November 2010 Archives

Edible Christmas Gifts, 27th & 28th Nov 2010

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glogg.jpgWe will spend the day making six or so different festive gifts, such as miniature Christmas puddings, a warming wintry liqueur, a spicy chutney for cheese, cranberry and orange jelly, German Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies), chocolate fudge and other candies. 

We’ll stop for a light lunch and keep ourselves going afterwards with glasses of Swedish glögg (mulled wine with a kick). 

By the end of the day you’ll have learned a range of techniques and tips for baking, confectionery and preserving, and have done all your Christmas shopping!  NB You’ll need to bring a big bag or box to carry home your edible gifts.

Date:   Saturday 27th November, repeated on Sunday 28th November

Time:  10am - 4pm

Location:  London N5 (Arsenal tube 2 mins walk)
Price:  £80.  Or £70 if you book two places.

To book:  Email Anna.

Jennifer Altman, pastry chef

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I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Jennifer Altman when I started out in my culinary career in San Francisco.  Jennifer, originally from Glasgow, is the pastry chef at Bay Wolf restaurant  - one of the top restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She is a highly experienced professional pastry chef and class instructor, having trained at San Francisco’s famed California Culinary Academy, taught professional level courses at Tante Marie’s Cooking School, and often attracted high prize for her delicious desserts in restaurant reviews

Jennifer entered her first and last baking competition as a child - her towering multi-layered meringue cake was deemed too good for an eight-year-old to make and was disqualified!  Her cakes, cookies, confections and desserts continue to astound and delight diners and students.  As Jennifer is also a food scientist by training her classes are the perfect opportunity to learn about the fascinating chemistry of baking, pastry and confectionery. 

In January 2011 Jennifer is flying over to London to run a series of very special masterclasses with me:

Perfect Cookies Masterclass, Thursday 20th January, 6pm-9.30pm
Perfect Pastry Masterclass, Saturday 22nd January, 10am-4pm
Chocolate Masterclass, Tuesday 25th January, 6pm-9.30pm
Perfect Cakes Masterclass, Thursday 27th January, 2pm-5.30pm


italy, spain
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Aka quince cheese, membrillate (Spanish), cotognato (Italian), pate de coings (French) and marmelata (Portuguese), this has to be one of my favourite things to do with quinces.  It is the classic accompaniment for manchego cheese, but also very good with aged cheddar.

smmembrillo0002.JPGThe trick is to avoid graininess, a common flaw.  Quinces have tiny rock-hard grains in their cores, which will pass through just about any sieve.  Most recipes tell you to cook whole quinces then blitz and sieve the lot, but this results in grainy membrillo.  So remove the cores before or after boiling the quinces.  I prefer after, as a) cutting cores out of raw, hard quinces is tricky, and one of these days I will slice right into my hand, and b) the cores and pips help add colour and pectin, so better to leave them in until just before you sieve.

The other tip is to add some acidity in the form of lemon juice or tartaric acid, to balance all that sweetness.

Grilled radicchio

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Radicchio is one of my favourite vegetables.  Its bitterness works really well in a creamy red wine risotto or pasta sauce, matched against sweet fruit in a winter salad, or grilled and anointed with a sweet dressing as in this recipe. 

smgrilledradicchio0002.JPGGrilled radicchio pairs well with Parma or Serrano ham for a starter, or can be served as a side dish to something sweet, such as roast pork or baked sweet potatoes. You could substitute balsamic vinegar for the sherry vinegar, and/or add a dash of pomegranate molasses.

Sicilian orange and onion salad

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This bright salad is perfect on a steaming hot day, to kick off or punctuate an otherwise heavy meal, or to accompany roast or grilled meat.  The dressing needs no vinegar due to the acidity of the oranges and onions, but do make sure you use excellent olive oil. 

smSicilianorangesalad0001.JPGYou could omit the onion, olives and mint if you wish, and/or add in some sliced celery or shaved fennel.  And you could garnish with fennel fronds if you have them, or even toast and grind some fennel seeds to sprinkle over.  Fennel and orange are perfect partners, and fennel is typical of Sicily, where it grows wild along country roadsides. 

In Sicily you will even find this salad made with lemons instead of oranges.  And blood oranges make a particularly stunning platter.

Ciceri e tria

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Grains and pulses make a classic combination, one found all over the world, from rice and beans in Latin America to millet and peanut sauce in West Africa.  No doubt these various pairings have evolved over the millennia due to their satisfyingly savoury flavours, their high nutritional value (the combination can cover all amino acid bases, in place of meat) and their ability to fill up the whole family at a low price.

Smcicerietria0004.JPGThe traditional Puglian fare of ciceri e tria is one of these dishes - a wholesome mix of earthy chickpeas and wholemeal pasta strips.  ‘Ciceri’ are an old Puglian variety of chickpea, slightly and smaller and tastier than the regular ones.  ‘Tria’ is an old word for pasta, coming from the Arabic word ‘ittriya’.  Comparable dishes are found all over Italy, such as the pasta e fagioli from Emilia in the north.  But ciceri e tria, also known as cece e ttria, cicerittria or similar, is particularly intriguing due to its mysterious ancient origins, which link in to the whole debate over the origins of pasta itself.  One clue might lie in the fact that some of the pasta, unusually, is fried, while the rest is boiled.  

We had a wonderful bowl of ciceri e tria at Anna Carmela’s fantastic trattoria ‘Le Zie’ in Lecce soon after we’d arrived off the boat from Greece on our culinary road trip of Europe in 2008.  It was the perfect introduction to our Italian food investigations, raising all sorts of questions about continuity and change in Puglia, its regional distinction from the rest of the Italian peninsula and links to the medieval Arab world.  We didn’t even realise then that we’d be musing on ciceri e tria again four months later in Morocco when we found a strikingly similar dish there called ‘trid’…

Secret Kitchen menu, 13th Nov 2010

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Chicken liver paté and candied quince on brioche toasts

Winter salad of chicory, watercress, poached quince,
Stichelton and walnuts

Roast pork with sweet pickled quince, celeriac purée,
cavolo nero & Savoy cabbage gratin and grilled radicchio

Turkish baked quince with clotted cream

Corsican sheep’s milk cheese with membrillo

Cooking Club, Weds 10th Nov 2010

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smvegcouscous0002.JPGThe Cooking Club is a series of classes that you can dip in and out of as you please.  Classes are held on the second Wednesday of the month, 6-10pm.  At each class we cook a seasonal supper, the stars of which are Riverford's beautiful organic vegetables and fruits. 

Each class focuses on different produce and culinary techniques, so if you attend several they form a course.  You will develop knife skills and learn easy but delicious dishes you can repeat at home.

Classes end with an informal meal together around the table with some good wine, and recipes to take home. 

SmMoroccanClass0805100010.JPG“I adored the food we made - it looked and tasted amazing.  It was all really good quality and a step up from the basics, and I would make it at home.”

“Thank you so much - learning  some different techniques and being inspired to try new dishes rather than 'same-old' was such a fillip.”

“Wonderful as always!”

Example menu for autumn/winter 2010:

(exact menus depend on ingredient availability and guests’ preferences)
Orange, olive and onion salad
Couscous aux sept legumes with harissa
Apple choux pastry puffs with calvados cream

Date:  Wednesday 10th November 2010

Time:  6 - 10pm

Location:  London N5 (Arsenal tube 2 mins walk)

Price:  £40 per person per class.  Or £35 if you book 3 Cooking Club class places, which could be 3 for you, or you plus 2 friends, or as gifts, or any combination of those options.

To book:  Email Anna


Culinary Anthropologist