Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On a mission from dog.....

Above, photographed is the final course of the dinner cooked for the Gorgeous C's departure from these rain sodden shores.

From the top......

Pan fried scallops, with a ginger, lime and olive oil dressing, sprinkled with chives.

Insalata Caprese, a firm favourite, made with organic tomatoes, and Mozzarella di Bufala. Black olive bread on the side.

Grilled Cep Salad, with a lemon and olive oil dressing, and mixed greens.

Boiled globe artichokes, with a lemon and butter sauce.

Pan fried sea bream, with black olive paste, on a bed of boiled asparagus, with a balsamic dressing.

For the dressing, heat 200ml of oil. Saute a half a very finely chopped shallot until soft. Grate in a 3/4 inch cube of fresh ginger. Stir for 60 seconds on the heat. Remove. Let it cool. Squeeze in roughly the juice of 1 lime, and the zest (mix and taste repeatedly. the lime should be present, and not overpowering). Season with salt and pepper.

Trim the red coral from the scallops, leaving just the luscious eye. Heat a skillet, add a teaspoon of oil, and fry off the scallops until just browning on both sides. Not more than 90 seconds say, on either side.

Place on a heated plate - as large a dinner plate as you can conscientiously muster. Drizzle with the now cold dressing. Black pepper and chopped chive the plate for presentation. Perfection.

Insalata Caprese. Enough said.

Grilled Cep salad. I used dried ceps, as the ignorant moron epsiloning his way around the market wouldn't let me near the mushrooms. Bizarre. But it looked like he though I was going to steal them. I guess he felt he couldn't catch me with the knuckle dragging friction co-efficient going on.

Hey Temple Bar moron. If you're reading this, I'm surprised that you are literate.

Anyway. On a griddle, of, preferably, a barbecue grill, cook the mushrooms. Rub a serving plate with a cut lemon. Arrange your mixed greens. For 200 mls of Olive oil, mix in the juice of a lemon, and some zest, and a pinch of salt in a jar. Lid the jar, shake like a bastard. Arrange your ceps on the serving plate with some mixed greens. Drizzle the lot with the oil. Serve.

Artichokes. Boil for 45 minutes. Drain. Melt a little butter and mix in a little lemon - taste, and adjust as necessary. Plate each artichoke, and drizzle with the butter. Leave top rest for 20 seconds - the butter should drain onto the plate. Strip each leaf from the artichoke, and nibble off the soft pull at the leaf base. Dip in the butter as you do. When you get down to the small leaves, cut off at the base - about 3/4s of the way down, at the ridge. Squeeze lemon on the bottom bit, and nibble off the pulp, leaving the rough fibres still attached to the stalk.

Pan fried Bream.

For the black olive paste. 2 anchovy fillets. Black pepper. A tiny amount of salt - which may not even be necessary. Deseeded olives - the best you can buy. 2 cloves of garlic. a squeeze of lemon juice. Olive oil. Half a chili - optional. Blitz everything, except the salt, and olive oil. remove to a bowl. Add oil to attain your desired texture. For this dish I used very little.

Fillet a whole bream. Do this by making a vertical cut from top to bottom perpendicular to the head, until you hit the backbone. Talk off the tail, and fins. from the head - which should still be attached, slip the knife under the flesh so the knife blade comes flat against the backbone. Slide the knife down the bone to remove the fillet. It should stay in one piece. Repeat on the other side.

Boil the asparagus in lightly salted water for 5 minutes, using an asparagus pot with lid - the tips should be steaming, not boiling.

While that's happening, add 2 teaspoons of sunflower oil to a skillet, heat, and ass the fish, skin side down. Don't touch it for a minute. It should sizzle, and begin to curl. Smooth it back down onto the pan with a fish slice after 1 minute. Soak up the excess fat that drains from the fish with some paper towel. Flip it when the flesh turns opaque about two thirds the way up the fillet, and remove the pan from the heat. Let the fish finish in the pan for two minutes or so. Mix uo a balsamic vinaigarette - I like about a 2 to one mix in favour of the balsamic.

Drain your asparagus, and toss in the vinaigrette. Lay out on a serving plate, and pour over the last of the drerssing. Lay the bream, skin side down on top of it. Spread some paste (less than I used) on the Bream, and serve.

Damned fine.

The 30th birthday post will follow, when I nab the photos. Far too busy, and bolloxed on the day to photo myself.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sing ho for the life of a bear.....

To business. Cooked up by the Gorgeous C....wild Irish mussels, in tomato sauce, with homemade tagliatelle.
In a word, superb.

Wow, that was weird. Formatting wise. Still. A double dish of sunlit deliciousness, eaten under the blazing sun of an all too rarely idyllic countryside.

Recipe. For the pasta, at least.

One of these is dead handy. In both life, and pasta making. This is an Imperia model, with slightly imprecise blades on the spaghetti cutter, annoyingly. Bought from Habitat. Still. Shiny and nice.

for the pasta dough

Roughly, 1 egg per 100 g of doppio zero pasta flour (Giorgio Locatelli recommends 500g of flour, 3 large eggs, plus two yolks, in the UK, a little drier in London than here methinks) - available from the best of Italy, or any good food store . In Irelands humid climate, I tend to use less egg than this. Make a volcano with the flour, sprinkle with a little salt, and crack the eggs into the well of the volcano. Using a fork, gradually break up the eggs and incorporate flour, a bit at at time, caving in the sides of the volcano as you do.

Eventually, the mix becomes thick enough to mix all the flour together. Working it into an elastic dough, as it begins to come together, stretch the top of the dough slightly, and pull it back towards you over the rest of the dough and press it in with the heels of your palm. Turn the dough often. Add flour as required, or, if the dough is too dry, dip your fingers in a bowl of water, and continue mixing. Repeat as required. After the dough has initially come together, work it with your palms for as little time as you can - too much stretching will break up the gluten.

Roll out the dough, to maybe a 1 inch thickness, and then clingfilm it, and allow to rest for 1 hour. Alternatively, cover it in a damp teatowel for the same time.

Cut up your dough into quarters (if using the Locatelli amounts), and roll it out into oblongs on a floured surface.

Your pasta machine should have two rollers with adjustable width - 1-5, 1 being the thinnest. Pass the dough through, dropping a setting each time you feed it in again.

For an extra smooth and perfect dough, double the pasta sheet back on itself twice, lengthwise, and pass through the same process, and, finally, redouble it twice, rotate the sheet 90 degrees, and pass it through again.

On the final pass, it's enough, for tagliatelle, to stop at the thinnest setting

Et voila.

For the mussels, clean them off with a good butter knife - something a little sturdy. The ivory handles silver service types that grannies are always laden down with seem to do the job properly. Simply, while holding the mussel in your left hand, cleanly chop at the base of any barnacles with the blade of the knife, carrying through and away from the mussel to make a clean lift. Quite gently, otherwise you'll crack open the shell of the mussel. Cleaning mussels is a lot like a good relationship. You gotta follow through when you're cleaning off the barnacles. I mant to stop at follow through, but it made no culinary sense.

This is extremely important. Extremely. Not doing this can kill your guests. And embarrass the hell out of the chef. If kept in water, any mussels that are open while submerged. Discard. They are dead, and busy building up toxins sufficiently virulent to ruin your day. After cleaning, put em back in water, and any that are open when you go to cook them, discard. Finally, any that don't open when you cook them. They're dead too. Discard em. If in doubt, throw it out. This batch was excellent, and we kept them all, but other batches I've ditched 30% from.

Each mussel will probably have a little straggly thread like clump poking out of the shell. Grip, and pull it out - easy to do by pulling upwards along the shell, following the shell opening, as it were.

Clean em, and plop the fresh and succulent little blighters in some water. Cook em up however you want.

The gorgeous (polkadotted) C did this with em....

Blogger ate my post, also known as....a rovin a rovin I'll go.

For no known reason, blogger ate my post. Again. Still. Whats time, effort pain and sweat between former friends.

Third time lucky eh. Eh?

Through gritted teeth....

Above, two photos culled from wild ramblings in the great Northwest. First, a clutch of hopefully luscious hazelnuts mere metres from the door of the gorgeous C. Due to ripen sometime in Autumn, a careful eye will need to be kept to beat out the birds and squirrels for at least part of the crop. Recipes for sugar praline, hazelnut chocolate, cakes, mousse and also sort of delectables are connecting in this raddled addled happy head of mine.

Second, wild strawberries lit up with their electric ripe red in the fertile hedgerows of Leitrim. An amazing taste, wild and intense, and so concentrated as to be almost artificial. Reminded me of chewits, bizarrely.


a single almost ripe, wild raspberry. Perfection waiting to happen.

More to follow. If I can ever work out the hideous machinations of this infernal software. God may be in the detail, but the devil is in the code. And he seems happy to play dice with his universe.