I have moved!

5 May

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As you may have gathered, More Salt, Please has come to an end. But, if you’d like to read more foodie exploits from me, head over to my new blog, Something New Each Week, where I’ll be updating weekly.

Enjoy!

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Foodie Penpals: feeling Hungary

2 May

This month’s package of foodie goodness came from Szilvia, who lives in Budapest, Hungary. Once again, another cuisine I knew nothing about, but her incredibly thoughtful parcel has hopefully put paid to that.

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Inside was a wealth of lovely items:

* Jokai Bableves and guylas soup mixes
* Tubes of guylas crem and porkolt izesito to use as bases for stews and soups
* Magyaros fuszerkerverek spice mix for marinading meat
* Wild garlic
* Paprika
* Goose liver pate
* Home-made rosehip jam
* Local sweets
* Beautiful home-made lollipops

 

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Szilvia also sent me plenty of local recipes, including one for pasta and potatoes with paprika, which I can’t wait to try next time we have a chilly day (knowing British summer, I’m sure I won’t have to wait long). I think I’m most excited about using the rosehip jam on toasted bagels for breakfast – it’s deep, complex-tasting and not too sweet – and about experimenting with the spice pastes and wild garlic, which I’ve been meaning to try cooking with for some time now.

Thank you very much, Szilvia!

My other partner this month was Gill at Tales Of Pigling Bland – fingers crossed she liked her parcel from me, too.

If you want to get involed with Foodie Penpals, you can check out how it works over at Rock Salt.

Plenty of lemons were harmed in the making of this pesto

18 Mar

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There are some foods that improve pretty much everything they’re added to. Cheese, for instance, and green pesto. So I thought I was being very clever indeed when I seized upon the idea of feta pesto. After a quick Google search, I based my attempt on this one from The Inadvertent Gardener, but substituted the pine nuts for walnuts.

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American measurements proved, as ever, my nemesis. I’ve said it many times and I’ll repeat it once more for emphasis: since when is a ‘cup’ a reasonable means of measuring things? If nothing else, nuts are not a valid shape to be measured in such terms. (You can stop sniggering at the back now.)

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Also, three cups of basil is a lot more basil than you’d think. In fact, it’s enough basil to necessitate a run out to the supermarket for more basil. This may be testament to my own idiocy, however; I’m willing to let that stand.

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My biggest problem, though, was the salt. I may have been using a different type of tablespoon to the one in the recipe (I tend to use a proper measuring one, which probably errs toward the generous side in comparison to a normal spoon) and I used sea salt rather than kosher salt (I didn’t even know salt could be kosher) but my first iteration was almost inedibly salty. You can definitely have iterations of food, right?

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Unwilling – and too time-pressed – to start again from scratch, I did the one thing that sprang to mind as a means of salvage: I started adding lemon juice. It seemed to be improving things, so I added some more. And then some more. Hell, and then some more after that. In short: quite a lot of lemon juice. Turns out, lemon does help to counteract salt. I must have read this at some point previously and stashed it away a the back of my brain where the cobwebs live.

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A bit more olive oil to balance things out, plus a few more walnuts blitzed in to re-thicken, and things were actually almost saved. A near-disaster, then, but one that just about got clawed back – and that could easily be avoided in future. And let’s face it, there will be a future iteration, because this was quite tasty with lamb steaks.

Foodie Penpals: cheese from Holland

28 Feb

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I haven’t been this excited to receive post in a long time. I arrived home today to find my first Foodie Penpals parcel awaiting me. It was very kindly sent from the Netherlands by my penpal for the month, Lielle – and I had little idea what to expect, seeing as my knowledge of Holland is entirely garnered from a couple of trips to Amsterdam back in my slightly wilder days. (I certainly experienced some culture, but it was not exactly the type to inform me of the country’s culinary traditions…)

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Still, despite my utter ignorance, I knew it would be worth my eager anticipation seeing as I’d received an email from Lielle, asking what my favourite food was, and if I’d like to try the cheese that Holland is famous for. The answer to the first question is ‘cheese’, so the second didn’t take a lot of thought. As such, this was a postcard that filled me with glee.

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Inside, there were cheese straws, a mix of miniature cheeses, two different Wyngaard Affineur cheeses and some kletzenbrood (a sort of semi-sweet fruit and nut loaf).

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The Wyngaard cheeses are undoubtedly the stars here – one is with wholegrain mustard (let’s be honest, never going to be anything other than a winning combination), the other with ginger (not a pairing I’d have thought to try, but one that definitely works). The cheese itself creamy-tasting, with just the right amount of bite to stand up to the additional flavours.

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Things I have learnt from this plate: Holland seems to do cheese very well indeed; ginger and cheese is a good mix; exactly what kletzenbrood is. I would say that these are lessons extremely well learned.

Thank you very much, Lielle!

Attempting to get on the ‘nice’ list

26 Dec

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Family tradition dictates that every Christmas we have a Yule log, made by me. In past years, it’s always been a pre-bought Swiss roll assembly job, smothered in butter icing; most likely dating from the days when my mum was incredibly keen to occupy a hyperactive, overexcited child on Christmas Eve by giving her a fairly easy, minor job. It was also far too cloying for any more than a single slice of – at least to my taste.

This year I decided to put a bit more effort in; to do things properly. Food magazines had been bombarding me with recipes since approximately mid-October, which didn’t help matters. After wading through at least six volumes, I settled on Olive‘s twist on this recipe: a chocolate roulade, with chocolate marscapone and cherries.

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The base was a light sponge, fairly easy to make. Rolling it up initially to cool? Also an utter doddle.

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Hell, even the filling, despite initially looking distinctly unappetising, quickly became a smooth confection of chocolatey indulgence. Helped in no small part by the liberal addition of crème de framboises, I’ve no doubt.

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Once the cake was spread with the marscapone mix and dotted with the cherries (also doused in raspberry liqueur), I was starting to get a bit complacent. Why had I never thought to do the Yule log properly before?

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Then it came to rolling it all up. And things went a bit wrong, with a small crack soon turning into a vast canyon down one side. Thank heavens for the cut-and-stick repair job possible with a Yule log. Oh, and for eye-distracting Cath Kidston decorations.

Still, the end result was light, not too sweet, and just rich enough – mission accomplished. According to my family, we now have a new tradition.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

10 Dec

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Now that we’re in the grip of December and festive times are upon us, I finally feel justified in writing about the Christmas pudding my mum and I made at the end of last month. I know it sounds a bit early (especially as we cracked out the Christmas CDs while doing so) but it needs time for the flavours to mature. We used Nigella’s recipe – after all, who better for seasonal indulgence?

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It started out with fruit soaked in a lot of sherry. After a night sat steeping, it smelt divine.

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Then, flour, breadcrumbs, suet (which never fails to remind me of stew and dumplings at my Nana’s house) and the rest of the dry ingredients, to form a deliciously sticky, fruity mixture.

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Into the basins – the recipe was meant to be for one giant pudding, but for the sake of manageability in our small family, we split the recipe into three. The plan is for myself and my Nan to take one each after the big day; I feel I have done well from this arrangement.

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Trussed up with greaseproof paper, foil and string, they went into pans to steam. While they were doing so, it would have been rude not to have the first mulled wine of the season, wouldn’t it? Oh, and ideally the entire thing be accompanied with this, which is the best Christmas song hands down:

“You look like you could use a pork bun”

6 Nov

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Sleeping Dogs is what started this. Specifically, the way that background characters often call out things like, “You look like you could use a pork bun!” as you go sprinting past – in a manner so quotable it’s become somewhat of an office in-joke.

When I was leafing through my copy of Jamie’s America over the weekend, looking for a recipe to help cure my odd ambivalence to chilli con carne (clearly I’m on some kind of American kick at the moment) when my eyes alighted on his recipe for sher ping pancakes, stuffed with pork. I know they’re not the same thing, but I couldn’t resist. Of course I couldn’t.

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The filling’s a mix of pork mince, fresh ginger, grated cabbage, spring onion and a few other things, which combine to smell amazing even before having been cooked. The dough’s a simple flour-water-oil mix.

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I love anything hands-on, cookery-wise, so making these into adorable little parcels was absolutely the most fun part of it all.

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Then it was just a case of popping them into a pan for a few minutes on each side, and trying not to join the Triads. See? Videogames can definitely be a positive influence. Take that, Daily Mail.

I’ll probably turn into a pumpkin

4 Nov

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My housemate and I went a bit mad over pumpkin last week, a fact that can be wholly attributed to Halloween. Firstly we carved them – I crafted the rather fetching (if wonky) Jack Skellington above – then we cleaned and toasted the seeds, and tossed them with chilli flakes and sea salt. They’re possibly my new favourite snack.

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Then, as she made pumpkin soup, I decided to venture way out of my comfort zone and give pumpkin pie a shot. I was absolutely flying blind on this one, having never eaten pumpkin pie in my life, let alone read a recipe for one. Hell, until now I’d never even seen one in real life.

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American recipes mainly seemed to call for canned pumpkin (seriously, is that a thing? It doesn’t sound like it ought to be a thing at all) so, as ever when in doubt, BBC Food website to the rescue! Specifically, a Saturday Kitchen recipe from Antony Worrall Thompson. As a bit of a Shakespeare geek, I was more than mildly amused by the fact that it called for a literal pound of (pumpkin) flesh.

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Once steamed and mashed into a purée, it was mixed with heated cream, sugar, eggs and spices to make a custard that, if I’m honest, looked more akin to baby sick than anything I’d want to eat. Well, until I tasted it, anyway. Nutmeg and cinnamon could make anything okay.

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I shunned the recipe’s suggestion of shop-bought pastry – what’s the point in shortcuts when you’re already making something that involves effort? – and made up a batch of sweet shortcrust from a Paul Hollywood recipe. I used a cupcake tray, too, to make individual ones, and just went on instinct in terms of baking time.

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Drizzled with dark chocolate, I was pretty pleased with how they turned out – almost like spiced egg custard tarts. More treat than trick, then. Happy (belated) Halloween!

They’re not lying

31 Oct

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I get it. I get the hype. After months of reading and hearing others rave about Honest Burgers, I finally experienced it for myself this weekend, while in London to see both friends and some wonderful noise in the form of Japandroids. (As ever, I suppose, this delay is what I get for not living in the capital.)

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Caerphilly rarebit is a beautiful thing in itself. Sitting atop of a juicy, medium-grilled burger, it’s practically obscene. With braised leeks, smoked bacon and pea shoots, as well? Cor. And let’s just say that I want to make some very grovelling amends for the 24 years of my life spent unaware of the existence of crispy leeks.

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Unless you want to be here all day, it’s best not to get me started on the rosemary-salted chips or the home-made lemonade, served in jam jars with twee straws.

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Oh, and the fact that we had an hour-and-a-quarter wait after putting our name down for a table, meant that we were veritably compelled to tide ourselves over with these snack-sized tacos with beef and pretty much everything else from the incredibly cheerful man running the stand outside El Panzon.

Double win.

So many tentacles!

16 Oct

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My name is Emma, and I love squid. So much so that – in much the same way that Jay Rayner admits to being unable to resist the charms of pork belly – if I spy calamari on a menu, the rest of that menu is instantly dead to me. Hell, I still have the occasional happy flashback to the deep-fried baby squid at The Circus.

I’ve wanted to give squid a go as an ingredient for a while. To avoid that nasty rubbery texture that puts so many people off, you need to cook either super-quick or nice and slow, so with a bit of time to myself this weekend I decided to try Chasing The Dish’s recipe for squid and chorizo stew.

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I bought this little fellow from The Fish Shop on Gloucester Road. Thankfully, the fishmonger offered to clean him for me. Yes, I may not be squeamish about the eating of squid (the tentacles are the best bit!) but I’m not quite ready to gut it myself. I’ve got a long way to go, baby, to inappropriately paraphrase Germaine Greer.

I bastardised the recipe slightly; leaving out the celery, but adding a glug of red wine (not too much, mind – I did want some left to drink), some strained chopped tomatoes and a few spoonfuls of flour to thicken it towards the end. I scaled it down to make two portions rather than four, too, because I wasn’t entirely sure how well it’d freeze. I think this may have been a good decision.

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The result was exactly what I’d hoped for: meltingly tender squid – impressively so, given it took less than two hours to cook – in a stew packed with flavour and texture. Fantastic with a squeeze of lemon juice and some ciabatta from the Love Bristol Pop-Up Bakery on Stokes Croft. Nothing better than a productive Saturday, is there?