28 June 2012

Cherry Baby II

Last summer's Kentish cherry story continued most unexpectedly a few weeks later deep in the Catalunyan campo.....

Where shall we go...? Where shall we go....? Where do you fancy...? My Catalan friend kept asking incessantly every few minutes as only he can. "The car needs a good run... Where, where? Let's go for a spin. Lunch somewhere out of town...? Where shall we go where shall we go?
Outside the brand spanking new and Cherry Red Yaris sat glistening in the Mediterranean morning sunshine and did indeed look as if it was waiting just for us. The unaccustomed freedom of shiny new transport to go anywhere anytime without the palavar of a visit to the automobile rental office was such a novelty.
"OK, OK" we relented without having our arms twisted too severely "Get the road map and let's go..... We'll make up our minds where to in the car"

So that's how four close friends one Polish, one Malaysian an Irishman and of course our Catalan host all piled into the car and set off just to enjoy the day and each other's company.Several hours later after a number of obligatory cortado stops we found ourselves deep in the Catalunyan campo in the rolling Pyrenean foothills near the beautiful and ancient village of Rupit about 100 km from Barcelona. We parked up in the municipal car park a little outside town but connected by an unusual suspension bridge which swung and swayed violently when anyone crossed. (It was such great fun to cross, they should have left the infamous Thames wobbly bridge as it was!!)

The beautiful medieval looking houses of the village are built on a dramatic rocky ridge overlooking the Riera de Rupit or Rupit River and narrow, twisting and stepped lanes wind past the stone buildings and entice you further and further into the maze.

Nearby is one of the most dramatic waterfalls I have ever seen. The Salt de Sallent drops some 100 metres from a heart stopping cliff escarpment - really quite amazing and unexpected. Back in the village and after a hearty lunch overlooking the river gorge the inn keeper plied us with "Ratafia de Rupit" the locally made liquor digestif. Of course we came home with a few bottles. This Ratafia has a distinct aniseed taste but is made by soaking a number of herbs in liquor. Those herbs include nutmeg, basil, mint cumin and oregano. We think that instead of the usual kirsch it's flavour is perfect for making a delicious all purpose cherry compot. Put about 500 g cherries into a pan and pour over the liquor. Flambe to burn of excess alcohol and allow to reduce down until syrupy. This is delicious with cream, yoghurt, creme fraiche, creme anglaise, ice cream....vanilla cheese cake you name it......! Cheers

15 June 2012

Cherry Baby I

"Why don't you come out  With your red dress on
(Come out) Mmm you look so fine......"

Frankie Valli, Sherry, 1962

"I need your help urgently.... "  A friend was screaming down the phone
"We only have a day or two while this weather lasts, by the weekend it will be too late!" "Hang on, hang on what are you talking about?  I ventured more than a little bewildered.
"We have to drive to Kent tomorrow - What are you doing? I need your help".
"OK OK" I replied. "What time...?"

It turned out a few years previously on a trip to the garden of England my friend had come across a pretty fruit farm on a quiet lane with a sign at the gate. Venturing in he had been seduced there by names such as Colney, Penny and Kordia and on a whim been persuaded to adopt two - cherry trees that is. This is an arrangement whereby all the produce from the trees are for your exclusive use. Wonderful but there are two significant catches. Firstly you have to harvest all the fruit yourself and the second far more complicated constraint is a product of the combination of the cherry breed and meteorological conditions to which they are very sensitive. Too little rain and the fruit won't ripen whilst conversely lots of moisture makes the cherries split through the process of osmosis, where the rain running over and down the cherry is absorbed until it can’t expand any further and the skin bursts causing the cherry to split. Left too long a burst cherry will ruin all the others. Having missed the short harvesting window the previous year our friend was anxious not to miss it again. The next morning, true to the weather forecast, was warm and sunny, we threw a picnic into the back of the car and sped off.
Covered in light frame arches supporting bird nets, the cherry trees lined up neatly and were groaning under the weight of ripe red fruit dragging the branches to the ground. Here and there a tree had been striped bare as if by magic - we were obviously not the first to arrive - We were introduced to our two trees which were side by side and set to work. About the height of a tall person, no ladder was required to reclaim all the bounty, nevertheless for some mysterious reason I would say only about half of the fruit made the hazardous journey into our baskets lying on the ground!!!

Back home we set about freezing them. To do this make sure they are clean and there are no bugs etc, you have to stone each one - there are many cherry stoners you can order on the internet - and lay them (not touching) on a tray in the freezer. Once solidly frozen they can be put in freezer bags for the longer term. Its all great fun and we still have a freezer drawer full of them but this year..... ? Well last summer I did notice large trays of juicy fresh Kentish cherries are available very cheaply down the road at the North End Road market during the season......! 

8 June 2012

Salmon Teriyaki

"Big in Japan.. Ooh the eastern sea's so blue, Big in Japan...
...Things are easy when you're big in Japan...."
Alphaville 1984

Food fashion comes in waves and over the past two decades at least Japanese cuisine has become big all over the world. Always on the pricy side in London, we were thrilled to come across it a few years ago while holidaying in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where the influence from the land of the rising sun is much in evidence. There was a wonderful Japanese restaurant near our hotel on Ipanema Beach which had a fantastic value "all you can eat menu" every lunch time. We went there every single day and devoured mountains of sushi, sashimi and teriyaki. It made our stay there! 

Teriyaki is a cooking technique used in Japanese cuisine in which foods are usually broiled, grilled or pan fried in a sweet soy sauce marinade. Fish such as tuna, trout, salmon and mackerel along with meats like chicken, pork, and beef are very suitable for this cooking method. In this post we suggest salmon but the recipe could easily be adapted for any of the other fish or meats listed above. The salmon is paired up here with sushi rice but noodles or salad would be excellent too. 

2 Salmon fillets (skin on)
4 tbsp Light soy sauce
4 tbsp Mirin
2 tbsp Castor sugar
2 tbsp Saki or rice vinegar
1 tsp Crushed garlic
1 tsp Grated ginger
Zest of a lime
Black and white sesame seeds and/or chopped chilli for garnish.

Combine sauce ingredients in a saucepan over a medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes until sugar has dissolved ant the marinade has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cover salmon with liquid for several hours in the fridge if possible. Remove fish and reduce liquid marinade over medium heat until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Heat a non stick pan until lightly smoking. Add a little light cooking oil and place fish on pan skin side first.  Most of the cooking should be down with the skin side down as this protects the flesh. Turn over the fillets for a minute to finish off. Skin should be crispy and is delicious to eat.
Place on a serving dish, drizzle over the Teriyaki reduction and sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or chopped chilli for colour and garnish.

Sushi rice


2 cups sushi rice
3 cups water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients apart from rice and water in a small saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool. Rinse rice until water runs clear add to the water in a saucepan and bring to boil and reduce heat to low simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Rice should be tender and water absorbed. Allow rice to cool enough to be handled and put in a wide vessel. Add the syrup little by little while folding the rice gently. At this point don't worry about the texture of the rice it will dry out quite quickly.

Posted by incredibly fed

1 June 2012

Jamon, jamon!

It's going to be a long holiday weekend of flag waving and good cheer so this one would be great for festive gatherings and if you're lucky will last a few days so you won't have to cook again! This ham is delicious served hot or cold, indoors or out, it was always done this way at Christmas at home but would also make a great picnic dish. The cheese cauliflower was dished up at any time during the year except at Christmas which is a great shame because they make such a good combination. So good in fact that here we have decided to pair them up. We usually buy a small boned joint of unsmoked ham. Size really depends on how many you are intending to feed. Remember to allow for some left overs as it is delicious cold with pickles or chopped to make a pie filling with chicken or mushrooms.
The cauliflower is delicious too and if there is any left over can be flash fried on a hot pan and will taste just as nice if not better that when it was first made. It can also be combined with some mash potatoes to make an interesting variation on the potato cake theme.

Well that's the left overs dealt with. Now lets look at the prep. If possible soak the ham overnight which will help reduce some of the saltiness. Then place the ham in a saucepan large enough so that it can be covered with liquid. For interest we suggest boiling the ham in a sweet liquid such as cider, pear cider, apple or pineapple juice. Lager beer is also a good option. If using beer or cider you can add more flavour by throwing in star anise, a cinnamon stick, some pepper corns and a couple of bay leaves. While this is cooking prepare the glaze by mixing several table spoons of honey with one of grainy mustard together with a little dark soy sauce and sesame oil. After about an hour (depending on the size of joint) remove from the saucepan and slice off the outer layer of fat. Pour over the glaze mixture and place in a hot oven for about 30 to 45 minutes, basting constantly until the glaze remains in place. Take the joint out of the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before carving.

For the cheese cauliflower break the cauliflower into florets and place on a ceramic baking dish. Make a bechamel sauce by melting butter in a saucepan and mixing in some plain flower. Slowly pour in some milk while whisking the mixture all the time to avoid lumps. Add a strong cream cheese to the mixture and a pinch of mustard powder. Pour the creamy mixture over the cauliflower and sprinkle with grated cheddar. Place in an oven at 180C for approximately half an hour.