Friday 3 September 2010

Two months in a Bristol kitchen (Or, why we are fat - Part 1)

I’ve lived with ‘E’ in Bristol for about two months now. We are both seriously into food, she owning a café and catering business and me writing this here food blog. As you’d expect the kitchen has seen a whirlwind of activity since we moved into our new home, which considering we are both from Essex has become a little part of the motherland in the South West.

So, what have we been cooking? – what happens when two food obsessed geeks co-habit?

Lets start the summer off with the premium Weber BBQ that I frigging won…yes WON! at the Grill Stock event held on Bristol’s harbourside in July. Tres impressive eh?
‘E’ and I wasted no time in firing it up. The first things we cooked on our new premium BBQ (Did I mention that I won it? As in – I WON IT?) were…Yoghurt marinated paneer flatbreads with charred shallots, rocket, piquillo peppers and a chilli and yoghurt sauce. Oh that's right, ‘E’ is a pescetarian so, sickeningly the first meal we cooked contained no meat. A crime against all that is holy in the BBQ world you might think, and you’d be right. Although it was bloody nice…but that’s beside the point.

BBQ event part deux was a much more elaborate affair involving a selection of side dishes, barbecued squid (which didn’t so much as BBQ with a satisfying chargrilled hiss as we expected, but whimpered and sweated a bit) the coals weren’t quite hot enough for our cephalopodic chum. Still it wasn’t bad when torn up and mixed with a lovely rocket and lemon salad.

Alongside the squid we served a chickpea, parsley and red onion salad and a baby gem, barbecued pepper and anchovy salad with a seriously garlicky dressing.

As if that wasn’t enough, we barbecued some corn on the cob (which took bloody ages by the way). In the spirit of frugality and thinking ourselves just a bit clever, we smothered it with a re-used herb and chilli infused butter lurking in the fridge (forgetting that it was also infused with anchovies). Bleurgh! Sweetcorn and anchovy – not a classic combination people, for good reason.

Sadly, just as we were getting into our BBQ stride, the British summer weather did what it does best, and started pissing it down for days on end. Obviously we like to cook seasonally, but it seems like we’ve had every season in one month. We went from summery salads to craving steaming hot stews and other wintery comfort food within the course of a week.

In times like this, there’s only one dish that satisfies these kinds of autumnal desires and it’s my old favourite Chickpea and Chorizo stew. But once again, hitting the buffers like a runaway meat train carrying an express delivery of 6 thousand tonnes of pork sausages – I slammed into ‘E’s pescatarian tendencies and derailed. But hey, lets not fight over spilt lentils man. I adapted my recipe and made a vegetarian version (sort of - ok, it has anchovies in it), which is cheaper, more healthy and tasted pretty much like the original. Win.

Adapted Chickpea and Chorizo Stew (With no Chorizo – but plus other stuff).

Serves 4-6

2 Handfuls mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 Salted anchovies - rinsed.
1 Medium Red Onion - chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper - deseeded and chopped
Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves - chopped
1 and a 1/2 Teaspoons dried Oregano
250g Passata
2x 400g Cans Chickpeas, drained with 75ml of the water reserved.
100ml Red Wine
500ml Vegetable Stock or water.
Hand Full of fresh flatleaf parsley chopped.
Black Pepper

Fry the anchovy, onion and bell pepper in a large saucepan over a fairly high heat until it begins to colour

Add the mushrooms and fry until brown, turn the heat down, and add the garlic and oregano and fry for a few more minutes. Add the passata, chickpeas. chickpea water, wine, stock and some pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 Mins. Add the roughly chopped parsley to serve.

We chargrilled some bread to serve on the side, but it’s also good with a heap of rice in the bottom of the bowl to stretch it out. Oh, and personally I like a load of white pepper on it. But ‘E’ hates it, although she is partial to a pint of sherry on the side.

And then, there was Yoghurt….
As a food blogger I often get sent stuff to try, and perhaps mention on this very blog. And thus, this is how the good people at Total sent me enough Greek yoghurt to fill a swimming pool. Making room in the fridge for this yoghurt bonanza meant we had room for pretty much nothing else, so we frantically racked our mungus brains for recipes to use up this dairy based bounty.

The Moro cookbook proved to be a happy hunting ground for appropriate recipes and two in particular looked like they’d use up a good few gallons of the white stuff.

First of all we tried a dish that had been recommended to us both, featuring the frankly weird and rather icky marriage of poached egg and yoghurt. Taking our first tentative forkfuls of ‘poached eggs with yoghurt, sage and chilli flakes’ no one was more surprised than us when it turned out to be frigging awesome. Dare I say, the best yoghurt and egg-based dish I’ve ever eaten, no really – it was amazingly good.

We also made a ‘Leek and yoghurt soup with dried mint’ which personally I quite liked, but ‘E’ wasn’t so keen on it, although it did use up 350g of our Yoghurt mountain, which could be considered something of a result.

We needed a break from yoghurt. Inspired by an excellent and free fresh pasta cookery class (held in a marquee located in Cabot Circus) by the Bordeaux Quay cookery school, we returned and broke out the Italian recipe books. Deciding that fresh pizza dough was the way to go (neither of us having made pizzas at home before) we quickly assembled the necessary ingredients and in no time were throwing dough all over the place in a incompetent approximation of someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Naturally I excelled and my time spent at the La Cucina Caldesi cookery school in London wasn’t wasted (Ok – 1 hour at a Moretti beer sponsored event, but hey – I rock).

‘E’ went for the somewhat surprisingly traditional potato and rosemary topping. I went off piste with an elk salami (a present from Sweden), fennel seed, caper, basil and red onion combo.

The results were frankly impressive, even if I do say myself. Beautifully crisp bases, better than pretty much any I’ve eaten in anywhere but the best pizza restaurants (Pizza Hut – I’m NOT looking at you). In addition we had great fun making them, it was a superb way to spend an evening…oh and they’re cheap (if you’ve got some elk sausage knocking about like I have).

That’s it for part one, people. More thrills, spills (and no doubt yoghurt) coming up in part two.


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Great post, Dan - and great-looking food! I notice there's not a pic of your respective waistlines, though ;)

Anonymous said...

A lovely post! I feel really inspired now! I've been getting more into cooking lately and love this sort of thing (earthy Mediterranean?) but don't know where to start.

Thank you!


BribedwithFood said...

Man, I loved that elk salami.

franmouse39 said...

Lovely stuff, Dan. Love the elk salami and the yoghurt/egg combo looks fab.
btw did you win the BBQ? :)

Anonymous said...

am loving your blogs.....thanks

Lost in the Larder said...

Great post mate, So cool about the BBQ.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post. Made me smile reading about the compromises the meat eater and the pescatarian have to make, and I think the paneer looked pretty awesome.

Sharmila said...

I feel I could polish off a bathload of yoghurt really easily. Seriously. Plain yoghurt and me are best mates.

Sounds like you have been having a lotta lotta fun in the kitchen. And if Emma Jay is right, it's a properly amazing kitchen!

Dan said...

aforkfulofspaghetti - Thanks Helen - hahaha no...wouldn't want to put people off their food (although if I'm honest, I've actually lost a load of weight from all the running).

Madamguillotine - Thanks very much. Best place to start would be to buy the Moro Cookbook, or perhaps my fave The Eagle cookbook, loads of superb rustic Spanish/Middle Eastern type recipes.

Bribedwithfood - hahaha yes indeed, that's right, you did have a taste of the Elk salami.

Fran - ...the poached egg, yoghurt combo was truly cracking...and yes, would you believe I won the BBQ?

Annonymous - Ta very much

Lost in the Larder - Thanks mate, yes - I was onviously having a lucky day at grillfest :)

Ginandcrumpets - Thanks. I know, it's all about compromise. I dont think I've gone for so long without having eaten meat on a regular basis. The Paneer was awesome (but *whispers* would have been better if it was chicken).

Sharmila - Hahaha yes, cant knock the yoghurt - I love it too...although, honestly, we got sent SHIT LOADS of it. Emma Jay is correct, place has a lovely kitchen :)

PDH said...

So did you win that BBQ then? :P

Hollow Legs said...

Just think - what would living with an actual veggie be like?! Doesn't bear thinking about. Good to hear you're enjoyin your Brizzle abode!

Greedy Diva said...

I have just spent a week in Greece where yoghurt was a side to every dish - pasta, fish, whatever. Somehow, there, it works.... I can't believe you won a BBQ. Although I did win a chook raffle once.

The Ample Cook said...

Lovely stuff Dan.

Essex misses you......

Dan said...

Pavel - would you believe it, I did.

Lizzie - Oh no, an actual veggie would be a step too far!

Jan - Awwww thanks :) I miss Essex.

Helen said...

Some gorgeous grub in there Dan and I have to say, that paneer looks frickin' awesome.

Dan said...

Helen - Cheers :)

Send hampers said...

I love eating outdoors and your food sounded delicious! Well done!

Food Urchin said...

Epic post mate and it all looks most delicious. In fact I am salivating profusely right now.

And echoing Jan's comment, we miss you *sob*

Dan said...

Send Hampers - not sure if that's a valid comment or an attempt at advertising. Thanks, but I got my beady eye on you :P

Food Urchin - Thanks very much mate. Done soooo much cooking, I need to get part two up soon. Awwwww bless you all my Essex Brothers and Sisters - sending much love Eastwards

josordoni said...

Oh! how did I miss this blog post? you must be Twittering the ad much less than before you got Bristolled..

I shall most definitely try your new slant on the Chorizo & Chickpea stew - it is now part of my main repertoire, and I think this new variation might be too. Good lad!