Tuesday, February 15

Hunger Emergency Seafood Spaghetti

This was dinner tonight.  It almost didn't happen.  I had just finished bashing out Queens of the Stone Age on my guitar, and I was in a rebellious mood.  I stood hanging around the kitchen, not really feeling like cooking, with images of local take-outs' menus floating around in my head.  The reluctance was compounded by the general absence of cookable things in the fridge (I'd chosen gym over supermarket today).  However, the realisation that we'd taken out a little too often over the weekend made me relent, and rustling around in the freezer, I came across a pack of frozen seafood and frozen minced garlic.  And so it came to be.

200g spaghetti
400g pack of frozen seafood (prawn, mussels, scallops, squid rings)
a generous handful of frozen minced garlic (use less if using fresh garlic: that stuff's powerful)
1 dried red chilli, crushed (or half a fresh red chilli, sliced; or 1/4 tsp red chilli powder)
dash of Martini bianco or white wine
dried parsley flakes (or a handful of chopped fresh parsley, if you have cookable things to hand)
salt and pepper

1. Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions.
2. Put a generous splash of olive oil in a hot pan and add the minced garlic and chilli.  Cook until starting to colour.
3. Add frozen seafood and allow to cook.  Season with good amount of salt (it'll have to do for the entire dish, including pasta) and pepper.  A lot of water will be released, so don't add any liquid.
4. Once seafood is cooked, add the martini or white wine and allow to bubble away.
5. Add parsley, more olive oil if required, and stir.
6. Stir through spaghetti and serve!

Optional: pick up Queens of the Stone Age again, feeling less hypoglycaemic (and glad to have sorted out dinner without needing to budge out of the flat).



Sunday, February 13

My Valentine's Top 5

Kate Takes 5, thank you for getting me to come up with 5 wishes for Valentine’s, because it’s helped me to clarify my thinking on what I’d like cooked for me!

Music, the food of love?

1. My first wish is to not eat out at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. I love going to restaurants, but on this one day, they become unbearable. Fawning service that’s on OTT sales mode, red heart-shaped-thingies and rose petals getting in the way of my wine glass, compulsory set menus, and smoochy couples everywhere. I love being at home instead, and this Valentine’s, I would like to savour this over an apéritif of campari and orange.

2. For starters, a small elegantly-dressed plate of succulent scallops grilled with pancetta, and served dotted with creamed corn and just a touch of caramelised onions.

3. For mains, a risotto bianco with home-made pesto (made with a pestle and mortar and not a food processor, thank you). Frangelico is really good at the risotto and pesto from Jamie's Italy, and it’s become his signature dish vis-à-vis our Aussie cousins (Musical Chef Senior, Musical Chef Junior, and Gum Tree) after he made it for them a few Christmases ago. Next to this, I’d love a chicory salad dressed in lemon juice and olive oil.

4. For dessert, since he’s cooked all this other stuff, I’d be more than happy with a shop-bought/heat-in-the-oven sticky toffee pudding. But it has to be a particular shop-bought sticky toffee pudding, namely the one from Cartmel that’s hand-made from real food (no E numbers, inverted syrups, hydrogenated fats, etc).

5. It’s been raining again in London, and I’m feeling a bit under the weather. So to help me fight off the bugs, a small hot toddy at the end wouldn’t go amiss!

I’m starting to think that stating one’s wishes clearly is the first step to making them come true…



Introducing Frangelico

For a while now, I've been trying to think of an appropriate foodie code-name for my husband. I've spoken about him in posts before, but it's so oddly distant to use the words 'my husband' or 'hubby', because in my head I know him as [can't tell you his name here]. I asked him again this evening what foodie name we should give him. And he had the perfect answer: Frangelico.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce, also, the delicious hazelnut liqueur from Italy. You can read about the legend behind the liqueur if you click on the picture below.

We introduced this divine drink to some friends last week, who liked it so much that they had a bottle sourced for the bridal table at their wedding. It's a mellow liqueur, which when swirled in the glass gives you a heady fragrance of smooth hazelnuts. It's best with a few cubes of ice, but Gruppo Campari has a whole host of serving suggestions I'm sure. The bottle's cute too, complete with a monk's habit and cord.



Friday, February 11

Golden moments

A golden parmesan and chive omelette glowing in the sun. It reminded of me of another golden moment in Spain. Hope you're all having a great Friday! Our global recipe exchange is still running, so join in and make sure your part of the world is represented.



Monday, February 7

Global Recipe Exchange!

Ok, I've received 3 e-mails about recipe exchanges in the past couple of weeks. So, I figured: why not open a thread here for an exchange?

This way, you don't need to go through the whole process of finding 25 e-mail addresses to type out, edit the text of the e-mail to add your address, allow your address to be seen by strangers, etc. etc. And we might get more than 25 recipes. From all over the world!

If you'd like to join in, please enter your recipe using the 'Post a Comment' link below. As they say, the best recipe is one you can type out right now, from memory, and that isn't too complicated. So no pan-seared foie gras (unless it's ridiculously easy).

Please share this link with your friends if you'd like them to join in too.



Sunday, February 6

5 Things I Wish I Could Do

Through ~Mañana Mama, I came across Kate Takes 5, a blogger with humorous posts that have me wondering if she's Irish. She recently listed 5 things she wished she could do and invited others to come up with their own lists. Since Cinnamon and Truffle is a food blog, here are some things I'd like to learn to cook:

1. Pan-seared foie gras. This is not easy, because the foie gras has to be of good quality (and the restaurants get the best ones), it has to be at a certain temperature when you cook it, and there's some process involving an airtight plastic bag.

2. A creamy, frothy velouté of Jerusalem artichoke. Where a soup goes beyond hand blenders into sieves and beaters, I'm going to need to see it done first.

3. An authentic Italian dish (preferably something pasta- and ragú-related). I love Italy and Italian food, and I'd love to learn how to turn out something effortlessly outstanding.

4. A Valrhona chocolate fondant (which I can then eat). The best version is made so that you can't detect any separations - it's a smooth transition from crunchy exterior, to moist sponge to liquid centre. Chocolate is, sadly, a no go for me (the most unfair late-onset allergy on the planet, surely).

And because Cinnamon and Truffle isn't only about food, here's my fifth wish:

5. Ambition is a good thing - it gets you places. But if I'm always thinking about where else I want to get, when am I ever going to enjoy the places I've reached? Didn't we all, at some point in the past, want something of where we are now? So, my final wish is to be able to accept whatever talents I do have for what they are and to enjoy them right now.

(By the time I got around to writing this post, the linky widget on Kate Takes 5 had expired. Which is a sign to me that I'd better get on with Number 5!)

Would love to hear from you guys on your top 5. And if anyone would like to show me how to make any of the above, your offer would be most welcome!



Tuesday, February 1

Maria's Sopa de Cenoura

One of the perks of travelling relatively often to the Algarve is that we get to sample some excellent Portuguese food. With more than 40% of the mainland's borders consisting of Atlantic coastline, the quality of seafood in Portugal is outstanding. When they say ‘fresh fish’ in the Algarve, they don’t mean that it was in a freezer truck for a week being brought to the city – they mean it was caught earlier that day, maybe even by someone the restaurant owner or chef knows by name, and brought straight to the kitchen. The fish is then grilled with the magical Mediterranean ingredients of olive oil and garlic. In what I’ve seen of Europe so far, Portugal has to be the place where I’ve had the best fish. The only other country in the world that can compete is Japan, but that’s almost 6,000 miles away…

Although I’m particularly fond of the seafood – probably because of my own coastal heritage – there are other much-loved dishes. One of my favourites is Arroz de Pato, a melting duck rice with almost-caramelized slices of chorizo. This is made by cooking the duck in a broth with vegetables, herbs and spices. The cooked duck is shredded, while the broth (with all the essence of the vegetables and the duck fat) is used to cook the rice. The rice and shredded duck are then layered in earthenware and finished in the oven, with slices of chorizo on top. I’m minded to try making this sometime. If I do, I’ll share a recipe.

Until then, though, I thought I’d have a go at something simpler (and far less calorific). Portuguese soups are another delight discovered on travels, and I picked up a recipe on my most recent visit. Most of the soups that I’ve come across feature some key ingredient with a base of potato, to give that cream textured finish: for example, green cabbage or kale for the famous Caldo Verde, and carrot for Sopa de Cenoura. This Sopa de Cenoura recipe is from Maria, a lady who joined my sister’s household last year to help look after the most-recently-arrived cherub. Maria told me the ingredients in Portuguese, so I hope I managed to catch everything!

5 carrots
1 courgette
1 potato
3 onions
3 cloves garlic
Some olive oil

1. Simply prepare and chop all the vegetables roughly, and boil them in water until tender. (Update: after a few tries, I've decided that best results are obtained by boiling in chicken stock, the salted variety or with salt added.)
2. Add a few good glugs of olive oil and boil for another 5 minutes.
3. Blend with a hand blender.
4. Season to taste.

That’s it. I realized, after making this at the weekend, that the quality of vegetables in the Algarve is pretty outstanding too – my supermarket vegetables couldn’t compete with the flavour that was coaxed out of the Portuguese ones. If your source of vegetables is like mine, I’d recommend adding a little bit of a stock cube or some bouillon powder at step 1. (I’d be interested to hear of the results if any of you tries this recipe with quality organic vegetables, sans bouillon.)

Serve with some toasted sourdough bread. For a true Algarvio experience, follow up with grilled fish, then a Bolo de Iogurte (yoghurt cake) with coffee.

To all our Portuguese friends and friends of Portugal out there, I'd love to have some recommendations of your favourite dishes to try on my next trip!




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