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Saturday, 25 June 2011

Give us this day...

Seeing this guy on Saturday Kitchen making bread makes me realise how lucky I am to have one of the best bakers in the country at the bottom of my street. Yasar Halim opens quite late and this morning, I had to hang about until quarter to nine for the first flat bread to come out of the oven.

But boy, was the wait worth it! I now know what the phrase 'baking hot' means, because my flat bread was literally too hot to handle. Brought it back home and made a couple of fried egg sarnies with it washed down with a giant cup of coffee - Amazing!

Saturday - bring it on!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Polenta Scallops with Broad Beans and Tomatoes

I don't have a picture of this one because I have just eaten it. However, I can tell you that it tastes gorgeous.

"What you having for your tea tonight?"

I get asked this question by a young man at work every night of the week. "It's Thursday, so its kitchen scraps tonight". And indeed it was. I stood outside the grocers tonight for a fair while this evening and eventually decided that I was going to use what I found in the kitchen.

I had an onion, a clove of garlic and a tin of tomatoes as well as a good handful of dried oregano. in the freezer were a bag of broad beans. Needless to say I also had salt, pepper, olive oil and a few other bits and pieces.

The other thing was a bag of polenta. Polenta is a ground cornmeal made of maize. It is a totally neutral product that can be flavoured in any way you like.

You make it by boiling a large pan of salted water. When the water is boiling, swirl it round with a spoon and pour in the polenta. Keep stirring to avoid it becoming lumpy. As it thickens, keep stirring it and then once its nice and thick let it bubble away gently. Turn the heat off after a while and let it settle.

For this recipe, pour the polenta into a buttered baking tin keeping it about half an inch thick. Stick this tin into an oven heated to about gas mark 6. This will dry it out.

Next, slice the onion and the garlic and saute it in a pan with some olive oil and butter. Give it about ten minutes and then lob in the oregano, broad beans and the can of tomatoes. Sling in some salt and pepper. While its stewing down, transfer the polenta to a freezer to cool it down. Once done, turn it out and cut it into round 'scallops'.

Get some oil really hot in a pan and then flash fry the polenta scallops so that they are crispy on the outside on both sides. Dry on a paper towel then arrange on a plate. Spoon the broad bean mixture round it and enjoy. Very simple. A bit time consuming making the polenta, but worth it.

Cost wise, I reckon about £1 for four. You could make a smaller version as a starter, or make a few more and have it as a main course. Either way, a very tasty tea!

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Much as I like to make everything from scratch, there are times when there is simply no point in reinventing the wheel - or in this case, the pancake.
The ready made pancakes I buy contain all natural ingredients, but you don't see them in the shops every week. So when I do, I tend to snap them up. They can be used with savoury and sweet fillings.
One of my all time favourite savoury fillings is spinach and Red Leicester with red onion. This is so simple but yet so tasty and I first tasted this combination while working at a bank in the City in the 80's.
So, I start with a bundle of spinach (39p from Yasar Halim, by the way as opposed to £1 in Sainsbury). Now, this is proper spinach, not that anondyne candy floss the supermarkets sell. Its actually grown in fields and comes with the mud still on it. So, first things first, give it a darned good wash under a running cold tap. Then chop it.
Now, heat a teaspoon of oil in a saucepan and drop the spinach into wilt it down. Once thats done, turn off the heat. Chuck in some salt, a fair bit of black pepper and a good load of grated cheese. I prefer to have a 50 - 50 mix of spinach to cheese. Finally, add the well chopped Red Onion.
Now, heat up a large frying pan. You can use some oil, or if you are using a non-stick pan, you can dry fry the pancakes. Get them nice and hot on both sides and slide the pancake onto a plate or tray. Drop a good dollop of the mixture in and roll the pancake tightly over it. I find this is a lot less fiddly than trying to roll it over in the pan. Then, transfer it to the pan and give it some more heat, turning it over a couple of times, until the cheese is nicely melted. Repeat this operation until you've used up all the mix.
You can serve the pancakes with whatever you like. I had sweetcorn and some green beens, which was very tasty. Alternatively a green salad and some halved cherry tomatoes would work well. Whatever, play around, you'll find a combination you'll like.
I still have a goodly number of pancakes left (I got them from Iceland by the way), so breakfast is going to be pancakes with perhaps some of that pineapple I brought this morning, caramelised in maple syrup. I'll start me diet on Monday, honest I will.

Pineapple anyone?

Currently going at 3 for a pound - YES, I DID SAY THREE FOR ONE POUND!

Thats the amazing thing about living round here.

Friday, 10 June 2011

There IS such thing as a free lunch!

Think Hackney and think 'deprived' borough and grimness. But like Haringey, Hackney has an amazing richness of food shops and an equally amazing range of green spaces.

And it was to one of those that myself and other food foragers adjourned to a couple of Saturdays ago. The Castle on Green Lanes is an old water tower. These days, it is one of Britain's best indoor climbing centres. Behind it, the old reservoir is now a sailing club and there is a nice little country path running around one side of it.

Along this path, one will find all manner of wild goodies. Purple clover is in season right now. Infused in boiling water, it makes a very pleasant tea. We also found horse radish and wild wheat.

"This was has contained a lot of firsts" exclaimed one of the walkers. Madam, I concur. I ran winter survival courses summer edible plant walks for young people for almost 30 years, yet along this path I was finding all manner of new goodies.
One of the very nicest was Jack by The Hedge (above). Also known as Garlic Mustard because it has a garlic flavour with just a hint of mustard type heat, this plant grows in abundanc
e along pathways like this. And as it was so nice, I decided to return a few days later to pick enough to make a meal of. And here it is.

Jack By The Hedge Pasta for 1
1 Cup of Penne Pasta
1/2 Cup of Sweetcorn (Frozen is fine)
About 25 Jack by The Hedge Leaves
A good handful of 'Tom Berries' or small cherry tomatoes.
Tablespoon of grated strong cheddar
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper

Now, just for information, a Tom Berry is something I found in a local supermarket. They are a very small cherry tomato, not much larger than a pea as the picture below shows.
So, anways, boil the pasta and while thats happening, finely chop the Jack by the Hedge and then put it into a bowl or pestle and mortar and give it a good pounding to bring the flavour out. Pour over a bit of oil and leave it to infuse. When the pasta is half way done, throw in the sweetcorn if its frozen. If it is not, then leave it until the pasta is almost done.

When cooked drain, rinse in hot water and pop back in the pan. Add in the Jack by the Hedge, cheese, tomatoes and then season to taste. At this point too, some more oil might be needed.

The end result is a really nice lunch dish with a nice feel from the pasta and cheese with little sweet bursts from the tomatoes and sweetcorn being neatly countered by a delicate flavour from the Jack by The Hedge. Very nice indeed!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Cheese on Sticks

So, in the office, we decided to have a picnic on Saturday and we were all asked what we would bring.

"Well" I said, "Can't do much, but how abou
t that old 1980's party food, cheese on sticks? "OK" said the office manager.

So there I am at 7.30 on Saturday morning nipping round the supermarket. I am only looking for cheese because they do the best range. The fruit and veg to go with it, I can get from the local shops.

Bimble back home to have coffee and watch Saturday Kitchen. Not a lot happens in my house on a Saturday until Saturday Kitchen i
s over and done with.

Suddenly, I find time is running away with me, so I hit the kitchen with the above ingredients. Cheese on sticks? Yeh, right!

Cutting and snipping away, I soon have a foil covered grapefru3it with lots of different flavours. This is the end result. Not bad, I think you will agree.