Saturday, May 31, 2014

Around Europe in many dishes 1: meaty delights in Ludlow

Here we are back in Europe, and like last time two years ago I'm going to keep a kind of travel food journal on the blog. Today we were in Ludlow, known not only for its beautiful medieval centre but also as a foodie town. And one of the things it's most famous for is great meat, with some terrific local butchers selling everything from charcuterie to game meat, beef fillet to faggots.
For lunch, we had an excellent plate of all-day 'local breakfast', featuring truly tasty Ludlow sausage, black pudding and bacon from famous butcher Wall's.
Later, at Ludlow Markets, we also bought some fantastic salami, yes, actual English salami :) which is hand-made from free-range pork by some farmers near Tenbury(which is kind of close to Ludlow) Very good too!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spectacular double-cheese French onion soup

I've always loved onion soup, that classic dish from the French repertoire, not only because of its great taste, but also its ease of making and the fact it looks great! The other day, we experimented with the basic recipe, using a combination of cooking on stove-top and baking, to make something which looks spectacular and tastes fantastic. And it's all easily done with the addition of bread rolls!
Here's the drill:
To make the soup--Cut a large onion into thin half-moon slices. Fry in a little butter, add salt, pepper, herbs(your choice, but tarragon or thyme are our favourites). You can also add a little nutmeg. When onion is golden, add stock--chicken stock or vegetable stock, as you prefer.
Now get the bread roll ready--one for each person, this variety is served in individual dishes, as illustrated. Cut the (round and not too big) bread roll in three thin slices crosswise(as if cutting a cake in layers), to leave the top intact.
Pour the soup into ramekins or other individual dishes. Place a slice of bread on top of the soup. On this, sprinkle some crumbs of Roquefort, Gorgonzola or other blue cheese. Add the second slice of bread on top, and on it, grate some Gruyere or similar cheese. Place the top slice of the roll on top, finish with a mix of blue cheese and Gruyere. Bake in hot oven for around 5 minutes, till cheese is melted and bread is hot. Serve!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Home-made fried chicken

Who doesn't love a good fried chicken? I've eaten fabulous varieties of this universally loved dish in many different places in the world, from the deliciously garlicky poulet frit of southern France to the tasty, spicy ayam goreng of Java. And I love making my own. I don't deep-fry it but shallow-fry it, so it's never greasy but deliciously crisp. It's the simplest dish possible to prepare, if a little fiddly to start with, and is always a hit with guests!
First, buy a good tasty chicken--I prefer the corn-fed ones, as they have a lot more flavour. Cut it up into pieces, then mix some plain flour with salt and pepper, put this mix in a small plastic bag, and roll every chicken piece in the flour mix so it is completely coated--easy to do it in the bag by just closing it and shaking everything up!
Meanwhile get a large deep pan ready and heat some sunflower or canola oil--I only put in enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and only about 10 mm up the side of the pan altogether. Drop the flour-coated pieces of chicken into the hot oil--in a single layer only--and cook until they go golden, then turn and do the same for the other side. Keep doing that till every piece is golden, then turn the heat down, sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken, put the lid on, and let it cook for about 40 mins, till it is cooked through. The chicken steams inside but is crisp and golden on the outside.
Take the chicken out when ready to serve, and add whatever you like to it--crushed garlic, chopped herbs, chilli. You can also make a yummy gravy with the juices and scrapings from the cooking mix, adding a little flour, wine, and herbs.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Welsh caviar: Laverbread

'Welsh caviar'

In the tin
Welsh caviar: that's what actor Richard Burton called the traditional delicacy from his country, laverbread, (bara lafwr or bara lawr in Welsh). The 'laver' seaweed from which it is made is these days mostly gathered off the coastal rocks of Pembrokeshire and Camarthenshire, washed and rinsed and then boiled for hours till it becomes a stiff dark green paste. It is then eaten either as is, spread on toast or crackers, or, more traditionally, rolled in oatmeal and fried.
Highly nutritious because of its high proportions of protein, iron and iodine, laverbread has a pleasant tangy flavour and goes well not only with seafood but meat as well--in Wales it is often served with bacon or lamb.
It's quite hard to find laverbread except in Wales, but last time we were there we brought some back, and the other day we served it as part of an entree, just spread on crackers and accompanying scallops. It was delicious--and quite a talking point!