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Foodie Penpals the Third

31 May

So this was my third month of being a Foodie Penpal. I send a box. I receive a box. Said box is full of delicious things. Everyone is a winner. If you want to win like that too, then go and have a shufty at RockSalt’s Sign Up Page.

This month I was paired with Jess to send to and Rhian to receive from. You will be able to read all about what I sent Jess here. (I won’t give any secrets away, oh no!)

Rhian sent me a fantastic package that was pretty generous. So spoiled am I! Her internet presences can be found here, but really you should follow her twitter @rhiandaniel – there’s a lot of good goings-on there.

So Ta-DA:

Here you can see my lovely card with macaroons on at the top left, then clockwise: a packet of Zoo pasta (actually amazing – I can’t wait to eat through the jungle), some handmade cinnamon and coconut macaroons (more later), TWO BARS OF WELSH CHOCOLATE (one dark, one caramel), a recipe book all about iced things (more later toooooo) and finally a packet of Rooibos tea (just because I’d said I like the loose leaf stuff, fancy pants that I am). What a haul. I can’t think of a better advert for foodie penpals than this.

The pasta, I’m waiting to eat because I really want to share it with my partner’s 6 year old son – we’ll going to make a well amazing cheesey sauce to go with it. Lions love cheese. Just like Shaggy loves haslet.

The chocoalte was very delicious. I took the caramel one away with me to my course at Dilston Physic Garden and nommed it to keep my brain cells going on a massively busy couple of days. The dark is delicious, but I’m saving it to make some delicious something with – maybe dark chocolate fudge? Really nice chocolate deserves to be shown off.

The Rooibos tea, I will confess, had my heart fall a bit. Not because it wasn’t a really thoughtful and kind thing to send, but because I forgot to say I don’t really like the stuff on the times I’ve tried it. However, I’m not going to let my pre-conceptions rule my life like that. In fact this rooibos is pretty nice and has very little of that metallic aftertaste I associate with the tea. I think it’ll make a really nice iced tea (maybe the weather will hold enough for a nice jubilee/commonwealth iced tea).

The macaroons turned out to have several lives in them. A flagrant rebel, I put the tea and the macaroons in separate houses (consolidating at the moment) so couldn’t follow Rhian’s suggestion of having them together. Instead I put the macaroons in my handbag *intending* to eat them very soon. By the time they swam to the top of my handbag again, I thought “uh oh I am an ungrateful selfishperson”. Yet, the miracle of Rhian’s baking meant they were still pretty moist and flavorsome. So I apologise, but also thank you Rhian. I’ve enjoyed them in some different ways. One was to crunch one up and add it to my post-netball smoothie:I also crumbled another one on the top of my fudge flavoured ice-cream. Cinnamon and coconut both go well with fudge and ice-cream, so a macaroon of both was bound to be awesome. It was. I felt a bit of a culinary genius. You don’t need to be Nigella and make hot chocolate sauce on a whim. Just crumble a biscuit. (Though these macaroons were a lot more than biscuits.)

Then to the recipe book. I love books. I really love recipe books*. I really love cold things. I under-use my ice-cream maker. What a perfect choice. I’d said to Rhian that I’d enjoyed getting a recipe in my previous packages, so would like one if it was possible from her. A book full of them is indeed inspirational. Lots of ideas for fruity lollies, sorbets, granitas and a host of other iced things. The recipe that caught my eye the most was ‘Watermelon Granita’. It caught my eye because I’d just bought a watermelon from the market and when I got it home and cut it open, well, it had lost it’s bite, but wasn’t manky. Spongy watermelon isn’t what you want.

So I took inspiration from the recipe (I say that because I’ve left the recipe book at my other house and can’t remember it all).

What I did was use my juicer to juice the flesh of the watermelon. If you’re familiar with juicers, you have a pulp compartment and the jug comes out a spout into a jug. After the juicing of my medium sized watermelon, I noticed that the pulp part clearly had a lot of juice in it too. I scooped the pulp into the middle of a clean tea towel and squeezed the rest of the juice out. I think I probably had close to 2 pints of juice.

Then I heated 200ml of water with 150g caster sugar until the sugar was all dissolved. I let this cool down while I grated the zest of a lime to the watermelon and then added the juice of that same lime. The sugar syrup was cool by now, so I swished it in with my watermelon/lime juice. Then I plugged my ice cream maker in and churned it til it was like a slushy that you get at the cinema.

Here my watermelon syrup is churning silkily. I am aware that it sounds like I have all of the kitchen kit. To be fair I do. If you don’t, you can I am sure get the same result by mashing the watermelon and squeezing it all through a tea-towel. The to freeze, put it in a tupperware and keep taking it out and stirring it with a fork. Granita is I think meant to be a bit chunky, a bit crystalline.

I had to try some and it was GOOD. Much more limey than I had anticipated. I don’t think I need to buy a brightly coloured Slush Puppy again. I even caught the last of the sun in the garden. And inspiration struck once more:

I hope growing watermelon seeds inside a watermelon isn’t some sort of fruitarian cannibalism. I do think its a natural plant pot. Maybe even looks a bit stylish? Eat your heart out Chelsea, Beeston is where the cutting-edge gardening is happening. Just you wait til you see my entirely imagainary rockery.

With my muses flowing, I began to make another iced thing. This time a ‘Chilli and Lime Sorbet’, but I had to go to work, so the syrup is growing some muscles in our fridge to be churned tomorrow:

That is some sugar, some lime, some chilli and some honey, waiting to be churned with more lime juice. Tingly tastebud ahoy!

To close, thank you very much for my package Rhian. Little did I know when I opened it that I would be led to ruminations over cannibal watermelons. I did know (pretty much as soon as I saw Rhian’s name on the list) that she’d send a lovely thoughtful parcel, and she totally came up trumps.

Thanks Rhian, Thanks RockSalt.

Keep offalling!

*If you’d like to participate in a cookbook swap – go to SoupTuesday!

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Veal Tail Risotto – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 1

1 May

So if you read this previous post, you’ll know I’m eating my way along the animal this fortnight, beginning at the tail.

Day 1 began with tail, rather than head, because I didn’t plan very well, so had to get some veal tail out the freezer. (Offal drawer is not big enough to accommodate a whole head at the moment.) This veal tail I purchased a few weeks ago from the Alternative Meat Company along with my hearts, hanger steaks and tongues. Veal does have a beefy taste, but quite a light one. It tastes pretty sweet too. I wanted to use some flavours that wouldn’t cover the veal taste. With ox tail, recipes tend to use quite a lot of heavy flavours like star anise and chilli and I wanted to avoid that.

Veal tails are smaller than oxtails, so I used two. I was cooking for three people.

To begin with I decided to poach the tails in water for a few hours to separate the meat from the bones and to make a veal stock.

The water looks a bit pink because I added the defrosted blood from the cellophane packets to the water. It;s all good. I let the bones simmer all afternoon, so for maybe four hours. Keep topping up the water so it doesn’t boil dry. When the meat is separating itself from the bones, take the pieces out, pull the meat off and put to one side. Bones, gristle and cartilage to the bin. You should now have a bowl of poached veal and a jug of veal stock!

ooh look at all the goodness in there

The stock should look cloudy. This will be the base stock for your risotto, it should smell a little beefy and a little chickeny.

Then, to the risotto making.

Finely chop 1 onion, 3 cloves of smoked garlic and 2 sticks of celery. Heat a tablespoon of oil in your risotto pan, add the finely chopped ingredients and sweat them down gently so its all softened and lovely. Add 1 tsp dried parsley, half tsp dried rosemary and quarter tsp ground nutmeg. Stir it all together. Add the risotto rice -enough for 3 people – about 350g I think? I judged it by shakes from the packet though … Stir again. Add the veal bits and stir around.

The you’re at the point where you can add your stock –  a little at a time so the rice swells with the fluid, then add a bit more and so on. I’ve assumed that most people reading have made a risotto before – if you haven’t then please get in touch and I can give you more deets.

When you’re happy that your rice is cooked and lovely, take the pan off the heat and stir in about 500g of fresh spinach. The heat from the rosotto will wilt it down fast, but you loose very few of the nutrients from it.

Serve with grated cheese (parmesan for authenticity, cheddar for convenience if you’re me).

I understand, mostly what you can see is a pile of cheese.

To sum up, the ingredients you need are:

1 kg veal tail, several pints of water, 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 2 sticks celery, 1 tsp parsley, 1/2 tsp rosemary, 1/4 nutmeg, 350g risotto rice, 500g spinach, cheese for grating.

I hope you like the freshness of the ingredients. I think this was a good start to Nose to Tail Fortnight! I’m going to try and blog each day moving my way along the animal – here’s where we are now:

Not quite the Dambusters …

21 Mar

Not my finest hour. My newest and probably most important lesson is that you don’t have to add offal to everything. By offal in this case I mean rehydrated pig’s blood and by everything I mean a delicious pasta sauce.

After eating quite a lot of meat lately (obvs offal), Daz and I had a lovely vegetarian lunch and were meant to continue that theme with a nice pasta sauce for dinner for my hard-working other half. I got some tomatoes and an aubergine and had ideas to add chilli and smoked paprika. All was going well, untill the ill-fated thought of “oh I should offal this up” …

LUCY – YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO ADD OFFAL TO THINGS!

At this point I was frying onions, garlic, aubergine and anchovies together. Getting it all to meld until I added some tinned tomatoes and turned down the heat for some simmering time. Between this and the following photo I thought, yes, what this needs is some dried pig’s blood.

Then I added the blood. (One 50ml shot of the powdered blood and then 6 more shots of water.) And two tins of tomatoes. I think that actually looks quite delicious. The downfall, the bunker of my demise was in forgetting that blood actually has quite a lot of flavour. When you cut yourself, and suck the wound (I don’t make a habit of this, but I am by nature supremely clumsy), you can taste the metal. Anchovies, also, have a strong taste.

Does blood + anchovy = delicious?

I think you can see both the hope and trepidation in this face. Have I gone too far? Is this going to be an offal mess? Would Hugh F-W look disapprovingly at me?

If truth be told, I didn’t make the most delicious dinner I’ve ever attempted. I also managed to overcook the pasta and the cheese was a bit corner shop generic cheese. Also, perhaps cheese and blood aren’t the best supper-partners either? I think I just got a bit over-excited. Not even did some last minute tomato paste improve conditions. Basically I was struck down by my own inventiveness.

After about half my bowl, I turned round and said I didn’t really like it. Daz manfully struggled on a bit further, with his bigger bowl, before bowing out. Admitting when you are wrong is a kind of wisdom though, isn’t it?