Friday, 23 April 2010

Brooklyn, NYC

Edible Manhattan - food publishing cool

I came across this magazine a year or two ago, and have to say it is right up there in front, as the arbiter of food culture and food cool in Manhattan. I love the articles, unpretentious writing and fashion-cum-rock 'n' roll photography. The covers are awesome (they remind me of Face magazine somehow), and I feel they truly capture the spirit of the Manhattan food scene, without the pretentious foodie bullshit that is rife in other food publications.

If anyone at Edible wants a London voice - do get in touch...

(An Ode to Hannah) Lavender Shortbread

Well this isn't a poem, nor a recipe really (well technically it is, but I don't remember it), but it's simply a shortbread made with lavender flowers. I am galloping ahead to summer here - but until the lavender flowers are abundant, you can use dried lavender from Provence if you are fortunate enough to get your hands on some. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not much of a baker, I have to say, I made these (whilst channeling some of Hannah's style), and couldn't get over how easy, but how exquisite these perfumed biscuits really are. Delicious for a fancy afternoon tea, or perfect as a present - if you want to go that bit further and wrap them in a bit of silly paper. Unfortunately mine got scoffed before I had even contemplated sharing them.

Union Square Farmer's Market, New York City

Gramercy Park, New York City

Gramercy Park really is where I think I belong (well if I had a spare few million dollars or 10). It oozes a serious amount of salubriousness, and 1920's panache. It is framed by exquisite architecture, and the park itself is home to a few languid sculptures.
I had the fortune of resting up at the Gramercy Park Hotel - which I have to admit I rather enjoyed, particular the Rose Bar, resplendent with a Picasso (surely it's a fake), and sawfish body parts masquerading as objet d'art.
Best of all, I got to hang out with a great friend, Luc, who is perhaps the most sartorially gifted man in Manhattan. Good times.
Gramercy, I miss you.

Union Square Farmer's Market, New York City

On a recent business trip to New York, I found myself jet-lagged and in need of early morning cultural stimulation. Well the Farmer's Market on Union Square didn't disappoint. I was bowled over by the riot of colours, and crate after crate of jewel coloured carrots, exuberant lettuces and barrels of luscious peaches.

I've never seen such beautiful produce - most of it, if not all of it grown on farms in New York State or Connecticut, and it's certainly worth getting up that bit earlier to watch the vendors unpack and set up their stalls for the day. Check out the link for more details.

Spring Courgette & Flowers Quiche

As I guess Spring is finally here, this is the time of the year when I start to take confidence in my nascent baking/pastry making skills. I love a good homemade Quiche, and I don't mean one of those heavy bacon and cheese Lorraine jobbies - I think Quiche can be light, crumbly on the outside and still-warm and deliciously eggy in the middle.

I know it's still early in the season to be bantering on about courgette flowers (ok, I admit, this photo was taken last summer - and yes, the courgettes, their flowers, the Spring onions and mint were all pulled fresh from the garden) but for me they are the essence of Spring, when it comes to flavours.
I can't really remember the pastry bit of the recipe (but I did freeze the butter and grated it into the flour) but it made all the difference to the crumbliness of the pastry base. Once blind baked, I sauteed in a little butter the courgettes, Spring onions, and followed with mint, chives and the flowers and seasoning. I left the mixture to cool off and then whisked free range eggs with a good dollop of Creme Fraiche (which was courtesy of the very lovely Rachel's Organic), poured this over the sauteed courgettes and baked it until set.
I served it warm, with a salad of baby beetroot leaves and chive flowers drizzled with a lemon oil vinaigrette.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Chargrilled Cuttlefish with Chilli and Blood Orange Aioli

This weekend's sunshine had me craving one thing in particular - squid. For me, warm weekends are all about the smell of crustaceans and squid on a barbeque, the sweet flesh and smoky, ozonic smell of charred shells gets me crazy. I was a bit disorganised with my fish purchasing, so ended up snaffling the last cuttlefish at Shellseekers - as one of Jamie's Fifteen chefs had just bagged the last of the squid and crabs for the restaurant. I have to admit, I haven't cooked cuttlefish that many times (squid seems so much more manageable for some reason), and like squid, you either cook it in a flash on a very hot griddle, or long, low and slow in a braising pot. I had the cuttlefish cleaned (a very messy job - and can ruin your distressed antique french oak surfaces with its ink), and then set to work slicing it and scoring the flesh finely in a criss-cross pattern. I then decided to marinate it with a wild combination of ingredients I had purchased earlier at the market; mint, fresh garlic and blood orange seemed like a good trinity, and a nice combination of flavours for the cuttlefish to play with.

Once marinated for a few hours, the cuttlefish was cooked on a searingly hot cast iron griddle pan, until the ends charred and the flesh soft and creamy.
I served this with a simple aioli; two egg yolks and a squeeze of lemon juice beaten until pale. I then drizzled in a sunflower oil (Rapeseed works really well too), until I had a thick, viscous mayonnaise. I flavoured it with finely chopped red chilli, blood orange juice and zest, and seasoning. This is a great dish with a well chilled bottle of Prosecco or Cava.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Courgette Flowers with Smoked Anchovy Vinaigrette, Red Onion, Tarragon and Lemon Salad

I really adore courgette flowers. It probably has a lot to do with their lightness of flavour, that delicate courgette green-ness, and their saffron coloured petals that make me think they are food of the gods. I often will cook these as a tempura, doused in flour and then into a batter and deep fried until crisp and golden. I have also stuffed them with mint and Goat's cheese, and also with beaten egg whites and brown shrimps. This time I decided to cook these nude in a little olive oil, until al dente and the petals just caramelised. I finished these with a smoked anchovy and blood orange (my ingredient of the week it seems) vinaigrette, and a fresh, pungent salad of red onion, tarragon and lemon.

Courgette Flowers
Smoked Anchovies
Juice and zest of half a Blood Orange
Olive Oil
Pinch of Sugar
Red Onion
Lemon zest and juice

Salad of Cabrales Blue Cheese, Chicory, Radish & Sourdough Croutons

Of the 'tapas' dishes I created, this was very simple and constructed around a beautiful piece of Cabrales Cheese bought at Brindisa in Borough Market. Cabrales is a rich blue cheese from Northern Spain, that is matured in limestone caves for 2 to 5 months. To balance the intensity of the cheese, I paired it with bitter chicory, slices of radish, salty capers and pan toasted sourdough croutons. It was finished with a drizzle of Dauro Extra Virgin Olive Oil and chervil leaves.

250g Cabrales Cheese
1 head of Chicory
1 Tablespoon of salted Capers
1 bunch of Radishes
A few slices of Sourdough Bread
Dauro Olive Oil to finish

Alubias Blancas con Chorizo, White Beans with Chorizo

Of the five dishes that I created last weekend, the White Beans with Chorizo is in essence a typically Spanish dish, full of robust flavours of spicy Chorizo, a background smokiness of Paprika and teamed in a stew with tomatoes and creamy white beans. The addition of Wild Mountain Oregano adds a herbal edge to this dish. This can be cooked in advance and improves wonderfully, given a day or two to allow the flavours to develop.

1 White Onion
1 Chorizo
1 bulb wet Garlic
1 Red Pepper (chargrilled on an open flame and deseeded)
1 Tin of Italian Cherry Tomatoes
1 Tin large White Beans
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
Fresh Thyme
Dried Wild Oregano

- Caramelise in olive oil the Onion and fresh Garlic. Add the sliced Chorizo and fresh Thyme leaves. Cook until the Chorizo renders some of its oils.
- Add the tin of Cherry Tomatoes and the chopped, chargrilled Red Pepper, and Smoked Paprika. Cover and simmer until a sauce starts to materialise within the pot, yet the tomatoes still hold some of their shape. Add the beans and warm through on a low heat for a further 15 to 20 minutes. Finish with dried Oregano.

Champagne Rhubarb & Blood Orange Syllabub with Black Pepper Honeycomb

The posting order is a bit back to front, but this dish is the culmination of what had been a wonderful cooking day at my friend's apartment in Southwark. Having spotted these exquisite Champagne Rhubarb stems at Tony Booth's, I had the idea of pairing it with Blood Orange, to create a tangy and luscious pudding. Not being one for fancy desserts, I figured a low maintenance syllabub would do the trick. I added whipped double cream and Greek yoghurt to the cooked fruit, and topped with an easy and fun to make honeycomb.

Ingredients (serves 4 approx)
4 Stems of Champagne Rhubarb
1 Blood Orange
200ml Double Cream
100 ml Greek Yoghurt
50g Caster Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Paste or Essence
75g Caster Sugar
50ml Honey
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda

- Slice Rhubarb stem into pieces, place into a glass baking dish, add 50g Caster Sugar, the zest and juice of half a blood orange. Cover with kartouche of greaseproof paper and bake in a medium oven for 30 mins until the Rhubarb is cooked. Allow to cool.
- Whip the double cream into soft peaks, add the Greek yoghurt, flavour with vanilla paste. Fold through the warm Rhubarb compote and serve into glasses. Allow to chill.
- To make the honeycomb, melt Caster sugar and honey until the grains have dissolved and bubbles well. Add the Bicarbonate, mix and allow to foam up. Empty onto a non stick surface and allow to chill. Grind Black Pepper over the hot honeycomb. Crunch the cooled honeycomb over the syllabub.

Gazetteer : Wright Brothers, Borough Market, London SE1

Having found myself at Borough Market this weekend, amongst the crowds and Spring sunshine, I happened to bump into a good friend, who duly treated us to Malden oysters, fried whitebait and a delicious pint of prawns from Wright Brothers, as we caught up.

This is the perfect place to perch, nestled away from the market crowds, where you can drink good wine and devour deliciously fresh Native and Rock oysters.

Wright Brothers
11 Stoney Street, London SE1 9AD.


I saw this at the weekend, and just needed to write about it.

This film is utterly beautiful, erudite and seductive. Perhaps one the best films I have seen in years, the story gravitates around the film's central character, Emma who is played by Tilda Swinton. I can still 'taste' some of the food references from the film, as well as smell the air of the locations, and be dazzled by the Raf Simons for Jil Sander costumes.
I am love is an incredible piece of cinematic art, that is so well conceived and executed, I was left thinking how on earth could something be created that is so sublime. An inspirational film.

Dim Sum at Joy King Lau

I don't think there is a food experience for me that is more satisfying than to sit at a table with wonderful friends and enjoy the performance art that is Dim Sum. I found myself grounded in London this weekend by the cloud of volcanic ash courtesy of an Icelandic volcano with a name can neither spell nor pronounce. The perfect antidote to my disappointment of not being able to travel took shape as an impromptu plan to have Dim Sum with one of my very best friends, Kamlan. We were reminiscing over the fact that our friendship is now 20 years old, when we were both a similar age and embarking on foundation courses at different art colleges. Kamlan and her family introduced me to Dim Sum, a ritual of family and friends coming together over a table to enjoy plate after plate of delicious morsels.

I love the randomness of each dish; the different flavours, textures, some steamed, others fried, the excitement of lifting the lid on a bamboo steamer to reveal jewel-like, glistening and juicy dumplings, that end up dunked in soy or chilli oil and popped whole into the mouth. I also love the fact that sweet, juicy prawns and scallops lend themselves so well to steamed dim sum, especially when teamed with chives - which I have to confess is a herb I cannot live without. I also love the crunchiness of prawn dumplings served with salad cream, squid cake, grilled chive cake and a soft, luscious turnip cake. Chueng Fun is another favourite, the glutinous rice pasta enveloping sweet prawns or scallop, and doused with a sweet, rich soy dressing. This of course is all washed down with cups of Jasmine tea. I could rattle on about more their Dim Sum, but I can only really say you should go and try it for yourself.
So, if you crave authentic Dim Sum (I love the Royal China in Bayswater and Yauatcha), the Joy King Lau is unbeatable for the excellent quality and value.

Joy King Lau,
3 Leicester Street, London

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Where I am now...

Firstly I just want to say a huge congratulations to the 2010 Masterchef winner - well done Dhruv, you are an incredible cook! Secondly, I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss some of the great projects I've been involved in, since winning Masterchef back in 2007. A great deal of the experience I have gained and the projects I have worked on don't get publicised, as many of them have been works in progress, or subject to confidentiality. As I was omitted from the opening credits on last night's Masterchef show, I thought this would be an opportune time to talk about some of the great work I have accomplished over the past three years.
Following my win in 2007, I was offered an estage at the prestigious 3 Michelin starred Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. There I was taught focus, attention to detail, timing, patience and the art of flavour pairing. I had my eyes opened to a level of creativity I had not thought possible by food alone, and learnt how to balance sublime flavours, colours and textures within a dish. I was also very fortunate to have worked with some very talented chefs, and learnt how to work with some of the most exquisite ingredients I have ever seen pass through a kitchen's doors.
On my return to London, I was asked to be a Sous Chef on BBC's Great British Menu - and worked with many chefs with whose cooking I hold in very high esteem. These include Angela Hartnett, Tom Kitchin, and Sat Bains. Working with Angela was incredible; it was great to witness her speed, tenacity and effortless elegance that oozed from every dish she created. Being Tom's Sous when he created his English Breakfast starter was an experience I'll never forget - that dish was pure genius, and I learnt that you can create a silk purse from a pig's ear. Sat Bains I will remember for introducing me to the joys of the water bath, a missing bit of suckling piglet and chicken popcorn. Need I say more.
Post that hubris, I approached Shaun Hill who had just opened the Walnut Tree, and worked with him at his restaurant in Abergavenny. I love how Shaun cooks, and conceives such remarkable dishes, always with savoir faire. Shaun still is a mentor to me, and having met him recently at Fortnum and Mason, begged me never to stop cooking.
Other projects have included consulting to Sainsbury's on food trends, created menus for Jumeirah Hotels in Knightsbridge, been a brand ambassador for The Cooperative (and spent a summer on the road, cooking at 10 county shows across the UK out of a juggernaut-cum-demo kitchen), and developed recipes for Abel & Cole and Rachel's Organic. I have also been working with Slow Food London and the Southbank Centre, demonstrating and promoting fair and slow food ethics. I am also looking to collaborate with the Southbank this summer with a food and art project, celebrating Brazilian culture.
I spent the best part of last year traveling through Central America, gathering ideas and inspiration for food and life. This year I have started by focusing on my consultancy skills and am working as a as a flavour consultant - establishing savoury flavour trends for a global flavours and fragrance agency. I also partner with two holiday companies, providing gastronomy workshops, tours and holidays. These are (chocolate workshops, tours to Borough and Billingsgate Market and forthcoming food trips to Barcelona and Brussels), and Tell Tale Holidays,, where I will be the guide and escort on their forthcoming Tamarind and Spice tour across Thailand in November. I can't get enough of traveling it seems.
Most recently, I have been approached to work with the homeless charity Shelter, where I hope that my humble cooking can help raise awareness to the plight of London's homeless population. My final bit of news is that I have just been signed up as a consultant creative strategist at FutureBrand, where I work with a wonderful team of people who let me unleash my creativity to co-create products and ideas for some of the world's biggest brands.
So, I haven't exactly fulfilled the Masterchef dream of opening a restaurant, but I have certainly made mine come true. I have had the pleasure of working with some incredible people over the past three years. I have no plans to open a restaurant at the moment, but I know I would like to at some point in the future, once I have got the traveling bug out of my system and have decided in which country I decide to settle.
So thank you Masterchef for all the incredible opportunities that you've opened up to me, and to all my wonderful friends, followers and supporters who have loved me no matter what.