Friday, 28 August 2015

Heads and tales

"I sent you a really good picture of those heads," said D, "And you didn't use it in your Glasgow post."

"Well, no," I said, "Because it's a food blog and that wasn't a picture of food so much as...heads suspended from the ceiling."

He looked at me.  I could practically hear him thinking "We don't just eat."

Which is fair enough.  So here is a picture of some heads suspended from the ceiling of the Kelvingrove museum:


And, of course, it is true that we don't just eat.  We drink quite a lot as well.  This year was mostly about the whisky.  After we left Glasgow, we headed to Islay and managed to tour four distilleries in two days.  Although the process doesn't vary from place to place, each tour had it's own distinct personality and interesting snippets of information, not to mention each involved a dram or two of the good stuff.

Islay distillery
The Ugly Betty still at Bruichladdich
Islay does whisky very well.  We did not, however, discover anything particularly exciting in the foodie line during our brief visit.  Whether it exists and is well hidden or if it is just not the main priority of the island, I am not sure - further research required perhaps?

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Recipe corner: Easy, cheesy cauliflower cheese


A selection of Scottish cheeses

Ah, cheese.  How do I love thee.  Let me count the ways.  Or rather, let me count the pounds that cling to hips and thighs that are the result of our mutual passion.

There is just no way around it - cheese is NOT Weight Watchers friendly.  I don't really approve of the concept of low fat cheese (although Cathedral City Lighter is ok for cheese on toast or for bunging on top of a pasta bake).  But I also don't really approve of a life without cheese. 

By making a cauliflower cheese the central point of a meal rather than a side dish, you can get a hit of the good stuff without sacrificing tooooo many pro points.  We had this the other night with some slices of chicken left over from the Sunday roast and some green veg - but, to be honest, you could drop the chicken if you wanted (don't tell D that I said that).  I would quite happily eat a plateful of just cauliflower cheese with a scoop of mash to schmoosh into the sauce.

Now, let's talk about the sauce.  I've used Heston Blumenthal's technique of whisking cheese into a reduced stock and wine mixture rather than the traditional roux method - this makes for a thinner, lighter sauce with a more intensely cheesy flavour and works really nicely here.  We used a mix of odds and ends of cheeses, including some blue for additional funk, but you could stick to trusty old Cheddar if you prefer.  The points will remain the same.

For the cauliflower - I like my florets quite small, with lots of cauliflower "crumbs" that almost melt into and thicken the sauce, but this, of course, is a matter of choice.

Ingredients

Half a cauliflower, chopped into florets
4 spring onions, chopped

100g hard, strongly flavoured cheese, grated
Tbsp cornflour
90ml white wine
300ml chicken stock

1 medium slice (around 40g) white bread
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

Serves 2, 9 pro points per portion

To make the sauce, place the wine in a saucepan over a medium heat and reduce until it is about a quarter of its original volume.  You don't need to be particularly exact. 

While this is happening, toss the grated cheese with the cornflour so it is well coated.

Pour the chicken stock into the wine and bring up to a brisk bubble.  Add the flour coated cheese a small handful at a time, stirring well in between each addition to melt. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the cauliflower and cook for five minutes until verging on tender.  Drain well.

Once all the cheese is added, you should be left with a smooth sauce.  Season well with black pepper and a little salt (if neccessary).  Add the spring onions and bubble for another minute or two to take off their raw edge.  Remove from the heat, stir through the cauliflower and transfer to an ovenproof dish.  This is now ready to bake (bear in mind that this can all be done in advance if you are organised enough).

When it comes to the cooking, pre heat the oven to 180.  Place the cauliflower cheese in the hot oven for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, blitz the bread into fine crumbs and season with the chilli flakes, black pepper and a pinch of salt. 

Sprinkle the crumbs over the cauliflower and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Eat, and glory at the wonder of cheese.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Glasgow Eats

The first time that I went to Glasgow, I very much enjoyed The Ubiquitous Chip - which appears to be fairly ubiquitous as the city's go-to restaurant recommendation - but was not generally enamoured of the rest of it.  This summer we spent two nights there and had a splendid time.  It is too easy to think of Glasgow as Edinburgh's poor relation; it is less obviously pretty but it has a rough and tumble charm of its own that I just didn't appreciate the first time around.

Of course, our biggest priority was to make sure we got in some good food while there.  We already knew that we wanted to pay a return visit to The Chip, which took care of the first night, and it was just as lovely as before.  Highlights included a roast pork belly dish, with charred Baby Gem, butternut squash salsa and smoked onion cream:


And a white chocolate bavarois with raspberry fool and pistachio crumble.  White chocolate and raspberry is such a lovely combination, don't you think?  And this had the most beautiful, airy texture - like Angel Delight as made by actual angels.


If you are looking for a good spot for breakfast, and aren't too fussed about comfy seats, then you need to get down to Babu Street Kitchen.  It is Bombay street food with a Scottish influence - might sound weird, but tastes delicious.  D went for the bacon and omelette chapatti wrap:


While I had bhurji pau - spicy scrambled eggs on a toasted, buttered roll - which is a dish that I am determined to recreate at home.  It was zingy with ginger and chilli and just what I needed to blast away the cobwebs:


I'm only sorry we didn't make it there for lunch as that looked pretty special too - next time, Babu, next time!

Breakfast can only keep you going for so long though, and our second evening saw us roll up at a venue called The Meat Bar which had endeared itself to us by a) being just down the road from our hotel and b) being called The Meat Bar.  It's one of those faux dirty joints that are all over the place at the moment specialising in steaks and ribs and burgers and as far as all that went, it was jolly nice.  I had a smoked brisket sandwich which had a good punch of peaty flavour through the tender meat, while D opted for a burger which was satisfyingly messy.  Special mention must go to our shared dessert though, which was a salted caramel ice cream sundae topped with crumbled crispy bacon:


What can I say!  It kind of worked!

Finally though.  Possibly the foodie highlight of the entire trip and something that has been missing from my life for far too long.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the deep fried pickle:


There's not really much to say beyond the fact it's a slice of pickle.  In tempura batter.  Deep fried.  Hot, crispy, salty, sour...these babies were things of beauty and joys forever - and a very firm thank you to Glasgow's Brewdog for introducing us and possibly removing five years from my current life expectancy.

Monday, 24 August 2015

MPM: 24th August 2015



Well, the holiday season is well and truly over and August is coming to an end.  I don't know about you, but I always start to get excited for the beginning of September - it's like a mini New Year to all of us who remember that first day back at school after the six week holidays.

However, it is a salutory reminder for me that we are now two thirds of the way through the year and my weight loss progress has been pretty much zilch for 2015.  Time to pull my socks up, I think.  D is also trying to shed a few pounds which makes it a bit easier.

Meals for this week:

Pasta with pesto, salmon, peas and courgettes
Leftover roast chicken with cauliflower cheese
Smoky sausage and cherry tomato bake with crusty bread and salad
Soup
Friday fish and chips
Haggis burgers (I'm still on a Haggis High following our trip to Scotland)
Roast shoulder of lamb with boulangere potatoes

I'll need to be hoarding weekly points for Friday and Saturday night which look set to be high, so I suspect that I'll be munching on a lot of fruit this week.  And complaining about being hungry.  Feel free to give me a kick up the rear if I do...

More meal planning fun (hopefully) over at Mrs M's.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Lunch at Cafe Fish

For once, I don't think that words are really required...

Langoustines

Prawn open sandwich

Cold seafood platter
Cafe Fish
The Pier
Main Street Tobermory
Isle of Mull
Argyll
PA75 6NU
01688 301253

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Recipe corner: warm potato salad with olive oil, lemon and mustard

My go-to potato salad recipe tends to be this one that I posted years ago - simple, creamy, delicious. However, sometimes mayonnaise is not the way to go.  I admit that these occasions are few and far between - a swipe of mayonnaise improves many, many things.  But sometimes, sometimes you might want something a little more restrained.  And in that case, this is an excellent recipe.


We had it with salmon and with lightly pickled cucumber ribbons and it was the kind of meal that leaves you wanting to lick the plate.  Sophisticated, simple, summery food.

Ingredients

250g new potatoes, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Tsp dijon mustard
Tsp wholegrain mustard
2 spring onions, finely chopped

Serves 2, 6 pro points per portion

Place the potatoes in a pan full of lightly salted water.  Bring to the boil and then cook for around 10-12 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, make the dressing.  Whisk together the lemon juice and the mustard, then gradually add the olive oil until incorporated into a smooth dressing.  Stir through the spring onions and season to taste.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain and while they are still warm (this is important) gently mix with the dressing.  Allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes to absorb and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Slow cooker recipe corner: North Carolina style baked beans


Picture taken from theodysseyonline.com
Welcome back to the deep South of America!  Actually, is North Carolina in the South?  I'm not entirely sure.  Anyway, as promised, here is the fabulous baked bean recipe, again taken from Waitrose "Kitchen" magazine, which pairs so well with the pulled pork in my last post.

I must admit that those beans that didn't accompany the pork ended up on toast with a sprinkle of cheese and very delicious they were too.

Now we cheated a little here by using canned beans.  One can of plain and one can of...well, Heinz.  I'm not sorry though.  We're pimping those beans up with plenty of other ingredients, but I think the back drop of the (almost) too sweet tomato sauce is very much in the spirit of the dish.

You don't have to do this in the slow cooker, but it does help the flavours develop beautifully and you can do it during the four hours that the pork is in the oven.  If not, start it on the hob, use about double the amount of liquid and then transfer, covered, to the oven to bake for an hour or so.

Ingredients

1 large can haricot beans, drained
1 large can baked beans
150g smoked bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground allspice
Tsp English mustard powder
3 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 bay leaves
sprig of thyme
Tsp Worcestershire sauce

Serves 6, 5 pro points per portion

Add the bacon to a cold frying pan and raise the heat gradually so that it browns in its own fat.  Once the pan is up to heat, add the onion and soften for around 5 minutes, then add the garlic for a further two minutes.

Transfer the contents of the pan, along with all of the other ingredients to the slow cooker.  Add half a bean can of water, season and stir well.  Slow cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Today, I apologised to a fish

Greetings from the Isle of Mull!  After a week of bustle, weird art, gorgeous food and slightly too much whisky, we have settled into our charming apartment overlooking Tobermory with the sole intention of loafing around for a bit.

We did go sea fishing today though.  And, of course, the weather - which has so far been pretty decent - immediately went to Full Scottish Mode: unrelenting, grey mizzle.  It was not the best day to be out at sea, although, as I observed to the D, it did give me a renewed appreciation for fisherman.

I am strongly of the opinion that if one chooses to partake wholeheartedly in the consumption of animals (which I do) one has to try not to be squeamish about the realities involved.  Nevertheless, extracting a fish from a hook is a disconcerting experience, especially when said fish is in the midst of its death throes and your fingers are thoroughly numb.  And I never really thought of fish as creatures who bleed.  Which is why I found myself, soaked to the skin, murmuring "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," to a large mackerel with a hook through its mouth as I tried to convey it from the end of my line to the tub of bounty.

Still, we are warm and dry now and for supper we had the freshest of fresh mackerel, lightly pan fried, on a slice of buttered toast.  Not the most elaborate meal of the holiday, but definitely one that was thoroughly earned.

Yum.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Recipe corner: North Carolina style pulled pork


Picture taken from theodysseyonline.com
I don't really know what North Carolina style means.

Let me rephrase that - clearly it means that it originates from a particular state of America.  I just don't know what distinguishes North Carolina style from, say, South Carolina style, or Texas style or...Louisiana style (mines intimate knowledge of Triple D episodes for appropriate state names).

What I do know is that this recipe, from a recent Waitrose "Kitchen" magazine, is incredibly tasty.  The rich pork cut with the sour heat of the "mop" is just sublime.  We had it, shredded and stuffed into bread buns on Sunday evening and enjoyed it so much that we ate the exact same thing on Monday.  We both noted that the Monday version was even better than the original - clearly, a day in the fridge "chilling" (ha ha) with the mop enhanced the flavours still further.

Add slaw to the buns if you so wish.  Make potato salad as a side dish, or mac and cheese (I'm going to try this combo next) or the fabulous slow cooked beans that I will be posting next.  Just make sure you get it made.

Note that the recipe suggests dry brining the pork overnight.  We didn't actually do this - the pork only got a couple of hours in the end, but I'll definitely be doing it for longer next time in the hope that it gets even better.

Ingredients

1.2kg pork shoulder (with skin)
Tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper

150ml cider vinegar
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Serves 6, 12 pro points per portion

Rub the pork with the salt and pepper, cover with foil and leave to chill - overnight if possible, if not, a couple of hours will do.

Preheat the oven to 160.  Place the pork in a roasting tin and roast for two hours, still covered in the foil tent.  After the two hours is up, uncover, baste with the juices then tuck it back up and roast for a further two hours.

At some point during the pork's long sojourn in the oven, you can make the mop.  Just place all the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat and warm through until the sugar has melted.

At the end of the second stretch of two hours, uncover the pork and turn your oven up to its highest temperature.  Cook the pork for a further ten minutes during which time the skin should crisp up.  Remove from the oven.  Take off the skin and replace it, on a baking tray, for a further ten minutes or so to continue drying out.  Meanwhile, leave the pork itself to rest for half an hour or so.

Now for the pulling part - just take two forks and shred the beautiful tender meat, incorporating any cooking juices as you do so.  Then pour over the mop and stir through.  Break your crackling into shards and strew over the top.  Salivate.  A lot.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Recipe corner: king prawns with sweet potato mash and chilli viniagrette

I know this might sound a little bit weird, but trust me, it's rather delicious.  Prawns and sweet potato together has the potential to be overwhelmingly...well, sweet, but drenched in the delicious sauce it suddenly all works together in an exciting balance of flavours.  I copied this recipe down from the internet many, many years ago and didn't note where it came from - so apologies to whomsoever I have stolen this from.  And thanks for a fabulous dish.

A note on portion size: it's quite small, but personally I wouldn't be tempted to up the sweet potato to compensate as it may end up ruining that balance we talked about.  Have a starter instead.  Or a pudding.  Or both.

Ingredients

1 large (around 250g) sweet potato
150g raw prawns
20g butter
Handful of finely chopped coriander
2 spring onions, chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice

For the vinaigrette:

1 red chilli
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic
20ml olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Handful of chives
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar

Serves 2, 10 pro points per portion

Roast the sweet potato whole in its skin for a good hour or so until soft (it should be easily piercable with a sharp knife).

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette.  The best way to do this is to use a mini food processor - add all the ingredients and blitz together.  If not, you will have to chop everything very finely before combining with the wet ingredients.  Don't add all the sugar at once - go for about half and then taste.  You want the sauce to be quite sour but not overwhelmingly so.  Trust your taste buds.

When the potato is cooked, scoop the flesh from the skin and combine with half of the butter, the coriander, the spring onions and plenty of seasoning.  By mixing vigorously, you should achieve a smooth puree.

Cook the prawns: melt the rest of the butter into a frying pan and add the seasoned prawns, turning them in the fat as the grey flesh turns pink.  They will need little more than a minute on each side.  Remove from the heat and squeeze over lemon juice to taste.

Serve the prawns on top of the sweet potato and pour over the delicious sauce.  Scoff.