Friday, 4 April 2008

The Guild, the lunch and the book

Yesterday was the Guild of Food Writers AGM, an auspicious occasion to facilitate its members, in amongst other things, getting out. For a food writer’s lot is for much of the time a lonely one, convivial animal though he or she may be.
The meeting was held in the upper library at Christ Church Oxford, a room lined with books as you may well expect but also flooded with light and embellished with delicate carving.
The meeting was swift and to the point, reports delivered efficiently by committee and other business fielded in a timely and tidy fashion by our chair; affording just enough time to drink in our breathtaking surrounding before being ushered off for an appetitive before lunch.
We are food writers and first things first but always with lunch or dinner. We enjoyed a glass of frivolous Argeo Prosecco Brut Ruggeri light, slightly fruity and frothy with excellent olives and slow roasted tomatoes. We went on to the hallowed surroundings of the Great Hall chomping on a selection of antipasti, artichokes aubergines pepper, shavings of Parmesan, slices of prosciutto crudo, salami, mortadella the usual thing; washed down with a gorgeous Gavi di Gavi Fontanafredda 2006. Monachs Henry and Elizabeth and many fine chancellors looked on from their lofty heights as we tucked into trofie liguri, special pasta from Liguria with pesto (Sacla’) and Parmiggiano and brasato al Dolcetto. Beef marinated in wine served with creamy best ever polenta and some disappointing green beans.
There was an interesting architecturally challenged Montebore stepped cheese and some rose scented icecream, biscuits and chocolates.
The lunch sponsored by Sacla’ in so august surrounding had brought a good cross-section of members out of hibernation and from many parts of the country.
I should swiftly add it was not solely for our benefit, the lunch was to celebrate a new book The painter, The cook and L’arte di Sacla’ written by Anna Del Conte and illustrated by artist Val Archer and was part of the Oxford Festival of literature.
The book is a delight and goes into the food culture of six of Italy’s eighteen regions. For the Italians eating is like breathing it is an essential part of life. The kitchen is the heart of the family, and the family comes together at the table. So no surprise then that the Italian Ambassador was there too chomping along with the rest of us to celebrate the occasion and Sacla’, one of Italy’s successful exports in the food market.
Today as you can see, I am back at my desk slumming it with my telephone and screen for company, my magnolia to gaze out at in idle moments and the leftovers of last night’s marinated spiced chicken (made for my other half) tossed into a green salad for lunch.
Its one of many recipes I am working on for my next week’s demonstration. Try it and let me know how you get on. I’m out tonight, its poker night – very light hearted and light weight the stakes are £2 per person per evening and best of all some one else gets to make supper.

Spiced chicken kebabs
Serves 4

3 free range chicken breasts, skin on weighing say 600g total
1 lump fresh ginger (egg size) peeled and finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 level teaspoon salt
Good pinch chilli powder
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Cut the chicken breasts into large bite size chunks and put in large bowl, add all the other ingredients and mix well. Cover and stand for 1-3 hours as time allows. After this time thread the chicken onto skewers, and suspend them across the sides of a small roasting dish. Add a half glass of water to the bowl that the meat was marinated in. Swish it around and pour into the base of the roasting dish. Drizzle the chicken kebabs with a little oil. Put in a pre-heated oven 190C for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through: turning once during this time. Serve either on a green salad or on spiced rice

Spiced rice
Serves 4

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small lump ginger, finely chopped
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon each cumin, paprika
1 level tablespoon turmeric
500g (cooked weight) boiled rice
100ml vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Olive oil

Cover the base of a pre-heated saucepan with olive oil. Add the finely chopped garlic, ginger and onion and when they start to bubble, add the spices and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are transparent. Add the ready boiled rice and the stock and stir fry until well coated and boiling hot. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.

Buon appetito
A presto

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