Monday, August 24, 2009

Eurofret #1

Spaghetti con Aglio e Olio

We're back from our holidays, and I'm very pleased that my contribution for Dinner and a Movie went out as scheduled. It's the first time that I left a blog entry to be published in absentia. (Ironically, the deadline was extended to today!) But that is not what the fretting is about. "Eurofret" is a sign somewhere around the ferry port of Dunkirk, and each time we go that way, it strikes me as an ideal title for a TV show where people can complain about Europe.
Well, we've been to Germany, Denmark and Sweden, and I've got a lot to fret about. So I thought I 'd start a little series. I'll make it food-related if I can.
That shouldn't be too difficult - with the pound so weak, everything was astronomically expensive, so, lots to fret about. The above dish, re-created today, was one of the exceptions, a mere 6.50 € I think, which is nearly £ 6.50 now. But if you think how little goes into it...

My 'version' came with cherry tomatoes and 'Pepperoni'. On the Continent, those are types of small, spicy pickled peppers (often known as peperoncino or peperone piccante in Italy and pepperoncini or banana peppers in the U.S.), not the spicy variety of salami in Italo-American dishes. However, when you look up the recipe, the 'classic' one would not feature anything much besides the oil and garlic in the title.

But what the heck, I liked the addition of tomatoes and spicy peppers. I also liked the use of red chillies, as opposed to chilli flakes, which I found in online recipes. Everyone seemed to agree on the use of parsley - but I didn't have any. I had bought 'sun-kissed oregano' at Waitrose instead (because I'm a sucker for 'romantic marketing'). So, this is what I did:

Spaghetti, enough for x people
1 tbsp of
olive oil per person (I used a very special one, 'Colonna Gran Verde', with the zest of organic lemons, which I bought in a delicatessen in Henley-in-Arden, because the addition of lemon juice and zest was also recommended in a number of recipes)
1 large clove of
garlic per person, cut into slivers
cherry tomatoes, halved, per person
1 fresh
red chilli per person
yellow pickled peppers per person (mine were from Lidl; very mild)

Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente.
In a large pan, heat oil and add the garlic slivers, keep stirring. It's important the the garlic doesn't turn brown. Add chillies, peppers and tomatoes.
Add the drained spaghetti to the pan and mix well.
Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Add finely cut oregano right at the end.

I served it with a mixed salad and a glass of red wine. Grated parmesan is optional.

I had this first in the port of Husum, Germany.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dinner and A Movie: Wall Street

Micaella's Dough

It seems like I don’t get round to anything else these days, in blogging terms, other than the beloved cinematic food event that is Dinner and a Movie.

Joint hosts are Marc (norecipes) and Susan (stickygooeycreamychewy), and they take it in turns to select the film and organise the round-up. This time, it was Marc's turn, and he chose the 1987 Oliver Stone film Wall Street for the month of August. As most people probably know, it features Michael Douglas as a ruthless corporate raider, Charlie Sheen as a young man (Bud Fox) desperate to be a player in the cut-throat world of international finance, and Martin Sheen as his Union leader father who has rather different values.
Douglas, who wasn’t Stone’s first choice, won the Oscar for his portrayal of the unscrupulous Gekko who corrupts the young Fox. (Who doesn’t remember the line, "Greed is good"?) The latter eventually does not even shy away from insider dealings and a quasi betrayal of his father.

Other memorable lines are, “There is no nobility in poverty”, “You’re not naïve enough to believe we live in a democracy, are you?” and “It’s all about bucks, kid.” It’s this all encompassing theme of money which inspired my food choice: DOUGH.

Dough is only one of the numerous food-related synonyms for money:
beer tickets, bread, cake, cheddar, cheese (and variations such as gouda & veeta for velveeta), cream, lolly, chips, gravy, roll, bacon, beans, berries, cabbage, kale, lettuce, sugar, and clams were all amongst those found in my online search.

In German, the only one with food associations is Eier – eggs. Well, one of those went into Micaella’s dough, as did some cheddar (for other ingredients, see below). To obtain a dough, you have to knead (kneten) your ingredients, and Knete, interestingly, is German for plasticene/play-dough and happens to be another colloquial term for money.

My dough was not turned into a loaf sized bread, but little breadsBrötchen = rolls. Which, I believe (though his fate remains open at the end of the film), is what Gekko will have to bake smaller ones of…
Confused? “Kleine/kleinere Brötchen backen” is a frequently used idiom, which means

to become more reticent; aim lower; take a backseat; to economize; become subdued after initial bragging; become more modest; conduct business with less voracity...

as in:
"BASF muss kleinere Brötchen backen. Die schlechtere Konjunktur lässt die Gewinne des Konzerns schwächer fließen als erwartet" -
“BASF has to retract. The economic down-turn has meant lower profits than the company expected.”

How fitting… but for the time being I’ll leave it to somebody else to comment on the total insanity that is the world’s betting shop, also known as the Stock Exchange, and just concentrate on how to make cheesy dough for little rolls:

Micaella's Dough

1 egg
lukewarm water
3 3/4 cups of strong bread flour
1 1/2 tsp of salt
2 tsp of sugar
2 tbsp of soft butter
1 tsp dried yeast
2 cups of grated cheese

Put the egg into a measuring jug and beat lightly. Add lukewarm water to make up to 300ml, mix. Pour into a large bowl. Add the flour and completely cover the liquid. Add the salt, sugar and butter in three different places around the edge. Make a small indentation in the middle into which to sprinkle the yeast. Start kneading (or use kneading implements, or use a bread maker), then add the cheese and continue until everything is well mixed. Set aside to rise. (A warm place is always recommended, which is sometimes not as easy as it sounds. I cover the bowl with a shower cap - a trick I picked up from the Hairy Bikers - and put the bowl in the top oven without switching it on. It'll get a bit warmer once the bottom oven is being pre-heated.) After about an hour, your dough should look a bit like mine above. For a loaf, put the dough into a bread tin and set aside to rise again (ca 45 minutes), then bake in a pre-heated oven at C200 for about 40 minutes on the middle shelf. For rolls, divide the dough into about 8 portions and form into rolls. Place on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper, set aside to rise for about 45 minutes and bake for about 25 minutes.

Cheesy Rolls