Friday, 26 October 2007

Salmon Ceviche with Mandarin & Grapefruit

Seeing as I'm feeling nostalgic about Summer today, here's another post about what has to be one of the easiest things to make, that is a joy to eat. Ceviche is a great starter for substantial meal ahead, the almost creamy fish cooked in fresh, astringent juices of citrus fruits. Salmon is an obvious choice of fish, as is tuna, but more delicate white fish like Bass, Sole, and Snapper work equally well. The Japanese sweet shrimp are also rather good too and are delicious either eaten raw or with this method of preparation. Ceviche always calls for crunch and herbal notes to go with it, salads of cucumber, mooli, various micro herbs and cress, fancy leaves and flowers are always great last minute additions to the plate. To add extra flavour I also used a Mandarin balsamic, and a Mandarin infused olive oil with the juice of half a yellow grapefruit.
Having thinly sliced the fish, I mixed the juice, Mandarin balsamic and oil, salt and seasonings, then poured over the fish. Leave for 10 minutes and dress with leaves.
For a more substantial meal serve with steamed rice and finely chopped nori sheets and mixed sesame seeds.

Memories of our scant Summer - Lemon Sole with wild Asparagus, roasted tomatoes and a Lemon Verbena butter

I know this isn't a seasonal dish, but as we are now hurtling towards the long, dark nights here in Blighty I feel the need for light, bright foods and flavours of the Summer. This probably has a lot to do with the lack of sun we had this year and my constant craving for warmer climes. This dish I cooked for Tess and Russell, who being the great friends they are, sat patiently in the garden drinking wine as I played in the kitchen. This dish came about from my stumbling across Lemon Verbena, a herb that I have always loved because of it's incredible grassy, lemony fragrance which for me evokes memories of wildly grown kitchen gardens.
Having the herb in hand, I figured that a light, delicate fish would work well with this, as would wild asparagus that was in season at the time. Early vine tomatoes, slowly roasted with fine shards of garlic added colour and a sweet sharpness and contrast to the fish and the subtlely fragranced, lemony butter sauce.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Boney Mmmmmmmmm

Last Sunday was a bit of an event, as I went to see my family in Windsor. As I hadn't been down in some months, it was nice to escape London and spend time getting licked, but then ignored by Arnie, the Jack Russell. It was a beautiful, crisp Autumn day, which called for a Sunday roast of the kind that is eaten and enjoyed over the course of an afternoon. I love meals that become focal points for the day, when literally hours are spent at the table amongst family and friends, where afternoons become evenings and different delicious foods and wines make an appearance at the table.
Nothing beats a good traditional roast lunch, made with superior ingredients, lightly teased and cajouled with aromatics and herbs and cooked to perfection. Up there is Roast Rib of Beef, on the bone, all succulent and juicy. My butcher Paul, at Wyndham House sorted me out a beautiful cut, to which I added minimal seasoning and sprigs of thyme and bay leaves tucked here and there. Seared, then roasted until pink on a bed of shallots - this is food of the gods. I served mine with a horseradish creme fraiche, saffron roasted potatoes and heaps of steamed spring greens with a deep, red wine gravy made with the pan juices. Any leftovers are fabulous with homemade mayonnaise (I add smoked garlic to mine), or slatherings of english mustard in a sandwich.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


I know this is hardly big news (..I do promise to update you all on all my latest activities), but every time I go trotting off to my local farmer's market I can't help but get transfixed by the array of colours on show. I think that is one of the things I love so much about cooking; the rich colours that are there to be played with, explored, transformed and mixed together - with flavours and textures adding and intensifying the food experience. Sorry to be rattling on in artistic mode, but I just can't seem to get enough of it all, especially as Autumn is now in full swing and the countryside is awash with incredible colour. Here are just a few examples, with the prize for most colourful going to the very flashy Rainbow Chard, the Missoni of the vegetable world.

Smoking fetish...

I have to admit that I have got quite a thing for smoked foods. For the past year or two I can't seem to get enough of smoked foods and their layers of flavour. Smoking in my eyes should be about adding nuance and subtle flavour to foods, from duck, quails, fish, shellfish (smoked scallops and eels are food of the gods!), as well as vegetables like tomatoes, aubergines, potatoes and even apple, peaches and pears. One of most fabulous store cupboard ingredients I have come across is Halen Mon's smoked salt which is so amazing with something as comforting as a soft boiled egg and soldiers, but equally good with carpaccio of beef and a velvety saffron aioli.
During the Summer I found a stall at Broadway Market in Hackney selling smoked mussels that were quickly partnered with grilled, garlic rubbed crostini and lemony Greek yoghurt. Flowers and flourishes are optional - but I served these with a good bottle of Pinot Gris.

Last weekend's finds at Borough Market

One of my first pitstops in Borough Market is Tony Booth's. Once I'd had what are probably the best cappuccinos in London (from Monmouth Coffee Shop), I always head over to see Tony or Harry (pictured looking resplendent in orange) to see what's in season. Those boys always have such fantastic produce, both locally sourced and exotic. The fruit and veg are always amazing and are such a visual feast - just being amongst them gets me fired up and wanting to cook. As well as these, they are also renowned for their excellent array of wild mushrooms which when in season as they are now, never disappoint - last Saturday there were ceps, girolles, black trompettes and
the white, ethereal puffball mushrooms. Other gems were lusciously ripe muscat grapes, sweet and full of heady perfumed juice. Rainbow chard also ended up in my bag, as I couldn't resist those colours and the fresh, squeaky leaves. As my fridge was heaving with goodies from the market, I over the course of the weekend cooked up lots of dishes including the following:
A Saturday night supper of Casarecci pasta with the sauteed swiss chard, pine nuts and shavings of Pecorino. Sunday Brunch starred a thick slice of the puffball, cooked in a little bacon fat rendered from a few rashers of bacon, served on some griddled sourdough toast and topped with a fried egg. Lastly the muscat grapes played a perfect role in Monday's supper - (I got inspired and followed the black theme here) and made a beetroot rosti, topped with seared chicken livers and sweet sour warm chutney of the grapes, shallots and toasted coriander seeds. For contrast I just added a scant sprinkle of capers tossed in a little olive oil and orange zest.

Supper with Harriet Jenkins

Having first met Harriet during the semis of Masterchef, I knew we would become great mates as I am so fond of her love of all things gamey, and her fabulous sense of style and wry wit. Needless to say I never need much of an excuse to cook for my mates, and Harriet is no exception. As we are both often running around like blue-arsed flies, it was great to get together to eat, drink and catch up on life's events. I decided to treat Harry to something remotely gamey, and of course quails (one of my all time favourite foods) sprang to mind. I stuffed the boned quails with chicken livers seared with a good slosh of armagnac, thyme leaves and seasoning. These were held together with a cocktail stick, then browned in a pan and roasted in an oven for 10/12 mins until beautifully pink and juicy. I served the quails with puy lentils cooked with a base of fine mirepoix and chicken stock. I finished the dish with a pear and spinach puree which added a light, minerally freshness to counter the richness of he quail and livers. Being the foodies we are, no meal would be complete without a pud - so I made a luscious Tarte Tatin for Harry and me, simple and unadulterated, it's caramelised apple stickiness balanced with spoonfulls of soured creme fraiche which melted slowly with the still warm tarte. Foodie heaven I'd say!!

Crab apple jelly with Spruce

As Autumn is in full swing, I am taking particular comfort in finding all sorts of 'wild' seasonal fruits making an appearance at my local farmers market. Crab apples used to be the missile of choice when I was a naughty kid, flung at great speed from the end of a willow branch. Now of course I am marginally more respectable in my old age, so have better uses for these brightly coloured litle bombs of sourness. The obvious choice is a jelly, but flavoured with Spruce needles, used in a similar way to rosemary. What are also quite delicious are rowanberries, either as a subsitute or addition to the sour, fragrant, balsamic jelly. Once made, the jelly is particularly good accompaniment with game - pheasant and venison are good choices - (both on the side or used to glaze a suace or gravy), but is also delicious with mackerel, used as a glaze before roasting or grilling.

Junior Masterchef at Kimbolton School (continued)

Here are some of the other pupils dishes, and as Hannah, Clare and myself couldn't decide who should win, we awarded the joint title to Mary and Nick, who both excelled and stunned us with their attention to detail and truly delicious food, Mary cooked (and gutted very confidently by the way) Mackerel pan roasted with Oatmeal and a beetroot relish, with Pecan shortbreads to finish. Nick cooked a breast of duck with perfect confit pototoes and pureed squash (that was stuffed with aromatics as it roasted), finished off with a Tart Tatin. Apart from probably eating too much that day, both Hannah and me were just thrilled to have had such a great time with everyone, so a massive thankyou again to Clare and your wonderful students for such delicious and very enlightening day.
Here are the winning dishes and the talented cooks themselves...

Junior Masterchef at Kimbolton School

Nearly three weekends ago, Hannah and I were invited to judge the pupils at Kimbolton School's Junior Masterchef competition, ran by their fabulous Home Economics tutor, Clare Bennett. Meeting Clare for the first time took me back to my own Home Ec classes, and with her limitless enthusiasm and patience I had wished I was back at school and in her class. The room was stuffed with great books and kitchen paraphernalia, and all the walls were covered with articles on food from every cultural dimension. However, the real stars that day were the wonderful pupils who cooked and stunned Hannah and me with their mix of calm confidence and cheekiness, each of which were just such exceptionally good cooks. The competition took place during the school's open day which added even more pressure to the competition as parents and prospective pupils were also milling about whilst their dishes were being prepared. What was brilliant was the level of passion and expertise each pupil displayed through creating their menus. Some of them included apple snow, pan fried mackerel with toasted oatmeal and a very fine rack of lamb. To Hannah's delight there were many delicious desserts made, including some delicious shortbread with raspberries and clotted cream and a lemon cheesecake. The youngest competitor was 11, with the eldest being 15, here's what they cooked:

Monday, 8 October 2007

A quick Coriander and Coconut Chutney

This chutney is literally a case of throwing some ingredients into a food processor. This chutney is great with breads and particularly good with marinated tikka or tandoori meats (particularly trout and quail).
I like the sweet and hot combination of coconut and green chilli, but you can play with these as you see fit.
To make it I add a handful of fresh coconut, a bunch of coriander (including the stalks) - mint is also really good in this as well, 2 green chillies, 2 tbspns coconut milk, juice of half a lime, and seasoning. Blitz until smooth. If you prefer a looser mix, just add a spoonful of yoghurt or two until you get your desired consistency.

Channa Tarka Dhal

I love dhals, which have to be the ultimate comfort food. These are a culinary staple in Pakistan where they (along with many vegetable dishes) add a break from meat eating during the week and on the run up to festivals. There are so many lentils that you can use for this dish, I have chosen the channa dhal as they are richly nutty when cooked. Another favourite of mine is the red split pea which cooks very quickly, making it a great dish to cook after work. This dish is cooked 'tarka' style, which means the sizzling oil and some of the spices are added at the very end, instantly thickening and flavouring the dhal.
To make a got pot full you need:
300g Yellow split peas
1 tomato
1 Onion
3 cloves of Garlic
4 Green chillies
1 tspn Tumeric
2 tspn Garam Masala
1 tbspn Ghee or melted Butter
1 tspn Fenugreek
1 tspn Curry leaves
1 tspn Black Mustard Seeds
Simply chop the onion, tomato and two green chillies and add to 500ml of water. Bring to the boil and add the lentils, tumeric, garam masala, fenugreek and a good pinch of salt. Place the lid on and cook for 20/25 minutes until the lentils are soft and creamy. To finish, heat the butter or ghee in a pan with the garlic, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Fry until the mustard seeds start popping and tip straight into the hot lentils. Mix and serve immediately.

Lamb and Okra Curry with Chapattis


Curries have to be one of my favourite foods, not just because of my Pakistani heritage - but because I love the rich, complex heat of a good curry, and the combination of delicious flavours that go into a single dish. For me curries shouldn't be swimming with oil (like those from a take-away), but should be fresh and deeply aromatic. There are always key ingredients I use to make the base 'masala', to which I the meat, fish or vegetables. This Lamb one needs time, and slow cooking to ensure you end up with thick, meaty juices and soft, melty Lamb. I add the sliced Okra towards the end that thickens the sauce and adds a extra dimension to the gravy. You can easily substitute the Okra for spinach or potatoes.
Ingredients for 4:
2 large Onions
6 Green chillies
10 cloves of garlic
50g fresh ginger
400g fresh tomatoes
2 tsps Coriander seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Tumeric
2 tsps Garam Masala
2 tsps Chilli powder
2/3 Cloves
8/10 Black Peppercorns
800g/1kg of cubed Lamb pieces
300g Okra
Coriander leaves to garnish

Firstly slice the onions and sweat in 1 tablespoon of light oil or ghee if you prefer a more authentic flavour, with a good pinch of salt for at least 20 minutes on a medium heat until the onions are translucent and starting to caramalise. Add the garlic and cook down for a further 5 minutes. Add the chopped ginger and chillies and repeat the process until you have a lovely caramalised, aromatic base. In a dry pan toast the cumin, coriander, black peppercorns and cloves until they start releasing their flavours. Crush in a mortar and pestle and add to the base mixture. Add the other spices and cook through. Add a splash of water and stir constantly. Repeat the process for a further 10/15 mins until all the spices have cooked through.
Add the meat pieces and coat with the spicy masala base. Add enough water to cover the meat (approx 1 pint). Set to simmer, cover and leave for at least an hour until the meat has cooked and all of the flavours have melded together. Check the seasoning and adjust according to your taste. Turn the heat up and remove the lid to reduce the gravy. Add the Okra and cook through for a further 10 mins until soft, but slightly crunchy. (Do not overcook the Okra or they become slimy). The curry is ready when the sauce is at your desired thickness and the Okra are cooked. Remove from the heat and scatter the chopped coriander leaves. Serve with Chappatis, Naan or a Pilau rice to soak up the rich gravy.

Weekend at Hannah's

This weekend was my first opportunity in ages to see Hannah. We had such a lot of fun and not only did I cook for her, but we both judged a "Junior Masterchef" at Kimbolton School. It was just just great to see the look on everyone's face when we were announced as the judges. I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the beautiful food the students cooked, more to follow on other posts.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

I'm up for auction....!!! Cooking for Comic Relief in partnership with Sainsbury's

Yesterday I was approached to cook for charity, with all of the proceeds of the ebay sale going to Comic Relief, to which I agreed immediately - what a great night this will be....! For the lucky bidder I will design and cook an exquisite three course meal (including silly amuse bouche, coffee and petit fours) for 8 people, at their home or any venue (within reason), with all foods and speciality wines supplied by Sainsbury's - including all staff for the evening.
We are hoping to raise as much money as possible, so please dig deep as every penny will be going to benefit the work of Comic Relief.
Please contact myself or the vendor on ebay for further enquiries, or the Sainsbury's press office on 020 7695 6000.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Sunday Lunch at Hannah's - Roasted Chicken with Garlic Scapes and Lemons

I am going to see Hannah this weekend, as we are both judging a cookery competition in her local school. I think it will be quite a hoot, and fascinating to see what they cook as I'm sure there are plenty of those children who will be pretty good I'm sure. I remember my home economics classes at school which were secretly one of my favourite lessons, one dish in particular that was a great success were meatballs in tomato sauce, bought home lovingly on the school bus in my Mum's best tupperware. Oh those were the days! Anyways, here's a post from some months ago when Hannah, Bree and I got together for Sunday Lunch at Hannah's, which as you can imagine was a foodie's paradise. I cooked the savouries and Hannah the sweets, it was a great afternoon and one of those days I wished would go on and on.
I had brought from my butcher these two Label Anglaise Chickens (fabulous for curries and roasts and definately worth the extra), and the curious looking garlic scapes that I had only ever seen in garden centres. These I used in a stuffing with butter and two beautiful sicillian lemons, with plenty going under the skin of the breasts. The birds were roasted for a good hour to an hour and a half until golden and crispy skinned and cooked through inside. These were served with kale (blanched in chicken stock) with pancetta and charlock flowers, and carrots with ginger butter. Hannah always pulled all the stops out and made her fabulous Tobelerone tiramisu and profiteroles with white chocolate and lavender cream. Heaven!

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Roasted Figs with Goat's Cheese (Summer 2007)

As I haven't been too consistent with postings over the past few months, I feel I have some catching up to do with regards to many of the dishes I have cooked (or thrown together in some cases..!), and the travels I have been on. As the weather here is so bleak and gloomy, I decided to post this one up as it reminds me of a Summer dinner party I had in my garden with my friends Twinkle and Russell. I had literally pulled this together as a starter, the juicy figs were drenched in a fig balsamic and roasted for 15 minutes, which complemented the fresh, grassy goat's cheese. These were topped with a basil cress and a drizzling of lime olive oil.

Braised Shin of Beef with Red Wine and Turnips

Yesterday was one of those miserable, wet Mondays that put the mockers on the entire week ahead. I think the gloominess of the day, and the fact that Summer rains had given way to Autumn rains was quite depressing. This put me in the mood to cook something warming and tasty, a dish that would fill the house with aromas of slow cooking meat, vegetables and the contents of a bottle of wine. Having came home yesterday wet and bedraggled, I instantly set to work on this delicious stew which took the best part of 5 hours to cook and required minimum work. I used shin of beef which needs long slow cooking to turn the tough meat into a soft, gelatinous mouthfulls. I served this with mustard mash which added a nice cut through to all of those beefy flavours.
500g Shin of Beef
I bottle of decent red wine
2 large onions
4 Organic carrots
3 Sticks of celery (including leaves)
1 tin of Organic chopped plum tomatoes
Splosh of Tamari Soy
8/10 fat cloves of garlic
Bay leaves/thyme
4/5 turnips

First brown the meat in batches in a hot pan with a little oil until it is nicely caramalised. Once all the meat is done, set aside, and to the remaining sizzling oil add the sliced onions. Turn until the onions are soft and translucent. Finely chop the celery and add that to the mixture. Add the chopped carrots (cut in diagonal shards) and garlic cloves and cook for a further 5 or 6 minutes to release their flavours. Add the browned meat, stir, and then add a bottle of wine. Bring to a boil and add the bay and thyme, and lightly season (you can check the seasoning later). Place the lid on the casserole and cook on a low oven 160/180C for 2 hours. After that time remove the bay and thyme, then add the the tin of tomatoes and the soy sauce, and a scant teaspoon of demarera sugar. Replace the lid and cook for a further hour to an hour and a half. Test the meat to make sure it begins to fall apart. Remove the lid and add the peeled turnips. Place back in the oven and cook for thirty minutes to reduce the sauce and cook the turnips.
Serve from the pot with mustard mash and a scattering of chopped parsley.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Naff as knickers - The Prawn Cocktail

One of my favourite cook books of all time has to be Simon Hopkinson & Lindsey Bareham's The Prawn Cocktail Years.
It's packed with really great recipes for all of those dishes that have now been consigned to world of 'food kitsch', the sorts of dishes my Mum would make in he 70's when she was in a flamboyant, hostess kind of mood, heated trolley stylee. Trout with Almonds is one such dish, Russian Salad is another, and what about Sole Veronique or Duck a la Orange? There's a faded exotica about a lot of these recipes as they all use what are now ordinary ingredients, but when in their hey day, these dishes graced many a smoked glass dinner table, hinting at foreign lands and provenance and usually washed down with glasses of wine that came in a bottle that later ended up as a lampshade. Classy.
Being the fool that I am, I can never resist a bit of kitsch and its a healthy antidote to some of the more serious and worthy cooking that can often leave you reeling and in a fluster.
I made this for my friend Twinkle, who will occasionally host a very good drinks party. The kitsch nonsense didn't stop here as I also indulged in making Melon wrapped in Prosciutto, Devils on Horseback, Cheese and caramalised Pineapple sticks, Garlic Portobello Mushrooms and Trifle. Needless to say this was washed down with a Strawberry & Black Pepper fizz...I think you get the picture!
As for the Prawn Cocktail, it was a case of shredding a little gem lettuce, season, on top of that add some small cubes of avocado, squeeze of lemon, then add prawns and crayfish with homemade Marie Rose sauce (Mayo, tommy K, squeeze of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, slug of tabasco) and serve. Silly prawn on the side optional. Babycham anyone?

Queen of the Quince - a dish inpired by Hannah, Roasted Pork Belly and Quince with a Bay & Cider Sauce

I'm so excited that Hannah has now returned from her well earned break in Bali. I've really missed our daily chats and between us we have been travelling quite a bit (I have just returned from two weeks in Paris - more posts to follow on that one!), so it's nice to know she's back in town. This is a dish that is signature Hannah, particularly the Quince which I know are one of her favourite fruits.
During the semis and finals of Masterchef, Hannah took to dispensing her homemade Quince Brandy to help us steady our nerves - since then, whenever I think of Quince (and Lavender and Violet too) or smell it, I always think of her.
So, if I could cook her a welcome home supper, this would be it.
(My original thought was to make this dish with shoulder of pork, as belly is an aquired taste and must be cooked slowly to properly melt down the layer of fat. Also this works beautifully with Pheasant, which I would casserole in delicious juices in a low oven).

Ingredients for 4:
1kg of Shoulder of Pork (or Belly)
3/4 Quince
300 ml Cox's Cider
Small bunch of Lemon Thyme
4 fresh Bay leaves
8 Shallots
1 tablespoon of Honey (I used Orange Flower)
3/4 heads of Cabbage greens
In a deep roasting pan, add the shallots that have been skinned and halved. Scatter the bay leaves and Lemon Thyme, a feel peelings of Orange zest, a few black peppercorns, Season the meat well on the underside and lay the top. Pour over the cider, add a scant drizzle of olive oil and cover the whole pan tightly with foil. Place in a medium/low oven 180/200 C and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender and the fat has rendered. Peel and core the Quince and poach in water infused with a stick of cinnamon for 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Undo the foil and place the Quince in with the Pork, so that they soak up lots of the juices. Return the oven and cook on a higher heat for a further 20 minutes, so that the skin starts to crisp and the quince caramalise. Remove most of the cooking liquor and reduce in a pan to make the sauce. Season and add a knob of butter to finish. Drizzle the honey over the Pork and Quince and roast for a further five minutes. Blanch some Cabbage greens for 3/4 minutes in vegetable stock (a teaspoon of Marigold bouillon in the cooking water), drain and plate up. Cut the pork into thick slices and pile over the greens with the Quince and Shallots. Drizzle the sauce and serve.