Monday, 28 May 2007

Lesson learnt

Apologies for my absence I've been lucky enough to have been in Barcelona with work which by the most charitable measures would have to count as a great big jolly. If you've never been I recommend it, however for a city that was meant to epitomise food only the main market off Las Ramblas really shouted about being in a different league.

Back in mid Norway the sun is with us an increasing amount of time and it's presence is amazing. The other night we watched the sun go down at 10.30pm knowing it would be back up again before 4am. We're also tuning into to how far it has travelled since the dark days of December to where it is today. It's odd that something so mundane (it happens everyday right?) as the sun going down can have such a profound influence and you know that these really are the days of our lives.

Anyway I digress towards the flamboyant.

I've learnt two reallt good things this week - first keep cooking Japanese food it's tasty and the whole idea of presentation to take the food to another level is finally sinking in. This time I grilled some Salmon fillets that I had cut in 3 after they had been marinated in sake, soy sauce, mirin and lemon. I served it with some simple rice but managed to find a mould to shape the rice and it worked. I think it is probably the first time that I realised that photos might work on the blog. Although there is something a bit, you know, show offy by putting photos on but I just need to learn how to put them up there and get on with it!

The other thing was we had a BBQ this evening - I managed to wait almost long enough (I'm a boy, I'm pathologically incapable of being completely patient) before starting to cook and the results were good.

Lamb Cutlets
4 x lamb cutlets

Marinade in olive oil, red wine, thyme, oregano, paprika - the longer the better.

Sweetcorn - do not think it is a good idea to wrap in foil and add basil to the butter, trust me it actually detracts from the corn. Maybe there is something that works but it isn't basil. Isn't that wierd? Basil is wonderful after all. Ho hum. Still I suppose Spiderman 3 was on paper...

Moving house this week, then I have a week in Spain so will probably be very quiet.

Don't waste anything remember leftovers are tomorrows tasty meal.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Voodoo dolls and Pesto

Yesterday was the 17th May. To most of the world that's just your normal day, to anyone who is Norwegian or remotely a norwegianophile will know that it was Norway's national day. We experienced the whole kit and caboodle of Norwegian nationalism which is about as threatening as a warming hug from your favourite grandma. This blog is about food but I have a question to do the norwegians get it so right with something as scary as nationalism and so wrong with food?? Any genius philospohers out there feel free to step up to the plate with an answer.

Anyway onto Pesto. Tonight we experimented with avocado and pesto. I am an unreconstructed fan of both. I could write poetry about Bacon, Avocado and Hummus or pesto. The two together had me heading to cold sweat territory with the worry that 2 great things don't necessarily make an even greater combo. Just look to Dylan and the Dead.

However I am pleased to report that home made pesto (and if you're not doing it yourself why the hell not??) and ripe avocado are a great combo. We used them tonight on some oven grilled pork chops which frankly smacks of it's friday, it's been a long week my imagination has already had a few beers more than me kind of approach to cooking that I am happy to encourage and they enlivened the meal without going into overkill territory.

So here's the recipe

2 -4 gloves of garlic (remember the more you put in the hotter the pesto will taste and too hot is not a good thing)
A load of basil - some recipes I've come across say a good handfull, others a cup. Look at the state of your basil and if it's a bit tired don't be afraid to ramp it up a bit, if it's the most beautiful basil exercise some restraint.
Beat the hell out these two in a pestle and mortar.
Add parmesan and pine nuts, again be sensible...the point is to have a green crunchy paste.
Add olive oil to make it a sauce.
Finally add you avocado and make it into a lovely sauce.

Use judiciously. Remember - there is no excuse to waste food, tonights experiment came about because we have avocados that need eating up.

Apart from that we've had some good Japanese food. Try some marinated mackeral with rice and potato salad. It's good.

The basic principle of the marinade is

*Rice Vinegar
*Caster Sugar

Play with proportions and enjoy.

Off to Barcelona on sunday so hopefully will be inspired. However am planning a gorgeous Thai Red Curry tomorrow night.

Your going to have to wait to find out about voodoo dolls.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Chutney is special

There. I think that sums it up.

No only joking.

OK lets get to the point. Curry. Tonight we made Rose Elliot's vegetarian curry from her book Fast, Fresh and Fabulous. I'm not given to too much over dramatising generally but it was rubbish.

Sorry Rose but it's a fact.

If I can state my tuppence worth it would go something like this.

Curry needs spices, aroma, and a real flavour. Yes this was meant to be something quick, easy to make after a hard day at work but that's no excuse for omitting the basics. Fortunately we saved the day with the timely injection of some Harissa and some spicy poppadums.

Never trust a curry recipe that lacks spices in the ingredients because it will lack taste in the eating.

Still it won't be wasted. The leftovers will probably be put to use in a soup.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

I'd like to thank the academy

It's been a busy few days in the monkey house kitchen. Money is tight (pay day is way too far off) and there's hungry folk to feed, philosophising to get done and it all needs to be wrapped up in apple pie in time for the credits to roll.

So what have we made?

Well on Saturday we went Japanese and had Vegetables wrapped in beef, rice balls served with miso and carrot soup.

If you haven't tried rice balls they are a revelation...OK I haven't figured out how to make them small enough so that eating them is elegant but they were tasty. My top tip to you is to make sure your filling is up to scratch because that is the best bit. The other peice of advice is to expect to get your hands covered in sticky's part of the fun.

Sunday was a simple Carbonara which for once I resisted my urge to mess with and it simply stood or fell by it's ingredients and it worked, simple food just cooked and served.

Last night we had some mozarella cheese with basil and tomato. Again there's nothing fancy in it but it does taste good. Maybe there's a mention of that dish somewhere in an earlier posting. I wouldn't be surprised it could be argued that it is Italy's crowning contribution to food culture. Wonder who'll pounce on me for being so outspoken??

So tonight we shamelessly used Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries and made his May dish of chickpeas, tomato and aubergine salad with a harissa dressing. What can I say it was lovely. However it's my recipe now and it will be developed in new and exciting ways!!

Keep cooking, keep eating and waste nothing.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007


My sister and her husband have been with us over the weekend and it was a chance to do some cooking and some catching up. I quite enjoy playing chef on these occasions and when there's a challenge to it as well that's always a bonus.

The plan had been

Thurs - arrival
Fri - Pork chops in a mustard sauce
Sat - Reindeer in a leek, mushroom and cream sauce
Sun - Vegetables wrapped in thinly sliced beef Japanese style
Mon - Out to a Thai restaurant.

On top of that there were plans for trips out and trying the Norwegian tradition of grill pølse.

In the end it didn't quite happen like that.

For one, and this is where the challenge comes in, they like their food simple, direct and full of traditional english flavours. So Japanese just didn't sound appealing enough. So we ended up cooking a Thai Green Curry instead - don't ask me what that has to do with English culture but it's a curry so that probably covers it.

We also ended up eating Mackerel. It's just the start of the season here so it was with delight that we purchased 4 beauties in the supermarket. 2 kilos worth - a meal fit for a king. They were simply grilled and served with mashed potatoes and veggies. I'm all for messing with flavours but sometimes it is very good to just let the food do the work and frshly grilled mackerel in season is the way to do it.

However next time I'mk going to cover them in a vicous rub as I think it could also be quite special.

Tonight they've gone home so it's just me and Deb - so some Spanish style chicken. Report on that soon.

As for the Lancaster of the title - we found the wreck of an old World War 2 bomber out in the middle of nowhere in Norway. More info can be found here It is a bit odd to find bits of a conflict that ended 60years ago. Makes me realise how lucky I am.