Liverpool Central Library and Cod and Coconut Curry

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Taking advantage of my extended stay in the UK, I have been taking in the museums and art galleries, along with visits to the theatre and wonderful parks that the city has to offer.

 

Situated on William Brown Street in the cultural district of Liverpool, flanked by the Walker Art Gallery and The City Museum (now known as ‘World Museum Liverpool’), the recently renovated Liverpool Central Library (formally ‘The William Brown Library’) is one of the largest and most beautiful libraries in the UK and is certainly worth a visit. Sir James Picton (2nd Dec 1805 – 15th July 1889) was a Liverpool born architect and antiquarian who played a large part in the public life of the city in the 19th century, taking particular interest in the establishing of public libraries, and in 1852, he obtained through campaigning, an act of parliament to raise a 1 penny rate for the creation of a public library and museum in the city. Wealthy local merchant William Brown paid for the building on the proviso that the city council furnished the interior. To acknowledge his generosity the street on which the library stands was renamed after him.


A competition was held for the design of the new Library and Museum and was won by Thomas Allom. However, his winning design proved to be too costly and it was a revised version, designed by the City surveyor, John Weightman, which was actually built and opened in 1860 and in 1879 ‘The Picton Reading Room’, designed by Cornelius Sherlock was added to the William Brown Library.

The library, as well as having a wealth of books, houses the Liverpool archives, family history and records office and a huge I.T suite with 150 computers for the public use, plus a nice little Tea shop, where my friend Sue and I enjoyed a game of ‘Name that book’ selecting passages from paperback classics on stand nearby and reading them to each other with the cover hidden.

The stars of the show however, have to be the impressive central atrium with a spectacular spiral staircase ascending to the magnificent glass dome and roof terrace with commanding views over the Liverpool skyline and St George’s Hall, where my marriage was held last year (and most of the filming for ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’ took place!)

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And of course, no article would be complete without mentioning ‘The Picton Reading room’ This is where classical truly meets modern and you feel as if you have been transported back in time and into a magical world of books. Due to my utter awe and respect for those using this place as a serious source of knowledge, I was loath to intrude and take photos, but I did manage a couple of very rushed shots (hence the poor quality), but would love to return when it is empty to snap away.

Now for less lofty pursuits and the recipe. The delicate flavours and divine aroma and sheer visual beauty of this fragrant curry are guaranteed to excite the senses – one of my all-time favourite ‘transition’ dishes ideal for spring when we are moving away from the strong flavours of autumn and winter, but not quite ready to embrace summer salads……..

Ingredients (serves 2)
2 Cod loin steaks cut into bite size portions
2 large or 4 medium scallops cut into 4 or 2
1 medium sweet potato cut into bite sized cubes
1 medium shallot finely chopped*
1 green chili finely chopped*
2 cm fresh ginger finely chopped*
2 cloves garlic crushed*
1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut*
1 tablespoon of rouille or concentrated fish sauce*
1 teaspoon of turmeric*
1 teaspoon of mild curry powder*
6 cardamom pods (split and husk discarded)*
The juice of one small lime*
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 can of coconut milk
Method
Blitz oil the * ingredients in a food processor and sauté gently in a little of the coconut oil for 1-2 minute
Add the sweet potatoes and cook for a further 3 – 4 minutes
Add the coconut milk and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until potatoes soft
Add the fish and scallops and cook for a further 5 – 6 minutes until fish cooked through

Serve with naan bread and a green salad

Out of interest Other interesting buildings in the city include the Piston tower in Wavertree, erected in 1884 as a memorial to Picton’s wife. Now standing on a traffic roundabout, this unusual building has a clock face on each of its four sides, four lamp posts at it’s base, and is topped by a lead cupola with a spire, and ‘The Lock up’ also in Wavertree, a two steory octagonal stone structure which was built to house short term prisoners in 1796, but Picton added a slate roof and a weathervane

MONK FISH TAILS IN PANCETTA

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Monkfish is a lovely white ‘meaty’ fish with quite a strong ‘fishy’ smell but a milder taste.
I love wrapping meat and fish in pancetta as it seals in the natural juices and stops it from drying out, while providing a lovely crispy, salty ‘jacket’.

Jackets, and indeed other garments were the subject of a 1930’s fashion exhibition at the lovely Sudley Manor in Liverpool (A post dedicated to this gorgeous old house to come later, when I am less manic with wedding preparations!)

The pink feathers are actually Flamngo and the white fur is rabbit, and the brown, stoat!

What impressed me most was the abundant use of real fur and feathers, which would not be allowed (and quite rightly so) today. I can’t think that grand ladies of Liverpool (all dresses had been worn by the wives of eminent doctors or diplomats) could have been very comfortable wearing some of these contraptions, and I am glad that I can slip into my jeans when I come home and relax

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Something that I could actually see myself wearing!

 

Gorgeous relics of a bygone era

I simply wrapped the fish in the pancetta, drizzled it olive oil (I used ‘chilli’ oil as I like the little ‘kick’ that this gives), baked it in the oven for around 20 minutes and served with a crisp salad (If I have any left-over steamed potatoes from a previous evening’s dinner, I reheat them around the fish while it is cooking (and they go lovely and crispy with the fat from the pancetta and the oil)

Well, I have 101 things to do before Saturday, so I will leave you for the last time as a single woman and see you next week as a married one

Love to you all and thanks for following
Lindy

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YORK AND LINDY’S SEAFOOD LASAGNE

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Lindy’s Seafood Lasagne, definitely a ‘crowd pleaser’

I am always fascinated by what people actually find of interest on here as it is not always what I expect.

Just as I am blown away by the fact that ‘A Taste of Two Cities’ has readers in 54 countries!

Considering that I began this little venture to fulfil the demands of family and friends, I am surprised to find that the UK is in joint third position with India, behind France (who is my number one fan) and the USA (who I didn’t expect to take an interest at all). The Philippines and Croatia are close behind in fourth and fifth position.

I have met some amazing people on my journey, some of which I now consider friends although we have never met, and I know that many of you feel like me and are astounded by the genuine interest and support that you have found in our little blogging community.

One of my recipes that has emerged as a firm favourite all over the world is my ‘Burmese fish curry’ (which I incidentally made last night) in fact fish dishes in general are quite popular.

This is what prompted me to combine fish, which I love, with pasta, which I also love and come up with this simple ‘Seafood Lasagne’

As I stated in my previous post for vegetable pasta bake, that both my daughters’ do not eat meat (but do eat fish), and as I cooked the first dish for my youngest daughter while staying with her at Liverpool, I made this for my oldest daughter while staying with her in the historic city of York.

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‘Mickleate’ part of York City Walls

York is a ‘walled’ city in the North East of England (giving its name to the county of Yorkshire, the large county in the country) that was founded by the Romans around 71 AD, and Emperors’ Hadrian, Septimius Severus and Constantius all held court here.

The city went into decline after the departure of the Romans until the arrival of the ‘Angles’ in the 5th century, but it was not until the 7th century when Edwin of Northumberland designated York as his chief city that it was really back on the map. It was he who ordered the building of the first ‘Minster’, originally in wood, for the occasional of his baptism after his conversion to Christianity in 627, then later rebuilt in stone.

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Magnificent ‘York Minster’

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Following the Viking invasion in 866, York (under the name of ‘Jorvik’) became a major river port

The arrival of the Normans in 1066, saw an uprisisng in 1068 in which this church was destroyed and it was under Norman rule in 1080 that work on the Cathedral, that was to become the present day ‘Minster’ was begun. The Normans were also responsible for the building of York castle, of which the existing ‘Clifford’s Tower’ was the ‘keep’. It was here in 1190 that the massacre of at least 150 Jews (some say that the figures were nearer 500). Many killing their wives and children before killing each other rather than be taken by the mob and forced to convert to Christianity.

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Tragic ‘Clifford’s Tower

During the middle ages, York became a major trading centre, but the city went into decline once more during the reign of Henry IIIV with the dissolation of the monasteries. And the saw much fighting during the civil war in 1644. It was not until the arrival of the Railways in 1839 that York fully regained its position and prosperity.

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York Railway Museum

The city boasts a host of museums including ‘The Jorvik Centre’ recounting the history of the Vikings and the ‘National Railway Museum’. And of course, not visit would be compete without a trip down the medieval street known as ‘The Shambles’ and afternoon tea at the famous ‘Betty’s Tea Rooms’

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Not The Shables

To link in with my previous post on Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and The Lutyen’s Crypt, York also boasts a world renowned Cathedral with interesting foundations, as the site of the original wooden fort lies buried here and excavations in the undercroft have revealed parts of the original city walls.

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Tea and Cakes at ‘Betty’s”

And now something that was not on the menu at ‘Betty’s’, Lindy’s Seafood Lasagne……….

Ingredients
Serves two generously as a main, but can also be served as a starter for 4-6

1 small/medium leek

1 medium/large salmon fillet (Skinned)

6oz / 200g headless uncooked tiger prawns

1 tablespoon of salted butter

1 tablespoon of corn flour

200 ml white wine

300ml milk

4 lasagne sheets (adjust depending on size of your dish)

2 small/medium free range farm eggs

150g carton of natural Greek yoghurt

25g of freshly grated parmesan cheese

25 g of grated Cheddar cheese

Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

Method

Place the salmon fillet in a saucepan, cover with the wine and gently simmer for around 7 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through, remove from the wine and set aside to cool.

Add the prawns to the wine and cook for 5-6 minutes or until just turned pink, remove and set aside

Reduce the wine to around 50ml and remove from heat

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and gently sauté the leeks until soft, taking care not to brown

Stir in the flour and gently cook for 1-2 minutes

Remove from heat and gradually stir in the milk, returning to the heat when all is blended, stirring continuously until the sauce thickens

Season to taste and add the reduced white wine

Flake the salmon into the mixture and stir in the prawns

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4 and lightly butter an ovenproof (lasagne) dish

Put half of the mixture in to the bottom of the dish, cover with ½ of the lasagne

Put the remaining mixture on top and cover with the remaining lasagne

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with a hand held whisk, stir in the yoghurt and the grated parmesan cheese.

Pour evenly over the lasagne and top with a little grated Cheddar Cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the lasagne is soft and the topping golden

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This is seriously on of my all time favourite meals – not as fiddly as sit sounds and well worth the effort, it is a real signature dish and goes down very well with diners from both sides of the Chanel.

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LINDY’S COD WITH AVOCADO AND TARRAGON MUSTARD TOPPING

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Now this is a combination that you don’t hear every day – truly one of my ‘waste not want not’ creations.

This came about as I had some avocado left over from a salad starter and some cod that I didn’t know what to do with to liven it up, so I roughly mashed the avocado with some lemon juice a little sea salt but it was lacking something, so I reached for the tarragon mustard and added a teaspoon of that and simply spread it over the cod, then pan fried it in a very small amount of lemon butter (see my post for Lindy’s Lovely Lemon Butter) skin side down, then flipped it over for just a few minutes.

It was such a success that it got an ‘ah oui’ from Monsieur le Frog and I am planning to serve it to French dinner guests this Saturday with my ‘Lime Mousse Brulee’ (see my post for Lime Mousse Brulee) for dessert and some little ‘verrines’ for an apero/entrée (recipes to follow for the verrines)

Again, very quick, simple, economical and healthy, and very very tasty………

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Lindy’s Lovely Lemon Butter

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Lime Mousse Brulee

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A selection of ‘Verrines’

FISH WITH FETA CHEESE (and the feast of Ramadan)

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The lovely medley of colours and flavours come together perfectly in this quick and easy spring/summer dish

This quick, simple and nutritious dish was inspired by a friend who is observing the laws of Ramadan at the moment, but can be enjoyed by anyone at any time, but particularly compliments spring and summer eating – even better ‘al fresco’!

France, and particularly the Parisian region, has a very high Islamic population, and I have to admit, that before coming here, that I had no muslim friends or indeed knew anyone who was muslim except for one school friend of my daughter (this is not typical of all of the United Kingdom, but where I lived in North Wales this was the case)

I now have a number of muslim friends and a lot of muslim associates, and a greater understanding of Islam – and in fact, I have a greater understanding and tolerance of many cultural differences in all walks of life.

So around this time of year, I am conscious of the fact that this is the month of Ramadan, and that a lot of my students are observing this and could need a little extra tolerance and understanding and for me to be not quite so ‘exigent’ (It is interesting to note that Ramadan also falls during the time when western countries traditionally have their end of term school and university exams, and that this places an extra burden on muslim students)

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and this year (2015) runs from June 18th for 30 days and nights until 18th July. Ramadan is a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Mohamed. Fasting during Ramadan is considered to be one of the 5 pillars of Islam (along with reciting a profession of faith, the five daily prayers, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and paying a ‘charity tax’ to support the poor)

During Ramadan muslims are forbidden from eating between the hours of sunrise and sunset, this does not give them a very large window, as this is the time of the summer solstice with the most hours of daylight in the year. Therefore it is very important to choose what you eat very wisely. I have spoken with a muslim friend and she told me that she favours light, easy to digest, high protein food, with fish being at the top of her list.

With this in mind I have created the following fish recipe that includes, feta cheese and pine nuts for extra protein and fat, and is low in carbohydrates to avoid causing sudden sharp rises in blood sugar levels, which would lead to increased hunger and cravings.

Whether you are observing Ramadan or not, this is a lovely light summer dinner dish and goes perfectly with my ‘salade composée ’ (to follow………)

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Ingredients
serves 4

4 fillest of firm white fish (cod, sea bass)

½ of a block of feta cheese (fromage de brebis) broken into small cubes

A red and green pepper sliced into small batons

A good handful of very lightly toasted pine nuts

4-6 slices of chorizo roughly broken up (optional)

A good glug of olive oil (I used Olivier & Co. Olive oil with mint)

Method

Place the fish in an oven proof dish and sprinkle over the peppers, chorizo, pine nuts and cheese

Pour over the olive oil and cover with a piece of kitchen foil

Bake in a preheated oven for around 20 minutes at 180 degrees/gas 4

Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes for the cheese to colour a little

What could be simpler………

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Little postscript – my friend told me after reading this, that it is traditional to begin a meal with Water and dates, which is how Mohamed is reputed to have broken his fast.

MOULES FARCES

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This recipe is usually for ‘Escargots farces’ (stuffed snails), but as this blog is about ‘Franglais’ cooking, I have substituted snails for mussels, which are more readily available and indeed more palatable in the UK. I have tried both, but my personal opinion (and that of monsieur le frog also) is that the mussels are lighter and more digestible.

Mussels of course are more traditionally eaten as ‘moules mariniere’ or ‘moules aux curry’ and I have enjoyed both dishes with gusto whilst holidaying in Normandy, and whilst living for five months in the lovely northern city of Lille, before moving to Paris. (Moules frites is almost the ‘national’ dish in Lille).

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Some of the many restaurants serving ‘Moules Frites’ at lovely Lille

I will include a recipe for Moules aux curry at some stage (maybe frogs legs also, but I have yet to cook them!)

I serve them in individual dishes as an entrée, or as part of the apero.

Be sure to have some nice crusty baguette ready to mop up the delicious melted butter – naughty, but very very nice………Bon apetit!

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Honfleur – the perfect place to eat Mussels……

Ingredients
Serves 4

1kg mussels

80g (3oz) of salted butter

1 large clove of garlic crushed or very finely minced

1 small shallot very finely chopped

The zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley

A good pinch of turmeric

Method

Make the filling by mixing together the butter, shallot, garlic and lemon zest into a soft paste

Add the turmeric and mix well, then stir in the parsley

Clean the mussels and discard any that are already open and do not close when tapped on the work surface

Place them in a large pan of slightly salted water and bring to the boil and simmer for around 3 minutes, drain and discard any that have not opened.

Remove one half of the shell, leaving the mussel resting in the other half

Distribute the mussels between four oven proof dishes (I use crème brulée dishes)

Fill each shell with butter and bake in a pre-heated oven for around 12 minutes at 180 degrees/gas mark 6, until the butter is melted and the mussels slightly golden.

The smell while they are cooking is mouth watering – baguettes at the ready………….

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Salade Nicoise

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As salad days are upon us and ‘les vacances scolaire’ will soon be starting I thought I would look to the South of France for inspiration – and what better than a simple, healthy, delicious, ‘salade Nicoise’

The French school holidays begin at the end of the second week in June, as opposed to the end of the third week in July as in the UK, and also contrary to UK customs, the French all tend to take their summer holidays during the month of August – whether they have children or not!

This results in a mass exodus and lots of traffic jams, and lots of crowded beaches on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts………(this also means that there is a mass return – fondly known as ‘le rentre’ when everyone floods back into Paris and returns to work or school – more about this in September)

And Nice is a popular destination and also traditionally the home of the ‘salade Nicoise’

Incidentally if you are planning to visit the Paris region during this period, and not actually staying in the tourist centre of the city, you could find bars and restaurants, and even the boulangerie (quell horreur!) closed during two, or in some cases four weeks during August. Likewise, if you are planning on visiting the French coast during this period, be prepared for a lot of traffic and not much space on the beach!

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Sur la plague – Nice!

Speaking of ‘healthy eating’ I was feeling particularly tired and run down recently and I noticed that my skin and hair were not in their usual condition, so went to have some blood tests to see if everything was OK.

The result was that I was low in iodine and iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function, and I had been neglecting to eat a lot of foods containing iodine, including cutting back on salt, which is an invaluable source, and also eating canned tuna preserved in water in place of oil, which destroys the iodine content! Other sources were potatoes (skin on) which are not one of my favourite foods, eggs and green beans – virtually all the ingredients of salade nicoise!

So what better way to give your hair, skin and energy a boost – tastes pretty good too……..

Ingredients
Serves two

6 crisp lettuce leaves (battave) lightly dressed

A 160g can of tuna in olive oil (drained)

2 large medium/hard boiled eggs quartered

6-8 waxy potatoes steamed until tender preferably with skin on

A handful of green beans (haricots verts) steamed, but still crisp

4 vine tomatoes cut into quarters

slices of cucmber

4-6 black olives

Olive oil and lemon juice (to lightly dress the lettuce)

Salt and pepper to season

Mayonnaise to serve

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