Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tasting Jerusalem #36 – Matbucha

Dee –March’s Tasting Jerusalem theme was extended into April, during which time I was struck by an attack of the dreaded writer’s block, so this is the first update in a while.

Matbucha was announced as May 2016’s featured ingredient at the start of the month, and needed a little research, as I hadn’t heard of it before.  I didn’t spot it in the Jerusalem recipe book, but a quick search on-line revealed it to be a spicy tomato and pepper sauce.  The word Matbucha is Arabic, meaning cooked salad, and the recipe has its origins in North Africa, arriving in Jerusalem via Jews from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya who had emigrated to Israel.

As mentioned previously, there isn’t a recipe for it in the Jerusalem recipe book, so I decided to undertake something that we don’t include often in our Tasting Jerusalem project:  A self-designed recipe.

I wanted the Matbucha to be the focus of the recipe, so included a couple of optional garnishes with it.  The finished product would work well as part of a Meze, where Matbucha now appears in Israeli cuisine.

The original recipe was written on a scrap of paper as I prepared it, and I was careful to keep my notes decipherable, but the challenge is to see if I can present them in a way that will make sense to others, should they wish to try it.  Let’s see how we get on…

Matbucha with Shallot, Chickpea & Potato Hash
(Serves 4)

For the Matbucha
2 Red Bell Peppers, halved lengthways, seeds removed
1 Red Onion, peeled and finely chopped
5 Garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Red Chillies, halved lengthways, deseeded and finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Paprika (not smoked)
400g Tinned Tomatoes
4 Medium fresh Tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

-Place the halves of pepper under a preheated grill and leave them under until the skins turn black
-Remove them from the grill and place them in a food bag.  Tie it up and leave to cool.
-While the peppers are cooling, heat some oil in a frying pan and add the onion.  Fry until softened.
-When the onion has softened, add the garlic and chillies and cook for another couple of minutes.
-Add the paprika and stir to coat the onion mixture.
-Blitz the tinned tomatoes in a food processor, add them to the pan and stir the mixture to combine.
-Add the chopped fresh tomatoes and stir again.
-Remove the peppers from the bag, peel away the skins, chop the flesh into small chunks and add them to the pan.  Stir to combine.
-Let the mixture cook on a low heat until there is no water bubbling up.  It will take at least an hour and needs to be stirred regularly and checked for seasoning.
-Serve warm.

For the Hash
250g Tinned Chick Peas
2 Shallots, peeled and finely chopped
250g Potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes, the same size as the chickpeas
Rapeseed Oil
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

-Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/425F/218C
-Parboil the potatoes for around 5 minutes, then drain and coat them in rapeseed oil and season them with salt and black pepper.
-Put them in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.
-While the potatoes are cooking, fry the shallots in a little oil on a low heat until the edges are just starting to char.
-Once the potatoes and shallots are cooked, just before serving, mix them together with the chick peas in a large frying pan and warm the mixture through.  Check for seasoning before serving.
-Serve warm

To Serve
Serve on small plates, Matbucha first and the hash on top.  Don’t cover the Matbucha completely.  Leave enough showing for contrasting colours
Garnish with olive oil, herbs, spices of your choice.
In our picture above we used crumbled feta to garnish one dish and a mixture of chopped parsley, olive oil and sumac for the other.  Also shown are a couple of pita breads made with Khorasan flour and White Bread flour.  I included a recipe for Pitas as part of Tasting Jerusalem #29 (click here for details)

I hope this recipe makes sense.  I’m glad I was able to put it into a format that I understood as I was pleased with how it turned out.  Perhaps next time I will add more chilli but that’s just my own preference.  It is fully flavoursome and tasty without the extra heat.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the omgyummy.com web site)

Monday, 23 May 2016

A Feast for Eurovision 2016

Dee - I've had the dreaded Writer's Block recently, which is why this blog entry is only appearing now, nearly a fortnight after Eurovision final night.  With this particular entry, it's quite possible that I just tied myself up in knots during the planning stages.  It wouldn't be the first time I've done that, but anyway, that's what happened.  

This year's Feast for Eurovision is made up of three parts:  There were two semi finals shown in the week leading up to the main event, and we weren't going to miss those so decided to cook themed meals to accompany them.  For these, we looked to a fellow food blogger and Eurovision fan Jason, of Don't Boil the Sauce  Over the past year he had been working on a 'Chow Down to Eurovision' project, which consisted of selected recipes from all of the competing countries.  Jay and me had been enjoying following it and were impressed with some of the recipes, so decided that we would cook our favourite main courses and desserts for each semi final.  

Semi Final One
Jay's Favourite Main Course:  Chicken with 40 Garlic Clove Sauce (France)
Dee's Favourite Dessert:  Rote Grutze (Germany)

Semi Final Two
Dee's Favourite Main Course:  Patates me Avga (Greece)
Jay's Favourite Dessert:  Apple Cake (should have been Rhubarb Cake but we couldn't get any Rhubarb) (Lithuania)

As with last year's Feast for Eurovision, we based our meal for the final on the cuisine of the host nation.  Last year it was Austria (click here for details) and this year it was Sweden.
We wanted to do something other than Meatballs, so looked instead to our recipe books and files, and found enough information to get us started.

For the starters we made Janssen's Temptation, from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage Year.  We'd made this simple baked dish of anchovies, onions, potatoes and cream a few times, and served it alongside a few Knackebrod flatbreads, using a recipe from the book most responsible for inspiring me to bake my own bread:  'Bread' by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.

The main course wasn't created from any published recipes.  We cooked Venision Sausages which were the closest we could get to Reindeer Sausages, and they were accompanied by a Mustard-Dill-Cream sauce, Hasselback Potatoes and a dressed salad.

Dessert was another of my own creations:  Saffron and Cardamom Buns, which we ate with some jam and cream.  We couldn't get Lingonberry Jam so had to use Strawberry.  If I make these buns next time I must remember to use less saffron as it overpowered everything else.

On the whole it was an enjoyable meal, which would have possibly been better with some Swedish craft beer, but we weren't organised enough to seek any out.

We will definitely be returning next year with a menu from the 2017 host nation: Ukraine.

The semis will have a slightly different arrangement, as the format of Jason's Chow Down to Eurovision has changed, so we will instead be putting together menus from the cuisines of the countries of our favourite songs, and they will be Belgium and Bulgaria.

With that, it's over and out for Eurovision 2016, and here's to more great food and entertainment next year. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Gin Tasting at the Drinks Emporium, Birmingham, 5th May 2016

It has been a while since we last wrote about gin, so we decided to put that right with a visit to a tasting evening organised by Birmingham's Drinks Emporium. 
We had not long discovered the shop, visiting for the first time a few weeks ago after passing it innumerable times on our way into and out of the city centre.  The Drinks Emporium sells a wide range of wines, beers and spirits, and they hold tasting events on a roughly monthly basis.

The event was delivered, by James Goggin, Portfolio Ambassador for Maverick Drinks, a spirits distributor based in the UK and focusing on craft spirits with a strong emphasis on quality over quantity.

Eight different gins were offered for tasting, and a plate of cheese cubes and breadsticks were provided for additional nibbles.  It was nice to see the Drinks Emporium staff getting fully involved with the proceedings, and the atmosphere throughout the evening was relaxed and friendly, helped a lot by the pleasant spring weather.

After the obligatory photographing of the bottles which were to be providing the samples, we took our places at the neatly laid out table.

Gin #1:  Cream Gin
Cold distilled with fresh cream included as one of its botanicals.  Recommended for use in cocktails, in particular the Black Cat’s Martini, a speciality of London’s Worship Street Whistling Shop, which gives its name to the gin.
Distillery:  Worship Street Whistling Shop
Tasting Notes said:  (from Master of Malt.com) Nose: Rich, full-fat cream with a heavy whack of vanilla, though citrus notes of orange and lemon make themselves apparent.  Palate: Creamy and thick with lactic richness.  Finish: Sweet, creamy, and moreish.
Dee said:  Cold distillation gave this gin a fresh, clean aroma, which was strong in juniper and slightly sweet.  Further sweetness in the taste with a distinctive smoothness and pronounced vanilla flavour.  This gin is marketed as a mixer, and it would be ok with a tonic, but I rather enjoyed it on its own and wondered if adding tonic would take away its character.

Gin #2:  Bathtub Gin
Maverick Drinks’ biggest seller, and a long-time favourite of mine.  Probably the best known of the gins we tasted this evening.
Distillery:  Professor Cornelius Ampleforth, via Master of Malt
Tasting Notes said:  (from Master of Malt.com) Nose: An initially Juniper-rich bouquet is backed up with a solid backbone of rich grain spirit. Top notes of Cardamom and Orange blossom are evident with just a suggestion of Cinnamon. 
Palate: The initial focus is Juniper, but the earthier botanicals make themselves known in the initial palate too. Mouthfeel is exceptionally viscous and creamy – this is good spirit, and it makes itself known.
Finish: The Juniper subsides and gives way to the Cardamom and Cinnamon, with a late resurgence from Orange Peel.
Dee said:  Plenty of fruits and spices on the nose, especially coriander seed and cardamom, but also dried mixed herbs.  Dry and spicy to taste, with a big flavour of coriander seeds, with juniper far less in evidence.  OK with tonic but I prefer it neat.

Gin #3:  Breakfast Gin
Made in Chicago by Few Spirits, who make their gins while waiting for their whiskies to age.  This one is intended to add breakfast themed flavours such as Earl Grey tea, jam, butter and marmalade to the gin
Distillery:  Few Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  None available
Dee said:  A very strong aroma of smoked cheese, and in fact went really well with a cube of Red Leicester cheese.  Taste was equally rich and strong with flavours of toasted spices.  I loved it but it didn’t remind me of breakfast.  Not a gin to be adding tonic to.
Jay said:  I was intrigued by this one, being a big fan of Earl Grey and other fragrant teas, and especially as there is a steaming cup of tea of the label, I had high hopes. Whilst it was an interesting gin to try, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Note to self – don’t weigh up what you’re going to be tasting before you taste it!

Gin #4:  Terroir Gin
My favourite gin from last year’s Manchester Gin Festival (click here for details).  San Francisco based St George Spirits was the oldest distillery of the gins we were tasting.  Recommended for mixing with a glass of Green Chartreuse.
Distillery:  St. George Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  An ode to the wild beauty of the Golden State.  Forest-driven and earthy, Terroir is a profoundly aromatic gin with a real sense of place. We wanted to make a spirit that conveyed what we love about the monumental groves of trees, moist and misty glens, and sun-baked chaparral of our favorite local parklands. 
With Terroir Gin, we try to take you there with Douglas fir, California bay laurel, coastal sage, and other evocative botanicals. Sip it and be transported.
Dee said:  Still as fabulous as I remember it.  Both aroma and taste provide a big hit of pine needles, with a secondary hit of rosemary.  It can go with tonic but I prefer to drink it neat, garnished with a crushed rosemary sprig.
Jay said:  Really wasn’t keen on this last time I tried it, as I tend to prefer the more floral gins, but really enjoyed it this time. One of my favourites of the evening in fact.

Gin #5:  Hven Organic Gin
A Swedish craft gin produced in a small distillery, with a strong insistence on organic produce.
Distillery:  Spirit of Hven
Tasting Notes said:  Spirit of Hven organic gin is a true handcrafted distilled gin produced from fresh botanicals which are infused for 24 hours with the finest quality organic grain spirit.
Following infusion, distillation is carried out in the unique copper pot stills of Hven. These stills have long graceful necks which promote the development of the classic Spirit of Hven organic gin profile. The result is an outstanding luxury gin with the delicate aromas and taste of citrus, juniper and grains of paradise. The blended complex that is paramount to Spirit of Hven organic gin is a background of vanilla and spice which combines uniquely with the tradition of juniper.
Dee said:  A very subtle aroma compared to the Terroir.  Faintest hints of oak, oregano and sage.  Very smooth and oily to the taste, with earthy and slightly smoky notes.  The botanicals included two types of peppercorns, though there was no fire at all.  Quite a unique gin but I loved it.
Jay said:  Loved the back story to this one. An ex-chemist turned distiller (living the dream!) with a passion for organic production and ensuring highest quality (he has his own GCMS and makes his own barrels.. love it). A much more subtle gin than the others we tried this evening but a great gin.

Gin #6:  Dry Rye Gin  *Dee's Gin of the Evening*
Described as a Boundary Pusher for St George, this gin is made with dry rye, and flavoured with 50 per cent more juniper than they normally use.  Not suitable for use in a Gin & Tonic, but recommended in a Negroni.
Distillery:  St George Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  A base of 100 per cent pot-distilled rye makes this a gin for whiskey lovers—and for gin im-purists willing to take a walk on the rye side.
Think genever, then think again—and brace yourself for a gin with structure, spice, and an impossibly rich mouthfeel.
We also make a limited-release, barrel-aged version we call Dry Rye Reposado Gin. Rested in French and American oak wine casks, it has a lovely pink hue and a deep, rich flavor that we think of as an offering to the gods of gin, whiskey, and wine!
Dee said:  An aroma of dry toasted grains and a slight smokiness, similar to the Breakfast Gin but with the addition of burnt sugar.  Oily, rich and spicy taste, with hints of barley and corn, almost like an alcoholic syrup.  A nice caramel-like aftertaste.  Wonderful.

Gin #7:  Perry’s Tot Gin
At 57%, this was the strongest gin of the evening.  Made in the centre of Brooklyn, New York.
Distillery:  New York Distilling Co.
Tasting Notes said:  This original Navy Strength Gin – at 57% ABV – is the historical proof at which gunpowder might still be fired should it unfortunately be soaked by spilled spirit.  ‘Tot’, a British measurement for alcohol, gives nod to Navy Strengths roots.  Aromatic and smooth, Perry’s is ideal for the gin aficionado.
Dee said:  A strong aroma of traditional juniper and a hint of citrus.  Juniper was strong again in the taste, with the lemon and orange peel in the background.  The addition of honey gave this gin a certain smoothness.  No problems adding tonic to this one, and it would be fine to use in cocktails too.

Gin #8:  Barrel Aged Gin
The second of two Few Spirits gins that we tasted.  This one had a distinctive whiskey colour, gained from ageing it in whiskey casks.
Distillery:  Few Spirits
Tasting Notes said:  What was once clear, is now complex. Exuding subtle notes of fennel & peppery spices, while a smoky smoothness from the charred barrel permeates the juniper, this barrel-aged spirit tastes like gin, but has the maturity of a bourbon.
Dee said:  Plenty of banana and vanilla in the aroma, with a fainter trace of buttered sweetcorn.  I didn’t get the juniper or fennel that were described as being big presences.  It was Quite smooth in texture, with a complex flavour profile which included toffee, a certain woodiness and even bubblegum.  I wouldn’t add tonic to this one.

Jay - Based on the questions and discussions during the evening there are also a number of gin cocktails we need to try out. Gin cocktails have never really been on my radar, I mean, if you’ve got good gin and good tonic, if its not broke, don’t fix it! However, the enthusiasm with which James was talking about them, honestly, we’ve got to try them.. So we will be seeking out the ingredients for Gimlets, Gibsons and Last Words..

Dee – After the tastings were completed, the evening took a more informal turn, and the bottles were brought back out for attendees to revisit their favourite gins.  I thought was a great way to end the evening, and certainly encouraged people to visit the venue again.

A quick vote was taken on which two gins were peoples’ favourites, and I took a note of the results, which came in as follows;

Cream Gin:  2
Bathtub:  5  
Breakfast:  1
Terroir:  Lots
Hven Organic:  5
Dry Rye:  2
Perry’s Tot:  2
Barrel Aged:  3

On leaving the event, we received a few leaflets detailing future events, and a bottled single measure of Terroir gin, which I drank when we got home but Jay saved.

At £20 a ticket, this really was excellent value for money. , and we will certainly be keeping a look out for future events as well as visiting for drinks purchases.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Breaking Bad Night 2nd May 2016

written by Dee

I wanted to put a Breaking Bad themed menu and accompanying playlist together ever since I finished watching the series over a year ago.  We prepared our first cult television themed menu in March last year, and it was a great success.  That one focused on Twin Peaks (click here for details) and I wanted to do something along the same lines.  
As time passed though, I found myself getting more and more bogged down with the tiniest details.   I was so intent on trying to get everything exactly how I wanted it and making everything from scratch that I over-engineered the whole thing and turned something that was supposed to be fun into a logistical nightmare.  The plans were shelved for a while and they became another project that seemed like a good idea at the time but wasn’t worth the effort.  It wasn’t the first time that I’d done this and I dare say it won’t be the last.  
Earlier this week though I decided to have another look at it.  I dusted off the notes that I’d made and drew up some new plans for a menu which I could enjoy that would look good when photographed and could be shared with as much confidence as I can ever manage to muster up for one of my blog entries.  A recipe shortcut here and a shop-bought ingredient there made it far more manageable, and on Friday night Jay and I sat down to our long-overdue Breaking Bad themed meal.

Starter:  Funyuns with Madrigal Dips
Funyuns are a brand of onion ring crisps, which were part of Jesse Pinkman’s junk food diet throughout the series.  I wasn’t able to get the specific product, but there appeared to be very little difference between them and the onion rings that are available in any supermarket, so I used those.

The Madrigal dips on the other hand, took more careful preparation.  These appear in Season Five, in one of the best known scenes of the series, where the President of the Madrigal Corporation is sampling five dipping sauces which have been developed by scientists working for the corporation’s fast food subsidiary.
The onion rings were perfect with the dips, and I was very happy with how they turned out.  There were five in all, just as there were in the series.  I have summarised below what I used to create each one.

Dip #1: Ketchup.  This was simply shop-bought ketchup.  I was going to make some from scratch but ended up taking the quick and easy route.  It was described in the series as being fairly nondescript so home-made ketchup would have probably been less authentic.
Dip #2:  Mesquite Barbeque:  Ketchup, Chipotle en Adobo, Smoked Paprika, Soft Brown Sugar and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce.
Dip #3:  Cajun Kick-Ass:  Ketchup, Tabasco sauce and Cayenne Pepper
Dip #4:  Honey Mustard:  Mayonnaise, Honey and French’s American Mustard
Dip #5:  ‘Franch’ – a combination of French dressing and Ranch dressing:  Mayonnaise, grated Parmesan cheese, Garlic Powder, Herbes de Provence and a small amount of Tarragon vinegar.

We were planning to serve these with a glass of craft beer, specifically the two themed beers which are produced by Green Duck brewery in Stourbridge, but after having tried both of them in the past, they were quite heavy on the coconut flavour and wouldn’t have been a good match for either the Funyuns or the dips.  It is worth sharing a picture of the beers though, and they are definitely worth sampling when they are available.

Main:  Los Pollos Hermanos style Chicken
One of the best known foods from the whole series is the Chicken ‘slow cooked to perfection’ at the Los Pollos Hermanos fast food restaurant chain run by Gustavo Fring.  Because of this, there was little discussion needed over what the menu’s main course would be.

It took a while to find a suitable fried chicken recipe from the hundreds available on line, but in the end I chose to base it on one presented by Tom Kerridge in his television series from a couple of years ago.  It had all the characteristics that I was looking for:  marinating the chicken overnight, a slow cooking time and a richly coloured finish.  I used sour cream rather than buttermilk to marinate the chicken in, and changed a couple of the herbs and spices that were used to coat the chicken, but I can’t really say that it was ‘my’ recipe.  I was again happy with how it turned out, and served it with sides of coleslaw and roasted sweet potato wedges, which I felt gave a good impression of a fast-food meal.

A glass of crisp, dry white wine made an ideal accompaniment to the main course: White wine being Skyler White's drink of choice.

Dessert:  Waffles with Cajeta
Dessert turned out to be the most difficult course to plan for, as there aren’t all that many mentions of them in the series.  There are plenty of blue crystal themed cakes and sweet treats but I didn’t want to go down that route; mainly because I’m not all that creative as a cook and partly because I wanted to feature, as far as possible, food and drink that was enjoyed by the characters on screen.  In fact, I had to cheat a little by selecting waffles, which were enjoyed by Walt Jr for breakfast rather than after a main meal, but I don’t eat waffles much so decided to include them in this menu.  They needed a sauce or a topping to make them into a complete dessert and while Maple Syrup was the most obvious choice, I decided instead to serve them with Cajeta.

I don’t think Cajeta is featured in the series at all, but it wouldn’t be out of place in New Mexico or any of the eating establishments featured in the series so I went with it.  It is the Mexican version of Dulce de Leche; a caramel sauce made from sweetened and thickened milk and is served with ice cream, shortbread biscuits and churros, and I am pleased to say that it is great with waffles too.

We were going to make Camomile Tea and Soya Milk to serve with the dessert.  This was a drink which appeared in Season Five, as ordered by Lydia Rodarte-Quayle in the Grove CafĂ©, but we didn’t fancy it so decided to leave it off the menu.

The Playlist

Music was perhaps even more prevalent in the series than food, and there were so many great songs featured throughout that it was impossible to fit them all onto just the one soundtrack album, so I found a list of all the music featured in the series and made my own playlist of my favourite tunes.  There is a very eclectic mix here, as there are in all of my playlists.
There is over two hours’ worth of music here, with the songs arranged in chronological order, starting with Season One and ending with Season Five.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Tamacun
Clyde McPhatter – You’re moving me
Darondo – Didn’t I
Fujiya & Miyagi – Uh
10,000 Maniacs – Candy everyone wants
The Motels – Suddenly last Summer
JJ Cale – Anywhere the wind blows
Benny Mardones – Into the Night
Nancy Sinatra – It’s such a pretty world today
Miguel Enriquez y Sus Torrenciales – Nariz Inquieta
Blue Mink – Good Morning Freedom
The Marshall Tucker Band – Heard it in a love song
America – A horse with no name
Buddy Stuart – In the Valley of the Sun
Peder – Timetakesthetimetimetakes
Son of Dave – Shake a Bone
Zoraida Beato – Tus Ojos
The Association – Windy
Alexander – Truth
The Trak Cartel – Up in the Club
Fever Ray – If I had a heart
Ana Tijoux – 1977
Pretty Poison – Catch me I’m falling
The Fixx – Saved by Zero
Walter Wanderley – Crickets sing for Anna Maria
Bang Data – Bang Data
Apollo Sunshine – We are born when we die
Danger Mouse, Daniele Lupi, feat. Norah Jones – Black
Mack Owen – Somebody just like you
The Peddlers – On a clear day you can see forever
Knife Party – Bonfire
The Monkees – Goin’ Down
Tommy James & the Shondells – Crystal Blue Persuasion
Slim Rhodes – Romp and Stomp
Steve Perry – Oh Sherrie
The Limeliters – Take my true love by the hand
April Wine – Sign of the Gypsy Queen
Marty Robbins – El Paso
Badfinger – Baby Blue

So there it is.  Our Breaking Bad themed menu and playlist.