summer holiday clams (with linguine)

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Despite being back for a few weeks (wow, really?) I am still in holiday mode & mood and clinging (like a limpet) to the serenity of lazy days lounging on deck chairs with endless glasses of nice Burgundian whites – hence the … ‘crickets’. To me, nothing says summer & summer holidays more than clams, especially if they are called palourdes or vongole and are brought by a friendly waiter to a table overlooking the Mediterranean Sea or … maybe the Venetian lagoon. But at home they taste just as good tossed with barely melted ripe tomatoes, herbs, garlic and a mountain of linguine. Continue reading

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Lobster roll

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There is no arguing, I have a passion for seafood and a husband who does not give a shell for a clam or a crab which can make coastal holidays and heaping platters of fruits de mer for two a little testing but can be a blessing in disguise when it comes to lobster. In the early days when he ate a huge pot of jet-black mussels with gusto or swooned when I served him self-made sushi (dressed) while never revealing that seafood is not really his thing, I cooked a romantic lobster dinner for two. He drew the line at lobster, owned up and there I was facing two fair-sized lobster halves – yup, hard life, I know. Nowadays we are wiser and lobster is again on the menu for those tête-à-têtes but we’ll celebrate with a surf & turf: steak for Monsieur and lobster for Madame. Continue reading

Tandoori Octopus & tuna crudo with preserved lemon relish

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See below for the German translation – siehe unten für die deutsche Übersetzung der Rezepte

I am a great fan of a p’tit apéro, the aperitif, and especially of the things that come along with it. It is such a nice start to a dinner, a get together: everyone relaxes (especially the host, i.e. me), has a chat, a sip and a nibble or two. Olives & nuts are beloved classics but to a taster-greedy person like me, anything from the Hors d’œuvres or Tapas department is the Non plus ultra. A small plate of this, one bite of that, a spoonful of something else, a nibble here, a taster there – I am in heaven.

Which brings us directly to Inaki Aizpitarte. Trust a Basque chef with highly revered restaurants in Paris to conjure up irresistible French-Basque tapas hybrids (in/for Bon Appetit): Sliced cured duck breast instead of Iberico ham, a trio of fantastic anchovies, olives and tangy green Guindilla peppers, fiery orange Tandoori-spiced octopus coins.

The jewel coloured octopus got served at a supper with friends, next to a tuna crudo (raw tuna slices), an incredible smoked pimenton & preserved lemon relish (inspired by another Aizpitarte recipe) to go with both & we have added ‘simple’ broad bean bruschette to balance those intense flavours. Continue reading

Octopus in the Sardinian way

Octopus in the Sardinian Way

There we are, the 100th post. Whistler might have named this ‘Harmony in pink and green’ for its stunning colours. The delicate pink of the octopus is contrasted by the vivid green of the freshly podded peas & once you lift the lid with a flourish (Ta-daa!), everyone will be engulfed in the most aromatic smells. Naturally, the taste matches its visual splendour.

I only had Octopus alla catalana before: Octopus cooked in its own juices with cubed potatoes which (inevitably) gets quite salty. Last summer my friend Anke (who took all the photos) came to visit and I had to grab the opportunity by the tentacles to eat seafood when I can (because some people here, I am not naming any names, are a bit suspicious of tentacles & suckers…) and to try a different approach. Valentine Warner’s fantastic recipe is close to perfection, the added vegetables prevent excessive saltiness and turn it into a very fine dish to celebrate the arrival spring. We thought though, that it needed a lot more fresh peas and spring onions than he started out with – and now, no hard feelings, it is one of the best ways to treat an octopus. Just add a glass of Tavel (rosé) for a summer supper. Now the first pea pods have been sighted, this might be on the weekend menu soon, who’s coming? Ähem, I saw fresh peas this week, thinking about it now: that does seem a bit early, doesn’t it? Anyway, maybe a freak occurrence or some hotter climes candidates and we’ll have to wait a few weeks longer for the early varieties, so keep the octopus in mind until then.

Octopus & garlic

Notes on how to prep an octopus: Do not be disheartened by the task of dismembering the octopus nor of the thought of tentacles on your plate. Re the operation: here is a handy site, which will guide you through the process step-by-step. I found it extremely helpful when faced with my first octopus and even if you do not speak German, the pictures and video are both illustrative & self-explanatory.

There are two ways to soften an octopus: get out your flute and start playing… Just kidding. Either tenderise the dead body with a heavy object (with the flat side of a mallet or a heavy pan) or smash against the stone steps leading to your Italian summer villa (no, me neither). You even could go the easy route and freeze it for 1-2 days which as the same effect and is less messy. Ideally, you could prepare it before you do that but I always get home from the fishmonger and bury it into the freezer to be dealt with later. I do not know why all my descriptions & puns sound like an old CSI script, I am a little worried. Where are my sunglasses? Sharpen your knifes!


Octopus with peas and spring onions – the Sardinian way

Serves 6-8, adapted from Valentine Warner’s What to eat now. More please (now reissued as What to eat now. Spring & Summer), also here, with tiny upgrades & adjustments in the herb & vegetable department (doubled onions and added even more peas to have enough of these delicious tasting veg to serve everyone as a side)

1 octopus, ca. 2kg or 4 ½ lbs (freeze for 1-2 days to soften; or prepare and freeze then)
1 head of garlic
50ml (¼ cup) olive oil
25 large spring onions, white bulbs
juice of 1 lemon
2 fresh bay leaves, tear or crumple to release oils
3-4 sprigs of thyme
8 black peppercorns
500-700g or 1-1½ lbs fresh peas (shelled weight, depending on how many people are there; Warner uses 300g peas, unpodded weight)
pepper (& salt)
good knob of cold butter (or olive oil)
fennel fronds or chives
Prepare the octopus: separate the head from the body (underneath the eyes), discard head & innards, turn the armed body over with the beautiful pattern facing you, remove the hard beak by pressing it through the centre point of the arms. Freeze at this point or prepare your defrosted octopus like this.

Cut the tentacles & body into bite-sized chunks and halve the head of garlic with a horizontal cut, another beautiful pattern. Heat the olive oil a braising pan over high heat, when the oil is smoking hot, fry the garlic halves on their cut sides, throw in the onions and brown. Add the octopus, stir and fry on high for 30 seconds, reduce the heat to low, add lemon juice, herbs & pepper and cover the pan with its lid. Stew the octopus on very low heat for 1¾ – 2 hours. Shell the peas and reserve. Check the octopus after 1¾ hours for tenderness (pierce like potatoes with a knife). Take of the lid, add the shelled peas and cook them uncovered for 8 minutes in the wonderful aromatic juices released by the octopus, season with black pepper and check if any salt is needed. Stir in the butter for a delicious sauce and serve immediately sprinkled with the fennel fronds or chives for optical reasons. Serve with a rustic Italian country loaf.


 

Oktopus mit frischen Erbsen & Frühlingszwiebeln – Pulpo auf sardinische Art

Für 6 Personen, adaptiert von Valentine Warner’s What to eat now. More please. (auf deutsch: Frisch & Einfach kochen): ich habe die Menge der Zwiebeln verdoppelt und deutlich mehr Erbsen hinzugefügt, die sind so gekocht sehr lecker und hat man das Gemüse gleich schon dabei!

1 Oktopus, ca. 2kg (Krake oder auch als Pulpo verkauft; für 1-2 Tage einfrieren, damit er weich wird oder erst vorbereiten und dann einfrieren)
1 Knoblauchknolle
50ml Olivenöl
25 große Frühlingszwiebeln, nur die weißen Zwiebeln
Saft von 1 Zitrone
2 frische Lorbeerblätter, an einigen Stellen einreißen oder zerknüllen um die aromatischen Öle austreten zu lassen
3-4 Zweige Thymian
8 schwarze Pfefferkörner
500-700g frische Erbsen (gepalt, je nach Anzahl der Personen, Warner: 300g frische Erbsenschoten)
Pfeffer (& Salz)
ein nicht zu kleines Stückchen kalte Butter (oder Oliveöl)
dunkles Fenchelgrün oder Schnittlauch

Operation Oktopus: Den Kopf unterhalb der Augen vom Körper trennen und zusammen mit den Innereien entsorgen. Den sternförmigen Körper mit der schönen Unterseite nach oben drehen und ausbreiten, dabei die harten Kauwerkzeuge im Zentrum von unten nach außen drücken und so entfernen (hier ist der Prozess sehr genau beschrieben, Fotos illustrieren jeden Schritt, obendrein gibt es noch ein hilfreiches Video). Entweder an diesem Punkt für ein bis zwei Tage einfrieren oder den aufgetauten Oktopus wie beschrieben vorbereiten.

Die Tentakel und den Mittelteil in mundgerechte, aber nicht zu kleine Stücke zerteilen und die Knoblauchknolle horizontal aufschneiden. In einer schweren Schmorpfanne (mit Deckel) bei großer Flamme das Olivenöl stark erhitzen und den Knoblauch mit der Schnittfläche nach unten kurz anbraten, gleichfalls die Frühlingszwiebeln bräunen. Die Oktopusstücke unter Rühren ½ Minute anbraten, dann die Hitze auf die kleinste Flamme reduzieren und Zitronensaft, Kräuter & Pfefferkörner hinzugeben. Den Deckel auflegen und den Kraken für 1¾ – 2 Stunden bei sehr niedriger Hitze schmoren. In der Zwischenzeit die Erbsen palen und beiseite stellen. Nach 1¾ Stunden den Oktopus auf Zartheit prüfen (mit einem kleinen Messer pieksen), die Erbsen hineinschütten und ohne Deckel 8 Minuten in der aromatischen Flüssigkeit kochen lassen. Mit schwarzem Pfeffer würzen und eventuell salzen, dann die leckere Sauce mit der kalten Butter abrunden und mit dem dunklen Fenchelgrün oder Schnittlauch bestreuen und sofort servieren. Lecker mit frischem italienischem Bauernbrot und einem kalten Glas Tavel (Rosé).

quick tom yum soup

quick tom yum soup by the james kitchen
quick tom yum soup, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Last week at a party we were talking about this quick tom yum soup and I am fulfilling my promise to write about it (Hi Francisca and Sabrina!). I do not claim this to be the original recipe of the hot & sour soup from Laos and Thailand but we use the readily available tom yum paste to make a super fast & furiously invigorating dinner when we are in desperate need for some fast, tasty and healthy sustenance and really can not be bothered to cook much (can’t eat pizza everyday).

The fragrant, lemony sour and fresh but spicy tasting paste is made from Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, chili peppers & oil comes in a jar and is a super stand-by in the fridge. All other ingredients might be on hand at home already, stocked in the freezer or quickly picked up, then chopped and briefly cooked in the spicy & sour broth within a few minutes, it could be even varied according to preference: vegetarian for one, mussels for another one, chicken for the next. Just make the base and let everyone add what they want.

So treat this recipe more like a blueprint and use what you have got or fancy – just pick and mix: edamame beans, green beans, peas, bok choi, choy sum, napa cabbage (Chinakohl), savoy cabbage (Wirsing), bean sprouts, sweet corn, carrots, mangetouts / snap or snow peas (Kaiserschoten), champignons (button mushrooms), dried shiitake, rice noodles, soba noodles, instant noodles, rice, brown rice, filled noodles, tortellini, vegetable dumplings, cooked chicken, prawns, fish, mussels, clams, scallops, calamari, tofu…. As I said: there are endless possibilities.

Quick tom yum soup
Ingredients for one, multiply & vary according to your stocks

½ l (2 cups) water
1 teaspoon organic vegetable stock powder or ¼ little cube
3 teaspoons Tom Yum paste
about 30-40g brown rice noodles or any other noodles, rice, dumplings
cooked chicken or prawns or vegetable dumplings (fresh or frozen)
10 mangetouts, snow or snap peas (Kaiserschoten), cut into stamp sized pieces
2 brown champignons (button mushrooms), sliced
4 stems of choy sum or bok choi, rougly choppped
2 spring onions, chopped
a few coriander leaves

Gather, wash, chop & prep or precook your ingredients.

Pour cooking water into a small saucepan, add stock powder and tom yum paste, the prepared vegetables & noodles and other ingredients like cooked chicken or mussels or what you might want to add. Cook for a few minutes, mainly to heat everything through and the vegetable still keep a little crunch. Sprinkle with coriander leaves and eat.