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Archive for October, 2009

pigeon

Bad, bad pic. Again. Sorry.

Those readers who know me will know the tale of my long-standing fight with the local pigeon population – indeed I have seen you cast your eyes heavenwards when I threaten to retell it. However there may be those in my audience (yes! I see you there! Both of you!) who haven’t heard the saga, so here is a brief recap.

It all began a couple of years ago, when I first noticed two pigeons making a habit of perching on my kitchen windowsill. On a couple of occasions they even ventured on to the top of the open sash window, cooing encouragingly to each other. One Monday evening I arrived home from work,  looking forward to a lovely relaxing evening with nothing to do except take my clean washing off the airer and fold it up in preparation for my lovely cleaner’s visit the next day. I opened the front door and wandered through to the kitchen to be greeted by a scene of total devastation – broken glass and pigeon shit all over the floor. Slightly in shock, I reeled through to the sitting room and turned on the light, and saw more pigeon shit, another glass smashed on the floor – and finally, two pigeons, perched on top of the airer looking at me.

For the first and hopefully only time in my life, I had a total fit of screaming hysterics, which of course caused the pigeons to panic and start flapping around and dive-bombing me, and me to panic even more. Eventually I managed to chase one of them out of the front door, but the other was not so clever and ended up perched shivering on my desk behind the computer screen. So, still quaking with horror, I phoned the boyfriend to come and rescue me and went and hid in the bathroom until he arrived and evicted the remaining pigeon with manly calm, and we spent the evening cleaning everything up.

So you can imagine that I take a fairly dim view of these winged rats, especially as of late one of them has taken to roosting on the landing light outside my front door. It lies in wait there, and when I walk down the stairs flies terrifyingly over my head with much flapping of wings. When I see it there I have to get the lift downstairs. It’s also crapped on my doormat – a flagrant declaration of open hostility if ever I saw one.

But why, you ask, do I not take drastic action? It is simple: the boyfriend, light of my life and companion of my days, has taken sides in this matter, and the side he is on is not mine. Any attempt to thwart the pigeons, beyond the spikes I had installed on my windowsills, would be met with hard stares and possibly even unceremonious dumping. But I get the last laugh, dear readers. As soon as his back is turned, as it is tonight, I buy, cook and eat pigeon breast from the farmers market. That, I am sure you will agree, serves to demonstrate to the pigeons that if their woodland cousins can be seared and served with a red wine reduction, my kitchen is not a safe place for them to be.

And that is why I bring you this autumnal feast.

Take two pigeon breasts and rub them with smashed juniper berries, garlic and black peppercorns and a little olive oil. Leave them to marinate for the duration of the X Factor before pan-frying them briefly.

I’m serving this with two of the winter vegetables I find rather challenging. I’m making a dauphinoise of potatoes and fennel, and sauteeing savoy cabbage with a little pancetta and butter.

I also came across a recipe for red wine jus that involved caramelising sugar, adding red wine, more thyme and juniper, and reducing until thick. The result was more like red ink than anything you’d want to eat, so I have calmed it down with the addition of chicken stock and dijon mustard, and I’ll be thickening it with a little butter before serving it over the pigeon breasts.

And if that doesn’t teach the feathery bastards, I don’t know what will.

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The best couscous, ever

couscous

Well, that’s what the boyfriend said anyway, and we know he isn’t biased, at all. Anyway at the risk of sounding vain, I have to say it was extremely good, so here is the recipe.

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Just a quick post. We rarely venture to Notting Hole (mainly because it brings out the darling’s misanthropic side, which is often rather close to the surface), but on Saturday I suggested a trip to the lovely and fascinating Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. We stopped en route for a late lunch at Taqueria. If you expect Mexican food to be, as my friend Sarah scathingly describes it “red mush, brown mush and green mush”, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the food here.

All the familiar building-blocks of Mexican food are here: the tortillas (corn and flour, soft and crisp);  the avocado; the cheese; the tequila. But the execution is far superior to anything you’ll get at generic Tex-Mex chains. Spicing is bold but not overpowering. Cocktails are imaginative. There’s a selection of delicious flavoured waters, and a few puddings.

We had four dishes between us, all variations on the tortilla theme, and a side of avocado with lime, salt, onion and coriander. Everything tasted good – this is casual street food for sharing, dipping your fingers into and inadvertently smearing on your clothes. At £32, including a cucumber and a watermelon water, this is perhaps a tad on the pricy side – the portions are smaller than the price tag suggests – but they score points for using sustainably caught fish, free range eggs, poultry and pork, and organic milk and cream.

My only gripe? The rude, monosyllabic, unsmiling waitresses.

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In your face, Nigel!

I love Nigel Slater. Sadly I’ve missed almost all of his new series on BBC1, but by all accounts it’s fab, and the 15 minutes I managed to catch tonight did not disappoint. He’s so… filthy, somehow. Far more than Nigella Lawson, for all her pouting and spoon-fellating and cleavage, he captures the deeply sensual side of food and eating.

Anyway, my ultra-simple supper tonight is an unintentional tribute to him.

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover I Camisa – this wonderful Soho deli has been there forever, and is friendly, great value and phenomanally well stocked. Today I bought 150g of pancetta, some gnocchi (which came in a white cake box, and looked and smelled so perfect I wanted to dive in and eat them straight away, like peanuts). But their destiny was this veg-packed, smoky, slightly creamy bowl of heaven.

gnocchi 1

I removed some of the fat from the pancetta, chopped it small then sauteed it with a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic. Then I added two leeks and wilted them down. A splash of sherry and about a tablespoon of creme fraiche went in next, with a few (frozen) broad beans. That’s it – on to the gnocchi (boiled, ldo!) with plenty of pepper and parmesan, and a simple green salad with basil and the rest of the zomgwtf-is-it-made-of-gold? M&S feta.

This was inspired by a recipe blogged by Eatlikeagirl, using chorizo. It was delicious, but to be honest I think the originl would have been better – I tried too hard ot pack in the veg, and it would have benefitted from more butter. This is what you get from being in the final week of half-marathon preparation – doing no running, but still consumed by the need to eat your own body weight in dinner every night!

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Marlboro Man comes to SW9

Earlier in this blog, I linked to the Pioneer Woman. I said some flattering things about this wonderful blogger, photographer, mother and cook, but I have to confess that essentially I was taking the piss. “Check out this Republican rube!” I thought. “See how she cooks with Mountain Dew, and Butter! She’s catering for cowboys – clearly these culinary philistines will trough anything that has calories!” And I sniggered into my Gin and Slim, and put fingers to keyboard.

Full of self-importance, I showed my post to the darling, who promptly said: “Hold on! There’s butter in them hills! And salt! And the flesh of animals slain in anger! Prove your love for me, woman, and reproduce these recipes, kthxbai!” And off he strode back to the urlmines, hefting the tiny computer.

Reader, I love him. And anyway, I too am a greedy bastard. So I took myself off to a spin class on the basis that a calorie burned is a calorie earned, and I stashed some skirt from the farmers’ market for the purpose, and tonight we feasted a la Marlboro Man.

Skirt is the perfect meat for this. It’s essentially quite lean, which makes the addition of vast amounts of butter slightly less guilt-inducing. And, as I said in my previous post about this miracle meat, it responds beautifully to fast cooking and a long rest. And it’s so cheap! I can’t remember how much ours cost, but it was less than £4 and we are shamelessly greedy, and there was still a lot left. A lot.

Do yourselves a favour, public. Pay a visit to Pioneer Woman and your local market, invest a couple of quid in connective tissue-rich meat, cook it hot and fast then rest it long and slow, and reap the lush benefits. And don’t be shy with the butter.

I wanted to photograph this meal, and I did.

Voila.

pioneer1

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