25 Years ago today I got married to a wonderful lady, 25 years later I am proud to say we are still together and everything is fantastic. We had planned a few days on the south coast, but cancelled at the last minute when we saw the weather forecast!! Instead, we have booked a trip to Tunisia in October, where I celebrated by 21st birthday MANY years ago!
My better half has recently had an operation and is still suffering with back pains so when I offered to book a nice place to eat, the answer I got was ‘please can YOU cook me something nice, I would prefer it’! Its a double celebration this week as it’s her birthday so I sat surrounded with cookbooks and my trusty Mac, and scoured for something nice to prepare.
David Lebovitz is well known in the food blogging world, an accomplished Chef and writer, I recently got hold of his latest book, My Paris Kitchen. Its a brilliant piece of work and contains some really good recipes, two of which caught my eye.
As previously blogged, I spent a week in Gascony earlier this year and learned some new skills and recipes. One was preparing Foie Gras using something called Pain D’Épice, a spicy bread like cake and very tasty. The one we used was purchased, I had found a recipe to make it myself In David’s book, you can see the end result above.
The reason I picked this was that it is also a component of Carbonnade Flamande, a delicious Beef dish from Belgium which I am cooking on our anniversary today, I will be posting the results later this week. You may wonder why I picked a dish that does not seem s0 special, a beef stew! Well our son Justin was conceived in Brussels on my 40th Birthday, and so the trip holds MANY fond memories for both of us including trying my first Carbonnade Flamande.
The big Red bag of Spice above is something quite special, Piment d’Espelette. It has AOC status, the origins of AOC date to the year 1411, when Roquefort was regulated by a parliamentary decree. In practise this means its production, marketing and sales are tightly controlled. You CAN get it mail order from ‘The Spicery”, I ordered it Friday last week and it arrived Saturday!!!!
Piment d’Espelette is a component of preparing a particular style of Foie Gras, hence my purchase. i also plan to experiment with some Basque cooking, I have just ordered a new cookery book which focusses on this particular cuisine, more on that later.
So for the Birthday treat I turned to Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey and Babi Kecap, you can see the ingredients above, along with those for Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad), which I have described before. Both were to be served with Coconut Rice to balance and join the flavours and textures.
To Start Babi kecap you need an ‘Asian Chicken Broth’, essentially a spiced Chicken Stock. Mine was made with a whole Organic Chicken, the flavour enhancers included Star Anise, Spring Onions, loads of Garlic and Galangal and Red Kampot Pepper from Cambodia, (I had recently re-stocked my spice cupboard using Steenbergs mail order and added this to the list as something new to try). You can find the recipe at the back for Rick Steins book, its needs bringing to the boil, skimming to remove the sludge and gently simmering for 1 1/2 hours, job done!
The next stage is to fry loads of shallots until golden brown, then add more Garlic and Ginger, some pork shoulder and colour. Then add the stock and all the other ingredients including the Kecap Manis, a sweet Soy Sauce from Indonesia. After 1 1/2 hours I removed the meat to a warm covered dish, sieved the remaining sauce and hard reduced until shiny, sticky and unctuous!
Served with the Som Tum salad and Coconut Rice it was absolutely stunning, well worth the effort in finding the Sweet Soy Sauce which is available mail order, (just google the name) or, from Asian Supermarkets. I got mine from See Woo in Reading who seem to have all the unusual and difficult to get ingredients including Fresh Turmeric and Green Papaya.
The missus had a great birthday, some food cooked with love, and very tasty too. Watch out for the followup later this week as I have more cooking to do.
Until next time…. L8ers……