27 June 2010

Broadly Speaking

I'm really enjoying this "brevity" theme I've got going on. Well, occasionally: my ire at all things football-related certainly got an airing on Twitter this last couple of weeks. But when it comes to food, I find sometimes there's just nothing to add. What I will say, however, is that a large slab of Mrs King's Pork Pie made it easier to be an Englishman tonight. Even better than that though? A large salad of leaves picked barely an hour beforehand, sprinkled with the first of what looks to be a bumper crop of broad beans. Those vibrant green pulses however - quickly steamed, peeled and dressed with a pinch of rock salt - deserved a shot of their own.

25 June 2010

On A Roll

Amazing what you can do with a bit of pig and some mustard, isn't it? The mustard is, in fact, the only thing on this fine hot dog that's not made in house at the Coach & Horses in Farringdon. And people still wonder why I like it there so much.

22 June 2010

All Greek To Me

Aside from the lazy word play, I probably didn't need to mention Greek in this title. In the spirit of recent picture being worth a thousand words, I could have just shown this photo

and you'd have instinctively known the location.

Am I alone in craving mezze when I see a view like this? For me, this shot makes me think of great company, cold wine and a lovely graze through multiple small dishes of incredible big flavours.

And that, happily, is exactly what happened. This shot was taken from the outside terrace at Ouzeri, the brilliantly named, typically Greek taverna at the Sani Resort's Beach Club. With the sun attempting to break through the clouds, it was a fine location for an (almost) endless wander through some classic Greek fare.

Home made bread. Grilled halloumi (atop green olives and crisp, fresh pitta) . Calamari. The inevitable - but delicious and herb-dotted Greek Salad. Stuffed vine leaves. Mackerel. Mussels. A rich stew of vegetables and spiced sausages...

It's the sort of food you feel you could eat every day, a rainbow of tastes and textures that makes you feel healthy and happy. Why do I feel our next dinner party is going to have a distinctly Greek theme?

16 June 2010

A 1000 Words...

I didn't mean this to become a regular thing but, actually, me shutting up every now and again is no bad thing. Besides what can I say about Jamon Iberico that: a) others haven't; and b) can't be better expressed by this photo from lunch at Aqua Nueva?

14 June 2010

Stoked Up

I've just been browsing the pics from the recent Greece trip and realised that I've not written about the superb fish mezze we enjoyed. I will rectify that shortly but, in advance of that delicate, sophisticated, sunny, healthy post here's a proper blokey breakfast.

The occasion? Sunday morning in Stoke with my best friend - and keen amateur cook, budding foodie and soon-to-be-blogger Adam. The mood? Sombre, following the realisation that it WASN'T a bad dream and Rob Green had indeed flapped at a slow moving football with the sporting prowess of lard and the goalkeeping skills of a six-year old girl. The solution? We were in Stoke, so there is only one solution: a manly heart-stopping breakfast of fried stuff and oatcakes.

Forget the ones you can buy "down here", the proper Stoke oatcake is a thing of slippery, starchy beauty - and I'm not the only one who thinks so. A freshly cooked oatcake filled with bacon and cheese - and there are still cafes that make these pancake-like beauties from scratch - is something inherently British. It's also as good a hangover cure as you can get. Which is, admittedly / depressingly, probably what makes it inherently British.

Our breakfast featured great oatcakes, a fried egg, huge slabs of middle bacon, home-made cracked black pepper sausages, tinned tomatoes (all from the local butcher) and cheese (from Sainsbury). While it didn't make up for Green's rookie performance, it certainly put a smile on our faces. And people wonder why I don't update From Fat Bloke to Tough Guy as often as this one. Hmm. I think the events may be connected...

8 June 2010

Fuzzy Logic

I've had a bit of a love / hate thing with peaches over the years. Like many a child of the 70s, I grew up wolfing slippery, syrupy slices from the tin. In my naive fashion though, I couldn't face the "real" version. I think it was something to do with the fur but look, I was only five and, as my mum still loves to tell people, at that point my idea of culinary pleasure was luncheon meat and mash potato.

As this blog - and a series of discarded jeans with increasing waist sizes - proves, those days are long behind me and, with the exception of Marmite (yeast is something you'd avoid as an infection, not slather on toast), there's not much I haven't eaten / wouldn't eat.

Funnily enough, while I adored ketchup on that luncheon meat and, particularly, mixed into the mash (what can I say, I liked pink grub), I couldn't face tomatoes at that point either. Now though, I'll argue that life doesn't get much better than a ripe, sweet tom, whether sliced and drizzled in olive oil, oozing from the sides of a toasted tomato sandwich with lots of rock salt, black pepper and heart-stopping quantities of mayonnaise, or any other way you choose to worship this gorgeous fruit.

If I was to tell that chubby six-year old that one day he'd be waxing lyrical about tomatoes and peach TOGETHER, he'd have probably laughed. Or vomited. Or, most likely, a spectacularly messy combination of the two.

The combination was one of, if not the highlight of the aforementioned Sani Resort trip. Our final meal was prepared by the brilliant and scarily cheerful Maria Elia who, she informed us, has actually left Whitechapel Gallery with a view to opening her own restaurant. On this showing, it's going to become a regular haunt of mine.

Sadly - because deleting single pics and a little bit too much fine wine don't mix, kids - I managed to wipe the photographic evidence of a spectacular dinner so, as penance, I tracked down the recipe for the dazzling Chilled Tomato, Peach and Ginger soup that formed one small shot of the "Textures of Tomato" starter. It's taken from her book The Modern Vegetarian (which on this evidence is the best £10.21 you'll spend in many a week) and it's a little cracker. I've taken a small liberty in the below interpretation because I'm not one for exact measurements (it's soup, people, not science) and, while I like the heat provided by the chilli in the original recipe, Mrs L took one sip and did that eye-popping thing I'd previously only seen in Tex Avery cartoons hence I've suggested dropping it and adding a smidge more ginger, but see what your palate can take. Obviously.

Maria Elia's Chilled Tomato, Peach and Ginger Soup

Olive oil

Shallots - around eight, finely sliced

An inch (and a bit) of peeled, finely sliced ginger

A load of tomatoes - about a kilo

8-10 ripe peaches

4 sliced garlic cloves

Pinch of sugar

Salt & Pepper

Basil leaves (Thai if you can get it)

If you've made soup before, you can pretty much guess what to do here. First, heat a little oil and gently cook the shallots and ginger for around 15 minutes until soft and gently caramelised.

While they're doing their sticky, sweet thing, prep the tomatoes and peaches. Boil the kettle and, while that's happening, core the tomatoes and cut a cross in the base, and do the same thing with the peaches. Pour the boiling water into a bowl, drop in the tomatoes, leave for about 30 seconds and fish them out. Do the same with the peaches, but you'll have to leave them about a minute to loosen the skins.

Before you peel your star ingredients, throw the garlic (and single red chilli, sliced in half and de-seeded, if you're going for it) in with the shallots and give it another five minutes of cooking. While that's happening, peel and chop the tomatoes and add them, and any juices on the chopping board, to the pan. Remove the peach stones (but frankly if you need me to tell you that, you're probably not ready to cook anything) and attack your peaches with a big knife and add to the pan. Add sugar, sea salt and about 650ml of water, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes.

If you've added the chilli, fish it out now, then puree the vibrant, colourful contents of the pan. If it's a little thick, just add a splash more water (see sarcastic aside above), then season to taste (ditto) and refrigerate. To serve, pour into bowls (yes, I am being facetious now) and garnish with the basil, a little chopped peach, tomato, etc. Sit back, enjoy, and imagine you're looking out over something like this...

Summery bliss in a bowl.

4 June 2010

Crack(l)ing Stuff

Following on from last week's steak porn - a comment which I'm sure resulted in some very disappointing web searches in teenage bedrooms around the globe - here's another picture instead of a thousand words. Lunch yesterday was a typically enjoyable afternoon at Roast. Great company, a certain amount of iPad envy, a very constructive chat and, on the plate, the Thursday special of suckling pig. Special doesn't quite cover it... but a perfect slice of insanely golden crackling did.