Wednesday, 31 October 2007

NaBloPoMo (or... what the hell am I thinking)

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon something that, in my ignorance, I had been oblivious too until now (I guess this is fair enough, I started blogging in January so why would I know about a November event). NaBloPoMo, or to use the full name National Blog Posting Month (it should really be WoBloPoMo as it isn't actually limited to one country), is a challenge to write and post every day in November.

I have decided to go for it but with one slight concern (aside from the obvious worries about inspiration and energy), this weekend I will be staying in a cottage with no internet access, which is obviously a hindrance for blogging (apart from that I am totally looking forward to the food, wine, bonfire, sparklers, and fireworks). So, trying to find a suitable solution I looked into mobile blogging but, nope, Vodafone in the UK won't let me do it. Anyway, as the electronic world is determined to thwart my plans what I will do is this... on Saturday I will write my post on paper and will photograph it showing the date to prove I wrote it on the day. I will have written but you will just have to read it on Sunday, I hope that's fine with the Gods of NaBloPoMo? Now back to compiling the list of potential topics...

Saturday, 13 October 2007


I love this time of year. It has started to get a little cooler but is not yet so cold that I don't want to leave the house. It is getting darker but not yet so dark that all of the time not spent at work during the week is spent in the dark. We seem to have had a mild October so far but that doesn't stop the need for warmer and heartier food, it just alters the way that food needs to appears on the table. It isn't yet time for stews, soups, and pies (although Monday was so wet and cold that I found myself buying a steak and ale pie from the butcher for dinner) but the scarf around my neck and the slow drift of leaves onto the pavement suggests the time has come to move away from summer and towards the shorter days to come.

With this is mind I pulled out 'roast figs sugar snow,' Diana Henry's ode to winter cookery from countries where they really know how to make it through the cold and dark months. Often this means comfort in the form of heartwarming stodge. I have nothing against the comforting properties of a tartiflette but we're not quite there yet so I turned to a roast squash salad with lentils and goat's cheese for tonight's dinner which turned out to just be a pleasurable nudge towards winter and the promise of a new season's cooking.

ROAST SQUASH SALAD WITH LENTILS AND GOAT'S CHEESE from roast figs sugar snow by Diana Henry
serves 6

1.5kg butternut squash
salt and pepper
olive oil
30g butter
250g goat's cheese, broken into small pieces

For the lentils:
275g Puy lentils
1/2 a small onion, finely chopped
1 small stick of celery, very finely chopped
15g butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing:
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
A smidgeon of dijon mustard (I used 1/2 tsp)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Good pinch of caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Peel and cube into rougly 2cm chunks. Put the squash into a roasting tin, dot with the butter, drizzle over the olive oil and season well. Roast for 15-20 minutes until the squash is tender. Turn it occasionally so it doesn't dry out or scorch.

While the squash is cooking rinse the lentils and put them in a pan, cover them with cold water and bring them to the boil. Cook the lentils until they are tender which can take anything from 15 - 30 minutes so check them frequently as you don't want them to start falling apart.

While the lentils are cooking sauté the onion and celery in the butter and oil until they are soft but not coloured.

Make the dressing by mixing together all of the ingredients, season.

When the lentils are cooked, add them to the pan with the onion and celery and stir. Add two thirds of the dressing and the chopped parsley and season well.

To serve put a mound of lentils onto each plate and top with the roast squash. Dot with the goat's cheese and drizzle with the remaining dressing.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


Yesterday, while trying to wake up, I was reading a few of my favourite blogs and as usual my mouth was watering when I read Orangette. I love this blog, the food is invariably gorgeous (and Molly shares my love of banana bread), the writing is honest and personal, and the photography is uncluttered and beautiful, if you don't read it yet you really should start. So, yesterday I read Molly's account of a recipe from Casa Moro and very quickly decided to recreate the meal I had eaten in Moro in August.

Have I mentioned that we went to Moro? Probably not as I was in deep blogging malaise over the summer, completely unable to cook or write, I even wrecked a batch of blueberry muffins that I have made a million times before. In August we had a weekend in London and as part of that weekend we managed a trip to Moro. I had been itching to go since buying Casa Moro a few years ago but somehow none of our rushed trips to London had seen it happen - another oddity that has just occurred to me is that I still haven't bought the first Moro book. Anyway, on a hot August night we found ourselves in the restaurant imagining how great it would be to regularly pop in to eat a few tapas at the long zinc bar instead of having to get our fix in one fell swoop. We were ravenous and guzzled the bread (twice over - oops) and, discussing the meal over dinner last night, both agreed that we would eat everything we had again in a second (although maybe not in one sitting). The flavours were beautifully matched and although we had struggled to finish our main courses we somehow convinced ourselves that ice cream would be a good idea, it was.

That evening in Moro I had wood roasted chicken with pistachio sauce and tabbouleh. Obviously I can't quite manage wood roasted chicken in my flat so basic oven roasting had to suffice but with very little effort I found Moro recipes for both tabbouleh and pistachio sauce in The Observer Food Monthly. I did some shopping, some (a lot) of chopping and stirring and we sat down to a passable, and very tasty, imitation of the meal I had been served two months ago. If you make the sauce don't both trying to chop pistachios in the food processor, it just reduces the outside of the nut to dust while leaving the rest whole, I found a mezzaluna much more useful for this rather long winded task.

serves 4

85g fine bulgur wheat
400g tomatoes, diced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
3 small bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (use a very sharp knife or mezzaluna so that the herbs don't get bruised)
1 small bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp of ground allspice
2 tbsp of lemon juice
3 tbsp of olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste

According to the recipe with fine bulgur all you have to do is wash it well in a sieve and shake it dry and it will have absorbed enough water for it to swell. If, like me, you can only get medium bulgur, it needs to sit in cold water for 3 minutes to swell before it is put in the sieve.

Mix all of the salad ingredients together and then make the dressing by adding the garlic, salt and spices to the lemon juice so that the flavours disperse properly and then stir in the olive oil. Toss the salad just before you are ready to eat and finally check it for seasoning.

serves 4

100g shelled unsalted pistachios
2 tbsp of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 dtsp of finely chopped mint
1 dtsp of lemon juice
1 tsp of caster sugar
7 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
4 tbsp of water
1 tsp of orange blossom water (optional)
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Finely chop the pistachios by hand or in a food processor. Mix together with the other ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.