Sunday, 22 August 2010

Some Flocky wocky doo dah

Sunday blues retreat into night, and Monday’s journey is always the longest of the week. I am not trying to state the obvious, though I am pretty close to it by saying, Monday’s are grim. This one, with its humid and overcast weather, more so. By five, there is a real need for comfort food and a tall glass of something strong.

The desire for meat accompanied by another for a rough red wine has tickled me all afternoon. I have had enough chicken over the past few days to sprout feathers and am not really minded to do a fish recipe, so I spent several minutes wandering around the supermarket trying to get inspiration before making my decision.

And then it comes, setting off my tastebuds on a white water saliva ride. Lamb! The pervasive perfume that comes from its cooking. The sweetness of flavour, so much kinder to the palate than the earthy grassiness of beef (although a good rib-eye on a bed of sautéed potatoes fried in beef dripping comes a close second). To go with this, a bed of velvety soft cannellini beans.

Shopping complete, I get changed, pour a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and put on mellow Monday blues from Sarah Vaughan, for mood music. I am ready for a night of ovinophilia (too clever by far Mr W!).

Lamb chops (or any cut)
Olive oil
Cannellini beans (tin)
Banana shallot finely chopped
Tomatoes (2 – skinned, deseeded and chopped)
Garlic (how much is enough?)
White wine (enough to deglaze)
Stock (just a spoon or two of light stock)

In a frying pan, heat the butter and oil and fry the shallot in oil until translucent, and the tomato. Throw in the chopped garlic, stir a couple of times before adding the stock, then mix in the cannellini and a small knob of butter. Heat through ensuring the mix isn’t too sloppy.

In a separate pan at the same, heat some oil (and a knob of butter too if you wish). When it is hot enough, put in the lamb, frying until done depending on thickness and how pink you like it. Remove to a warm plate to sit for a bit while deglazing the pan with the wine. Loosen the cannellini mix with the deglazed meat juices, because it is unhealthy and you will enjoy it, and sprinkle with the chopped oregano.

To serve, make a bed of the cannellini on your warmed plate, place the pieces of lamb on top with a garnish of left over oregano.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Louis' Lemony Snackette

I had returned from a saucy weekend in Oxfordshire and had not done any shopping. ‘C’ left me suitably smirking all the way back home with her flirtatious antics in the way that you know you had fun, and in my dreamy gormless state I just ambled to the flat and to an empty cupboard without thinking about food.

So picture this: the cupboard is bare, the flat is bare, there is practically an echo as I carry my bags inside and there is little to eat other than random leftovers. So I am left with the question: what do you do with a wilting breast? I am, of course, talking about the plaintive chicken breast sitting on a plate staring back at me from under the condensation covered sheet of cling film, looking like the Janet Leigh in Psycho before the chop, and just begging to be used.

Delving deeper, in other words closing my eyes and fumbling around the back of a cupboard that is clearly designed for taller people, I discover a few ingredients that mean I can embark on a variation to a theme: lemon chicken with an Italian twist (well I say Italian but others are bound to disagree).

The practicalities of arriving (unpacking, changing, laundry, etc) completed, I decide to set the mood. Stan Getz is humming his Bossa Nova beat and the wine is chilled and open (a Pugliese Giardini Falanghina from Sainsbury’s with citrus notes and some creamy elements from sitting on its lees, which should match the lemon zestiness that I am aiming for in the food) as I ready myself for chopping and frying. Everything is laid out in anticipation of a peppery, spicy chicken with a sharp, bittersweet taste tempered by a butter creaminess. So what did I find?

Chicken breast (sliced or cubed)
Celery stick
Unwaxed lemon (zested and juiced)
Chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
Rocket or baby leaf spinach
Spaghetti or similar pasta.

Finely chop the onion and celery and fry slowly in oil until translucent. Next put the chicken pieces into the pan and fry them until they have just lost their rawness. Season as appropriate. Next add a glass of wine (keep a second glass for yourself) and bring the heat up until it starts bubbling. Reduce this down so that most of it has evaporated. As this is happening throw in the lemon zest, garlic and chilli. Finally, turn down the heat, throw in the lemon juice and a knob of butter and let the sauce thicken to a more syrupy texture. Before serving, add the rocket (or in my case a half dead pack of baby leaf spinach) and stir in to wilt it slightly.

I think I would have preferred rocket as it doesn’t wilt so dramatically and has a better peppery flavour. I also wondered if polenta, the second handful from my blind attempt to reach into the cupboard, would have worked, but discarded that idea. In the end, the question is: Did I like it? I was hungry and there was nothing in, I had no choice... of course I liked it! Could I make a few tweaks? In my smirking, trance like state? I doubt it.