Sunday, August 3, 2014

The inevitable kids pizza moment

I always have a stash of hidden-vegetable-sauce. Onions, celery, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, even spinach enter the mix and get blitzed. This is the back-up meal always ready in the fridge and freezer for the boy, Billy. It's not rocket science and I'm sure most parents do the same.

Back late last weekend though, fed up of cooking him pasta to go with the magic sauce, we decided to make pizza. With a dough recipe almost entirely lifted from Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall's family cook book he kneaded and squidged and had a right royal time, unaware he was plotting his own supper. Baked at 220C with added spinach and ricotta this may well become his new favourite dinner. Well worth the effort.

The beauty of the moment was that we ate the same meal, at the same time, together and both enjoyed it. He went to bed full, and I nursed a small hangover with a few episodes of The Wire. Win win.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Quick and Foraged

My Dad brought round some blackberries a few days ago. The time is right and they are on every bush in London. He usually comes bearing gifts: a couple of slices of homemade bread wrapped in foil; a little bracelet; a book he can't cope with throwing away; even old curtains once with the suggestion they would make a nice dress! But these blackberries were lovely. Billy, our boy, had a few fistfulls but I knew he wouldn't get through all of them. So I whipped up a quick pudding with them. And it was the perfect use for some urban foraging. Nothing more than heated with about a tablespoon of water and the same of sugar. Once cool I stirred in set natural yogurt, and piled into some glasses. Tart and delicious and beautifully marbled.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Accidental wheat-free noodle salad for a perfect summer lunch box.

I've always had a bit of a fixation with noodle salads and moreover glass noodle salads. There is something so etherial about their whole business. They seem angelic, and suit clean flavours and crunchiness and sweetness and basically all things vietnamese in style. But I had always thought it was a bit of pot luck whether you ended up with clear strands or the milky siblings that are common. It turns out, after a lot of delving and questions at Wing Tai Supermarket (their staff are eternally long-suffering to my over-keen questions) that the difference lies is the ingredients and it's not pot-luck after all. The noodles that I love with all my heart, it turns out, are made with mung beans, and the milky noodles which are everywhere are made with rice. Viola! Sometimes understanding the simple nuances makes such a big difference in cooking and indeed results.

So it turns out that my favourite noodles of all time are actually wheat-free. This has come in very handy at Rosie's as our salad boxes are fast becoming our best selling lunch. Having this gorgeous light summery salad on offer is the perfect solution for all those poor people who can't indulge in the hunks of bread and bowls of pasta I am want to devour. It's the beauty of accidental health food.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fish food = Fast food.

I seem to be cooking a lot of fish at the moment. It really is the epitome of fast-food. It is a food that hasn't been tampered with, it is unprocessed and really good for you. You really can not get more simple or pure than a piece of steamed fish. Just five or ten minutes and you have yourself a really decent home cooked meal, especially if you throw in some herbs, pickled goods and mayonnaise and obviously always a lemon.

Most recently, we acquired an extra mouth to feed at dinner, our old friend 'Scouse-Mouse', down from Liverpool. The inevitable would be a the usual mad rush to beat the desperate queues at Kaosarn, and have ourselves a top-notch fiery thai take-away. But we have been doing way too much of that recently. Not only is it expensive, but it's lazy and I'm on a mission to do less of this. So I said "No" to Raf, "I'm handling this" and put in the extra effort, at late notice to make a good dinner, which shouldn't be that hard! But what can you cook in half an hour that tastes at all good? What is the perfect fast food? Fish. I ran to the fishmongers in Brixton Market and nabbed us 3 Seabass, filleted and ready to go. With it, we had a new potato salad with shaved fennel, chopped tarragon, cucumber and cos. It was wet and aniseedy and married perfectly with plainly fried fish fillets. One of the best bits about making this was quite how much Scouse-Mouse loved it - it makes the whole thing worth while.

The second fast food with fish was heaven. Raf isn't much into pasta these days so it has become my marvellous private treat on the nights that he is out DJing. Pasta all to my self. Just the way I like it. Like I said, heaven. This time, with little in the house, I rustled up dinner for one (well, probably for two, but it did me just fine). I found some crab meat in the freezer. I had some shallots and really decent bottle of white wine from Dave at Market Row Wines. This recipe is really so simple. I forgot to measure most of the elements so you'll just have to do it by eye I'm afraid. Once Billy (our boy) had gone to bed, I was able to whip this up in 15 minutes or so, basically, as long as it takes to cook your spaghetti.

olive oil
a bunch of parsley
a birds eye chilli
a large glass of white wine
crab meat
freshly ground pepper
sea salt
1/2 a lemon, juiced
spaghetti (100g per person?)
extra virgin olive oil

Put a pan of water on for your pasta. Add salt and cook until tender. Meanwhile, peel and slice your shallots and garlic. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan on a low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sweat until transparent but definitely not brown. Finely and meticulously chop the parsley and chilli. Set aside. Pour in a good glass of white wine to the pan, add the crab meat and some seasoning. Simmer gently for a few minutes. Drain the spaghetti, keeping a little of the starchy water aside. Return the pasta to the pan, add the crab, the parsley and chilli, lemon juice, a little pasta water so it isn't dry and then taste. Finally finish with some extra virgin olive oil for maximum flavour and impact. Dinner alone never tasted so good.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gorgeous Granola. Easier than ever

I have found the perfect granola recipe. It has taken me some years but finally I have a harmoniously orchestrated nutty jar of sweet sweets, but not too sweet. I have played with quite a few recipes and tinkered with more. And every time I do, something seems wrong: it ends up too sticky; majorly clumpy or just not quite what I have in my mind's eye. It has been very frustrating. Finally, however, I have really got somewhere. And it turns out it is pretty simple with this clear and easy formula in mind. Testament to following a good recipe properly, this has worked every time I have baked it. Just stick to the rules. And an added bonus, this literally takes 35 minutes to make so you don't even need to forward plan your perfect health fiesta brunch. Go wild, make a last minute decision. 

Given that this is a blueprint recipe, you can play around with the different elements, depending on what is good value in the shops or what you have to hand at home. Just so long as you stick to the correct amounts of wet and dry goods. At Rosie's, we have done a few different batches: those with shredded coconut for a hot and tropical scent or another with loads of decadent flaked almonds for a luxe version. 

This recipe is such a hit I have instantly added it to our menu at the cafe, served with fruit from the market and freshest sharp natural yogurt. It really is delicious. As the original recipe came from an American website, I've done it in cups for continuity. 

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sweetener, either honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups oats, a mix of course and rolled works well for a varied texture
2 cups any mix of nuts and seeds. I have used coconut, sunflower, sesame and almonds
a pinch of salt 

Preheat your oven to 180c and line 3 baking trays with grease proof paper. Warm together the oil, sweetener and cinnamon until is it gently boiling and combined. This can either be done in a microwave or a small pan depending on what is easier for you. Meanwhile in a large bowl mix together the oats, nuts and salt. Using a good spatula, quickly work in the wet ingredients to the dry ones. Be sure that it is well mixed and consistently blended. Turn the mix out onto the baking trays and spread evenly. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, tossing and mixing every ten minutes until your granola is golden and toasted. Be careful not to stray too far from the oven as it can burn easily and quicker than you think. Remove from the oven and leave to cool entirely. Jar up when cold or tuck in immediately depending on your urgency.