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Food, Glorious Food: Share what you had for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper

Beef roulade, served with a salad of tomato, apple and orange, dressed with a little olive oil.
 
Slow roasted pork belly: (Loosely based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe).

Score the skin of the pork belly in the classic diamond shape with a sharp knife, and rub salt - and brown demerara sugar - into the cracks.

In a roasting tin, heat some olive oil: Then, sauté some roughly chopped onion, some garlic (I used six fat cloves, roughly sliced), and some roughly sliced (and peeled) cooking apples (tart, sharp tasting apples).

Some star anise was added, as were caraway seeds, and some juniper berries, and the lot sautéed; add a little more olive oil, then, add the pork belly to the roasting tin, skin side down, to lightly colour it and seal it.

When that is done, turn it over, and add some white wine to the roasting tin; burn off the alcohol, and add some stock (I used chicken stock); I then added locally sourced (organic, natural) apple juice. Pour in sufficient liquid for it to reach the skin of the pork belly - you want the flesh bathed in those lovely cooking juices.

At this stage, the roasting tin goes into the oven, (180-190C 360-380F) which has been pre-heated, where it will spend two and a half hours; take it out every hour to check for liquid (and add some more apple juice if necessary; after nearly two hours, I also added honey to the beautifully crispy skin).

I served sautéed potatoes, a mix of standard potatoes and sweet potatoes, peeled and diced, (sautéed in olive oil) and thoroughly soaked and rinsed in water to remove some of the starch; they were sautéed along with finely chopped red onion, several finely diced fat cloves of garlic, and sprigs of rosemary and thyme.
 
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Roasted (diced) potato, red onion and (cooking) apple, drizzled with olive oil, and flavoured with fresh thyme and rosemary.

This was served with fillet steak (cooked rare, which is what I prefer), and aioli, (homemade garlic mayonnaise, prepared from three ingredients: Egg yolks from organic, free range eggs, minced garlic (four fine fat cloves) and olive oil).
 
As was the case yesterday, all of the vegetables are organic, and were bought from the people who grew them, likewise, the fillet steak came from beef that, in turn, came from animals that were ethically reared, with an eye to environmental best practice, and were slaughtered, and the meat then aged, by the enterprise that sold them to me; the eggs, as mentioned in yesterday's post, are organic and free range.

This evening's dish also features fillet steak, (cooked rare, by preference and not seasoned at all before it meets a very hot pan with olive oil), and yesterday's aioli. (Free range and organic egg yolks, minced garlic, and olive oil slowly drizzled and - eventually - whisked until it is a golden mass of solid glory).

The (root) vegetables were roasted, as were yesterday's, but with a bit of a difference.

Finely diced sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, red onion, and (cooking) apple were roasted in dish with a Middle/Eastern North Africa influence, with a sauce prepared from olive oil, to which was added, harissa, sweet smoked pimentón, (paprika), ground cumin, black pepper and a little brown sugar. After an hour and a half in the oven, some pomegranate molasses were also stirred through.
 
Craving the sense of sunshine, heat, warmth, and summer, I have just prepared a tropical fruit salad: Actually, I have been preparing them possibly twice a week for the past month or so (and this fruit intake is in addition to the freshly squeezed citrus fruit - oranges, grapefruit and lemon - that I have most mornings).

It looks amazing - those warm golden colours, burnt orange, mellow yellow, rich and luscious glorious gold - and tastes wonderful.

The actual fruit salad comprises apricots (tinned, for they are not in season, just now; however, their canning juice or liquid offers a nice tart taste to the salad), but everything else is fresh fruit: Sliced mango, sliced persimmon, and scooped out passion fruit.

A pomegranate shall find its way into the next dish of tropical fruit salad I prepare, as one is sitting in a dish of oranges which is also currently home to a few mangoes and persimmons and passion fruit. The lemons and pink grapefruit live in separate wooden bowls, while apples reside by themselves in yet another wooden bowl.
 
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Lentil soup, made to stave off the wintry chill of this weekend! Today I added precious little to the lentils and water besides a very generous spoonful of Penzey's "Bangkok Blend" --which is a hand-mixed creation of ground or crushed herbs and spices meant for Thai cooking but I've found it a great way to make plain ol' lentil soup pretty special with about zero effort.

The Bangkok Blend, added not far from end of cooking, includes ancho chili pepper, garlic, ginger, Tellicherry black pepper, galangal, crushed red pepper, lemon grass, cayenne red pepper, paprika, basil, and cilantro. Yes, just taking the cap off the little jar in the kitchen probably reduces one's heating fuel bill by a couple dollars. No salt in the stuff so have to add that separately as desired. I made enough to have some tomorrow or Sunday too.

Snacked my way through some olives and cheese in the meantime, stumbling into that idea while grabbing a bit of tomato paste to tack into the soup for a little color, and ending up toasting half a pita to have with with my little plate of goodies.
 
Lentil soup, made to stave off the wintry chill of this weekend! Today I added precious little to the lentils and water besides a very generous spoonful of Penzey's "Bangkok Blend" --which is a hand-mixed creation of ground or crushed herbs and spices meant for Thai cooking but I've found it a great way to make plain ol' lentil soup pretty special with about zero effort.

The Bangkok Blend, added not far from end of cooking, includes ancho chili pepper, garlic, ginger, Tellicherry black pepper, galangal, crushed red pepper, lemon grass, cayenne red pepper, paprika, basil, and cilantro. Yes, just taking the cap off the little jar in the kitchen probably reduces one's heating fuel bill by a couple dollars. No salt in the stuff so have to add that separately as desired. I made enough to have some tomorrow or Sunday too.

Snacked my way through some olives and cheese in the meantime, stumbling into that idea while grabbing a bit of tomato paste to tack into the soup for a little color, and ending up toasting half a pita to have with with my little plate of goodies.
Sounds delicious.

For what it is worth, I'm still on the look-out for a recipe for a version of Turkish lentil soup that is well within my culinary capabilities.
 
Sounds delicious.

For what it is worth, I'm still on the look-out for a recipe for a version of Turkish lentil soup that is well within my culinary capabilities.trial

There's an Ithaca restaurant that has great Turkish food, and we were complimenting the guy on the lentil soup one night. He was so funny, he said that he asked his mother for the recipe so he could honor her by making it a feature of his American restaurant when first opening it. She sent the receipe and he made it and then figured like all holders of great recipes she was holding a little something back. Said it took him months to figure out by trial and error how the recipe should go to match up to his memory... and of course he just laughed when we asked if he was ready to share it with his customers!
 
There's an Ithaca restaurant that has great Turkish food, and we were complimenting the guy on the lentil soup one night. He was so funny, he said that he asked his mother for the recipe so he could honor her by making it a feature of his American restaurant when first opening it. She sent the receipe and he made it and then figured like all holders of great recipes she was holding a little something back. Said it took him months to figure out by trial and error how the recipe should go to match up to his memory... and of course he just laughed when we asked if he was ready to share it with his customers!

Even in Istanbul airport (at many of the stalls, or stores, or restaurants) - and airport food is usually universally grim, in my experience, - but, even in Istanbul airport, the lentil soup is superlative.

And, (in Istanbul) I have eaten in small, sidestreet restaurants, unpretentious places patronised by locals that serve superb food, where the lentil soup (ordered by almost every local - also an absolute tell-tale sign that this is worth investigating further) - would not win any awards for appearance, but the aroma......the aroma alone would seduce you, and the taste would confirm that this seduction is entirely in order and that you should plan for further assignations with this divine delight.
 
Pasta All'Amatriciana was for dinner.

This is a classic Italian (Roman, actually), surprisingly easy (and extraordinarily tasty) pasta dish to prepare, with a handful of ingredients.

As wth many such tarditional dishes, it stands or falls on the quality of the ingredients.

The key ingredients are, firstly, guanciale, (pig's cheek), which is diced; pancetta will work well, but guanciale is better.

Other ingredients are: Tomatoes, (I used a tin of Italian tomatoes, by the excellent San Marzano company, fresh tomatoes may work well in summer, but, at this time of year, a good quality tin of Italian tomatoes, such as San Marzano, yield far better flavour); a little extra virgin olive oil - to sauté the diced guanciale in, (very gently), freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (to add at the end), a small glass of white wine (for deglazing the pan with the diced guanciale before adding the tinned tomatoes), salt and black pepper to taste and, of course, pasta.

That's it.

Now, some people do add diced onion, and/or a chilli pepper, and/or a crushed clove of garlic (or two); that is entirely up to the preferences of the chef, (I didn't use any of these ingredients this evening), but it may not find favour with the purists.

Recipe:

The first step is to prepare the guanciale, the pig's cheek.

Cut off the rind and the peppered side, and discard (although the rind can be retained and used to flavour stock, or soups).

Slice it, and then dice it, and put it into a large pan (I used a large copper sauté pan) where a small quantity of olive oil has been heating. The diced guanciale will become translucent and transparent, the fat will render (and will give a glorious flavour to the sauce) and blend with the olive oil.

When the diced guanciale has rendered - and you can stir it with a wooden spoon - the meat soft, the fat luscious and succulent, add a small glass of white wine to the pan, and stir, allowing the alcohol to burn off.

Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes: These will come from a tin - San Marzano (an excellent Italian brand, for preference); Open the tin, and tip the contents into a bowl or dish, where you mash them and cut them up; season them (with sea salt, - some recipes insist that this is not necessary as the guanciale is already quite salty - but I am of the opinion that tomatoes, in common with potatoes and eggs, that tomatoes also require the addition of some salt - freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of sugar, I used organic brown sugar); this is then added to the sauté pan, where the chopped and sautéed guanciale awaits; let this cook, at a simmer, stir occasionally, for around twenty minutes.

After around twenty minutes, shortly before the pasta is ready to be added to the sauce, add around six tablespoons, or ladles, of the starchy pasta cooking liquid to the tomato sauce mixture.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare a green salad if you wish: Today, I decided to forego salad, not least because I didn't have fresh greens to hand, and it was snowing and sleeting outside and I preferred not to venture out.

I also grated some Pecorino Romano, to be served with the finished dish.

Water (rather than stock, the sauce will be sufficiently flavoursome, the pasta does not need the addition of being cooked in stock to enhance its flavour) is put to boil, with a little salt and olive oil added, and the pasta is then added once it has reached the boil. When almost ready, the pasta is drained, and added to the sauté pan, and a little of the pasta cooking water is retained, should a little more liquid need to be added to the sauce; today, I added six ladles of this starchy liquid to the tomato sauce.

And this is when dinner is served.
 
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Late lunch with BFF to celebrate an upcoming birthday. The pub we had planned to visit sadly had not survived the pandemic. As a fallback we decided to go for steak on a plank at a place with good reviews from trusty steak on a plank-enthusiasts in 2015 and 2018.

While I’m not one to take and post pictures of food, this serving warranted an exception.

9006D62C-E398-41BF-B27F-D6F16C7F7927.jpeg
 
Late lunch with BFF to celebrate an upcoming birthday. The pub we had planned to visit sadly had not survived the pandemic. As a fallback we decided to go for steak on a plank at a place with good reviews from trusty steak on a plank-enthusiasts in 2015 and 2018.

While I’m not one to take and post pictures of food, this serving warranted an exception.

View attachment 689

Looks delicious, but, I'm afraid that you will have to identify the food that is coloured yellow, on the left of the picture; some version of mashed potato, perhaps? And what is the white object in the centre of the yellow?
 
Looks delicious, but, I'm afraid that you will have to identify the food that is coloured yellow, on the left of the picture; some version of mashed potato, perhaps? And what is the white object in the centre of the yellow?
No worries!

You are spot on. The yellow is indeed a version of mashed potato: Duchess potatoes — a purée of mashed potato, egg yolk, and butter, forced from a piping bag then baked in an oven.

The whiter stuff enclosed by the above is béarnaise sauce (lightly warmed).

Also worth mentioning is the tomato half to the right, topped with cheese before entering the oven. It is a traditional part of the dish, but usually smaller tomatoes are used and sometimes just seasoned, no cheese. There is a round indentation in one corner of the boards to hold the tomato.

On top of the steak is an asparagus spear wrapped in bacon. Hidden under the steak was a bunch of assorted vegetables.

The previously linked recipe has a picture of a more traditional way to serve the dish.
 
No worries!

You are spot on. The yellow is indeed a version of mashed potato: Duchess potatoes — a purée of mashed potato, egg yolk, and butter, forced from a piping bag then baked in an oven.

The whiter stuff enclosed by the above is béarnaise sauce (lightly warmed).

Also worth mentioning is the tomato half to the right, topped with cheese before entering the oven. It is a traditional part of the dish, but usually smaller tomatoes are used and sometimes just seasoned, no cheese. There is a round indentation in one corner of the boards to hold the tomato.

On top of the steak is an asparagus spear wrapped in bacon. Hidden under the steak was a bunch of assorted vegetables.

The previously linked recipe has a picture of a more traditional way to serve the dish.

Thank you.

I imagine that you must have enjoyed it.

Dinner, chateau moi, was pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans, classic peasant comfort food, and delicious; will post the recipe later).
 
Pasta e fagioli (Pasta and Beans).

This is an old peasant dish, classic country peasant comfort cooking, rib-sticking joy in cold climates or during spells of cold weather, cheap and easy to prepare, nutritious and delicious to eat.

The first time I ever encountered this dish was well over a decade ago, when I was invited to dinner in the flat of a former student of mine, who had become a teacher himself, and who had married a lady from Italy, who prepared this dish.

She was apologetic; it was mid week, she was busy with work, and this - what she insisted was basic peasant comfort food, "the sort you would never see at formal dinners, when inviting guests, or never see in restaurants, just basic comfort food for friends and family," was all she was able to offer at short notice.

I was stunned with delight; this was delicious (she confirmed that her husband, my former student, - much to her surprise - also loved this dish), and I asked about it, requesting details.

As this is peasant style cooking, the preparation of the actual dish is both relaxed and flexible, and you can tweak some ingredients to taste.

However, as this dish uses few enough ingredients, as with much such cooking, it stands or falls on the quality of the ingredients.

The key ingredients are beans (I used tinned beans - actually, a jar of good quality Spanish cannellini beans).

Some use dried beans which means overnight soaking and changing the water, and then cooking the beans for a few hours, adding considerably to the time needed - not to mention advance planning needed - to prepare the dish. Use whatever suits, but be aware that dried beans will add time and will oblige you to plan the dish at least a day in advance. For convenience, I use tinned or jarred beans, a good quality Spanish or Italian brand. Cannellini beans (which are white, or cream coloured), or borlotti beans (which are known as - or referred to, or described as - cranberry beans, I think, in the US) are the beans to use in this recipe.

Then, pasta; onion, garlic, stock; other ingredients, aromatics (rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, or tomato paste, pancetta, or guanciale, chilli flakes, or chilli pepper - for flavour - are all optional). This is an excellent dish to use pancetta or guanciale rinds (if you keep them), and/or a rind of parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano), as it will lend a wonderful flavour to the stock.

Sometimes, I prepare this with two pots (i.e. that means that you cook the pasta separately, and add it to the bean mix when both pasta and beans in their sauce have been cooked).

However, yesterday, I prepared it all together, in one pot. Both methods are equally valid, and both taste equally good.

And, as yesterday was a filthy day, pouring rain, with lashing, driving rain all day, I was obliged to use what was to hand in the house, as I didn't venture out to the farmers' market.

Thus, I decided to forego the usual soffritto, the finely diced medley of carrot, onion and celery (plus garlic) that is the usual starting point for a great many Italian recipes, as I didn't have either carrots or celery to hand in the house.

Instead, I started off with a little olive oil into a large (copper) saucepan, to which I added a finely diced large onion, and several, seven in fact, (most recipes - the ones that use garlic - call for between one and three cloves of garlic; I like garlic, - no, scratch that, I love garlic - and some recipes did comment that you could put as much or as little garlic in the recipe as is your preference) cloves of very finely diced garlic.

This lot were sautéed on a low heat until soft; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper were added to taste; then, (as I also lacked fresh tomatoes), I added two dessertspoons of tomato paste/tomato puree, and stirred them through; some finely diced guanciale was added, as were the retained rinds from both the guanciale and from a hunk of parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese.

These ingredients were sautéed together, whereupon I added a generous quantity of chicken stock to the saucepan, brought it up to the boil and then added the (rinsed) cannellini beans, reducing the heat to a simmer.

Some people will choose to remove a few spoons of the bean mixture (and blend it separately, returning it to the saucepan, in order to thicken the sauce; I didn't do that - the sauce will become quite thick enough anyway, once you add the pasta and the starch from the pasta works its magic in the sauce).

With this step, the thing to remember, is that if you wish to thicken the sauce with some of the bean mixture, you must remove the bean mixture (and blend it, with something such as a stick blender) and return it to the sauce before you add the pasta.

Remove the scum that floats to the top with a spoon.

When the beans have been sufficiently introduced to the remaining ingredients (which takes far less time, 15 or so minutes, with beans from a jar or tin, than from dried beans which you will have to have cooked for hours, in addition to their earlier overnight soaking), you can consider adding the pasta to the sauce.

There are two things to note at this stage: The first is that the pasta will take several minutes longer to cook than it says on the packet - you are adding it to a saucepan full of other ingredients, rather than simply to boiling, salted, water. Thus, be prepared to add several extra minutes to the cooking time for the pasta, depending on the pasta you choose to use. This means that a pasta that normally takes 12-15 minutes will take closer to twenty minutes to cook, whereas a pasta that the packet advises may take 9-11 minutes to cook will take closer to fifteen when used in this recipe.

The second thing to note is that, at this stage, while your heat will be lower than usual for cooking pasta, these ingredients can stick to the bottom of your pan, and burn; thus, this is not the time to check your social media while cooking; instead, remain in the vicinity of the cooker (or stove), and remember to stir the pot every one or two minutes, to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.

When the pasta is cooked (and yes, it will be tested by removing and tasting), the dish is ready to serve (and eat).

Have some grated (freshly grated) Parmesan cheese - Parmigiano Reggiano ready to hand; ladle the pasta into bowls, not plates; drizzle olive oil over it (be generous) and sprinkle it with the freshly grated cheese (be generous).

Bon appétit.
 
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A bit under the weather. So I went to the neighborhood Italian restaurant/pizzeria and got a bowl of guess what? I'm sure it pales in comparison to a homemade version though.

It is glorious comfort food; and I'm sure it went down well; at least, I hope it did.

And, you know what?

For something so unpretentious, it is incredibly tasty, and soothing and warming.

And, in common with many stews, casseroles, curries, chilli, or that type of dish, it keeps well and tastes even better the following day.
 
Today I'm just cooking up some lamb stew with lentils, onions, carrots and mushrooms to have over linguine.

I'd like to be able to say the lamb is featured on my table today in honor of all the sheep out there selling their bank shares today in the wake of the tech-bank collapses, but alas, it's just because there's a big snow dump happening tonight and all day tomorrow... so I'm cooking what I don't feel like losing from my little over-fridge freezer, in case the power goes out. Lamb is not that easy to find here until later into spring, so I'm not letting this stashed purchase escape.
 
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