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.


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.

Smoked aubergine youvetsi

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Summertime stodge. Nobody nails it quite like those canny Greeks. This classic melange of lamb, tomato and rice-shaped pasta is the ideal thing to simmer up and leave on the blip while you crack on with more important things (like constructing makeshift paddling pools from plastic buckets, for example). I particularly love the way the grains of orzo swell up with cinnamon scented lamby juices and have included smoked aubergine and anchovy stuffed olives in my version. Although I’m guessing it’s not completely authentic; I can confirm that by heck it’s tasty.

This is at it’s most delicious served ever so slightly warm with lots of Greek salad and ripped up baguette.

serves 4-6

ingredients

half a shoulder of lamb, cubed

olive oil

1 aubergine, chunked

8-10 shallots, peeled and halved

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 glass red wine

2 tbsp. anchovy stuffed olives

1 cinnamon stick

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 pint stock (lamb or vegetable)

2 tsp. each of dried oregano and thyme

1 dried chilli

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

150g orzo

100g feta, diced

fresh mint leaves

method

- in a large pan brown the lamb in batches and set aside. Fry onion and garlic in the fat. Place the aubergine over a gas burner or in  the oven to blister. Cool when black.

-return the lamb to the pot, crank up the heat and pour in the wine. Reduce and introduce  the olives, tomatoes, rosemary, chilli, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and stock. Peel and dice the aubergine and add to the pot.

- simmer over a low heat for at least 2 hrs (I lasted for 4). Stir occasionally and more water as necessary.

-Remove cinnamon stick. Add more water and tip in the orzo. Cook for another 20 minutes or until the orzo is done.

- Serve in shallow bowls strewn with feta and mint.


Big IF/ Foodies Festival

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So here’s one for the diary. Next Saturday (8th June) yours truly will be demonstrating how to make the above plateful of brunchtime goodness in the Chef’s Theatre at the Clapham Common Foodies Festival. I’ll be cooking alongside the likes of Ian Pengelley, Omar Allibhoy and Shelina Permalloo (winner of Masterchef 2012) and will be on at 11.00am. Please do swing by and say hello if you’re in the vicinity (more details here).

Later that afternoon, I’ll be heading over to Hyde Park for the Big IF event.  You should too.  It’s going to be a glorious day.


Food Revolution Day

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Ever find yourself wanting to trash your local fried chicken shop? Feel yourself coming over all Taxi Driver when you’re sat next to selfish gits stinking out the train with their big macs? Or are you just a bit worried about the bloated, degenerative way in which we’re collectively sleep-running towards obesity and type 2 diabetes? Jamie’s Food Revolution Day takes place next Friday (17th May) and I’ll be doing my little bit by hosting an interactive sushi rolling session for toddlers at the Toy Library in Walthamstow.

We’ll be rolling up our maki with a selection of the following treats: brown sushi rice, miso roasted salmon, avocado, cucumber, crab sticks, pickled carrot, spinach, spring onion, daikon, steamed asparagus and sesame-yuzu cream cheese.

It’s going to be brilliant, messy and chaotic fun. Sign up here to host your own event.


Farmison

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It’s been one of those months. One of those endless months where every cupboard is ransacked for pulses and grains to eke out. One of those never ending months where unlabelled plastic boxes are hopefully defrosted and root vegetables are repeatedly experimented with. And one of those long, long months where we squint at the shopping receipts again and again and wonder if we dare stick the heating on.

We rarely argue, but all of a sudden, our differences in priorities over the  food shop slip from teeny fissures into yawning, great chasms. Like most people that just aren’t that fussed about what canters down the cakehole, my OH is content to blithely lob Cathedral City and caged eggs into the basket, whereas I will forego new threads and lather up with budget shampoo in order to eat well. And so we bicker and then we compromise and what we’re left with is a schizo fridge where organic whole milk rubs shoulders with basics Mozarella next to locally grown kale next to a jar of ready made pasta sauce next to a pan full of the stuff I’ve made myself from scratch. We’re both convinced the other has got it completely wrong and we’re enjoying a particularly heated conversation to this effect, when the doorbell goes and it’s like all my religious festivals have come at once.

When Farmison asked if I wanted to review some of their stuff, I wasn’t expecting an entire fortnight’s worth of gourmet delights. But hallelujah here they are, the magnificent fruit and veg box (red skinned potatoes-check, properly sweet oranges-check), the meat box brimming with Dexter veal and salt marsh lamb and the most amazing cheese box we’ve ever had. Even better than our wedding cake.

Farmison deliver seasonal, local produce that they’ve lovingly sourced from the farm to your doorstep within 48 hours. If ever I win the lottery I am going to order my food from them all the time and exile crappy Cheddar from my fridge forever. Until then I’ve got the memory of this incredible lot to feast off.

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The veal and lamb go straight in the freezer and I joint up the chicken. The breast goes into Fuchsia Dunlop’s celestial gong bau chicken and the legs and thighs make a killer tikka masala, padded out with plenty of vegetables. The carcass forms the base of a chicken and vegetable soup with parsley dumplings, so that chook alone keeps  us going for a good 3 days. And the cheeses, oh the cheeses! The cheeses are a revelation.We spend a couple of days just looking at them, calculating in which order to demolish. We tussle over the Bluemin White and inhale the whole thing with crackers in front of the iplayer. The only duff note is the Caboc, which is almost aggressively cloying, it’s basically a cylinder of double cream rolled in oats. The Harrogate blue is one of the most exciting examples of immortalised milk I’ve ever sampled. My new happy place consists of buttercup golden saltiness shot through with the tangiest of moulds. I single-handedly pick at the entire wedge one exhausted evening.

The Monk’s Folly is sliced into a potato, caramelised shallot and sundried tomato tart. The Yorkshire Blue is crumbled into a sharp dressing which we fork through the remnants of the cabbage. The Dexter veal is languorously pot roasted for hours with sage,oregano, parsley, garlic, wine and cream. We watch the snow fall and have it sliced thickly with creamed turnips and potatoes. The salt marsh lamb is baked to tenderness in a salt dough crust. The apples go into a sticky toffee date and apple pudding. The Marie Flower goes into some decadently oozing little feuilletés . We make it through to payday. Just.

Marie Flower and balsamic spinach feuilletés

Ingredients

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 nuggets of frozen spinach

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp. sour cream

2 tbsp. finely grated decent cheddar

1 block of Marie flower (or other soft sheep’s cheese) rind removed and cut into 1cm cubes

Freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper

1 sheet ready rolled all butter puff pastry

1 beaten egg mixed with a little milk to glaze

Method

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently soften the garlic and shallot. Add the spinach nuggets and the balsamic vinegar and cook until defrosted. Remove from the heat, cool and stir in the cubes of Marie Flower, sour cream and cheddar. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Flour your surface and roll out the pastry. Cut into 8 squares. Heap the contents of the pan equally in the centre of each square, leaving a thick margin all around. Brush the edges of each square with the eggy-milk wash and bring the corners in to the centre and crimp together to form a sort of envelope. Try not to leave any gaps or the filling will ooze out during baking. Brush liberally with the remaining egg-milk wash.
  • Place each feuilleté on a greased baking sheet and bake at 200C for 20 minutes or until golden and puffy.

Chicken and vegetable tikka masala

ingredients

2 tbsp. lime juice

2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. chilli powder

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. curry powder, toasted

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and diced

¼  savoy cabbage, shredded

750g skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks

125ml thick Greek yoghurt

125ml double cream

For the masala sauce

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh ginger, julienned

Half a bulb of garlic, crushed

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. coriander powder

½ tsp. turmeric powder

½ tsp. chilli powder

1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped

200g chopped tinned tomatoes

3 tbsp. tomato puree

½ tsp. garam masala

300ml chicken stock

2 tbsp. freshly chopped coriander

1 ½ tsp. salt

method

  • Mix the lime, ginger, garlic, cumin, chilli powder, paprika and curry powder with the yoghurt and cream. Mix the chicken pieces in this coating well and leave in the fridge from anywhere between a couple of hours to overnight.
  • Brush the the chicken pieces with a little oil and grill until slightly charred in places.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger. Add the potatoes and carrots and sprinkle over the coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir in the carrot and fresh green chilli. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the tinned tomatoes, salt  and tomato puree. Add the chicken stock and garam masala and reduce until you’re left with a thick sauce. Add the cabbage and cook until just tender. Fold in the grilled chicken pieces and eat with a stack of fresh parathas.

 


Za’atar Onion Rings

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One of the main reasons I could never move to the countryside is because I seriously couldn’t bear to be too far from the ethnic shops and grocers I’ve grown up with in the smoke. I’m constantly amazed at the comedy prices supermarkets slap onto exotic ingredients like those miniature packets of okra, tiny bags of rootless coriander leaves, pickled lemons and tahini. But then, I am lucky enough to live near a Moroccan butchers where I can scoop up big bottles of pomegranate molasses, decorative tins of harissa and home made packages of nutty, herb flecked za’tar at about an eighth of the price. It’s always nice when you can make dishes that don’t ultimately taste of rip off.

I wanted to try something more exciting with my za’atar than just dipping it in bread and these onion rings were the answer. Hot and crunchy with the fluffiest of fillings; we gingerly ate them dipped straight from the pan into cold, creamy yoghurt speckled with garlic, mint, cumin and salt.

serves 2

ingredients

1 large onion, sliced into rings and separated

100g rice flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

8 tbsp. za’atar

1 egg

250-300ml milk

a dinner plate sprinkled with panko breadcrumbs

oil for frying

parmesan cheese, finely grated

a wire rack placed over some foil/kitchen roll

method

  • heat the oil
  • mix the flour, baking powder, za’atar and salt in a small bowl and dip the onion rings in this mixture until well coated. Set aside.
  • Crack the egg and whisk the milk into the remaining flour mixture in the small bowl and dip the floured onion rings into the batter, coating well. Place on the wire rack to drain.
  • combine the panko crumbs and Parmesan in a shallow platter coat each ring thoroughly. Tap off any excess.
  • deep fry the rings in small batches for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle over a little more za’atar and serve immediately.

Roast Goose

Those unbelievably generous folk at the Ginger Pig gifted me a couple of geese, one of which formed the centrepiece of my son’s first ever Christmas lunch this weekend. We invited a load of mates round and our friend Charlie (seen here making his cookery demo debut) helped out with the hacking duties; despite not really knowing his oysters from his eyeballs.

It was a truly amazing meal and well worth the honk of goose fat that hung around the flat afterwards. The other one went straight in the freezer and I’ve decided to spread the festive love by giving it away to one of you lucky lot.
If you’d like to win a massive Ginger Pig free range, dry plucked, lovingly reared goose for your Christmas lunch, just leave a nice comment on the facebook page for my forthcoming book*

 roast goose

 

ingredients

2 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp Maldon sea salt
the zest of 2 clementines
zest of 1 lime
1 lemon
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 large onion, quartered
 small bunch sage, finely chopped
1/2 bulb garlic, finely chopped

 

method

  • Wash the goose and pat dry. Prick the skin all over (taking care not to puncture the flesh) especially targeting those ultra fatty pockets around the wings.
  • Combine the five spice, sea salt, citrus zests and thyme and rub all over the skin and in the cavity.
  • Chop the zested fruit up and mix with the sage, garlic and onion and push into the cavity.
  • Roast the bird at 200C for 10mins, then turn down to 190C for 30mins per kilo. Baste every 30 minutes and pour off excess fat (to roast vegetables in).
  • Wrap in foil and a bath towel to rest for 45 minutes (while you roast your veggies) and serve with roast apples, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, peas, stuffing and gravy.

 
*winner to be picked on Thursday 19th, goose to be collected from E17 by Sunday 22nd


Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club

I’m featured in tonight’s episode of Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club. Tune in to Channel 4 at 9pm to watch me stuffing my face with lamb’s testicles and bull’s pizzle pie. Yum yum!


Lamb Diane with Feta and Dill

If you’re after boozy, creamy, gorgeousness as well as a full on exercise in kitschness, then look no further. I’ve always preferred lamb to beef so decided to give some thick cut lamb steaks the old brandy-cream treatment. Crumbling feta and showering dill into the sauce really took things somewhere special. This was so tasty we had it twice in the same week.

serves 3

ingredients

6 thick cut lamb chops

1 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tbsp. Worcester sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil

A knob of butter

200g chopped mushrooms

1 large onion, chopped

75ml cider brandy

300ml stock

100g feta

2 tbsp. double cream

2-3tbsp. finely chopped dill

method

  • combine the dried parsley, thyme,  garlic, Worcester sauce and olive oil and coat the chops. Leave in the fridge for anywhere between 3 hours-overnight.
  • Heat the butter in a large frying pan and once it’s foaming add the meat plus any excess marinade, browning well all over.
  • Nudge the chops to one side of the pan and add the chopped mushrooms and onion. Cook until everything takes on a nice mahogany hue, then crown each chop with the mushroom-onion mixture.
  •  Turn the heat up and pour in the cider brandy. Reduce until syrupy and pour in the stock. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  •  Remove the meat and keep warm. Turn heat up again, crumble in the feta and simmer with lid off for about 10 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Stir in the double cream and allow to bubble a little.
  • Finally sprinkle in the dill and serve the chops with the sauce poured over, sautéed potatoes and something green.

The Long Table

Next Friday sees the launch of East London’s first night time street market and I’m absolutely delighted to announce that, once again I’ve been invited to fire up the hot plates and share some of the Bengali home cooked love. I’ll be in some pretty incredible company: other stalls include The Loft Project, Sho Foo Doh okonomiyaki, Moro, Taiwanese treats from Yum Buns, Big Apple Hotdogs, Climpsons Coffee, Doughnut Girl, Jez Meatball Man, London Fields Brewery, Hawksmoor, an Oyster bar from Fin and Flounder and many exciting others. I’ll be there with my traditional slow cooked Bengali goat and potato curry, spinach and peas with home made paneer, smoked aubergine dal, vegetable pulao and plenty more of my home made snacks.

I met up with Dave, one of the organisers yesterday and as we gazed down from the Dalston Roof Park at the remote triangular space hidden away at the end of Abbot Street  he explained how with log fires, a huge marquee, acoustic bands and a long communal table at which diners can enjoy their amazing treats, the idea will be to encourage people to enjoy the sense of inherent warmth you only really get from a proper communal gathering. From 6pm -12am every Friday in the run up to Christmas it promises to be absolutely epic and Friday nights in Dalston really won’t ever be the same again.


Spicy Sausage Rolls at the Underground Market

Our “ruby murray” stall – photo by Kerstin Rogers

Flaky, delicate pastry with a spicy thwack of chillified filling, my spicy sausage rolls were a bit of a hit on Saturday and turned out to be just the thing for bonfire night.

I literally had no idea what to expect from Ms Marmite Lover’s underground market. I’d never been to one, let alone run a stall there, but her latest was a fantastic, gloriously surreal festival-like shebang. Although I didn’t actually get a chance to see everything, as we were too busy serving food, I met an almost endless stream of genuinely lovely people. I particularly enjoyed the spirit of camaraderie amongst the stallholders, and was really touched by some of the comments about our food.

Quantities had been a bit of a question mark. I had absolutely no idea how much to make, despite having spent the previous few days frantically exchanging emails with Helen from Food Stories and Kerstin trying to work this out. So I was super chuffed and much-surprised at our popularity – we managed to sell out of pretty much everything in the few hours we were open. I’ve always relished the idea of feeding people the food I love to eat at home, you know, the stuff you never really come across in restaurants. Seeing the delighted look on people’s faces after taking an initial bite was an incredible buzz, and some of the nicest feedback came from people who seemed gobsmacked that I didn’t sell my food regularly and demanded that I immediately rectify this.

Huge thanks to Kerstin for inviting us and organising such a terrific event.

INGREDIENTS

8 sausages, slit down the middle and liberated from their casings (I made half a batch with Quorn sausages and half with beef)

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2-3 fresh green chillies

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 inch ginger, peeled

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2-3 tsp mustard oil

All butter puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

METHOD

  • Blitz the onion, ginger, garlic and chillies in a spice grinder/coffee mill
  • Heat the mustard oil and when it’s hot add the mustard seeds, which should sizzle immediately.
  • Introduce the onion mixture and fry until golden.
  • Once this has cooled, mix into the sausage meat, along with the curry powder and a pinch of salt.
  • Roll out the pastry and fill with the sausage meat. Seal and brush liberally with the beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes at 200C/gas mark 6 or until golden brown and cooked through.

Bombay toast with peach and tomato salsa

Creamy, oozing with comfort and addictive little stabs of chilli this savoury French toast with an Indian twist is just the dish to take refuge in whenever you’re feeling hungry, tired, skint or all three. It’s a proper serotonin-raiser, whether we’re talking a decadent breakfast in bed gesture or a midweek, post-work-pre-flicks/plonked on the sofa type affair. The peach and tomato salsa is bright, punchy and the perfect accompaniment (it’s basically my Bengali tomato salsa recipe plus a couple of very ripe peaches), although a hefty blob of ketchup is just fine if you really can’t be bothered. My aunt in Rochdale makes hers using cheap white sliced bread but for me it’s all about the nuttiness of wholemeal.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 2

1-2 tbsp single cream

A large pinch of curry powder

4 of the finest eggs money can buy

slices of bread

½ Fresh green finger chilli sliced (or more if you like your heat)

1-2 tbsp finely chopped coriander

1 shallot, finely chopped/spring onion

Salt and pepper

Tomato bortha/Bengali tomato salsa with a couple of ripe peaches roughly chopped and crushed in.

METHOD

  • Beat together the eggs and add the curry powder, cream, chilli, coriander, shallot and salt and pepper.
  • Place a slice of bread in the mixture and leave for about 5 minutes then turn over, until well saturated with the egg mixture.
  • Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and when sizzling carefully add the bread. Brown on both sides.
  • Repeat until all the egg has been used up and serve hot with plenty of salsa/ketchup.

BREAD

It’s always the simple things.

There’s something so impressive, so comforting and so magical about the transformative alchemy that takes place when the basics of flour, water, yeast and salt are confronted with fire. The olfactory effect of this particular Maillard reaction is also big business. Nowadays, it mugs us in both the super and the property markets. They spritz the canned scent of baguettes in the aisles and use freshly browning loaves to lasso us into buying when we attempt to climb that greasy old property pole.

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Ottolenghi’s Caramelised Garlic Tart

This is Incredible.

Make it for someone you love kind of incredible. Can’t wait to make it again and again kind of incredible. Make it in the afternoon and watch it cease to exist by the evening kind of incredible. Thyme scented garlic, slick with balsamic syrup, glossier than Cheryl Cole’s barnet kind of incredible. Clods of butternut roasted to coax out the sugar, cosseted in a duvet of delicately shuddering dairy kind of incredible. There are no words kind of incredible.

Mr Ottolenghi – I salute you.

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The Great British Bloody Mary Challenge

Bloody Murder.  Ruddy Mary and Bloody Maureen. Whether you like your poison with sake, wasabi and black vinegar or Guinness instead of vodka; there are some deliciously expletive variations on the classic combo of tomato, spice and vodka.

Monday night saw a bit of a bloody Mary-off at Hix Restaurant in Selfridges.  We stood about with the likes of Henry Kelly, Patrick Anthony, Nancy Lam and Vanessa Feltz as some of London’s finest bartenders did their thing.

Mark Hix, Charles Campion, Tom Parker Bowles and Nick Strangeway formed the judging panel and Brian Turner compered.  I like Brian Turner. He has something of the embarrassing uncle about him – you just know he has some awful jokes up his sleeve and dances terribly to dad rock. I bet he’s good at darts too.

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Flavour Behaviour – The Evening Standard/The Guerilla Scientist’s Flavour Feast

Hello. I’m delighted to have been featured in an Evening Standard article about the behaviour of flavour and eccentric food combinations written by the brilliant Liz Hoggard. You can read all about it here.

Sampling a crazy feast at The Secret Garden Party I was given a lesson in how key the whole orchestra of smell, sight, sound, texture and hormones really are when it comes to flavour.

Seated around a dining table in the middle of a field with the beautiful and the bedraggled we devoured a gigantic jelly brain, section by section whilst engaging young neuroscientist, Zarinah Agnew explained the differing functions of each – an unforgettable experience.


We were then instructed to clamp our nostrils in a blind tasting of Skittles, and found our tastebuds rendered completely numb.
We painted our tongues with blue dye and poked them out at one another in order to count the number of undyed tastebuds – an abundance was indicative of a “supertaster” (one with a heightened palate and increased sensitivity to flavour).We sniffed fruitlessly at lurid green test tubes of raspberry and electric blue ones of apple in an attempt to identify what on earth these might be. When served dishes of tender scarlet spheres of agar agar, without its familiar healthy crunch, it was impossible to pick out the intense taste of celery. Our heads were further messed with when we were poured and asked to describe glasses of red wine. The ever-predictable “berries”, “leather” and “tobacco” were suggested, and we were later  astonished to learn that we had in fact been sipping a crisp dry white, that had been dyed. An absolutely genius way of being forced to confront our visual preconceptions and the dominance of the brain over the tongue.

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Hashi Cooking Class

Let’s face it, a lot of cookery classes can be a bit of a let down can’t they? Far too often you have all the exciting, fun bits done for you, while you’re left feeling more than a little bit patronised and relegated to stir, perhaps. Like some sort of small child, “your” finished dish is praised and cooed over, even though you  both know that you haven’t really made it at all.

Thankfully, the Hashi cooking class is nothing like this. Yes, some of the stuff is prepped (after all, you’d be there all night otherwise) but there is an immediate feeling of engagement and passion – I came away feeling like I’d genuinely learnt something new and useful. In Reiko’s beautiful Wimbledon kitchen, along with Su-Lin, Carly, Kavey , Cara , Denise and Luiz Hara (her trusty assistant for the evening)  I learnt how to shape gyoza correctly (instead of my usual Cornish pasty type creations), how to balance flavours and the best place in London for sashimi-grade fish (Atari-ya). We cooked up a garlicky beef tataki with creamy sesame sauce, some of the finest gyoza I’ve had in the West, zaru soba with velvety spicy aubergine and her signature dish of scallops with creamy spicy sauce on sushi rice. All this was washed down with copious amounts of green tea and a selection of fine wines to match, lovingly chosen by @winesleuth.

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Wahaca

When did it all get so manic? I find myself with so little time on my hands these days that I rarely make it to foodie launches or parties anymore. In fact, I hate to admit it, but I’m rapidly becoming more of a bolted-salad-on-the-way-to-the-next- board-meeting kind of woman. Last night however, I decided to ditch the shoulder pads and found myself at the launch of Wahaca’s new summer menu. The thing I love about Thomasina’s food is the way in which the dishes are all so unpretentious, authentic and secretly quite good for you.

Highlights included a mouth popping ceviche tostada, a ridiculously intense hibiscus and passionfruit jelly and my favourite fryer-fresh, cinnamon-scented churros y chocolate. I do luff the fried dough.

I’d never tried cornbread before- our seemingly endless feast included warm buttercup yellow hunks of the stuff. The texture was lovely, like savoury Madeira cake which came replete with a fat slick of rich mole sauce.  I also loved the new cactus taco with courgette and cheese – the cactus flesh was a revelation; subtle, savoury and yet simultaneously bursting with freshness. What’s more 20p of the cost of each of these beauties goes to the EDNICA Charity, supporting the street children of Mexico.  Never before has doing it for the kids been quite so delicious…

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Riverford Field Kitchen, Burts Chips and Barbers 1833 Cheddar

An ophthalmologist friend of mine has this theory that myopia is far more prevalent amongst city dwellers than country folk. I suppose this makes sense when you think about it. In the countryside you frequently get to cast your gaze out far and wide over huge vistas of emerald and azure; while – let’s face it, in the city any hopes of visual exercise are swiftly mugged by the inevitable urine stained brick wall no more than arms length away at any given time.

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