iPhone Presto Pronto App

Another Google results listing for ‘Presto Pronto!’ caught my eye recently – a cookery app for those with a pressure cooker (possibly a hard-core minority today methinks?).

I was taught how to use a pressure cooker by my Mum as part of my ‘domestic training’ before I left home for Uni – a bl**dy long time ago. Her Spag Bol was always cooked this way – and I left home with her old Prestige cooker and a spare gasket/ring/the rubber bit that sits in the lid. The beauty of these cookers is you get the same results from a 20 minute ‘blast’ as you can from a ‘long & slow’ 2 – 3 hour simmer. So a good option for slow foodinistas in a hurry (sorry – you know what I mean though…)

Pressure cookers save on energy, maintain goodness and flavour (you’re cooking in a sealed environment) and produce great results.

I’m on my second cooker – they last forever – and it gets used a couple of times a month in our house. Don’t be intimidated by the process – they don’t explode.

Long live the pressure cooker!

PS here’s a link to the app http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/presto-pronto!/id438064903?mt=8

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Qype: Oyster Fishery Company Restaurant in Whitstable

WhitstableEating & DrinkingRestaurantSeafood

A truly fantastic venue but really over priced for very standard food. On both occasions we’ve had fun ‘luvvie’ spotting but ultimately you go there for the food and i found we were down-grading our menu selection as the prices are more West End then North Kent.

The cod was well cooked and the (extra) chips perfect. My wife’s sardines were ‘nice’ but she’s a very forgiving diner and doesn’t like to make a fuss.

Overall a bit disappointing – hence the 3 star rating. (Rather than pay the exorbitant price for their oysters we went along the beach to the fishmarket and bought a dozen and an oyster knife for the same price as 1/2 doz. at the restaurant – enjoyed later by the family with a bottle of chilled Prosecco.)

(I was also stupid enough to leave my wallet on the table and didn’t realise until we were home (a good hour’s drive away). I had business cards in it but no one had the foresight to call or email me. It was held until I picked it up though.)
Check out my review of Oyster Fishery Company Restaurant – I am baldrick – on Qype

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An interesting comment from the proprietor of a new restaurant:

We opened on Thursday night after a burst of PR and advertising to announce the launch.

First came the bloggers, followed on Friday by the first wave of critics and foodie celebs.

food bloggers

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Successful sourdough – a first!

It took the best part of a week all told but here in all it’s fermented glory is my very first sourdough loaf! Thanks to the numerous blogs (too  many researched to remember them all…) I managed to create a ‘starter’ (aka ‘mother’) which now seems to have – literally – a  life of it’s own. The ‘top tips’ I’ve picked up are:

Use bottled or boiled & cooled tapwater as chlorine can kill the bacteria and stall fermentation

Add the starter to the main flour mix when the starter is actively ‘peaking’ (needs watching)

Keep the mix wet

Bake the loaf in a ‘dutch oven’ or suitable casserole with the lid on for the initial  bake – this creates steam and produces a wonderful glazed finish

The result is a glazed crusty loaf, beatiful moist crumb and lovely earthy sourdough taste.


My first sourdough loaf

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£5.99 Carvery at The Lion Of Kent

'Knock the horns and hooves off, wipe it's arse and stick it on a platter my good man!'Mr Surridge prepares to demolish a lunchtime ‘snack’. Don’t be misled by the proportions, Chris is a veritable front-row barn door of a man and those ‘chipolatas’ on the edge of the plate are in fact full size Cumberland sausages. Friar Tuck is indeed alive and well!

PS The ‘Tuckster’ has just informed me the Carvery goes up to £6.99 Friday’s and Weekends

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Superb slow-cooked Nehari beef curry

A Simon Hopkinson recipe that may get easily overlooked as it uses a packet spice mix as the base for the sauce. Put your foodie concerns aside – this is a superb curry and will fill the house with ‘genuine’ restaurant aromas.

Very simple – I use shin beef (cheap) but this will easily adapt and I’ll be trying this with breast of lamb this week-end (another Hopkinson recipe). The spice mix cost me £1 in the local Spice Shop – most of the ingredients are probably in your kitchen cupboards.

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Roasted raspbery jam

Image via Wikipedia

With a glut of raspberries to deal with the search for a great jam recipe revealed two very similar techniques – involving roasting the fruits in the oven. Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers in ‘River Cafe Cook Book Green’ and Italian ‘bible’ The Silver Spoon have similar approaches (not surprising given the Italian provenance of both titles).

Having tried this I would stress that – as with any jam making session – the ingredients get VERY HOT indeed – so take care. We also halved the recipe quantities successfully. So, pre-heat your oven to a good 200C and get two ovenproof dishes ready.


3kg fresh raspberries (thanks mother-in-law!)

2.5kg caster sugar

Makes 5kg

Place berries and sugar in separate dishes and roast for 30 mins. Remove both dishes and carefully pour the hot sugar into the fruits. Stir steadily to incorporate and watch in wonder as the fruits collapse, the sugar melts and ‘prestopronto’ you have instant jam!

Bottle in clean sterilised jars sealed with a wax paper lid.

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My breadmaker is redundant!

Image by Franka-in-London via Flickr

Whiling away a Saturday morning in Waterstone’s I picked up a book on bread making called ‘Dough’ by a guy I had never heard of – Richard Bertinet. Richard is a Breton-born breadmaker who now runs a baking and cookery school in Bath. I liked the book immediately and so put it on my Birthday wish list. The girls duly obliged (but couldn’t find a copy of Lizzie David’s ‘An Omelette & a Glass of Wine…) and I can honestly say this has changed my approach to making bead forever.

Richard’s style is – naturally – of the French school. There are several key differences in technique. Unlike the British approach to kneading and stretching (tiring – hence the appeal of the breadmaker!) the French style involves working with a much wetter dough to start with and a shorter kneading time. Critically, the bread is flipped and folded to incorporate as much air into the dough as possible – with NO additional flouring of the dough (or work surface) as you work it. To understand the technique either buy his book which comes with a great DVD where Richard demonstrates the making of baguettes or Google video demos on YouTube. (I haven’t seen Richard on YouTube but there are other French bakers demonstrating their craft.)

Do not be put off by the initial sloppiness of the dough as you start – once you get the knack of the lift – flip – smack and repeat the dough comes together into a lovely pliable silky finish in about 5 minutes. I’ve been experimenting for the last 2 weeks and it genuinely works. The bread is superb!

PS for an even simpler approach try the ‘no-knead bread’ technique shown here from Foodwishes.com

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Sign ‘o the times

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Popped into my local spice supplier today to re-stock on a few essentials (way cheaper than a supermarket, better choice and much bigger packages of spices & condiments). I asked where the fresh curry leaves were (they freeze really well) and the manageress explained they hadn’t had any frewsh supplies in for over a week – because of the ash…
I guess this will mean many of the Asian restauranteurs will be struggling with the same shortages. The limited supplies that are just beginning to make it to the markets (they buy at Spitalfields) are 3 – 4 times the usual price at wholesale. Tiem to ‘buy local’.

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A brunch classic from Mexico

Huevos Rancheros has been widely recognised as a classic hangover cure (see Rick Stein & others). For a relatively quick and tasty brunch/lunch it takes some beating – particularly if you feel the need a chilli kick!

My version is a slight adaptation of the classic recipe – and in this case the amount made served one (me) for lunch today. The recipe is very adaptable – you can include sliced peppers, celery if you have them. One variation uses oregano – which I tend to avoid in this version – and mushrooms would work. You’ll need the following:

Small heavy frying pan (omelette size is perfect) – get this on a low heat and glug in a good 3 tbsps. of olive oil.

Chopped red onion (about a 1/4). 1 red or green chilli – de-seeded if you must. Get these sweating in the pan. 3 ripe tomatoes or 1/2 tin, chopped. 3 small (cocktail sized) cooking chorizo cut into thick slices – chuck in the pan with the onion to get the chorizo flavours into the oil. Once the chorizo and onions have melded crush and drop in one garlic clove – let this sweat and then tip in the tomatoes. (At this point I include a dash of red wine or balsamic vinegar – gives it a sweet/sour hit – I’ll leave this up to you!) If you have any flat leaf parsley chop this roughly. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 5 mins – then carefully crack one fresh egg (or more if the occasions demands) and place it in the tomato and chorizo sauce. Cover and cook gently until the egg is set. Slide out onto a warmed flat bowl and eat with tortillas or whatever bread you have to hand (I like ciabatta rolls gently toasted and smothered in butter. To serve – salt the egg and pepper the tomato sauce – and splash on a few hits of tabasco for good measure!

Huevos Rancheros by Prestopronto

Huevos Rancheros by Prestopronto

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