Thursday, 29 September 2011

Roast Garlic and Cumin Mayonnaise

Classic mayonnaise made smoky with the addition of roast garlic and cumin. I like it as a dip for potato wedges, sweet or normal variety. It would be excellent to go with leftover roast chicken or lamb too. Two days ago, we cooked sweet potato wedges, coated in oil and smoked paprika. I added some cherry tomatoes and merguez sausages to the pan 20 minutes before the potatoes were ready, and had the mayo on the side.

To make the mayonnaise, sit two bulbs of garlic on their own square of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, and close the bulbs in the foil by crimping the edges together- the packages should be tightly sealed but loose around the heads of garlic themselves. Roast for about 25 minutes at 200 degrees until they are very soft. Allow to cool. Toast and grind about 1 tsp of cumin seeds. Make up the classic mayonnaise recipe, using lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Stir in the cumin and some lemon zest, then squeeze the garlic out of their skins into the mayo. I added a touch of dried chilli too, as I wanted a little heat.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thai Green Curry Paste

I'm now on conversation terms with the staff at the nearby Thai supermarket, which make going there even more enjoyable. My last trip I procured the ingredients for a green curry paste, using a recipe by the same man whose red curry paste I have previously written about.  They're both delicious, the red has warmth and heat from the dried chillies and spices, the green is fresher because of the raw birds-eye chillis and large amount of coriander.

12 green Birds Eye (whole)
4 cloves garlic
4 shallots
3-4 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed
1 ½ inch piece of galangal (peeled)
4-6 fresh Kaffir lime leaves depending on size
1 tsp kapee (shrimp paste)
Grated zest of 1 lime
Good pinch of salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
½ bunch coriander, including roots if possible
Generous handful of Thai holy basil  or sweet basil leaves
Groundnut oil

Put all ingredients, except the oil, into your food processor and whiz. Pour in the oil as the mixture whizzes to moisten and allow the whole mixture to come down to a smooth, thick paste (there should be enough oil so that when you transfer the paste to a jar a thin layer of oil comes to the surface and just covers the mixture - this helps it to keep). The paste will keep for some weeks if stored in the fridge.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Inspirational Cookery Books

Given the opportunity to show off about my cookbook collection,I will talk about them with the same zeal usually reserved for Evangelists. I just want to spread the word about these Good Books. Anyone who expresses even the slightest interest will be given a full tour of the shelves, and probably a book or two pressed into their hands so we can talk recipes at a later date. Picking favourites was difficult process, but here are some can't-live-without gems.

Fruit Book- Jane Grigson
The title doesn't give much away, and neither does it's appearance. It's not a glossy coffee table book, it's basic paperback filled with a huge amount of recipes, written in such a way it makes me want to cook everything as soon as I pick it up.

How To Eat- Nigella Lawson 
Say what you like about her on-screen persona, but you can't fault Nigella's writing especially in How To Eat, her first and best book. I've cooked from this a lot, and it's all been wonderful.

The Book of Jewish Food- Claudia Roden
I love any book by Claudia Roden, but this the best. She covers in depth the food and traditions from both the Ashkenazi and Sepherdic worlds, including stories from her own life. Quite possibly my all-time favourite.

 Cooking in 10 Minutes-Edouard de Pomaine
I like this more for his prose-it's very, very French. He begins:

"First of all, let me tell you that this is a beautiful book. I can say that because this is its first page. I just sat down to write it, and I feel happy, the way I feel whenever I start a new project. My pen is full of ink, and there's a stack of paper in front of me. I love this book because I'm writing it for you. It's nice to imagine that I'll be able to let my pen go and you'll understand everything it writes down..."

How can you resist that? Any eighteen year olds heading off to university should shun those awful patronising student cookbooks and take a copy of this instead.

Honey from a Weed- Patience Gray
A beautiful, slightly chaotic book, covering food from Greece, Italy and Spain. Pure escapism.

The Classic Food of Northern Italy- Anna Del Conte
This book demonstrates just how regional Italian cooking is- covering just part of the country, its still a pretty thorough read. Not that I'm complaining, Anna Del Conte's writing is wonderful, as well as being the final word in Italian cookery for me.

Meat Book- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
I'm glad I'm not so much a food snob as to dismiss all celebrity cooks- I wouldn't want to be without Hugh's meat encyclopedia. Lovely recipes, and good in-depth writing on cooking techniques. I like refering to this for meat cooking times, and advice if I have bought an obscure cut I want to try out my own recipe for.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nutella Brownies

This almost, but not quite, tips the balance from utter decadence to overindulgence. It's also an easy recipe to make, you have the satisfaction of spooning an entire 400 gram tub of Nutella into a pan of melted chocolate and butter, plus an almost empty Nutella jar to clean out with a spoon or your fingers. They'd make a lovely pudding even for ending a fairly elegant meal, just call them Gianduja Brownies and serve them with good quality vanilla ice cream and toasted chopped hazelnuts.

200 grams butter
200 grams plain chocolate
400 gram jar Nutella
500 grams caster sugar
4 eggs, large
2 tbsp Frangelico or 1 tbsp vanilla essence
250 grams plain flour
4 tablespoons cocoa

Preheat oven to 180C, Gas 4
Prepare a small rectangular roasting tin or oven proof dish approximately 8 x 12" (20x30cm). Melt the butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water. Beat in the Nutella, then allow to cool slightly. Stir in the sugar and Frangelico or vanilla essence.Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until well blended each time.
Add the flour and cocoa and beat for about 1 minute, until smooth. Pour into prepared tin, and bake for about 40 - 50 minutes. The mixture needs to be just cooked, so start testing with a cocktail stick at about 35 minutes - it should have moist crumbs, but not wet batter, still clinging to it.
Cool in tin until cool enough to handle, then turn out and leave until completely cold before cutting into squares.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Mushrooms with Marsala and Thyme.

So good. Eat them on toast, in risotto, tossed with freshly cooked tagliatelle. Have them for breakfast or a late night snack. Unless you don't like mushrooms, although maybe this recipe would convince you otherwise?

2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (maybe leave them out if having this for breakfast)
250 grams chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Thyme leaves from 3-4 sprigs, chopped
splash Marsala or Madeira
100ml double cream
1/4 porcini mushroom stockcube (optional but desirable)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg

Melt the butter over a medium heat in a frying pan. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute until the scent rises. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened, then stir in the thyme leaves. When the mushrooms are very nearly done, turn up the heat and pour in the Marsala. Let it bubble, and when the alcoholic fumes have evaporated, add the cream and crumble over the stock cube, if using. When the cream has thickened and is clinging to the 'shrooms, take of the heat and season with pepper and nutmeg, and salt if you haven't used the stock cube.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Baking Powder Biscuits

Biscuits as in the USA meaning, not the British sweet things to have with tea. Have them with an American-style breakfast, or with a gumbo, as I did. Leslie Forbes suggests serving them in place of cornbread, or using the dough as a crust for chicken or beef stews.

350 grams plain white flour
4 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
4 1/2 tsp butter or shortening
125 ml milk

Preheat oven to 220 degrees, and line a baking sheet. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, stir in the salt and sugar. With a knife, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir the milk in, a little at a time, until it is just sticking together. Pat into a ball and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1.5 cm. Cut into 5cm rounds with a pastry cutter. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until pale gold and risen. Eat them hot with butter.

Gumbo z'Herbes

oI don't know too much about Louisianian cookery, although it's on my ever-growing list of cuisines to explore. The Gumbo Pages is a wonderful source, it's saved me from buying yet more recipe books and my bookshelves from completely collapsing under the weight of said books. Remarkable Feasts by Leslie Forbes is the only book I own with Cajun/Creole recipes, and the recipe below is basically the same as hers, with a few small differences. I think this lovely book is sadly out of print, so if you see it, buy it.

There are many, many types of gumbo, probably each having their own personal recipe, so the search for the 'proper' way to make one is fruitless. What unites this type of gumbo is the roux, the oil and flour thickener that each gumbo starts with. Unlike the French roux that you would use to make a bechemal sauce, oil or bacon fat can be used instead of butter, and you cook the flour in the hot fat until it is browned. Watch out for burns, not for nothing is it known as Cajun Napalm.

Looking at various recipes online, it seems the inclusion of a ham hock is common in a gumbo z'herbes. Leslie Forbes uses pickled pork instead, which you make yourself by macerating spare ribs in cider vinegar and spices for 24 hours. If you don't have the time or the inclination to start your cooking a day in advance, I'd advise adding a ham hock to the soup at the time that you would have added the pork.

For the pickled pork:
500 grams spare ribs
2-3 tbsps black peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsps sea salt
1 dried bay leaf, crumbled
2 dried chillies, crumbled
Cider vinegar, to cover

Put the ribs and spices in a non-reactive container (i.e. glass or plastic), and cover with the vinegar. Cover, and leave for at least 24 and up to 48 hours in the fridge.

For the soup:
3 tbsp clarified butter, oil or bacon fat
3 tbsp flour
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
250 grams spinach, trimmed
250 grams spring greens/ kale, trimmed
1 pint chicken stock
500 grams pickled pork, rinsed and patted dry
1 clove
1 tsp allspice berries
2 tsp cayenne
Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper, to finish

In a large pot heat the butter, oil or fat. Add the flour and cook until lightly browned, stirring all the time. Add the onion, garlic and pepper and cook until they are softened and coated in the floury mixture. Add the spinach and greens, and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on until they have wilted down. Puree the mixture- easier with a free-standing blender or food processor, but less washing with a hand held blender. Return the gloriously green mixture to pan (if using blender or food processor) and add the pickled pork, clove, cayenne and allspice. Simmer for at least an hour until the meat can be removed from the bone with minimal persuasion. Serve over rice, or with buttered biscuits.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tarte de Cambrai

The title suggests something far fancier than the pears-in-batter pudding that it actually is. It's lucky, then, that fanciness is not a quality I am worried about when cooking, otherwise simpler pleasures such as this may have escaped me. Apart from the fruit, everything in the recipe is a store cupboard ingredient, meaning you only have to do some minimal shopping followed by some chopping and light stirring to make a comforting, sleep-inducing pudding.

The recipe comes from Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, which I urge anyone with even a fleeting interest in cooking to read.

* Update- 14/10/15*

I make this pudding quite a lot, it is easy to make, I am likely to have all the ingredients in store. I have experimented with changing the fruit too I think pear is still my favourite, but blueberries are a close second. One change that I have made that I am sticking to is to use melted butter instead of oil-the flavour is better.

4 large pears
1 tbsp lemon juice 
10 tbsp self raising flour
8 tbsp vanilla sugar, or caster sugar and a tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp oil (or melted butter, see update)
2 eggs
8 tbsp milk
60 grams unsalted butter
extra sugar to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and grease and line a 25cm cake tin or flan dish. Peel, core and slice the pears, put in a container, sprinkle over the lemon juice, turning them over so they are coated. Mix together the flour and sugar in a bowl, then stir in the oil. Beat in the eggs, and then the milk. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and lay the pears over. Dot with the butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 50 minutes till slightly puffy and browned. Serve warm with cream.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Sour Cherry Brownies

Fruit and chocolate is a combination I'm not usually a fan of. The texture of most fruits, I feel, clashes horribly with the chocolate's, most of all in the of case the unreasonably popular chocolate-coated strawberries. Dried fruit works better, and banana I quite like, but generally I'll avoid recipes that suggest mixing the two. So why this recipe? Well, the gooey consistency of the brownies melds well with the cherries, and the sour cherries are strongly flavoured enough to withstand the dark intensity of the chocolate. The cherries come from a jar, unless you grow your own or know somebody who does, fresh sour cherries are hard to come by in the UK. I add the juice from the jar to the brownie batter, but if you have some Kirsch knocking around, that would be an excellent addition too.
If you want to make plain brownies, leave out the cherries and substitute vanilla essence for the juice. The basic brownie recipe comes by way of Sue-L, a poster on the BBC Food Messageboard.

200 grams butter
200 grams plain chocolate
600 grams caster sugar
4 eggs, large
250 grams plain flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
200 grams bottled sour cherries, plus 3 tbsp of the juice.

Preheat oven to 180C, Gas 4
Prepare a small rectangular roasting tin or oven proof dish approximately 8 x 12" (20x30cm). Melt the butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water. Cool slightly. Stir in the sugar and juice from the cherry jar.Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until well blended each time.
Add the flour and cocoa and beat for about 1 minute, until smooth. Fold in the cherries. Pour into prepared tin, and bake for about 40 - 50 minutes. The mixture needs to be just cooked, so start testing with a cocktail stick at about 35 minutes - it should have moist crumbs, but not wet batter, still clinging to it.
Cool in tin until cool enough to handle, then turn out and leave until completely cold before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Chorizo and Tomato Rice with Goat's Cheese

The title I've given this dish is rather dull, but I promise it tastes anything but. It's something I first cooked in my first year of university, and have since adopted it as one of my fall-back recipes when I can't decide what I want to cook or eat. The sort of goat's cheese I use is the very ordinary soft log that is easily obtainable in the supermarket, it goes well here, a soft, cool contrast to the heat of the chorizo.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Approx. 100 grams cooking chorizo, sliced into thickish rounds
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tin tomatoes
Strip of zest from orange, plus juice of half the orange
1 can tomatoes
Dash white wine- optional
100 grams basmati rice
To finish:
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaf
30 grams soft goats cheese

On a medium heat, warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan that has a fitting lid. Add the onions to the pan and cook for around 5 minutes until soft. Put in the garlic and cook for another minute. Turn the heat up and add the chorizo. Cook until slightly crispy and the paprika-spiked oil starts to run. Add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and coriander, cook for 30 seconds before tipping in the tinned tomatoes. If they are whole, break them up with a spoon in the pan. Add the zest and juice from the orange, plus the wine if using. Let everything simmer for a few minutes, season with salt and pepper. Stir in the rice and add 100ml water. As soon as the liquid starts to bubble hard, turn the heat down immediately to the lowest setting and clamp the lid on. Leave it alone for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, you can crumble up the goats cheese and chop the coriander and do any clearing up. Once the time is up, take off the heat and fork through the coriander. Decant into a bowl, sprinkle over the goats cheese and eat.
Serves 1.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pear and Walnut Loaf Cake

After the success of the hazelnut loaf cake, I was spurred on to play around with the recipe, using the original as a base. As I had some Nocino,an Italian walnut liqueur knocking around I decided to do a version using walnuts in place of the hazelnuts, and the Nocino in the place of the Frangelico. Plums were my original idea for the topping, but my local grocer had some lovely looking pears, so I swayed course. I very much enjoyed the result, but the next time I bake this I'll use a round, shallower cake tin, to increase each slice's pear-to-sponge ratio. For me, the cake evokes all the best things about autumn. If you're feeling down because summer is drawing to a close, this recipe will help you welcome the coming season.

200 grams walnuts
125 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
225 grams sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
250 grams greek yogurt
2 tbsps Nocino (optional)
225 grams self raising flour
pinch salt
1 large pear, quartered then sliced
2 tbsp demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade, line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan until they start to smell fragrant and the skins begin to flake. Take off the heat, let them cool for a few minutes, then finely grind in a food processor.
Combine the flour, salt and ground nuts in a bowl.Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one, and then add in the yogurt and Nocino. Fold in the dry ingredients, then pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Arrange the pear slices on top, then sprinkle the demerara sugar on top of the fruit. Bake for around 45 minutes until a knife or skewer comes out cleanly.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Honey and Stem Ginger Poached Peaches

A very easy pudding, very nearly, but not quite, a store-cupboard recipe. It's also a good way of using peaches or nectarines that will never reach their full luscious potential, i.e. most of the ones available in the UK.

4 peaches or nectarines
500ml water
Juice of 1/2 an orange, plus strip of orange zest
100g runny honey- something fragrant such as orange blossom variety
3 tbsp ginger syrup, from a jar of stem ginger

To serve
1 piece stem ginger, sliced into matchsticks
Raspberries (optional)
Flaked almonds 

Put the water, orange zest and juice, honey and ginger syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan that is large enough to accommodate the peaches later. Heat gently, just to dissolve the honey into the water.  Add the peaches and bring the pan to a gentle simmer. Poach for about 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time until tender. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and allow to cool slightly. When you can handle them, slip off the skins- they should come off easily- and cut into halves, removing the stone. If you've started with hard fruit it can be impossible to do this cleanly. In this case, cut the peach into eighths instead slicing it off the stone. Put in your serving dish. Now put the syrup back on a high heat, and reduce until you have about 100ml of liquid left. Let this cool for a few minutes, then pour over the peaches through a sieve to remove the zest and any errant orange pips. The peel ends up almost candied, and you can eat it as it is- chef's perks. When you are ready to eat toast the almonds in a dry frying pan and and scatter on top, with the stem ginger and raspberries (if using). It should be served cool, not chilled, and ideally with ice cream. Over-refrigeration is the death of too many puddings. You can make it in advance, just make sure you take it out of the fridge a few hours before eating.
Serves 4.

Linguine alla Puttanesca

Several hours of journeying later, I'm back from Croatia. Travelling exhausts me, and the food solution is to either eat a rich and comforting meal to lull you into a stupor, or go the other way and have something fiery to jolt you back to normality. Having had a week of food without masses of flavour, I opted for the latter. I hovered around making a curry, but settled on pasta puttanesca as it required a little less thinking and a shorter shopping list.
There are probably endless variations to making this sauce, and I'll throw in my own. Onions aren't often included, I like them, but by all means leave them out. By the same token, I'll sometimes add fennel seeds. I think they work well, but they aren't authentic. Spaghetti is the usual pasta shape for the sauce, I just happened to have linguine to hand.
As with other garlicky pasta sauces, Parmesan wouldn't be served alongside puttanesca in Italy. I do prefer it cheeseless- something I rarely say- but you already have the saltiness from the olives and the anchovies so to add parmesan can be overkill. Bear this in mind when seasoning at the end, you may not want to add salt at all. Adding parmesan also tones down the punchiness of the dish, which I feel somewhat defeats the point of puttanesca, The Whore's Sauce.

½ onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 anchovy fillets
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 tsp chilli flakes
fennel seeds (optional)
palmful capers, chopped
palmful black olives, stoned and chopped
300grams pasta

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta, when it reaches boiling point, add salt and the pasta, cook until al dente. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan or deep frying pan, then add the onion. Cook over a medium heat until softened. Add the garlic, cook for about 1 minute, then add the anchovies. Cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes, oregano, chilli flakes, and the fennel seeds if using. Grind in some pepper too. Turn up the heat slightly and simmer for about 5 minutes. Introduce the olives and capers to the sauce, and cook for a couple more minutes. Taste, add salt and pepper if it needs it. Add the (now drained) pasta to the pan of sauce, toss until thoroughly and evenly coated. Divide between plates and serve.
Serves 3 for a main, 4 for a starter

My Favourite Eton Mess

There is some debate whether or not Eton Mess was originally made with strawberries or bananas, I avoid joining in by using raspberries as my fruit of choice. Not technically Eton Mess then, but still a mix of fruit, cream and meringue. Hopefully any purists out there will forgive my abuse of the title.
I use a combination I have already enthused about, raspberries with rosewater. Leave out the rosewater of you dislike it, given its bathwater-y tendencies, it's understandable. If you do use it, have a light hand. Less is definitely more. This would serve 4 happily. In my house we finished in between 3 of us, but we're hopelessly greedy.

284ml double cream
icing sugar
punnet raspberries
1-2 tsps rosewater
4 meringue nests

Put half the raspberries in a wide shallow dish, and sieve a thin layer of icing sugar on top. Beat the cream until it forms soft peaks. With the back of a spoon, push the icing sugar'd raspberries through a sieve into the cream. Add the rosewater, whole raspberries, the meringues- crumbling with your hands into pieces as they go in- and gently fold in. The amount you combine it depends if you want a uniform pink, or a marbled effect. Taste if it needs extra icing sugar or rosewater. Spoon into individual dishes to serve.

Roasted Vegetables with Halloumi

This is one of those fall back recipes I make when I'm too exhausted to think about what I want to eat. It only involves a bit of chopping and it never fails to disappoint. Just the way it looks- red, orange and purple- will cheer you up. It's even better with chunks of cooking chorizo added 15 minutes before the end of cooking time. Feta and goats cheese are delicious variations of the halloumi, I switch when I want to ring the changes. I like the vegetables without cheese, but not necessarily without the chorizo as a side dish to a roast chicken. It's good with lamb too, for no reason other than my tastes I would probably leave out the chorizo but go for some goats cheese on top.

Change the flavourings, by all means. Cumin and coriander seeds, cumin and smoked paprika, a herby mix of oregano, thyme and chilli are all versions I have tried and liked. If I'm cooking for people who don't mind being more hands on with their food, I'll add some whole, unpeeled garlic cloves which soften and mellow in their skin.

Note-I use two oven dishes for this, so the vegetables roast properly.

500g new potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium red onion
3-4 tomatoes
1 pepper (any colour except green)
fennel seeds
chilli flakes
olive oil
1 block halloumi, sliced

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Centigrade. Cut up the new potatoes into chunks. Peel the sweet potatoes, cut into slightly larger chunks then the new potatoes. Peel and slice the red onion, halve  the tomatoes, cut the pepper into strips. Put in a roasting dish, slick with olive oil. Sprinkle over about a teaspoon each of the fennel seeds and chilli flakes, along with some salt and pepper. Divide the contents between another dish if you need to- the vegetables should be in one layer.

Roast for about 40 minutes, turning when needed. Keep an eye on them to make sure they aren't cooking too quickly. Once you are satisfied they are cooked, consolidate all the vegetables into one pan, put the sliced halloumi on top, turn the heat up to 220, and cook until the cheese is browned.
Serve with a green salad, and maybe some nice bread.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Croatia, Final Days

There was no post for yesterday as I had spent a long day in Montenegro, and was too tired to write anything worth reading. We didn't really eat out anyway. I also couldn't bring myself to break the nice continuity of the titles for eating out in Croatia.
We were recommended to try a specific restaurant in Kotor, a town in Montenegro, by the guide. I fact we were recommended it so many times that I was certain there was some sort of deal between tour company and restaurant, that I decided I wanted to choose my own place to eat. The restaurants/ cafes were much the same as you can find it Dubrovnik, a nod towards local dishes mixed with pizza and pasta. We gave this a miss and headed for a busy bakery that you could smell before you saw. I had a panzeroti- for those of you that know your Italian baked goods you'll no doubt have realised that this is very much the same as panzerotti. For those of you that don't know, it's basically a calzone made with a softer, thicker dough. Like Croatia, Montenegro has a lot of Italian influence- it was ruled by the Venetian Republic in the middle ages. I sought shade on the side steps of an orthodox church to eat my snack before heading to the market, a small stretch of stalls by the walls of the city. I picked up a jar of honey, and a bottle of kruškovača, pear liqueur. It was a far cry from the beautiful food markets that I've been to in Spain and Italy- everything bottled comes in reused containers, and the produce is constantly swarmed with bees. But I tried both my purchases before buying and was happy with my choices.
Today, our final full day, we did what you shouldn't- returned to eateries we had already tried. For lunch we just picked up some more pastries from a bakery to eat as and when we wanted. In the evening, we returned to Klarisa, the lovely, if pretentious, courtyard restaurant. I've has rather a lot of seafood this week, so I countered it with a rib-eye steak with a cognac sauce.

To follow, I had what the menu called chocolate cube ("more of a tetrahedron", as remarked by my Dad), with ice cream, and English Sauce (a not too bad attempt at translating crème anglaise). 

Having eaten a very decadent meal out, I do feel a twinge of guilt at my opinion of it. It was nice, certainly. But not brilliant. Perhaps there was too much effort devoted to stacking the meal into turrets and swirls. I suppose it was lacking it flavour,- the steak not quite meaty enough, the pudding not dark and intense enough, everything slightly muted. This meal in particular summerises my feelings towards the food experiences I have had in Croatia- it's all overshadowed by the setting.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Croatia, Day 5

Back to the Old Town. We chose a restaurant on the main square, the Gunduliceva Poljana. Despite the adjacent restaurants' having free tables, Kamanice had a queue, which either suggests good things about the restaurant itself, or the power of the guide book. The menu was incredibly simple, mostly seafood based.
My squid arrived, served as squid should be, hot and crisp, straight from the fryer without any rubberiness. My parents both went for the shrimp risotto- nicely flavoured, but instead of being cooked long enough to achieve the requisite creaminess of risotto, they had stirred some cream in instead. I've never worked out how restaurants do risotto. At home, once you get to the critical point of it being the perfect consistency any further cooking will turn it to mush. The chef here had avoided this by undercooking it, just as bad in my opinion.
We stopped off at an ice cream parlour called Sladolerdarna Dubrovnik. You won't go far here without stumbling across an ice cream shop, but this one is worth a mention because of the charming staff and the sherberty cherry ice cream.