Monday, August 18, 2014

Foodie Film Friday - Ratatouille

Sorry this post is late, it may not be Friday but I hope you enjoy it all the same!

This week I decided to do some cooking to go with my film.  I recently bought Rachel Khoo's second book 'Little French Kitchen' and found that it contained a recipe for a French 'tian', the dish actually featured in Ratatouille which apparently isn't a real ratatouille at all!  For a proper ratatouille you are meant to cook the vegetables separately before combining them, whereas for a tian you arrange the vegetable slices and bake them all at once.  Anyway from the first time I saw this film I fell in love with the dish as it looks divine, so here is my attempt at a 'tian provençal'.

For five people I used an aubergine, a courgette and around 6 plum tomatoes.  I cut them into thin slices using a mandolin and the slicing attachment on the food processor.

Thinly chop the vegetables
The base is made up of three large onions, diced and fried until soft.  You then cover them with a layer of sliced vegetables.

The onion baseCover the onion base with vegetables

All that's left to do is arrange the sliced vegetables on top.  I decided to arrange them in a repeating, circular pattern, as in the recipe.

Arrange the vegetables
Fill in the centre with the remaining sliced vegetables.

Ready for the oven
Then drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle over some salt and bake in the oven for half an hour or so.

The finished tian
Although the preparation for the tian takes some time, I love the simplicity of this dish and I think this really is captured in the film Ratatouille.  The way Remy talks about flavours is great, how you can take two delicious flavours, combine them and turn them into something even better.  It really sums up what cooking is for me, taking ingredients I love and creating something even more wonderful from them.

Aside from the excellent food the characters are loveable too and the plot is not only funny but really captures the imagination.  When you combine Pixar and Disney with food you really do end up with a match made in heaven.

Ratatouille film cover

My overall rating for this film is 4/5 - I really do love this film
I would give this film a 4/5 for seriousness (where 1 is serious and 5 is lighthearted) as it is after all an animated film centering around a rat who can cook.  However, I do love the fundamental message of the film which is that anyone can cook.
Since food features a lot in this film, from soups to omelettes and of course, the title dish, ratatouille, I am going to give this film a 4/5 on the foodie front.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The first post in forever feat. scotch eggs

I know I said I'd try and schedule some posts but (clearly) that didn't work out!  Anyway, I'm back off my travels (for now) and have found some time to write a post.  I've been wanting to try making scotch eggs for a while now and being back home in a proper kitchen seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Scotch eggs
They were actually remarkably simple to make!  I followed the Baker Brothers' recipe and it worked really well.  While boiling the eggs for around 6 mins I made up the sausage meat to go around the eggs.  I used pork mince, fresh thyme, ground mace and English mustard along with some salt and pepper to season.  Once I'd mixed all that together the eggs were done.  The easiest way to peel them is to place them in a pan of cold water, then once cooled continue to run cold water over them while peeling.

Although they said to use plain breadcrumbs I decided to use some left over from another day which also had some lemon zest and oregano in them and it really did improve the taste of the outer coating.  It's also worth noting that I prefer not to use shop-bought breadcrumbs, instead I like to cut of the crusts of bread and whizz them up in a food processor for a few minutes to make my own, I find that they are less dry and make for a more interesting texture.

Once the breadcrumbs and eggs have been prepared lay out a small square of cling film on your work surface (large enough to wrap round your egg) and divide the mixture up to ensure you use roughly the same amount for each egg.  Spread one portion out over the cling film using the back of a spoon to form an oval shape which is roughly the same thickness all the way across and which will fit round an egg.  Place the egg in the centre and gather up the cling film so that the sausage meat coats the egg.  Remove the cling film and remember you will need to use your hands to mould the sausage meat, cover up any holes which have formed and to form a seal.  Place the coated eggs on a plate and leave them in the fridge to firm up.

Sausage-coated eggs
For the next stage you'll need three plates and a bowl.  Cover one plate in plain flour, one in the breadcrumbs and leave the other free for the finished eggs.  You'll also need to beat a couple of eggs with some milk and place them in a bowl.  Roll the sausage-coated eggs first in flour, then in the egg mix followed by the breadcrumbs before rolling it in the egg and breadcrumbs for a second time.  Place the eggs on the empty plate and then put them back in the fridge to firm up again.

The coated eggs
While the eggs are firming up in the fridge I heated the oil in a deep fat fryer.  I placed the eggs in two at a time for about 1 minute and forty seconds and transferred them to an empty plate after draining.  The eggs will then need to go into a preheated oven for ten minutes or so in order to cook through fully.

The finished eggs - fried and baked
The eggs turned out beautifully, with slightly runny centres and crispy outer coatings.  The eggs are best eaten fresh with a salad but they can be put in the fridge to eat another day.  If cooked just right the centres will still be a little gooey even the following day.  However, I will admit that there is a certain element of luck involved in cooking scotch eggs as you can't see inside.  I advise making an extra egg if you can which you can cut open after it's been in the oven to check the progress of the eggs, if the meat isn't quite cooked through then you can fold it up again and pop all the eggs back in the oven.

A perfectly gooey centre
All in all scotch eggs are definitely worth the effort as when you make them yourself they really do taste a lot better than the ones you can buy in the shops.  I'll update this post when I try them again.  Next time I hope to try a couple of variations on this more traditional recipe, perhaps with a black pudding instead of sausage meat, or falafel for the veggies!