Saturday, March 28, 2015

Eton at Dusk

Knowing that the clocks would be springing forward on Sunday morning, and the skies would be brighter at closing time from next week, I decided to take the scenic route from the shop to the car park on Thursday evening.

I turned right outside Tastes Deli and headed for the river, turning right again onto Brocas Street then under the new Rafts Boathouse flats to the Thames riverside.

The waterfront there was pretty and peaceful with the twinkling lights of Windsor and ballet of swans (I did check that and the internet agrees ballet to be the collective noun for swans). I'm not foolish enough to think the swans were enjoying my company or eager to be photographed. I know they followed in anticipation of food, but their company was a bonus.

I wandered along beside the Thames for a bit, then back across the Brocas to the car park. Only added a few minutes to my commute, but a very pleasant way to spend them.

Next week I shall have to work later if I want to catch the sunset. And next month it might even be warm enough to picnic!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ortiz all the fuss about?

I mentioned Ortiz Tuna in a blog post last week, which lead me to write this post solely dedicated to a fabulous product. We've been selling Ortiz Yelowfin Tuna and Bonito Tuna since we opened our shop in Eton in 2007. It sits on the shelf and generally attracts one of two comments from customers. Either something like "Wow, you've got Ortiz, I love it" after which the customer buys multiple tins (its not easy to find and lasts for years in the tin) or "[gasp] Five pounds for a tin of tuna!". The latter is always from customers who have never tried it. The problem with this tuna is, that once you do try it, other tins of tuna don't really appeal any more. But if you've only ever seen the tuna in its tin (pretty as the tin is), it is very hard to explain what all the fuss is about. So I'll have a go here. But be warned, there is no going back!

Otriz have been catching and canning fish from the Cantabrian Sea for more than 125 years. The company is still family run. They know the best locations and seasons to fish, and choose only the most tender tuna to guarantee the best quality.

They use traditional fishing techniques, which prevents bruising of the fish and are also sustainable, preventing by-catch and damage to the seabed.

Whole fish are filleted and packed by hand. What you'll find inside each tin are chunks of fish, with a firm smooth texture, not at all grey or mushy. The tuna is taken from the belly of the fish and preserved in olive oil, giving it a rich flavour and silky texture.

It is quite delicious eaten as it is or with very minimal preparation. You certainly don't need to smother this fish in mayonnaise.

You can make a simple pasta dish by frying some onions and peppers throwing in some crumbled tuna and freshly cooked pasta.

For a tuna sandwich or to fill a baked potato you don't need butter or mayonnaise, the oil from the fish adds enough moisture.

Whether or not tuna should be included in a salad nicoise seems up for debate. I found an old discussion on the matter in Intelligent Life Magazine in which Simon Hopkinson gives praise to the Ortiz tuna. If you do add tuna to a nicoise salad, it should be Ortiz tuna! It's also delicious in a rice or white bean salad. When fresh green beans are in season I'm going to try Angela Hartnett's Yellow Bean, Fennel and Tuna Salad Recipe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


The job of mine comes with a pretty good "benefits package". One is that I get to taste new products. Which, after nine years, I still love. Even when the new product is a lentil. Really. Let me explain ...

Last week, Katy, from Brindisa, came to see me. She supplies me with lots of lovely Spanish foods and noticed that I've been sticking to the tried and tested favourites for some time;  Ortiz tuna (so good it deserves a post of its own), chorizo, serrano ham, El Navarrico Pulses and Peppers and Santo Domingo Smoked Paprika amongst other things. All fantastic. But Katy knew of some other products we don't sell as Tastes, so popped in with samples. First out of her goody bag were some lentils from El Navarrico.

El Navarrico is a family run business that has been preserving vegetables and pulses since the 1950s.  Today, new generations of El Navarrico continue the traditional processes and define themselves as “craftsmen of the farm”. El Navarrico always guarantee a unique product, treated with the wisdom of time as well as with the best quality systems. Their chickpeas are especially popular with our customers; plump, soft and flavoursome. The alubia blanca make fabulous baked beans, and it isn't until you taste the judion de la granda that you realise why their English name is Butter Beans.

As with everything I sample, I don't just open a packet, taste and make a decision. I take things home, I use them as I expect my customers to use them. And so it was that the jar of lentils came home with me. The first thing I made was an accompaniment to some sea bass fillets. A very simple, quick meal in which the texture and flavour of the lentils really shone. Delicious and so very easy.

For two generous portions:
Fry one chopped onion and one sliced bulb of fennel until starting to brown.
Season and start to pan fry some sea bass fillets (we shared three fillets between two).
Add the zest and juice of a lemon to the onion/fennel pan (I probably should have saved some lemon zest to go on the fish).
Add half a jar of lentils to the onion/fennel (they are well packed in the jar, you'll need to dig in with a spoon to free them!).
Serve lentil mix with fish on top.

Thoroughly enjoyed.

I also wanted to see how the lentils worked in a cold salad. Limited by what was in my fridge on a wet Monday lunch time I made this:

Make up 75g of cous cous with 150ml boiling water.
Fluff it up and let it cool while you chop three cherry tomatoes into quarters and wash and chop a small bunch of watercress. You can add more tomatoes, but I only had three. Rocket would also work well here, but I had a bunch of watercress a customer ordered and didn't collect.
Make a dressing by mixing a tablespoon of basil pesto with teaspoon of red wine vinegar.
Mix cous cous with 200g lentils, tomatoes and rocket.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad, mix in and season.

Really delicious. The bite of the lentil goes perfectly with the smaller grain of the cous cous and the crunch of the vegetables.The shape and colour contrast beautifully and these lentils taste nice. Not bland bulking fillers, but tasty little beads.

There were still lentils left in the jar after making two salads and two mains. They seem never-ending, but in a very good way. Coming to Tastes Deli soon!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fast Food

I like to cook. But I also like to work in my shop, which sometimes doesn't leave a lot of time for cooking. You've probably noticed by now that most of the recipe suggestions I post here and on pinterest are not really recipes, but more ideas of what things you can throw together to create something tasty. I like to think that still counts as cooking.

This dish is another example of things hurriedly thrown together and tasting great. It's one of my favourite super-fast emergency-dinners made entirely from things I can grab on my way out of the door of my shop!

Boil saucepan of water and throw in really good quality slow dried pasta (it cooks in less than five minutes). I used some squid ink tagliatelle from our new Casa Grande range.
Meanwhile get everything else ready: chop a handful of sun dried tomatoes (or open a jar of the pre-chopped sun-dried tomatoes), flake some of Mike's Smokehouse manuka smoked salmon fillets (I used one starter size pack to serve two of us) and open a jar of pesto.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the hot pan.
Throw in the tomatoes, and salmon and a tablespoon of pesto.
Give it a good stir and serve, seasoning with some freshly ground black pepper.

I know I can make this in less time than it takes to get a take away delivered.