Category Archives: Food and Drink

New Post, for New Site … Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli …

A beautiful recipe to introduce my new site … to read the whole post click here…

Just to polish off the fresh egg pasta thread, here’s the recipe for the ravioli filling.

When something works, why change it!? This recipe is a timeless combination of baby spinach, creamy ricotta and fresh herbs, all cradled in a springy homemade pasta and anointed with the majestic flavour of sage.

To read the full post click here…

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When the cost of thrift becomes more enriching …

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

I made fresh egg pasta the other day and subsequently Spinach, Ricotta and Parmesan Stuffed Ravioli with Pine Nut and Sage Butter (recipe to follow) and it got me thinking about the notion of thrift

The basket spend for the ingredients far outweighed the cost of buying ready made tortellini, for instance, but in the pursuit of making an affordable, memorable meal and enriching my culinary skills, the end result was far better value.

discuss …

Sushi Roll of Honour …

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

True to form I was steaming … this time however it wasn’t the application of a sedate cooking method!

The combination of ‘free’ and ‘bar’ to a northerner is an oxymoron, because my god have I paid a high price for my alcohol gluttony.

Anyway, enough about my pickled liver recipe. This is simply a heads-up for Alan and Cameron at Mika Events, who against all adversity (namely drunken rambling fools) produced a spectacular range of sushi for the freeloaders at ShortList Magazine’s recent 1st birthday bash.

On an average night-out I try to steer away from folks brandishing sharp knives, but being the curious bumbling idiot that I am after one-too-many sherbets, I quizzed Alan as to the amber jeweled roe he was using …

‘Tobiko Flying fish roe’ was the response … and before my brain had the chance to digest these words, Alan had chopped, spooned, squeezed and rolled the most delectable Tobiko Temaki-zushi (hand rolled flying fish roe cone with rice and Japanese mayonnaise).

Incredible! Thousands of little sea water bursts, spiked with iodine and balanced with a tiny bit of acidity and richness from the mayonnaise.

This is not yet another shameless plug in the slightest, I just genuinely appreciate the passionate people in the industry. Those people who learn and subsequently share their skills and experiences with the masses. Alan and Cameron are of this creed and if you’re having a corporate event or party, then I cannot recommend Mika Events enough.

Not a pretty picture … Turner Prize Contending Tartar Sauce

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

For this expo and warts-and-all showcase of my culinary flunking I’ve enclosed the images regardless. Contemporary? Only in aesthetics and probably a Turner prize contender given the going rate!

This tartar sauce definitely requires timley contemplation to understand the true inner beauty of the condiment, but served fresh with the fish and chips recipe, and stored in the fridge for no longer than 2-4 days should more than suffice.

Ingredients (makes about 350ml):

For the mayonnaise:
1 level tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 large free range egg yolks
250ml ground-nut oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon

Tartar additions (halve the quantities below and combine with half the mayonnaise if you prefer?):
2 tbsp capers, finely chopped
1 tbsp cornichons (small gherkins), finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
lemon juice to taste

Method:
In a large mixing bowl add the salt, garlic and egg yolks and combine with a electric whisk. Set the whisk speed to medium, and in a slow yet steady stream, pour in the oil making sure all the ingredients combine.

Once the mixture starts to thicken and turn glossy, stir in the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Give one final blast with the whisk to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

To the mayonnaise add the additional tartar ingredients and mix thoroughly, adding lemon juice to taste.

Serve with the fish and chips or any other sustainable fish dish that takes your fancy!

Jackson Pollock and Chips … (Beer Battered Fish and Chips Recipe)

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

Beer Battered Fish and Chips

Beer Battered Fish and Chips

As much as I’m keen on homegrown organic goodness, I’m not keen on eating goldfish. I’ve never tried goldfish I might add, and once again happy to be proven wrong.

(All goldfish recipes should be sent to the usual address: info@tomdowson.com.)

So for this piece it’s more a post on sustainability rather than unattainability.

Now we all know that ‘fish and chips’ constitutes all that that is good in this country.
Essentially … humble ingredients of good stock! But the boney truth of depleted fish stocks can leave a rather bitter taste in ones mouth, therefore in the interest of the Gadus genus at large I decided upon the much hyped pollock instead.

(A quick google search reveals that Jackson Pollock is still more talked about than his aquatic counterpart. I’d love to think this ironic but it’s not really is it!?)

I scrapped a Fish and Chips recipe hunt and reverted back to basics with a simple beer batter for the pollock, twice cooked maris piper chips and served the tag-team with a deliciously creamy, yet tart, tartar. All washed down with a pseudo-posh bottle of Cava in true Friday night style.

Beer Battered Fish and Chips with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Ingredients (more than enough for 2 as a main):

For the fish:
2 x 200g pollock fillets, boned but with the skin left on
200g self-raising flour plus extra for dusting
250ml of cold English beer (I used Bombardier)
pinch of smoked paprika
freshly ground salt and pepper

For the chips:
5-6 medium sized maris piper potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chips
Maldon sea-salt or rock-salt

oil (sunflower or vegetable) for deep-frying

To serve:
salt and malt vinegar
homemade tartar sauce (recipe below)
newspaper
artistic license

Additional serving suggestions:
bread and butter
tomato ketchup
mushy peas

Method:
2/3 fill a large, high sided, heavy based pan with the oil and place over a high heat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the beer and self-rasing flour into a batter with the consistency of thick double cream, making sure there are no lumps. Place the batter mix in the fridge.

Rinse the chips and throughly in cold water and dry on a kitchen towel. Toss the dried chips in a few pinches of salt.

When the oil has reached a sufficient temperature (a cube of bread should brown and crisp in approximately 5-7 seconds) add the chips to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft but still pale in colour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chips and place on absorbed kitchen roll.

Remove the batter mix from the fridge.
Sift the reserved flour, season with freshly ground salt and pepper and add the pinch of smoked paprika. Turn the pollock fillets in the seasoned flour to thoroughly coat.

When the oil has once again reached the desired temperature, dip the pollock fillets in the batter mix and ensure there’s an even coating. Carefully place the fillets into the hot oil and cook until the batter crisps and turns a deep golden colour. Once cooked, remove the fillets and place on a wire wrack to rest.

Increase the heat on the oil and return the par-cooked chips to the pan. Once golden and crisp, remove the chips and immediately shovel onto yesterdays news.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and malt vinegar and top with the fish fillets. Ladle lashings of tartar sauce on the side and destroy while hot.

Bean and gone in 2 minutes flat …

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

Pre-roasted coffee beans

... before the roasting ...

This post is by no means a shameless plug but … having had multiple mini ‘epiphanies of the bleedingly obvious’ like I did on my recent visit to see my good friend at Pumphrey’s Coffee, Blaydon, Tyne & Wear, then I certainly think Stuart deserves a shout-out for his forthcoming Barista Training Class (details below) at the afore mentioned Pumphrey’s Coffee, Blaydon, Tyne & Wear!

Now for the sake of keeping this post short, the most prominent ‘bleedingly obvious’ that transpired was this:

“Within 2 minutes of grinding a coffee bean up to 80% of the subtleties and character of that bean are lost.”

That’s 80% of the beauty of the bean lost, nada, gone and never to return!! So no amount of almond syrup, steamed skinny milk, extra shots yadah yadah yadah are going to resurrect those flavours. All the majesty imparted in the growing, roasting, and preparation of those seductive little beans is ruined in 2 minutes flat! This is not to say that within that window of opportunity, an inexperienced barista can’t turn you off the notion of coffee drinking for life (just look at the impact one of our starry-eyed high street coffee houses has had on a generation of caffeine thrill seekers).

Without getting sentimental or overbearing with this coffee bean revelation, I just think it’s a beautifully simplistic notion that transfers to every facet of food.

If we don’t try to capitalise upon the true character a particular food possesses and we continue to under appreciate the full potential, and essentially the optimum way to prepare fresh ingredients then we are doomed to walk naively past subtleties and taste sensations forever more.

Heavy I know but true …

Tom

The unashamed plug …

Stuart will be holding a half-day Barista Training course at the Pumphrey’s Coffee Roasting Rooms on Monday 29th September 1pm – 5pm.

I cannot recommend this highly enough and it’s a snip at £70.50!

For more details contact the Pumphrey’s team on:
0191 4144510

The marrow after the courgette before … Stuffed Courgette Flower Recipe

The Food Flunky Blog is now hosted here (thefoodflunky.com) click here to see the new site and read all your favourite posts!! Tom aka The Food Flunky

Before the battering ... fershly picked courgette floweres

Before the battering ... freshly picked courgette flowers

I think, without naming names, that for the majority of my tender years I’ve been misled into chomping marrows rather than courgettes.

Now I’m sure that a marrow’s pure economies of scale justifies over boiling, steaming and/or over processing this off-white, green skinned vegetable and passing it off as “courgette” to unsuspecting school children, nieces/nephews and grandchildren but enough is enough. Through pure coincidence I’ve now had two tastes of zucchini zeitgeist and suspect that I (would have) always (given the chance) loved courgettes but I still rather dislike marrow (I’m happy to stand corrected on my current false-economies-of-marrows view point. All marrow recipes will be gratefully received info@tomdowson.com.

My recent mid-summer encounter with, what I was told were, lightly charred sliced baby courgettes, tossed in fruity olive oil, with toasted pinenuts, sultanas and plump shredded mint stirred through was the first welcome revelation. The simple dish giving an awesome prelude to the second and to my first forray into the rather strange courgette flowers.

Because of my initial distaste towards the “courgarrows” that I’ve been fed over the years, I’ve always chosen to ignore these alien spore like flowers as nothing more than chefy non-entical foodstuffs. How wrong could I have been!

I’ll set the scene … see post: Provenance, Perseverance, Preserves …

… so anyway the afore mentioned PYO centre had healthy crops of … yes your guessed it … courgettes! Still with slight scepticism I picked fruit plus flower with caution. The last thing I wanted to discover was that the wool had been pulled yet again and I’m back in courgarrow purgatory. I was confident that I could do justice to the mainstay of the vegetable using the recipe above, but the recipe below was one of the most triumphant cooking moments that I’ve ever had to date.

Like a mulberry hand-bag (so I’ve been told), you can dress a courgette flower up or down (in this case a simple batter), and whatever you put in (ricotta), the contents are invariably going to be given auto kudos because of what they’re housed in. Essentially both are simply great taste!

I don’t want to say anything more on the subject (nor on my handbag fetish) the recipe and result do more than enough talking, other than to: proclaim my undying love for courgettes, insist that you must try the recipe and emphasise my utter remorse that I may have to wait until next season to produce the same again!

Stuffed Courgette Flowers


Ingredients (enough 2 as a large starter):

7-8 fresh courgette flowers (carefully washed if necessary)

For the filling:
200g ricotta cheese
75g Parmesan cheese
1tsp fresh shredded basil
1tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2tsp of lemon zest
freshly ground salt and pepper

For the batter:

100g plain flour mixed
110ml ice-cold water
extra lightly seasoned plain flour for dusting

For deep frying:
750ml sunflower oil

To serve:
homemade Balsamic vinegar reduction or shop bought version
whole basil leaves and thyme sprigs

Method:

If necessary wash the courgette flowers carefully, lightly dry and set aside.
Pour the sunflower oil into a large pan and set over a medium heat.

Mix all of the filling ingredients together and carefully spoon into the courgette flowers. Twist the tips of the flowers to enclose the filling.

When the oil has reached a sufficient temperature (a cube of bread should brown and crisp in approximately 5-7 seconds), lightly roll the flowers in the seasoned flour and then holding the flower by the tips, dip into the batter mix and then straight into the hot oil. Fry in 2 batches.

When golden and crisp remove the flowers with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll.

Drop the basil leaves and thyme sprigs into the oil for literally 10 seconds to crisp and remove.

While still hot and crisp, plate up the courgette flowers, drizzle over the Balsamic reduction and top with the deep-fried herbs. Devour, making as many ridiculous breathy vocal sounds as possible when you inadvertently burn your mouth on the filling.