Absence of pictures, being cooked for, taste buds, naughty porky secrets, Casa Brindisa, cookbook!

Absence of pictures, being cooked for, taste buds, naughty porky secrets, Casa Brindisa, cookbook!

My goal this week was to add visual interest to my blogs through exciting pictures of aventures in the culinary world.  Apart from 1 little picture of a tart...three quarters eaten, I'm afraid I've failed.  Completely*.  You'll simply have to let your imagination wander most of the time... apologies, I promise to work on this next week...

This week I was lucky enough to be cooked for, twice.  It's a rare treat to have people cook for me.  The first was up north in Manchester.  I was staying overnight at my business partner, Mark's house with his lovely wife Rachel and their kids Emma and Sophie, remarkably well behaved whenever I am there (the kids not Mark and Rachel)...  I was treated to some delicious pork belly - great crackling which I seem to recall Mark rubbed with cumin and salt (it felt like I was on holiday, so I was indulging in a little wine - hence my grasp on the facts are, perhaps, a little tenuous).  Mark doesn't add any oil to the skin to make it crispy - everyone, it seems, has their own way of making pig skin crispy....

Perhaps being Jewish, this has never been my forté - I mean, we'd never sit down to a meal of roast pork when I was a kid... albeit, somehow, bacon, salami and ham did manage to make it to the table somehow... but ultimately this has meant that I've not grown up watching pork being prepared and cooked and so crackling is still a bit of a mystery to me.... feel free to tell me your crispy porky secrets that a good Jewish boy can only dream of...

The second cooking-for-Alan episode came on Tuesday and took the form of the aforementioned tart... Apple and frangipane to be precise...  and delicious it was too but my picture is hardly a work of photographic art now is it?....

But it IS testimony to how much I am enjoying it!

We tried it warm initially after a brief blast in the oven.  Ever since though, I've been eating it cold.  When cold, the flavours all work together perfectly - not too sweet and just a little salty from the pastry -   perfect with the caramelised edges of the apples... However, when warm, the saltiness came through a bit too strong I felt - but room temperature - it was perfect.  That's why you season cold food a little more heavily than warm....

The question is, did I choose to tell Ciaran that I thought it had too much salt in when eaten warm... Well, I'm afriad I did and in retrospect, I probably should have kept my trap shut.  After all, I hate people passing comment on my food when I've gone to the effort to cook it.  I'm a terrible recipient of criticism when it's in relation to something I've cooked... I take it far too personally.  Perhaps I feel that taste is so personal, everyone tastes differently - everyone's taste buds are configured uniquely on their tongue so how can we possibly pass jusdgement...

I'm sure I remember reading something about that in Brillat-Savarin's Physiologie du gout ...   Ultimately, if you are a foodie, you cook with passion and with your heart - in the same way an artist creates their masterpiece and a musician plays their instrument - it's so subjective... and criticism hits you where it hurts.  So i must apologise, Ciaran.

So another highlight this week was a meal at Brindisa.  Monica, my old violin teacher in Australia was playing in a Mahler concert in the Proms.  I took the opportunity to suggest a meal at Casa Brindisa in South Kensington, not far from the museums.  I hadn't seen Monica for 5 years so it was brilliant to see her.

We had a little trouble on the service front - everyone lovely and friendly, just a little challenging to get noticed, we were in a table slightly tucked away which meant we had to virtually twist the waiter's arm to get us our wine....  but once that was resolved everything was good.

The food was excellent - had the staple fried Monte Enebro goats cheese with honey (when I worked for Brindisa 10 yeas ago, i'd overdose on that cheese - it's SO good - peppery ash coverd skin with a creamy white interior...).  We had a plate of Iberico charcuterie, seared scallops with fennel purée and pancetta - and I took a picture!

Galician octopus also made an appearance - you can just see it at the bottom right of the picture on the wooden board - tender pieces of octopus with delicious new potatoes, smoked paprika, garlic and olive oil... absolutely fantastic.  Deep fried whitebait, salt cod fritters, chicken and ham croquetas, boquerones, zamorano sheep's cheese (a lovely nutty alternative to manchego)... i am sure there was more, but I can't remember.  Again, a lovely white rioja has clouded my memory.  A lovely meal all in all.  Good ingredients simply put together.  My kind of food.

Monica bought a whole Iberico chorizo and a tin of Ortiz anchovies to take to her friend's 50th birthday in Salzburg this weekend - satisfaction all round....

Last night I went to the launch of the Superjam cookbook in the Bethnal Green Working man's club.  it was a vintage tea party theme with cakes and cocktails served from teapots.  Excellent idea and made me start thinking about what to do for the stewed! cookbook launch in October.  Talking of which, I received an advance copy this week.  So exciting to finally have a copy in my hand - and it looks brilliant.  Inga did such a good job on the design and I think it's going to be a big seller!   The book's got a listing in a key national retailer too from launch - so all very very exciting!!

And that's all for this week...

*Having completed this post, I'm pleased because I managed to find a couple more pics.... but the dramatic effect of the sentence structure above, I think, allows for this asterisk business.

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