Tuesday, 1 May 2007

New Blog

A new and improved version of my blog is now available at foodmemoirs.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007


I made cassoulet for the first time yesterday (well, actually I used to make a vegi version when I worked in a vegetarian restaurant but it was hardly authentic). It was pretty good. According to my boyfirend it was a bit saltly, I couldn't argue, but for a first try it was OK. I didn't really follow a recipe but I read up on a few versions in Larousse and online and took it from there. First of all I soaked some haricot beans for about 8 hours then I boiled them with some pork rind, thyme, an onion studded with cloves a carrot and a celery stick. I simmered them for about 2 hours, skimming from time to time.

For the meat I used a couple herby sausages broken into a few pieces, a strip of salted pork belly, cut into strips and as I didn't have any duck confit I put in a chicken thigh cut into 4 pieces through the bone. I fried off all the meat in a little olive oil till browned and then I added some diced onion, carrot and celery and sweated for a few minutes. I stirred in some garlic, tomato puree and a little red wine vinegar. I mixed the meat mix in with the beans with a little of their cooking juice, topped with some breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil and baked in a medium hot oven for about 30 minutes until the liquid had been absorbed and the crumbs formed a nice crust.

I know that technically I should have stewed the meat with the beans for an hour or so before crusting the top. And I should have also kept the meat in large pieces and then removed it and chopped it up and layered it with the beans but I have never been very good at doing what I am told! Maybe it would have been less salty if I had!

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

St Patrick's Day

I have a little St. Patrick's day tradition of eating oysters and drinking Guinness as a mini celebration of all things Irish. We drove to Yorkshire at the weekend to go to a party near Huddersfield and on route we stopped off at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for a picnic. Knowing that I may not have been able to find oysters and Guinness at a service station on the M1, I had assembled a picnic from ingredients I had purchased from Borough Market the previous afternoon.

I had found an oyster stall selling native oysters at £5 for 15 which is unbelievably cheap. I was a bit dubious at first so had tasted them before making a purchase. They were absolutely delicious, small (no. 5) but creamy and very sweet. So I bought a basket of these and accompanied them with a chorizo and butter bean salad (see below for the recipe), some wedges of lemon, a light rye bread, some juicy kalamata olives, marinated feta and some mini wild boar salami. I love Borough market. We sat at a picnic table in the windy sunshine of the Pennines surrounded by Henry Moores and beautiful trees eating our feast and feeling like kings!

Recipe: Butterbean and Chorizo Salad

I tin butterbeans (or other white bean eg cannellini, harricot), drained and rinsed
4 ripe flavoursome tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Good bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed to a paste with salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 level tsp smoked sweet paprika (optional)
Olive oil
4 links of cooking chorizo (picante or otherwise), skin removed and broken into small pieces
Salt and pepper

1. Mix the beans, tomatoes, onion and parsley in a salad bowl
2. Make a dressing by combining the crushed garlic with the lemon juice and optional paprika
3. Mix the dressing into the salad
4. Warm the olive oil over the heat and cook the chorizo over a medium heat till crispy round the edges
5. Pour the chorizo and any oil from the pan over the salad
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with a little more oil if liked, toss well and serve.

Delicious with crusty bread, grilled fish or as part of a picnic

Thursday, 1 March 2007

How to shop

I gave up shopping at supermarkets for one of my new years resolutions this year. As a result the way I shop has changed dramatically. First of all, it is fun! I used to hate supermarket shopping, not necessarily the process itself but the feeling afterwards of guilt. Guilt from being sucked in once more to their ploys of buying more than you need and of spending my money in such an unethical way. Now I love going to the shops. I get a veg box delivered everyfortnight, which, although I have been doing it for years, still excites me every time it arrives! And I suppliment it with veg from the open market down the street which has a choice of organic and non-organic veg stalls. Everything else I get from local shops within a mile radius of my house, mostly within a five minute walk.

I have learned which shops sell the best vine tomatoes, where to find fresh, warm, homemade samosas, the best homemade organic sausages, sashimi grade fish and where I can get my favourite Spanish chorizo locally. I have got to know the shop owners and actually chat to people in the shops, something I have never done before. My food repertoire is expanding because I am exposed to new ingredients such as the fantastic range of rissotto rices and fresh pastas at the local italian deli and the range of pickles in little tasting pots at the Japanese store.

The quality of the food I am buying is so much better than anything I got from a supermarket. The fresh herbs that the Turkish guys down the road sell are bursting with flavour. The fishmonger in the open market gives me fish that has been caught that morning (especially if I tell him I am making sushi!). The little thai shop in the open market has lime leaves, galangal and green papaya that make me feel like I am sitting on a beach in Thailand.

I had thought that I would not have as much choice in local shops as I do at the supermarket but I have far more and I can buy things in the amount I want. The wholefood store in the open market sells all its dry goods buy weight so I can get 150g of organic harricot beans for a salad or 5kilos of sugar for making seville orange marmalade without waste or extra packaging. And I can get my own containers filled up with dry goods or cleaning products to save on packaging even further.

I realise I am lucky to have so many shops near me and as I am not working at the moment I can pop out whenever I feel like it, but I really was not aware of the presence or contents of the shops in my area until I started exploring properly, so I think that many areas may in fact hide similar hidden treasures. It will also be just as easy to do my round of shops on a Saturday morning when I start my new job. I am also aware that it might involve a little more walking than a trip to the supermarket but I am sure that it doesn't take any longer as I often spent ages staring at endless brands of flour or whatever in impersonal aisles of supermarkets. As for cost, I can no longer buy 15p tinned tomatoes or 11p doughnuts, but I also don't have to worry about the exploitation that was going on to allow for those prices. After a little exploration, I have discovered where to get the best value for money and I no longer buy things I don't need, so overall I save.

I hope that more and more people will start to shop locally as so many small producers and suppliers are having to shut down every year because of the domination of multinational supermarkets. And after all it is so much more enjoyable!

12, York Place, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4GU
Tel: 01273 677702
- Japanese food stuffs and cooking equiptment - great pickles, tofu and sushi lunch boxes. Try the umeboshi or the miso soup sachets!

Open Market, Marshalls Row, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4JS
Tel: 01273 693355
- Wholesoods, organic veg, cosmetics and cleaning products - refills of old containers, dry goods by weight. Try the sugars, amazing flavour!

22 Open Market, Marshalls Row, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4JS
Tel: 01273 694911
- Fresh, pickled and smoked fish and seafood. Tell them you are making sushi and they will bring out the best catch.

Thai market
Open Market, Marshalls Row, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4JS
- Thai goods, fresh, frozen and tinned and hot noodles! The fresh galangal, lemongrass and green papayas are wonderful

Shaktis store
102, Ditchling Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4SG
Tel: 01273 602166
- General groceries. Fantastic homemade samosas.

Arkwrights Deli
86, Beaconsfield Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 6DD
Tel: 01273 552740
- Incredibly extensive collection of cheeses, cold meats, bread and artisan groceries - this is where I get the chorizo, the toulouse sausages are also great.

Italian Deli
Baker Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 4JN
- Fresh and dried pastas, rices, meats and cheeses, freshly made Italian dishes to eat in or take away. Wonderful olives.

Choice Cuts
95, Preston Drove, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 6LD
Tel: 01273 381616
- Organic butchers and grocery supplies - wonderful pork and leek sausages.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

A few of my favourite things

I had been running around in the rain all morning doing boring things like going to the bank and laundry so I thought I would treat myself to one of my favourite things; a bowl of jerusalem artichokes in truffle oil. Pure heaven. It amazes me that just two ingredients can make such a fantastic dish. I just peel, slice and boil the artichokes and dress them in good truffle oil, nothing simpler.

While I was eating it I was thinking about all the other things I apsolutely adore eating. Here are the top 5 (in no particular order):

1. Oysters with shallot vinegar (and maybe a pint of stout)
2. English asparagus with hollandaise
3. Perfectly cooked blue steak with bearnaise
4. Dover sole meurniere
5. Moules frites

With the jerusalem artichokes I guess that is technically 6 but who's counting!

Thursday, 15 February 2007


My best friend made me a book of food related poetry last year. Here is one of my favouries:

A handfull of cherries
She gave me in passing,
The wizened old woman,
And wished me good luck -
And again I was dreaming,
A boy in the sunshine,
And life but an orchard
Of cherries to pluck.

Bodega D' Tapa

I went to Bodega D' Tapa for an early Valentine's meal last weekend. It is a wonderful place, completely unpretentious (unlike the customers who were sat opposite us) and just like eating in someone's front room. It does not profess to be a restaurant, the menu is simple and the service very relaxed, but that is why it is so good. We had a bottle of house wine which for £9 I thought was excellent and a few plates of tapas. The olives with whole marinated garlic cloves and 100 year old sherry vinegar were delicious, very fresh tasting. We had pate with toasted bread and peppery olive oil that was good but not outstanding. The chorizo in red wine was gorgeous, very smokey, slightly spicy and served in a generous portion. We had this with cazuela de frijoles, which complimented it perfectly, and a basket of bread to mop up the juices. We weren't very hungry as I had made a huge lunch earlier that day so we only managed four dishes although somehow we managed two bottles of wine. Consequently we were quite drunk but we had a wonderful time and with a little help from the waitress/cook (who spoke very little English) it really felt like we had popped to Spain for the evening!

The meal for 2 including 2 bottles of wine was £35

Bodega D' Tapa 111 Church Street, Brighton.Tel. 01273 674116.