Wednesday, 20 July 2011

O is for...

... Olympia cocktails with okra orbs, followed by oven-baked oysters, then octopus carpaccio. Next up we ate ox cheek olives followed by a main of oolong and orange rolled ostrich with oregano and oyster mushroom orzotto served with stuffed onions. Pudding was olive and chocolate fondants with olive oil ice cream. Next up was a cheeseboard of Oxford Isis, Ogleshield, Ossau-Iraty-Brebis and Oxford Blue with home-made oatcakes. Lastly we ate orange truffles with organic coffee. 

O night was an intimate affair. Richard and I played hosts to only two guests: scientist, naked cyclist and Bunsen burner enthusiast, Olly Crawley, and the talented and hilarious (and very tall) writer, Dolly "Hannah" Alderton. Dolly writes an excellent blog called Dolly Does. which documents her experiences doing things she's always wanted to try. You can read about her experience of O night here. Richard made origami birds as table decorations and, as always, made a cracking O themed mixtape including the likes of Roy Orbison, Official Secrets Act, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Only Ones and Beth Orton

With only four people to cook for, I found myself developing a fairly laissez-faire attitude to the preparations. I got up late and hung about in my dressing gown drinking endless cups of tea while fannying about on Facebook. Every now and then, Richard would wander in, panic-faced, telling me what the time was.  After Richard's talking clock routine failed to budge me, he politely suggested I might want to think about getting the fuck on with something. I responded with a casual shrug, puffing my cheeks with air before slowly releasing it and mumbling a pathetic "yeah, s'pose" in reply. Three "yeah, s'pose"s later, I dragged myself through the shower and attempted to psyche myself up to deal with the enormous plastic tub containing the octopus. But before I get on to that particular adventure, first things first: cocktails and okra orbs.

Olympia Cocktails

It's always nice to have a cocktail with a cherry in it, if only for its retro appeal. Olympias are well balanced in flavour with the sticky sweetness of the cherry brandy cut through with the sourness of  lime and an added warmth from the subtle spiciness of the dark rum. Because they are so well balanced in flavour they are dangerously gluggable and we all ended up reaching for seconds from the shaker. Olympia cocktails = a hit!

1 part cherry brandy
1 part lime juice
1 and a half parts dark rum
Cocktail cherries

Shake all the ingredients (minus the cocktails cherries) over ice and strain in Martini glasses. Garnish each with a cherry and serve.

Okra Orbs

I have already let you in on my patent rejection of the catarrhal charms of okra. With their oozing, viscous centre, they remind me of pea pods who are suffering a horrible cold; all crisp skin with phlegmy innards. The appeal of okra (if really there is any) has always been wasted on me, but I wondered if this sorry little vegetable might just about redeem itself if I coated it in batter and deep fried it. It seems a sensible enough idea - what doesn't taste better after being battered and deep fried? But, alas, okra remained as snotty as ever. And possibly more so. Dolly and Olly seemed to approve, but I'd rather these horrid little ladies fingers crawled away in the opposite direction to my dinner plate, never to return. Failing that, save okra for Halloween parties, where all food is deliberately revolting anyway, so these gruesomely snotty horrors would at last find their natural habitat.

I attempted to round off the cut edges to make them "orb" shaped, but once battered they looked more like little logs. I'm going to stick to calling them orbs because of the pains I took to chisel them into shape and as punishment to the okra for being so slimy.

I made the batter with cornmeal, because I thought the yellow colour would look attractive against the green. If you can't find cornmeal, substitute it with fine polenta, or, failing that, plain flour will do.

5 oz/ 125 g cornmeal
1 oz plain flour
2 eggs
9 fl.oz/ 250 ml cold fizzy water
A pinch of salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A generous grind of black pepper
As much okra as you can stand, washed and cut into pieces
Sunflower/ vegetable or rapeseed oil for deep frying

Heat about 3 inches of oil in a heavy wide brimmed saucepan until a single breadcrumb sizzles when you pop it in. Place the cornmeal, 1 egg, the cayenne, salt and pepper and fizzy water in a large bowl and mix loosely. Lightly whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and dunk the okra pieces into it before tossing them in the flour. Throw the okra into the batter and carefully place them in the hot fat. Leave them to cook until slightly brown (just a couple of minutes) and carefully remove them with a slotted spoon. Drain the okra on kitchen paper before serving with an extra sprinkle of sea salt.

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