Monthly Archives: September 2012

UPCOMING TRIPS

At the end of the week I will be heading out on my first trip of the recruiting season. I will then be on the go for the majority of the month, gone almost every weekend from now until early November.

My poor sweet Ben will be on his own. Plenty of Ben-time and time to realise he cannot live without me and just not enough to realise he can (you can ask him where the threshold is- somewhere between 4 and 12 days).

Of all the cities- only Mexico City will be new. I have been getting loads of pointers and cannot wait to explore.

Here is where I will be:

  • Moscow
  • London
  • Paris
  • Istanbul
  • Mexico City
  • Bogota
  • Athens

I will be posting from the road- so stay tuned for adventures and please don’t forget about Ben.

OVERCOMING THE ROAD BLOCKS

I did it- I completed the Chest Heart Heart Stroke Road Block Run this weekend. Six miles of running, studded with obstacles and rocky trails. Cheered on by Ben and his mini-fleet of volunteers. There were some enthusiastic participants and some tough feats of strength. 

The most difficult for me was the obstacle where Ben was stationed- climbing through multiple skips, with slanted sides, which were dusty and rusty. Ben was laughing the entire time I was trying to get out. Luckily someone came through and led by example and I escaped my skips and then passed this guy on the way to the finish and dare I say- crushed him.

All in, I crossed the finish line in about an hour, I think this is respectable considering the various challenges and having to wait my turn. Thanks CHSS for a great day.

(The start)

(The first obstacle- the second hardest)

(Ben’s station- in the orange hat, so cute and official)

(I did not receive the same treatment)

(This one was pretty fun- the benefits of running with a team- single tear (I was on my own))

A big thank you to my awesome sponsors! I raised 75 pounds for CHSS. To Audrey, Ben, Mom and Aunt Kim, whoop-whoop!

There might be a few more of these in my future!

Photos thanks to Flashmunki- the kilted photographers!

CHECKING IN

Over the past year I have featured some other creative bloggers and wanted check back in with their sites to see what additional fun they have for us.

First creative blogger- ME! 

Not too long ago, I posted about Ben and I trying to decide where we should go on a little get away to celebrate his getting a new job, but we have decided against these European capitals and have decided to postpone the fun until January and head to Thailand.

Ben and I will spend a week exploring the jungles and beaches of Thailand and then Ben join me in conducting a week of student interviews in Bangkok.

Have you been Thailand?  Any suggestions of what we should see and do?

RICE, SAFFRON, TOMATOES

This week has been relatively tomato heavy (here and here)! You can never have too much lycopene. We had a new friend for dinner the other night- Dalinda. Risotto is a great meal for guests, we can have a glass of wine while stirring constantly and keeping the conversation going. 

Serves 4

  • A little rapeseed or olive oil
  • 25g unsalted butter, plus extra to finish
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • About 800ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • A large pinch of saffron strands
  • 250g risotto rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • A bay leaf and/or a sprig of thyme (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the roasted tomatoes

  • 500g small or medium tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. For the roasted tomatoes, lightly oil a medium roasting dish. Halve the tomatoes or cut into quarters, and place in the dish. Scatter the garlic and lots of salt and pepper on top, then trickle over the olive oil and sprinkle on the sugar. Roast for about 30 minutes.

For the risotto, heat a dash of oil with the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and saute gently until soft. Put the stock and saffron in another saucepan and bring to a simmer, then keep warm over a low heat.

Add the rice to the onions and stir for a minute or two. Pour in the wine and cook until absorbed, then add the bay leaf and/or thyme. Now add the stock, a quarter at a time, keeping the rice at a low simmer, stirring often. Let each batch of stock be absorbed by the rice before you add the next. Continue until creamy, 20–25 minutes. Take off the heat, dot with butter, cover and leave to rest for a couple of minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and/or thyme, fork through and season to taste. Spoon into warm bowls and top with the juicy roasted tomatoes.

BEETS, MOZZARELLA, BALSAMIC

We have been loving raw beets these days. They are tasty raw (try this recipe) and oven roasted. Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe is relatively quick, flavourful and lovely on the plate. 

Serves 4

  • 500g beetroot 
  • 3–4 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly bashed 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme, plus extra thyme leaves to serve (optional)
  • A couple of bay leaves (optional)
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 balls of buffalo mozzarella 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. Peel the beetroot, cut into thick wedges and put into a roasting dish in which it fits snugly. Add the garlic cloves. Trickle over the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of water. Season with salt and pepper, tuck in the thyme and bay, if using, and cover tightly with foil. Roast for about an hour until completely tender. Discard the garlic and herbs.

Transfer the wedges to a bowl. Drain off the roasting juices into a small pan; if very reduced, add a splash of water to the dish first and stir to deglaze. Add the vinegar to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until reduced by about half. Pour this syrup back over the beetroot.

Leave the beetroot to macerate in the dressing and cool to room temperature, turning occasionally. Season to taste.

Arrange on serving plates. Tear the mozzarella into small chunks and add to the plates. Finish with a sprinkling of thyme leaves, if you have them, and trickle over the remaining syrup from the bowl.

SQUASH, RICOTTA, HAM

‘I used to work in an Italian deli…’

Ben claims, I start about one-third of my sentences this way. It was a great learning experience, work ethic, climbing the mini-ranks and food education. I learned so much during my years with Wendy and the crew.

One of the my take-aways was the difference between prosciuttos- di Parma and Daniele. For this salad, we used di Parma- a much finer, less salty flavour. This was a tasty and light meal and the final spritz of lemon was a perfect finish.

Serves 4

  • 800g–1kg squash, such as crown prince, butternut or kabocha 
  • 3–4 garlic cloves (unpeeled), lightly bashed 
  • Several sprigs of thyme (optional)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil, plus extra to serve 
  • 100g ricotta 
  • 30–40g thinly sliced parma ham or other air-dried ham 
  • A squeeze of lemon juice 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5. Peel and deseed the squash, then cut into big chunks. Put into a roasting dish with the garlic and a few thyme sprigs, if using. Trickle over the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin oil, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Roast for 40–50 minutes, or until the squash is tender and starting to caramelise, giving it a stir halfway through cooking. Discard the garlic and thyme and leave to cool completely.

Put the roasted squash on individual plates or a large platter.

Dot the ricotta over the top. Tear the ham into shreds and scatter over the squash and ricotta. Tear the leaves from the rest of the thyme sprigs, if you have them, and scatter over the dish.

Season with pepper, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, then serve.

RETURN OF THE ABBEY

I had not joined the Downton Abbey fan base through seasons one and two, but when my mom came to visit us in February, she brought her enthusiasm for the Crawley’s and their loyal staff with her. When she left we were caught up and I was hooked. 

Cut to September, living in the U.K. has many advantages, one of which is, we get to see it first, Downton Abbey season three started on Sunday (it does not arrive in the U.S. until January 2013!). I think it is going to be an exciting season, Ben is not as convinced, he claims he would only watch that one episode, but I did catch him getting a bit misty at times.

All I can say is love is in the air, Lady Violet is fantastic and O’Brian still is evil! 

P.S. This might make up for Netflix U.K.- where they have recently added- Three Men and a Baby (1987).

BRANDADE, TOMATOES, TOAST

I have mixed emotions when it comes to smoked haddock. Most of the time, smoked fish is on my top foods-I-really-like-list, but growing-up- Gorrilla and eating my fair-share of Christmas Eve finnan haddie left me with an aversion to the fish especially when it is cooked in milk. I am sure my brother’s would agree.

(The finished product)

Mr. Fearnley-Whittstall’s recipe was just the thing for me to wade back into the smoked fish, cooked in milk realm. This was absent pimentos- the dreaded ingredient to Grandma Betty’s version. 

For the tomatoes 

  • 400g smallish, ripe tomatoes 
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • Sea salt and black pepper
(Slow-roasting the tomatoes- key)
For the brandade
  • 250g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks 
  • 25g butter 
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped 
  • 300g undyed smoked pollack or haddock fillets 
  • 100ml milk 
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the garlic toast
  • 6–8 slices of coarse-textured bread, such as sourdough 
  • 1 garlic clove, halved 
  • Extra virgin olive oil

At least 3 hours before serving, preheat the oven to 75–100C/gas low. Halve the tomatoes and lay, cut side up, in a roasting tin. Trickle with some oil and season. Bake for at least 3 hours until wrinkly, but juicy.

Put the potatoes into a pan of lightly salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15–20 minutes until tender. Drain and leave to dry.

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat and sweat the garlic for a minute or two. Add the smoked fish, cutting it into pieces to fit in a single layer. Pour over the milk, partially cover and simmer very gently until the fish is cooked.

Drain the fish, reserving the liquid. Return this liquid to the pan and add the olive oil and some black pepper. Either push the cooked potatoes through a ricer into the hot liquid or just add to the pan and mash.

Discarding the skin and bones, break the fish into flakes and beat into the mash. Season.

Toast the bread. Rub with the garlic and trickle with olive oil. Pile the brandade and tomatoes on the toast and top with olive oil and black pepper.

(Ben made the bread- look at that crust)

STILL TIME

For those of you who are still anxious to sponsor me for the Roadblock Run next Sunday, there is still time. Remember, it is a really great cause- Chest, Heart, Stroke, Scotland and Ben works there, so it is even a better reason- no? 

Thanks for the help!

A WEEK WITH HUGH

I am oddly fascinated by English celebrity-chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It could just be his name, but more than this, he uses ingredients of the region, in simple, tasty dishes. I have seen his cooking shows several times and have been impressed with his use of the open fireplace to prepare his dishes.

Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall has anew cookbook, Hugh’s Three Good Things… on a plate. A small sampling-booklet of these recipes were included in last Sunday’s edition of The Guardian and this week, I am going to chronicle the recipes which tempted us on Turning Over a New Leith.

I will even provide the recipe so you can try some of these at home. Enjoy!

Barley, onions, tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 150g pearl barley or pearled spelt, rinsed
  • 750ml good quality stock
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the roasted tomato puree

  • 2kg ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

or

Action Stations:

If making your own tomato puree, preheat the oven to 180°C. Lay the tomato halves, cut side up, in a single layer in a large, deep baking tray. Scatter garlic and thyme on top, tuck in the bay leaves, trickle over the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about one hour, until soft and pulpy and starting to caramelise on top. Remove and leave to cool for half an hour or so. Tip into a large sieve and run through with a wooden spoon. Discard the skin and pips. Your sauce is now ready to use. If you haven’t produced the 750 mL you need here, increase the quantity of stock to compensate.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion sauté for 8-10 minutes until soft.

Stir in the pearl barley of spelt, then add the stock and 750ml tomato puree or passata. Bring to a simmer and cook very gently, uncovered. Barley should take 30-40 minutes; spelt will on need 20-25 minutes.

Season to taste, then ladle into bowls, trickle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Tomorrow: Barnade, tomatoes, toast

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