California

C

 Just back from a flying visit to California, a mini book tour with a few days in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Ojai (pronounced O hi)– a beautiful valley, north of Los Angeles, carpeted with orange and avocado groves and surrounded by the Topatopa Mountains,. Guess what I bought as a  present  oranges and avocados  from LA Central Market to my friends in Ojai. Talk about bringing “coals to Newcastle”.

This is spectacular, dramatic countryside, where last December, forests fires burnt for almost a month. Many were evacuated from their homes and later in January, a deluge caused mud slides to take everything in its path, including several peoples’ houses – lives were lost.

In Los Angeles, I was invited to appear on the Home and Family Channel to talk about my latest book, Grow, Cook, Nourish. I cooked one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, Tortillitas with Aioli, the crew absolutely loved them. I took the opportunity to spend a few days in LA, not nearly long enough.  One could easily spend two weeks and eat beautiful creative seasonal food for breakfast lunch and dinner. I had difficult choices to make with just four meal slots, I came straight from the airport at 9pm to meet some Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni at a restaurant called The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, a hip and happening area in LA. We shared 10 or 12 little plates of delicious, very Californian food; we loved the small little pillows of deep fried bread dough called gnocco fritto served with the San Daniele ham. Chef-owner Casey Lane is a name to watch.

I stayed in a hip boutique hotel called Mama’s Shelter, close to the Universal Studios, but you might want to try Chateau Marsan or ??

For breakfast I just wanted a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, “not possible”, they only had the scary orange “Freshly squeezed” juice that gets delivered every day. On the counter there were several bowls of oranges piled high so I asked if they could halve a few so I could squeeze them myself. “Afraid not, they’re plastic” – only in California which grows thousands of acres of beautiful citrus….

No Farmers Markets on while I was in town but I greatly enjoyed nosing around Grand Central Market which has a new lease of life in the last few years since 1917.

Eggslut, great name serves breakfast all day on the Broadway side of the Market to hundreds of people daily. Eggs in many ? their signature dish, The Slut, a coddled egg on top of smooth potato purée, cooked in a glass jar topped with gray salt and chives, served with slices of baguette is comfort food at its best.

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich, made with hardwood smoked bacon, an over-medium egg, cheddar cheese and chipotle ketchup, served in a warm brioche bun is another  winner. And there’s much more. Check out Clark Street Bakery, Belcampo Builder, Sari Sari rice bowls, G & B Coffee, Tewasart Tacos – it’s a brilliant spot for the adventurous food lovers.

But what’s most interesting to me when I visit the US is the craving there is to find real food and the length people have to go to source it.

There’s a huge nutritional confusion and desperation among many, but of course not all, to find healthy wholesome food they can trust. Tons of money is invested in promoting super foods, free-from foods and supplements. The vegan – vegetarian and plant food movement is huge and growing and there are now some fabulously good restaurants and cafés serving exclusively vegan food, check out  ?? in LA.

Some of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten have been in the US, particularly California and this time was no exception.

At Chez Panisse in Berkley outside San Francisco Alice Waters made me a nettle pizza form the fresh new season’s growth.

At Boulette’s Larder beside the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco another memorable Turkish inspired pizza with minced lamb topping drizzled with yoghurt and tahini and scattered with feta, lots of flat parsley sprigs and a sprinkling of sumac.

 

Down in Los Angeles I made a pilgrimage to Nancy Silverston’s new Pizzeria Mozza and enjoyed a bubbly Pizza Bianco with Fontina mozzarella, sottocenere and sage  leaves from a long list of temptations  with  and so wished I had space for the tomato and zucchini blossom pizza.

Dessert was Mayer lemon gelato pit with champagne vinegar sauce This recipe for  ? was inspired but little pillows of deep fried dough served with  paper thin slivers of San Danielle ham at the Tasting Room in Venice LA.

This little combination of modern industrial coddled egg and potato puree was inspired by a visit to Egg Slut, the egg-centric food stand in Grand Central Market in LA. This irresistible nursery food  reminds me of my childhood and certainly seems to hit the spot for a whole new generation also to judge by the length of the queues

Egg Slut

This little combination of modern industrial coddled egg and potato puree was inspired by a visit to Egg Slut, the egg-centric food stand in Grand Central Market in LA. This irresistible nursery food  reminds me of my childhood and certainly seems to hit the spot for a whole new generation also to judge by the length of the queues

Serves 4

fluffy potato puree
4 beautiful organic  free range eggs (large)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

finely chopped chives

4-8 slices of toasted focaccia or sourdough bread

4 glass jars (size ?)

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil; put 2 heaped tablespoons of well-seasoned buttery potato puree in the base of each jar. Crack an egg into each jar.

Cover with the screw top lid. Bring back to the boil for 10-15 minutes

Remove the lids. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few finely chopped chives. Serve with a teaspoon and some toasted focaccia, sourdough or baguette to scoop up the little feast.

Mix the egg and potato together and slather on toast.

 

Tortillitas à la Patata

The crew of the Home and Family programme loved these little potato fritters which Sam and Jeannie Chesterton of Finca Buenvino in Andalucia, introduced me to. I keep wondering why it never occurred to me before, they are so easy to make and completely addictive – kids also love them and they make perfect little bites to nibble with a drink, preferably a glass of fino or manzanilla.

 

Makes 26

 

4 eggs, free range and organic

225g cooked potatoes in 5mm dice

3 tablespoons finely chopped mixed fresh parsley and chives

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

 

Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)

 

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml arachide oil and 50ml olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

 

Extra virgin olive oil for frying, you will need about 5mm in the frying pan.

 

Maldon Sea salt for sprinkling.

 

 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the potato dice, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the freshly chopped herbs.

 

Heat about 5mm extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat, cook a teaspoonful of mixture and taste for seasoning.

Correct if necessary.

Continue to cook the mini tortillas as needed, using a scant dessertspoon of the mixture. Allow to cook on one side for about seconds, flip over and continue to cook on the other side for a similar length of time, or until slightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with a blob of Aioli.

 

To make the Aioli

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

 

If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons  of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Nettle and Ricotta Pizza

 

At Chez Panisse in Berkley in California, Alice Waters incorporates local wild foods into her menu – I enjoyed this delicious pizza straight from the wood-burning oven on a recent trip.

 

Makes 1

 

75g (3ozs) pizza dough

fresh young nettles about 200g (7ozs)

1 clove garlic slivered or finely chopped

35g (1½ oz) fresh Mozzarella

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

25g (1oz) Ricotta or Ardsallagh goat cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 475F/250C/gas 9.

 

Preheat a heavy baking sheet in the oven.

 

Stretch or roll the dough into a thin round.   Sprinkle a little cornmeal onto a paddle.   Lay the pizza on top.  Brush with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with chopped garlic and roughly grated mozzarella.   Top with a mound of young nettles.  Mist generously with water, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and top with a few blobs of ricotta or Ardsallagh goat cheese.

 

Cook for 7-8 minutes depending on the intensity of the heat.

 

Remove from the oven, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately with a few flakes of Maldon sea salt sprinkled over the top.

 

 

Nancy Silverston’s Mozza Lemon Gelato with crystallised lemon and champagne vinegar sauce

Serves 8

Crust

75g (3 oz) digestive biscuits, crushed

45g (1½ oz) butter

Filling

 

Lemon Gelato

1 free range egg

250ml (9fl oz) milk

110g (4oz) castor sugar

zest and juice of 1 good lemon

 

crystallised lemon strips

 

Tin – loose bottomed tin 8 x 3 inch (20.5 x 7.5cm)

 

Melt the butter and stir in the crushed biscuits, press into the mould in an even layer. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

 

To make the ice cream, separate the egg, whisk the yolk with the milk and keep the white aside. Gradually mix in the sugar. Carefully grate the zest from the lemon on the finest part of a stainless steel grater. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add with the zest to the liquid. Whisk the egg white until quite stiff and fold into the other ingredients. Freeze in a sorbetiere according to the manufacturer’s instructions or put in a freezer in a covered plastic container.

 

When the mixture starts to freeze, remove from the freezer and whisk again, or break up in a food processor. Then put it back in the freezer until it is frozen but still slushy. Pour into the crust, cover and freeze.

To serve remove form the freezer. Cut into pie shaped pieces. Serve on a chilled plate. Put a dollop of softly whipped cream on top. Add some crystallised lemon and drizzle with some champagne vinegar syrup. Enjoy.

 

Crystallized Lemon Peel

2 lemons

450ml (16fl oz) cold water

sugar syrup

champagne vinegar

 

Peel 2 lemons very thinly with a swivel top peeler, be careful not to include the white pith.  Put into a saucepan with the cold water and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water, cover with fresh water and repeat the process

 

Put the strips into a saucepan with the syrup made with 350g (12oz) sugar and 600ml (1 pint) water. Cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque.  Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on parchment paper or a cake rack. Allow to dry in a cool airy place.

Add two tablespoons of vinegar to the hot syrup, bring to the boil for two minutes. Taste, it should be bitter/sweet.

 

 

 

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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