Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Celeriac Remoulade with chestnut mushrooms


It's the week before Christmas.  The roast is ordered, the pudding is sorted, the wines are bought. But it's the food in between the celebratory meals that interest me more and it's time to give it some thought.  I like fats and carbs as much as anyone but over the next two weeks there also need to be plenty of vegetable-based dishes and fruity puddings.  I know I will be craving lively, stimulating, bitter and tangy flavours that ingredients like anchovies, capers, mustards, pickles, ketchups, citrus, herbs and spices deliver.

This year, apart from feasting days, there will be no menus here.  There will be a list of dishes that will be 'just the thing' at some point over the holiday to jolt the tastebuds.  This is a time to enjoy being in the kitchen not to be chained to it.  There will be soft polenta with spiced-up winter greens; roasted cauliflower with anchovies and capers; a sharing pan of spicy, hot Shakshuka; escarole for a warming bowl of Caldo Verde to come home to after a long walk;  Griddled chicory with goat's curd; punchy Puttanesca sauce for the inevitable plate of pasta; and a pre-cooked octopus to serve with potatoes, mayo and smoked paprika.  There are sure to be lemons for granita or curd; maybe a 'SweetMeat Cake', a tart which gives candied citrus a starring role rather than a supporting one; frozen fruit purees for ice cream and sorbets that are a reminder of summer on the allotment; and it's very likely there'll be a stash of Hot Gingernut biscuits in the kitchen.

Chestnut mushrooms

Here's another dish that fits-the-bill.  A marriage of raw celeriac and a punchy mustard mayonnaise, here served with raw Chestnut mushrooms, toasted hazelnuts and shards of hard cheese.  It's a blatant rip-off of a dish I've enjoyed at 40 Maltby Street.  Celeriac, also known as Celery Root, is one of the best winter vegetables and is at its peak right now.  It makes a good Celeriac Soup but, for me, its flavour and texture is best appreciated raw.

Celeriac Remoulade with Chestnut mushrooms

Celeriac Remoulade with Chestnut Mushrooms
(Serves 6-8)

1 medium celeriac, trimmed, peeled and cut into julienne strips (put into a bowl of cold acidulated water until needed and dry on kitchen roll before using)
250ml (9 fl oz) mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, according to taste
300g (12 oz) good, firm Chestnut mushrooms
50g (2 oz) toasted hazelnuts (skins rubbed off), and cut in half
75g (3 oz) Parmesan or a hard English cheese like Berkswell, peeled into strips with a potato peeler
Extra Virgin olive oil & lemon
Salt and pepper
Sprig of Parsley, finely chopped

Mix the strips of celeriac with the mayonnaise and mustard.  Pile onto plates.  Slice the Chestnut mushrooms finely, preferably on a Mandolin, and scatter over the celeriac remoulade. Top with the hazelnuts and strips of cheese.  Season with pepper and a little salt.  Add olive oil and lemon to taste.  Scatter the chopped parsley on top and serve.

I'll be baking bread to go with this.  Well that's the plan.  It's entirely possible that we'll have so many leftovers to consume that  we'll get through to New Year's Day fuelled entirely on meat and two veg and, of course, cheese.  I really hope not.

This will be my last post before Christmas.  Do have a good one - I think we all need it this year.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Christmas Gifts for Food Lovers 2016

Oranges from Sicily

As usual my end of year gift choices for food lovers focuses on modestly priced gifts from small independent businesses, plus one 'pushing-the-boat-out' suggestion.  Some are made by the seller, others are simply, carefully selected, products for their customers.  As I live in London, all of these can be bought direct and, where possible, I've mentioned alternative sources that may be closer to you. In some cases you can also buy on-line.  These are things I buy for myself or for like-minded food lovers and I do not accept payment or gifts for mentioning them.  I hope it gives you some inspiration for gifts for the food lover in your life and makes you think about buying gifts from small businesses close to you.

Sicilian Blood Oranges

A Box of Seasonal Sicilian Citrus - depending on size, from around £15.00

Why:  New season Italian citrus, particularly those from Sicily, are starting to arrive.  For me, this is the perfect antidote to all that rich Christmas food.  While it may be a little too early for the spectacular high-coloured Sicilian Tarocco blood oranges, earlier varieties of blush and blood oranges should be available in the run-up to Christmas.

Where in London:  John & Elena Fruit and Veg in Bermondsey (SE16) source great quality fruits for sale at sensible prices.

Papa dei Boschi Crema di Nocciola & Nocciola Piemonte Tostata

Papa dei Boschi Crema di Nocciola and/or Nocciola Piemonte Tostata Around £6.50 & £7.50

Why: This chocolate hazelnut spread and the toasted hazelnuts are just the best I've ever tasted.  I know of only two sources in London for the nuts (General Store in Peckham and La Fromagerie in Marylebone).  I believe only General Store keep both of these products.

Where in London: General Store (SE15), La Fromagerie (W1)

Ulcigrai Panettone

Ulcigrai Panettone  £17.00

Why: A Panettone always comes home with me at Christmas and it has to be the Ulcigrai family Panettone from Trieste.  It's available at Leila's Shop in Shoreditch and also sold at General StoreMonmouth Coffee's Covent Garden and Borough Market shops. 

Where in London: Leila's Shop (E2) and Monmouth Coffee (WC2, & SE1); General Store (SE15)

Brindisa - the True Food of Spain by Monika Linton

A Food Book Brindisa - The True Food of Spain by Monika Linton  RRP £29.95 

Why: After living and teaching in Spain, Monika Linton has been importing high quality Spanish products for her London-based business, Brindisa, for the past 28 years.  I've shopped there for years and always been impressed by the quality of the products she selects.  Written from a deep knowledge, love and understanding of Spanish food this book delves into Spanish food culture and history.  Recipes range from 'light as a feather' Tortilleta de camarones (crisp little shrimp pancakes) to gutsy Rabo de buey al vino tinto con chocolate (Slow cooked oxtail in red wine and chocolate) and there's a great section on Spanish cheeses.

Where in London: Brindisa, Borough Market (SE1) and at all good bookshops

Jensen's Gins

Jensen's Old Tom Gin - around £25.00

Why:  Using a recipe from a distillers handbook from 1840, this unsweetened, earthy gin is very much to my taste. It is perfect for a gin and tonic which can be simply garnished with a little sprig of rosemary.

Where in London:  Jensen's Bermondsey Distillery (SE1) and stockists shown on their website.

A Tif Hunter Tintype Print

A Tif Hunter Tintype Print - this is my pushing-the-boat-out item.  Do follow the link to see examples of Tif Hunter's work including examples of his tintype images of fruits and vegetables.  You'll also find contact details to check prices and availability

Why:  Tif Hunter's expertise in this medium is becoming well known.  The tonal qualities he achieves with his tintype work is extraordinary.  He has a passion for such subjects but also turns his lens on flowers, everyday objects, portraits and more.

Where in London:  Via Tif Hunter's website

Gimlet Bar Spiced Lemon Cordial

Gimlet Bar Seasonal Cordials £10-12.00

Why:  Gimlet Bar's Cordials, using always interesting fruits and herbs, change with the seasons.  They are supplied to bars and restaurants in London but some are now available in a few independent, quality, food shops in the capital.  Spiced Lemon and Blood Tonic are currently available.

Where in London:  Leila's Shop (E2) and General Store (SE15) plus Gimlet Bar direct.

London Cheesemongers
Pavilion Road

A cheese selection from London Cheesemongers - around £25 depending on weight and selected cheese

Why:  London Cheesemongers keeps a great selection of cheeses in peak condition from artisans in Britain, France and Italy .  A blue cheese (e.g. Stilton or Stichelton; a goat cheese (e.g. Innes Log or Fromage Cathare); a hard cow's milk cheese (e.g. Montgomery Cheddar, Beaufort or Parmesan); a washed-rind cheese (e.g. St Cera or Cardo).  A slice of Quince Cheese would be a nice complement to the cheeseboard.

Where:  London Cheesemongers (SW1) and various markets - see website link - or Neals Yard Dairy (SE1, WC1 and SE16) and markets) for British Cheeses, Mons Cheesemongers (SE16) and Borough Market (SE1) and Brockley Market (SE4) for French cheeses, and Italian cheeses from The Ham and Cheese Co (SE16)

Particella 128 Sparkling Wine

A bottle of Italian Natural Sparkling Wine - Particella 128

Why:  Perfect for Christmas morning - this sharp, bone-dry sparkler from Emilia Romagna has notes of ripe apples, tangerines, hay and a mineral quality.  A natural Champenoise methode wine.

Where:  Aubert & Mascoli (SE16)

Home-made Christmas Pudding

A home-made Christmas Pudding

Why:  Because it's home-made!  It's not too late to to make a Christmas Pudding.  Here's a recipe.  Buy the best ingredients you can get.

Where:  Your kitchen

Happy shopping (or cooking).