Winter Sun and Kumquat Chutney

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Mid winter in BA and now it’s really cold, down to 2 degrees this morning. However, I’m lucky enough to own my own microclimate, my ample Andalusian terrace where if the sun is shining you have to strip off your jumper by midday regardless of the surrounding chill. And the sun has shone consistently for the last few days with a kind of alpine glory and while this has been deceiving and has led to me venturing out on the street seriously underdressed on occasions, I am still getting in a few pleasant hours of work a day basking in its rays. That is if you consider lounging with a coffee, book and cigarette to be work, which as an aspiring writer I obviously do.

I share my terrace with my plants and other than those that are simply designed to give shade and privacy during the summer, all the rest are useful by which I mean edible. Lemons, limes and kumquats, lots of herbs and a wide array of chilli plants which I nurtured from seed and which I am hoping will find conditions here conducive enough to become perennial. I have faith as even in the depths of winter the Thai ones are still producing a fresh crop every two weeks.

Given that all these plants are in their first season and some of the larger ones suffered from my amateur attempts at transplantation, I had low expectations for the yields especially from the trees. The lemons failed, producing lots of pretty flowers that didn’t set. The lime did better, though the fruit was not your UK supermarket lime. It turned out less acidic, incredibly fragrant, more orangey…nice to cook with and I have preserved the rest in a salt brine (and just fried some up with some red mullet fillets (Trilla for my Argentine friends).

The Kumquats however have gone ballistic, weighing down their spindly trunked tree with kilos of fruit. Unlike chillies they all ripen together. And while La Doctora has eaten one tree’s worth that leaves the problem of what to do with the other? I’m not the kind of guy to let them rot on the vine!

Neither do I see myself as your Martha Stewart jam-making kind of person. You read about this stuff and it all seems complicated and precise and requires buying expensive jars that cost more than the jam and there is risk of mould and bacteria and unforeseen poisoning of guests etc. I’m not yet convinced. But maybe chutney? Yes, chutney is something I miss here. Sweet, sour spicy flavours to go with cheeses or cold meats. Not part of the national food dictionary. Impossible to buy. Complicated to make?

It turns out that there is nothing simpler and that possibly there is nothing more delicious than kumquats to make it with (obviously my home grown are superior to any you can buy!). My method of cooking something new is to read 10 recipes on the internet, forget about them for an hour and then go shopping with an idea of the end flavour in mind and an eye out for what looks tasty in the greengrocer. I made an Indian spiced chutney, but you could easily go more herbal (rosemary would work in large amounts) or more christmas pudding (cinnamon, cloves, brandy?). Anyway, as much as anything as an aide memoire for myself I will give you my newly invented recipe, which according to La Doctora couldn’t have been better.

For about half a kilo of kumquats (quinotos here):

Bung 2 finely chopped red onions in your saucepan with a big thumb of finely cooked ginger and cook gently in olive oil. Then add chillis of your choice, the big green jalapenos giving a grassier flavour and some little red bird’s eye for a bit of underlying heat.

After a few minutes add mustard seeds, ground cumin, black pepper, turmeric, garam masala, (about half to a teaspoon of each) and then a teaspoon of cinnamon. Integrate, taste!! And if that seems like the base taste (given that it will become much milder by the end of the process) then add your kumquats. I only halved them as you are going to cook them hard so it’s nice to preserve a bit of shape and colour even though they will end up very soft. Then add a hundred or two grams of raisins.

Once the kumquats have softened a bit and given out their juices add two or three big spoons of sugar and at least half a cup of vinegar ( I used cheap apple vinegar and a dash of sweet chinese). Cook (slow or hard depending on how much stirring you want to do) until everything is nice and soft but the kumquats still retain texture and the liquid has evaporated. Cool, leave a day and eat!

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If this doesn’t go with a good ripe goats cheese I don’t know what does! And as every verduleria is currently selling quinotos in small sacks and they are cheap as chips you have no excuse.

Let’s join the Martha Stewart jam making set. After all she’s out of prison now. We wont need domestic goddess tats!

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Boiling Bunnies, business ideas, and a homage to Jeanette Winterson

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As Jeanette pointed out and many of my new friends would agree, given they are a diverse bunch, Oranges are not the only Fruit. Nor is “Carne” despite its Argentine definition (“Beef”) the only meat. However Jeanette made the error of thinking there might actually be some value to participating in Twitter, and having participated with an enthusiastic description of murdering, skinning, jointing, cooking and eating the cuddly bunny that was decimating her vegetable garden, she was apparently surprised that the Islington literati considered this a crime against humanity. Obviously they took Watership Down literally and rallied in Lloyd Webber loving groups to demand her immediate crucifixion, all within the confines of typing very few characters. Luckily I am twitter free, uncontaminated by people who really believe that any form of intelligent expression other than a haiku, can be composed in twenty words while perched on the can.

Anyway, it’s easy to get a little bored of the variety of meat on offer at most butchers here. Other than Carne they generally stock a couple of cuts of pork (what the hell happens to the rest of these noble beasts?) and the Granjas (chicken guys) stock Chicken. The rest you have to order specially. However I just found that one of the 3 small butchers in the (half derelict) covered market on Salguero (between Guemes and Charcas) normally has interesting stuff. Last Saturday, along with a load of fresh and prepared partridges on display, there was a little cardboard notice claiming he had rabbits.

I love bunnies so I thought I would give it a go. Though frozen, (they come fresh but he freezes them after a couple of days if they have not sold), it was a decent sized beast and thankfully already skinned as I suspect my previous expertise in this department may have expired. Easy enough to joint up, if you have a decent knife, lopping off the legs and dividing the loin into two is kind of logical (after a youtube refresher video on the subject). And a jolly juicy rabbit it was too. Cooked simply with a rub of mustard in a white wine sauce it didn’t even dry out when I reheated the remainder the next day. It comes with all its bits so I sauteed the rabbit liver (picture above) with a bit of sweet vinegar as a starter. Even La Doctora who is concerningly un-carnivorous for an Argy loved both dishes. The other bits are perfect for enhancing your luxurious rabbit stock!

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It’s a bit strange this market. In prime Alto Palermo it’s three quarters empty yet it has three small old style butchers, two of which I have sampled and it is clear they know their stuff and depend on a long established and older clientele. The Carne/Beef guy (first on the right as you come in) provides some of the best produce I have eaten. Mr rabbit appears to have great partridges. There’s a fish guy, an old guy that sells a very limited range of normally perfect fruit, a flower/plant person, and not much else. I think I feel a business plan coming on! I don’t know what complications the owner has, what the lease terms are etc. etc. but I get the feeling I should get involved. No, I’m not thinking of Organic, or Vegetarian, and definitely not Vegan. But what a wonderful place for quality producers to start a vibrant market selling their wares. After all, the ambulant weekly Buenos Aires Market is now so packed that you can hardly get near the stalls but they are screwed if it rains.

So, provedores, if I can negotiate decent terms will you join me? Foodies, would you drag yourself to the easiest place in Palermo (and perhaps in the city) to get to by public transport? Come on you Macri people (I know a few of the city government are my FB friends) will you support this initiative? Give the owner a break on his ABL or something??

Come on Buena Morfa Social Club. You need to get behind this with all your contacts and skills. You understand my philosophy in all its simplicity. It’s a rude truth that we have to eat to live, for most of us several times a day. There are not many other things that are obligatory with such frequency. Therefore the pleasure that can be provided by a small increment in the quality of the daily experience, the continued sociability of a good meal, variety, surprise, value, nutrition, added up is worth more than most diversions.

A centre for all our trusted providers in the heart of Palermo?

You know it makes sense!

 

Chocolate and quite possibly Paradise, Found.

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As regular readers of my blog will know, I spend a lot of time searching for things in BA, pretty much exclusively foodstuffs of course. Material possession wise I travel light. While some may crave the latest electronic gadget, clothing accessory or automotive experience, I ponder where to get proper bacon (Baines Best), a sausage acceptable at breakfast (Bratwurst Argentina), Norwegian Salmon (Pescaderia Mellino), smoked ribs to have on standby for a lazy feast (El Tejano), Biltong (Biltong in BA) or proper, strong flavoured cheese (I found both a spot-on English cheddar and a rocking, creamy gorgonzola at the food fair in Parque Las Heras on Saturday).

Until Sunday, Dia de La Patria, when any Argentine (including us recent immigrants) can expect the sun to come out and shed a little light into those obscure nooks that have been lacking it, I had not managed to find chocolate or indeed chocolates that ranked any higher than “acceptable”. And I hasten to add, this would not be an “acceptable” in the context of Geneva or Paris but an “acceptable” after 5 years of lowering my expectations and trying the over-sugared, adulterated, artificially flavoured rubbish, that has virtually led to my abandonment of chocolate eating but still admits to the occasional rush of faith on the back of the odd craving.

Hey, I’m not saying you can’t buy pretty chocolates here, you can. There are plenty of artists but they fall into the same trap as most of the molecular gastronomists. Technique over flavour, style over substance. They raise your expectations and then crush you with Cadbury-esque mediocrity. Think Milka with Malba on top.

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However, this sunny Day of the Revolution (I prefer to think of it this way as it was the Spanish that took the brunt not the Brits), I had the good luck to be invited to a celebratory Locrofest, 6 hours of eating, wine and music (but 6 hours of eating too – it was not sequential) and an opportunity to raise a goodly amount for charity (feeding underprivileged kids of course). It was organised by the Buena Morfa Social Club. For non-Lunfardo speakers, Morfar means to Eat or Comer here. And you have all heard of the Buena Vista Social Club, who doesn’t love their music?

Anyway, the members of the former are distinctly fatter than the members of the latter, but proud of it and only slightly less likely to break into song. The hardcore founders are more obsessionally foodie than I, and not above putting in several days of hard work (while cleverly extracting prime ingredients and beverages from every supplier they know) in order to provide a feast for the 55 people that congregated (not including the waiting list), knowing their bellies would be full, as would those of the kids we eventually raised 20,000 pesos for (did I mention it was 6 hours of serious eating, there is a reason that their logo included the Argentine flag, crossed forks and the head of a pig). If you need to know something about eating here or acquiring ingredients I suggest that you subscribe to their Facebook page immediately.

So finally we got to the “mesa de dulces”. A table of desserts showing off the talents of the various members of this hard eating group. And to be fair a delicious spread. But much was made of Diego, which was perfectly reasonable as he had organised the space in the building which made the whole event possible, and his handmade chocolates.

I’d just grabbed a coffee to stimulate my cardiovascular system against extreme, food-excess induced fatigue.

“Would you like me to get you some chocolates?” said the delightful young lady beside me. Well it seemed rude not to after the speech thanking him for being one of the major facilitators of the event. But my expectations were not high! Actually I felt a little depressed. Why? Because I wanted to like this guy, admire him, he’d made a phenomenal effort. It made me uncomfortable to think I was going to have another of those “he’s not even the runner up” moments. She came back with a selection, further adding to my anxiety.

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Until I tasted the first of course and was then un-remorseful that she might have nabbed more than our fair share. Let them eat cake! Or one of the other 20 delicious desserts. I’ve been living in the chocolate purgatory of the vaguely acceptable.

So Diego Armanini Chocolatier (https://www.facebook.com/diego.chocolatier?fref=ts), for my money the best in BA. Fresh taste, fresh high quality ingredients, no cloying aftertaste. Pretty enough to serve to a honeymoon bride, basic enough to satisfy a foodie. He doesn’t have a shop but you can visit him in Palermo Hollywood. He doesn’t seem to have any competition so maybe you should finance his shop! Or a small factory making this stuff? I don’t know the prices yet, but the odd good chocolate is priceless.

Disclosure: I haven’t been paid or in anyway bribed for this review, but hey, Diego, if your Facebook likes suddenly increase and lots of people with a poor grasp of Castellano but a craving for sophisticated sweetness turn up at your door, well, send me round a choccie or two!

Oh, by the way he’s a nice guy and a genuine enthusiast.

 

Winter Warmer!

Ok, it’s not winter yet but I have lost all resistance to the cold.14 degrees C might seem surprisingly pleasant in London but I can assure you that after 5 years acclimatising to sunnier climes, 14 degrees here seems to herald the next ice age. I’m chilled to the bone and wondering what to eat. Warming comfort food is a priority.

Luckily brassicas are at their best and most robust at the moment. Time to celebrate that dish so maltreated by English dinner ladies thus despised by English school children and therefore largely ignored by the adult population. Cauliflower Cheese. And what could be simpler? A big cauli, cut into substantially sized florets (cut down the through the centre of the stalks of each floret to even up cooking times), blanch for a couple of minutes (or up to 4 if you really prefer little crunch from your cauli), whip up a bechamel (remember cold milk into hot roux or visa versa will ensure no lumps), lob in a nice sharp cheese (grated), dissolve whisking gently, pour over your drained and dried cauli and into a hot oven for 20 minutes.

BEFORE THE OVEN

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Tips. I find roasting brings out the sweetness of cauliflower, so I roast in an steel pan at a very high heat (250 degrees C) for a shorter time. It doesn’t bother me that a few wisps above the sauce line blacken slightly. If you have thrown some raw tomatoes in at that point (halved cherry ones are good) it gives them a nice texture too. Full flavoured cheese is always a problem here but a mature fontina del campo does the trick. Save some lumpy slices to throw on top before roasting or some thick slivers of Parmesan or Reggianito. For something richer soft blue cheese also works. To make it a standalone dinner dish, add some crisped lardons of smoked pancetta before you bake. Finally, the cauliflower will always give up some liquid that waters down the sauce. Adding a cup of creme to the béchamel makes a sauce that will absorb / incorporate this liquid smoothly.

AFTER

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So forget the miseries of your youth and give it a go. A big cauli, a litre of béchamel and quarter kilo of cheese will easily feed four.

Maybe we should start doing comfort food evenings at The 5th Floor? This would certainly warm the cockles of your average Argentine! Or include Bed and Breakfast in the package for the expat crowd who want to escape back to their own culture for a night or two? What do you think?

Perfect Prawns?

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Seafood in BA is frankly irritating! It’s not as though Argentina suffers from a lack of ocean frontage, a paucity of territorial waters. It’s just that until recently the Argentines only ate fish of religious duty and with somewhat less fervour than they follow the tradition of eating gnocchi on the 29th of the month. Why go to all the effort of pursuing slippery marine creatures when a decent and affordable dinner was happily chewing the cud not so many metres away? Why not just license out the fishing rights to the Japanese or Spanish or some other fish obsessed culture or if you really must catch it yourself be sure to export it rather than burden the local population with the chores of gutting, scaling and filleting.

The popularity of Sushi, despite its unholy pairing of fish and philadelphia (cheese) is beginning to change things, though there is still an incredible lack of quality and variety, think flabby Chilean farmed salmon or sea bass that should have indulged in a bit of physical activity during its short but greedy life. So other than the thrice weekly deliveries to China Town which provide the most acceptable supplies available, where else can one go to find decent product?

Last week we came across the Pescaderia Mellino, a fish shop in front of the venerable Mercado del Progreso in Caballito that seems to offer a very decent alternative. Here is their website http://www.pescaderiamellino.com. They are a pretty inventive business, offering various “packs” of nice fresh produce, the baseline starting at less (one peso less of course) than 500 pesos for 7 whole kilos of fishy delights. They call this the family pack but I can’t help thinking you will need a pretty big family to get through this lot in short order, so some of the benefits of its freshness will be diluted by the fact that you will have to freeze half of it. However, at around 4 of my Great British Pounds per kilo, delivered to your door anywhere in Capital and given the fact that they sell Norwegian salmon which has got to be better than the Chilean rubbish, it had to be worth giving a go. Not convinced? Well for those of you who are prepared to drag yourselves to Caballito on a Saturday morning there is another treat in store. Because on Saturday they apparently whiz the order that you placed during the week, up from Mar del Plata early in the morning and sell it to you at knock down prices. And as you will then get the opportunity to wander round the excellent Mercado del Progreso first and stock up on other hard to find produce, it has to be worth the effort.

Last Saturday, we went to see. I don’t know why it is so hard to find decent prawns here but it is. Fresh or frozen, they don’t seem to be very robust little creatures. They don’t seem to have much flavour either. So we booked Mellino’s special offer, 2 kilos of decent sized fresh ones for a mere 150 pesos. And they looked good, smelt good, we were hungry, so we rushed home to try them out. Recipe time?

Well, however good they were I knew they weren’t going to be some big robust indian ocean affair with superior musculature that could survive any serious cooking. Recipes that work here are those that heat them until they firm and colour, without any serious calorific challenge. Also, and I have no idea why this is, prawns here definitely need to be cleaned. Don’t even think about cooking them in their shells. And don’t go to a restaurant that does. These chaps have some serious intestines to deal with.

What could be easier than Gambas al Ajillo? Good olive oil, large but fine slices of garlic and chili, warm to infuse, heat up a little (halfway between poaching and frying temperature), in with the prawns and the moment they firm up and show the right colour tip the lot into a cold dish and serve with warm slices of baguette to soak up the sauce. Yes, that’s right, a cold dish. Don’t go with the lovely traditional spanish clay dishes that you cook in and then they retain the heat and keep cooking your prawns, unless you want Argentine prawn mush.

In the evening we had a couple of friends over for an impromptu dinner, and we still had plenty of prawns. Another simple and very tasty dish, which makes a great starter. Finely cube a few inches of a fairly fatty spanish style chorizo and fry until your pan is quite oily. Turn the heat up, bung in halved cherry tomatoes, then a few minutes later, turn the heat down, garlic and chili as above, a bit of white wine and then the prawns and some fine (and obviously recently cooked) pasta. A few fresh herbs and pepper and the flavours are remarkably sophisticated for such little effort.

And of course, having cleaned them, you still have the heads and shells. Fry them up with garlic and fennel and a tomato or two, cover them in some water and bubble for half an hour and you have a tasty stock (and from 2 kilos of prawns quite a lot of it), the perfect base for an asian soup or a French sauce. I used it in this Thai fish coconut noodle soup.

Thai Prawn Soup

So the prawns, quality wise? Pretty good actually. Sweet flesh, good texture, I’d go back.

And reasonably priced fish, delivered to your door in BA. Without cream cheese? You know it makes sense!

 

Another dreadful photo but a surefire way to cook chicken breast.

 

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Should I even write about this? I mean what could be duller than a chicken breast. You know, those dry, chalky slices that leave you begging for more Cesar dressing when they turn up in your salad. Or the dehydrated lump in your curry that leads you to believe you are not the chef’s favourite person. But it’s leaner aka healthier, all chickens have them so it would be rude to throw them away, and while they will never live up to the succulence of the leg meat that can withstand lengthy cooking in a rich sauce without giving you that “eating cardboard” sensation, you have to do something with them. And as we all know they have less fat (aka less flavour) so my more health conscious brethren will continue to demand them…like a kind of penance!

Of course, any chef worth his salt will know that his entire clientele will instantly die if he doesn’t cook his chicken till the juices run clear. A hint of pink, say bye bye to your glorious career. What they don’t realise is that the juices can run clear (clients live to fight another day) while the breast meat can still retain a hint of pink. Chicken isn’t that dangerous. Let’s face it, even if you choose the worst quality chicken, it has probably taken more antibiotics over the course of its very short life than you will in your entire existence. Factory farmed chicken may have cured you of many diseases that you didn’t know you had.

While cooking the whole bird (preferably one that has lived a gloriously privileged free range life eating the finest comestibles), there are all sorts of strategies that can be applied to prevent “Sahara breast effect”. Basting, buttering, tenting with foil, or even hacking the bloody thing in half and starting the breast part later. But if you give me a pair of fillets, off the bone, what do I do? Well the only reliable advice is brining, but frankly that takes a lot of forethought, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

Then I came across a recipe (with its appropriate condiments) for Thai Chicken Rice. And she uses the breast (though this is not obligatory). And it provides the basic principle for cooking the perfect chicken breast. Basically get your preferred liquid up to maximum heat (I used my rich chicken stock), submerge breasts, boil for 4 minutes, slap on a tightly fitting pot lid, turn off the heat and WALK AWAY!  FOR 50 MINUTES. As cooking people do, she recommends various other steps, rubbing the thing in salt, cooking on the bone, shocking it afterwards in freezing water. Well you can play with these things afterwards but as far as I can see they make little difference. It’s all about faith. Four minutes seems to be enough for the residual heat to finish the cooking process while leaving the breast as moist as you can imagine, maybe with a tinge of pink, but definitely the juices run clear. 5 minutes was too much! And don’t even think about giving it a little warm up half way through the process.

If you want to go traditional (Thai), you then cook the rice in the stock and make a range of lovely sauces as per her website. http://highheelgourmet.com/2013/07/20/thai-chicken-rice-khao-man-gai/

Once I’d mastered the technique I just bunged all the flavours I wanted into the stock, soy, sweet vinegar, ginger, garlic and mirim, and once I had extracted the perfect chicken, reduced it down to a thick dip.

So have you got this? Cooking time for a chicken breast is 4 minutes! No more, and only less if you are feeling adventurous. Use the liquid of your choice. Make a nice sauce from it afterwards. But don’t bloody touch it for 50 minutes! No longer will you inflict sawdust chook on your unsuspecting guests and as the thing is only tepid when it comes out of the water bath you can use it in salads and sauces with impunity. Just don’t cook it any more.

So simple I am embarrassed to write about it….but then why are so many restaurants still getting it wrong?

Punch up the flavour!

 

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Every now and then I have a desire to cook really strong tasting food. You know the type, reduced, spiced, seasoned, a blunt instrument though hopefully in a velvet glove…the sort of food that makes an Argentine swoon and not in a good way. Yesterday was one of those days. I have decided not to make another curry until my terrace based chili farm comes to fiery fruition but was pondering other flavours that could be intense or intensified…and with inflation and import restrictions truffles were off the menu. I settled on playing with garlic.

And yesterday was stock day, a monthly event that happens when I peer into the freezer and find it empty of flavoursome frozen liquid and have to resort to a cube. The fact is that chicken carcasses are thankfully not in huge demand so if you spend as much time at home as I do, buying as many kilos as will fit into the biggest pot you own, roasting then for a bit and them throwing them into said pot with a couple of onions, some ginger (for warmth) and a bit of star anise (and lots of water of course) makes perfect sense. 20 pesos and you have the base for umpteen meals (and don’t forget to make the heavy stock from the first few of hours of bubbling and a light stock from subjecting the carcasses to another round – after all sometimes you need something more flavoursome than water but not definitively chickeny).

So the heavy, brown, creamy, roast chicken stock was the velvet glove (though in itself it would have made a Jewish mother proud), now I needed the blunt instrument. And a little trawl of the internet provided a lot of suggestions. I finally settled on a roast garlic and potato soup. Using LOTS of garlic, but roasted for an hour and something to melt and sweeten it. Easy enough, hack off the top of 4 heads of garlic, plenty of oil on some foil on a roasting tray, cut side down, tent the foil, roast and cool, and most of the succulent cloves will stick to the foil and extract themselves as you pull back on the skin (videos of this luscious event are legally available on Youtube). And as for the spuds, well it seemed a shame to leave them naked and cubed while the garlic was transforming itself from strident to mellow, so I roasted them with a load of fresh rosemary thinking that the difference in texture and crunchy bits would make stuff more interesting when blitzed in the blender.

Ingredients done, time to put it together. Cook a couple of finely chopped onions preferably in the chicken fat you skimmed off your stock (if not in olive oil). Once translucent throw in your garlic and smooch it up a bit over high heat. Sprinkle over a palm full of flour (you don’t need much as the potatoes do the thickening) but cook till nicely browned stirring all the time and then a good glug (ok, half a bottle) of white wine of dubious quality. Bubble like you hate it and are trying to do it harm. Then turn the heat down a bit and add the spuds and a couple of litres of stock, ladle by ladle, or just throw it all in if there is something good on TV, though you will need to stir in the commercial breaks which seem conveniently frequent these days. How much stock do you really need? Well that depends on how much garlic you can handle. 4 heads seem to go a long way. Keep the tasting spoon handy and be aware that once blitzed it tastes stronger.

Cool, liquidize, realise you have a lot of soup, ring more friends, make some croutons, realise that the bacon you still have in the fridge will be delicious on top once blasted with heat and crumbled on top, heat up again, understand that your best friend’s girlfriend is going to refuse to eat it fearing her breath won’t be of celebrity status in the nightclub later, tell the girl with the impending cold that her health problems are sorted (unless she send a lot of time in the bathroom “powdering” her nose), and enjoy!

Let me know if roasted garlic and potatoes has a taste reminiscent of globe artichokes? In the best possible way though??

If you want to get fancy, pair it with my beetroot, feta and roast cashew recipe and call it “Pungent Tastes from the Earth”. And it’s strong so it goes a long way!

Or just make a little fresh Oregano crouton (what, you don’t have a bush of the stuff on your terrace – shame on you, it grows like a weed), and keep the rest to eat during the week. It’s got no cream or fancy stuff so shouldn’t go off.

Like it or hate it, you won’t tell me its dull (although the photo is).