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One pot mussel wonder
1 kg mussels
40g butter plus a splash of olive oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
15-20 curry leaves
2 onions (about 225g) finely chopped
3 bay leaves
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. chilli powder
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1-2 dried red chillies
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. tamarind paste
200g wholegrain/brown basmati rice
300ml dry cider
400ml coconut milk
200ml vegetable stock
150g frozen peas
fresh coriander and lime wedges to serve
- check over the mussels, ripping out any beards, chucking away any that are broken, or that refuse to close despite being given a good tap against a hard surface. Stick the rest in a colander and wash under cold running water for a couple of minutes.
- Melt the butter over a medium heat and add the olive oil to prevent burning. Once it’s hot add the curry leaves, mustard and cumin seeds and allow to spit and crackle. Add the onion, bay leaves, garlic, chilli powder, curry powder, turmeric, salt and dried chillies and reduce to a very low heat. Allow to slowly brown and caramelise for a good half an hour or so.
- Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes. Glug in the cider and tamarind paste and turn the heat up to reduce until almost completely evaporated. Add the coconut milk, stock and sugar. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is almost cooked through (this took about 25 minutes, but it depends on your rice).
- Remove the lid and add the peas and mussels. Turn the heat up fairly high and put the lid on. After about 10 minutes they should all have opened (discard any that haven’t).
- Ladel the rice into warm soup bowls, pile the mussels on top, squeeze with plenty of lime juice and strew with the coriander.
Soft shell crab. Three words pretty much guaranteed to elicit a hedonic response, particularly as I now live in an area where I can’t get hold of the little critters for love nor money. I find the only thing more satisfying than the crunch of tiny exoskeletons is slathering them with gingery blueberry ketchup and spring onion mayo…the whole crunchy, creamy mess cushioned in a nutty yet sturdy wholemeal roll. Bliss.
Not to be confused with their blue swimming brethren, I had to make a special trip to Chinatown and came home minus twenty quid. On the plus side, I now have a massive box of individually wrapped Thai beauties half of which have taken up residence in the freezer, ready for my next craving. Blueberry ketchup is incredible and even if you can’t be done with faffing about over seafood, I’d recommend my tangsome blue sauce to fulfil all manner of dunking needs; it’s smashing with egg and chips.
Back in January I signed a two book deal with the mighty Kyle publishing. The first of my cookbooks will be out early next year, and although I haven’t included this recipe, it’s a little taster of the kind of thing you can expect.
For the blueberry ketchup
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1 fat garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. bottled tamarind sauce
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan and cook the onion until softened but not browned.Add in ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.
- tip in the blueberries, tamarind, sugar, vinegar and salt and simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes and until nicely thickened.
- Allow to cool, blend if you want a smooth texture and pour into a sterilised jar. Keeps happily in the fridge for a good fortnight.
For the soft shell crab
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. 5 spice powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. rice wine
100g rice flour
v.cold sparkling water
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 egg whites, beaten till frothy
1 heaped tsp. baking powder
8-10 soft-shell crabs
Rice flour for dusting the crabs
oil for deep frying
1 spring onion, finely chopped and mixed with 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
some token lettuce
- defrost the crabs. Combine the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, five spice powder, salt and rice wine and carefully marinade the crab (they’re pretty fragile) for a few hours in this mixture in the fridge. I managed to wait for about 6 hours.
- Mix the cornflour and rice flour, salt, garlic powder and baking powder. Gradually add enough sparkling water until it reaches the consistency of double cream. Fold in the soy sauce and egg whites.
- Have a plate ready with more rice flour and heat the oil in a wok. When you’re ready to deep fry, dust the crabs in the rice flour then dunk in the batter, coating well.
- Fry two at a time to golden perfection (they tend to spatter a lot so take care). Drain on kitchen paper before sandwiching in a roll with a hefty spoonful of blueberry ketchup, lettuce and a smear of spring onion mayonnaise.
Sprats. One of those pleasingly blunt, borderline expletive words. It’s up there with “sloes”, “Yarg”, “clod”, “Gurnard” and “sticking”, when it comes to foods that are as much of a delight to say as they are to eat. I clocked these unfashionable and underrated fun-sized fishes on the wet counter of my local supermarket the other day. There have been some pretty impressive offerings of late, including samphire, squid and cockles amongst the usual dyed haddock and mackerel, the sort of stuff you would have had to make a special trip to a proper fishmongers for a couple of years ago.
I bagged enough for two for the princely sum of £1.10 and decided upon a Japanese slant. Tempura can seem a bit intimidating, but like all Japanese cookery, it’s all about getting the little details right. The water should be ice cold, the batter shouldn’t be over-mixed (a few lumps are a good thing) and the oil should be hot enough so that the battered fish sinks down for a second or two before floating to the top where it blooms majestically into puffy crags. We wolfed these down hot from the kitchen paper with a simple brown sushi rice, avocado, spring onion, carrot and lettuce salad and some steamed green beans sprinkled with a toasted sesame and miso dressing.
For the sprats
About 15 sprats, washed thoroughly
110g (4oz) plain flour
75ml (3fl oz) sparkling mineral water, kept in the fridge, and then when you’re ready to cook in the freezer to ensure it’s as icy as possible.
Oil for deep frying
For the sushi rice salad
300g sushi rice
1 piece seaweed
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 large carrot, diced
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Some shredded lettuce
1 avocado cubed
Toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds
For the sesame miso beans
Green beans, topped and tailed
1 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp sugar
To make the rice salad
- Weigh out the rice and rinse well in a sieve. Leave for about 30 minutes for the rice to absorb some of the water droplets that cling.
- Tip into a saucepan and add the water. Add the seaweed, cover and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
- Let it boil for about 5 minutes, before turning the heat off and leaving it to steam with the lid on for 10-15 minutes. The rice should be perfectly cooked through.
- Mix the rice vinegar, salt and sugar, and once the rice has cooled down a little, add this and combine well.
- Pour into a bowl and mix with the lettuce, carrot, avocado and toasted seeds.
To make the beans
- Top and tail the beans and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes, so they’re cooked through but remain crisp and vibrant.
- Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until golden and crush in a pestle and mortar
- Mix with the miso paste and sugar before folding into the warm beans.
To make the tempura sprats
- Put the water in the freezer. Heat the oil in a pan/fryer to about 190 degrees.
- Once the oil is almost hot enough, beat the egg in a bowl, before adding the iced water. Lazily stir in the flour, being careful not to over-mix. Lumps are your friend.
- Rake the fish through the batter and test a piece. If it sinks for a couple of seconds before bobbing up to the surface, it’s hot enough.
- Fry in small batches for about 4-5 minutes and drain well on kitchen paper.
- Serve with a dipping sauce of dashi, mirin, sugar and soy, the rice salad and the beans.
Tangy, aromatic and fresher than a boxfresh pair of hightops, this is a lovely little springtime cuzza. Based on a Keralan pal’s recipe, the layers of nut do make it fairly rich, so you might want to go easy on the oil/tinned milk/flesh if you fancy more of a sour finish. Perfectamente with a hot portion of lemon rice (there’s a fab recipe here- http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-make-lemon-rice) chapattis and a spoonful of mango chutney on the side.
- 2-3 fresh squid, cleaned and hacked into rings (tentacles included)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 fresh coconut, cut into thin slices
- 250ml coconut milk (you could use the water from the fresh coconut for a lighter result or tinned coconut milk for a richer finish – I used a mixture of both)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (which incidentally also makes the most luscious popcorn)/ghee/olive oil
- 1 large handful of curry leaves
- 1 red chilli
- 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 large fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 250ml tamarind water
- 1 large handful of frozen peas (optional)
- 1 tsp curry powder
- fresh coriander
- 1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Heat the fresh coconut slices, coriander seeds and chilli in a dry frying pan over a medium heat (you’ll be cooking the curry in this later, so make sure it’s not too small).
- While that’s toasting, smear the squid in turmeric and salt in a small bowl.
- Set the toasted coconut and chilli aside and tip the seeds into a grinder/mortar and grind to a powder.
- Heat the coconut oil in the empty pan and once it’s sizzling, lob in the squid pieces for a quick flash fry.
- After a minute or two, remove the squid and drain on some kitchen paper.
- Add the mustard seeds, coriander powder, fennel seeds and curry leaves to the hot fat.
- As soon as the mustard seeds pop (this should happen fairly immediately) add the onion, garlic, whole red chilli and ginger.
- Once everything’s nice and brown, turn the heat down a little and add the fresh tomatoes. Cook for about five minutes until they break down and thicken into a sauce.
- Add the curry powder, tamarind water, coconut milk and stir well. Check the seasoning, you might want to add a bit more salt at this point,or if you think it could do with a bit more heat add the green chilli (I prefer it without personally).
- Re-introduce the squid pieces and simmer for 10 minutes . Add the peas if you’re using them and simmer for a further 5 minutes. The squid should be cooked through but also extremely tender.
- Strew with the toasted coconut and coriander and serve immediately with wedges of lime.
There was once a time when all you’d ever hear about was Nobu and that black cod miso dish. That was until “The End of the Line” exposed it to be the bluefin-plundering, money-grabbing, z list hang out it really is. Still, you can see why the dish was such a winner. That deeply savoury rot of the marinade, sweet and salty against oily flesh was and still is pretty genius.
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.
In his fascinating book “An Edible History Of Humanity” Tom Standage identifies the origins of the Black Death in the lucrative fourteenth century spice trade. He deftly recaptures the way in which Jani Beg, the khan of the Golden Horde attempted to deter Genoese traders from exploiting the port of Caffa for trading slaves by catapulting them with the plague ridden corpses of his own army. As the few remaining survivors fled westwards they carried the plague home with them in their ships. (For some reason this struck a particular chord with me, quite possibly because my mother’s maiden name is Beg).
Ironically, popular Western belief dictated that spices or “splinters of Paradise” as they were called, could also purify the corrupted air and offer protection from the plague. Standage discusses the Muslim curtain which blocked European access to the East and the aggressive race to bust around this stronghold and be the first to form a direct link with precious exotica such as cloves and cinnamon. He recounts the way in which Vasco da Gama and his crew of thugs savagely looted unarmed Muslim ships off the coast of India, and used the prisoners for crossbow practice. How the hands, noses and ears of these prisoners were cut off and sent ashore while the mutilated captives were bound and burnt to death in their own ships. It’s so easy for us today to just stroll casually past the glorious technicolour bounty of little screw top jars on our supermarket shelves and forget that their relationship with these shores has a long and blood-seeped history.
With one eye on the bag of slowly defrosting keski, the distant ringing thrums down the handset, like some sort of Vodaphonic heartbeat. I tilt my head unnaturally to crick it twixt ear and chin.
“Hello?” her voice is small and husky with exhaustion. I hear the days of graft in that hello. The years of ruined eyesight bartered for long nights of dress-making just to raise and educate her brood. I never call as much as I should.
“Maa, it’s me.” I look at the rapidly melting block of tiny, thread-like bodies with their scattered, sequin eyes. They stare back at me, frozen in a piscine twister of animation.
It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m skulking around Borough Market in my lunch break wondering what to make for supper. At the same time, I’m trying very very hard not to look at anything. This is every bit as torturous as it sounds. In fact it’s practically impossible and I urge you never to try it. Everyone I walk past is eating something mouthwateringly tasty, chorizo in a bun, humungous venison burgers, burnt sugar fudge or fresh, smoky paella, leaving trails of agonising deliciousness in their wake. Everything smells so good. The sun is shining and everyone looks so happy and carefree. I on the other hand want to cry.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s usually nowhere else I’d rather be when appropriately blessed with plenty of cash and time, buying a single Colchester native oyster here, an Arbroath Smokie there, chatting away to the lovely stall holders. Then cycling home with my treasures, giddy with the luxurious anticipation of tipping it all out on the kitchen table and realizing that once again I’ve bought an utterly random collection of food (but oh what bourgeoisie fun I’ve had buying it).
So much of the buzz of the market for me is talking to the stall holders. I’ve got to know quite a few of them over the years. There’s that nice man at the Wyndham Poultry stall who once spent weeks saving egg boxes and trays for me so I could soundproof the bedroom of our 24 hour party flat. Or the man on Furness Fish who slips me free bits of Pollack when Les isn’t looking. The ever-cheerful girls at Elsey and Bent and that lovely lady at De Gustibus who always does me a loaf of sourdough for a pound (now that I’ve worked out the precise time to turn up). There’s also Chris McFarlane who went to my 6th form. Chris used to skateboard and listen to the Pixies; my best friend Anna had the most god awful crush on him. He now runs the Boerenkaas stall – the rosemary wrapped Romero has a life span of approximately 20 minutes in our household.
My constant mewling about being skint seems to be paying off. The other day Abel and Cole sent me a box of freebies to sample in return for a review. It was only a small box mind you, but it was gratis nonetheless. I would love to be the sort of gluttonous liar that might declare it all to be utterly delicious, thereby ensuring a steady supply of organic goodies from them and indeed other purveyors of fine grub. Unfortunately that sort of back scratching sycophantic nonsense just isn’t for me. Furthermore, I can just picture the look of utter horror on my old BJ (broadcast journalism) lecturer Martin Shaw’s face and I have to kill the thought stone dead in its corrupt little tracks.
I do happen to really like Abel and Cole as they tick all the right ethical boxes with me, so I was mildly excited to receive their surprisingly over-packaged box containing some free hand picked white Cornish crab from the “Seafood and Eat it” company, some Laverstoke Park Farm mozzarella, some black olive hummous and some thin, white maize tortilla chips from Garcia.
This was quite literally a mixed bag, in the sense that half of it was positively manna from above and half of it was quite possibly the worst stuff I’ve ever put in my mouth since that fateful time I was tricked into eating basashi (otherwise known as “horse sushi” –I spat it out as soon as I realised what it was).
The tortillas were far too salty (and I like my salt). They were also vaguely reminiscent of stale Mazola. The hummous was a pot of indistinguishable grey sludge with no discernible flavour whatsoever. It was crying out for garlic or even just salt. I couldn’t work out why anyone would create anything so tasteless, let alone send it for review.
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 »
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 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.
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.