19/05/2012

A Greedy Italian Lunch

Last month I was awoken early by Miss Cat. By early I mean around 5am. Unable to go back to sleep I came downstairs and made a cup of tea and then logged on to Twitter to see what the rest of the world was up to.

There it was. A Tweet from Antonio Carluccio’s long suffering and unbelievably patient PA, Al.

It was a link to a series of lunch events hosted by the man himself.

“I won’t be able to afford that.” said I, slurping tea as I hesitantly clicked though the site to find the price.

“£35!? Oh you are MINE.” and there it was. Bought.

I slurped some more tea, fussed the cat and then remembered my friend Lynne who had sadly missed out on the focaccia baking course that I had been to at Carluccio’s in Covent Garden, where The Maestro himself had turned up and chatted to us all. Another swift click later and a second ticket was bought.

The Day arrived.

We had planned to meet at Liverpool Street as that is easy for us both to get to. I found Lynne in the Camden Food Company, sadly at the receiving end of a very bad cup of coffee. Shame on you Camden Food Co!

We set off, deciding to take the bus as we had ages before we had to be in West London, and the bus doubled as a sight-seeing tour.

We started off on the No 11, but then got off at St Paul’s and waited for a No 23 as that would take us almost to the front door of the restaurant.

See? St Paul’s.

St Pauls

It was a relief when the bus turned up, because though it looks sunny it was really cold!

We had a nicely relaxed,  enjoyable journey, nattering all the way, looking out at parts of London we either don’t usually get to see, or that we hadn’t seen for years. Finally we got to Westbourne Terrace, and headed for Carluccio’s.

Al was outside on the phone, and she kindly stopped and chatted to us for a while before the lure of caffeine got too much for us.

Coffee was definitely the first order of the day and they did not disappoint. A delicious Latte Milano was in my grasp a few short minutes after we arrived. Oh how I miss working near a Carluccio’s caffe. Please, come to Holborn, we very badly need you!

Antonio arrived as we were drinking our coffee, and then after a few minutes they called us to table.

Grissini wrapped in very tasty prosciutto crudo were offered around, and prosecco too which I declined. We soon took our seats, and the first course arrived. I think I could probably just have eaten that for lunch and been happy.

Antipasti

Marinated artichokes, creamy buffalo mozzarella, focaccia, zingy caponata, roasted peppers with pesto and green beans with delicate asparagus.

Lots more chatting ensued with our table mates – a lovely Cypriot lady called Georgia and her Italian husband, whose daughter works at Carluccio’s head office – and then oh my. The main course arrived in true Technicolor glory.

Zuppa di pesce

Zuppa di pesce. Mussels, tiny sweet clams, prawns, sea bass chunks and the most amazing smoky tomato sauce.

I swapped my mussels for some of Lynne’s clams, as I really do not like mussels. I keep trying, but still, no. I couldn’t finish it all, I was too full! Leaving Italian bread soaked in tomatoes and olive oil is not a thing I do lightly.

More wine had been drunk, and more talking happened. Antonio had been gradually working his way around the tables, spending a very generous amount of time sitting and talking to everybody in turn and telling jokes. He spoke to us about the bullying culture in some – NOT all – kitchens, and how he doesn’t believe in that being a useful part of training at all. There was discussion of all kinds of things, and we were very grateful indeed for his time. He truly makes you feel special when he talks to you.

He has a wonderful way with people, even though he must have been exhausted as he had flown in from Italy very early that morning and come straight to us.

Dessert time!

I’m not sure how we managed this but we did.

Panna cotta with lime

Creamy panna cotta, with a wonderfully tangy lime syrup.

This had us scraping our plates with joy. It was utterly delightful, slightly more set at the base so it had more bite to it, then heading into smoothness at the top, offset by the chewy lime zest. A marvel. I could have eaten much more of that, if I had had the room.

Antonio very kindly spent a long time signing Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy books for us, but he wasn’t too hard done by, despite being very tired. He got lots of hugs from lovely young ladies, one of whom even sat on his lap to have a photo taken. Oh the pain of being famous.

I took some photos of both Georgia and Lynne sitting with Antonio while he signed their books, and here is one of him on his own.

Antonio

Grazie mille signore, for making a nice day even more special. I feel I should have brought you a birthday present, but what does one give you?

Huge thanks also go out to Al Naylor-Leyland, for making it all possible, and just being lovely.

06/05/2012

Stir Wars

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…there was a Twitter exchange. Out of this Twitter exchange arose a  misunderstanding, and from that misunderstanding there came the mighty, unstoppable force that is…

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Four heroes worked long and hard to make this dream a reality. They talked, they cooked, they baked, they experimented and they fought off weariness and illness until finally, overcoming all odds, they realised their goal.

The Team by Karohemd

Excellent photo by and courtesy of Karohemd at www.karohemd.co.uk

A night of quizzes, geekery, blue noodles and Bantha ribs was to follow. Plushie Wookies, cuddly Darths, Stormtroopers well up for a cuddle and elegant front of house staff all combined with the chefs of the hour to make it an unforgettable night.

The venue was Tsuru. Housed underneath giant At-At legs off Bishopsgate.

ATAT

AT-AT photo by and courtesy of Karohemd at www.karohemd.co.uk

Walking into what does seem to be a space age setting and seeing Stormtroopers ahead of us, did give me a very spooky – if fleeting – small frisson of fear as reality and childhood imaginings collided.

A trooper walked towards us, weapon raised. I remembered the amulet in my bag. I held it out in an effort to placate him.

“Hey, it’s meeeeeee!” he said.

I was safe.

At his request we took some photos. We were obviously still a bit scared and cold, as the first photo was blurry.

Blurry Me and Stormtrooper

But things improved.

“Yeah, you can take a photo of me playing with myself.”

Stormtrooper and Mini Me

And so we entered Tsuru and found our friends Pete from Pete Drinks and Kavey from Kavey Eats.

We got our drinks, and started trying to do the quiz sheets we’d been given. The dire warning that cheating would be punishable by loss of hand by lightsabre was chilling but we soldiered on while our heroes cooked and we were looked after by the fabulous front of house people. I finally got to give Osh from The Ship a hug after promising one ages ago.

Menu

Menu photo by and courtesy of Karohemd at www.karohemd.co.uk

Fishballs with deliciously crunchy  pickled leeks were handed around, and some very tasty but very spicy pastry whirls. Umami with added heat, but so good.

Pastries

Some of our party had a bit of a tussle at the table

Surveying the crisps       Save or salvage

but it all blew over fairly quickly.

Starters!

Summer roll and pig cheeks

Summer roll stuffed with blue udon noodles and a wee man made of ham, minted pea ice and pig cheeks with caviar.

The summer roll was flavourful but I am a wuss, and it was just too hot for me. I did eat the wee man though and most of everything else except my fish eggs which I donated to Kavey.

Mains!

Oh my god. Who knew Bantha ribs would be so good?

Banta back ribs

We ate lots of them. We got sticky and greasy and it was fabulous. Tender rich beef ribs and a crispy fresh coleslaw to contrast.

Dessert!

Basil meringues      Lime lemongrass cheesecake

Lime and lemongrass cheesecake on an Oreo crust, with strawberry coulis, basil meringues and Hendricks gin jellies.

I had to donate my jelly as it was way too strong for me, but I could have happily eaten that cheesecake all over again, had it not been quite so rich. I did have a cookie though.IMG_5461

After the debris from the meal was cleared away, the quiz answers were given, albeit amongst some good natured cat-calling from the more…costumed attendees.

Tex and I got a fairly respectable score and as a result, got prizes! Tex got an illustrated Star Wars book and I chose some cookies.

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The overall winner was Julian Peacock, and I suspect you can probably imagine why.

Boba Fett

We were given goodie bags too, with sparkly honeycomb sweeties, and a Darth Maul Pez dispenser.

Lovely venue, excellent food, fabulous people and a grand night.

Thank you to all involved for making everything so good, and for indulging the Inner Geek.

(Seeing my tall, manly husband trying to make a small, plushie Wookie make noises was ridiculously cute. Thank you @misswhiplash!)

For a full set of gorgeous photos by Karohemd, you can go here!

Love to all involved and yes,

May the Force Be With You, Always.

04/05/2012

Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs

I think it’s fair to say that we do like a nice bit of beef in this house. There is a certain fascination with barbecue as well, as the first time that No 1 Husband and I visited the States, we went to a fabulous smoke house in Portsmouth, New England called the Muddy River Smokehouse. This piece of our history is no longer there, which I find very sad, because it served the best barbecue food I have ever eaten, including quite possibly the biggest beef ribs I have ever seen, which were partnered with two other racks of pork ribs. As a starter,  people, a starter.

Since then, we have always been on the look out for places that can duplicate what we ate there, and also there has been the never ending try-outs of what we can cook at home. Thanks to watching many episodes of Man vs. Food, Tex has a hankering for slow cooked smoked brisket, but we haven’t managed that one yet. I’m sure we will one day though.

I’m always on the lookout for beef ribs. Many butchers don’t carry them, and the silly supermarkets certainly don’t, but I am ever hopeful that one day I will find them. I know I can order them online, but I always forget.

Boss No 2 told me last week of an excellent butcher’s shop near my work and so I headed there to see what they had. What I found was a mecca to meat. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

This is the sort of treasure trove that I could browse for hours, were it not for the fact that the shop itself is tiny. There’s barely room for three customers at once, so we all have to do a bit of good natured shuffling around. I might ask if I can go in there with a camera at some point, because the sheer amount of stock can’t be described adequately enough in words.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes. beef.

Having already purchase some steak and a French chicken and found them excellent, I decided to go back and see what else I could get my paws on. That’s when I saw them.

Beef short ribs.

Not the big brontosaurus-like ribs from the smokehouse, but thick, chunky, massive cubes of meat and bone. £6 a kilo? Mine.

I brought them home on Thursday, and put them in the fridge until I decided what to do with them.

I’d cooked rib-eye steak for dinner, and was eyeing the juices left in the pan when I thought of searing off the ribs in the juices, and then slow cooking them, so I looked up a few recipes for slow cooker ribs and found one that appealed. I had all the ingredients, so off I went.

This is the original recipe: http://southernfood.about.com/od/beefribs/r/r91118a.htm

The photos that follow are just camera-phone shots so they are a bit rubbish, but you’ll get the idea I’m sure.

Ribs!

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The ribs set free, and a piece of rib-eye ready to go on the griddle.

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The ribs coated in smoked Spanish paprika, being seared off in the pan juices.

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The ribs placed haphazardly in the bowl of the slow cooker. 

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Ribs again, bathed in sauce and with added chopped onion.

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Not the best looking dish, but oh the SMELL.

Slow cooker beef short ribs.

1.5 kilos of beef ribs

1 cup fresh pressed apple juice

1/2 cup apple juice and 1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce. (I used Cooper’s Ale bbq sauce and rinsed the bottle out with the apple juice so I could get all the sauce)

1 cup beef stock (I used a Knorr stock pot)

1 chopped onion

2 heaping tsp smoked paprika.

1 tsp sea salt

Cover and cook on low overnight.

It went on at 11pm, and I turned it off at 8am, then left the meat to cool in the juices.

For dinner I lifted out the ribs carefully, placed in a roasting dish with some of the sauce, and cooked in the oven at 170C for about 1/2 an hour to heat through.

Served with coleslaw and potato salad.

As I lifted the meat out with tongs, the bones fell straight out.

 

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It was a very nice dinner indeed.

The leftover sauce isn’t going to waste though, I’m cooking a few tins of white and borlotti beans in it overnight to see how they turn out. Waste not want not!

Edited to add photo of beans!

The smell this morning was amazing. Here is the final result.

Smoky beefy beans 2   Smoky beefy beans

Smoky beefy beans 3