Paris, Venice and Florence

My honeymoon was AWESOME. The wedding was brilliant, being on holiday with my very best friend who I love very much was brilliant, and the food was BRILLIANT.

A brief photographic journal:

Courgette (zucchini) flowers with courgettes, tomatoes and lettuce. I love this photo, it makes me want to EAT IT ALL.

food

Soupe a l’oignon, in Montmatre. This is the best soup I have ever tasted. I made the waitress get the recipe from the chef. It involved a lot of cheese.

onion soup

The fish market in Venice.

fish market

fish market

Pizza

pizza

The mercato centrale in Florence

mercato centrale

mercato centrale

Ribollita, Florence bread and bean soup, from Gozzi.

ribolita

Tuscan antipasti from Il Gatto e La Volpe, in Florence.

antipasti

Bistecca alla Fiorentina from Il Latini

bistecca alla fiorentina

Ice cream!

a fool with ice cream

The Hogster, who was thrilled to have us home.

unhappy cat

Beef Stroganoff

Bit of a retro classic this one, and very simple to do for a quick weeknight dinner. You could go posh and use an expensive steak but there’s no need really. I’d rather use a cheaper cut here where its flavour is encouraged by the cream and mushrooms and save an expensive steak for a special occasion.

Ingredients
Serves 2

However much steak you like. I did 250g of frying steak for 2 people.
About 200g mushrooms, sliced (I used frozen pre-sliced ssshhhhhhhh don’t tell anyone)
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
100g soured cream or creme fraiche (low fat for those of that persuasion)
1tspn mustard
A large splash of sherry or vermouth or white wine
Salt and black pepper
1 tbspn oil

Rice to serve. You know how to make rice.

The Cooking

Heat up the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the sliced onion and mushrooms for 3 or 4 minutes. Slice the steak into strips (I don’t know why strips, this just seems to be how stroganoff is and who am I to say different?). Add the garlic, fry for another minute, then add the steak. Turn up the heat and fry for 5 or so minutes until it’s got a bit of colour. Add the mustard, the salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Put the rice on now.

Add the large splash of sherry or equivalent, let it sizzle for a minute, then turn down the heat and let it simmer. If it’s a bit dry, add some water.

Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, then add the cream or creme fraiche and bring it back up to a simmer. Once the rice is done, it should all be ready. Serve it up. Simple.

Minced Beef and Onion Hotpot

Minced beef and onion hotpot

This is an uncomplicated but delicious autumn and winter dinner. The nights are drawing in with astonishing rapidity and it’s the perfect time of year for your one-dish meat and potato combo.

I add ketchup and mustard to the filling, which is not very fancy but gives a pleasing tangyness to what might otherwise be a slightly bland dish.

Ingredients
Serves 3 or 4

450g minced beef
2 large potatoes
1 large onion
2 carrots
1 tbsp tomato puree and 1 tbsp ketchup, or 2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp mustard. I use dijon mustard.
Worcestershire sauce
A little butter
Salt and pepper

The Cooking

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/350F.

Peel and slice the potatoes, but not too thinly otherwise they’ll turn into crisps. I don’t like giving exact measurements, but they want to be about half a centimetre thick. Put them in some water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. While they’re simmering peel and chop the onion and the carrots fairly small and set aside. When the potatoes are done, drain them and set them aside too.

Now, I admit I do faff about a little bit here. I thoroughly brown the mince, set it aside, then cook the onion and carrots in the same pan, then add the whole thing back together. But there is a good reason for this. You want to cook the meat on a high heat because if it’s not hot enough the meat will release all its water without it evaporating and rather than frying the mince, it stews in its own juices, which makes it rubbery and chewy. It also means that the onions and carrots will fry in the fat from the meat, so you don’t have to use any more oil and they’ll take on the flavour of the beef.

So. On a HIGH heat, fry the mince in a non-stick pan until it’s well browned – perhaps even crispy in places if you like it that way (I do). Then tip out the meat and set it aside. Turn down the heat and add the chopped onion and carrot. Fry them for about 5 minutes until the onion is soft but not burnt. Now re-add the meat and the mustard, tomatoe puree and/or ketchup, a few splashes of worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Fry it for a couple more minutes, stirring well so that the flavour is evenly distributed.

Put the meat mixture into the oven dish and top with the sliced potato, overlapping so that it’s evenly covered. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and dot it evenly with butter. You don’t need loads, just enough to moisten the potato.

Now it goes in the oven and you go and have a sit down for half an hour. After 30 minutes or so, the potato will be nicely browned. Serve it hot – it’s so good. I had mine with mangetout.

hotpot

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