“The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you’re afraid of it” – James Beard
Post frequency levels have taken something of a battering the last few weeks. I wondered today whether I should just have done what they used to do over at Goop and simply announce that the blog is going on holiday until September. But then I got a grip and realised that I wasn’t Gwyneth Paltrow and thus wouldn’t be able to guarantee that any of you would ever come back, even if I did have a $3500 wool cape to show you that you that is quite simply an autumn/winter staple. My absence this week has at least been food related though so I hope that you will afford me some leniency. I’ve been on a week long course at Leiths you see. Perfecting my chicken ballotines, emulsion sauces and fancy French pastries. You know, the stuff we all knock up most Tuesday evenings for dinner with a boxset.
In all seriousness though, it was actually really brilliant. I love it at Leiths. I have darkened their doorstep fairly frequently since leaving my old job and I genuinely can’t recommend it enough if you are interested in cooking. Until now I had dabbled in one-day courses, with a wild foray into the three-day pastry course (did I mention I can make my own puff pastry? I probably did. I tell strangers on the tube), but I decided in a quiet moment on holiday last month that now was the time to have a crack a one of the more intensive skills courses they offer. The teaching staff is absolutely fantastic and the school near Stamford Brook has great facilities. Plus they do all the washing up and lots of your ingredients come in little measured-out pots so you can just throw them in like you are Delia filming your TV show in 2003. Oh, and they teach you how to do stuff properly. Old school. And this is quite important to me as I am somewhat Type A about things (I hide it well don’t I?)
I did have grand designs on coming home each evening and cooking and writing blog posts but it transpires that I’m actually a bit weak and the combination of standing cooking for several hours and then sitting in a lecture theatre watching someone make perfect raspberry soufflé rendered me incapable of coherent speech and basic motor function by 8pm.
Against all odds, I did manage on one evening to make this salad thing though. This was really borne of necessity as the only ‘take home’ things I’d made at Leiths that day were some twice-bake goat’s cheese souffles and as I sat melting on the 94 bus at Shepherd’s Bush I remembered that I wasn’t married to an Eastern European supermodel and that 125ml of food product (however delicious) wasn’t going to pass as dinner. I had spied this salad recipe earlier in the day in Leiths’ ‘How to Cook’, which was sort of our textbook for the week (I wrote in mine IN PEN and everything) and it passed the extremely low maintenance threshold as most of it was store-cupboard/standard fridge stuff and it required only a trip to pick up some squid and olives.
As I didn’t intend to put this recipe up I don’t really have any photos of it so I am going to brighten this seemingly endless block of text with some colourful photos of things from my course. I didn’t actually think to take any photos until the last two days but you should get the general idea from these. Some were created by me, others by the teachers in the demonstrations. I am clearly not going to tell you which is which.
And now back to the squid. Do make this (unless you don’t like squid. Because I doubt you’d like this very much). It’s very quick and very good. It’s good for you too. And I think that is what this blog is supposed to be about isn’t it?
SQUID WITH BUTTERBEANS, OLIVES & CHILLI
(adapted from Leiths’ How to Cook)
I realise that squid gets a disproportionate amount of the seafood attention around here but, hey, that’s the problem with reading blogs rather than going to a proper website isn’t it? I don’t eat dover sole, lobster and turbot most weeks so I can’t really tell you about them very often. Squid is cheap, sustainable, cooks in two minutes and is, in my book at least, delicious so here we are again. Thoughts on why it’s good for you, buying it and not overcooking it can be found here.
I believe this recipe is Spanish in origin (Catalan to be precise) and a very similar version, from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes appears in this month’s Waitrose magazine too. His version uses chorizo, which would be excellent addition (obviously). I would add about 40g to the recipe below and fry it with the onion and chilli mix, omitting the olive oil and just cooking the onion etc. in the fat that renders from the chorizo.
This recipe uses squid bodies cut into bite size pieces, rather than rings. If you are using frozen squid and only have rings that is absolutely fine – just defrost them first, dry really well and cook for a slightly shorter time.
You could, of course, use dried butterbeans or chickpeas that you have soaked overnight and it will probably taste even better if you do. But that requires 24 hours advance planning and that isn’t really what this recipe is all about.
Get everything chopped and prepared before starting this as it comes together very quickly at the end.
For 2 you will need:
- 500g squid, cleaned
- 200g tinned butterbeans (or chickpeas, see note), drained and well rinsed
- ½ red onion, halved and finely sliced
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- big handful baby spinach or rocket leaves
- 35g black olives, pitted
- ½-1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 tbsp regular olive oil, for cooking.
- Score the squid bodies very gently into a criss cross diamond pattern and cut into bite size squares or rectangles (about 5 cm). Leave any tentacles (if using) whole or cut into two if very big. Dry them well and season with salt and pepper.
- Put the cherry tomatoes and olives into a serving bowl and set aside.
- Make the dressing by mixing up the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and season to taste. Start with a 1 to 3 lemon/oil ratio but add more lemon juice depending on how strong your olive oil is.
- Heat ½ tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the red onion and cook gently until beginning to soften (6-7 minutes). Add the chilli and garlic and cook for a further minute and then tip in the beans and gently cook through. (If you are using butterbeans be careful to keep the heat low and only just heat through as they disintegrate quickly. Chickpeas are a bit more hardy and you may even want to press them gently with the spoon to break up slightly).
- Allow the onion mixture to cool slightly and then tip it, while still warm, into the tomatoes and olives. Stir gently to combine and set aside while you fry the squid. Give your frying pan a quick wipe clean (or get a clean one if you have staff).
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the frying pan over a medium/high heat and when hot, add the squid and cook until the pieces are just beginning to curl up and then flip over and cook until just tender. This will all take about two minutes max. Remove from the heat.
- Add the rocket or spinach to the salad along with the dressing and toss to combine. Stir through the squid and serve.
Kitchen Song of the Day: Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run)