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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.

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?

Attempting to make a meal (deal) of it

16 Jul

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One of the downsides of not being paid all the money in the world – along with not having my own private tropical island and a wardrobe full of Mulberry handbags, of course – is relying on packed lunches most days. It gets super-dull unless you’re careful

Last week I picked up an awesome sandwich from Boots: chicken, pea and mint wholemeal wrap. It was light, fresh and gave me an idea. By ‘idea’, of course, I do mean ‘something to attempt to rip off at home’.

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I slightly adapted a pea and mint dip recipe from Good Food to make the purée – I basically chucked some defrosted peas, a lot of fresh mint, a few glugs of olive oil and a little bit of butter into the food processor and blitzed it. I love my food processor; using it always feels ever-so-slightly like alchemy.

A bit of rocket (not in the Boots version, but I’m borderline obsessed with the stuff) and some lemon and garlic roast chicken (I do love the excuse to do a roast on a Sunday) and it was done. I’m actually quite excited for lunchtime…

My big fat Greek packed lunch

12 Jul

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Yep, I’m still trying to chase down that Greek food dragon.

I get bored of normal salad (or indeed any packed lunch) fairly quickly, so I’m always keen for new spins to put on it. I’m fairly pleased with this combo: salad leaves, crumbled feta, Greek-style new potatoes and home-made tzatziki.

The potatoes are somewhere between a roast and a fondant – drizzled with olive oil and then shoved into a roasting pan with chicken stock, an oregano-heavy herb mix and an almost-literal ton of lemon juice. Thanks to a bit of confusion with the recipe (which called for two tablespoons of the seasoning mix; apparently this didn’t mean the properly measured type) the tzatziki is about more garlicky than I’d have ideally liked. Still, it’s pretty close, and a good way of incorporating cucumber, which I don’t really like on its own – plus, I should be able to nail it next time.

Monday’s attempt fared less well. After a morning sat in the office fridge, tzatziki and potato marinade had conspired to turn things into a sad, soggy mess. This morning, though, I stumbled upon a two-compartment takeaway container in the kitchen cupboard. Problem solved! I need to get me one of these ace Black + Blum lunchboxes.

To the Batcakes!

21 Jun

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If I had Charm City Cakes levels of icing wizardry at my disposal, I’m sure I’d have produced a scale replica of the Batcave – or the very least a uniformly precise Bat-symbol – but alas, I’m just one girl. And a clumsy one who’s a disaster waiting to happen when she’s got a piping bag in hand, at that.

Still, my friend Louise is quite the Bat-fan, and it’s our last day in the office together tomorrow before she scarpers off back home to Scotland, so I thought I’d at least give these a go as a little treat for her – even if Alfred would probably turn his nose up at the idea of serving them to Master Wayne.

They’re nothing fancy, just made up using the basic cupcake recipe from the Sainsbury’s Baking Recipe Collection (a surprisingly useful little tome to have on standby, actually – this recipe in particular is my ever-reliable fallback), but I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out.

The little paper bats were absolute sods to cut out, mind. Could’ve been worse, though – at least she’s not a Spider-man fan…

Anchovy and courgette ravioli

10 Jun

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Experimenting in the kitchen is one of my favourite things to do when I’ve got time to myself on a weekend. I can think of few better Sunday afternoons than those sent pottering about, putting in a bit more effort than I would during the week just to see how something turns out.

Today I decided to attempt ravioli. I’ve had a couple of goes at making my own pasta since I went to a workshop at Jamie Oliver’s wonderful Fifteen Cornwall and realised that all you really need to do so is a bit of patience and the ability to laugh rather than panic when it all seems to be going tits-up like this:

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I love the intense saltiness of anchovies, and I think courgettes are a great way of bulking a dish up, as they tend to take up the flavours of surrounding ingredients instead of overpowering everything else. I also blitzed in a green chilli to perk things up, having read in my trusty friend The Flavour Thesaurus that chilli and anchovy make a good combo. Once I’d sautéed the filling mixture, I stirred in some parmesan and left it to cool while I made the pasta dough.

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After rolling out the pasta dough and cutting it into circles, it was just a case of spooning filling on to them and popping a second circle on top, being extra careful to seal all the way around the edges. A few minutes’ boiling time and they were ready to serve with – which I did with a lemon and garlic butter sauce.

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Happy Sunday to me!