Sometimes only GITS will do. If you have time to clean, wash and soak the black lentils overnight before grinding to a paste with salt, ginger and bicarbonate of soda then of course the results will be infinitely tastier, but when I want to cut corners I always turn to the little box of GITS in my cupboard. Dahi Vada (or Doi Boda as we call them in Bengali) is my street food of choice whenever I visit Bangladesh. Savoury doughnuts of spiced lentils are fried, soaked briefly in water and then combined with cool, thick yoghurt. This is garnished with coriander, chilli powder, tamarind and roasted cumin and served chilled.
We Bengalis love our fish and Ilish is the national fish of Bangladesh. Unfortunately it only inhabits tropical waters so you have to buy it frozen in the UK. Taj Stores has a great selection, I went with my mother the other day. She spent 20 minutesfiercely inspecting each of the icy specimens at the back of the shop before entering into a lengthy discussion with the owner about the terrible state of the political scene back home and how awful it is that Bengali fish just isn’t what it used to be. Hilsa is to Bengalis what toro tuna belly is to Japanese – i.e. the equivalent of piscine gold. It’s best to look for the fish that are fatter around the stomach as they possess that all important creamy belly fat (which crisps up deliciously in a hot pan), and if you’re really lucky they’ll also be full of roe. Once you find a decent specimen, ask the nice man with the knifey-machine to saw this into 2-3inch steaks for you. Then freeze in batches and defrost in the fridge the night before you want to eat them.
There are at least fifty different ways to cook Ilish. This is my mother’s recipe, and it truly is the veritable bomb.Read the rest of this entry »
I picked up some sparklingly fresh mackerel from the excellent Steve Hatt and decided to have a go at making tatsuta age mackerel. I substituted the more traditional potato starch with rice flour and used rice bran oil for frying. I used to have this all the time in my school lunch when I taught English in Japan, but had never actually tried making it myself – it was much easier than I thought it would be. Bite sized chunks of mackerel are briefly marinated in fresh ginger, sake and soy before being drenched in seasoned rice flour and then deep fried until crisp.
I am addicted to pickles.From Polish mushrooms to Korean radishes, English onions to German Sauerkraut, if it contains salt and/or vinegar I am usually overcome by the sort of craving that isn’t sated until the entire jar has been devoured in one sitting (and yes, if no one’s watching I have even been known to polish off the tangy pickling liquid. It’s that bad).
When I lived in Japan my neighbours would periodically satisfy this craving with gifts of pickled cucumbers and radishes, the vegetables lovingly preserved from a glut they had harvested themselves and the pickling recipe unique to each family. When I found this recipe on the fabulous “Appetite for China” site I had to give it a try. Miraculously I somehow managed to restrain myself enough to wait for the flavours to develop before eating them and it was well worth it. The crisp, tangy results were the perfect accompaniment to some tatsuta age mackerel and steamed basmati brown rice.
Mmmmm two of my favourite ingredients. I love Rowley Leigh’s column in the FT and I have wanted to visit the Café Anglais for ages, but never seem to have enough money. I’ve read some wonderful things about these parmesan custards so decided to have a go at making them myself using Rowley’s recipe. I had a bunch of tarragon in the fridge that needed using up so added a tiny bit to the toasts. I don’t have a Panini or sandwich maker and only had ciabatta for the toasts; so had to weigh them down with a pestle and mortar to make them requisitely thin.
I found 15 minutes was nowhere near long enough in my stubborn mule of an electric oven, so had to cook the custards for 40 minutes altogether, but it depends on how set you want them.
They are really delicious, and surprisingly easy to make. I think next time I’ll try adding some sun dried tomatoes, prosciutto and perhaps some olives, like a Mediterranean chawanmushi.
I had the most amazing meal at Salt Yard – a rabbit dish so good that it made me laugh, fried parsnips with truffle and rosemary honey and padron peppers were all stand out tapas that I couldn’t wait to try to recreate at home. It’s really hard to get hold of padron peppers, the only place I could source them was from Brindisa in Borough Market, where you can get a bag of 30 for around £3.50.
Read the rest of this entry »
I found this recipe on the Waitrose site. It’s pretty basic so I added some pumpkin seeds and sage. I found I needed extra time for my rubbish old electric oven, as it was still a little raw in the middle after the stipulated time. After an extra 15 minutes, it was perfect, nutty and crumbly needing nothing more than a smear of butter.Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been wanting to make a roast tomato soup for ages. After some mild research I decided to go for a classic combination of Gordon Ramsay’s (Secrets) and Delia’s (Vegetarian Collection), but with more emphasis on Gordon’s for ingredients and Delia’s for technique, with a few added touches of my own. I added a splash of Tempranillo to the soup rather than Balsamic vinegar and lemon thyme instead of basil. I found that Gordon’s roasting time left the tomatoes looking a bit “raw” so I turned the heat down to 190°C and left them in there for an hour. I also mixed Woodsmoke BBQ sauce with the water I used to re-hydrate the sundried tomatoes. I didn’t have olive oil so used a mixture of flax seed and rice bran oils instead. Finally I had a tiny bit of tomato vinegar in the back of the cupboard so trickled this in to serve.Read the rest of this entry »
I decided to splash out on a whole chicken last week. Label Anglais are the Rolls Royce of the chicken world. They are raised slowly and allowed to mature, and celebrity chefs make glowing references to them.Although they are pricier than supermarket chickens (around £10 for a medium one) you can easily get 3 meals out of a bird once you’ve picked over the meat for a salad and boiled the carcass up for soup or stock.
I quickly bought a modest looking bird from Wyndham House Poultry at Borough Market before I could change my mind, and they generously chucked in the giblets and knocked off a pound because they’re very nice like that.Read the rest of this entry »
I hate broccoli. Liver, spinach, anchovies, olives – I have no problem with any of these things. But broccoli? Bleugh. I only eat it if it’s so smothered in something else (cheese sauce) that there is no remaining hint of that weird, irony taste. At least that’s what I used to do. I recently discovered that if you roast it, it becomes not only edible but actually very very delicious.
I am proud to say that my anti-broccoli days are now behind me. Indeed, it is not uncommon for me to make a bowl of these as a little snack, or have them as a side dish with a nice bit of grilled fish. The broccoli becomes charred and almost caramelised, and the salty, garlicky juices go perfectly with a squeeze of lemon.
Another happy accident. The kind that only occurs when you think there’s nothing in the fridge but you stand there for ages anyway just staring into it’s cool, glowing womb-like shelter, thinking… Eggs and curry powder are soul mates; and topping this with grilled cheddar makes the whole dish come alive.Read the rest of this entry »
I went to a talk by Neil Boorman at the inspirational Affluenza exhibition. It was a great talk and I came away feeling super-sensitive to all the adverts I numbly absorb every day. Whereas Boorman’s Achilles heel was fashion, I am a massive sucker for food adverts. In particular, and at certain key moments of vulnerability I find myself unable to avoid those air brushed money shots of KFC, McDonalds and Burger King fodder. Don’t get me wrong, I only have a quarter pounder with cheese once a year if that, but I do find myself thinking about those action shots of slow motion bouncing juicy burgers and processed cheese (it has to be processed cheese) melting to golden perfection far far more than I should…
Anyway, I digress. So I was having one of these moments of weakness when I realised I had a bag of Karaage chicken stashed away in the back of my freezer. Karaage chicken is basically soy, ginger and garlic flavoured deep fried chicken. Not exactly diet food, but nowhere near as depressing as a “boneless banquet”. You can buy it from Japanese supermarkets or online from the Japan Centre and it’s nice to have a couple of pieces with some rice and salad in a bento box or with a very cold beer. I also had a jar of garlic mayonnaise. And some wraps. And some jalapeños….
(the following is not so much a recipe as it is an insight into the mind of a weak and confused glutton)Read the rest of this entry »
It’s wonderful what you can come up with when faced with a 5kg bag of spuds. This was my dilemma when I asked the other half to buy me a single large potato from our local corner shop. The potato was needed for wrapping in tin foil and skewering with a multitude of cheese and pineapple sticks – this was to be the glorious centrepiece for a cheese and wine party.
He proudly returned with said bag. All for only £2.
I decided to satisfy my samosa weakness with these potato, pea and cashew nut beauties. Making your own pastry makes all the difference, filo pastry just isn’t the same. I like to use a mixture of rice and plain flour for extra crispy results, but all plain flour is fine if you can’t get hold of rice flour. It’s so much easier than you might think and you can customise it with poppy, sesame or cumin seeds. These are addictive and are lovely cold with a big dollop of yoghurt dip.
I wanted to use up a surfeit of those cheap bags of “basics” carrots I found hiding in the bottom of my salad box. It seemed like such a good idea in the supermarket, what with everyone fighting over the reduced cabbages, the ubiquitous recession mentality rife in the fruit and veg aisles. Then you get home and all you really want is steak and chips.
There’s a great recipe in Delia’s Vegetarian Collection, but after a bit of research I found that the best “tried and tested” recipes seem to rate vegetable oil over butter and definitely golden syrup as well as sugar. I also added a drop of vanilla essence and a touch of nutmeg. I had some pecans that needed using up so threw those in too. It was perfect eaten straight from the oven with slices of cheddar. This will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days (if you can resist it for that long). Even a couple of days later it was still moist and crumbly.
I needed to use up a frozen seafood selection I’ve had knocking about, so decided to try and put together a sort of paella.
I’ve been instructed to make lower fat food, so the traditional addition of super fatty chorizo was out. Instead I roasted some peppers and infused brown rice with smoked paprika and fennel before cooking it in white wine and chicken stock. The results were smoky, savoury and tasted a little bit like a holiday by the sea.
Bengalis call anything that’s been “egged-and-breaded” a chop although these are really just jazzed up fishcakes. My mum used to make me these addictive fishcakes after school and I’ve noticed that a lot of my Punjabi friends make “store cupboard curries” from tins of tuna so perhaps our parents had a bit of a “make do and mend” attitude when they first came over here. I had some spare wasabi floating around in the fridge and found that the robust flavours paired exquisitely.
There’s something really satisfying about knowing that a delicious, healthy meal can be thrown together from store cupboard ingredients and if you make too many you can always freeze them after egging and crumbing. These addictive fishcakes are spiked with lemony notes of ginger, and the dressing is piquant and creamy with a mulish after-kick of wasabi.
I’d never made “Kedgeree” before. My mum brought us up on “kitchuri” which is quite a different beast (no fish or eggs, more lentils rice and spices) which I believe is the original dish this colonial version was based on. After looking at James Martin’s and Delia’s version, I came up with a slightly wetter concoction.
This ‘kedgereesotto’ cost me £1, makes enough to feed two with enough leftover to freeze, and resides in that satisfying spot where healthy food and comfort food meet.
I love real hummous but hate that cardboard-like slop you so often get in the shops. It’s so easy to make the real thing and it literally costs pence. Unfortunately my magimix is on strike so I had to make this in the blender, which meant lots of pushing down and stirring but with velvety results. I love sun-dried tomatoes so threw in a few of those along with the tangy oil in the jar and needed to use up a glut of limes from Whitechapel Market, so added those to the mix. A touch of smoked paprika and lots of omega rich flax seed oil really pumped up the proverbial volume.
This was an accident that turned out to be truly delicious and turns a traditional side dish of dauphinoise into a more substantial one-dish comfort meal.
This is the simplest soup ever. Add whatever vegetables you have knocking around, I find carrots, spinach and mushrooms work well. The only essentials are seaweed and the spring onion. I like to have this for breakfast with a fruit salad, or if I’m feeling particularly virtuous for supper with steamed brown rice, furikake and a tamagoyaki omelette. Although it’s not strictly authentic, I find a drop of rice vinegar adds the most delicious tang to to the salty broth. The miso paste and dashi can be bought online or from Chinese and Japanese food shops and once you have them they last for ages so it’s well worth investing in decent quality miso, i.e. with a minimum of ingredients. The one in my fridge only contains rice, salt and soyabeans.Read the rest of this entry »