Tuesday, July 03, 2007

the pasta pot

alessi introduced into its collection earlier this year, a pasta pot designed by alain ducasse and patrick jouin. in typical alessi style, it’s sleek and sexy, and brings out all sorts of covetous, materialistic and illogical thoughts, including the one that marriage is a highly attractive proposition simply for (amongst love and all that blah), being able to put a (non-)essential kitchen accessory like this on your wedding list, together with the bright red le creuset casserole pot, kitchen aid mixer and dualit toaster.

i digress. to quote ducasse on his pasta pot:

"The integrity of an ancient cooking method adapted to the necessities of modern life: that's what the Pasta Pot gives you. With this type of cooking, called 'by concentration', the starch keeps the pasta together and the undiluted flavours retain their intensity. The result is a wholesome, natural, exceptionally tasty dish that's quick and easy to prepare. In the old days, when olive pickers would go out to work in the olive groves, they had very little water to cook with. To solve the problem, they cooked their pasta like a risotto: after having blended it with the herbs and mushrooms and other vegetables they'd found while walking, they covered it all with the little water they had until it was absorbed. This is the traditional method, which I've revived through my restaurant Le Louis XV in Monaco, whose secrets Alessi is about to reveal!”

my trusty saucepan (at a tenth of the cost of the alessi pasta pot) proved to be more than adequate as i discovered the ancient joys of cooking pasta risotto style. I sautéed a finely minced shallot, cubed carrots and a finely chopped scallion in a splash of olive oil (which I’m sure the olive pickers had in ample supply). tipping in the uncooked pasta shapes and giving it a quick swish around in the pot. liquid in the form of an organic chicken stock cube dissolved in boiling water was added by the ladle and left to fully absorb before the next ladle was added. exactly like how you would cook risotto, except that this takes much less bicep-busting stirring and without the worry of it all going gummy. I had meanwhile marinated a cubed chicken fillet in salt, pepper, minced ginger, minced scallion and a splash of sesame oil which I added halfway through the cooking process together with an extra ladle of stock to gently poach the chicken cubes.

the best thing about cooking pasta this way is that it tastes divine. the pasta absorbs all the flavour of the cooking liquid and the retained starch gives the whole dish a lovely creaminess. the next best thing is that you don’t have to wash the pasta drainer.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

the wolseley

grey, cold and perpetual precipitation. just your typical summer day in london. it would have been a totally miserable saturday except for the fact that the peachy pebbles was in town (hurrah) and I tagged along with her and her mate to the wolseley for brunch.

a flimsy excuse perhaps, but I reasoned that as it hardly felt like summer, I was more than justified in eschewing all suggestion of a summery salad and ordered duck confit. I love duck confit. it’s very calorifically scrumptious and one of those dishes best not thought about in too much detail as just thinking about it makes your arteries harden – duck legs braised for hours, encased in their own fat to seal their flavour in and in the days before fridges – to preserve them. the classic way of serving duck confit is to finish them off in a pan to crisp the skin up, with potatoes cooked in duck (or goose) fat. the wolseley duck confit came with ratte potatoes and very earthy tasting sweet ceps and a thick caramelly gravy. I was tempted to pick up the bone and start chewing away, but decided against getting more evil looks from the people at the bar who were waiting to take our table.

pebbles and her mate were far more sensible and went for proper brunch fare in the form of smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and eggs benedict – both were very good as eggs should be. the hollandaise on the eggs benedict was especially good – it was the sort of sauce that you wanted to lick off the plate, but refrained for the same reasons for not chewing on the duck bone.

the wolseley used to be a luxury car salesroom till they went bust because they spent so much money on doing up the inside. that of course is my potted explanation – the wolseley website explains they went bust because they couldn’t sell enough cars which were priced between £225 and £1300, but that was the 1920s. the inside of the wolseley is brilliant – marbled floors, very high ceilings and Venetian columns – you feel like you’re on the continent. after the wolseley motors limited went bust, Barclays took over and you can still see the stamp machine and post box they installed on your way to the loos.

we stayed at our table as the rain stopped. and then started. and then stopped. and then started again. pebbles had attempted to drink her hot chocolate through the chocolate curls that accompanied it. it looked like fun as the curls melted with each sip and I ordered one too, incurring further evil looks from the people waiting at the bar. oh well. rather be stared at than to be outside in the rain.