Arcimboldo’s Summer

Arcimboldo’s Summer
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) was the master of these pre-surrealist paintings of figures formed of grouped objects (not always food).

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Alert — Delcious Potatoes Found at Waitrose!

I invariably eat organically grown potatoes, partly because I'm paranoid about what's sprayed on my food, partly because I'm concerned about conventional farming techniques ravaging the landscape, and also partly because they often (not always) taste a damned sight nicer. The most consistently pleasant tasting organic spuds available at a supermarket in recent years have proved to be Sainsbury's Lady Balfours (available in 2.5 kg bags for about £2.70). When they are good, they are very good; sometimes they are no better than average. But any of the supermarkets will occasionally turn up trumps and today, because Sainsbury's was a long hike away, I dropped into my local Waitrose to buy ingredients for my Ligurian pasta and pesto specialty, in which both green beans and potatoes also feature prominently. I chose a bag with blue livery, containing 1.5 kg of Waitrose organic new potatoes (£1.99). I put them in the steamer and, when they were cooked, took one out, sliced it, let it cool and treated myself by dipping it into the Tesco's pesto which I'd also bought. It was a revelation. A lovely sweet, rich, buttery potato. With a nice yellow colour, too (my Dad always revered yellow spuds as more tasty than their white brethren). Now, as a natural product, potatoes can and will vary from batch to batch (hence the inevitable inconsistency with the otherwise admirable Lady Balfours) so if you are going to get the same wonderful potatoes on your plate you need to get the same batch and type. The ones I bought are marked "Nicola" for the variety, "Cambs UK" for their origin. They are dated "Display Until 22 October" and "Best Before 25 October". They also feature these cryptic markings: PP1 11:00 236/M. Now you know! Happy hunting. Or digging.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Jim Harrison’s Pizza Sauce

I first came across Jim Harrison through the writings of Tom McGuane, my favourite novelist. Like McGuane, his old friend Harrison is a novelist and screenwriter. He is also a well respected poet. But what we're interested in here is his food writing, which is very entertainingly on display in his volume The Raw and the Cooked. This recipe is adapted from one in that book and it is the most delicious simple sauce I've ever cooked.

Pizza Sauce of the Gods

Originally intended to go with meatballs, and adapted by me for pasta, this makes a world class pizza topping. Cook for about 30 to 35 minutes and finish on top of a blind baked pizza base for 10 minutes. Use 500g tomatoes and there will be enough sauce to completely cover one pizza base generously and two frugally. You don't necessarily have to add cheese or anything else (eg chorizo) to the pizza topped with this sauce (although they will go wonderfully), because it's delicious and classy as is.

Pour a liberal amount of good olive oil into a baking pan.

Slice tomatoes of any size in half and place them in the pan. (Don't bother removing seeds or any of that nonsense.)

(Use, for example, 250g of plum or cherry tomatoes per person.)

Sprinkle them liberally with chopped garlic and fresh basil and thyme. (Lots of all of these. I've used about 10 cloves of garlic to good effect.)

Cook for about 40 minutes in a hot oven.

If you want a smoother sauce, chop the cooked tomatoes, garlic and herbs roughly with scissors so you end with the desired consistency. If you're using smaller tomatoes this isn't necessary. Pour over cooked pizza base or pasta and serve.

Goes very nicely with a simple salad of romaine lettuce with a garlicky vinaigrette.