Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Ranelagh Kitchen Diaries - part two

Haha, I bet you thought that my kitchen diaries idea was going to fall on its arse after just one week. But no, my efforts have extended themselves into week two. Week three is another matter of course, but we can cross that particular rope bridge when we get to it.

So, what have I been up to food wise this week? I made two more loaves of bread, both wholemeal, both using a similar rest-knead-rest method that is recommended by Dan Lepard - the well regarded baker, who writes for the Guardian and is a presenter on the Aussie version of The Great British Bake Off (the Great Aussie Bake Off?). Neither of these loaves were quite perfect, so I am going to continue adjusting the recipe to my own tastes before sharing it here.

By the way, if you think bread making is a bridge too far for all but the keenest of keen home cooks. Don't. I know that food writers bang on how simple their recipes are, before setting out some absurdly lengthy and complicated instructions for their version of a Shepherd's Pie, but I have made four loaves in the last ten days and it really isn't that time consuming or technically difficult.

There is also something absurdly satisfying about baking bread: it feels like much more of a primal act than any other cooking you will do. I imagined myself a horny handed medieval peasant, crafting a loaf to bake over a turf fire for my wife and fifteen children.

That's enough of the bread though, because you will have to wait a week or two for my perfect recipe for a wholemeal loaf.

Saturday 11th January

This entry is something of a cheat as it doesn't concern my own cooking. I've actually made the landmark decision to feature a guest chef on the blog. Who is this guest chef? None other than VD's buddy, the half-Uruguyuan, wannabe sustainability consultant, LP. Or to give her proper name - Pinhead.

Feijoada is Brazil's national dish: it's a real ribsticker of stew made with pork, various types of sausage, beef and beans. Pinhead might not be Brazilian, but she is from that neck of the woods and is a very good cook. So I had lots of faith in her and was very much looking forward to Saturday's dinner, when she had promised to unceremoniously snatch my feijoada v-plates.

I am not going to recite her recipe, partly because I didn't actually cook it and partly it seems like a lot of bloody effort to type it out when there a plenty of them just one click away. Anyway, as she was cooking for a famous food writer, Pinhead had gone to a lot of trouble, with a trip to the Brazilian supermarket in Ladbroke Grove to purchase the necessary foodstuffs, as well as a bottle of cahaca for the all important caiprinhas.

Suffice to say, with all this preparation, the feijoada was a triumph. The meat was tender, the stew richly flavoured and unctuous, and the beans perfectly cooked. In Brazil they serve it with rice, kale, toasted manioc flour, and fresh orange slices. And so that is how we ate it.

The stew is so rich that the orange is an inspired addition: it refreshes you in-between mouthfuls and prepares the palate for second or even third helpings. Despite having a large first helping, I did indeed dive in for seconds and had to stop myself from going in for thirds. Evidently this surfeit of feijoada sent me to sleep though and after dinner I ended up dozing on the sofa, dreaming of England's triumph in the summer's World Cup in Brazil.

Indeed, with our attentions turning to Brazil this year, I imagine they'll be plenty of people peddling Brazillian specialities around the place; telling you to get into the samba spirit with lashings of feijoada and cahaca-based cocktails. Just remember you heard it here first!

Pinhead's Feijoada

Tuesday 14th January

Aside from eating feijoada, this week I've mostly been experimenting with various combinations of brassicas and pasta (there's something I'd never thought I'd write!). Trying to find a tasty but thrifty midweek recipe using these two ingredients. There was a penne with savoy cabbage and pine nuts that was decent, but perhaps not the most exciting thing I've ever eaten. I made another attempt with some kale, garlic and spaghetti a couple of days later, which to be honest was a bit crap.

However, on Tuesday night I absolutely hit the jackpot with a plate of penne with purple sprouting broccoli, anchovy, garlic, chilli, a drop of cream and sprinkling of breadcrumbs (a pangrattato no less).

I know it is early for purple sprouting broccoli, but I picked up some nice looking stuff at the local Farmer's Market on Sunday. I also grabbed some Jerusalem artichokes, but haven't had the time or inclination to do anything with them yet. I thought about a tart, but you will have to wait until next week's post for an artichoke update.

This pasta dish is one of the best I can remember eating for a while, so please have a crack at it. Thrifty, warming and perfect for January.

Penne with purple sprouting broccoli, anchovy and cream

Serves 2

200g penne
6-8 florets of purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed and cut into three of four bite-size pieces
6 anchovy fillets
3 cloves garlic
1 red chilli finely sliced or 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
4 tblsp double cream
Parmesan or similar Italian hard cheese (I used Grana Padano)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the pangrattato (optional)

2 slices bread
olive oil
Parmesan cheese or similar

  1. Put the pasta on to boil. In the ten minutes it will take to cook you should be able to knock up the sauce. If you worry about your ability to get everything done in time, start with the sauce and put the pasta on when you're halfway through making it. It will happily keep warm for a few minutes.
  2. For the sauce, add two to three tablespoons of olive oil to a shallow frying pan over a medium heat and then add the anchovy, garlic and chilli. Fry for a couple of minutes until the garlic has softened and the anchovy started to dissolve into the oil. Then add the broccoli, stir and leave to cook over a low heat until just before the pasta is ready.
  3. Just before you drain the pasta, add the cream and a ladleful of the cooking water from the pasta to the broccoli and stir well. Then add the drained pasta to the sauce and give the whole lot a good stir and leave for a minute or so over a low heat, by which time the sauce and penne will be well combined. Then grate over a load of the parmesan cheese and serve with the pangrattato (if using).
For the pangrattto cube the bread, put in a bowl, pour over a spoonful of olive and oil and grate some parmesan over the top. Then mix, put on a baking tray and stick it an oven heated to 200C for about ten minutes. When the bread has thoroughly crisped up, take it out, leave for a couple of minutes to cool, then grind up using a pestle and mortar or food processor. Don't do this too thoroughly though: you want a coarse crumb.

A feast in brown!

And that is it for this week. I made the mistake of going into the Ginger Pig (posh butchers) off Marylebone High Street on Friday and spent quite a lot of money on beef, so there might be a recipe featuring beef short ribs next time around, then again there might not! You'll have to wait and see...

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