Thursday, 30 December 2010

Dinner 29.12.2010


So last night I had dinner with my friend Aleks. We like to cook with a fishy theme, so after squid stews and salmon en croutes, I decided to go for the King of all fish dishes- a classic fish pie.
I particularly like this recipe as (Aleks look away) its so easy to do. There is no blanching, poaching, frying etc. It's a genuine one pot dish. Throw in the onions and broccoli alongside the prawns, salmon and cod and you're good to go.
I also made a massive wholegrain loaf to accompany it. Well... To be honest, I made the bread first and planned the fish pie entirely around that... As, unless you're a carb-o-phobe, fish pie is so much better with chunks of bread. Talking of carbs and the like... I have plenty of low fat, healthy versions- but like low fat cakes- they just aren't the same.

The pudding is another incredibly simple recipe. Puff pastry rolled with marzipan and topped with sliced nectarines, blueberries and a fruit glaze... It's actually one of my favourite desserts!

Thanks Aleks- for the Prosecco, clean and well stocked kitchen, squid themed movies and a lovely evening :)

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Food Fact of the Day Special

In France, Mince Pies are come to known as Tartlette de noel, translating as Christmas Tart. However, this is a recent term. The french have previously referred to the traditional Christmas tarts by the more long winded name of Une tartlette Anglais a la pate de fruits secs (An English tart with dried fruit paste).

... More of a mouthful than the little festive puddings themselves!

Happy Christmas, and thankyou all for following my blog. I hope you have a great day, and I'll be seeing you in the New Year, with updates on my culinary Christmas explorations.

xxx !

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Mate: A Time to Share

I am always keen to hear about food cultures and cuisines from around the Globe, with a personal passion for travel and street food. I am very fortunate to have recruited two LouLovesFood correspondents, Simon and Ayelen, in Buenos Aires, to report back on the food in a corner of the world I have yet to discover for myself.
I hope you enjoy their maiden post;

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, and so it seems appropriate to open our blog with the ultimate communal drink- ‘mate’.

With 98% of Argentinean homes owning the necessary paraphernalia, mate is the traditional Argentinean drink of choice. But mate is not just a drink for the home. From offices to parks, and from businessmen to bus drivers, mate is an intrinsic part of Argentinean life.

Mate is a hot herbal infusion served in a gourd and drunk through a metal straw. The main ingredient of mate is the yerba (that’s sherba to us Gringos); small dry shreds of leaves from a tree principally found in Paraguay, Uruguay, the north of Argentina and the south of Brazil.

Ingredients required for mates
1 cebador (or server)
1 gourd
1 metal straw
Hot water (not boiling)
Group of friends and a few spare hours for talking (optional)

The cebador will prepare the mate, filling the gourd two-thirds full of yerba and any additional ingredients (more of that later). While the yerba is still dry the straw is positioned at an angle in the gourd, at which point the water is added. Some people add a little cold water first so as not to burn the leaves. When the gourd is full the cebador will take the first drink, something sometimes seen as an act of kindness due to the bitterness of the initial cup, before refilling it and passing it on to the right. Once drunk it will return to him for another refill and the process continues as the gourd makes its way around the circle, with the cebador changing a bit of the yerba every now and again so as to preserve the flavour.

Each cup should be drunk in its entirety and any English sensibilities must be resisted as regards thanking the cebador: you are not to say “thank you” until you don’t want any more! And if you get too caught up in the conversation and forget you are in possession of the precious mate, don’t be surprised to hear the words ‘no es un micrófono!’ (it’s not a microphone!)

Additional ingredients
Due to its bitter taste mate is often drunk with sugar, but that’s not the only way to have it…

Mate with orange or lemon: Warm the lemon or orange peel over direct heat and chop or grind it as best as possible, before adding to the gourd. In Paraguay it is often drunk cold with orange peel.
Mate with mountain herbs: Made of 95% yerba, 1.5% mint, 1.5% pennyroyal and 1% peppermint.
Mate with coffee: Add two teaspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of coffee to the yerba and mix.
Mate with milk: Replace the hot water with milk!

Mate language:
- indifference
Sweet- friendship
Very sweet- talk to my parents to ask for my hand
Very hot- I’m dying of love for you
Cool- contempt
Cinnamon- all I think about is you
Brown sugar- I sympathise with you
Orange peel- come find me
Coffee- offense forgiven
Milk- held in esteem
Boiling- marriage
Foamy- sweethearts

Classic accompaniments
Tortas fritas
Pastries (facturas)
Bizcochitos de grasa

I hope you've loved this post as much as I do! Thank you SO much to Ayelen and Simon for their time and knowledge, I can't wait to receive more.
If you are reading this from foreign climes and have any ideas for content that you would like to share, whether it be a national dish, recipe, tradition or local eatery, please get in touch to become a LLF correspondent too!


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Porridge of the Week # 23

Porridge of the Week #23
Blueberry Frangipane


Start by poaching a skinned and chopped pear in a little bit of water and sugar. When it is soft, break it down a bit with the back of a fork. Leave aside and soak the porridge in milk and add a drop of almond essence. As it heats through, add a tablespoon of ground almond and a handful of dried blueberries. Stir through. When the porridge is warm and at the desired consistency, tip in the pear, saving a little back for garnish.
Spoon into a bowl and top with a spoonful of pear and a sprinkling of blueberries.

I really enjoy making porridges based on puddings. My equally geeky friend and I like to create pudding themed porridges and muffins when we are bored (did I really admit to that..?) and this is the fruit of one of these sessions. The sharpness of the blueberries is really complimentary against the sweetness of the pear.


Home made Christmas gifts

If you're expecting a Christmas gift from me this year, look away now!

These are great simple little gifts for friends and family this Christmas. It's so easy to do and I've yet to meet someone who doesn't like chocolate in one form or another! It's also really easy to make them super pretty with just a drizzle of chocolate or a dried cranberry, and a glass jar or little box is so much more appealing than packaging and uniform chocolates in vaccum packed pockets, don't you think..?

My boxes include;
Florentines made topped with dried cranberry, mixed chopped nuts, flaked marzipan and a little bit of orange peel. Finish with a flick of white chocolate.

Dark and Light Chocolate thins are made by dropping dark and white chocolate next to each other. With a cocktail stick, swirl the two together into a marbled circle and leave to dry.

Chocolate marzipans. Cut marzipan into cubes and soften the edges. Dip half into milk chocolate and then sprinkle a little grated marzipan on top. These are very cute!

Fruit and Nut Clusters are made by melting a large bowl of chocolate and when it is fully melted, tip in any dried fruit of your choice, mixed nuts, raisins, pieces of marzipan and chunks of ameretti biscuit. Stir it up and then spoon lumps onto baking parchment to dry.

Other Christmas gifts;

Cranberry and Orange Vodka;
asy! Prick 250g of fresh cranberries and drop into a litre bottle of vodka. Tip in 150-200g caster sugar and the zest of two oranges. Shake this up regularly for a week or two and the drain through a piece of muslin cloth. Pour back into an attractive bottle, tie a ribbon around the neck and give away! This goes down especially well..!

Hope you all have a great Christmas! We will be having an alternative Christmas this year, so make sure you come and check up on what we got up to in the New Year... Have fun!

Food Fact of the Day...


The word Cheese originally referred to anything wrapped up.

Thanks to Nat, my little fountain of knowledge, for this fact...


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

How to: Make Mulled Wine- by Fortnum and Mason !


Wow, the snow! Its kind of exciting..
The nights are getting longer; the days are getting considerably colder. Bonfire night has come and gone, and the Christmas lights are blinking on Oxford Street. There is no denying it; winter is upon us.
And with all this snow comes the inevitable thoughts of Mulled Wine...

I went to pick up some useful tips from Fortnum and Mason's Peter Casey, on how to create the perfect warming winter wine. And I couldn’t think of a nicer place to learn than Fortnum and Maison, bedecked with glittering boules and decadent Christmas decorations.

Mulled wine and Fortnum and Maison are both things that fill me with great joy- there is something about the smell of warm wine and spices that is incredibly comforting, and I have a soft spot for Fortnum and Maison anytime of the year. But around Christmas time it is even more quintessentially British and magical- I highly recommend it, even if you just take a look at their beautiful themed Christmas window displays as you pass by.

* Start with one litre of Orange Juice, diluted with water if you so wish.

* Add half a cup of sugar to this and let it dissolve in. Mulled wine can tend to be slightly bitter, so the sugar really is necessary to bring out the flavour and sweeten it a bit.

* When adding the sugar, Peter warns against using white sugar, but to instead recommends using Golden Caster Sugar. White sugar doesn’t dissolve in the same way and won’t give you the nice syrupy texture of Golden Caster.

* Start with just the juice/water and the sugar as you really wouldn’t want to add the wine too early in the mulling process and burn off the alcohol. Stir the liquid over a low heat until it begins to get syrupy. Mull for 15 minutes.

* Add the mulled wine bundles now. You can buy these almost anywhere! The amount you use depends on the wine you are using- if you are using a soft wine (A Cote de Rhône or Merlot make for a good wine for mulling) then you should use three bundles. For a stronger wine, use two.

* When adding the bundles, also add the cloves, lime and orange peel, fresh apple and orange slices and
* Stir for a while longer and allow to mull. You can leave this for as long as you like- it’s good for the flavours to infuse. If it starts to reduce too much, then simply add a bit of water.

* Now is a good time to add your wine. Pour in a full bottle and mull for at least fifteen more minutes. There is no maximum time for this- patience is a virtue- as long as the heat is turned down low enough for the wine to simmer without boiling. As I mentioned, it’s important to make sure you don’t boil away the alcohol!

* If you prefer a stronger, traditional mulled wine, you can also add a splash of Brandy to warm you up.

**I’ve noticed the past few years that mulled cider has been increasingly popular and is often now served in pubs and markets. If you’re more of a cider person then you may want to try this. The recipe is much the same, but instead of orange peel and lime, you may want to use chopped apple and extra cinnamon. Replace the Brandy with a generous splash of Calvados.

You can also make a non alcoholic mulled wine for children or non-drinkers using apple juice and non alcoholic ginger wine, following the same technique as the mlled cider. It’s pretty good! **

If you have any other tips and suggestions, or a different way of doing it- please share the wealth- Enjoy.

Thanks to Peter Casey for his time and advice, and also to Natalie, my research assistant, on this post!