Simple Sunday Pleasures….and a new cheese discovery

Scrambled eggs on toast. That’s it. OK….with a grating of a bit of hard cheese…and maybe a drizzle of truffle oil on a special Sunday, but really…two fresh eggs, scrambled (or scrumbled if you live in Germany and have a dodgy menu translation) and eaten on a bit of sourdough toast. Simple. Tasty.

This is often my Sunday brunch…especially if I have been to the farmers market where I usually pick up some fresh eggs and really good bread from a local London bakery, Born and Bread. Their 100% sourdough is my favourite, think Pain Poilane but with a better crust.

Today was definitely a day to pull out the truffle oil because I have a wonderful hard sheep’s cheese I brought back from my recent trip to Madrid. Payoyo Manteca….I had never heard of it before, but it is wonderful, consistency of pecorino but a bit more pungent and a good nuttiness. Yum.

….and new butcher

McKanna Meats at 21 Theobald’s Road….not quite a five minute walk from my new office and a meat-lovers dream! Recommended by a friend who works at the BBC. The first thing she said when I told her I would be at Chancery Lane was, ” ahhh…you will be very close to my favourite butcher!”

A window filled with hanging joints and a generous supply of game and freshly made sausages. I went to check it out and walked out with a nice hunk of pork belly, a couple wild boar and apple sausages and two chicken supremes. Ohh…this could be dangerous. Apparently if they don’t have the meat/cut you want you just give them a call and they will source it for you.

So, chicken supremes…..not the chicken dish made with a variation on a cream sauce (which I have to admit I did not know), but the butcher-cut of the boneless chicken breast with the skin on and a bit of the wing as a little handle. And what did I do with my lovely supreme…

Last-minute Caribbean chicken supreme
Juice of one lime and one clementine
One garlic clove, chopped
Two Thai chilies, halved
One generous teaspoon of Caribbean curry mix
One heaping teaspoon dark brown sugar
Pinch salt
Two tablespoons olive oil
One happy chicken supreme

Put everything together in a ziplock bag and let marinate for 15-20 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy bottom pan (I have a small cast iron pan that I use for these things). Put chicken in skin side down and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until skin has a nice colour. Turn so skin side is up and cook another minute or so and then put into a preheated 200C oven. Cook for a further 10 minutes, remove from oven, let rest a couple minutes then slice and eat! I had mine with some sliced avocado and a bit of mango chutney. It was juicy and fabulous.

New Year, New job, New Lunch

A new year and I have started a new job…in a great location, a Grade II listed building (the former patent office). Fabulous, but apparently a microwave isn’t allowed in the building, which means I need to rethink lunch. I don’t want to fall into the expensive habit of buying my lunch everyday. So I think I will dive into Bento! I gave a preliminary go last week with some grilled tofu, brown rice Onigiri and a tomato and avocado salad. Good stuff. Now I am surfing the net for inspiration and will post some of my successes (and not-so-successes) here. Bring on the Bento!

Vegas Baby!

Disneyland for grown-ups…..or maybe in the spirit of Hunter S Thompson, Disney on acid. Either way Las Vegas is a very surreal place. Smack in the middle of a desert…..a bizarre oasis of global ‘replicas’ and fantasies. For some strange reason I like the place. I wouldn’t stay more than a few days…I think the sparkle and glint might begin to tarnish when your brain begins to question the reality of your surroundings.

And what about the food…well for this trip I was actually working so food wasn’t at the top of the activities (in fact I didn’t even gamble….Shock!). On previous trips I have been lucky enough to indulge in some over-the-top cuisine and pretty much every single celebrity chef on the planet has at least one over-the-top restaurant. You just don’t do things quietly in Vegas….you shout.

An ode to “happy”meat….

So why is it if an animal is considered ‘cute’ then it shouldn’t be eaten?  I pose this question after receiving a startling number of very negative comments over my leftover rabbit stew I was eating for lunch in the office.  As soon as the word rabbit left my mouth at least half the lunchroom squealed.  One person asked where I found rabbit (at my farmers market of course) and how I prepared it; I made the mistake of actually answering the question (which included a brief description on how I jointed the rabbit).  I tried to convince everyone it was really just a skinny, tasty chicken with fur but they weren’t buying it, one person even commented they may just become a vegetarian!

Now……how is it that people can be so shocked at eating a wild rabbit yet happily eat battery chicken….it is no secret battery chickens are raised in their own feces and their muscles are atrophied from lack of use…and I won’t even begin to go into intensive pig or cattle farming, lets just say disgusting about sums it up.

I very happily eat meat and I know exactly where my meat came from.  I do realise it is a luxury to be in a position to buy nearly all my meat from my farmers market, local butchers or online.  I know the animals were humanely reared and I recognise all my meat came from living animals. I think most meat animals are ‘cute’ in their own way, even chickens. (anyone interested in humane farming should check out Compassion in World Farming: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/)

Sheep in Dartmoor
Sheep in Dartmoor

Happy pig in Gloucestershire
Happy pig in Gloucestershire

I do love meat…I certainly don’t eat it every day, but a good rare steak…roasted goose…venison stew….and the fabulous smell of cooking bacon, ahhhh!

Drool-worthy steak at Gibson's in Chicago
Drool-worthy steak at Gibson's in Chicago

OK, before I fully step off my soap box I need to add that if you haven’t had salt marsh lamb (L’agneau de pré-salé in France) you must hunt some down and try it! I ordered some Welsh salt marsh lamb a couple weeks ago and had a final BBQ. Just a bit of seasoning and olive oil on some neck and leg steaks…grilled to medium. So fabulously full of flavour and tender. I served it up with some cannelini beans with rosemary, mint and olive oil, a bit of cavalo nero and a fresh tomato salad. Delish.

Moving with the seasons

Coming back from the sun in Barcelona to the chilled air and pissing down rain of London put me into a bit of a funk.  My plane touched down to an absolute downpour.  Home by 10pm and then back in to the office the next day.  I probably wasn’t in the best of moods. The rubbish, over-salted lasagna in the canteen didn’t help.

Luckily a couple days later a visit to my local farmers market reminded me of the benefits of the chill air (and a sunny day didn’t hurt either). Late summer fresh corn, fabulous lamb (personally I think that late summer/autumn lamb has more flavour than spring lamb)….and the tomato man is still around so things aren’t so bad.

So..what to do with my gorgeous 1/2 shoulder of lamb….

“Whiff of Autumn” shoulder of lamb, with cumin-orange mashed sweet potato and minted spicy corn relish

Lamb

1/2 shoulder of lamb (bone in)

1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered

2 cox apples, peeled and quartered

8 cloves garlic, peeled

few cloves

stick cinnamon

2 dried red chilies (if I had them I would have used chipotle)

few sprigs rosemary

2 fresh bay leaves

1-2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper

olive oil

1/3 bottle full-bodied red wine (I used a cahors/malbec)

honey

1 can flagelot beans

Put the garlic, onion, apple rosemary, chilies, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves in a small roasting pan or deep heavy bottomed skillet.  Put the shoulder on top, drizzle with olive oil and rub in cumin and dried oregano.  Top off with salt and pepper.  Pour over about 1/3 bottle of wine (a bit more if your roasting pan is large). Drizzle honey over the entire shoulder and put into a 200C oven.  Turn the temp down to 160C and roast, covered for 2.5 hours.  Remove cover, add a about a cup of water and roast uncovered for another 1.5-2 hrs, or until the meat is easily pulled off the bone.  Remove the meat, cover with foil and set aside to rest.  Skim off the fat from the pan then pour the pan juices through a strainer into a small pot.  Add the drained flagelot beans and cook, covered, over low heat for about 15-20 minutes.

Mashed cumin-orange sweet potato

1 large sweet potato

1 orange

1 tablespoon butter

pinch cumin

pinch crushed chili

salt and pepper

Roast potato in an oven at 160C for 1-1.25 hrs.  Take out and set aside until cool enough to handle.  In a large bowl put in the butter, crushed chili, cumin, the juice from one orange and 1 teaspoon of orange zest.  Scoop out the cooked sweet potato into the bowl and mash…add salt and pepper to taste.

Minted spicy corn relish

2 ears corn

1 jalapeno

1 small red onion

1 tomato

1 lime

small handful fresh coriander

couple sprigs mint

pinch sugar

olive oil

Remove the kernels of corn from the cobs and cook for 3 minutes in a covered bowl in the microwave.  Set aside to cool.  Add chopped tomato, onion, mint, coriander and jalapeno.  In a separate bowl mix together a pinch of sugar and the juice of 1 lime.  Pour lime sugar mixture over corn and mix well. Add a few tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside at room temperature to marinate for about an hour.