Wednesday, 16 July 2008

"Picnics? Bah! Humbug" I don't think so!

The author of this post in the Guardian's Word of Mouth food blog posits that picnics are a disappointment.

I'm afraid I had to disagree, not to mention provide a comparison to the Indian take on eating outdoors. Here's what I posted as a comment to that article:

"Ha! If you think the Brits have odd ideas about eating outside you should try an Indian-style picnic. Born here to parents who emigrated from India I've experienced many of these strange outdoor meals, both in India and here in the UK.

The problem boils down to the fact that Indians haven't quite cottoned on to the idea of making different dishes for picnics to those they make and eat for regular hot meals indoors. This results in a desperate attempt to keep various curries and freshly cooked breads warm at the same time as keeping cold drinks cold. Of course, that never quite works. And, although Indian Indians are adept at eating such dishes with their fingers, I (and most non-Indian Brits too) just can't master it!

But a good old British picnic? Bring it on! Whether it's a supermarket dash of sarnies, sausage rolls, crisps and cakes or a more elegant, home-cooked affair with home-made pies, quiches and scotch eggs, wonderful salads (take the dressing in a separate container and there are no soggy salads to be seen), freshly-baked cakes and fresh fruit for dessert, I'm happy!

Of course, there are always the downsides of ants, wasps, rain and dog poo to contend with but a bit of careful planning in terms of location and weather forecasts should help avoid those!

Now, if the summer ever comes back, where did I put my picnic hamper and coolboxes?"


Saturday, 12 July 2008

Gordon Ramsay let me down!

I've been meaning to try a "proper" ragu recipe for ages, especially with the regular threads that pop about such recipes on a food chat board I visit.

Yesterday I looked through the recipes recommended there and also googled and narrowed it down to two recipe choices:

Gordon Ramsay's Slow-braised ragù Bolognese

fxcuisine's Serious Ragù Bolognese

Although I'd originally wanted to try one that includes milk (which is said to tenderise the meat) I settled on Gordon Ramsay's version because I didn't really want to be left with most of a bottle of dry white wine.

I followed the recipe very carefully (the only ommission being celery which I absolutely detest) and was hopeful it would come out well.

Unfortunately, when it came to the last hour in the oven (during which the instructions are to take it out every 15 minutes and give it a stir), I realised there was no way the liquid was going to reduce, as promised, to a "rich, thick sauce, and very little liquid remaining".

I wacked the heat up for the last 15 minutes but it was still pretty wet with lots of sauce. Fairly thick, at least, but not, I'm sure, as intended.

And the overwhelming flavour was of red wine! I could taste the pancetta and the chicken livers did add depth of flavour and I also liked the step of whizzing down the cooked onions, garlic and carrots and mixing with the passata. But there was far too strong a red wine flavour, reminiscent of a poorly executed boeuf bourguignon.

I don't know if any of my LJ friends are big ragu fans and have any experience of recipes like either of the ones above or perhaps their own special recipe to share? Also, if you have any thoughts on why it didn't come out well, please let me know. Ta

PS I couldn't leave it for longer to reduce further as it was already a bit late for dinner and Pete wasn't feeling well and needed an early night.

PPS I have more than half leftover which I've popped into the freezer. When I get it back out I'll reduce it down further. If it still tastes too much of red wine I'll maybe throw in some stock or tomatoes or creme fraiche or something!!!


Friday, 4 July 2008

A free 1274 grams of Edzell Blue potatoes!

Last year the variety of potatoes we grew was Edzell Blue. We must have left one or two tiny spuds unharvested as we've been watching with glee as some rather large and verdant potato foliage emerged in last year's potato location.

Pete harvested them today and we have 1274 grams of beautiful purple-skinned potatoes! We'll have a portion for dinner served with some lovely fresh "chocolate mint" leaves from a plant I recently bought from a garden centre.