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My philosophy

This blog is dedicated to my love of eating, cooking, writing and reading about food. In it you'll find recipes, book reviews, restaurant reviews and various other food related bits and pieces.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Ingredient of the month- Umami Taste No 5

Well folks, it's been a long time coming, but I finally got my grubby mitts on a tube of Umami Paste! 

Thank goodness for Selfridges Food Court, Birmingham!

All I can say is, Laura Santtini- you're a genius! How can something so simple, not have been done already? It seems stupid that no one's thought about combing these essential flavours (including anchovy and porcini) together in a concentrate before.

How has Classic Italian cuisine survived for so long without this revolutionary paste? 

This essence of 'Umami' or deliciousness, peps up any meal, but be warned, a little goes a long way!
Santtini has created quite a stir in my book with her quirky kitchen 'alchemy' range, adding a touch more of the mad-scientist approach to cooking. I simply wanted to buy all her products, I think I need to pace myself though- I draw the line at a Chilli flavoured Gold spray!

And so with that in mind, I give you my recipe for a simple Umami Seabass with Sauteed Potato.

Umami Seabass with Sauteed Potato
8x Charlotte New Potatoes (cut into chunks)
A good pinch of salt
Boiling water
1x Tin Plum Tomatoes
8x Black (pitted) Olives (plus 2x extra sliced)
A good glug of Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Umami Taste No 5
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil
2x Large Seabass Fillets
A hunk of French Bread
1 Tablespoon Butter
1x Clove of garlic (crushed)
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Parsley

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees
  2. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and place the Seabass fillets skinside down
  3. Chop the plum tomatoes and add to a blender jug along with the olives, lemon juice, umami paste, a splash of olive oil and the basil. 
  4. Blend until ingredients are mixed.
  5. Season the fish and arrange the tomato mix on top of the fillets.
  6. Arrange the olives on top and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place in the oven.
  7. Boil the potatoes in a large pan of salted water (until a knife can just about stick into them, then drain)
  8. Mix the butter, garlic and parsley together in a bowl
  9. Slice the bread into medium size wedges and spread the garlic butter generously on top
  10. Place on a baking tray in the bottom of the oven
  11. About 10 minutes before serving, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan (until very hot)
  12. Add the drained potatoes and continue stirring until an even colour is achieved
  13. For a bit more luxury, I added a dash of truffle oil to the potatoes towards the end of their cooking time
  14. Season the potatoes and drain on kitchen towel (for extra crispness)
  15. Serve with green beans to the one you love (serves 2!)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Product of the month- Marmite XO

From its humble beginnings in a small factory (based just two miles from the Bass Brewery) in Burton-on-Trent (circa 1902), we have seen Britain's favourite (or most hated, depending whether you're part of the marmarati or not) spread, grow from a simple, resourceful idea, into a susuccessful and bang up to date product.

Derived from the French word, describing a stock pot or cooking pot (as pictured on the jar), Marmite comes in many limited edition flavours. Tantalising delights such as Guinness and Champagne flew off the shelves, along with all manner of merchandise.

The story begins in the mid 19th Century, when German chemist, Liebig, discovered the base of the sticky black spread, brewers yeast, a discarded by-product of the fermenting industry. With further development, he discovered that it made a good (and completely vegetarian) meat substitute. He spent years researching and studying the substance, and thanks to his works, we now have the OXO Cube as well as Marmite!

And now we come to the next chapter in the Marmite chronicles- Marmite XO. This is only suitable for the most dedicated, hardcore fans. Matured for 28 days, as opposed to the regular seven, the spread is said to be four times stronger than any ordinary Marmite.

All I can say is wow! How can such a bitter, strong flavour be so complex and pleasant at the same time? It's caused quite a kerfuffle in the taste-bud department, and I have to say, I'm loving it a bit more than the original!
So to celebrate Marmite XO in all it's glory, I've teamed it with another ace ingredient, Double Gloucester cheese and made some fantastic cheese straws.

Marmite XO Cheese Straws
75g Double Gloucester Cheese
50g Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/3 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Marmite XO (or to taste)
50g Butter
1 Egg yolk

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C
Grate the cheese into a large mixing bowl
3. Sift the flour, baking powder and pepper into the cheese
4. Cut the butter into chunks and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs
5. Lightly beat the Marmite XO and the egg yolk in a bowl, add this to the mixture until a stiff dough is formed
6. Place dough onto a floured surface and lightly spread into two rectangles roughly 9x3 inches (I used my hands for this)
7. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 straws and place onto an ungreased baking sheet
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden in colour

These keep for ages in an airtight tin- if you don't end up eating them in one sitting!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Sweet situation!

Good evening everyone!

After a crazy week at work, I thought I'd take a moment to step back for a breather and philosophise (if that's ok?).

The story starts nearly two years ago when I started working at Delifonseca.
My original job was to work in the kitchen (helping out with prep and anything else that needing doing) and the shop (as a knowledgeable sales assistant), as well taking over the role of outside catering manager (which involved me marketing the business, designing menus and answering enquiries) which was all well and good in principle...

After being told my hours would be split down the middle between the shop and the kitchen, I thought, great, variety's always good! But t
his was not quite the case.... I found my hours in the shop increased as my hours in the kitchen dwindled and I yearned to be back in the warmth of the galley....

Months passed, and I was content to get excited wh
en jobs for canape events came in, as I got to spend time preparing ingredients and garnishes and finishing them onsite. It gave me a sense of pride, something physical and beautiful that I could be proud of... my fortunes were changing.

Sadly in November, our pastry chef decided it was time for to retire, and so the reigns were passed to another member of staff and I, simply slotted into our regular working hours, cranking up the pressure and adding another element to my e
xpanding job title.....

But this hasn't entirely been the case. I have found that because I'm doing so much right now, I'm much more organised, I can bake good quality products for sale in the shop, as I'm calmer and more focused, and I can get inspiration t
o create something a bit different for the restaurant upstairs.

I finally feel like my creativity is beginning to flourish. I'm working somewhere I love, with something I love and at the end of the day, I go home to my fiance whom I love with all my heart and write about the other massive love of my life.... FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Chilli Banana Review

Having spent the afternoon frolicking about at a baby shower, I felt I needed to wind the day down with a good spicy meal to ward off the remnants of this awful cold.

Having been to Chilli Banana before (on my birthday), I knew that this was a place synonymous with good value, great tasting, authentic Thai food. So we sat down amongst the many customers in the bustling environment.
We were promptly given menus and informed of the specials. We opted to share two starters; the Kow Giap Gung (Thai Prawn Crackers) and Tempura Gung (tempura prawns and vegetables with dipping sauces).

The prawn crackers made a nice change from the often polystyrene-like texture of the Chinese counterpart. The hot kick of chilli was complemented by the sweet chilli dipping sauce and added more of the Thai twist to this crunchy cracker.

The tempura batter was crisp, crunchy and not greasy in the slightest! As well as King Prawns, we had aubergine, courgette, carrot and green beans. The aubergine was by far the nicest vegetable tempura. No sogginess, just pure flavour encased in a crispy shell.

For my main course I ordered the Nua Sawan (or 'Heavenly Beef'). But before ordering this dish, I did enquire as to what makes the beef so heavenly.... I was told the beef was marinated in sticky Thai sugar, making for a very tender piece of meat.... and that it was!

When our main courses arrived, the waitress served us two scoops of the fragrant rice and I piled on mounds of my syrupy meat. My partner ordered a sizzling beef dish with mounds of chillies, onions and a very strong aniseed flavour, a lovely aftertaste once the burn of the chilli had subsided. Needless to say, he had to pace himself on this one!

My meal on the other-hand was sumptuous and not overpowering in the slightest. Despite the sugar being the main flavour, the crispy Basil on top was easily recognised on my taste buds. The crunchy texture made a good contrast to the treacle-like consistency of the sauce. 

Some might say I'm a sucker for cute things and I'd probably agree, but the flower carved from a carrot was such a sweet touch to the dish. The chef obviously has talent, as well as creative flair!

My advice, book it! This place gets VERY busy, but it  produces consistently good quality food with professional, un-intrusive service.


Friday, 5 March 2010

Goremet- I don't want to find the needle!

Good evening gourmands! I have some more unsavoury delights for your perusal... As usual, it didn't take me long on my quest to select the ultimate in un-delectable design and so I give you:

Kraft's answer to Mayonnaise 'with a kick', Miracle Whip, and their recipe for Almonds in a Haystack.

Now given the fact that this monstrosity resembles a decapitated dulux dog, I think this is one haystack I'd rather leave unexplored.

The mounds of meaty goodness shown in the cross-section of this 'volcano of food' are enough to make ones stomach turn to pure magma, as the mere thought of consuming this 'holiday treat' causes bile to rise in the back of my throat.

I assume the layer of white is the congealed masses of Miracle Whip encasing the pink and green innards. According to the advert: 'Some things can be copied and some things can't' so answer me this question Kraft.... why would anyone copy this example? This freakish mound of cold, mayo covered meat with a fork plunging through it's weird chip-covered outer core....

(Yet another unappetising use of chips... fangs for the undead)

Lead by example Kraft.... you're taking over Cadbury, a British institution, I'm now more concerned for our chocolate than I've ever been!