November 2006 Archives

Week off

california
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It's officially The Holidays here (Thanksgiving), so everyone is  having a very long weekend and planning on eating vast quantities of turkey and other delights.  Would be rude not to join in, so I am taking a week off the recipe writing.  Hopefully you'll benefit from my experiments - Matt and I are going to some cabin up north with a VW Cabrio full of food to cook...

Aubergine

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With its taught, glossy skin and regal, deep purple colour, this is surely one of the most beautiful vegetables around.  (Although, to be pedantic, it's a fruit, which puts it in competition with figs...)

It is a member of the Nightshade family, as in Deadly, along with potatoes tomatoes, peppers, chillies and tobacco.  It is the only major vegetable in the Nightshade family to come from the Old World.  (The tomato was slow to catch on in Europe when it was introduced from South America due to its resemblance to Deadly Nightshade.)

Roasted aubergine soup with garlic cream

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You guys voted it into third place, but it had a few particularly passionate supporters, so this week I'm sending you the aubergine soup.  It's one I learnt at school and then played with at home. .It's great for a cold autumn night.  Don't omit the garlic cream - it's essential.  Roasting the bulb first makes the garlic flavour sweet and smooth.

The aubergine is simply a marvellous vegetable.  Do send me your own aubergine recipe favourite if you have one.

aubergine soup.jpg

Miso

japan
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Miso is Japanese fermented soybean paste.  It looks like peanut butter and smells bad.  But don't let this put you off.  It adds an intense and savoury depth and complexity to many dishes.  

It is high in 'umami' - the fifth (and best) basic taste, after sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and sourness.  Other umami-rich foods are Parmesan, soy sauce, fish sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes and some meats.  They are all high in tasty glutamates (as in monosodium glutamate, which occurs naturally in seaweed and was isolated and developed as a food additive back in 1907).

It's good for you too, as it's very tasty, yet low in calories, and also full of protein, beneficial bacteria and B vitamins.

Black cod

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black cod 2.jpgBlack Cod is not related to the true Cod; it's from another family of fish altogether.  It's also called Sablefish and Butterfish, or rather Sablefish and Butterfish are also called Black Cod.  Fish are notoriously mislabelled, or sold by more than one name - it's very confusing.

You could use fat fillets of any buttery, flaky white fish instead, maybe Halibut, Haddock, Bass or Pacific Cod.  Apparently Nigella uses Salmon.

Don't use Atlantic Cod as there aren't many left.

The real Black Cod comes from very cold waters in the Southern hemisphere.  It can live in such cold places because its blood contains a natural antifreeze.  Special antifreeze proteins cling to little ice crystals in the blood and prevent them growing and killing the fish.  

Black cod with miso

california, japan
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It was fairly clear in the end:
Black cod: 9; Roast chicken: 6; Aubergine soup: 5; Squash soup: 2

Thanks for all the votes.  You were right about the squash soup - it's not quite as nice as the other dishes.  I'll send the recipes for the chicken and the aubergine soup another week.  The squash soup has obligingly resigned.  (Voting has gone pretty well over here in the US of A too.)

black cod with miso.jpg

Honey

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Smhoney0001.JPGWe all know that bees make honey from nectar.  But did you know that they ingest and regurgitate the nectar several times before laying it in the honeycomb?  Or that they use their little wings to fan the honeycomb to evaporate enough moisture from the honey so that it cannot ferment?  

Honey has so much sugar and so little moisture that you can keep it your whole life without it going off.  The sugar kills most bacteria and the lack of moisture prevents natural yeasts from reproducing.  Someone once found a 2000-year-old pot of honey in an Egyptian tomb and said it tasted great.

Wild flower honey ice cream

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As promised, some ice cream to go with last week's apple cake.  If you have an ice cream maker, this is really easy.  (Or as they would say here, 'super easy'.)  I made this ice cream having had something similar at Chez Panisse (a famous Berkeley restaurant).  There it was served with roasted figs - delicious.  At home we had it with Carlo's Florentine Apple Cake - equally delicious.  

Thumbnail image for carlo's apple cake 2.jpgYou should use the nicest honey you can find.  If yours is too hard and crystalline to mix easily with the yolks, first warm the jar in a pan of hot water.  The honey keeps the ice cream soft, which means you can serve it directly from the freezer.  The honey also prolongs the life of the ice cream, so you can keep it for several weeks.  But you won't want to.

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