Monday, 24 August 2009

A sizzling Sunday barbecue

I was up with the lark yesterday at the prospect of one of those hot, lazy, summer Sundays that we love here in our house. So few have been the opportunities to barbecue recently that I had my marinating hat on before breakfast to prepare a veggie starter, pictured above, and a pork main course, pictured below.

Barbecued Halloumi slices with olives and a dressing of chilli and mint

Halloumi is a fairly solid cheese with a high melting point, making it one of the few cheeses that you can cook on a barbecue without the whole lot falling into the coals. Traditionally from Cyprus, it is popular throughout Greece and the Middle East. A fairly salty cheese, it is produced mainly using goat's milk and ewe's milk although the ingredients list on the cheese I cooked with stated cow's milk as well.

I quickly rustled up the dressing by mixing together three tablespoons of Extra Virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon, a red chilli (roughly chopped) and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. I then left the dressing for five hours to let the flavours integrate (two hours should be plenty), before adding a handful of chopped mint when ready to serve. I sliced a 250g pack of Halloumi into thick slices, brushed it with olive oil and grilled it on the barbecue until the slices were browned a little on both sides. The dressing is simply poured on top of the cooked cheese. Don't worry if it seems a bit squeaky when you eat it - Halloumi is the ultimate squeaky cheese. After a hot morning's gardening (so much for the aforementioned lazy Sunday), we had built up a thirst so we enjoyed a simple, cold beer with the dish.

Pork steaks in a spicy marinade

For the marinade, I poured in a glug of olive oil (probably about four tablespoons), the juice of a lemon, three cloves of crushed garlic and a teaspoon each of cumin, turmeric and paprika. This made enough marinade to cover four large pork steaks. The pork was left in the fridge for five hours until ready to cook on the barbecue. Check that the meat is properly cooked through (no pink bits) before you take it off the barbecue. It's a little bit spicy but not too hot so my 6-year-old and 9-year-old devoured theirs with gusto. We served it with some Mediterranean vegetables but couscous with pine nuts, a finely chopped and sautéed red onion and a little paprika and cinammon would also go well. To drink, the husband and I found a lightly chilled St Nicolas de Bourgueil (Cabernet Franc) from the Loire to be an ideal match.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Back from the Jura.....

Our camping holiday in the Jura got off to a less than auspicious start as thunder and lightning danced around the campsite on our arrival and the thought of putting the tent up, in the torrential rain we had driven through, became almost more than we could bear. This sad scene faced us, on top of a 12-hour drive from Dorset, and with two very tired children buried in the back of the car amidst much camping paraphenalia.

I am happy to report, however, that things got much better as the week progressed. The weather was mostly glorious, the local markets and cheeses (notably Comté, shown in the photo above, Morbier and some great goat's cheeses) were divine and the mountain/lake air relaxed us immeasurably.

Whilst the simple wines of the region that we tried weren't particularly memorable, we did stumble across some good Pinot Noir (which is grown along with Chardonnay much in the same way as in Burgundy as the soils and climate are similar) and some excellent Vin de Paille (literally straw wine - a long-lived sweet wine made from dried grapes). Many of the local white wines, predominantly from the local grape, Savagnin, are of an oxidative style and, perhaps, the best known Jura wine made in this style is Vin Jaune, a wine capable of considerable ageing and made in a similar fashion to Sherry. Reds made from the local grapes, Plousseau and Troussard, tend to be quite light in style. A Crémant de Jura is also produced and rosé wines are fairly common.

We've come home with a local smoked sausage, Morteau, which should be cooked in boiling water or wine and served with potatoes or a lentil stew. The sausage smells divine in the fridge and I shall be experimenting with it this week. Watch this space................

Monday, 3 August 2009

Squid with chilli and lime on toasted bread

A great Saturday night starter - easy to prepare and something a bit different. Do check with your dinner guests that they like squid before you present it to them, though. It's surprising how many people aren't keen - I think it's the texture that baffles them.

To prepare the squid (I used 20 pouches to serve four people), slit the body pouches down the middle and score across and down the skin to give a 'criss-cross' effect. Cut each pouch in half and fry, scored side up, for 30 seconds or so. The pieces of squid should roll up as you do this. You can also add the tentacles from inside the body pouch but, at this point, I should admit to being slightly put off by these wobbly bits. I usually leave them out.

Remove the squid from the pan and throw in two finely chopped red chillis (I removed the seeds to avoid overpowering the dish with chilli heat) and four chopped spring onions. Fry for a minute then return the squid to the pan with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. Toss the mixture for a further minute to brown. Season with a little salt and pepper and add some chopped flatleaf parsley. Serve on toasted, rustic bread which you have first drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Top the lot with a squeeze of lime juice.

Our wine choice, and it was an excellent accompaniment, was a young Australian Riesling from the Mount Lofty Ranges Zone of South Australia which encompasses Adelaide Hills and the Clare Valley. The Eden Valley, also in South Australia, is renowned for its Riesling too.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Friday Frittata

Yesterday was a very long day and I got home to find nothing much in the fridge, no thought having been given to supper. Going out again in search of suitable ingredients was not to be contemplated so I pulled together the best of what we had and made a baked bacon, sage and squash frittata.

The beauty of baking a frittata (I use a round fruit cake tin) is that it can be left to cook in the oven for 30 minutes, thus avoiding all that prodding and fussing that tends to be involved when making frittata in a pan.

In preparation for baking, I mixed the following ingredients in a bowl:

small chunks of roasted squash (I used spaghetti squash but butternut would be better)
lightly fried pieces of bacon
a little crushed garlic
some grated grana padano, a cheaper yet tasty alternative to parmesan
8 free range eggs
a handful of chopped chives and the same amount of sage

I then poured the lot into the cake tin, which I had greased with butter, and cooked it in a medium oven for about half an hour.

The frittata was served warm with a tomato and chive salad and some crusty bread. As an accompaniment, we enjoyed a glass of Barbera d'Asti 2006, a mid-weight red from Piedmont in northern Italy which coped ably with the different flavours in the dish and proved to be a great match. So much so that, for lunch, we are going to have the rest of the frittata (cold) with another glass of the Barbera.