Posts

Root Beer Beans


Two things struck me after visiting the Pitt Cue Co last week. Firstly, it’s most delightful to be able to drink cocktails on the South Bank in the midst of people on half term. Secondly, pork fat makes everything better. I’m not especially enamoured of baked beans. I rarely ate them as a child, repulsed by their sickly sweetness, lurid orange tang and ability to make everything else on the plate soggy.Spending several months in Boston didn’t even convert me since I was a vegetarian at the time and couldn’t actually sample the porked-up version. My ephipany came when I tried the root beer beans on the side of Pitt Cue Co pulled pork last week. Even though they are kidney beans, which I hate, the taste was so good I found myself calling in to buy some unsoaked haricot beans on the way home so keen was I to have them again, preferably in a larger portion…
Read more

Wham Bam, Thank you Razor Clam…

Mister North and I took a family holiday to Barcelona with our mum a few years ago to celebrate my thirtieth birthday and despite having a wobble about my new decade, I managed to mark the day in style with copious amounts of cava and some stunning food. The discovery of the weekend were razor clams at lunch at La Boqueria. Looking like old fashioned cutthroat razors, the only danger we were in from these handsome molluscs was overeating! Steamed until tender, they are soft, juicy and utterly delicious with chorizo. I lost count of how many times we ordered them, so imagine my glee when I found a bundle of these beauties in Brixton Market this week…
Read more

Do-Re-Mi-So-Fa-ttoush!

After the hale and hearty (but somewhat heavy) dishes of central Europe it’s been good to eat lighter and ostensibly more healthy food back home. Good weather, joint birthdays and football fever (sigh) all created the excuse for a barbecue this weekend. There are certain dishes I tend to fall back on for barbecue fare: for me East Mediterranean / Middle Eastern flavours are so redolent of summer, with their cooling, fresh flavours. In the last year I’ve raided the Leon cookbook for inspiration (their sweet potato falafels and sesame chicken wings have become firm favourites) but deeper in the pantry of culinary influences is another inspirational character, Claudia Roden.

There was always something very exotic and other-worldly about her recipes in the cookbook on our parent’s kitchen shelf: unfamiliar ingredients sat cheek by jowl against old favourites. Later I learned about more about her extensive writings around the Med, but it was the Middle Eastern recipes which captured my imagination the most. Her recipe for fattoush, from her book ‘Tamarind and Saffron‘, can be found on the Waitrose website, and is the template I tend to use when making this stunning salad.

The first time I had fattoush was revelatory: clean, sharp, distinct and delicious flavours jostling for attention. I think it was probably in the Cedar Tree, a Lebanese restaurant in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, and I was intrigued by the banality of the description as a ‘bread salad’. Sounds rather dull, I thought, but my assumption was duly blown out of the water on the first mouthful. The citrus-y notes of the lemon and sumac dressing enhance the cooling qualities of the leaves, cucumber and mint, and the toasted bread provides texture and crispness. Can you tell I like this dish 🙂 ?

Making fattoush isn’t challenging, but it is reasonably time-consuming. I tend to associate it with standing in a sun-drenched kitchen, radio on in the background as I get engrossed in comforting routine of washing, slicing and dicing the ingredients. Wonderfully relaxing. A note though, it really is worth tracking down some real sumac, to give this salad the necessary ‘zing’. You should be able to get it in most shops in cities which cater for Middle Eastern/Persian/Arabic customers, or buy online. I’m lucky enough to be able to buy from the inimitable Alex Med in Todmorden Market, whose imported and home-prepared mixes are quite wonderful. His sumac is Syrian, and perfectly piquant.

Stir it up…