Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pot Luck Supper, Part 2

Last night we had our second-ever pot luck supper. The first one was such a success that we have repeated the excersize only 2 weeks later (actually, it was eagerness born of not wanting to need to spend too much time cleaning up the house in preparation for receiving guests!)

The group, finally, (after several drop-outs and one drop-in) consisted of Tineke, from Belgium; Chiara, from Naples and Clemente, from Northern Italy.

Steve and I decided to do the meat and some salads. Steve made a trip down to our local butcher shop and got a 2.2 kg organic, free range chicken. I slathered it with a herb butter that I concocted from herbs from our garden - including just a hint of thyme, tarragon, and oregano along with a generous helping of parsley - crushed garlic, rock salt and cracked black pepper. I worked as much of the butter mixture under the skin as I could without tearing it and, finally, I squeezed the juice of half a lemon inside, leaving the piece of lemon in the cavity for more flavour. The bird went into a very hot, 200 ˚C oven for 25 minutes. Then at the end of the 'hot phase' of the cooking, Steve poured a cup of chardonnay into the pan ("not on the bird...") and turned the oven down to 160 ˚C for 45-50 minutes. After that I turned off the heat and cracked the door of the oven and let the bird rest in the oven for an additional 20 minutes.

This simple and delicious method for roasting a chicken comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal's wonderful cook book The River Cottage Meat Book, in my opinion a Bible for all types of meat cooking.

I also made a green salad and a tomato, basil, mozzerella and olive salad using fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden. Steve made the salad dressing.

Halfway through the cooking, our guests arrived. We chatted while they prepared their dishes (Tineke brought two pound cakes for dessert). Chiara brought a mostly prepared Neopolitain-style baked saffron and roast vegetable risotto and Clemente brought a homemade pizza and a focaccia.

By the time the food was ready, the wine poured, the guests/cooks settled and the candles were lit, we were all ravenously hungry. I had jointed, carved and chopped up the chicken into a large platter and we all just served ourselves from the various dishes on the table. We ate, drank and talked our way through the meal.

Afterwards we had tea and cake while listening to each other's music on the stereo. Here's the recipe for the cake:

Tineke's cake

125g flour
125g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs/cocoa powder
baking powder 1.5 tsp.

1. Mix butter and sugar until fluffy and pale
2. Add eggs one at a time
3. Add flour and baking powder
4. Separate out half of the mixture and mix in some cocoa powder
(here's the hard part...)
5. Add the cocoa-laced batter back into the 'plain' batter in a swirling pattern, taking care not to mix the two together too much...
6. Bake in a medium oven for approximately 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

This is quite a tasty cake.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mill Road, Cambridge

The setting: Cambridge, England. Weather: Changeable (read: raining off and on). Mood: reflective. We've just come back from our weekly foray in Mill Road; without a doubt the best area in all of Cambridge for ethnic and international foodstuffs. Those of us who live near Mill Road love it and many who live further afield wish they were closer! It serves a bustling, lively and ethnically diverse community with its selection of Chinese, Asian and Middle Eastern grocery stores.

As for restaurants, I think it could be said that there's 'something for everyone' in Mill Road. What are you in the mood for? I've had the best shish kabab ever at Al Kasbah, fabulous Mediterranean food at Café Adriatic and, very good, though variable, 'modern French' cuisine at Bruno's. In the past several weeks in fact, the new Meze bar 196 opened very near us and today I noticed a new cafe!

This has to be the most culinarily interesting and diverse neighbourhood I've ever lived in. Surely the perfect place for me to do what I love best... cooking.