Sunday, February 27, 2005

first apron, first blog

baked goats cheese with tomato sauce with garlic crostini
parsley soup
monk fish with ground almonds, spinach and sultanas
chocolate tart with raspberry coulis

this marks a departure from previous articles (?); it is the first one that i have written specifically for our little zarzamora blogspot. all the previous ones have been emails written to blancs and friends. to be honest, i'm still unsure as to what this will be; at best, it will be a document to my homeschooling in cookery that, in years to come, i can publish to great acclaim. i'm a relatively clean slate in terms of my cooking technique - having missed out on being a daughter, taught to cook by a generation of cooper women, learning recipes passed through the family by word of mouth and sworn to the secrecy of the holy grail ... that been said, a certain broken biscuit cake recipe published in my primary school days speaks of culinary fame at such a young age.

i'm inspired this morning by a hangover that is, as yet, keeping at bay. most of this has come to me whilst washing up from a dinner party last night and listening to estrella morientes (i haven't listened to flamenco since sevilla last august, so i'm happy to be getting back on track there). blancs is in bed still ...

dave and mun-ling were over last night for dinner. between tokyo, christmas and beyond, it has been sometime since we've had a saturday night dinner party. last night was great, blancs refused to share our guests with anyone else so it was an intimate affair ... gossip, conspiracy and a little big of kanji.

the cooking was quite a deal - between the shopping and the preparation we spent the afternoon at it ... given that this is the start of the school year, i wore an apron for the first time in years - the aura it gave me a confidence way in excess of my skills. blancs preached the number one rule in the kitchen; don't hesitate! my signature dish so far is hesitation, especially when it comes to seasoning

i was on amuse bouche duty (i learnt this term only a year ago - cooking baked goats cheese with tomatoe sauce from the appropriately named "diva cooking". chopped onions and garlic pulp are softened in a pan into which are added two tins of tomatoe with thyme, oregano, balsamic and honey. leaving to cook for 30 minutes plus. you leave the sauce to cool in the meantime cutting ramekin size slices of goats cheese. in order to cut the cheese, a knife dipped in boiling water (not too hot as it would melt the cheese) is best. leave these in the fridge until ready to cook. i then made my first crostini ever - slices of baguette grilled with olive oil until golden and then rubbed with garlic. the baking is straightforward - an oven at about 200c for about 10 minutes until the cheese is golden brown. these are rubbed with a garlic clove when sufficiently cooled.

this was nice, but i wasn't blown away - as with everything, the leftover sauce was better today. we had it for breakfast on toast with goats cheese, grilled momentarily. we should probably have prepared the sauce a couple of days earlier in order to enhance the flavour. either way - the dish does work well as a tasty starter ...

coming from ursula ferrigno's "bringing italy home", the parsley soup was really good. a simple vegetable soup (potatoes, carrots, celery, onion) is made, into which a parsley topping is placed to partner the flavours. this soup exemplifies my eternal struggle with cooking - seasoning; my nemesis. to my generation that grew up in ireland in the 70s / 80s, seasoning was something 'delicately' applied (not applied), as a result we have gotten used to food without any major flavouring. dave's theory over dinner was that the big health push during these years educated mothers into the risks of salt in the diet. as with everything this probably went too far. blancs scoffed at this when we first started cooking together - pasta, she would say, should be cooked in water with the salinity of the mediterranean. once the vegetables were softened we arrived at my moment of truth - the tasting. it seemed fine to me, but blancs pushed me aside and emptied handfuls of salt, pepper and vegetable stock. kind of odd, but only when finally drinking the soup did i think that it lacked flavour. at this stage i mixed the parsley topping (parsley, garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and olive oil prepared in the magimix) in - it works superbly with the soup to enhance the flavour. we served the soup on a bed of fresh spinach leaves.

blancs cooked the main - the excellent ferran adria dish of monkfish breaded with ground almond and served with sautéed spinach, soaked sultanas and roasted pine nuts. a drizzle of olive oil dressing sets this off nicely. this is a catalan dish, from the "cocinar en 10 minutos" book. this is probably the first spanish dish that i ever learnt - 98, back in the southampton days.

the monkfish can live up to 11 years. having read about problems over the past years of the depletion of the atlantic stocks of the fish, from checking out the web, it seems this is getting better ...

a trip down to niksons was required at this point of the meal - blancs was hankering for cigarettes and we were all keen enough to stretch our legs. a couple of drinks later we had the lovely dessert - again blancs had produced this without me noticing. i had an opportunity to test the theory of chinese, korean and japanese kanji meaning the same - you can imagine how happy i am that mun-ling understands my mountain, white, paddy field etc.

time to go - blancs is calling out to colour code the bookshelf; my hangover is denying any chance of the gym today, but i'm thinking that we should be getting out of the house as the sun is shining and snow falling ... perfect.


Anonymous said...

I feel duty bound to add a comment to this blog, as guest du jour.

Mun-Ling and I enjoyed the evening tremendously. The monkfish, the stolen confidences and the sneaky tabs down in Nikson's, drawn with some quaffable gin and tonics.

An evening quite like it there has not been before, but we trust there will be evenings like it in the not too distant... 

Posted by Dave (The Guest)

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