Thursday, October 4, 2007

Other food adventures

I am happy to report that Andrew and I still know how to cook, even after a four-month break from it during our travels.

We have most of our basic kitchen supplies and, thank goodness, a huge kitchen to work in. We’re still getting used to the glass-topped electric range and the fan-assisted oven, but we’ve already produced some glorious food, albeit simple. Here’s a sampling of the sorts of foods we’ve made. Up to this point we’ve mostly just made foods from memory because I haven’t yet made a list of new recipes to try (that’s on the agenda this afternoon).

Baked potatoes (or jacket potatoes, here) with good British cheddar
Andrew has a brilliant way of doing the potatoes: cut them in half and coat them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, then place them cut side down on a foil-covered tray. Leave them in for about 30 minutes or so, depending on size, and when you pull them out, they will be the most beautiful burnished golden brown on the outside and nice and fluffy inside. Sort of a cross between baked and roasted potatoes, and much quicker than regular baked ones.

Burgers and chips
You’ll notice we’ve taken on the British habit of eating lots of potatoes, but they’re just so damn good over here. The potatoes actually taste of something; they’re not just white. Andrew made some delicious hamburgers and discovered in the process that our kitchen fan doesn’t work. Oops. He also made some excellent oven chips.

Tomato, bean and veg soup
Pretty basic but warming on a cold, rainy night. Add some leftover ground beef and spices the next day, and it’s chilli. Serve leftovers from that over some pasta the next night, and it’s a chilli pasta bake. A never ending pot of deliciousness.

Pasta puttanesca
This is one of our favourite foods of all time. You just boil some pasta, and while it’s bubbling away, melt down a couple anchovies in some olive oil. Add sliced garlic, oregano, dried chillies, capers, olives, and a can of chopped tomatoes, throw in the pasta, top with basil, and you’ve got yourself a damn fine meal.

Mustardy pork chops
We can get free-range meat at the grocery store here – hooray! – so we can eat meat more easily than in Virginia. We got some nice little pork loin chops and cooked them, a la Nigella, in some garlicky oil and did a little pan sauce with cider vinegar and whole grain mustard. Add some sautéed Savoy cabbage and roasted potatoes and serve with Gewurtztraminer wine. Yum!

Bangers and mash
Laugh all you want, but British bangers (sausages) are delicious. We just cook them under the grill (broiler to you Yanks) until golden brown and serve with mashed potatoes and parsnips. Have you ever had a parsnip? It looks like a white carrot and tastes sweet, with a slightly astringent edge. They are really nice mixed in with potatoes. If we have leftover parsnips and potatoes after our Sunday lunch, I will make bubble and squeak with them. Stay tuned. We also had sautéed Savoy cabbage with this meal. Savoy cabbage is really dark green, with thick, almost leathery leaves. It’s hard to find in American grocery stores, which is a shame because it has so much more flavour than white cabbage. It’s great thinly sliced and sautéed in butter with a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Salade Nicoise
This one is not as seasonally appropriate as the other meals above, perhaps, but it’s another absolute favourite of mine. You can put lots of different toppings on it, but what I like is a bed of lettuce with tuna, olives, roasted potatoes, capers, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and a mustardy vinaigrette. I never actually had this salad in Nice, but I’ll steal the association and think fondly of that wonderful place…

Tuna sandwiches and chips
Andrew makes the most divine lemon-basil mayonnaise. That’s right; mayonnaise from scratch. Throw in some sundried tomatoes, capers, and a can of tuna, and you’ve got yourself the best tuna sandwich ever.

I think that’s about it for right now. We’ve really enjoyed grocery shopping here. The produce is beautiful, clearly labelled, and almost entirely British, which is great. They have really nice breads, too, and we’ve had some delicious sandwiches (cheddar and Branston pickle is a particular favourite – Branston pickle is a vinegary kind of chunky chutney with all sorts of pickled vegetables). Free-range meats (even bacon and deli meats) and eggs are easy to find. The only things we can’t find are decent ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s is four pounds!) and Frank’s red hot sauce, which I sorely miss. I’m planning on bringing back at least four bottles of it at Christmas. I’m feeling very excited about cooking right now, and I would like to write about it more often, too. I’ll keep you updated, and I’ll record our Sunday lunch in great detail, I promise!

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