Sunday, 30 September 2007

Grilled Squid with Rocket and a Grapefruit & Mint vinaigrette

I think squid has to be one of my favourite foods, so much so that whenever I am in the Greek Islands with my good friend Noel (usually every summer), I insist upon having squid at least once a day. I love the taste of grilled squid, the tentacles being the bit I savour the most. One great Greek dish is squid saganaki which is baked with tomatoes, herbs and feta cheese. However nothing quite beats the smell of squid being cooked over a charcoal fire.
This salad is light and delicious, with peppery rocket and citrus punch from the grapefruit and lemon adding a sweet freshness that cuts through the richness of the squid. The squid needs to be really fresh, and not the frozen ones with the tentacles packed into body. Cleaning and gutting a squid is a messy business, so get your fishmonger to do that bit for you if you are feeling squeamish.
Ingredients for 4 people:
2 medium squid
Rocket leaves
1 large pink grapefruit
2 unwaxed lemons
Good extra virgin olive oil
Clean the body of the squid and score lightly in cross hatches. Cut the body and tentacles into medium sized pieces and marinate in some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and lemon zest, salt and pepper. Get a lightly oiled griddle pan searingly hot and cook the squid until the edges caramalise and crisp. Set aside. Prepare the rocket leaves and dress lightly with olive oil and season. Cut the segments out of the grapefruit and toss in with the squid and let the juices mingle. Pile onto plates and top with rocket leaves. Drizzle with a vinaigrette of 2 parts olive oil to 1/2 part lemon juice and 1/2 part grapefruit juice, salt, pepper and a few finely chopped mint leaves. Sprinkle with a few Maldon salt crystals and serve.

Roasting Squash with Bay and Chilli

Having decided not to butcher my ornamental gourds, I did decide however to roast some squash in preparation for a soup that I will make later. I love roasting these beauties as their flesh turns so soft and velvety. I love the heat of chilli with this, and I find bay and rosemary goes very well with this too. The roasted squash is delicious with roasted meats or as a filling for home made ravioli (if you are feeling adventurous and want to make your own pasta..). Alternatively squash goes really well with a piece of grilled salmon and some bakchoi and a soy & mirin dressing made with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil.
I use this as a base for soup, which is perfect for a Sunday night supper. Any leftovers freeze well
To make a pan full:
Slice up a deseeded and skinned pumpkin or squash.
Roast with 2 chillies, bay leaves and sprig of rosemary.
Blitz in a food processor with 300/400 ml of hot vegetable stock (I sometimes dilute a few teaspoons of marigold vegetable stock into a pint of water and simmer gently with a bouquet garni). Get the soup to your desired consistency. Sieve and place in a pan to warm through. Then stir through 100ml of single cream or creme fraiche and season well. Serve with griddled sourdough crostini and a drizzle of creme fraiche and chopped chives.

Grilled Chicken breast with Chargrilled Pepper & Tomato Chutney

The second installment of yesterday's lunch was created using these beautiful peppers and tomato and an organic chicken breast. The breast was butterflied and marinated in some good oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and sea salt.
With this I made a warm chutney that was oozing with rich flavours, and simply made by sweating an onion, to which I added a chopped tomato and the peppers (that had previously been chargrilled on a naked flame - then placed inside a plastic bag to ease the removal of the skins) and a whole chilli to add background heat. I then added about a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. I cooked it down for a further 10 minutes, making sure that there were still had a rustic consistency.
The chicken breast was grilled and then sliced and placed upon a slice of toasted sourdough bread, with the chutney spooned over the top. I topped it with peashoots that were to hand, but rocket or flat leaf parsley would be excellent here too.

Gorgonzola Dolce with caramalised apple, walnuts and peashoots

This is a quick lunch dish I made yesterday for my friend Meri. As I was enthralled by all of the autumn colours at the market, I quickly decided to use apples and some sweet, delicious Gorgonzola Dolce. The warm caramalised apples softly melt the cheese, with the walnuts adding a musky crunch.
This recipe is a literaly a case of toasting a thick slice of sourdough bread, drizzling it with some good olive oil and then placing some apple slices that have been caramalised with a little olive oil and a pinch of sugar. Over the apples break the cheese into pieces and scatter with walnut pieces. Top with some fine leaves (I used peashoots here, but rocket or mizuna would be equally good too), and drizzle with a little oil and a scattering of Maldon sea salt.

Autumnal abundance at the Pimilico Road Farmer's Market

Yesterday started with one of those stunning autumn mornings; bright, crisp with a whiff of change in the air. It was a perfect opportunity to cycle to my local Farmer's Market on Orange Square, SW1. For me the market is a great way of keeping in touch with the seasons, and their spoils. The market has some great stalls, one of my favourites is the Kingcup Farm stall which is filled with great locally grown produce and much to my delight they always have a wide array of unusual herbs (yarrow, dill flowers, salad burnett, fat hen, lucerne, dandelion and borage) as well as a wide array of tubers and beets. The Kohl Rabi got my attention, as did the stunning rosehips (which make a great syrup or jelly - it also is the component in itching powder which is made from the innards of the rosehips) and the densely black sloes which are great for flavouring gin. I always find the colours of the vegetables so inspiring, and select whatever looks most vibrant and appealing. I definately get 'colour days', where I am drawn to food with certain colours and will cook with a whole palette of foods from a certain colour group. Yesterday was definately a red day, as one of my finds were crab-apples that I intend to make into a jelly that will be flavoured with spruce.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Seasonal beauties...the ornamental gourd

I have always loved gourds and I collect them in different shapes and sizes, from massive bloated ones (a half of one is a vessel for magazines), to ones that have been intricately pierced and scarred with patterns that resemble African tribal markings. These coloured ones I fished out of my local farmer's market, and since I bought them I haven't had the heart to chop them up into one dish or another.
Instead they are going to sit around like a vegetal still life and play at being a Francis Bacon in my kitchen. I could, like Martha Stewart immortalise them as lampshades or as a snazzy clutch bag (see other images), but instead I'll take great joy in watching their colours gently fade.

Sainsbury's Taste Festival - Radio Interviews with Steven Wallis, October 2nd 2007

As part of Sainsbury's Taste Festival, which will promote in-store many of their delicious foods through tasting - I will be interviewed on the radio, the morning of October 2nd 2007. I will be discussing how taste has changed my life and how that has influenced so many other elements in my life... quite a lot I'd say! Further details TBC.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Amusing Amuses Bouche...approach with caution

As part of a recent dinner that I cooked, I quite glibly agreed to make amuse bouche as part of the evening's proceedings, with little understanding as to what a fiddle and a stress the whole experience would be. Having seen (albeit from safe distance) many fine chefs create their own renditions of amuses bouche, I thought that I too could have a go and create someting equally spectacular. Needless to say that the making and presentation of said 'mouth pleasures' almost derailed my timings for the rest of the courses, which it has to be said have always been my bete noire and left me in a bit of a timing tailspin. In future I will leave all of that fuss to the professionals and the fine, gilded establishements where they belong.
My nonsense rendition included:
Baby Vine Tomato stuffed with Tartare of Beef with White Truffle Oil and Black Sesame seeds, Sauternes Jelly with Salmon Cavair, Peashoots and Haiwaiian Black Salt.

Tempura Oysters with Ponzu Radish and Wasabi Mayonnaise

This is a dish I cooked for a dinner party hosted by a client, the design agency Blue Marlin. I wouldn't usually tempura oysters as I much prefer their clean, ozonic flavour when eaten raw, with scant drizzle of tabasco. As multiple tastes were considered, I tempura-ed the Oysters and served them with mooli (daikon/radish) drenched in yuzu (a sharp Japanese Citrus fruit), shiso leaves and a wasabi mayonnaise. The Oysters that I used were supplied by Richard Murray, whose fish and shellfish is some of the best in London.

A fellow foodie...

I recently have met through a mutual friend a brilliant guy named Pete who like me, was entrenched in the world of branding/advertising and who has since given it all up to cook and train professionally. I am lucky that since the show aired I have met some lovely people and have made some great new friends, Pete being one of them. We met over dimsum at Royal China in Bayswater (one the best places in London for truly authentic dimsum), where we both exchanged our stories aand dreams for the future. Pete is off to Leith's soon to train up - I think he will certainly be a name to watch as his passion, creativity and love of good food will take him far. He has a rather excellent blog too - go Pete go!!!

Raising awareness for Action Against Hunger

I was recently asked to cook at the Speciality Fine Food Fair 2007, Olympia for the charity Action Against Hunger.
I was thrilled to be asked, and took great pride in representing Action Against Hunger. I found the initial task of cooking in front of an audience rather daunting, but that soon gave way to my mission; raising public awareness in the charity's work in 43 of the world's under developed nations, where poor sanitation and malnutrition pose a serious threat to millions of men, women and children. Action Against Hunger work tirelessly to help restore these facilities in communities such as effecient water facilities, and helping restore crop yields to combat famine and its social and economic consequences.
I will be hosting some fundraising dinners, with the profits going to Action Against Hunger, with future demos also raising awareness and funds wherever possible. Please see their website for details on donating and further information on their brilliant work.

My favourite brunch: Masala Eggs, Raita and Unleavened Breads

For me this has to be one of my favourite things to cook for brunch, sweet savoury eggs, with fresh yoghurt and unleavened breads. It takes me back to my childhood days in Pakistan where this would be cooked when there was nothing else to hand, or a hungry house guest dropped by. It is also a great hangover cure, especially served with good Bloody Mary. The eggs are softly scrambled, against a base of slowly caramalised onions and green chillies that become sweet and fragrant. The raita adds contrast, and the bread was always chapatti, however in its absence I use Arabic/Lebanese flat breads or tortillas. The trick is to toast the breads over a naked flame, which gives them a great 'burnished' quality.
Ingredients for 2 hungry people:
4/5 Eggs (free range and organic)
1 large Onion
2 Green Chillies
25g Butter
Slice the onions and sweta in the butter and a little oil, adding a pinch of salt. Cook for at least 20/25 minutes to get the onions deliciously caramalised. Add a tspn of chilli powder, garam masala and a half teaspoon of tumeric.Add the chopped green chillies and cook for a further five minutes. Loosely beat the eggs, season and add to mixture. Serve straightaway with raita and breads.

For the Raita combine:
100g Greek/Strained yoghurt
1/3 Cucumber (peeled, deseeded)
2 Tomatoes (deseeded)
3 Spring Onions
1 tspn Garam Masala
A squeeze of Lemon Juice
Sea Salt

Steven Wallis event for Poggenpohl and House & Garden Magazine

Next month I will be doing a cooking demo hosted by House & Garden Magazine and Poggenpohl Kitchens. This will be a reader's event where I will cook some great seasonal dishes in the surroundings of Poggenpohl's exquisite showroom in London. I'll keep you all posted on the recipes I create and the future articles that will be published. Hope to see some of you there! S.

Fragrant Fruit Salad

This mad little concoction of fruits was the perfect end to my Thai fish Curry. In the salad are Loquats, Australian Finger Limes (these aroused my curiousity - they have beautiful capsules of refreshing juice and are beautifully sweet, the only downside were the airmiles they had obviously clocked up to reach London) Blood Oranges, Papaya, Grapefruit and Passionfruit. I added extra warmth with a vanilla syrup that used the captured juices and a hint of fresh mint. If you wanted some added decadence, serve with a sofly whipped cream with Cardomon or Geranium.

Thai prawn cakes

These are great as an apetiser or if you are hosting a drinks party. These are fried, but are deliciously light as I mix in egg whites to keep the mixture light and springy. I serve these with a dipping sauce of mirin, sweet chilli sauce and rice wine vinegar, and lots of lime wedges.
Ingredients for 4 as a starter:
300g raw prawns
2 Red Chillies
I small piece of Galangal or Ginger
Coriander stalks and leaves
2 egg whites
I tablespoon of Cornflour
Light sunflower oil for frying

Pound the galangal, chillies and coriander stalks and a pinch of sea salt into a fine pulp. Add finely sliced spring onions and the prawns chopped into small pieces. Mix together and add the cornflour to the wet ingredients and incorporate well. Beat the egg whites into stiff peak stage, adding a spoonful first, then folding in the remainder until you have a smooth, airy prawn cake mixture. Heat the oil until it lighly smokes and spoon in a dessertspoon at a time. Don't crowd the pan otherwise the oil cools too quickly and the prawns will become greasy and saturated with oil. Cook for 2/3 minutes on each side, remove and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce and plenty of lime wedges.

By popular demand - The recipe for the Thai Fish Curry I cooked on Masterchef

This is one of my favourite dishes that I cook for my friends, as it's so fresh, aromatic and warming. The fish makes it a real treat, particularly if you use monkfish which has now become quite expensive. You could easily substitute the fish for chicken, but I would use thighs and breast as they are tastier and work very well in curries. This curry should have chilli heat, but be richly aromatic and unctious. The trick is to really cook the 'curry base aromatics', which add depth of flavour and base notes. It is finished with top notes of lime juice, slithers of spring onion and coriander leaves. I serve this with a sticky rice scattered with black sesame and a sweet and sour cucumber relish.
Ingredients for 4 people:
600g Monkfish
4 large raw prawns (deveined, head on)
1 tin Coconut Milk
500ml fish stock
1 tablespoon of Nam Plah (Thai fish sauce)
2 teaspoons of Palm Sugar
A little oil (peanut or sunflower)

6/8 shallots (depending upon size)
3/4 cloves of garlic
75g Galangal root (or ginger)
3/4 Red Chillies
4/5 Kaffir Lime leaves
1 stalk of Lemongrass
Coriander root, stalks and leaves
Thai Basil
Thai pea Aubergines

First pound in a heavy mortar and pestle the shallot, garlic, chillies, galangal, lemongrass, coriander root and stalks with a little oil (2 teaspoons) with a pinch of sea salt until it forms a thick pulpy paste. Don't put this mixture through a food processor, as you want to extract as many of the natural oils as possible. (the food processor will only tear the ingredients).

Once you have your curry paste, fry it in the remainder of the peanut oil on a medium heat for at least 15/20 minutes, to cook through all of the aromatics through and let the flavours develop. Then, turn up the heat and add the palm sugar, stirring constantly. After 5 minutes, you should have a richly aromatic base that starts getting sticky and caramalised. Open the coconut milk and scoop off the top layer of cream, add to the mixture and stir through. Cook for a further minute then add the rest of the coconut milk. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer. Add the Nam Plah (this adds a salty note), and snip the Kaffir Lime leaves into thin stripes (these add a sour, base lemony note). Add the fish stock and then simmer for 20 mins until the curry starts to develop little pools of oil on the surface.

Taste for seasoning and keep simmering until you get a curry sauce that has a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Add the Pea Aubergines and the Thai Basil, simmer for a minute or two and then add the Monkfish, cut into chunks. Simmer in the broth for 4/5 minutes until just cooked. Add the deveined Prawns and cook for a further two minutes. Turn the heat off, then add the juice of half a lime. Add spring onions, coriander leaves (not too many), and a a few finely chopped Thai Basil leaves. Serve straighaway.

For the Rice:
I always cook 1 part rice to 1.5 parts water, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, put a lid on and then cook for 12/15 minutes. Do not touch the lid, even to peek inside - leave with the lid on for a further 10 minutes and rthe steam will have further cooked the rice through. To make the rice sticky I squeeze in the juice of half a lime, and a slug of sweet chilli sauce. Stir and replace the lid. Mould into a bowl and turn upside down to serve. Garnish with Black Sesame.

Cucumber Relish:
Cut a small cucumber into sharp shards, cutting out most of the seeds. Mix together a tablespoon each of Mirin, Rice Wine Vinegar and a teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce. Add sea salt and mix. Toss the cucumber in the dressing and serve as a side dish. For extra heat you can add a finely chopped red chilli.

Back online again!!!!

Hi Everybody,
It's been quite some time since I have posted anything, and I thought it would be great to update everyone on what I've been up to. It's been such a crazy 6 months since winning, and the hardest bit has been about settling back into a work pattern after all the great things that have happened and all of the offers of work that I've received.
Just a big thankyou to all of the lovely comments I've received, and yes, I will start to post up recipes and news as often as I can.
Please do leave your comments and I promise to get back to you at some point.
Also, I am using Facebook quite a bit to update people on what I'm up to - so feel free to say hello on there too.
Looking forward to getting some of your comments,