Kedgeree risotto

It seems that every minute two or three cookbooks are published that have the word "seasonal" in the title. Or at the very least, the subtitle.
Which is all very well, if you´re in California, or Spain, where things grow plentiful under the generous sun. But see, now I live in a place that has two seasons: bad, and worse.
The calendar says I should be going for the salads and the first gazpachos, the bowls of cherries, the lightly grilled fish, the ice cream. But my eyes see clammy fog, and my stomach says to hell with all that. I want stodge.

Kedgeree risotto is a beautiful dish. The real thing is a sort of pilaf, served with boiled eggs, but this is much better. A creamy risotto, light yellow and faintly smoky from the haddock, flecked with parsley and topped with a runny five-minute egg. Really good stuff. And if you can find it, samphire, that weird crunchy seaweed, is a great last minute addition.

When I make it in Spain I have no smoked haddock, of course, so I proceed as for a normal risotto and add smoked salmon or trout at the end.

The method is as for a normal risotto, except that you start by poaching the smoked haddock for a very short while, and setting it aside. This fishy smoky water is the stock for your rice.

Start with onions in butter and oil, as always, and when they´re transparent, add a spoonful of curry powder. You heard me. Curry powder. None of your fancy freshly ground spice pastes, please. The yellow stuff from the jar.
When that smells good add the rice, then the stock, etc. As you know, I always use a pressure cooker for this, so just give it double the volume of stock to rice, lock, cook five minutes at high pressure and there you are.
If you do the normal method then it´s the stirring, adding stock, etc. A very soothing, gentle way of relaxing after a long day and enjoying a glass of wine, if you must.

While this is happening drop eggs into boiling water, and simmer them for five minutes, too. Chop parsley, and when the rice is done, add the flaked fish and the parsley.
Serve with the peeled eggs on top.


Cookbook review: "Every grain of rice"

For all the fuss about authentic recipes, I think they aren´t all that useful. I prefer true recipes.

Take  lamb, for example, done as they like in Castilla: roast in a wood fired bread oven, in an earthenware dish, with nothing but water and salt. That is the authentic recipe. The true recipe, however, would read something like this:"get into your car. Drive on the N-I until you get to Burgos. Get out, order lamb in a good restaurant"
Often, traditional, authentic dishes are weekend food, or restaurant or village fiestas food. Spanish people don´t have paella for dinner on a Wednesday at home, they have a couple of fried eggs.

Which is why I recommend Fuchsia Dunlop's latest book, "Every grain of rice". Her two other books are a lot of fun, great reads, and her memoir, too, is excellent. They are one hundred per cent authentic. But this one, which has been out just a few days, has got me cooking straight away. I had to do a quick razzia on my Chinese market to complement my already bulging store cupboard. Yes, I already had sesame oil, soy sauce, chili bean sauce, chili oil, black bean sauce and several types of rice and noodles. I even had preserved mustard greens, but dried shrimp, where have you been all my life?

I am going to cook my way through this book, I can tell. It´s full of doable, quick, really great recipes, simple, chock full of flavour. True home cooking, see? 
It´s reasonable: for every last-minute stirfry there is a long simmered braise or cold dish you can make ahead.  The emphasis is on vegetables. It´s beautifully photographed, very well written, and the design is awesome.
It even made me buy a block of tofu, so help me. That´s very powerful powers of persuasion, let me tell you.

I am also doing my favourite cookbook game, which is to see which recipes I can adapt to the pressure cooker, to the Thermomix, and which to the steamer in the rice cooker. Yesterday we had rice (duh), over which I cooked some spectacular steamed chicken with Chinese sausage and shiitakes (pg 114). Spring greens with dried shrimps (pg 172). And an omelette with spring onions (sort of pg 132). My kids wouldn't touch the vegetables, of course, dammit, but they did wolf down the chicken and rice.

I had meant to write about a whole other lot of cookbooks. Claudia Roden´s "The Food of Spain", for example. Great book. Or David Tanis´"A platter of figs", which I´d assumed would be smug and annoying but is a lot of fun, and full of things you might use for entertaining. Joanna Weinberg´s "Cooking for real life". Not as good as "Relish", but then again, nothing is as good as Relish. Dan Lepard´s "Short and sweet", a gorgeous, gorgeous book that I will surely be cooking a lot from. "Animal, vegetable, miracle", which I´d resisted for years, fearing it would be worthy and sanctimonious, but which turns out to be a great read. "Family life", a memoir by Elizabeth Luard, which I loved. And Béa´s "La tartine Gourmande cookbook", which is beautiful and warm and full of delicious stuff. And which makes me all smug when I say, "my friend, the author...".
I won´t go into any of them at length, and I won´t write about the ones I haven´t liked, since I feel happy and positive today, because it´s sunny and summer solstice means different things when you live in the north pole.

Going off to make some fried rice for lunch.


How to eat out (with kids)

Hear this from the lips of your wise aunt lobstersquad: once you have kids, restaurants, as you know them, are over. Yes, they are. Just face it. None of this pious "oh, it's just different, no worse or better, just different". Because it is. Worse, I mean.

Don't get me wrong; my kids are astonishingly beautiful, wonderful, charming, funny and bright, and I love them to bits. They are also two and three, which means they are impatient, loud, fidgety and extremely annoying. 
Sounds bleak? Take heart from this most beautiful of words: babysitter.

And whatever you do,  don't fall into the so called "family restaurant" trap. Unless run by an actual family, like my favourite place ever, Virginia´s. Otherwise, family restaurants are bottomless pits of hell, constructed around luring you in with promises of crayons and balloons, while holding you hostage for ages until you cave and order overpriced nachos and brownies. And don't get me started on "kids' menus".

So, then: dim sum. Chinese restaurants don't discriminate by age. They treat everybody with the same gruff indifference. No crayons, true, but also, no sigh of despair at the sight of very young customers.
Kids don't like to wait, and things arrive quickly. Kids don't like to share, and dumplings are ideal single serving portions. Kids like variety, so lots of little plates keep them entertained, and everyone gets to choose several things. 
Kids like familiarity, so there is no better option when out of town; they see dragons, chopsticks, Chinese characters on the wall and are instantly at home.

By the time their best-behaviour span is over, so is lunch. Pay, go, smile, and wipe their little soy sticky selves before you get to the car.


A few links

I´m preparing a cookbook post, but because I consume a staggering amount, it might take a while. In the meantime, since it´s June, here are a few links for picnickers, wether they are bundled up in fleece and windbreakers, like me, or barefoot and chasing away wasps.

Empanada gallega, an imposing pie.

Empanadillas, little pies that fit in any lunchbox or picnic basket.

Tortilla española, that old standby.

 Venus is in transit, enjoy!