18 July 2007

In The Mood For Food

I go stark raving 'mad' when surrounded by cookbooks. That just means I often prance excitedly towards the cookbook sections in Borders and Kinokuniya like a kid going to a candy store. I slowly scan through the sections, picking up new books that catch my eye or cookbooks by the latest chef-in-the-rage. My recent purchase is a bright pink cookbook with some really pretty pastel pink motifs sprawling over the hardcover.

While the colour caught my eye, the way the cookbook was organised kept my attention and kept me flipping through. It was organised according to our emotions. Lazy days, indulgent days, days you want to show off, days you just feel like something quick and casual, days when you want something soothing or comforting, or days when you feel you could do with a few pounds fewer.

In line with my mood for the weekend, and in preparation for a dinner with a couple of old friends, I chose some simple and comforting dishes from Jo Pratt's "In the Mood For Food". I didn't think fancy-schmancy food would fit the bill. I was thinking plenty of cheese, ham, butter and cream. I felt like something thick, smooth and chunky. And so it was that in my semi-lazy, I-want-to-let-my-hair-down-and-relax sort of mood, I chose a couple of easy recipes to play around with.

Sheepishly, I have to admit that while I initially balked at the recipe that used canned tomato soup to make, well, tomato soup, I still went ahead with it anyway. I was feeling incredibly lazy obviously. And my excuse was, well, I didn't have any. The recipe did however, come with some 'croque-monsieur croutons', which are ham and cheese sandwiches, toasted and sliced into little cubes. They were easy to prepare, cute, and easy to pop into your mouth. They didn't really go with the tomato soup the way normal croutons do but were great finger food anyway.

Mini Pot Pie Duo

For the mains, I copped out again and used store-bought frozen puff pastry to make mini pot pies. A Chicken and Leek Pot Pie recipe in the book called out to me while finding for a simple main course. I was worried however, that all that chicken, ham and cream would be too heavy. So instead of making one pie for each person, I broke that into 2 mini pies. I filled the other with a lighter tomato-based vegetable stew with smoked salmon bits and peas.

It was simply improvised from one of Jamie Oliver's recipes for a cauliflower dish. It just took plenty of peeled and chopped tomato chunks, onions, garlic and of course cauliflower florets. If I didn't have a clue about what order the ingredients should be put into the pot and for how long, and just added them altogether at once, I'm pretty sure simmering it until the cauliflower softens would still have yielded a pretty yummy vegetable stew to top off with a puff-pastry cover. In the end, the cauliflower with smoked salmon won the chicken and leek hands down.

And to end off on a sweet note, I flagged the crumble recipe. If there's ONE do-able dessert I had to recommend for people who feel instantly uncomfortable holding a whisk, it would have to be the crumble. Although Jo Pratt's crumble recipe didn't yield the kind of pastry I was looking forward to - buttery, literally crumbly and light - at least it satiated my sweet tooth. Replacing the mixed berries, I diced a punnet of strawberries and halved a big handful of grapes for a still luxurious and comforting dessert.

From Jo Pratt's In The Mood For Food
Serves 4

4 slices of white bread (brioche, if available)
100g gruyere cheese (I tended towards mozarella), finely grated
2 thin slices of ham
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Butter both sides of all bread slices and scatter half of the cheese over two of them.
Lay ham on top, scatter over the remaining cheese.
Add a twist of black pepper, top with remaining bread and press down firmly.

Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
Place sandwiches in the pan.
Leave for 1 or 2 minutes until th base is golden and the cheese is starting to melt.
Turn over and cook for a further minute, or until golden.
Remove from pan and leave to cool for 5 mins to make the croque-monsieurs easier to cut into cubes.


Anonymous said...

woo hoo.. yea i agree the food was good. Speaking of which, lets immortalise the dumbest comment ever made by a guest in Daffy's home. To quote a certain person "Hey daffy, is the ice cold?"

Anonymous said...

Haha, and that isn't even the dumbest thing he did/said! The pasta and the pepper mill incidents really crack me up =)