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The Cow that Swims with The Fish

An Italian friend of mine was once offered parmesan cheese to go with the spaghetti alla vongole she had ordered. She looked at the (American) waiter and said “una vacca non sa nuotare con un pesce” which literally translated means “A cow cannot swim with a fish”

Her point being that in Italy eating fish with cheese is a treasonable offence. However there is one classic dish where the cow rubs along very nicely with the fish - ’vitello tonnato’. It’s a real culinary oddity and any attempt to translate it into English is guaranteed to turn people off as it is literally cold sliced veal smothered in tuna sauce . It sounds pretty grim and to be honest when it’s made in the traditional way it’s no beauty queen  either (as evidenced by the picture below) but trust me on this one it’s a dish well and truly greater than the sum of its parts.

It can be served as part of a buffet, an antipasto platter or even as a first course but if you can get your guests to try it I guarantee it will become a firm favourite and maybe even a bit of a talking point.

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Vitello Tonnato – Serves 6-8 as part of a buffet

1kg veal topside tied into a neat cylinder (Try to find British ‘Rose’ veal as it is RSPCA approved)

1 x 190gm tin of best quality tuna packed in olive oil, well-drained

3 egg yolks

1 clove garlic, crushed

5 flat anchovy fillets drained

3 tablespoons capers plus a few extra for garnish

1 table-spoon Dijon mustard

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

500ml light olive oil

Method:

The day before you want to serve it roast the veal. Do this by seasoning it well and searing it in a hot pan first until you have a nice even brown colour all over. Place in a hot oven and cook to medium rare. This will take about 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 62 deg C.

Remove, wrap in foil and chill over night. The next day slice as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife.

Now make the sauce. Place all the ingredients except the olive oil into the food processor and puree until smooth. Now drizzle in the olive oil in a thin steady stream until you have a thick mayonnaise type consistency.

Take a large oval platter and start by covering the base with a thick layer of sauce. Now create alternate layers of veal slices and sauce ending with sauce. Use a pallet knife to smooth it all off so that no meat is showing (I told you it was no looker). Wrap in cling film and chill until needed. It will get better over the course of 2 or 3 days if you can resist it that long. Scatter over the extra capers before serving.

Buon appetito!

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Kitchen Essentials

There are somethings I just can’t cook without. Good olive oil (natch) decent parmesan, tinned tomatoes – the list goes on. But, there is one ingredient in particular I go out of my way to have in my fridge and thats chorizo. Really good chorizo seems a lot easier to track down than it actually is. Most supermarkets sell the kind that has been cured like a salami and can be eaten straight from the pack without cooking. Nothing wrong with that but if you’ve ever tried cooking with it you’ll know that it’s not really cut out for the job. A decent deli is the best place to look for fat juicy cooking chorizo.

A good fresh (as opposed to cured)  chorizo is packed full of fatty pork shoulder and either sweet or spicy paprika and one of the best things about them is that when they cook they release copious amounts of deeply flavoured red oil which will enhance any sauce you throw them into.

Try frying chopped chorizo and ading the results (oil and all) to a simple tomato sauce to dress pasta or add to soups and stews.

But one thing the Spanish and Portugese discovered way before I did is how delicious chorizo is when its served up with fish. You need to choose something fairly gutsy to stand upto the big paprika and garlic flavours like hake, saltcod or my favourite – monkfish.

For a recipe for ‘Monkfish, Chorizo and Rosemary Spiedini with Smoked Paprika Aioli’ check out Miniature Feasts available to download as a kitchen friendly iBook by clicking the button on the left.

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Bottoms Up!

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Join me in raising a glass to the launch of the new, updated version of Miniature Feasts – Available to download now.

Not sure what you fancy to drink? No problem – the 2014 version includes a whole new chapter on drinks. Some with alcohol and some without so you really have no excuse.

After a period of dedicated cocktail testing ( It’s important to be thorough in these matters I find) I eventually narrowed down my favourites to a more concise list with something to suit all tastes.

Here’s a sneak preview of what you can expect  -

French 75

 This cocktail was created in 1915 at Harry New York Bar in Paris. There are various stories surrounding the name but my favourite is that it packs such a punch the barman; Harry McElhone claimed it was like being felled by French 75mm field gun!

It’s not quite that strong but you do only need one to get the party started.

5oz Fresh lemon juice

5oz Simple syrup

1oz Dry London gin

3oz Champagne

Put the lemon juice, simple syrup and gin and plenty of ice into a cocktail shaker and shake well.

Pour into a Champagne flute and top up with chilled Champagne

Chai Blossom (Makes enough for 4 glasses)

This is a delicious cocktail that manages to remain alcohol free but not taste like a children’s drink (Although some kids love it).

2 Chai teabags

½ Cup sugar

½ Cup fresh lime juice

12oz / 350 ml Club soda

4 whole star anise pods

4 lemon twists

Combine 1 cup of boiling water with the teabags and sugar and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain into a bowl and allow to chill completely.

Fill a glass jug 1/3 full of ice and add the chai syrup and lime juice. Stir well. To serve put some ice, a lemon twist and a star anise pod into four glasses and pour over the Chai Blossom.

 

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Miniature Feasts is going digital

Since my first book was released in September 2006 there has been nothing short of a revolution in publishing and as a result of all the changes I’m now able to give Miniature Feasts a bit of a spruce up and release it as an iBook. As well as being in a more kitchen friendly format the new iBook version will have a new section entirely dedicated to cocktails. Alcoholic (naturally) and non alcoholic drinks are an essential ingredient in any party so there will be recipes for a ‘French 75′, a Negroni and a shamelessly festive little number called a ‘Poinsettia’ as well as a host of others.

‘Miniature Feasts’ is available to download  now – click the button in the sidebar to download.

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Give us this day

Bread making is one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of
meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”

— MFK Fisher, The Art of Eating

bread

After having avoided carbs for the best part of a month and neither seen nor felt any benefits what soever there seemed like no better way to return to the fold than by having a nice plate of bread and butter. It turns out that a decent loaf of bread is harder to find in  Nantucket than I could possibly have imagined. There are a couple of artisan bakeries on the island but unfortunately if the surf’s up your chances of  getting your hands on a decent loaf lessen dramatically. I went into one such bakery the other day only to be faced with an empty bread rack. When I optimistically enquired when the next batch of bread would be ready the lady behind the counter just shrugged her shoulders and said “Oh, the baker has taken the day off” and cast her eyes out of the window at the waves crashing on the shore line by way of explanation. Needless to say that bakery and in particular it’s work shy head baker are dead to me now but I non the less wish them every success with their breadless bakery concept.

So, there was only one thing for it and that was to roll my sleeves up and make some my self. What I had been dreaming of was something that had the kind of crust that makes a sound that ricochets around the inside of your head when you bite into it but has lots of chewy inside to drown in butter. The only problem is that I don’t have access to a mixer with a dough hook here so I had to resort to pure manual labour. Fortunately there is a substitute for a mechanical mixer and that is time. This loaf ticks all the boxes but isn’t exactly what you would call a quick fix. It takes 2 minutes to mix, requires no kneading but takes 18 hours to rise. But when nothing else will scratch that itch other than a good loaf this recipe is hard to beat.

The 18 Hour Loaf

3 cups white bread flour

1 cup wholemeal flour

1/4 teaspoon active dried yeast

1 1/2 teapoons salt

2 cups warm water

Method -

Mix all the ingredients together into a rough dough in a large roomy bowl. Cover tightly with cling film and leave in a warm but not too warm place for exactly 18 hours. A kitchen counter over night works well for me.

Tip the bread dough onto a well floured work surface and with a light hand shape into a long rectangle. Place onto a floured baking sheet and allow to prove for 2 hours.

Pre heat the oven to 250 deg Celsius and if you have one place a ceramic baking stone in it to pre heat. If you are using a baking stone slide the loaf gently onto the stone being careful not to deflate it. If you do not have a baking stone simply place the loaf on it’s tray into the oven and bake for 34 – 45 minutes turning the loaf over 10 minutes before the end of the baking time. Remove to a rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

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