Thursday, 3 December 2009

High On Gift Certificate Money

FORTNUM AND MASON======Always Piccadilly+++++Always A Good Time-------
A big thank you to my great friend and academic mentor Bob Snyder and his wife Sara of Chicago for making this post possible. Surely this was the nicest thing anyone has done for me and mine in a long time! We luv you and miss you Bob and Sara!

Fortnum and Mason of London has been a top institution in the world of fine food halls. If you live in the big smoke or even in the UK proper you already know. If you live elsewhere then you'll have to make the journey.
I got so excited on my first visit that I broke a ceramic teapot worth 80 quid (computer has no pound symbol)! I then got scared (being the American I am assumed I was going to be made to pay for said damaged item) and grabbed Michelle and ran out the store! Michelle then calmed me down and explained that they would never make you pay for such a mistake at a fine establishment such as F&M. Soon as I was calmed I wandered into the fine food heaven that lays beneath the grand ground floor.

I cant write about everything I saw the two days we splurged at F&M because it will be too damn a long post. The following are highlights.

Of course if you know F&M you dont first off think "great produce" as it is more traditionally known for its fine (probably one of the world's best) selection of tea as well as its confectionnary dreamland of temptation. Alas great produce they do have. And in that produce one can find some of the highest quality mushrooms in the whole of London (maybe...I dont know really).

Just look at the display and my bounty:

I simply sauteed these with butter, white wine and garlic and added it to sub par fresh spaghetti with Parmesan and breadcrumb for the most exquisite of cucina povera dinners.

Of course the cheese display is on point. I recommend the Zamrano and the Mimolette as they are some of the best I have found. But you can bet that they have the best of any cheese you want. I cant even begin on the stiltons.

Then we found the baking and cereals section. The flours spices and baking supplies were all high grade of course. But wait... I see something familiar! Is that what I think it is? NO WAY----PANCAKE SYRUP!!!

Any American will be tickled by this:
Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Syrup - only 7 quid (or about 11 bucks american).

Another look around and we found Lucky Charms for 8 pounds.

Not exactly what I would think of as an American delicacy but what ever floats your boat (or island-nation I guess).

And I cant forget my favorite ever (and most expensive ever) leg of cured "aristocratic" pig:

Joselito Serrano Jamon - 18pnds a kilo. I got about 10 slices for 9 bucks but believe me it was worth it. Its not a taste, its an experience man.

I apologize to all the vegetarians. I used to be one too, but I came back to the pig. The pig came back to me.

Ok ------ dont pass up the bottom floor! And dont pass up the Marmalade (Old English Hunt variety is deep and uplifting) or any of the teas --- especially the Smokey Earl Grey. The smokey notes combined with the permeating bergamot oil somehow warms the body and snaps the senses into shape even in the most dreary foggy mornings. I don't need tell you that it is the perfect way to wake up after a hangover.

Okay. I have now realized that this post cant be long enough to do the fantastic cuisine-world of Fortnum and Mason justice but I damn well tried.

Monday, 23 November 2009



This recipe is an instant winner (well not instant, it takes a few hours of cooking time honestly). But who, besides my respectable vegetarian friends, can resist hearty chunks of pork simmered in rich tomato sauce until they fall apart when you poke them with a spoon!
The trick is to let the meat simmer at a lower heat for a good couple of hours. 
Just let the pork take a nap in the bath... Then wake it up and eat it... This is a well known tactic with pork.

THE RAGU - serves 4 about
extra virgin olive oil - about 3 splashes
One small white onion - diced up
One carrot - diced up
one small stalk celery - diced up
2 cloves garlic - dice it up
Pinch fennel seeds, ground in mortar
400 g / about 3/4 lb diced pork (not too lean now!)
2 tbsp white wine
600 g / larger can of whole peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano if possible) - pour into a bowl and break down tomatoes by squeezing with your hand - you want a semi chunky consistency
Salt and Pepper
Pinch oregano
3 bay leaves
fresh parsley to garnish (optional but necessary)

Throw the olive oil into a pan and set over medium heat. When hot (check by throwing a drop of water into oil and if it sputters your ready to grind) put in onion carrot and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and fennel. Saute for about another 2 minutes (garlic should be soft and not colored) and add pork. Cook pork just enough to brown on all sides then add white wine. Cook a bit to allow alcohol to evaporate. Next add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, oregano and bay leaves (if you want, add a few torn basil leaves). Bring to a boil, stir for about 2 minutes then turn heat to low, cover and let simmer for at least 2 hours. Check the ragu every once in a while and stir. When pork flakes and breaks apart with pressure of a spoon the sauce should be done. At this point, take the cover off to reduce and thicken the sauce a bit, about 10 minutes should be fine. In my opinion the sauce should be thick but also have a bit of juice. This is good since the tagliatelle will soak in the juice and be permeated by the flavors. Stir in parsley. Keep warm until ready to serve.

400 g / 13 oz Italian tipo "00" flour, plus extra for dusting
4 large fresh nice eggs
large pinch of salt

Make a mound with the flour on a clean surface. Make a well in the mound with your fist and then break the eggs into the well and sprinkle the salt over. Stir the eggs a bit with a fork then use your hands (DO IT!) the rest of the way to incorporate into a thick paste like consistency. If to wet add a bit of flour.
Knead this dough until it is smooth, workable and some what elastic. Cover dough with cloth and allow to rest for 30 mins.
Divide dough into 4 to 5 equal portions and roll out to flat sheets at the desired thickness (about uhh... maybe 2-4mms just think tagliatelle I dont know...) Fold the sheets in half lengthwise, then repeat. Cut the folded sheet into ribbons about 1/4 of an inch or a bit wider. Just use your judgement and really, make the noodles as thick or thin, wide or narrow as you so desire. You should lightly flour the noodles as you lay them on top of eachother before cooking. Either cook immediately or freeze right away. To cook, place in salted boiling water and boil until al dente. Drain and reserve a bit (3 tbsp of pasta water (add to ragu).

But I must say that I dont usually make the pasta (though I have fond memories of making pasta with my mother as a young boy). My love Michelle usually does that:

So if your as lucky as me to have such a great pasta maker living with you then you only have 1/2 of the work! But if you dont, dont worry. You simply make the pasta while the Ragu simmers.

So. Once you have your ragu finished, your tagliatelle cooked all you have to do is put it together and serve it. Make sure you reserve some pasta water and add it in while mixing the pasta with the sauce.

Friday, 20 November 2009


Ever had gnocchi, Italy's number 1 dumping? Soft, sauce-absorbing bites of fluffy, moist, mass that go great with thicker and hearty sauces. Would you know they are often easy to make (especially these ones) and come in a wide range of ingredient bases in addition to the number 1 potato style gnocchi.

This dish is perfect after a long chilly day of which you were either working hard or not eating much. Its very rich and pleasing and fattening in a good way.

These ricotta gnocchi are just a mixture of ricotta, plain flour, breadcrumbs, some nutmeg and salt and pepper. Antonio Carluccio (yes he gave me the basic recipe which I basically modified in a base way) says to use sheeps milk ricotta but good luck finding it and if you do use it by all means, it will certainly up the authenticity level.

The sauce is a combination of soaked, dried porcinis, the resulting liquid, some white whine, fresh mushrooms (if you can porcinis but fresh porcinis are hard to find outside of Italy so I use oysters), garlic, Parmesan, and a good chunk of butter. See:

serves 4 (i think)
400 g / 12 oz fresh Ricotta
180 g / 6 oz plain flour
5 tbsp breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
good pinch fresh grated nutmeg

To make ricotta gnocchi, mix all above ingredients in mixing bowl and incorporate thoroughly. Make sure mixture is sticking together right (it should be fairly consistent and clumping together in large clumps) by putting a small ball of mixture into boiling water and if it holds shape after a minute your in bidness.
Next, take handfuls of the mixture and roll out into sausages (as Carluccio calls them) about 3/4inch thick. Then cut the roll into inch-or-so long segments and roll each segment with the back of a fork to give the gnocchi a nice bit of texture. Set all the little gnocchi under a towel until your ready to boil them.

20 g / just under an ounce of Dried Porcini
60 g / 2 oz or 1/3 cup Butter
1 garlic clove crushed
250 g / 8 oz fresh oyster or other really good mushrooms (no portabellos or buttons please)
finely sliced
1 tbsp chopped or torn flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp dry white wine
50 g / 1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated

Soak the dried porcini in hot water (about 2 cups) for 20 minutes or so. Drain and chop, RESERVE LIQUID! Put a pan over medium heat and melt butter. Add garlic and fry about 3 minutes just until garlic softens, do not allow garlic to color. Add fresh and soaked mushrooms and saute until fresh mushrooms appear silken, about 5 or 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste then add parsley, wine, and porcini liquid (dont add any dust or sediment from liquid). Bring to a boil, turn heat to low-medium (simmer folks) and reduce for about 20 minutes. Once sauce is at a suitable thickness add parmesan, stir and keep warm and covered until gnocchi is ready.

While the sauce reduces and thickens you should have put a large pot of salted water on to boil. If you haven't then do so. When water is up to rollin' boil drop in gnocchi (maybe not all at once?) and cook. They are done when they float to the top. Scoop them out as they do so and drain.

Now all you have to do is combine the gnocchi with the sauce and eat it up eat it up. I suggest going all out and serving it with some nice Beer (think czech pilsner) and a salad with some tangy dressing to cut it all up nice.

See if that works. If it doesn't you'll have to call me.

Source: Antonio Carluccio's Italy and memories of dishes I had on my one trip to Italy a while back.


Luv === CP

My Kitchen (Nobody F*** With My...)

Alright then. Ive been saying I was going to put this up/been meaning to put this up (this blog) for awhile and now the son is finally coming out. So... oh and I realize that this is probably blog 100000044954839847233 now added to the web surf but whatever. At least if you know me, and give a hoot about me or maybe you just want to see what I got cooking, you can catch all of that here.
Moving on.... I just relocated from Chicago to Atlanta (home city) and now am out here in East London, Clapton to be exact, with my love Michelle Quick who is studying the art of shoe making at a very respectable university. I dont know what Im doing exactly, just what I was doing but now surrounded by people talking like cartoons. I bet I sound like a cartoon to them too so its all cool.

So to kick it off I just wanted to put up a image of my dinky Hackney style kitchen:

Yeah. Thats all we got. But it has been pretty alright so far really. And yes, that toaster oven/electric range is what we cook/bake/toast/roast/stew/occasionally heat the place with. I have always hated electric ranges but sometimes life gives you cheap kool-aid instead of some fresh squeezed lemon-aid. As far as tools, there are limits as well. One small nonstick fry pan, a steel (copper bottom) stew pot (both from Stainsbury's on the low) and a cheap slowcooker. Really the only nice tools we have are the two german knives we brought across the Atlantic with us. But as I said, you shouldn't let all the nice things you dont have to cook with become an excuse to not make nice things you eat.
Enough said.

As well as recipes from my own self, there will be baking episodes with my beautiful partner Michelle, some market pics and local shop type posts, and Im sure there will be other things as well. I'll try to stick with the food though.

First post is a drag so... glad its done!