Monday, 27 June 2016

Euro 2016 Cook Off

written by Dee

Not long after the start of the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament, I came up with the idea of cooking a meal for each of the 24 nations taking part.

It took quite a lot of planning, certainly more than I had anticipated, and the shopping lists for the time that I was working on the project were, shall I say…a little longer than usual.  The cooking also took more time than I expected, and I had to be disciplined in sticking to the schedule that I had drawn up.

These aren’t Jay’s or my recipes.  I was under too much pressure time-wise to design, test and write them, though we have given a few of them our own ‘flourishes’ here and there.

The meals weren’t prepared in any particular order.  It was just a case of browsing through recipe books and folders to see what fitted in where, but now that they are all completed, I have sorted them out into groups which corresponding to the groups at the start of the tournament.

Group A

Switzerland:  Bircher Muesli
Breakfast dish of oats mixed with yoghurt and grated apple, garnished with chopped apricots and cranberries.

France:  Chicken and Fennel Gratin
The chicken and fennel were baked in a Bechamel sauce which was enriched with mustard and cayenne pepper. Served with a portion of extra crusty Epi bread and red lettuce, and a nice glass of Chardonnay which was on offer at the offie up the road.

Romania:  Mititei (Little Ones)  
Romanian street food dish of skinless sausages, served with a mustard mayo dipping sauce.

Albania:  Spinach Byrek  
Chopped cooked spinach sandwiched between 20 layers of filo pastry and baked. Served with yoghurt and a salad of tomatoes, cucumber and carrot.

Group B

Wales:  Crempogs
 Small Buttermilk Pancakes served in a stack and drizzled with butter.

Slovakia:  Poppy Seed Roll  
Lovely sweet, seedy and nutty loaf cake

England:  Pan Fried Black Pudding and Apple  
Served on Mustard Mash with Kale on the side and some of our home made Apple Chutney.  The drink is Fizzy Elderflower Cordial.

Russia:  Beef Strogonov  
Served almost the authentic way, though I had to use oven chips rather than matchstick fried potatoes as I was pushed for time.

Group C

Germany:  Bratkartoffeln (German Fries)  
Fried potatoes with ketchup, mayo and mustard. Garlic mushrooms and sliced gherkin on the side.

Poland:  Spicy Pork Meatballs  
Served on a bed of mashed potatoes, with a cream cheese sauce, and Polish beer too.

Northern Ireland:  Ulster Fry  
This fed me for breakfast and lunch

Ukraine:  Yoghurt Drop Scones (Oladky)
Enjoyed these for breakfast, served with yoghurt and apricot jam.

Group D

Croatia:  Jam Pastry Crescents  
These were supposed to have Plum Jam in them but I couldn't find any of that so used strawberry jam instead. Great with a cup of coffee. I didn't eat all the ones in the picture in one go.

Spain:  Pan con Tomate and Tomato & Chorizo Salad 
Two dishes for Spain as they are only small Tapas style bites. Pan con Tomate is toasted bread with garlic and then tomato rubbed into it. The salad combines raw cherry tomatoes with cooked chorizo and a dressing.

Czech Republic:  Czech Lunch time platter  
Featuring: Bread, pickled onions and gherkins, Prague Ham, Liptauer Cheese and of course Czech Lager (This was lunch for two people, not just me).

Turkey:  Imam Bayildi (Swooning Imam)  
Aubergine slow cooked in lots of yummy sweet and spicy tomato sauce. A few black olives and a red chilli on the side.

Group E

Italy:  Penne alla Sorrentina  
A lovely pasta bake made with a cheese and tomato sauce and a crispy topping of parmesan and breadcrumbs.

Republic of Ireland:  Kale and Cashel Blue Cheese Soup  
Served with a soda farl.

Sweden:  Dill and Mustard coated Salmon with Potato Salad and Watercress

Belgium:  Cherry and Almond Cake  
Simple but effective lunch of a slice...ok, a chunk ;-) of fruit cake, some crumbly white cheese and an apple

Group F

Hungary:  Goulash (Gulyas)  
Beef slow cooked in a stew of tomatoes, onions and peppers, seasoned with lots of Paprika.

Iceland:  Fiskibollur (Icelandic Fish Balls) 
Served with a potato, watercress and dill salad and tomato sauce to dip the fish balls in.

Portugal:  Tomato and Garlic Soup (Sopa de alho com tomat) with Cornbread (Broa) 
A Simple lunch prepared with just a few ingredients to produce some great flavours. Served with a bowl of olives on the side.

Austria:  Pork Schnitzel  
Served with Potato, Apple and Celery Salad, accompanied by some excellent Austrian Rose Wine.

So there they are.  All done and completed before the end of the competition, which I was very pleased about.  It’s been a very hectic couple of weeks of planning and cooking, and we now have a freezer full of leftovers which will feed us for at least another week, but it’s been fun.  Would I do this again?  Maybe one for the next World Cup might be fun, but that will have 32 countries taking part so would need a lot more preparation.  Anyway, that’s not until 2018 and I’m bound to have several other projects on the go by then.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Tasting Jerusalem #37 – Pepper Flakes

Dee – June’s featured ingredient for Tasting Jerusalem was Middle Eastern Pepper Flakes, and our community were encouraged to try out the different types of dried and flaked peppers that are available in the region:  Aleppo, Urfa, Marash, and Antebi.  Unfortunately this proved difficult due to the problem of dried pepper flakes, as opposed to dried chilli flakes, not being all that easy to find over in England.  The only ones that are available are either the Turkish ‘Pul Biber’, or generically labelled ‘red pepper flakes’, which I believe are also Pul Biber as they look identical.  This put me at a disadvantage when attempting to examine the ingredient in detail, but nevertheless I managed to create something that I feel is at least blog-worthy.

The pepper flakes are the product of red peppers being semi dried with occasionally salt being added, deseeded and crushed.  They differ from crushed chillies as they do not contain seeds or inner flesh, and have an oilier and slightly fruity taste and much more vivid red colour.  I believe that the Pul Biber mentioned above are made from Aleppo Pepper, named after a city in Syria, and produced in Syria and Turkey.

A second hurdle presented itself while I was searching through the Jerusalem recipe book to select something to cook, as the Pepper Flakes, under the name of Pul Biber, only appear in one recipe: the Conchiglie with Yoghurt, Peas and Chilli, which we had already made in May 2015 for Tasting Jerusalem #11 (click here for details). 

We needed to look beyond the Jerusalem recipe book again, but fortunately, I knew exactly where to select the recipe from.

Sabrina Ghayour has written two best-selling recipe books, Persiana and Sirocco, inspired by Persian, Eastern Mediterranean and North African cuisines and uses Pul Biber extensively in her recipes.  Although she does not specifically reference Jerusalem in the commentary accompanying the recipes, a large number of them would not be out of place at all in a restaurant or home in any of the communities within the city.

Vine Baked Feta
I chose to showcase the pepper flakes using one of Sabrina’s best known dishes, which she used to serve to guests at her supper clubs.  It is a simple but very effective preparation of a block of feta which is garnished, wrapped in vine leaves and baked in the oven.  The Pul Biber is used in the garnishing stage, where it is sprinkled onto the cheese before it is wrapped in the vine leaves.  For such a great tasting dish it is far more photogenic in its early stages, so here it is prior to being wrapped in the vine leaves;
Once out of the oven the feta softens and takes on the flavours of the garnishes.  The vine leaves I used to wrap the cheese were preserved in brine, adding more saltiness to the already salty feta, so can be discarded, but in a slight variation to the published recipe, I like to wrap the whole lot in foil before baking it to preserve the vine leaves, which I eat along with the cheese.
The picture above shows the vine baked feta in the context of a whole meal.  Accompanying it were some home-made flatbreads which had a lovely soft chewy texture, ideal for eating with the Feta, and some Semolina Crusted Aubergines with Honey and a Carrot, Tahini and Hazelnut Salad with Mint.  The Aubergines and Salad were also Sabrina’s recipes, although we baked the aubergines rather than deep frying them.
It was a very enjoyable meal, but we only made enough of the feta for one serving each.  There are flatbreads, salad and aubergines left which can feed us for lunch tomorrow.

As often happens with the Tasting Jerusalem project, featured ingredients make surprise comebacks, and I will definitely be keeping a look out for Urfa, Marash and Antebi Pepper as I would be very interested to see how they taste in relation to the Pul Biber, and if I find any I will give them a mention.

“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  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 web site)

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Birmingham Foodies Festival 2016

Reviewed by Dee

After enjoying the 2015 Foodies Festival (click here for details), we decided to book tickets for 2016s.  Visitors were promised Presentations from Chefs, Pop Up Restaurants, Food and Drink Masterclasses, and a number of stalls offering street food, which we were especially interested in.
When we arrived, at about 11.45, there was a small queue, but it appeared to be well managed and we didn’t have to wait too long before we were inside.

We’d booked early so tickets were £17 for two, including a goodie bag and show guide.  The contents of the goodie bag are pictured below;

The show guide was all colour and included recipes from some of the featured chefs, together with contact details for some of the exhibitors and a list of the masterclasses.

After a quick walk around the festival site, we were ready to visit the first stall.

Indian Street Food (no contact details available)
Chicken Tuk a Tuk:  £7
This was our first plate of food.  Served on a naan bread made on-site in a portable tandoor oven.  This was a great dish to start to the day.  The chicken was cooked in a mild and aromatic sauce and garnished with chopped peppers, red onion and raita.  The naan bread soaked up some of the sauce, making every bite full of flavour.  After we finished this I wondered if we’d peaked early, but it turned out that there was plenty more good stuff to come.

Pork Box:  £8
The second choice was Jay’s:  A boxed meal which included Maple Glazed Rib and several chunks of belly pork, together with two types of coleslaw and a piece of corn on the cob.  As messy and meaty as you can imagine.  A great barbeque taste that wasn’t too hot or salty.

Butter Bean and Sweet Potato Curry:  £5
After the first two meat-laden plates of food, we decided to see what the options were for meat-free meals.  On the savoury side there wasn’t a huge range but I was attracted by the Butter Bean and Sweet Potato Curry offered by Coco Labelle.
They were offering a fusion cusine inspired by their Sicilian and Caribbean backgrounds and the curry was rather good and at only £5, a total bargain.  The stew was mild and delicately flavoured with fruit and coconut milk, and came with rice, salad and three different relishes.

Cape Malay Burger:  £6
Cape Lekker were offering South African street food, which included mainly meat based dishes such as burgers, Boerwors sausages and Bobotie.  We chose the Cape Malay Burger, which consisted of a good sized and nicely cooked burger patty served in a large, soft bun with cheese, gherkins, shredded onions and dried apricots.  There was also a home made sauce on top, but this was all soaked up by the bun so I couldn’t taste it, which was a shame.
Jay wasn’t taken with the apricots, but I didn’t mind them, and imagined that they would have gone down very well with a hot and fruity sauce.

Spam Fries:  free sample
We couldn’t leave out the sample of Spam fries that we tried while browsing the stalls.  The Spam company were going for the marketing and promotion in a big way and were hosting cookery demonstrations (spambled eggs anyone?), tastings and a food truck from which they were making the aforementioned fries, which were basically made from spam which had been cut into chips and dry fried.  After only ever eating it raw in the past, I was impressed with how it tasted cooked, and after the festival we bought a tin of it to experiment with.  Local business Pip's Hot Sauce also had a stall at the festival, so I bought some of their Kick Ass Ketchup to enjoy with the spam fries.  We’re too full to cook them for tea tonight, but will be enjoying this combination soon.

Traditional Flapjack:  £2
As soon as I saw that there was a Flapjack stall at the festival, I was in no doubt about where I would be getting dessert from.  This Devon based business sell flapjacks in a huge variety of flavours, including some rather intriguing savoury types.
I’m very fussy about my flapjacks, so decided to see how their base recipe stacked up.  My £2 got me a very generous slice and I am pleased to say that it was very good.  Crumbly, though not overly so, with the right balance of quality oats, syrup and butter.
Future visits to this stall, if I see it again, will include Devon Cream Tea, Smoked Chocolate and Sea Salt, and I may have to try out the Devon Cheddar and Chilli.

Chocolate and Churros (no contact details available)
Churros and Chocolate:  £4
These were Jay’s choice.  Crunchy deep fried batter dusted with sugar and cinnamon, served with chocolate sauce - yum.  By this time I was getting close to full so I only had two or three, while Jay finished them off.

At about 2pm we were both happily full, and with the festival starting to fill up and queues building at most of the stalls, we decided to call it a day, but before we left the site we had one final stall to visit.

The Silent Pool gin distillery is based in Surrey, at a site near a spring-fed pool, which supplies the water for their gin.  We had a small sample earlier on in the afternoon, and were impressed with the pronounced juniper flavour and more subtle spices such as citrus, coriander seed and kaffir lime leaves.  The gin was on offer for £35 so we bought a bottle.  I look forward to trying a glass with a fresh kaffir lime leaf garnish.

And that was our 2016 Foodies Festival.  There was plenty more going on than we have covered but we could only sample so much of it. 
As we left there were still people arriving, and with it carrying on tomorrow, it looks like it is a continuing success story in its Cannon Hill Park home.