Roast beetroot, goat’s cheese and pine kernel salad

Food & drink
Roast beetroot, goat’s cheese and pine kernel salad

It’s the first day of the year that I’ve had to rid the car windscreen of ice. The temperature has plummeted in the last few days, and this morning, I dropped a big piece of beef brisket into a slow cooker to compensate.

There are a couple of things to deal with yet, the last hangovers of the early autumn, a few things that cling to summer but don’t feel quite so out-of-place in the cold.

One is this salad of roasted beetroot, goat’s cheese and pine nuts, a bowl full of big, robust flavours that neatly straddle the seasons.

Beetroot are good at the moment, but they won’t be around for long. The big bunches on the market stalls are the last of the season, but they keep well in the fridge as long as you chop the leaves off and use them first.

For this salad, the unpeeled-but-scrubbed beetroot is roasted, in a tray covered tightly with aluminum foil, a few sprigs of thyme, an orange, quartered but unpeeled, a few cloves of garlic, a good drizzle of olive oil and slightly too much salt and pepper for company. Use about half a kilo of beetroot, but more won’t hurt – beetroot roasted in foil with some punchy flavours is a good thing to have around in the fridge, and can make for a good mid-week lunch with some bread, so it’s worth making double here.


Nikkei: Japanese Food the South American Way, by Luiz Hara

Nikkei: Japanese Food the South American Way, by Luiz Hara post image

There’s a paragraph in the introduction to Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way in which Luiz Hara discusses The ‘F’ Word … fusion.

Fusion food often gets a bad press, the result of too many car-crash combinations of flavours. If it can be done, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be done, but many chefs haven’t heeded this simple maxim in the past and the results have been, well, disastrous.

Hara’s hesitation and desire to bring this issue up right at the start is understandable, for this is a book of fusion food – it sits neatly in that place where two distinct culinary traditions collide – but it has a clear edge in that the Nikkei tradition of cooking is so well-developed and established that it’s moved far the latest brain wave from some upstart chef in a new hipster noodle type place somewhere in Manchester. Nikkei is no mere fad.

‘Nikkei’ is the name given to the food cooked by Japanese people as they migrate around the world. A good number of Japanese settled in South America from about 1872 onwards, and they found a food tradition very different to the washoku, or traditional Japanese, cuisine they’d left behind. Importing Japanese ingredients, many of which are pretty esoteric and difficult to get hold of in a modern Western city, let alone Victorian era South America, was hard, so people had to improvise, using whatever was available to them. This led to a gradual blending of styles and techniques, with Japanese flavours sneaking into South American dishes, and South American ingredients deployed as substitutes for the ‘proper’ Japanese ones.

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Chicken & Other Birds, by Paul Gayler

Chicken & Other Birds, by Paul Gayler

A chicken.

In our house, most usually found chucked into a roasting tin with a quick baptism of olive oil, salt and pepper, then unceremoniously slammed into a hot oven for an hour and a half.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and as a zero effort default dinner, there’s little to compare to a well-roasted chicken, but – and this is a very big ‘but’ – it feels lazy. It feels adequate, but unadventurous. It feels safe.

A chicken is a versatile thing. It leans towards a great many types of cooking, and it’s present in the food of most nations, so there are options out there should you choose to go looking for them.

This book, Chicken and Other Birds by Paul Gayler, collects together about a hundred of these options. A very useful collection it is too, focussing largely on chicken, but taking in the bird’s near relations, such as duck, guinea fowl, pigeon, quail, turkey and goose.


Mumtaz, Bradford

Eating out
Mumtaz, Bradford post image

I got home from work last night and dumped my bag in the normal place, the place where it shouldn’t be.

My son was loitering about, and there was something on his mind, something that he didn’t seem to want to ask.

“Dad? Hmmm. Well, I was thinking that seeing as its just us, maybe we could go for a curry, maybe? What do you think? Please say yes.”

Yes, that was a good idea, and I’d already decided that we were going to do exactly that anyway, so he didn’t really need to bother being so bashful.

The big question was ‘where’?

Now, in Bradford, that’s quite a difficult question, because amongst its many charms, Bradford is blessed with a multitude of first-rate Asian restaurants. There’s so much choice that it’s almost embarrassing.

We kicked around a few names, and somebody whose opinion I trust very much indeed suggested on twitter that Mumtaz was the only answer, so Mumtaz it was.

I haven’t been to Mumtaz, that blinged-out temple to curry up Great Horton Road, for many years, but it’s still exactly the same as I remember it – shiny, showy, marbled, slick and a little bit ostentatious. There’s an enormous photo of the Queen eating there during a visit to Bradford. Really, it’s enormous … billboard sized. Everything is huge.

The waiter looked a little taken aback when Ethan ordered a dish of lamb kebab pieces cooked in a rich sauce, pointing out that that particular dish only came in a medium or hot version, not mild. Ethan gave him his best ‘yeah, OK, whatever’ look and ordered it anyway on the basis that a) he was born in Bradford and therefore this sort of stuff is in his genes, and b) he knows that he can take the heat with the best of them, and this is no idle boast because he actually can.

We had a couple of starters first, a plate of onion bhajis laced with coriander and spices, and the single best lamb samosa I’ve ever had, a small parcel of shatteringly crisp, almost filo like pastry wrapped around an explosive package of minced lamb.

Ethan’s kebab dish arrived, the waiter looking mildly frightened as he put it down. I had a lamb karahi, a sizzling pot of meat still bubbling on a charcoal burner as it arrived at the table. Ethan started to eat, picking up a huge chunk of meat with a piece of naan bread, a slight hush descending over the restaurant.

Something was going on.

More …

A Year in Cheese: a Seasonal Cheese Cookbook, by Alex and Léo Guarneri

A Year in Cheese: a Seasonal Cheese Cookbook, by Alex and Léo Guarneri

Cheese isn’t the first thing you’d normally think of as a seasonal product, but it very much is.

It stands to reason, really – a cheese is the result of the specific treatment of a set of ingredients, and those ingredients will, of course, change given the way that the world changes around them. The diet of the animal that has an enormous effect on the flavour of its milk , so the resulting cheeses can and do change in flavour as the seasons progress and as they mature.

This book, Alex and Léo Guarneri’s A Year in Cheese: A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook is about understanding that principle and embracing it in the kitchen.

And what a book it is – a knowledgeable, informed, joyous tour de force of a cookbook that meanders through the light, young goat’s cheeses of spring, through the soft cheeses of summer – ricotta, mozzarella – before turning to autumn’s harder cheeses, the ones that have matured with the year … cheddar, Gruyère and the like, before ending with the big, bold beasts, the cheeses that explode with flavour and depth, such as Stilton, the product of the summer, the spoils of the winter.

Each season has its own mood, has its own character and cheeses to go with it, and each chapter in this wonderful book has its own feel, the food developing as the seasons change, from light salads of mozzarella and pickled baby artichokes, right through to hearty stews of beef cheeks, marinated in wine overnight, cooked slowly for an eternity and served with a mash considerably enhanced by the presence of Gruyère.