Food. Travel. Recipes.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Jamie's Italian (Nottingham)

Two (or maybe three) weeks ago, I met up with my lovely friend Emily in Nottingham, our plan was to shop for posh hats (for the races in York) and to eat at Jamie's Italian. I was beyond looking forward to this day, we had a pretty funny time trying on all sorts of hats and daydreaming about being rich and getting to wear them all them time (Emily wants a hatdrobe). I was also very much looking forward to the day because of eating at Jamie's Italian. Ever since I caught the cooking bug and started to cook and follow recipes, I have been a big fan of Jamie Oliver. I think Jamie's America was one of my first cookery books, which I have used to no end. I love his cookery shows, especially Jamie at Home, where he cooks with fresh produce. I also followed his Jamie's Food Revolution programme which was hugely informative, and just great that he is so passionate about it. So eating at his restaurant was definitely something I've been wanting to do.

After the shops closed, Emily and I made our way to Jamie's Italian, it's in a really gorgeous part of town, just up from Carluccio's. It's in a lovely building and not at all like I had imagined inside, it was quite small, green old fashioned-esque wallpaper, wooden tables and 60s style floor tiles. The whole restaurant gave a really lovely feel, there was a bar in a separate room and the restaurant was kind of cornered off, the toilets were down in the basement and even they were pretty damn cool as far as toilets go! I just felt that as it was a celebrity chef's restaurant, that it may be intimidating, but it wasn't even remotely like that. Me and Emily were shown to a perfect table by the window, where we shared a bottle of white wine and ate the most delicious food.

The starters we shared; mixed breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce and mushroom fritti with a garlic mayonnaise.

Wild Truffle Risotto. Without a doubt, THE most amazing risotto I've ever eaten. I'm always hesitant when I go to Italian restaurant chains to eat pasta/risotto because it will never be as good as a proper Italian. This risotto shows however that Jamie's Italian is a proper Italian. The ingredients seemed so fresh and it tasted so rich and delicious.

Emily chose this Fish Stew. She said it was delicious and very filling!

I would definitely recommend Jamie's Italian, to any food lovers. It would be lovely for a casual lunch but also a romantic dinner. The prices are quite reasonable for how good the food is. The staff are friendly and very knowledgeable and it was just overall a lovely foodie experience!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne! (Nigel Slater - Real Cooking)

Wow time seriously flies! I can't believe it's been a good couple of a weeks since I last posted. I have however a lot of recipes and food diaries to post, but also a lot of recipes I want to try.

So, a couple of weeks ago I made my first lasagne, it was a veggie one but it's better being veggie for my family really! When I first got Nigel Slater's Real Cooking, this was the main recipe that I really wanted to try. It seemed quite a simple lasagne recipe.

The best lasagne I've ever had was actually cooked by my lovely friend Lily when I lived with her, it was her mum's recipe and always seemed to take a good couple of hours to make but we would wile the time away with a couple of glasses of wine and our incessant chatter! So even though that was a beautiful lasagne, it almost made me a bit scared to make my own! It seemed like so much effort and time (that I seem to now not have) even making the white sauce appeared difficult! As much as I love a challenge, I will always choose something simple but with the taste factor of something a lot harder to make! And, this recipe was it!

The recipe time was also lessened by not making my own béchamel sauce. I would have ordinarily made one but time was not on my side and this was a lot easier. I bought a packet of dried béchamel sauce mix (sounds tasty right?!) from a supermarket and just added milk. I would recommend that for 4 people, buying two packets and maybe using one and a half just so there's enough sauce. I think the downside of my attempt at this was not enough béchamel sauce, my lasagne turned out reasonably well despite it but I definitely could have done with more sauce!

Preparation time: Just under an hour

Cooking time: Half an hour

Serves 4

Ingredient List

400g fresh spinach

300g brown mushrooms

olive oil

3 medium-sized onions, roughly chopped

3 cloves of garlic

dried oregano

a couple of bay leaves

a good squeeze of tomato purée

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

500ml béchamel sauce (packet/ready-made or make your own!)

180g dried lasagne

a generous handful of parmesan

Wash the spinach and then I would suggest putting it in a big enough saucepan, ready for wilting later! Roughly chop the onions and slice the mushrooms thickly, without bothering to remove stalks. Pour enough oil into a large deep pan to cover the bottom. Add the chopped onions and cook over a moderate heat, stirring from time to time until they are soft. While they are cooking, which is around 15 minutes, peel and slice the garlic and stir it in to the cooking onions with a few pinches of dried oregano and the bay leaves.

When the ingredients have mixed together well and are soft, add the sliced mushrooms to the mix. Stir occasionally for ten or fifteen minutes. When the mushrooms and onions are browned, stir in the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper and cook over a low heat for around twenty minutes.

While the mixture is cooking, pop the lid onto the spinach saucepan and cook over a moderate heat, it should cook in its own steam (so long as it was wet before cooking) then drain in a colander.

If you are using a ready made béchamel sauce, you have time now, while the sauce and spinach are cooking to whip it up. If you decide to use the packet method, empty the mixture into a medium sized saucepan and then add the required amount of milk (hardly rocket science!) and then cook over a moderate heat, stirring gently occasionally. It should get to a nice thick consistency, make sure you give it a good fifteen-twenty minutes to get to this point. You could always add a bit of single cream to thicken it up even more!

And now for the layering of the lasagne! Make sure the tomato sauce is at an almost slushy consistency, the white sauce has thickened and the spinach all wilted.

You will need a reasonably deep, large baking dish. Pour in half of the béchamel sauce into the bottom, then add a layer of pasta sheets, breaking it up and making sure all gaps are covered. Then spoon over a thick layer of mushroom sauce and lay a handful of wilted spinach leaves over the top.

Then repeat, adding layers of pasta, mushroom sauce and spinach. Finish with lasagne sheets on the top, pour over the rest of the béchamel and a generous helping of grated parmesan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 190C until bubbling, for around half an hour. Serve with a green salad. Enjoy!

Friday, 15 July 2011

New cookery (related) books! Nigel Slater's Toast and Two Greedy Italians!

I've been wanting to talk about two new cookery (related) books I have acquired in the past couple of weeks, I can't do any reviews on them until I have used/read them but I was excited to share what they were. However, I may start reviewing cookery books I use a lot, just thought of that as a future thing to do! Oooh!

So, book number 1 is not a cookery book as such but an autobiography of one of my favourite chefs, Nigel Slater, called Toast.
Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger

I have one of his books Real Cooking, which I've made a couple of dishes from and I do like the book but his cookery programmes are what I like most about him as a chef.
There's always different things that stand out to me depending on the chef, maybe the style that they cook in, their books, their programmes, the kinds of food they cook or their personality.
With Nigel Slater, I love his kooky personality, he is so passionate about food, about homegrown fresh produce and I adore his Simple Suppers programme, only because I love anything that's easy! I find him really inspiring as a chef and just from him as a person.

One of the reasons I have grown to like him more is watching the television adaptation of his autobiography/memoirs Toast which was on over the Christmas holidays. It was brilliantly acted and was a wonderful portrayal of his early years, his difficult and at times, very sad upbringing, watching him deal with issues beyond his years with a great maturity.

The most poignant theme for me, as to what you could take away from watching it, was his drive to succeed. Slater, driven by so many factors in the early stages of his life; the loss of his mother, his father's difficulty adjusting to life after her death subsequently resulting in a lack of parenting and his new stepmother, who constantly competed for his father's love with food, pushed himself to excel in cooking, to become the best and then at a very early age, to leave home and work in a kitchen in the big smoke. So inspiring and I can't wait to start reading the book version of this.

Secondly is a book I've been wanting for a little while, Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio & Gennaro Contaldo. I haven't seen any cookery programmes from Gennaro Contaldo, and I don't know that much about him apart from the fact he was Jamie Oliver's mentor and has appeared in a couple of his programmes. I have however watched some of Antonio Carluccio during Saturday Kitchen, where he prepares amazing Italian rustic feasts which just seem so easy to him!

I am yet to make a recipe out of it but I assure you that when I do, I will be writing about it! When I first got this book (late birthday present), I leafed through all of the pages and by the end of the book I was seriously annoying my sister by exclaiming at every recipe how delicious it looked! I loved that it's an Italian cookery book by Italians, now I know that may sound a little strange because I'm sure there are plenty of Italian cookery books by Italians, but for me the only Italian cookbook I have is by Jamie Oliver, and as much as I absolutely love Jamie, there is nothing better than getting proper Italian dishes made by Italians that probably had their mammas cooking these kinds of foods for them! There's pages on Italian culture, the North-South divide, cucina povera, street food and family. I am in love with Italy and would love to live there (again), I love the food and I think it's amazing how invested Italians are in it, in good meats, good cheeses, breads, good overall ingredients and that dinner can last a few hours but with quality family time, not just eating dinner separately or eating in front of the t.v.
I am beyond excited to start cooking from this book and may make a recipe next week!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

My Food Diary - part 1 - Cornish Times!

Normally when the words "food diary" are uttered it conjures up images of girls dieting and scribbling down everything they've eaten, to in turn just feel bad about themselves! This is not that kind of food diary! These are photos of food I've eaten on my travels to both Cornwall and Valencia, however there are a LOT of photos so I am splitting it into two posts, this one being the food from Cornwall. It might be completely obvious from either this post or from knowing me, but when I'm travelling, food is one of the highlights for me. I'm so excited to try new, different foods and just generally open up my food horizon!

Lemon and Thyme flavoured chicken from this wonderful little restaurant called Rhubarb in St.Ives.

The accompanying sides to the meal, plain and sweet potato wedges, green beans and mangetout with a lemon and sesame seed dressing. I had fried butter beans and chorizo as my side, but unfortunately did not take a picture of it!

Well, you can't go to Cornwall and not have fudge! This is rocky road fudge and black forest fudge. The black forest was miles tastier than the rocky road!

Delicious chimichangas from a teeny tiny Mexican restaurant in St. Ives.

Similarly to the fudge, you definitely can't go to Cornwall without having a Cornish cream tea. Above is the cream tea that me and my sister shared in this little tea shop called Madeline's (I think!)

A very gluttonous but moreish dinner of a giant lamb and mint pasty with roasted vegetables (cooked at home as we were staying self catering)

Double scooped ice cream in a huge chocolatey cone! YUM!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Aubergine Parmigiana (Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights) with lemon basil chicken

So it's been a while since I've posted but I'm planning to get much more into cooking, recipes and blogging. I'm currently trying to make (time permitting) one or two dinners a week at home and any lunches or cake making that I do can be thrown into the mix too, hopefully generating one or two posts a week.

I made this Aubergine Parmigiana last week and thought I'd blog about it today! This is from Sophie Dahl's book, Miss Dahl's Voluptous Delights, which I've mentioned numerous times on here, mainly for the fail-proof banana bread recipe and the lovely French onion soup.
I first tried this on my own when my parents were away, and felt exceedingly content having made this for the first time and enjoying it and feeling proud! This is the third time I've made it now and it is definitely a good wholesome dish. There is quite a bit of preparation but oven cooking time is relatively short (20 minutes) So shouldn't cause too much hassle for a weekday evening.

Since I've made this a few times, I didn't reference the book so much and just used whatever measures I thought were right, so the recipe isn't going to be word for word what's from the book, more like a mix of two wordings. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredient List
3 medium aubergines
Sea salt
Olive oil

1 onion, sliced
2/3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of soft brown sugar
Salt and Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar
50g of fresh basil
3 large balls of mozzerella
A good grating of parmesan, I'd say around 150g-200g

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Slice the aubergines lengthways into medium slices (around 1cm)
Lay out onto an oven tray (you may need two for all of the aubergines!) and sprinkle with sea salt. This draws out the bitter liquid from the aubergines. Leave for 20 minutes.

After sprinkling the aubergines with salt, start on the sweet tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic, gently sweat them and stir.

Do not overheat the pan and try to keep on a low heat. Add the chopped tomatoes and brown sugar, season and stir, stick the lid on and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes.

Whilst this is simmering, drizzle some olive oil over the aubergine slices and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes.
During this time, I usually slice the mozzarella balls, grate the parmesan and chop up the basil.

Now comes the time for layering up the ingredients! Take the aubergines out of the oven and take the tomato sauce off of the heat.
Grease a large baking dish with some olive oil. Arrange a layer of aubergine slices at the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with some basil.

Add some mozzerella slices.

Then pour over some of the tomato sauce and then a generous sprinkling of parmesan.
Keep going until all of the ingredients are used up.

After finishing all of the layers, top the dish with more parmesan and basil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

I served this with lemon basil chicken, which my sister kindly marinated and sorted out for me whilst I was preparing the parmigiana.

Lemon and basil marinade

Olive oil.
Bay leaf.
2 garlic cloves, chopped.
Basil leaves, chopped.
Zest and juice of 1 lemon.

Arrange the chicken on an oven tray and drizzle the marinade over the top. Keep in the fridge with foil over the top for a while before making the parmigiana, a few hours if you can. Then about 15 minutes before popping in the parmigiana, put the chicken in the oven as it takes 30-40 minutes, depending on the type of chicken breast.

I have to apologise for not including a picture of the parmigiana as a whole when it came out of the oven. I think I may have been a tad too eager! Although here is the meal served up altogether.