Wednesday 7 March 2007

Essential Equipment: The Stone Pot....

Ok, I admit that to call this 'essential' is perhaps going a bit far. It falls definitely within the 'nice to have' rather than 'need to have' category....but when it winked at me from the shelves in Conran around ten years ago, it winked irresistably. A casserole carved entirely from one block of stone, with a stone lid to match. It appealed to all those atavistic instincts that are probably a fundamental element in appreciating good food and the processes involved in producing it. Its density means that it has to sit and warm in the oven for at least half an hour before it can be used, or else its sheer massiveness prevents any heat from penetrating to the ingredients within for at least that length of time after anything has been put inside it and placed in the oven to cook. The weight of the lid prevents any juices from escaping - so you need to adjust for recipes which assume the inevitable reduction of cooking liquids over time - and in effect the pot acts much in the way that a daubière does once you've sealed the top. The results are splendid every time, and when the pot is resting, I find it makes an excellent air-tight crock in which to keep bread, or even particularly smelly cheese. Its one drawback is the need for regular visits to the gymn in order to be able to lift the thing from the shelf to the worktop to the oven.....but then, I suppose we all have to suffer a little for our Art!

Tonight's menu:

A salad of arugala, dressed in oil and seasoning, then a layer on top of crayfish tails, topped in turn with shavings of fresh parmesan, and then fresh lemon juice and ground black pepper. Simple but delicious; first tasted in a restaurant in Reggio di Calabria, when we went there several years ago to look at the Riace bronzes. I remember, there was an excellent grilled Spigola at the same meal - simple and perfect!

Chicken Kiev: about time to revisit a dish that has been devalued over time by over-exposure in too many third class bistros and indifferent supermarket offerings. Properly done, this is a wonderful surprise of chicken wrapped around a flavour-bomb of lemon and garlic. (See below for the recipe)

Anjou Pears, poached in Port, then chilled with fresh raspberries and served with thick cream.

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