Friday, March 28, 2008

new look...

as you can see, I've finally upgraded my template and a little bit of decorating has been going on here. I was going to wait until I'd tweaked the new logo a little more, but I'm SO bored at work that I thought at least this would be a productive way to spend the afternoon (as opposed to staring at spreadsheets I don't understand)...

Main advantages of the upgrade are the hierarchical archive which will make it easier to find old posts, and the labels, so you can search by label. I haven't worked out yet how to make my links open in new windows, so you'll just have to right-click and open in new window for the time being, if like me, you prefer that way of doing things.

On the cooking front, things have been... um... experimental. I had spent some time between spreadsheets thinking up spring recipes. One of which was a beetroot and orange soup, served with toasted fresh herb bread and a poached egg. I thought the colours and flavours would be glorious. I invented some crazy prolonged method of making this soup. I decided - I don't really know why - to add a little cumin, coriander and nigella, to spice it up, and lemon to make the orange flavour more bitter. Result - it tastes like curried pickled beetroot and looks like purple sludge. I then decided to strain it, hoping it was just the baby food texture my palate was rejecting, but alas no, the purple juice that resulted tasted the same...

At least the herb bread was a semi-success. I will post about this some time when I've made it again in a less fally-aparty fashion...

I also experimented with a polenta cake, but realised too late I had too little ground almonds. Never mind, I thought, I'll just reduce the amount of almonds, and up the polenta. Result - a curiously crunchy cake. Not unpleasant but not really to be recommended...

And I've been working on a cheesecake. The first one was magnificent looking but so rich every time I ate it I got groaning stomach ache. The second, lighter but less attractive. Hopefully it'll be third time lucky then I can post that too...

Anyway, hope you are having more success in the kitchen than I, and hope you like the new look site...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lentils. Fish. Salsa

That's right, today I am extolling the virtues of 1. eschewing carbs in favour of pulses 2. matching paw paw with fish. Excellente.

So, first, lentils - my humble little friends. This dish features probably my favourite lentil - the lentille verte. Like puy, but cheaper (I know this might be considered philistine in some circles but I'm not really sure I get the point of puy lentils. They just taste the same as lentilles vertes to me, for twice the price, but there we go). I don't see how you could fail to be charmed by these mini green pebbles of goodness. They are full of an earthy, satisfying flavour. And easy to cook to boot.

Now, let's introduce our fish of the day. Chosen mainly because for value for money reasons, he's the exotically named tilapia. A good choice it turned out - sweet white flesh, nice and firm.

And finally, salsa! I love the sweetness of pawpaw and the zing of lime - fresh and sweet and spicy and how nice to have all that colour on the plate - orange and red and purple and green....

Put it all together and you have a really good light dinner dish. I really think with lentils and fish you don't need any extra rice or potato or bread or whatever - this was plenty for us.

Tilapia Fillets with Pawpaw Salsa and Lentille Vertes
(serves 2)

Put 1/2 cup of lentilles vertes in a pan with a cup of water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until soft but still with a touch of bite. Season with salt and pepper to taste (add a bayleaf too if you have one). Top up with water as needed, and give an occasional stir to stop any sticking to the pan.
Meanwhile, make your salsa. Seed and dice one pawpaw and about 6 ripe cherry tomatoes. Finely slice 1/4 red onion, and some fennel stalks, if you happen to have a fennel lying around (nice but non-essential).

Put these all in a bowl together, and add a handful of chopped coriander (cilantro), a finely chopped fresh red chilli, the juice of two limes, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to mix.

When your lentils are just about ready dust a plate with some flour, salt and pepper, and coat two Tilapia filets on both sides. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan until hot to hold your hand over it.

Cook the fish on both sides for a few minutes until nicely golden brown, firm to the touch, and flaking cleanly when inserted with a fork.

Serve with extra lime

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pink Scallops

You know when you really love something and you can't help but share your enthusiasm and you recommend it to all your friends and acquaintances, but then it turns out all wrong, and you sit there feeling slightly cheated, protesting, "but it wasn't like this before"? A good restaurant, a cool bar, a show, a dish...

Well, happily that didn't happen when I sung the praises of scallops to a visiting friend. She had only tried them once before - barbecued - and found them unremarkable.

And they can be unremarkable, but they can also be sublime. These were big fat specimens. We cooked them in a hot pan, dusted on both sides with a little sugar, salt and pepper til they were brown on the edges, then perched them atop a simple combination of finely sliced fennel, segments of pink grapefruit and diced avocado.

They were sweet and soft and perfect with the tang of the grapefruit. In fact, I would happily have pared it down further and just had a plate of slightly caramelised scallops on pink grapefruit segments, but Shelley thought the crunch of the fennel was a worthwhile addition.

Either way, a good dish and supremely satisfying to be able to share the true beauty of these seafood pearls and convert someone to the love of scallops! Once again, I feel slightly inadequate for giving you a combination rather than a real recipe - but well, it's a good combination, and you know I'm all about the easy stuff.

Caramelised Scallops with Pink Grapefruit Salad.
(serves 2)
  1. Thinly slice half a bulb of fennel and dice a ripe avocado.
  2. Place in a bowl over which you will segment one pink grapefruit, letting the juice drip in to the bowl.
  3. Dust 4 fat or 6 smaller scallops with sugar, salt and pepper and heat a dry pan until pretty hot.
  4. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side until the flesh has turned opaque and the surfaces caramel brown.
  5. Place scallops on salad. Et voila.

PS - I don't know what is going on with all the links falling to the bottom of the page! I will try and look into that.