potato salada



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Whenever I find myself feeling “homesick” for Japan and Japanese food, it’s not the niku jagas and shabu shabu’s I crave (although they do have their place) but more often than not it’s the Japanese versions of Western dishes, otherwise known asyoshuku“.

Dishes like hambaga, mentaiko pasta and potato salada (potato salad) – all reinvented and made wonderfully and uniquely Japanese.  These impressions of European food served alongside mounds of seasoned rice and fish in bento boxes saw me through many a train journey, emergency trip to the 7-11 and school lunch during the years I lived out there.

Japanese potato salad is more like a Russian salad with gently pickled vegetables folded in. I was recently sent a review copy of the excellent Japanese Soul Cooking (by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat) which has a whole chapter on Yoshuku recipes including ones for ebi gratin and saikoro steak, which I’m also looking forward to making.

Here’s their version of potato salada, the only adjustments I’ve made are a smidge of Dijon, a touch of sugar to balance and red onion instead of Spanish. Make sure you use proper Kewpie mayonnaise for this, it’s really not the same otherwise.

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serves 4

2 medium Maris Piper potatoes, (about 450g/1lb) peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

115g (4 oz) cucumber, thinly sliced (if using Japanese or Persian cucumbers leave the skin on, otherwise peel and deseed)

1/2 medium carrot, (about 55g/2 oz) peeled, thinly sliced

1/4 medium Spanish onion (about 85g/3oz) peeled and thinly sliced

125ml (1/2) cup water

1 tbsp. vinegar

60ml Kewpie mayonnaise

method

- to cook the potatoes, fill a saucepan large enough to cover the potatoes with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until a skewer goes through them easily. Drain and coarsely mash the potatoes, so small chunks are still visible. Set aside and allow the potatoes to come to room temperature.

- Add the cucumber, carrot, onion and 1 tsp. of the salt to a bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients, making sure they’re well coated with the salt. Allow the vegetables to cure for 5 minutes. Add the water and swirl the ingredients in the water to remove the salt. Squeeze the cured vegetables tightly with your hands to expel the liquid.

-Add the vegetables and potatoes to a large bowl and mix together well. Add the vinegar and mix to combine. Add the mayonnaise, pepper and the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix together well until the salad is smooth, and serve.

Variations- you can also add a couple of hard boiled eggs for extra richness and flavour. Mash the eggs and add them along with the potatoes and cured vegetables.

You can also riff on this recipe in a bunch of ways, to wit: Add 25g mentaiko, spicy marinated pollock roe. Or add 90g cooked hijiki. Or add 2 tbsp. of chopped shiso leaves or 1 tbsp. curry powder, or 2 tsp. karashi mustard or 1 tsp. shichimi togorashi or 2 tsp. wasabi or 1 tsp. red yuzu kosho.


Aloo saag pies


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Behold the traditional creamy Bengali aloo saag pie. Made by countless generations of Bengalis before me and whole lines of master bakers before them, passed down from generation to generation…well,ok maybe not. But you know who really cares, as long as they taste good? And these are pretty amazing. These delicate spiced vegetarian pies have become my latest default midweek treat. Basically, I’ll make the curry and have it with rice the night before and use any leftovers, (which have had the chance to rest and develop overnight) into these moreish little morsels the next day. I’m not sure exactly what it is that makes them quite so delicious, I think it’s something to do with the contrast of bold spices encased in something fragile and delicate (which is why samosas work so well). Perfect for impromptu picnics or just for coaxing a bit of greenery into fussy little mouths.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3  potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. garlic crushed, 1 tbsp. ginger grated
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp.chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1-2 tsp. salt plus a pinch of sugar
  • half a tin of tomatoes
  • 200ml water/stock
  • 1 or 2 finely sliced green chillies (maybe leave these out if you’re making for any little people)
  • (optional) a walnut-sized lump of tamarind
  • a couple of big handfuls of spinach leaves, finely shredded
  • 4-5 tbsp. finely chopped coriander
  • handful of frozen peas
  • equal quantities of puff pastry and shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tbsp. nigella seeds

METHOD

  • fry the onions and curry leaves with mustard seeds over a medium heat until the onions have taken on a brown tinge. Add the ginger, garlic and potatoes. Fry for about 15 minutes then add remaining spices and some salt.
  • Add the tomatoes, 200ml water/stock a pinch of sugar, plus the tamarind and chillies if using. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and you’re left with a thick tomatoey gravy. Stir in the spinach leaves and peas. Add a dollop of creme fraiche if you’re feeling fancy, or natural yoghurt. Sprinkle over the coriander and immediately eat a bowlful with rice or chapattis.
  • The next day, roll out the shortcrust pastry and line a muffin tin with circles. Bake blind for 15 minutes at 180C before filling with any leftover potato-spinach mixture (reheat with a splash of water and pad out with more vegetables, cooked lentils if necessary). Cover with circles of puff pastry which have been sprinkled with the nigella seeds, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C.

Kashmiri ribs

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If like me, you’ve been delighted to learn that just about everything you’ve always suspected about meat, eggs and butter was correct (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/23/everything-you-know-about-unhealthy-foods-is-wrong) – (my hyperlinks are playing up) then you may also have tuned into rumours about the various health benefits of ghee. This article (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/food/food-reviews/Ghee-and-its-many-benefits/articleshow/10979319.cms) cites the stuff as healthier than butter, and claims that when used in moderation, it can actually lower cholesterol. While I’m aware that ghee and clarified butter are not technically the same thing (owing to minor differences in production) whatever your thoughts on health benefits, the fact remains that unlike butter, it sports a very high smoke point which makes it perfect for browning meat. And of course, it’s pretty much the midas of the fat world, rendering everything it comes into contact with into a state of unutterable deliciousness.

Those canny folk at Lurpak have cottoned onto this fact, and when they sent me a pot of their new clarified butter to try, I decided to put it to the test with these frankly sumptuous Kashmiri ribs. Also known as “kabargah”, this is proper push the boat out, special occasion food, traditionally served with a majestic pulao (we had ours with my tomato salad and steamed wholegrain rice).

The ribs are simmered until tender in spiced milk, drained, dipped in a chilli-flecked yoghurt and then sizzled to a crisp in ghee. You could use goat or mutton instead. My local Turkish “international supermarket” sells them for 50p each, but if you can’t get ribs, I’m sure chops would work (just bear in mind that you might need to stretch out the simmering time). Basically you want to ensure your meat has a bit of fat on it, to guarantee that perfect spicy crunch.

ingredients

1/2 -1 tsp. chilli powder (preferably Kashmiri)

4 green cardamom pods

1-2 tsp pink or black peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

6 cloves

2 bay leaves

1 star anise

4 cloves crushed garlic plus an equal amount of finely chopped ginger

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp. cumin

500ml full fat milk

10-12 lamb ribs

250g natural yoghurt

1-2 tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. garam masala

a tablespoon or so of clarified butter

method
rinse the ribs in a couple of changes of water

over a medium heat, in a large dry saucepan (i.e. one that will comfortably fit all the ribs and the milk) toast the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, star anise and cumin seeds until fragrant.

Slosh in the milk and add the ribs, chilli powder, garlic, ginger, peppercorns and turmeric.

Turn the heat down really low and simmer for about an hour, or until the ribs are very tender. Check and stir every now and again to make sure the milk doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. If it over evaporates, then splash in a bit more or some water

While simmering the ribs, mix the yoghurt, chilli powder, garam masala and salt. Set aside.

Drain the ribs and allow to dry (resist the urge to just drink it out of the pan and save the spiced milk for your next curry or spicy soup base, it freezes beautifully).

Heat the clarified butter over a high heat and dip each rib briefly in the spiced yoghurt before frying until crisp all over. You’re looking for a meltingly tender interior and crisp exterior. Devour.

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roasted Bengali tomato salad with mooli parathas

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Whenever I’m faced with a glut of tomatoes all I can think of is making a traditional Bengali bortha or a proper, garlicky roasted tomato salad. Here I’ve combined the two, to make an every day salad a bit more exciting and to add sweetness and depth to the Bengali classic. You can buy mustard oil in most Asian supermarkets or you can easily buy it online – a little goes a long way. This is fantastic with a simple bowl of dhal and some flaky, radish stuffed parathas to mop up all those garlic and chilli flecked juices.

ingredients

vine tomatoes, quartered

2-3 tsp. mustard oil

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 fresh chilli finely chopped

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 small bunch fresh coriander, chopped

walnut-sized lump of tamarind dissolved in a bit of boiling water, to taste

method

put the tomatoes in a roasting tin and drizzle with the mustard oil. Sprinkle over the sugar, salt, cumin, garlic and chilli. Roast at 180C for 30 minutes.

Let the tomatoes cool off a little, then toss with the red onion, coriander and tamarind. Add more salt and chilli to taste.

To make the parathas

500g each of chapatti and plain flour

1 tbsp. melted ghee

1-2 tsp. salt

1/2 daikon/mooli/big white radish peeled and grated

pinch of chilli powder

1 tsp. garam masala powder

method

mix the flours, ghee, salt and enough warm water to form a supple dough.

Set aside and grate the mooli. Mix with the chilli powder, garam masala and a pinch of salt.

Give the dough another knead and divide into lemon sized balls.

Roll one out into a disc, spread with a thin layer of the radish (being careful not to overstuff) and roll out another.

Top the first paratha with the second, pressing along the edges to seal and roll very very gently a couple of times.

Heat some oil in a frying pan/tawa. Carefully slide in the paratha and cook until golden.

Turn over and cook the other side. Serve hot.


spring has sprung pakoras with pear & mint chutney

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Fresh, green and positively bursting with the joys of spring – behold the spring green pakora. A fantastic way of using up any manky old greens that need  bit of attention. My 22 month old ploughed his way through an absolute ton of these for his tea. The pear and mint chutney is very flavourful and a cinch to whizz up.

130g chickpea/gram flour
200g spring greens, finely shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
¼ to ½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
220g yoghurt

1/2 tsp.baking powder
2 tbsp. chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp. garam masala
150-200ml water
salt to taste
oil for deep frying

for the chutney

1 clove garlic
2 spring onions
1/2 fresh green chilli
1 tsp. tamarind
1 tsp. salt
2 ripe pears
2  tbsp. mint leaves

method

  • mix all the pakora ingredients in a large bowl, adding enough water to give the consistency of thick double cream
  • whizz up the pear chutney ingredients in a blender and adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Heat the oil and deep fry the pakoras in batches, drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately with the chutney.

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Chickpea, leek and spring cabbage curry

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This is the stuff I grew up on. It never fails to surprise me how the humble combination of pulses, spice and veg can be so moreish. I find myself turning to this, at least once a week. With parathas, on toast, with kitchuri and fridge cold from the pan with a dollop of yoghurt while waiting for the kettle to boil. Adding leeks and cabbage to a traditional tomato and chickpea curry makes for a healthy, cheap and utterly delicious treat (just remember to soak the chickpeas the night before you want to start- or if you can’t be bothered crack open some tinned ones instead).

ingredients

a knob of ghee/ butter + a splash of oil

1 chopped onion

2 small leeks, finely sliced

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 knob ginger, grated

1 heaped tsp. cumin seeds

1 cinnamon stick

3 green cardamom pods

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. curry powder

1 fresh green finger chilli finely chopped

1 400g  tin tomatoes

400ml chicken stock

200g soaked drained, boiled chickpeas

20g tamarind cut from a block

1 tsp. sugar

1-2 handfuls of finely shredded spring cabbage (or any greens)

method

  • melt the butter/ghee and splash of oil. When it’s hot add the cumin seeds, onion, garlic, ginger and leeks. Stir in the turmeric, curry powder, fresh chilli, cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Cook over a low heat until you’re left with a spicy tangle of green and gold (usually around 15-20 minutes)

  • Tip in the chickpeas, chicken stock, tomatoes, tamarind sugar and salt.

  • Simmer for 30 minutes. Fish out the cinnamon stick, tamarind and cardamom pods.

  • 5 minutes before serving add the shredded cabbage and simmer until just tender.


rhubarb, coconut and cardamom crumble

It’s definitely crumble weather. I like to spice mine with stem ginger and cardamom. A touch of coconut in the topping makes for the perfect bowl of exotic comfort.

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serves 4-6

ingredients

400g rhubarb, cut into chunks

5 cubes crystallised ginger, finely chopped

4 tbsp. orange juice

4 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds ground to a fine powder

1 tsp.  vanilla bean paste

4 tbsp. honey

100g flour

80g desiccated coconut

pinch salt

110g demerera/light brown sugar

90g butter plus 20g coconut oil

flaked almonds to sprinkle on top

method

  • preheat oven to 180C
  • cut rhubarb into chunks and place in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the orange juice, honey, vanilla, stem ginger and cardamom pods. Mix well.
  • Roast for 10 mins, cool and fish out the cardamom pods.
  • rub the butter and coconut oil into the flour, desiccated coconut and sugar and salt until you have breadcrumbs. Sprinkle a thick layer of this over the rhubarb, top with the flaked almonds and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the topping is crisp and the almonds are golden brown.

Lamb ragu and biryani

So, you voted for the lamb ragu dish and here I am cooking it (and looking more than a little bit pregnant)! I like to top this with a rosemary and garlic pangritata* for added textural interest.

*(blitz up 50g stale breadcrumbs, 1 clove of garlic crushed, a couple of tbsp. each of fresh parsley and rosemary and 5-6 tbsp olive oil, before crisping in a frying pan – you can also store this in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days).

After making this film I was left with even more leftover lamb and decided to put it to use in a biryani. Biryani is very much a “special occasion” project, so this is a great thing to put together on a lazy Sunday, leaving you something special to look forward to in the week ahead.

ingredients
2 tbsp. oil
8 cloves
2 black (if you can get them) cardamom pods and 2 green ones. (otherwise just use 4 green ones)
3 cinnamon sticks
4 thinly sliced onions
2 tbsp. crushed garlic
2 tbsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. curry powder
3 tbsp. each of finely chopped fresh coriander and mint leaves
380g leftover lamb (if you don’t have much leftover, throw in some lentils to pad things out)
1 carton chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 green chillies, sliced
1 pint of lamb stock
4-5 tbsp. natural yoghurt
big squeeze of lemon juice
a couple of onions sliced into rings and fried to a crisp
cooked basmati rice
optional – 300ml milk warmed with a pinch of saffron
method
  • heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, onions, garlic, ginger and curry powder.
  • cook over a low heat until the onions are nice and brown (this should take at least 15-20 minutes). Add the lamb (and lentils if using), mint, coriander leaves, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, a good pinch of salt, and the chillies. Stir well and then pour in the stock, yoghurt and lemon juice. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, until the sauce is nice and thick.
  • Layer some rice in the bottom of a large dish with a tight fitting lid. Add a layer of the lamb and then a layer of onion rings. Continue until you’re left with a layer of rice on top. Pour over the warm milk if using, cover well with plenty of foil to make it airtight and bake for 30 minutes at 180C.

Rejina vs Lamb – Sainsbury’s video #4

Aaah roast lamb….my favourite (but then, I am a bit biased). Hope you’ve enjoyed watching these videos, I’ve been pretty gobsmacked at the number of hits they’ve garnered, I must say. Thanks again for all the fantastic comments you lovely, lovely people.

 


Rejina Vs Chicken – Sainsbury’s video #3

This seems to be the most popular of all my Sainsbury’s videos – If you want to spice up your Indian roast chicken even more, I’d recommend adding 1 tsp.crushed cumin seeds, a small knob of fresh ginger, a finely chopped green finger chilli and a handful of coriander to the blitzing mix. Enjoy.


my second Sainsbury’s video – the ultimate roast beef

Hello people, so here’s the second ultimate roast video in the Food Goes Further campaign – it’s good old roast beef. I’ve had some fantastic feedback for the other videos, so thank you for your kind words and support. Feel free to get in touch with any questions (and to answer your question Lindsay from Pinner, yes the clothes I’m sporting in all the videos are by Tu, so you should be able to pick them up in your local Sainos).


My first Sainsbury’s video – the ultimate roast pork

In case you missed it, here’s my first video for Sainsbury’s. It’s all about making the ultimate roast pork and includes tips on making gravy, how to ensure crunchy crackling and carving. Enjoy!


keema lamb pie

I’m incredibly pleased, excited and slightly amazed to announce that I’m part of the new Sainsbury’s Food Goes Further campaign (along with Pam Clarkson, Jack Monroe and Nick Coffer). It’s been a truly wonderful experience and quite a change from the unremitting tedium of washing up and cleaning under a high chair that my life usually consists of. I’ve had Mr David Loftus plus a crew of about 20 odd people crowded into my kitchen to photograph my dishes and have spent some of the most fun-filled days I’ve ever had filming a series of cooking videos with the wonderful crew at Gravity Road. Over the next month or so you’ll be able to watch them (every Friday) here. I’ll be demonstrating how to make the perfect roast, some quirky yet tasty alternatives for a slightly more exciting roast dinner, how to make the most incredible gravy, and inspiration on what to do with your leftovers and as well as other handy tips.

You can find my two recipes for lamb and pea pie and lamb ragu in this leaflet in a Sainsbury’s near you.

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For another tasty twist, here’s my keema lamb pie – it’s spot on for this kind of weather, spicy, warming comfort food at its absolute best.

ingredients

1-2 medium onions, finely chopped (approx. 160g)

3-4 tbsp. ginger paste

3-4 tbsp. garlic paste

1 tbsp. oil

300g shredded leftover roast lamb

2 tsp. curry powder

2 tsp. cumin seeds

1 finely chopped fresh green chilli (or 1/2 – 1 tsp. chilli powder)

390g carton chopped tomatoes

130g full fat natural yoghurt

250ml lamb stock

100g frozen peas

500g mashed leftover potatoes and vegetables

1-2 tsp. garam masala

30g cheddar

method

sweat the onion, garlic paste and ginger paste in the oil.

- add the curry powder, chilli and cumin and cook for a further 5 minutes.

- add the lamb, tomatoes, yoghurt and salt and cook for a couple of minutes.

- add the stock and simmer for 25 minutes.

- add the peas, check seasoning and put filling into a pie dish.

- mash the potatoes and vegetables with the garam masala and smother over the pie filling. Sprinkle with grated cheddar and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden.

tips

- if you don’t have any fresh chillies it’s fine to use chilli powder instead

- a squeeze of lemon and a scattering of finely chopped coriander at the end of cooking is a nice flavour lift.

- if you can, cook out the onions, ginger and garlic long and slow over a low-ish heat until nicely caramelised around the edges to really bring out the natural sugars.


lamb dhansak

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It’s been a bit relentless round here lately. A lot of juggling exciting work stuff with a very sick toddler plus doing that last minute Christmas shopping thing that we promise ourselves we’re not going to do every year. Basically, we’ve been in dire need of some proper comfort food and this dhansak has delivered in spades.

I spotted lamb on offer in my local supermarket and so bought more than we needed, froze half and made a huge vat of this warming, rich Persian-Indian lentil based joy with the rest. Buy bone in lamb if you can, as simmering with the bone adds a ton flavour and make sure you don’t leave the tamarind out as that sweet sour balance is crucial. Just the sort of thing to have blipping away in the background while you chase your 19 month round the room with a dose of Calpol get into the Christmas spirit and perfect with a stack of parathas.

ingredients

500g lamb shoulder, diced plus the bone if possible

1 large onion, diced

6 cloves of garlic, crushed

an inch of ginger, shredded

4 green cardamom pods

1 heaped tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. curry powder

1 cinnamon stick

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. fenugreek

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 whole star anise

200g red lentils

200g yellow split lentils

1 whole peeled tamarind pod (or a tablespoon of paste)

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

500ml stock

method

  • heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger until the onions have taken on a dark caramel hue.
  • Add the cardamom, cumin, curry powder, cinnamon, chilli, turmeric, fenugreek, coriander powder and star anise and continue to stir and fry for about 5 minutes over a medium heat. Add the lamb and mix well, before adding the red and yellow lentils again combining really throughly to ensure everything gets a good coating of spices.
  • Slosh in the stock, tomatoes and add the bone and tamarind pod. Turn the heat to low and simmer for at least two hours, stirring every now and again and adding more stock/water if things start drying out.
  • Add a good pinch or two of sea salt and also about a teaspoon of sugar. Mix in some natural yoghurt if you want to tone things down a bit and serve.

basil and pomegranate aioli with curry salt cobbler

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They’ve started stocking cobbler in my local Sainsbury’s, which I love because it’s one of the cheapest on the fresh fish aisle (it works out at just over a pound per fillet) and every time I’ve bought some,  it’s tasted pretty fresh. Annoyingly it seems that everyone else has cottoned on to this and they’re now almost always sold out of it. So I made this version with trout.

I’m also a bit of an aioli fan, mainly because it’s so easy that even a dufus like me can make it. Plus the basil and pomegranate molasses take it somewhere very special indeed. You need to give it a few hours or even an overnighter to really leach out those herbal essences, which is ideal if you’re planning to have it for a manic Monday night supper –  all you really need to do is get home and fry up your fish.

for the aioli

1 fresh egg yolk

oil

1 crushed clove garlic

salt to taste

approx 20g (most of a plant from the herb aisle) basil leaves, finely chopped

1-2 tsp. pomegranate molasses

for the fish

2 x fish fillets

rice/plain flour

salt

1 tsp. curry powder

splash of oil to fry

method

  • Using an electric whisk gradually whisk the egg yolk with incremental droplets of oil until you have an emulsion. Thereafter you can take things up a gear.
  • Add the garlic, salt, basil and pomegranate molasses. Taste, bearing in mind that the basil will intensify over time. Chill until needed.
  • When you’re ready to eat, mix the flour, salt and curry powder on a plate and dredge the fish. Fry until crisp and serve with the aioli, steamed greens and a mound of buttery pilaff. Also makes an excellent posh fish finger sarnie.

White Rabbit

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I haven’t written a restaurant review for aaages.

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But the food at White Rabbit was amazing enough to make me want to. I’m still obsessing over a stand out dish of charred broccoli (and as someone who really doesn’t like broccoli, trust me when I say this was a revelation) with mead puree, pickled mustard seeds and almonds. The vegetable had an almost meaty caramelisation to it, while still retaining a tender vibrancy. I’ve never wanted to eat broccoli as a main course before but I could have happily sat there and polished off plate after plate of this.

A small dish of of burrata, sweet pickled plums, squash, sea purslane, pumpkin seeds and fennel pollen was scarfed with gusto, the perfectly al dente squash worked really well with the sweet and sour plums and velvety cheese. Charred aubergine with smoked yoghurt, honey and ash was another winner. Having said that  the yoghurt may have been a teensy bit overkill. Just ever so slightly.

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Gin and beetroot smoked salmon  bejewelled with roe, a pickled tangle of fennel, dill pollen and pomegranate was an exercise in freshness and light. This was followed with hake with burnt leeks and confit garlic aioli which was hauntingly flavoursome, the tiny beads of smoked yeast like so many hundreds and thousands, laced with pure eau de croissant. We fought over a bowl of mussels in miso dashi with shiitake mushrooms, which was basically layer upon layer of concentrated savoury goodness. Then a dish of king scallop with hunks of Tuscan sausage, harissa, coriander oil and crowned with straw potatoes which was sweet, spicy and demolished in seconds.  It’s a bit of an understatement to say they do some pretty clever things with seafood in this place.

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20131123_205628-2We were so full at this point that we were reduced to just morosely picking at the final dish of lamb belly with miso and melon radish. If I had one criticism it was that the lamb wasn’t crispy enough for my liking and the miso barely detectable.

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On a Saturday night the place was rammed. Nonetheless the staff managed to remain incredibly laid back, approachable and totally clued up about everything on the menu. I was invited to eat at White Rabbit, but in the words of Mr A Schwarzenegger – I will be back.
16 Bradbury St
London
020 7682 0163


coconut panch phoran sprouts

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Sprouts are possibly my least favourite of all vegetables. I’ve always been baffled by their time honoured spot on the table of otherwise deliciousness that makes up Christmas lunch.

So when an errant net of these toxic little brassicas turned up in my veg box I decided to do what I always do when faced with the unpalatable and give them a Bengali makeover.

Panch phoran, that magical Bengali five spice of fennel, fenugreek, cumin, mustard and nigella works really effectively here, namely because the fennel and mustard seeds temper and tame any sulphuric business. You do need to shred the sprouts quite finely and to patiently steam fry over a lowish heat until they’re properly caramelised and charred. A splash of coconut milk to mellow things out and a handful of prawns if you’ve got them make this a killer dish to have alongside a nice tomato, red onion and coriander salad and a stack of parathas to mop the lot up.

ingredients

brussel sprouts, trimmed and finely shredded
1 tbsp. oil
a pinch of turmeric
1-2 tsp. panch phoran (alternatively add fennel, cumin, mustard, nigella, fenugreek seeds)
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. fresh finely shredded ginger
1 tsp. dried red chilli (or chilli powder)
salt
sugar
200ml coconut milk

method

  • heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and all the spices.
  • Tip in the sprouts, mix well and fry over a lowish heat, partially covered with a lid for about 15-20 minutes or until charred and caramelised.
  • Add the salt and sugar and adjust seasoning according to taste. Add the coconut milk and serve.

niku jaga

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Niku jaga, literally means “meat and potatoes” in Japanese. I’ve had such a hankering for this simple hearty stew lately. I first tried it in the depths of a very snowy Saitama Winter when my neighbours Kei-chan and Masa-chan invited me over for dinner. Slightly sweet, savoury and rich with soy and caramelised beef, this is more comforting than a Hello Kitty onesey.  It might seem a bit odd to add sugar to a beef stew, but my mum always adds a hefty pinch to her phenomenal meat curries and here the see-saw of salty-sweet really works. The niku is traditionally wafer-thin slices of fatty steak but I found it to be just as satisfying with some leftover roast topside. If you do invest in steak, the whole thing is padded out with enough potatoes, carrots and shiitake mushrooms to justify matters. Perfect with a fat tangle of udon or steaming rice and fantastic the next day once the flavours have done that developing thing.

ingredients

serves 4

  • 1 tbsp. oil for frying
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into wedges
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • leftover roast beef or steak, thinly sliced
  • 500ml dashi stock/beef stock
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. sake/dry sherry
  • 3 tbsp. mirin
  • 4 tbsp. soy sauce
  • shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 100ml boiling water
  • handful of green beans

Method

Heat the oil up over a medium heat and saute the onions. After a few minutes add the potatoes and saute for another five minutes.

Add the carrots and mix well. Finally stir in the beef and continue to cook until it’s just turned pink.

Sprinkle over the sugar and stir until everything begins to caramelise then throw in the sake and reduce. Add the mushrooms and the soaking water.

Add the dashi, mirin and soy and bring to the boil (skim off any scum that arises)

Reduce and simmer for 15 minutes, add the beans.

Simmer for a further 5 minutes and serve.


pickled apple and smoked mackerel salad

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Faced with a glut of coxes I decided to try my hand at pickling a few. I can’t believe I’ve never done this before because pickled apples are truly superb. Sweet and crunchy yet saturated with the acidity of cider vinegar, these were the perfect partner to some smoked mackerel and fat chunks of garlic roasted onion squash. I trickled over lime and cumin yoghurt dressing for a truly autumnal mid week supper.

for the apples
2-3 coxes or other eating apples
200ml water
100ml cider vinegar
8 tsp. caster sugar
1 tsp. salt

for the roasted squash

one onion squash (or any squash) hacked into chunks

2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a sprinkling of mace
salt, oil

for the dressing
250ml greek yoghurt
a splash of olive oil
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground roasted cumin seeds
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 a finely diced red onion
the juice of half a lime

a handful of toasted sunflower seeds
watercress
lettuce
smoked mackerel, flaked

  • mix the sugar, salt, vinegar and water together in a bowl until dissolved.  Core and chunk the apples and leave to steep in this mixture.
  • Toss the pieces of squash in the mace, garlic, salt and oil and roast for about 40-50 minutes at gas mark 4 until tender.
  • Mix the dressing ingredients together. Place the lettuce, seeds  and cress in a salad bowl with the mackerel. Add the roasted squash and the drained pickled apples. Dress liberally with the yoghurt.

Feast to the Future


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I   had a salad last week that I can’t stop thinking about.
It was part of a lunch cooked by Ben Spalding representing the sort of thing we’ll all be eating in the year 2063. As part of the London Design Festival, Miele collaborated with Ben to create a futuristic foodie vision, more of which you can check out here. I was intrigued as I’d heard a lot about Ben, who’s worked with the likes of Heston and Raymond Blanc, but had never actually had the chance to try his cooking before.
Turns out that he’s a bit of a creative genius. I really admire his experimental approach to food and his contempt for any sort of waste (this is someone who likes to make interesting things to eat from burnt lime rind and banana peel). I also like the way he challenges conventional fine dining norms. “Cucumber and vodka” turned out to be a gel that we licked from the back of our hands (because let’s face it, all food tastes better when you do away with cutlery). We kicked things off with Patrik’s raw butter from Goteborg, sourdough loaf whipped malt bread and fermented elderflower. Veal brain dumplings with 3 month old kimchi was presented in an uber kawaii mini bamboo steamer and served with a crazy cocktail containing clamped carrot juice, tonka beans, tuna mayonnaise and lime which sounded disgusting but tasted like a well rounded virgin Mary with a kick.  Yum. This functional food cocktail was supposed to contain all the essential minerals and macro nutrients we’ll need to survive. Sticky rice with a savoury gravy was also lush (I skipped on the pork but was told it was very good). But for me, it was all about that salad. Every mouthful a lucky dip of liquorice, intensely sweet peach, aniseed here, earthy salty beetroot there, and a whole load of other stuff we couldn’t even begin to identify. All the ingredients were sourced from within London and the cress was grown in a prototype farmino machine.  We finished with a microwave cake with iced lemon thyme and muscovado sugar that was the very essence of strawberry shortcake dolls (in a good way).

I came away feeling inspired, full, thoroughly spoilt and like I could really, really do with a farmino machine in my life.


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