Monthly Archives: April 2013

Piece of Piss Thai Green Curry

Been desiring a lot of Thai Green Curry lately. We are lucky enough to have two good local Thais, one just very good and who does a reliably delicious version of this, and one which is properly authentic and ordering even the medium version will blow your face off, so you have to embarrass yourself and order the mild, drinking at least a litre of water to get you through. It’s aces.

Hang on.

*gags*

Sorry. Massive dog fart just then. She has no manners at all.

Moving on, last weekend I decided to have a bash at a curry, very easy version as described below. It’s from the Aussie Women’s Weekly Easy Thai Cooking book. Very tasty, would do you perfectly well in veg, tofu or chicken versions.

We had chicken.

Ok:

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For the paste, get together:

3 fresh green chillis – the ones I had were really hot so I just put in two, including seeds, and the sauce was plenty spicy
3 spring onions – I forgot to buy these so used half an onion instead. You should def use spring onions.
2 cloves garlic
2 stems lemongrass
Good handful fresh coriander
2 tablespoons of flavourless oil, think I used sunflower
Couple tablespoons of water to loosen
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon of shrimp paste (from the interesting aisle at the supermarket, or your local Asian grocery)
1 cup coconut cream

I also had some tender stem broccoli and green beans to add, along with about 700g of chicken (fed us nearly 6 portions).

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In your blender whazzer whizz thing, put everything bar the coconut cream and press go, blending till it’s as smooth as you fancy.

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I fancied mostly smooth, with bits.

Tip into a nice big frypan and cook over a good heat for a few minutes. It should start to smell yum but don’t worry if it doesn’t yet smell properly like green Thai curry.

Be patient.

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If you’re having meat or tofu, now is the time to add, stirring through the paste.

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Then chuck in the coconut cream, stirring, and let it simmer for 3-5 mins till it starts to thicken like the neurons of an office worker after the second Friday wine drunk too fast.

It’ll start to smell like a proper green curry now. You’ll feel relieved.

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Add your veg, cook till done but not soggy. I wish I’d added some bamboo shoots. I love those things.

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Serve over rice, traditionally. Lots of sauce.

Enjoy.

Below is a memory of last weekend’s warmer weather. We had fun towing the dog round by her face. She loves it. Weirdo.

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Making the Best of Leftovers – Beef Hash

So I went to the butcher last week to get some nice beef to roast and have with potato salad and rocket and tomato and red onion and stuff, to feed a good friend who was coming over for lunch.  I did the whole, ‘what’s nice to roast and eat cold’ thing to the nice butcher.  He recommended a rump roast which he’d roll up nicely for me.  I nodded.  I added a couple of oxtail bones for the dog and a pot of red pepper chutney and he, all cheery, said, ‘that’ll be £47 please’.  Holy shitballs.  Obviously I was too embarrassed to say, ‘oh sweet Jesus I’ve made a terrible mistake!’ so handed over the money and scuttled home.

The lunch was delicious, the meat amazing, as you’d hope, and the dog appeared a bit grateful for the gift of some oxtail. You’d never know for sure with her, she might’ve just had wind.

Even after a further supper of more meat and salad we still had a massive hunk of rump leftover and I was damned if I was going to feel guilty about the spend for much longer so had to figure out a way to use the bastard up.  I’ve never made hash, I know people who know food quite like it, so I thought I’d have a go.  Found a few recipes online and just sort of mushed them up together to produce the below.

Was very tasty.  Very.  I’d bloody well hope so, with cow that expensive in it.

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You’ll want:-

Chunk of leftover beef, enough to feed however many you’re feeding, cubed

Potatoes, probably at least a couple of cups, cubed

Fresh herb – I chose thyme – a couple of teaspoons

Cayenne – I couldn’t find mine in my frankly out-of-control spice cupboard, so used mild chilli powder instead. Was fine.  I used about a teaspoon.

Nutmeg, to grate, a good half-teaspoon at least

Seasoning

A brown onoin

Couple garlic cloves

Some double cream, although really single would be fine – half a cup

Some kind of vegetable oil, canola or sunflower

Knob of butter

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If your potatoes are already cooked then cube.  Mine weren’t, so I had to boil and then cube.   Whilst they were cooking I chopped up the beef, thyme, onion and got the garlic ready to mince.

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In a biggish frypan throw the potatoes and mix with the oil (couple tablespoons, probably) and butter, over a goodish heat, till they start to brown.  I took them to a bit past the above photo in terms of brown-ness.  Took maybe ten mins?

Add the onion and cook for another 6-8 mins, till they begin to get properly soft.

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Add the meat, herb, chilli or cayenne and a healthy grate of nutmeg,  along with the garlic, and cook off some more.  You want to start getting some crisp edges going, yes?

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Add bout half a cup of cream and continue to cook.  Kind of pat the whole mess down and let cook for 2-3 mins, then flip and do the same again.  I think we probably took this off 5 or so mins too early – could’ve done with some more crisping.  I’d ideally spent somewhere around 10 mins crisping and flipping.

Check for seasoning – it’ll need it.

Eat.  I believe traditionally you’d pop a fried egg of some kind on top of this whole shebang, but I fancied something a bit cleaner with it so went with a basic cucumber, onion and tomato salad.  So health.

Suprisingly tasty.  Boyfriend had leftovers for breakfast the next day.  Bit full on, I believe.

Anyway not one arsing piece of that expensive meat went to waste.  WIN.

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Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake

Nigella Lawson used to be an appealing mistake-maker, wearing ill-advised twin-sets on the tellybox, and being a bit bosomy. Now all her seductive mouthy grasps at food in the midnight eating vignettes on her shows are so practiced I can’t bear watching her. In general I find her recipes to be either total comedy fails or rather delicious. This cake falls into the second category, quite firmly, and I was introduced to it by a friend’s mum at lunch the other week.

The only chocolate and orange flavours I can bear are, usually, Aussie Jaffa lollies. Hate Jaffa cakes. Hate Chocolate Oranges. This cake, somehow, manages to transcend their foulness.

It’s sunny in London FOR THE SECOND DAY IN A ROW. Miracle. People are walking round with small smiles on their faces, daring to be vaguely hopeful that this might be the first sign of Spring. By mid-April usually all the trees are leaved again, the blossoms are in full effect, and sales of hayfever tablets hit the year’s peak. Right now the trees on our street are only just beginning to unfurl.

I keep throwing the back door open at any sign of sun and plus-10C temperatures. Drives the boyfriend bonkers.

Anyway, the cake. It takes about 3hrs to make, but that’s only cause you have to boil the oranges for 2 hours first. Make it on a day you’re taking things easy. I’ve just masked up the bathroom and the boyfriend is up there doing the first undercoat now. Then we will do more jobs. Seriously, sunshine is good for getting shit done. If it was cold and raining I’d no doubt be sat on the sofa in my tracky daks, moaning for the 45th consecutive weekend about ‘bloody Britain’s bloody shit weather’….

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You’ll want:

2 oranges, unwaxed ideally
200g ground almonds
Bout 50g cocoa (good stuff, yes?)
6 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
Half teaspoon bicarb soda
250g caster sugar

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Stick the oranges (not massive ones) in a saucepan and boil them for 2 hours, or until they go soft. I think I did just short of 2 hours. Set aside to cool. I left mine overnight cause I started to bake this at 730pm at the end of a freakin’ long shitty day. Mistake. Don’t do that.

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They’ll look kinda nice inside but feel utterly rotten on the outside. As in feel like they actually are rotten. Crawling with fruit fly maggots. Hopefully not, eh?

Put your oven on at Gas Mark 4/180C and grease and line a 20cm springform tin. Just line the base, should be enough.

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In your food processor, whazz the oranges up, peel, pith and all, into a paste-like consistency. I have a tiny, tiny food processor so did this in three lots. Just remove any big, obvious seeds before you go at it.

Nigella’s recipe says you can do everything in the food processor, so if yours is big enough go for it. I turned my orange stuff out into a bowl.

I then used my electric hand beaters to mix in all the other ingredients. All in one go. You want a kind of knobbly but fairly runnyish batter.

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Pour into your tin and throw into the oven. Should take about an hour, till a skewer comes out pretty much clean. You might need to cover it with foil at some point to stop the top browning overly.

Do something nice for the dog whilst you’re waiting. I laid out a couple of filthy towels on our disgusting decking (it’s being ripped up tomorrow, YAY) so the dog could sunbathe. See below.

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Essentially once the cake has cooked and cooled, it’s done. It’s a fairly ascetic cake, surprisingly unsweet considering the amount of sugar in it. You could just decorate it with some orange zest or cocoa. I made a ganache (I had leftover double cream that needed using up….I’m nothing if not budget conscious*).

* that’s a lie

Anyway, see below for a ganached, cocoa-dusted slice. We had some for lunch. Most acceptable. Quite grown up, as cakes go.

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Chicken, Chipotle & Chorizo Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes aren’t sexy. They’re suburban soccer mum food. They’re cheap, convenient, pretty easy and filling (bit like me).  I’ve not really been a pasta bake person, but that’s probably something to do with the fact I didn’t grow up in a pasta bake eating family.  I did make Pasticcio for this blog, some time ago now, which is creamy and meaty and delicious and definitely not cheap, convenient or easy, but I suppose is technically a bake of the pasta kind.

Anyway, I’ve made a couple now, and this is the refined version, much tastier than the original shitty one I came up with, which you have happily been spared.  My version below delivers a healthy 6 portions. Well budget.  WELL RECESSION.

(I am still coughing, in case you wondered.  Coughing like a consumptive on their final day at an ineffective Swiss resort.  I can only assume my diaphragm and intercostal muscles are incredibly fit by now with all the heaving and hawing.  Very sexy).

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K.  Get:-

1 packet of pasta – whatever you like.  Used small penne this time which is fine, although rigatoni would be a personal choice

Bout half a piquant chorizo

3-4 chicken breasts

1 bottle of passata, think it comes in litre bottles

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

I also added some old-ish pomodorinos that I had lying about, going soft, so added a good handful of those, chopped.

Heaped teaspoon of smoked chipotle paste (or whatever substitute you fancy, or nothing I guess if a bit of burn isn’t your thing. Wuss).

Seasoning

Some spring onions, chopped, for when it’s done.

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Stick the oven on at about 170C, and some water in a saucepan, salted (NEVER OILED DO NOT EVER OIL YOUR PASTA WATER JESUS HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?), to boil.

Stick the pasta in to cook.

Slice your chorizo in your preferred way.  For pasta bake I have decided I like thin rounds.  Gently fry the chorizo but don’t let them get all crispy and burnt, like I did a bit, this time.

Chop your chicken into chunky bits, delivering the off-cuts to the dog (in her bowl, we’re still on the re-training regime), and add to the frypan.  Once they’ve started to brown, add your chopped or minced garlic and the chipotle paste.  Don’t be put off by the fact that 1 teaspoon of chipotle paste seems very little for a whole packet of pasta.  It’ll be plenty.  Last time I put in two and my head blew off.  Took 3 days to grow back.

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When you estimate the chicken is about a third cooked, add the passata and tomatoes, and season.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 mins or so, just to rich up the whole thing.  If you want more tomatoey tang, add a big blob of tomato paste.

Your pasta should’ve been cooked by now – I stop the pasta just short of proper al dente, and that way it doesn’t descend into total sog once the thing has been oven-baked.  Drain and mix through the sauce.

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Chuck the whole thing into a big baking dish.  Fear not if it seems a bit wet and moist, you want it that way.  Wet and moist like a dog’s nose after an exciting time spent sniffing other dog’s butts.

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This time I grated over a mixture of parmesan and cheddar.  Sometimes I mix parmesan and breadcrumbs.  It’s up to you.

Put it in the oven for about 20-30 mins, till it starts to get crispy on top and smell good.

I dropped the foil at this point.  It unravelled.  Below is my attempt at re-ravelling.   Foil doesn’t like being re-ravelled.

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Look – cooked pasta bake!

Call in your mythical children from their soccer games or whatever it is you have at home.  I have a boyfriend, so I called him in from the lounge room.

Serve with salad, ideally.  I like some spring onions, chopped, sprinkled over the top.

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Apple Shortcake, but with Strawberries

I guess that’s a close enough description for what this is. It’s a recipe I’ve had for ages, no idea where I got it from, and with which I’d usually use apples. This time, however, I’ve used strawberries cause I’m just a bit wild, unpredictable and crazy that way. That and I’d spent £5 on a tray of nice strawberries from ridiculously expensive Whole Foods in Kensington the other day and needed to use them up. We’ve had our fill of healthy smoothies, so this seemed a fair exchange, except for the strawberries obv who baked slowly to death.

Life’s tough.

I’m still full of cough and bad temper, you’ll be pleased to hear. It’s assuaged somewhat by the fact that today is behaving, season-wise, and we are practically roasting in a balmy 17C with nary a rain drop to be seen. Its not full-on sunny of course, but we’ve all learnt not to expect too much.

This break in the crappy weather has meant, however, that we’ve been forced to deal with a few really shitty chores we’ve legitimately been able to put off due to the wet weather. See:

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The boyfriend will be STOKED to know there’s a picture of him on the internet, in dodgy PJs and slippers. And a pink shirt.

Anyway we’ve had to clear out what passes for our backyard but is really the size of a large dog kennel and is just foul with mouldy, slippery decking, leaf litter, dehydrated dog shit (well, possibly not as dehydrated as we’d like) and general gardening leftovers from the summer before last when it was actually warm enough to grow stuff. The while thing is being ripped up and replaced with an Eco-deck that isn’t full of horrid pesticides, isn’t made of wood and doesn’t get mouldy and slippery. Costing a fortune, of course.

We’ve emptied it it best we can before GardenMan comes in a week. I dread to think what’s under the existing decking. At a bare minimum I expect we will discover some kind of rotting corpse, piles of shit so large they’ll have set up their own governing bodies with overly complex Terms of Reference, and about 2 dozen mice nests. As there is no side access (Victorian mid-terrace housing, ahoy) GardenMan will have to lug all the reject stuff through the house. I can’t wait to see how my house survives that.

*po-face*

Anyway, strawberry shortcakes stuff (not the 80s doll, I’m so sorry….). Preheat your oven to 170C.

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Collect:

100g butter, melted
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 cups plain flour
0.5 cup sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Fruit of your choice (if you’re using stewed, which if course you may, then make sure it’s drained well)
1 egg
Squeeze of lemon juice

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Tip the melted butter into a bowl and beat in the sugar, then the egg. Then add the baking powder and cinnamon (or allspice, or nothing. I don’t care, is up to you), then the flour in two bits. It’ll come together into a sticky play-doh type dough.

In a ceramic or Pyrex pie dish, or indeed a metal one (greased, please), press in half the dough. You absolutely don’t need to be neat about it. It’s not about pretty, this. It’s about using up leftover fruit.

Anyway, press in half the dough, however works for you. I kind of break off chunks of dough, flatten between my palms and push together in the tin.

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Layer on your fruit, sprinkling with some more sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. You’ll note I’ve tried to be tidy for the benefit of this blog but again, you just don’t need to bother.

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Then add the rest of the dough. You can kind of crumble this over if that’s the topping you fancy, or roll it out, or do the double-palm press thing again.

Stick it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until it’s obviously risen and gone a nice colour.

Whilst you’re waiting, you can admire the below photo of the dog.

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When done, take the pie-thingy-whatever-it-is-shortcake out of the oven, sprinkle some more sugar (or icing sugar if you’re feeling fancy, when it’s a bit cooler), let it cool a little then remove from the tin. It’s nice warm but I think I like it best cool, in a wedge. Breakfast, maybe?

See below for finished product. I’d normally wait till it’s cool enough to turn out and slice for you. I’ve not, I’m sorry, as I need to go take a nap. It’s for the greater good.

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The Hummingbird Bakery’s White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

Cookies. I think I call them cookies now but when I was growing up it was all about the bikkie. Bikkie is better. Let’s call these bikkies, although they’re probably too enormous to call anything but cookies.

Such are the things that currently occupy my tiny mind, tiny because it is otherwise consumed with a quite nasty cold, for which I am taking precisely no medicine, and which results in me coughing up various parts of lung quite regularly. It’s a real joy. Please be reassured I undertook OCD levels of hand washing whilst making these bikkies.

Italy was so long ago. We’ve since had snow flurries in London, but today is remarkably Spring-like, so much so that I’ve (finally) reverted to type and flung open the back door at the first sign of sunshine. It’s not exactly toasty weather out there but I’m ill, cranky, and full of swearing so open back doors it is. Whatever makes me happy is go.

I’m making these bikkies cause I have the ingredients, the choc-orange almond cake I was going to make would’ve taken longer and I can’t be arsed today, and cause the boyfriend is off on a long cycle tomorrow and I figured some nice bikkies would fit in his backpack and do him well. I AM AN AMAZING GIRLFRIEND.

*snot*
*cough*
*hack*

I’m looking pretty bloody gorgeous right now.

Right.

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Get:

135g unsalted butter (fuck that, I used salted)
80g caster sugar
80g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence (I used a whole teaspoon)
190g flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
60g white choc chips (I used a whole 100g pack)
100g dried cranberries

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Preheat your oven to 170C, bout gas mark 3.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Or, as I did, try to cream them. Give up after about 30 secs and just whazz butter, sugar, vanilla and egg together till combined and slightly sick looking.

See above.

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You’re then supposed to sift together the bicarb, cinnamon and flour. Am sure you’re unsurprised to hear I couldn’t be bothered. I just chucked it all in, but did obey the recipe and do it in two lots. Flour went bloody everywhere. It’s quite a stiff dough, this. Stiff and sticky.

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Stir in the cranberries and choc chips, I’d recommend a metal spoon to help cut through the dough.

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The recipe says to roll in balls of 2 tablespoons in size. Effing enormous. Mine I did more like round egg-size. Place quite far apart, onto papered baking trays.

Chuck in your oven for abut 15 minutes, or till they go a kind of light golden colour.

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They’ll come out all puffed up. Leave them on the baking trays for ten mins or so till they flatten out, then transfer to wire rack or whatever else you have to cool completely.

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Whilst they’re cooling, wash up. You could call the dog in from where she’s sunbathing outside to help with the beaters, forgetting that you’ve been undertaking a strict retraining regime with her to put a stop to the frankly invasive begging levels she has been achieving. Undo all your good work in about 30 seconds. Swear.

Eat a biscuit, as seen below. You won’t be able to taste anything cause you’re full of cold.

Bastard cold.

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Boyfriend Post: Carluccio’s Aubergine Parmigiana

We are back from Rome. It was a good 10C warmer than London so, although not steamy, was a nice change. We are back now, of course, to eye-wateringly cold winds and zero temperatures.

I’ll post more about Rome later. Probably. It was good. Cobbled streets are pretty but an arse on the knees, innit.

I’ve spent today mostly on the sofa, recovering from this morning’s efforts at the supermarket. Post-Easter trolley shuffling appeared to be a popular morning past-time. BORING. We also filled the car with fuel. Well, the boyfriend did. He put £67.86 of diesel in the car. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY HE DIDN’T JUST PUT £68.00 in. Like a normal.

I’m mostly over the rage now. He’s been cooking in the kitchen for hours, it’s been smelling good. He posts the process below, for your reading pleasure.

*yawn*

I’ve totally got jet lag. Italy’s a whole hour ahead you know.

——-

So. At a restaurant in Italy, the girlfriend had a parmigiana and it was excellent. “Oh, I can cook that”, I said. And so, as a man of my word (when it suits), here’s my latest stab.

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What I couldn’t remember, of course, is which recipe I used last time (aka the only time) I made it successfully. A quick search online and I went for Antonio Carluccio’s version, albeit substituting mozzarella for fontina, which Sainsbury’s thoughtlessly neglects to stock.

I made 3/4 of the below, and it was good for 4 very generous portions.

  • 4 large aubergines
  • flour for coating
  • 4 eggs
  • Lots of extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g fontina (or mozzarella) cheese
  • 115g parmesan
  • Salt & pepper

And for the tomato sauce:

  • 3 tins peeled plum tomatoes (you could prob get away with 4 – perhaps I over-reduced but it felt a bit mean)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • half a teaspoon of sugar
  • 10 fresh basil leaves

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The aubergines I sliced per instructions, lengthways and probably just under 1cm thick (on average, let’s not pretend they were unifom or anything). I left the skin on after seeing my laziness justified with “it adds to the texture of the dish” while doing my research. They then need salting, which I did as above, coating one side then the next, then leaving for about 40 minutes before washing quite thoroughly in a colander and (important!) squeezing the excess water out before drying thoroughly.

Actually, they *don’t* need salting. Modern aubergines cook fine without it, but the consensus in the few recipes I read was that salting makes the aubergine less sloppy, if not really less bitter as they’re bred not to be these days. But if you *do* salt them, for heaven’s sake, wash the salt off. I remembered this time but my previous guests weren’t so lucky…

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While the aubergines are perspiring, get started on the sauce. The recipe says “make your tomato sauce in the usual way”. Thanks, Antonio. I made the ultra-simple one implied by his ingredients; but I did have to add sugar to calm the, shall we say, austerity of the bare tomato and garlic mix. It simmers away for as long as you need, but make sure you give it at least an hour. Add the torn basil leaves right at the end of the cooking process (you can probably add rather more than they say – I couldn’t taste it at all).

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While the sauce is cooking, you need to brown the aubergine. Coat the (dried) slices in flour, then seasoned, beaten egg (seems the wrong way round but hey, it did the job), then fry in batches.

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As any fule kno, aubergine is used by oil companies to soak up spills, so be prepared to turn a blind eye to the artery-clogging quantities of oil you have to top up the pan with each time. Though if you’ve salted & squeezed, it limits the amount of grease sucked up. To a point.

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This is the floor beneath the work surface. The better half only popped in a couple of times (you don’t disturb a master, right) but felt obliged to say “I always know when you’ve been cooking”. Ignoring the fact that I’d been washing and clearing up as I went, but *obviously* I wasn’t going to clean the floor until I’d finished. Or I could just let the mice do it for me. *eye roll*

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Choppin’ the cheese for the layering. Gourmets will notice that there are two mozzarella types here. On the right, Taste the Difference buffalo mozzarella. And on the left, the reserve cheese I bought in case I’d misread the amount needed. I had. Thank you, 44p Sainsbury’s Basic range.

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Even so, I was light on the cheese, which is why it looks a bit sparse above. The layers go: tomato sauce, aubergine (packed with as few gaps as you can manage), mozzarella/fontina, then generous lashings of grated parmesan. Then repeat, with the final layer being parmesan. Always parmesan.

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Ta da! That’s more or less what it’s supposed to look like. Of course I didn’t run out of aubergine in that last layer, how *dare* you. And if that gets a ta da, then the finished product deserves a proper fanfare. If I may say so myself, it looks pretty much like, well, something the Average Baker would have made herself.

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And it was Good. Stick a sprig of basil on the top and it’s done! A solid 8/10, I’d say – I’d be miffed if I didn’t get mostly-sincere compliments from well-brought-up dinner guests. And that’s all you can really hope for.