“…he is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”
Before I began this blog, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to say each week. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! If anything, there are far too many delicious treats to discuss in such a small period of time. What is a poor aspiring chef to do?! This week I’ve been focusing on infused oils, spices and sweetened meat. Prepare yourselves for a chapter that will tantalise your taste buds and make you question why you haven’t tried these wonderful recipes before. I guarantee that you’ll never look twice at supermarket bought pesto once you’ve made your own!
Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook, ‘Save with Jamie’ points out the importance of a decent store cupboard or if you’re really lucky, a pantry! Good things to have in stock are; vinegars, oils and selection of dried herbs and spices. You never know when you might need to add a little heat or spiced flavouring to a dish. A few years ago, I discovered chilli oil in lovely, pizza restaurant called The Actress in South East London. A dash of the stuff can really add a bit of life to anything you want! It’s not only great on pizza but brilliant for dipping bread into, marinating meat and even sautéing onions in for a hot chilli con carne or a tasty homemade curry. Now, I’m sure you’re now thinking the same as me, could I infuse other oils? The answer is YES! You can make almost any infused oil you like using both fresh and dried ingredients. Why not try garlic and chilli, rosemary and lemon or even saffron for something really special.
Having done some research, there appears to be some discrepancy between fresh and dried herbs. If you want to make a lot of oil and keep it for some time, you must use dried herbs. Fresh herbs hold a stronger flavour, but can produce unpleasant bacteria if left to sit in the oil for too long, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. Freshly infused oils should be kept in the fridge and must be used within 10-12 days. For dried infused oils, they can be left out. To get the flavour out of the herbs, break them up with a pestle and combine with your desired oil (extra virgin is the best, but sunflower will do nicely) in a saucepan over a low heat. After a few minutes, strain the herbs and decant the now flavoured oil into a pretty glass bottle. You can always add a few strands of said herb into the end product. Personally, I like to keep a small amount of the dried chilli flakes in my oil because I just LOVE chilli but it makes quite a pretty aesthetic too. These oils make a great gift especially at dinner parties or for a thoughtful Christmas present. Stick on a delicately inscribed label and you’re good to go.
Infused oil guideline:
240ml of oil
4tbsp of chilli flakes (or any herb you like!)
2 crushed garlic cloves (optional)
Oils aside, let’s check out the pesto! For a few years now, my mum has been making her own jars of herby, oily goodness and honestly, they’re to die for. Below are the recipes for basil and sundried tomato pesto but once again, you can use the recipe as a framework for whatever flavour you want. Rocket works quite well too. Perhaps you could try a chilli tomato pesto? Oh gosh, I’m off again! Apologies. This is my mother’s own recipe. Keep it secret, keep it safe. This recipe makes one big jar of the good stuff.
Basil Pesto Recipe:
A bag of fresh basil leaves (or a hefty bunch)
50g pine nuts
Half a triangle of grated parmesan cheese
Two garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
¼ pint of good quality oil
After lightly toasting the pine nuts in a saucepan (without any oil), put all the ingredients into a blender and blizz. Check for taste and add a little more salt and pepper if need be. The garlic has a real kick in this, so this isn’t ideal first date food but then again, if you’re both eating it, it shouldn’t be a problem! If you want to try sundried tomato pesto, exchange the bunch of basil for a small tub of sundried tomatoes which you can buy at any deli counter. Jars of sundried tomatoes would work here too if on a tighter budget. Mix the pesto with some cooked pasta and sprinkle with parmesan to serve. Buon appetito!
Now, let us talk of Bristol! This week I spent a little time in this wonderfully historic city and needless to say, I visited some delicious establishments. Honestly, my Instagram was near to breaking point! Tapas is known to be pretty spectacular and I can confidently say, that Bristol’s Bravas is a great little spot to find reasonably priced, intelligent food. The iberico pork was gorgeously succulent, the pedro ximenez (south American sherry) marinated liver with caramelized onions was sensational and the fried aubergines with molasses was a bargain at £2.50 a go. I thoroughly recommend a trip here to anyone looking for some good grub. Oh and try not to stuff yourself silly (unlike myself, classic Emily) as the salted chocolate desert truffles are divine (yes, I managed one in the end!). I must mention here that the only real expense is the alcohol but the house red, described as ‘perfectly gluggable’ goes down swimmingly. If you’re going T-total, order a sparkling elderflower as it’s homemade and so refreshing.
Another place I discovered was the newly opened Grillstock on the triangle. As you can probably guess, there is some serious meat involved in this restaurant. The place is relatively small, and the room is mainly taken up by a long wooden table. Food is ordered at the counter and served on a tray. The food is so tasty and the portion size can only be described as worthy of an episode on man vs. food! I had the pulled pork barbeque plate and oh boy, it was scrumptious. The pork was probably the best I’ve ever eaten. It was so moist and sweet. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I must find out what they used to produce such sweetness! The meat came with homemade slaw, cornbread and fries. Scattered over the tables were the following; BBQ sauce, chilli BBQ sauce and chilli sauce so, I was in heaven! A few friends of mine took on a Grillstock challenge. One wolfed down a tray holding three types of meat which was entitled the smokehouse challenge and the other engulfed an enormous, “lockjaw” burger held together with a carving knife! The evidence of food combat and defeat of such dishes lies below and oh, what proud chaps they were indeed.
I feel it’s time for something light, a light snack that is! As the nights have drawn in closer, it’s almost time to prepare for the frightful (see what I did there) all hallows eve. I’m a big fan of scary films, even more so when the food is good. A while back, Nigella produced a few flavoured popcorn recipes and I really believe they need to be resurfaced. I will be providing both sweet and savoury suggestions to smooth out any controversy amongst popcorn lovers. The latter recipe is from another fellow food blogger and is a solid, sweet toothed choice. Once again, use these recipes as a template. You can add anything you fancy. I might have a go next week making my own, so stay tuned.
Nigella’s Party Popcorn:
I suggest that you use half the amount of salt stated in this recipe. It was a tad too salty for little old me.
Not quite Nigella:
Finally, we reach the grand finale and a cheeky cocktail is in order! As far as I am concerned, all cocktails should be cheeky so this badboy (kill yourself, I know) is perfect. I first sampled this in a pizza restaurant called The Hill in Bristol, once again. It’s called a gingerbread martini and is ideally consumed in number, by a fire and with a group of merry friends. This recipe serves two martini glass servings.
1/2 shot of vodka (Russian standard is the best)
One shot of baileys
One shot of Kahlua
A dash of gingerbread syrup
A little milk
Sprinkling of cinnamon for presentation
That’s all for this week folks! I hope these recipes have got you thinking about your next culinary adventure. A note to close friends of mine, you’re all getting infused oil for the foreseeable gift giving future. You lucky, lucky people! I know there was quite a bit of reading this week but I just couldn’t help myself. I’m most definitely on a mission to test some meat sweetening recipes now. Expect more cake next week and a detailed blog on the moment I met Miss Rachel Khoo at her newest book signing at Harrods this Thursday. She was truly wonderful.
Before I go, I must reference a few people (the old university student in me eh?). Firstly, a BIG thank you to the lovely Grace Jenkins who has been taking some wonderful foodie snaps for this blog. She took the main cover image which stands hands and feet over my Instagram photos! If you would like to get hold of Grace for photography here is her website: www.gracejenkins.co.uk. I’ve known her for over fifteen years and she’s great with a lens. Secondly, the restaurants I’ve mentioned are all on twitter and have their own sites. Click on the links below to get to them. Lastly, if you fancy looking at my Instagram which is regularly updated with food and furry animals, add me on EKCWELLS and if that’s simply not enough, my twitter is @BlitheringTwit.
Lots of love,