Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pollo Tropical - Yuk!

It's not a great feeling this. Knowing that the food was complete rubbish, it's hard to come up with a good thing to say about the new restaurant and drive through, Pollo Tropical, and that's hard for me. Let me think on it....

Oh yes, from the car the interior design of the new building on the south western side of the Savannah looked nice. Oh, and the food was reasonably priced. But the price doesn't really matter, nor the interiors, when you just wouldn't want to eat the food. Talk about bland, tasteless, non-descript!

Richard and I went to the drive-through to pick up food for us and his family. I wanted a combination of different sandwiches on the menu, they didn't have any sandwiches. So I ordered variations on their roasted chicken: with cassava in garlic; rice and beans; yellow rice with veggies; caesar salad; black beans.

It ALL tasted yuk! Bland chicken; soggy and wilted caesar salad (at least the croutons were crispy!); bland yellow rice; mushy boiled cassava with no butter, no garlic, no salt, no flavour! What a disappointment! I can't imagine that I'll be going there anytime soon. Nor would I recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A pasta adventure!

My Mum gave me a pasta pressing gadget for christmas. I'd been wanting one forever, and I'd finally remembered to ask. The wrapped present was surprisingly small - for some reason I'd been expecting a food-processor sized box - but heavy. I unwrapped the shiny new thing an put it away in the cupboard behind my blender and cheese toastie grill (never to be seen again, you might think!)

I'd actually seen Jamie Oliver make pasta once on the Martha Stewart show, and there was something about his assertions that it was dead easy that made me think, nah. That looks hard! So the pasta press was languishing in the darkness of my cupboard next to the kitchen aid mixer that I haven't used in 10 years! It was in grave danger of suffering the same fate as the mixer. Until my friend, Franka, posted a pasta recipe on Facebook. I knew it was the signal I'd been unconsciously waiting for, so I printed the recipe and sent an email to five foodie friends, inviting them to come over for a pasta-making lime. (hey - if the pasta tasted like rubbish or didn't do what it was meant to, at least I'd have had a good time with friends!)

My mum arrives first, and I realise I haven't even made up the first batch of dough (which, by the way, is meant to sit and chill in the fridge for at least an hour - crapadoodle!) Having never tried to make pasta in my life, I decide to change the recipe - 4 eggs, 300 gms all purpose flour, 100 gms spelt flour, salt and olive oil all mixed into a dough which you're meant to knead until it's smooth and pliable (it's meant to be quite elastic) and then, like I said, wrap in plastic wrap and leave it to chill in the fridge for an hour.

Be warned, whenever you see the pros mixing everything on a table top and creating a well in the flour into which easily (and neatly) fit the eggs, it's like that because they've practiced loads. On my first attempt, one of the walls of the well caved in and egg quickly ran out all over the counter while I tried desperately to contain it with my hands! The tirck is to start bringing the flour in from the outside to the egg very quickly, mixing all the while with your fork! (My mum, by the way, eyed with with suspicion and amusement as I went through this rigmarole: she, clean as a whistle, me, covered in raw egg!)

Once I knead the dough for a good 10 minutes I put it in the fridge to chill and make another batch, this time using 400 gms of all purpose flour. The women arrive and we spend forever chatting about what we're going to make. The consensus is ravioli in different shapes - circles or triangles depending on whether we're stuffing them with meat or vegetables. We settle on our stuffings. Mine: home made pesto with ricotta and bacon. Nicola's: bhaggi and ricotta. Michele: some exotic asian something with shrimp and water chestnuts.

Lupe assembles the pasta gadget (the only one among us with the good sense to look at the manual!). I get the spelt dough from the fridge (chilling for 45 mins) and we start.

Guess what. It works!! Plenty hands on deck gently cradle the pasta as we roll it through the press, one notch at a time. Lupe, Mum and Miche are in charge of the pressing, me and Nicola the stuffing, and Gabby is making the tomato and mushroom sauce. We giggle and chuckle and talk rubbish and squeal excitedly: "We makin' PASTA!".

I boil the delicate (somewhat lopsided) raviolis for about 5 minutes each. And mummy samples. We're in shock. They're delicious. We cook and eat and chat for the next several hours. Richard arrives and beats a hasty retreat to the bedroom (muttering something about Lilith fair)! And the women are completely thrilled at the Lillith Food Fair! Will I be making pasta from scratch anytime soon? Probably not. Was it a brilliant way to spend a night with friends? Absolutely!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Trying something new.

I've been meaning to write about this creation since I made it for Christmas dinner. But I forgot that I'd taken a photo of it (what's the point of recipes without photos?) and only just discovered it a couple of days ago.

In my family, we always make a first course for Christmas dinner, which, more often than not, is a seafood dish. My auntie's favourite such dish is shrimps in marie rose sauce in half an avocado. So I knew I wanted to do something with fish, and had asked my sister to bring some sliced smoked marlin from Jamaica (better than smoked salmon, I swear!) for whatever it was I as going to make. I wanted it to be interesting in terms of eating and beautiful to look at. I'd also spent anarmandaleg buying some smoked salmon here and some white fish. I looked through my recipe books for inspiration and found a smoked salmon terrine.

When sliced it was beautiful, because there were layers of colour: the pink of the salmon, white fish, dotted here and there with green capers and peppercorns.

So I set about making my terrine with caution and trepidation. For some reason, anything that looks like it could have come out of a Cordon Bleu cookery book absolutely terrifies me! Completely intimidating! Instead of using only smoked salmon for the outer layer, I added also my precious smoked marlin, and some inexpensive white fish formed the bulk of the internal layers. The dish was set in a custard of eggs, cream and creme fraiche (just add a teaspoon of yogurt to a cup of fresh cream, leave it to sit at room temperature for an hour or two, and you'll have creme fraiche) and a sprinkling of chopped capers and brine-soaked green peppercorns.

The whole dish was baked in the oven, then left outside to cool. I put two heavy tins of tomatoes or beans on top the terrine and then left it to chill in the fridge until I was ready to serve it. A day later, and I still didn't know how the terrine looked! You have to wait to cut it until you're ready to serve it and waiting is not something I do so well! So I was completely excited when it was time to serve it. With a very sharp knife, I carefully cut slices at maybe 2 inches wide, and the beauty of the terrine was revealed!

It was also, by the way, quite delicious. A good combination of textures and colours and tastes. Not so scary after all, and a definite crowd-pleaser!