So what’s a bit of garlic breath between friends?
Notwithstanding the fact that I’m sure I reeked of garlic after lunch yesterday, nobody seemed to mind. Or, if they did, at least they didn’t let on. They’re a generally polite and friendly crowd, food bloggers. And, of course, they had been eating lovely garlic-laden food too.
The venue was Levant, a Lebanese restaurant in London and the occasion was Food Blogger Connect. I am still recovering from the whirlwind but worthwhile trip over and back to the UK yesterday for the event, though I can at least confirm that I don’t smell so much of garlic anymore. I can also vouch for the fact that, next time I haul ass over to London for this, I’m staying. Well, for a few days at least. I say next time, because the appetite for FBC round two is there, of that I’m sure.
It had all come about because Bethany from Dirty Kitchen Secrets, Jamie from Life’s a Feast, Mowie from Mowielicious and Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry witnessed the buzz around this year’s plethora of US-based food blogger events, took matters into their own hands and organised an event of their own. Good on them I say. Food bloggers on this side of the Atlantic are just as interested in meeting, eating and having a chat about the art and craft of bloggery. They also, it has to be said, like receiving food-filled goody bags.
And so it came to pass. A great big sharable spread of Lebanese food, followed by presentations from people with information and thoughts to share: Meeta from What’s For Lunch Honey and Kang from London Eater with their own particular angles on picturing your food, Jamie from Life’s a Feast and Jeanne from Cook Sister on the written word and Kang again on
social networking life in the internet fish tank. A lot to pack into one afternoon and certainly scope to do more next time. It was interesting to hear other bloggers’ perspectives on these matters, of course, but, more than that, it was a joy simply to meet the people there and, in the case of Jamie, greet someone I’d never physically met before like an old friend.
There were many more bloggers and otherwise interested parties there besides, only a fraction of whom I got to talk to. ‘Twas a pleasure to meet Paul from Get Me Cooking, Alessio from Recipe Taster, Mowie from Mowielicious, Bethany from Dirty Kitchen Secrets, Ozoz from Kitchen Butterfly, Katrina from Around the World in 80 Markets, Christina from The Thorngrove Table, Greedy Diva and a host of Sarahs – Food For Think, Maison Cupcake and Meals With Sarah among them.
So many bloggers to meet, so little time. As Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, “I’ll be back”.
Potato Pie with Lebanese Flavours
Admittedly I don’t automatically think of potatoes with I think of Lebanese cuisine. In fact, after yesterday’s buffet at Levant, I would say that, yes, Lebanese food mostly makes me
think stink of garlic. And I mean that in a good, if occasionally smelly, way.
Lebanon does, however, appear to be home to some rather large potatoes, so a potato pie with Lebanese flavours is not such an outrageous proposition. I adapted the recipe below from one I came across on the Daily Mail site here, but which contained no garlic to speak of. I soon fixed that.
For the pie:
- 500g potatoes, preferably a floury variety
- 125g coarse bulgar wheat
- 25g plain flour
- 0.25 tsp cinnamon
- 250g onion (2 small-ish specimens), finely sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 50g pine nuts
- 50g flat leaf parsley (leaves + thin stems), finely chopped (or substitute fresh coriander)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sumac (optional)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 tblsp olive oil plus more for coating dish and frying
- 150g natural yoghurt
- 3 tblsp finely chopped mint leaves
- small pinch of sugar
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- coarse salt to taste
- 3-4 spring onions, white and light green parts finely sliced
You’ll also need:
- An ovenproof dish – mine was 20cm x 20cm x 5cm
- Rinse the bulgar in several changes of water, then place in a small bowl and add cold water to cover by a few cm. Leave aside to soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse them under cold water.
- Bring about 1l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 1 tsp salt and the potato slices. Bring back to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 12-15 minutes or until just fork-tender. Alternatively, you can steam the potatoes until they reach the same stage.
- You can now go ahead and preheat your oven to 220C
- While the potatoes are cooking, place a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot add enough oil to coat the pan and add the onions. Stir and fry for around 8-10 minutes, until soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and pine nuts and stir and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped parsley, stir and fry for about a minute, then remove from the heat and season with the lemon juice, sumac (if using) plus salt and black pepper to taste.
- When the potatoes are done, drain well and return them to the saucepan. Then either let them sit, covered by a tea-towel, for about 5 minutes or place the pan over a low heat and stir the potatoes gently for a minute or so, so that they dry out.
- Put the dried and still-warm potatoes through a potato ricer and into a large bowl, or mash gently in the bowl using a masher or a fork.
- In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, about 0.5 tsp salt and a couple of twists of black pepper.
- Drain the bulgar and, placing the drained bulgar in a clean tea-towel, squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Add the bulgar and flour to the mashed potato and mix gently to combine. Taste for salt and add more if needed.
- Brush the base of your ovenproof dish with oil and spread with half of the potato mixture. Add the onions in a single layer next, then top with the remaining potato, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Brush about 1.5 tblsp of olive oil over the potato and, using the tip of a sharp knife, make shallow diagonal cuts in the top of the pie, with about 2-3cm between cuts, so that it marks out a diamond pattern.
- Bake at 220C for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190C and bake for about another 30 minutes or until golden on top.
- Serve pieces of the pie, warm or at room temperature, scattered with sliced spring onions and a couple of spoonfuls of mint yoghurt, made by mixing together the yoghurt, mint and sugar, with salt and cayenne to taste. This would also be nice with some grilled or roasted courgettes.
- Crumble some goats cheese or feta between the onion and top potato layer or perhaps add some tomatoes to the onion mix or maybe some fried courgette slices.
- Serves 4, as long as nobody gets greedy
Cool event. That’s a crazy pic of the giant potato. The shape looks like it can be an alien pod or something. lol.
The Food Bloggers event sounds like so much fun! I was following a bit of it vicariously through Twitter, saw that LondonEater was a bit nervous before his presentations. I am indeed impressed with your stamina to make that trip in one day plus all the eating and drinking and socializing. Amazing – must be all the potatoes!
That potato though, looks like something out of alien, i think I’d be compelled to eat it before it consumed me!
However, that recipe has me very intrigued. I love the looks of all the ingredients. Anything that calls for lots of garlic, potatoes, sumac and pine nuts and potentially feta cheese has my vote for automatically tasty.
The trick with garlic is to get everyone at the table to eat it and you’re set. Sounds like you had a great lunch though and if it inspired this pie, productive as well.
An amazing event wasn’t it. I just wish there’d been more time for mingling and chatting – happen next time there will be.
So so so lovely to meet you at Food Blogger Connect, even if it was right at the end with only ten minutes to go! I think I got to speak to 2/3 of people there but the time went so fast that a few slipped through the net.
If you come back to London you are very welcome to visit Walthamstow. We have more than pie and mash shops here – although you’d probably like those too!
Well well! Another garlic lover. Yes the us Lebo’s are indeed well infatuated with garlic and as long as we can get everyone to have some- the more we can have :)
Thanks so very much for making it out. It was lovely to meet you and you’re video interview was fantastic. A lovely recap on the event!
Hi Aoife, good write up and pics. The food there was good wasn’t it – I think we all went up for seconds!
See you again soon :-)
jenn: it certainly is one mad-looking spud – I can’t help wondering if they actually cooked it up and, if so, what they made from it…
OysterCulture: it was a fun event and worth the travel; as for the pie, I’ll certainly be making it (or variations thereof) again – it just doesn’t seem to last long around here :)
Marc: agreed – and everybody was eating from the same garlicky buffet, so it didn’t seem to be a problem :)
George: sorry to have missed you at the event and I definitely vote for more mingling and chatting time at the next FBC!
Sarah: Likewise great to meet you – sounds like you did a better job of getting around to the various people there than I! If and when I get back over to London, I’ll be sure to give you a shout :)
Bethany: …and thanks again for being the driving force behind getting the whole thing organised – great job and looking forward to the next
FoodGarlic Blogger Connect :D
Paul: thanks! we did indeed all go up for seconds and even thirds – in fact, I wouldn’t mind another go at that buffet right now :)
oh no i fear I didn’t get round to meeting you at FBC 09 – how bad of me! Lovely post :) i had such a great time. hope you did too. and yay to LOLA’s cupcakes. glad. and yes, i was so glad they arrived on time and didn’t have any garlic in them ;) x
I’m so glad you made it and it was so nice to meet you, even though it was only towards the end of the event. As much as I love garlic, I did avoid it on Saturday =)
Lovely to meet you (thanks for the name pronounciation tips!!) and OMG yes, I spent the afternoon feeling as if I was breathing garlic over everyone! Good thing there was a microphone betweenme and the front row of the audience… ;-) Glad you enjoyed FBC and I definitely agree that there is scope to do more next time. Love the potato pie – and the crazy giant potato!
So glad you shared about the event! One, because you gave me a ton of new blogs to read, and two, now I can keep my eye out for foodie events when we head over to that part of the woods. That is one huge potato and tasty looking recipe. Two garlic breaths cancel each other out so I’m sure you were safe at the event. ;)
Oh, I think that we can never eat enough garlic, and the more (people eating the garlic) the merrier! What a fabulous day and I am super thrilled you made the hop over and it was so great talking with you. An old friend indeed, you won’t get rid of me now! I do indeed feel like an old friend! Wonderful write up post here and don’t forget to be the first to sign up for next year’s! Big hug!
WELL NOW! That is a mighty huge potato there. You can’t get any bigger! Or can you? This looked like a really fun event from all the participating blogs. Great meet up idea.
I had read on Jamie site about this event and glad you got to go… One day they will have one I can attend in my area, although I have met many bloggers lately, and Friday some are meeting for lunch in NYC, so I am going!
What a huge Mr Potato head he has there…and I can never get enough garlic!
Sounds like it was great fun! I’ve missed out on the events here in the US as well but am grateful that those of you who do attend are so great at sharing photos and recaps. They serve as excellent motivation to try and make it for the next one!
Your Lebanesey Potato Pie looks soooo delicious – the tops look so golden and crispy! I’m all about the garlic, so bring it on, but that potato is the gnarliest I’ve ever seen.
And I almost forgot to say that I have been voting for you – gotta love that they allow multiple votes! 8-)
diva: so many people to meet, so little time – good job FBC10 is in the works – maybe we shall get to meet then!
Mowie: well done on avoiding the garlic (though, by the time I met you, I wouldn’t have been able to tell!) – hopefully we’ll get to meet again and for longer next time ’round
Jeanne: pleasure to meet you (luckily at the pre-garlic stage) and I guess you can be glad, what with all of the videos of the event, that there isn’t such a thing as smell-o-vision :D
Lori: you’re welcome and I’m sure that there will be more events over on this side of the Atlantic in future, so if you’re going to be in the area, it would be a fabulous opportunity to put yet more names to faces
Jamie: oh I will be signing up for the next one for sure, no escaping each other now :)
Duo Dishes: I don’t know if spuds come bigger than that but it sure is pretty impressive!
Chef E: great that you are getting to meet up with some folks over there and it can only be a matter of time before there’s a similar event in NYC – I mean the west coast can’t keep all of the action to itself, surely :)
Tangled Noodle: You will make it to one of those events soon I’m sure and, if I can be there too, all the better! As for the multiple voting, yep, gotta love that :D
I am so glad you got to attend this event. GREG
Thanks Greg, I was very glad I got to attend!
I hope you will be back because I don’t think our paths crossed on the day! Nice write up and super photos. Hope to see you properly at FBC2010.
Thanks Nic! Indeed I don’t believe our paths crossed on the day (or at least not knowingly) – all the more reason to be back for the next one :)
Thanks for the posting the Lebanesey Potato Pie recipe, cant wait to try it. Thanks Suzanne xx