Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Maltese Galletti

I'm a keen collector of cookbooks and I try to pick up a local book from the places I go on holiday. Whilst on holiday in my mother in law's home country, Malta, I picked up a great little book from olive oil producer Matty Cremona.



 One of the recipes in Cooking with Maltese Olive Oil is for the ubiquitous Maltese savoury biscuit, galletti.
These tasty, puffed up little biscuits are cheaply available in their Malta and even the book says that no one makes their own any more.

 But as I rarely visit Malta and I wanted to try some of the recipes from the book I decided to give them a go.

The recipe uses a quantity of olive oil and I thought it would be a good opportunity to use up one of those flavoured oils I always get for Christmas.

 It's a pizza-like dough made with semolina and strong bread flour,

Roll it out really thin... it helps to divide the dough up. Into my four different sections of dough I mixed in, ground pepper, dried oregano, sesame seeds, or caraway seeds.

Then roll the dough out even thinner. Then thinner again, until you think it's too thin.
 Cut it into rounds with a cookie cutter and prick with a fork to stop them puffing up too much in the oven.

Then pop them in a hot oven and watch as they puff up and brown.
These are one of the best biscuits to have with cheese but I made so many that I have a couple of other recipes I'm going to try to use them up 

Edit: I've now been asked by two friends to put the recipe up so here it is. If anyone makes this recipe please let me know in the comments section. Please tell me in the comments how they turn out.


Ingredients

200g Plain Flour (I used strong bread flour)
150g Semolina (extra for Kneading)
4 Tablespoons olive oil (I used the flavoured oil)
Large pinch of salt
One Sachet instant yeast
200mL Warm water
Flavourings e.g. coarsely ground black pepper, caraway, oregano or toasted sesame seeds

Method
Sieve flour into a large bowl, add the salt and oil, rubbing the oil into the flour. When combined add the semolina. Add the yeast. You can add the flavourings now or after dividing the dough.  Then stirring as you go, add the water bit by bit until you have enough to make a dough. Knead the dough well until smooth.  Cut into manageable portions and roll out VERY thinly, I sprinkle a little more sea salt over the dough at this point. Cut rounds from the dough with a cookie cutter and prick with a fork once in the middle to stop them rising too much in the oven. Put them on semolina-dusted baking sheets and bake at gas mark 6 until they are golden brown.  I found this took about 10-12 mintues but keep a very careful eye on them. Burnt galletti are crapletti. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Enjoy the galletti with cheese, dips or on their own as a snack

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Open it!

I recently inherited a fancy camera and being a digital SLR virgin I thought this weekend's Open It! online event would be a good opportunity to try out my new toy.
So without further ado here are some pictures from an evening of opening it!
I love the designs on some of these special bottles. especially the Delirium Christmas beer.





















We enjoyed all the beers and a special thanks should go to trafalgar wines in Brighton who sold me most of these beers. And more thanks to the England cricket team who provided some of the entertainment! 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

1516 Brewing Company, Vienna

As ever when visiting a new city I wanted to try to find some good locally brewed beer in Vienna. I didn't have to search too far when I found out about the 1516 Brewing Company brewpub based in the city centre. This brewery makes a range of specialy beers, some in a traditional Austrian style and some decidedly non-Austrian.

The bar itself is welcoming and relaxing and on the third visit the distinct and comforting smell of yeast and malt from the brewing permeated the building. It really is a beer geek's paradise with all of the wide range of beers described in detail on the menu and it seems that a lot of these brews were designed by guest brewers from other international breweries. I think this is an excellent model that works in the UK and is already being done by Brewdog and Brewharf.

We tried most of the beers during our three visits to the bar some of which I will describe below.

 Check out the head on this!
 This Altbayrisch Dunkel is a delicious dark lager. It is claimed by 1516 that most Austrian black lagers are standard lagers with colouring added but theirs is authentically produced with dark malts. I cannot comment on the other Austrian dark lagers but I can tell you that this effort was rich with the coffee and chocolate flavours associated with dark malts. A fine example of this style which is becoming popular in the UK.
 This terrible picture is of one of the most intriguing beers I had at 1516. This is the Victory Hopped Devil IPA. This is the brewery's first brew with "whole leaf hopping" and brewed by US brewer Bill Covaleski from Victory Brewery in the US. I'm guessing it's an exact replication of Victory's own Hop Devil. The hops in this are powerful and I was instantly transported back to the USA and my first taste of Russian River's blind pig.


This is half a glass of 1516's very nice Bavarian style weissbier. I found this a lot more refreshing than some examples I have had here with good fruity depth.

 And lastly is a glass of the M&N Amber. This was dry and hoppy from Amarillo and Cascade hops with five different malts giving it the rich amber colour.



Meierei Cafe, Vienna.


This morning I went for a late breakfast at Meierei, the cafe on the ground floor of Steirereck I have previously described. Compared to previous days in Vienna which have been glorious, crisp and autumnal, this morning was grey, cold, windy and autumnal. So I treated myself to a walk round the park and a considerably better value breakfast that the 27 Euro buffet monstrosity offered by the Hilton.
This is a view of the terrace outside the cafe taken from a bridge over the canal.

Meierei is modelled on a milk bar and has an array of breakfast dishes, 160 cheeses and many variations on milk!

I sat near the window overlooking the park's canal and watched the dogwalkers go by for a relaxing hour or so. A couple of coffees, some orange juice, and a small basket of bread including a caraway seed studded rye were brought and I slowly consumed the lot while waiting for my scrambled eggs,
 My eggs arrived mixed with yet more of the wild mushrooms I so enjoyed during my previous visit to this establishment. I don't think I have ever seen such generosity with mushrooms. I indulged as much as I could.

A brief note on the milks from this cafe. The range of milk based produce here is vast. You can have cow, goat, soya, coconut, sauermilch (a fermented and fizzy milk) and even horse. Much to my disappointment they had run out of horse milk. Maybe next time I'm in Vienna I will indulge again.

Vienna, Steirereck Restaurant


I have been lucky enough to go to some exciting cities to visit some industry conference in the past 4 years. This year I have had the pleasure of visiting Vienna. A cursory search for places to eat and drink gave a definite response. It seemed we had to visit Steirereck restaurant in the Stadtpark. A 2 Michelin starred establishment and number 21 in the San Pellegrino top 50 Best Restaurants, it certainly has good credentials.


The tasting menu was an excellent showcase of local ingredients and modern technique. Unusually there is a choice for every course in the 6 or 7 course tasting menu and if you choose the 6 course you can omit any course you like from the 7 listed. This kind of flexibility brings the feeling of control you get from A La Carte but still with the exciting trip through the skills of the kitchen that comes from a multi-course tasting menu. Each delicate dish arrived with a small card listing all of its components. This is an excellent idea that I think all restaurants of this kind should copy. It is often the case that without the menu in front of you, it is easy to forget what course you picked for number 4 or 5 let alone what the red sauce is that has been artfully smeared across your plate. With these cards, each with a 3 digit number referring I presume to it's placement in the history of the restaurant's dishes, you can refer back to this construction and for me this really added to the enjoyment and understanding of the food. Others may think that this encourages the food fetishism that occurs in restaurants like this, but for us (and I am guessing the establishment itself) this kind of meal is all about the food. I am glad that I don't live in Vienna because the numbering system appeals to the completist in me and I think I would have to embark on a long mission to collect all the numbers, much like an expensive Panini football sticker collection.

I wish I could show you some beautiful photography from the meal but as is often the case I didn't feel comfortable photographing in this kind of intimate environment and the lighting was dim so Iphone snapping was would not have done justice to the food. There were a number of highlights for me incuding "Oysters", a clever play on the shellfish and the morsel of tender flesh usually enjoyed by the roast chicken carver while divvying up the rest of the meat. There was also an excellent marmalade icecream that came with my dessert, I could have eaten a whole bowl of this.

Another reason I had so much pleasure with this menu was the almost excessive celebration of mushrooms throughout the evening. Highlighting the menu's seasonal approach, no less than 5 of the courses between us had wild mushrooms of some kind. Trompettes de la mort, chanterelle, cepes and the medley of different small varieties that garnished the venison dish we had meant that this was true fungi celebration. It is a very good thing that I love mushrooms because I ate a lot that night from Claire's plate as well as my own.

So to summarise, an excellent evening of food with Austrian wine to match every course, lovely relaxing decor and service and some surreally disorientating toilet facilities mean that Steirereck truely deserves is reputation as the best restaurant in Vienna. I think it rivals the best in London and New York.

I popped back to the attached cafe Meierei for breakfast this morning. And a brief post describing this will follow soon.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Sorry!

I haven't been posting recently because of an impending deadline for my masters, but I will be back with some views, reviews and kitchen fun in a couple of weeks.

Things to look forward to are a trip to Vienna, many beers to taste, some Maltese recipes and a book review or two!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Claire's top 10 cookbooks

When I wrote up my top ten books it caused some consternation from a few people not least Claire who has her own, very well defined list of books.

So here they are in no particular order (apart from number one which at the moment is Claire's all time favourite), some are the same as mine, most aren't. All of the following text is by Claire

Jamie At Home;

Lovely book to look at, great programme to watch (I own the DVDs too), and not a bad recipe yet.

French Laundry;


Despite being rather intimidating, I have attempted a few recipes from this book.  Each one has been incredibly easy to follow, and has turned out amazingly well.

How to be a Domestic Goddess;


I have made a large number of the recipes in this book.  All have had outstanding results.  All of this despite my hatred for the woman.

Moro;

A lovely read, and the recipes are all really straightforward, with fantastic results

Delia's Complete Cookery Course;

A go-to reference when I'm stuck on or unsure of any 'classic' recipes

Leith's Vegetable Bible;

Good for inspiration - especially when a glut of courgettes/tomatoes/turnips/squash comes our way.

Dessert Fourplay;


I think I wish I was Johnny Iuzzini (maybe without the tattoos).  One day I will get up the courage to attempt some of his beautiful recipes.  In the meantime I will swoon over the pictures.

The Return of the Naked Chef;


I love most of Jamie's books, but this is the second entry in the top ten purely for his 'Fantastic Fish Pie'.

Ottolenghi;


A beautiful book to browse through, but I've yet to make anything from it....

Nigel Slater's Real Food


One of the first cookery shows I ever watched and enjoyed on TV.  I love the book and his style of cooking.  Appetite is probably a better book in terms of number of recipes/quality of the read, but this is my favourite.

A tale of two beers. Adnams Innovation and Sam Hill Homebrew

The first beer I'm going to write about today is a pretty special one. When I won the World Cup Beer Sweep my prize was three cases of beer, one from Ales by Mail, one (still to arrive) from the Highland Brewing Company and one from Adnams. The one I was most excited about in this package was the Adnams one. Adnams and I go back a long way, there beers were often on of the "out the back" real ales at my local when I grew up and I have helped drain casks of them at a few west country parties.
I will admit here and now that I was a little disapointed when the package turned up and it was 12 bottles of the same beer, one which I hadn't heard of. "No Broadside, Southwold or Explorer?" I exclaimed when ripping open the box, "How could they?" I am exaggerating my reaction somewhat, in the back of my mind I knew that Adnams, who had been making me quality beers for fifteen years, would see me right for my prize. What a prize it was, twelve sleek, sophisticated bottles that you see above, a mysterious embossed label with a single highlighted word, "Innovation".

An exclusive beer like this will always pique my interest. It is my hatred of feeling like I missed out that led me to carefully transport two bottles of Russian River Supplication home from San Francisco in our luggage. It causes me to spend too much money buying limited edition beers from crazy Scottish brewers.

I followed the instructions on the back of the bottle and chilled a few of these down before sampling and I was blown away. Tonight, four weeks after opening the first bottle we drank the last one. It really is a surprising and beautiful beer. It has a deep golden but not amber colour and a well established head. On the nose it has rich stone fruits, some tea and plenty of honey and caramel. The flavour really delivers all of those aromas and more. The sweetness of the honey and caramel  is offset with delicious bitterness. This beer changes the further down the pint you drink and it becomes difficult to pinpoint individual tastes. I did have a stab at it though and this is what I have noted.

Christmas Pudding
Raisins
Honey
Peach
Jolly Ranchers
Cough candy.

All of this flavour riot sits over a 6.7% ABV but not once during the twelve bottles did it taste this strong. (I have to admit after 3 of these bottles it feels that strong!)
If you can't tell already I love this beer, so much that I am going to place an order for another twelve. I need this beer in my life.
After such an intensively flavoured beer it was probably a mistake to have an impromptu tasting of the homebrew I made from a St Peter's Ruby Red Ale kit, but I will tell you what we thought anyway.


It was my first time making homebrew beer and inexperienced as I am, allowed a bit too much yeast to end up in the bottles when it was time for conditioning. This has led to a nicely carbonated beer in the bottle with about half a centimetre of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. The only way to pour a clean pint of the beer is to chill it right down so the bubbles don't disrupt the sediment layer. This suppresses the flavour and as a result the beer really suffers. So, unlike the Adnams, a warming needs to be performed. About half an hour after pouring we tasted. Even with the warming the beer is a little flat and dry tasting. There appears to be little residual sugar from the malt extract and as a result not enough body. Having said that it is a perfectly palatable beer with a nice hoppy flavour. Next time I make a kit I will reduce the starting volume so there is a more of a body to it and of course I will be a lot more careful with the yeast!

Thanks for reading. I hope there will be plenty more beer reviews to come. Marble, Hardknott, Russian River and hopefully some Highland beers will be tasted and remarked upon as soon as I can!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Per Se

I apologise for taking so long to post this post about our meal at Per Se in New York. It's taken a while to get used to being back in the UK with it's humdrum weather and everyday problems. The only problems we had on honeymoon were what to eat and drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner! The drink part more difficult than anticipated with the size and variety of the wine lists.  In my top 50 cookbooks I mentioned two books by Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon. The French Laundry is Thomas Keller's flagship restaurant in Yountville in the Napa Valley and has been wowing its diners with contemporary French/American  food since 1994. In 2004 Keller opened a sister restaurant in New York named Per Se. These restaurants are two of only six in the US with three Michelin stars such is the quality and dedication to perfection of these kitchens.

The status of Per Se in the New York restaurant world means that it is quite tricky to get a reservation, certainly one at a decent time. But we persevered and maybe via a friend of a friend or maybe by spread betting on the backup list we managed to get a 9:30 table on a Saturday night.


Per Se is housed on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Centre on Colombus circle. It is a bit strange to walk in through the side entrance of a shopping centre to get to any restaurant let alone one like this but this isn't a normal mall. It also boasts another top restaurant, Masa, as well as a lot of fancy shops.

It was Saturday evening and I was very excited as we entered the garden and approached the front door.

The glass panel to the left slid open and we were greeted by a dark, plush, deep red entrance hall and an English accent from  the greeter. We were then shown to our table, drank some excellent champagne and perused the tasting menu and wine list. There were a number of choices to be made and this would take some careful consideration.

This is a scan of the menu we pilfered on our way out. It is almost identical to the one we had but the striped bass dish was replaced with Kindai tuna. This I'm afraid is one of the only pictures we have of the meal. It just felt wrong to sully our experience by wasting time, taking pictures instead of enjoying each other's company and the outstanding food which was being laid out in front of us.


A restaurant with Per Se's reputation will always keep a number of its famous hits on a tasting menu like this one. Per Se has a few chart toppers which made an appearance during our meal. The first of these which was not on the menu was the famous salmon tartare cornets topped with red onion creme fraiche. Just like tiny ice-cream cornets but with fresh raw salmon these were a lovely start to the meal.

The first dish on the menu was another one of the restaurants permanent fixtures and one we were not looking forward to, 'oysters and pearls'. However this sabayon of oyster and pearl tapioca with caviar may have changed my dislike of oysters in a way that it seems to do for others. It was delicious, so delicious that I think I may be trying a few more oysters in the future (as long as they come with tapioca!)

I won't describe all of the dishes but will highlight our favourites. The tuna was fantastic, (which was a relief because Kindai tuna is a very expensive ingredient). The courgette flowers stuffed with veal balls was much tastier than its English translation may lead you to believe! 

The lobster succotash dish and the Calotte of beef were also stand-out dishes for me. The butter poached lobster was juicy and so sweet and with the chanterelles was a delicious pairing. The calotte, which is a part of the ribeye normally thrown out by the butcher, was really a really excellent piece of beef. I'm a sucker for bone marrow and it makes any beef dish better in my opinion. Gorgeous.

It was past midnight by now and we were still being brought plate after plate of desserts, petit fours, biscuits and bon bons. It all started to become a bit of a bluras we gorged oursleves on sweet treats but one thing I remember well was the extra-menu infamous coffee and doughnuts dessert. It's a cappucino semi-fredo with brioche doughnuts and this is the dish that finished Claire off. So I had to eat both of them. Oh well probably only 1000 calories between them.  

Stuffed and somewhat dozy we left the restaurant clutching a couple of boxes of uneaten sweet things, ready for bed. The question we always discuss after any meal we have out is if we lived in the area would we go back. The answer for Per Se is a resounding yes. I think it's worth the trauma of booking and the seriously wallet busting price. We were treated very well and felt completely at ease. In actual fact we are sort of going back. Next year we are going back to the states for the second leg of our honeymoon and this trip will take in a visit to Yountville where we are hoping to book tables at the French Laundry and Ad Hoc.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

Lunch from Acton Market and dinner: risotto stuffed round courgettes.

I've still got lots of US restaurants to write up but in the mean time I'll tell you about lunch and dinner today.

My friend Tom has a stall at Acton Market where he sells his "seasonal, inspired foods" which he cooks himself. Some of my colleagues and I popped down to see him today and to buy our lunch. We bought quite a few of these satisfying and moreish seasonal vegetable pies. They were laden with fresh courgettes and parmesan and we kept going back for just one more!


The stars of the show for me were the range of Brutti ma buoni biscuits made both traditionally with hazelnuts and as an alternative with almonds. There was also a chocolate and nuts version and some lemon bicsuits.
The almond and hazelnuts biscuits were sweet, nutty and crisp. So I bought a box of each and they are going down  very well both at work and at home the lighter almond being my favourite.



A far better lunch than the usual from the Hammersmith Hospital canteen, I would advise anyone in the area on a Thursday or Saturday to drop by and pick up some of these treats!

Tonight for dinner we needed to use up some more seasonal produce that had come our way from a number of sources. So I made a turnip and carrot risotto,

hollowed out two round yellow courgettes


stuffed them with the risotto


and baked them for 30 mins

A very satisfying dinner! Thanks must go to Frances at the British Library for the spectacular round courgettes and to Claire's mum for the turnips.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Observer top 50 cookbooks and my top ten

This Sunday the Observer Food Monthly published it's top 50 list of cookbooks. It is a varied collection of (mostly British) books from the great and the good in the food writing world. I was very interested to see how many of these books I owned and whether I agreed with the choices. So I decided to put together my own list and see how it compared. At 30 years old I didn't experience the impact that many of the books in the list had to the British household so I have picked books that have had to most impact on me and my cooking.

A brief scan through the list shows that is made up of books from a lot of British writers, a few Americans, a spattering of French and a few other nationalities. I think this represented the make up of the panel which was mostly Brits. The list certainly concentrated on books for the home cook and omitted many of the coffee table restaurant books (mostly American) which I consider key tomes in my collection.

It turned out that I currently own ten of the fifty books, of those ten I think only one or two would be in my top ten. Some of my top ten's authors were represented but with books I don't consider to be their best. My top ten are all books that I've cooked from successfully and also one's I enjoy reading as books.

1. Essence:Recipes from Le Champignon Sauvage by David Everitt-Matthias

We went to the two Michelin starred Cheltenham restaurant, Le Champignon Sauvage a few years ago to celebrate Claire's birthday  and the meal we had was an exhilarating celebration of British produce. Essence by the owner and head chef, David Everitt-Matthias, is a beautiful book, filled with the innovative and exciting dishes which are prepared in their kitchen every day. The recipes range between straightfoward to challenging and are split up into their component parts and all these recipes are illustrated with gorgeous photography. I have been inspired by the ideas in this book more than any other I own especially as the author encourages experimentation and combination of different components.


2. The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller and Michael Ruhlman


Some people have said that Essence is the British version of The French Laundry Cookbook. They both are detailed instructions on how to recreate their respective restaurant's menus at home and both are beautiful to read. But the French Laundry cookbook is a much grander and maybe even daunting affair. Some of these recipes are unachievable for the home cook but the majority are very much doable and will reward the daring cook many times over. This wonderful blog by Carol Blymire documents a home cook's attempt to cook every recipe in this wonderful book.

3. Jamie At Home by Jamie Oliver


Lot's of people seem to hate Jamie Oliver and I have never really understood why. I can see that the early Naked Chef persona may have grated and that the fake friends and lifestyle were just a bit silly, but his passion for good honest food really shines through especially in his later books. In my opinion the ultimate Jamie book is Jamie at home. It accompanied an entertaining TV series based around Jamie's vegetable garden and it epitomises his straightforward hands on approach to food where quality of ingredients and simplicity of flavours reigns over fiddly preparation. The Observer list has Jamie's Italy in the list but I don't think that it should be there as there are better and more comprehensive Italian cookbooks on the  shelves and in the kitchen. Silver spoon and Locatelli's Made in Italy to name two.

4. Appetite by Nigel Slater


The Observer list has Slater's Kitchen Diaries in their top 50 but I believe that it is Appetite that is deserving of the top spot. This is the book that made me want to change the way I cooked and even lived. I have a bad habit of sticking religiously to recipes from the books I own. In Appetite Nigel Slater rails against this type of cooking. He wants the home cook to regain their independence and inherent knowledge of how to cook good food. I think you could find a large percentage of the Kitchen diary's recipes in Appetite either explicitly or in the suggested. The whole point of this book is to arm you with knowledge of techniques that lead to the ability to make an almost infinite number of dishes. The fact that the whole book is written in Slater's friendly prose means that it is a delight to read and feels like he is there with you helping out in the kitchen.

5. River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
This is the only book in the Observer top 50 that is in my top ten and with good reason. It is an encyclopaedic manual for the preparation and cooking of meat.This is the book I refer to whenever I want to cook meat or when I need inspiration for a protein heavy meal.

I will quickly list the next five in the list as I consider these to be slightly less vital to me in the kitchen.

6. Bouchon by Thomas Keller and Michael Ruhlman

 




8. Leith's Vegetable Bible by Polly Tyrer

9. Moro by Sam and Sam Smith

10. Moro East by Sam and Sam Smith