“The pioneers, they’re the ones that have the arrows in their backs,” Anderson said. “I think we are pioneers because back then it wasn’t even an industry. You didn’t have a team of buyers and a network of managers out there. It was just me and my wife alongside the road with our sign. The learning curve was the steepest in the early days.”
We met Johann Pepin at ‘Les Pastras‘, his sprawling organic farm located on a desolate mountain top near the Provencal village of Cadenet under the cloak of secrecy. He cautioned us that “thieves were everywhere”, before instructing us to lock our car doors and gather down below. I must admit I felt a bit uneasy as he slipped a black hood loosely over my head, gently guiding me into the back of an unmarked black van.
Moments later we arrived at the edge of an unnamed field in an unnamed town in an unnamed country for what was surely going to be an epic truffle hunt. Such is the way with truffle hunters where secrecy is everything.
I’d been thinking about clams for days. Shells clacking against the bowl as they’re tossed through steaming pasta, starchy water dripping through the late February sunlight; their sweet meat like tiny treats to slurp from exploded hinges and their saline juices, mingled with the honk of garlic and chilli and the fermented depth of miso.
We made this riff on spaghetti alle vongole into a Friday lunchtime treat, threading tangles of crisp, salty agretti (monk’s beard) through the dish to bring freshness and colour. This Italian coastal plant is very popular on London menus at the moment and I couldn’t resist buying a bunch in Peckham’s General Store. It’s not the kind of vegetable I’ll buy often (too expensive) but the thought of it playing with the white miso and clams was too much for this hopeless ingredient spod to resist.
We ate it with a half bottle of chilled rosé hanging about in the fridge and plenty of bread to squidge into the clammy juices left over. It felt as good as a holiday.
Ok, everyone, I have a quick and easy recipe for you to try this weekend that is designed to lift you out of the ‘end of winter dreariness’ and straight into the rum-tinged warm tropical breezes of summer. Today I am going to teach you how to make Caramelized Pineapple with Vanilla and Rum Sauce. The perfect ‘Happy Ending’ to a great home cooked weekend meal.
Anyone who has ever suffered from hay fever will happily go to whatever length it takes to ease the symptoms.
As you sneeze and splutter your way through the summer months, eyes streaming, it takes no time at all for us to give up and grab the anti-histamines - or the gin, apparently.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a foraging favourite, so it doesn’t need much of an introduction. I probably don’t need to tell you that it has been a beloved spring tonic since time immemorial, or that many consider it the most nutritious of all wild plants, jam packed with vitamins, minerals, even protein. But aside from its nutritional and medicinal properties, it’s tasty versatility in any number of dishes probably has a lot to do with its popularity.
So a few days ago when I received a lovely big bag of just picked baby nettles as a gift – I wanted to make something highlighting their enlivening freshness. I decided to go with rice balls because they’re easy, and while they’re still substantial and carby, they are a definite move toward the lighter dishes of spring.
Last weekend I took home an incredible eight-pound wild steelhead trout caught by the local Quinault Indian tribe on the Quinault River and was looking for inspiration in how to cook it. It was a rather large fish for my family of three, so I decided to try a few variations. I combed through old cookbooks, new cookbooks, and deep into the internet before deciding on these three dishes. The first and the subject of today was a classic French preparation usually made with sole called ‘Wild Steelhead Trout à la Dugléré’.
For decades, I have enjoyed the highly addictive salt and pepper shrimp at Chicago’s Moon Palace. For the uninitiated, salt and pepper is a style of Chinese cooking where the food is crispily fried, tossed in a spice mixture, then combined with sauteed garlic, onion, ginger, and hot peppers. It’s a preparation I long and crave for like some people do sweets. There’s something absolutely magical about the combination of sharp, pungent, and salty flavors with crunchy textures. And if you are into that, then Moon Palace is the place to be. Their menu boasts of at least ten different salt and pepper preparations to choose ranging from tofu, squid to my second all-time favorite, salt and pepper pork chops.