Sunday 26 June 2011

Why not...

Smoked salmon risotto with pastis

Risotto is smooth and creamy - the most comforting of comfort foods and with endless variations. My parents are partial to rocket and taleggio. I like to vary and use whatever's lurking in the fridge or cupboard - grated courgettes, added at the last moment with pecorino, fresh broad beans and asparagus, or like last night fresh peas, smoked salmon and a slug of Ricard. The flavour is robust but complimentary - wonderfully fresh, fragrant and fishy with a hit of aniseed to enliven the taste buds.

Monday 20 June 2011

Food, fashion and photography

Pinar Yolacan, Untitled, 2001, Perishables
Pinar Yolacan, Untitled, 2003, Perishables
Pinar Yolacan, Untitled, 2002, Perishables

Pinar Yolacan, Untitled, 2007, Maria
Pinar Yolacan, Untitled, 2007, Maria

Pinar Yolacan, Untitled, 2007, Maria

Without biography or the marketing speak of a gallerist or curator we are free to engage with work on our own terms, resonances are often visceral, although there is little neutrality as we approach everything with a set of learned ideals and preconceptions. Location and situation, the where and how, of our encounter is another element worth considering.

The work of Turkish born, London Art School educated, New York based artist Pinar Yolacan came to me in the reading rooms of the British Library as I worked my way through the entire back catalogue of Gastronomica magazine. A research project may start with one very particular set of questions but the end result often tansmutes into an entirely different thing. 

As I flayed amongst the limitless possibilities of my chosen subject (the visual representation of food) her work hit me with the same intensity as the accosting smell of rubbish truck does. A shiver as I imagined the cold, dead, raw meat draped on these women - an emotional response. Entrails sewn into the fabric of the design, intergrated to become bespoke items, beauty in the profane. 

Yolacan's work is not about food, fashion or photography - they are merely the mediums that she incorporates into a collaborative performance with her subjects to articulate her own underlying autobiographical narratives. In her photographs food is reduced to its material element, it is given agency through its incongruous inclusion, it demands attention in its own right.

All images Pinar Yolacan courtesy of Rivington Arms Gallery, New York, USA. Images taken from the exhibition catalogues "Pinar Yolacan 'Perishables'" 2-28 March 2007, and "Pinar Yolacan 'Maria'" 20 March-4 May 2008 at the Yapi Kredi Kazim Taskent Art Gallery, Turkey

Monday 13 June 2011

Fruity flan

Almond, brandy and apricot pie

If I tell my father I like something this is a green light for a generous offering - this week it was two punnets of fresh apricots. Now I can only eat a certain number of apricots in one sitting - so it was really a toss up between jam or a fruit flan.

This is an adaptation (what recipe isn't?) using Skye Gyngell's sweet pastry recipe. She leaves the fruit with little embellishment besides lemon and sugar. I wanted to add almonds and a little alcohol and felt that a glaze and more toasted almonds would add another layer of flavour and texture.

Apricot and almond flan

For the pastry
250g plain organic flour
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
2-3 drops  vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt
125g unsalted butter - cut into the cubes

For the filling
15 apricots - halved and destoned
4 tablespoons ground almonds
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Large glug of brandy
Juice of half a lemon

For the topping
2 tablespoons of apricot jam
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons of toasted flaked almonds
Add the cold butter to the flour + salt - crumble to resemble coarse sand.
Add remaining ingredients form into a smooth ball - wrap in cling film and refrigerate for half an hour.

Put apricots and all other filling ingredients in a bowl, mix together and set aside.
Roll out pastry to fit a 9 inch flan tin (with a removable base), prick all over and return to the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 180 degrees centigrade
Blind-bake for ten minutes.

Remove from oven and add filling - stack the apricots like dominoes, spoon over any remaining mixture.

Bake in centre of oven for approx 35 minutes, turning half way through to ensure even cooking. The apricots should be caramelising slightly and the pastry a light biscuit colour.

Put the apricot jam and lemon juice in a pan over a gentle heat and mix together. Pour over the apricots, sprinkle with toasted almonds and leave to cool slightly.

Serve with Greek yoghurt.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Ginger Pig lamb leg steaks

Ginger Pig lamb leg steaks with garlic and thyme

Another cut of lamb from the Ginger Pig, ideal for the small family or those who do not want to exercise the time and labour needed for a whole roast leg of lamb. Lamb leg stakes with enough fat to ensure a succulent (as always) piece of meat. Pierce the meat with a knife and add slivers of garlic and thyme. Rub the meat with salt and pepper then...cook as per Tom the butcher's instructions:

Heat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
Flash fry starting in a cool, dry pan with fat side down - let the fat render off and the meat will brown in that.
Pop in the oven and roast - 12 minutes will give you lovely pink meat.
Take out, leave to rest, then carve. 

Delicious with slightly overcooked potatoes with lots of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and a medley of tender carrots, fresh peas and broad beans.

Friday 3 June 2011

Let the food speak for itself

Sicilia in Bocca by Franca Colanno Romano

The page spreads of Sicilia in Boca  are an abject lesson in the possibilities and inspirational quality of cookery books without photographs. The highly mediated and stylised images produced for most cookery books set an almost unachievable bar for most cooks to reach. The images can indeed inspire but they can also alienate as the high production values used to create them are not the criteria followed by most of us in the kitchen. Food is manipulated to please the publisher and sell books as opposed to being a "true" representation of how a particular dish appears. How many of us have followed a recipe to the letter only to be sorely disappointed that our food appears nothing like the beautiful image in the book?

Illustrated cookery books do just that - they illustrate an element, convey a feeling, an essence of the recipe - they leave the end result to the cook. Experience and practice are two key elements to cooking - as with any other craft you hone your skill and develop your technique to create your own highly personalised version and so let the food speak for itself, the images tell another story.