and some fermented soybean paste.

The trick is to spoon the beef mix into the leaf, then some rice, and finally spoon over some paste, and wrap the concoction up in the fresh leaf, then eat. Quite an interesting and divine leaf, each flavour distinct and somewhat separate, but working together fantastically to counterpoint one another. And the freshly washed leaf brought a texture and fresh taste that was absolutely perfect.

We also had a 7 shot bottle of sake, warm, and two other starters, for the princely sum of €115, including tip. An amazing price for a truly memorable meal. The service was exemplary, with staff genuinely happy, it seemed to our beer soaked selves, to explain any queries we had about authenticity, recommendations, and pronunciation. Tables have buzzers to summon service, and food arrived in perfectly staggered stages. An amazing price for what I am told is an authentic taste of Korean cuisine.

Add to this the general ambience, where, on Parnell street, the melting pot of Dublin, the bar and restaurant was populated by pleasantly drunken Koreans, Irish, Poles, Germans, co-existing quite happily in a chilled out, beer fueled slow and comfortable gorge, and you have a truly memorable experience, which restored my optimism in both our culinary scene, and Irelands current experiment with multicultural identity.

On the downside, the restaurant is tiny, and is part of a larger and noisier bar, which also shares the seating space, so the ambience is distinctly informal. That was fine for our crowd, but it is not a fine dining venue. The seating is quite cramped, and again utterly informal, closer to bar seating than restaurant, and the tables are far too small to easily support the massive amounts of food the kitchen will effortlessly usher out and into your life.

These are not really complaints, though, just qualifications. It is an informal place. Pick up some beers, soak in the food, the tastes, the smiles, and the sounds - it also triples as a music venues - and feel rejuvenated. Its good for the soul. I may well become a regular.

Kimchi (also known as the Hop House). At the top of Parnell street. Enter and enjoy. (sorry, no phone number - they appear to be unlisted.)