Saturday, March 29, 2008
We had a very similar quail lunch to the one in february only this time I made the allioli with membrillo. The English call this quince cheese for some obscure reason. It is made of quince, yes and it is eaten with cheese, yes but that does not make it cheese. Jesus.
Anyway. The Catalans love this sort of thing. Fruit with garlic. Wierd. But wonderful. You make an allioli http://lagrandebouffecatering.blogspot.com/2008/02/recipix-allioli.html but before you add the egg you mash up some good quality quince cheese with the garlic. The smoothness of the egg, bite of the garlic and sweetness of the membrillo form a holy trinity. The Catalans also use apples, sometimes pears. Occasionally honey is added. The eggs can be done away with as well and an emulsion is easily formed with the help of the fruit but as much as I may admire this eggless sauce and the skill it takes to make it I far prefer the smoother eggy version.
I also had revelation in the form of a steam oven. A €30,000 steam oven. Gott in himmel, what an oven. It has been sitting there ever since I arrived and I havent used it due to terror of busting it through ignorance. The chef showed me how it worked and now, at the tender age of 53 I suddenly find myself not being able to live without one. Great.
So, they had quails, grilled and then steamed to finish. Leeks, asparagus and wild garlic steamed then grilled. Broad beans just steamed (unbelievable). And oven potatoes (unsteamed). Rocket, mizuna and mache salad. Membrillo allioli. It was all nice but the allioli gives it all coherence.
Then they had chocolate souffle. Recipix to precede.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
This is a goddam match made in heaven. I made it recently with my new lover Bombardino DeCecco. I accidently overcooked the broccoli quite savagely but it was just for my lunch so I pretended I hadnt and continued. The result was an absolute revelation - soft, silken, smooth. I am always cooking this dish this way from now on. Its nice really cos I think this whole "all vegetables have to be cooked al dente" is a crock. Some vegetables are suited, some are not. Some are versitile. Some are not. Someone once served me al dente asparagus. AL DENTE ASPARAGUS?!?!?!? I mean, Jesus Christ, where's it going to end?
Anyway the staff had a version of the Italian classic of anchovy, broccoli, chilli and garlic but instead of it being with pasta I made it into a soup with white beans playing the part of the pasta. Excellent. I also made bread croutons and some polenta croutons tossed in grated parmesan and baked. Really really good.
Method? Like this darling, like this:
Good amount of olive oil
6 teeth garlic
4 dynamite chillis (tiny little killer ones)
1 big Spanish onion
8 anchovies in olive oil
500g cooked cannelini beans and their licor
1 good head of broccoli - cut into fleurettes and the stalk peeled and chopped
Put heavy bottomed pan on a low heat and flavour oil with 2 crumbled chillis and 3 garlic cloves half crushed under the flat of a knife. Discard chilli if blackened and mash up the now golden garlic.
Sweat chopped onion in the flavoured oil with lid on. About 20 minutes later put the golden garlic back in with along with the rest of the chopped garlic, the 2 other chillis and the anchovies and their oil. Some bay and rosemary would be nice too. Sweat that mother good. For as long as you are able.
Add cannelini beans and the licor they were cooked in with some extra stock.
Bring to the boil and add the broccoli .
Boil till broccoli is just past al dente. Remove, liquidise and replace one third.
Season, sprinkle with parsley and croutons and then do a faggoty chef swirl of olive oil at the end to make it look nice.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The last time I cooked for Lee Marvin was a goddam disgrace. The food however was excellent as it would have to be if it were to be cooked for, served to and eaten by one of the greatest men of the 20th century. Actor, lover, fighter. Man of action. Man of few words. And decidedly a very, very bad man. Every man alive, without exception, secretly wishes he were Lee Marvin. Enough.
Through fantastic good fortune and war my father became friends with him and latterly he became my godfather.
The last time I cooked for Lee Marvin was two months before his untimely and sudden death http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBlLH3tqFJU) We were riding along a ridge in the sierra that ran through his colossal ranch in the southwest of the United States of America.
He was an incomparable horseman. He could do anything on a horse. And then a whole load of stuff more. He taught me to ride and whilst I can handle myself on top of any of those excellent animals I will never come close to his horsemanship.
We had been riding since dawn after a breakfast of beans and coffee prepared by the boy- aka yours truly. We hadn’t stopped all day except for a brief moment when we fell off our horses fully clothed into the cool, clear water pooled in the bend of a creek. It helped wash away the sweat of a couple of days of long riding and a couple of nights of heavy drinking. Under those stars. Jesus, those stars.
We chewed on jerky throughout and smoked Gauloises cigarettes periodically. He had picked up the habit of Gauloises filterless during the war and wouldn’t let it go to please nobody. He got them shipped in specially and kept them in a chest freezer along with any small excess left over from a shooting party.
There was an absolute rule of no booze in daylight. His rule. If I had tried to make that or any other rule he would have punched me full square in the face. He was as I say, a great man.
We had been riding some time and the sun was getting low in the sky. He was riding point and I observed him, slowly, naturally and without apparent effort, lean down out of his saddle, fully extend his arms and fingers and pick up a stone the size of a wolf’s testicle. He seamlessly hoisted himself back up and turned round and threw the stone straight at me. Actually it wasn’t at me. What he was really throwing it at was a snake about five foot long slithering down towards my horse. A diamond back, he told me later. Nasty snake with a bad bite. Anyway.
He hit the snake fully on the head and killed it outright. He drew to a halt and dismounted. He walked over and toed the inert, defunct mother of all sin. As soon as the boot made contact with the snake, it sprang back into action. Not to life, just action. It was writhing madly and convulsing but Lee, Mr Marvin, made no motion to retreat. He simply pinned the snake to the ground just behind its head with his boot. As he stood he slowly withdrew a knife about a foot long out of its sheath hidden within his garments. He crouched down and cut the snake’s head off. He put the head in a leather pouch I had not seen before but guessed it was used for this kind of thing.
He had released the snake from under his boot but it still jumped and writhed. It reminded me of the way chickens run around when decapitated, seemingly trying to escape their inevitable end. He picked it up, put it into a hessian sack, came up to my horse and tied the sack to my saddle
“Sorry kid – you’re cooking.” It was the only thing he said throughout the whole episode. He mounted back up and we continued on our way.
Later on we came down out of the mountains in time to make camp and get ready for what I can only describe as the night. A night with Lee Marvin was never predictable and was often quite hard work. Particularly the next day. Anyway.
We decided to camp next to the river and I went down to the river’s edge and walked into the water. I say we decided. It wasn’t me. It was him. He decided. But Jesus, what can I say – he was Lee Marvin.
I removed the snake from its sack and was fairly appalled to see that it was still moving. Not so vigorously, but slowly writhing nonetheless. I took out my knife and made a small cut in its skin down its length, enough of a cut to peel the skin back. I put the fleshy, bony stump in my mouth and pulled the skin off its body. I put the now skinless but STILL not motionless body back in the bag and washed the skin turning it back right side out. When I had finished I hung it from the limb of a tree that was overhanging the river. I still have this snakeskin. I keep it on the dashboard of my car. Now I took the snake back out and washed it. Finally it became inert. 3 hours after its death. Maybe the cold river water was too much for this spirited reptile.
I walked back up to the fire that had been set in the meantime by Mr Marvin I presume. I say presume because I damn sure didn’t see him do it. As I was carrying the snake to the fire wondering how I was going to grill that mother, he came towards me with a stick. Shit. What now? But all he did was to take the snake from me and lay it and the stick along side each other near the fire. “Wait,” he said and walked off into the woods.
So I waited. It started about five minutes after he disappeared and about a minute before he reappeared, this time carrying a bundle of leafy oak cuttings. “It” was the unaided union of the snake and stick. Right there on the ground by the fire for no reason the snake started to move once again. The snake’s tail curled itself around the bottom of the stick and then rolled with it until it was completely coiled around the stick’s length. “Shit” I said. “Yep” he said and threw the cuttings on to the fire. He then stood with his arm out straight, holding the snakestick in the smoke for a full half hour whilst he went into a monologue at full volume about a night’s drinking with Bob Mitchum and some French whores in a town recently liberated by the two f them at the end of the war.
He talked for half an hour without pausing, without seeming even to draw breath and all the while still holding the snakestick in the smoke. This was a way of smoking meat I had not seen before. He finished up by saying “ OK, cook it” and he tossed it to me while he went to get ready. The sun was going down and it was going to be dark within the hour.
I poked about in the embers until I had them nice and white with a red glow beneath, a bit like a wolf’s eye looking at you from amongst the darkened entrance to a wood you might not return from. I put two rocks about a foot apart in the fire and laid the snake across them turning it every minute or so. The juices periodically dropped on to the embers and hissed. The coals were burning slow and it took about 25 minutes of this slow grilling to cook it. Its flesh was white, sort of like frogs legs but had now turned a beautiful, crisp, grilled multishaded brown. It smelled good.
I pulled the snake into two halves and we sat down to eat, chewing its not massively tender flesh slowly and pondering its flavour. It did not taste of frogs legs. No, it tasted of mackerel. Weird, eh? We were about 400 miles from the sea.
Mr Marvin liked it. He didn’t say as much. In fact he didn’t say anything. I could just tell he was enjoying it. Every now and then he would shake a few drops of his travelling companion, Tabasco, onto his next mouthful and then pick away the flesh from the vertebra with his teeth and chew it slowly. As he was finishing he said “Goddam good, boy. Right, I’m ready.” The sun had gone down.
“Shit” I said. And the drinking began. Like I say, that night was a goddamn disgrace. That man was a BAD MAN.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
I was very happy to be back in the kitchen again for staff lunch last week. I came up with a new meat ball shape that could well turn into a new pasta shape. I’m sure the Eye-ties will be more than happy to let an eengleesh peeg make an addition to their pasta idiom. They will welcome me with open arms I am sure. Yeah course they will.
I mixed lemon zest, chopped garlic, toasted fennel seed, salt and pepper along with some parsley, sage (no rosemary) and thyme into this new source of Iberico pork that I have found. Half minced belly and half mince leg. I gave it a really good mix, fried a taster, adjusted the seasoning and the got on with making them into meatballs. I find all these repetitive jobs; meatballs, falafels, croquettes, etc tedious but this time I really enjoyed it cos I discovered this new shape. Basically it is the shape of the inside of my fist.
I’m gonna call it Pasta al Puño Americano (Pasta a la Knuckleduster) because it is the shape of those primitive knuckledusters that didn’t have the bar over the front of the fist. Just metal bars that you hold in your fist to strengthen the impact. You know, like the one the guy uses who nearly beats Charles Bronson at the end of Streetfighter. Course, Charly Bee beat the crap out of him in the end. Anyway.
You very simply pick out a certain amount of the mix and squish it in your hand leaving a slight curve on one side and reverse scalloped edge on the other. And that’s it. It is much quicker than usual cos it doesn’t require all that rolling around to get it into a nice ball shape.
Brown them gently in largish pan, deglaze with red wine and add it to your 8 hour tomato sauce and cook till the balls are cooked through then mix this into DeCecco Bombardino with a little of the cooking water. Killer.
I don’t have a picture so I leave you with a picture of a wedding cake I made recently.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Been away and now I've come back. Seems like an age since I last cooked anything unless you count a Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodle at 3.30 am last wednesday.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Going on a bit now about the wild things that grow but having said there is so much more out there than I know about (at the moment). Wood sorrel, those bright yellow flowers with thin green stalks that grow everywhere are excellent in salad. They have a sharp and lemonlike flavour and are a delight to bite down on. Again, there is something so satisfying about adding wild, free and tasty stuff to your food that you have collected yourself.