Saturday, 18 December 2010

Vegetarian Manchurian, making the best of left over Chinese

It’s really annoying when you order food online/over the phone, and what you get is not exactly what you expected. It’s even more annoying when the take away can charge ridiculous prices for their food because they’re the only restaurant that deliver in the area, and accept card. Anywho, so I believe one has to at least try and make most of a shit take away. So when I had loads of disgustingly sweet Kung Bo “Seasonal” veg and fried rice left over from my Chinese take away last night, I thought even though it was shit, I was going to try and rectify it by turning the two very dull dishes into one very excitingly tasty dish: vegetarian Manchurian.

The kung bo “seasonal” veg already had in it (nothing seasonal at all):
Pak Choi
Water Chestnuts

I drained the veg of the horrible sauce, and to add a bit more flavour, I added:

Chinese Five Spice
Chopped Chilies
Grated carrots
Roughly chopped Spring Onions

I blended all the above in a food processor. To make the mixture thicker and well bound I added some rice flour. I used a teaspoon and shaped the mixture into roughly formed balls. I deep fried in batched of 8, careful not to over crowd as this can cause sticking and could also mean lack of colouration. I wanted the rice in the mixture to give the balls a dark brown exterior, and a nice crisp coating. When cut open, they should retain a moistness, although the rawness of the rice flour should be cooked off. It’s essential that the oil be kept over a consistently medium flame and that the balls be around the size of a golf ball. This should ensure well-cooked Manchurians.

To make the sauce, I fried some thinly sliced garlic and chilies in some oil till the garlic started to turn slightly brown. I then added some Saracha sauce, light soy sauce, and honey. I let the mixture bubble and reduce till it became a sticky constancy. I added the Manchurian balls, turned the heat off and rolled the balls so they were coated. I didn’t want them sitting in the sauce for too long as they would start to absorb the liquid and lose they’re crunchiness. Lastly I garnished with a healthy hand full of spring onions.

I personally think as a dish, it can be eaten by it’s self, but just to bulk it our I had it with some left over noodles from the night before…. Happy Eatings : )

Saturday, 4 December 2010


I designed a poster for a concept website where people can get recipes for umami sauces, depending on their region (locally sourced/grown food), seasonality and choice of ingredients. The aim is for people to realise the variety of flavours there are out there and the ways they can make their food more interesting by using the taste of umami, even with limited ingredients.


So with all my research into the umami flavour, I wanted to great a sauce that could be used in cooking as a way of enhancing or bringing out the natural flavour of ingredients when used in small amounts. When used in larger amounts, the flavour of the sauce would mask any nasty tastes of unpleasant foods, that would be eaten for nutritional value (eg, brussel sprouts, soya, offal).

I looked into ingredients that could be found in England, and suitable ways of preserving them. Making a sauce seemed the most convenient. Most of the ingredients used are easily preserved in their state, but I had a few cherry tomatoes which was given to me by a friend who has started growing indoors.

Soy Extract (umami ingredient)
Mushroom Extract (umami ingredient)
Cherry Tomato Puree (umami ingredient)
Anchovies (umami ingredient)
Scotch Bonnet
Szechuan Pepper
White wine vinegar

I started by frying off 4 garlic gloves, 4 shallots, 2 scotch bonnets and a table spoon of Szechuan pepper, until the oil was flavoured. I then added Mushroom extract and soy extract and let simmer on a low heat for about 10 minuets.

I removed the whole ingredients, and let the concentrate cool. The whole shallots, chillies and garlic could be saved and used in future cooking. As the umami flavours of the soy and mushrooms would have been absorbed, the shallots, garlic, and chillies can be used in other dishes to enhance flavour.

In another pan, I started by frying off a few fillets of anchovies. Once melted, I added my cherry tomato puree. I stirred in the soy and mushroom concentrate, added a couple of table spoons molasses and two table spoons white wine vinegar then left the sauce to simmer for an hour. Once cooled. I poured into my bottle.

I made a label to stick on my bottle:

I spread some of my special sauce on toast before grilling with cheese on top. It’s a delicious sauce, with complex, deep flavours. It gives simpler dishes a fuller flavour. Only very little has to be used as the glutamate levels exceeds roughly about 600mg/100mg from my calculations. This is seven times more then cheddar cheese, and half as much as marmite.

I developed this idea as a sure guarantee of having a tasty meal in the case of a poor harvests, unavailability of certain ingredients, and a way of preserving. If we were to become self sufficient, simple solutions like these would help keep people creative in the kitchen.


Umami is said to be the 5th taste along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami, is hard to describe best many do by calling it subtly savoury. Umami was first discovered by the Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University in 1907. He did some research into why dashi (a Japanese stock made from Kombu- a type of seaweed), tasted so good. He found that Kombu was high in glutamatic acid, and this was the what gave dashi its delicious flavour. Dr. Ikeda termed this distinctive flavour, Umami. With further research, a wide variety of foods from around the world were discovered to have high levels of glutamatic acid: like tomatoes, anhovies, beef, asparagus, green tea, mushrooms etc.

“Those who pay careful attention to their tastebuds will discover in the complex flavour of asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat, a common and yet absolutely singular taste which cannot be called sweet, or sour, or salty, or bitter…” - Dr. Kikunae Ikeda

Dr Ikead, successfully managed to isolate the glutamatic acid from kombu, and from this created sodium glutamate, better known as Monosodium Glutamate. The company Dr Ikead worked for, the Ajinamoto Coperation, took this discovery forward and produced a marketable product. Ajinamoto was sold as a flavour enhancer and spread world wide. Being cheap and as readily available as salt, the product was much welcomed in less developed parts of the world. Places where harvests were less predictable, and where the range of ingredients were limited.

There has been a lot of bad press surrounding MSG, and this tends to be because of its use in manufactured products. There are no serious or harmful effects from it, although claims of migraines have been reported, but this is due to high levels of consumption. Until recently, MSG could be bought in supermarkets, but due to our change in food attitudes, this is no longer available. Many restaurants, though, still use MSG as a way of keeping the level of food consistent. This is an example of a great discovery taken out of context. We have very little room for “unnatural” ingredients, but if we were put in a situation where we had limited food, and a lack of choice when in came to ingredients, would we too re-think an ingredient like Monosodium Glutamate?

Friday, 26 November 2010


So, I’ve been really interested in a supposed World War 3 situation, and how we would cope with it. The reduction of imports would mean exotic ingredients wouldn’t be so readily available. Our dependence on locally grown, seasonal and preserved foods would grow. Government propaganda would also surround us, encouraging us to support the choice of war. As you can imagine, a WWIII would be significantly more devastating compared to previous wars. With nuclear weapons and chemical war fare destroying cities with a simple touch of a button. I’m pretty sure, a war on this scale would last for many years, with the consequences being way bigger then ever seen before.

So with all this horror, I came up with a subversive product which the British Government could realise: Popaganda. A lollypop, which bought by kids, would encourage and condition them for war. The lollypop shaped like am army man, would be handed out to kids as a treat. Maybe this sugary treat would lift the moods of children, whilst also being a pre-training for war.

I looked into different flavour combinations, and from reading an extract by Edmund and Dixon, American food writers from the 1800s, I found the combination of rhubarb and strawberries, created a mock Pineapple flavour. This flavour combination could be used in other possible foods and drinks from tarts to cocktails.

I needed to make a casting, so I could make a lollypop shaped like a solider. So I got my mould of a solider from a toy army man. I stood him up on a plinth….

I covered him in a box of clear acrylic. (It wasn’t a perfect box by any means, so I needed to seal up any gaps with some plastering.)

I filled it up with rubber silicon and let him set for a good hour. Once removed from the over, I broke of the acrylic, cut down the sides, so to create the male and female parts of the mould. I filled it up with my sugary rhubarb and strawberry mixture (This was very difficult, as I made the mixture without using a sugar thermometer. I do highly recommend getting one if making any kind of sugar craft). I let it set for 20 minuets, and then removed from mould.

I also made a wrapper to go with it. I used the net, of old ice-lolly wrappers. They seemed well suited. I was in a bit of a debate, as to weather I should have called the flavour pineapple, or Rhubarb and Strawberry, but in the end, as the colour I chose was red, I decided to stick with the latter. I also came up with a few other possible typical English flavours like sherbet and strawberry & cream.

Saturday, 11 September 2010


I came across some edible paper in the Sainsbury’s the other day, and picked it up, not really knowing what I wanted to do with it, but knew I wanted to do something. It was only 99p for a pack of 12 A5 potato starch sheets, which is very decent, so why not. I found the paper very similar to rice paper. It is a little bit more stiff then rice paper, but still quite malleable, and as the serving suggestion suggests, good for cake decorating. It is pretty taste-less, but this means it can take on not only colour, but taste also. One thing I really like about edible paper, is its “third dimension”: taste. It can also be its downfall though, as any liquid added on it instantly dissolves the paper, reducing it to mush. So great care has to be taken with handling it, but otherwise, it’s a great “new” product available in most supermarkets.

So, anyhow… I was playing about with the paper, trying different origami shapes, and one that seemed to hold really well was the origami star. The stiffness of the potato starch paper means too many folds and creases result in tears and weak edges. But the star holds very well, and has a hollow centre great for filling…

There are a few things I could have tried to fill my starts with, but nothing would have been best suited then a sweet, spongy, meringue filling. So I made a few stars, set them aside, whilst I made a simple meringue mixture: 1 egg white; 70grams caster sugar; 1 tsp corn flour; 1 tsp white vine vinegar. I separated it into three and added strawberry flavouring to one, peppermint to another, and lemon to the last.

I got three syringes (left over from the Cherry Bombs) and filled each with a different meringue mixture. I injected a couple of stars, being carful with how much went in, as the meringue filling would expand during cooking. I also had to be careful that they weren’t sat around for too long between the injecting and popping into the oven phase, as the liquidly filling inside would start dissolving the paper. Before they went into the oven, I gave them a quick brushing of natural food colouring mixed with honey and sugar to give them a slight glazed exterior.

They didn’t take longer then 5 minuets, and came out with a crisp finish. I let them cool for another 5 minuets so that making the holes for the sugar spear was made easier.

I made the sugar spear by melting sugar in a pan, till it just started to turn a rich caramel colour. I then let it cool a little till it was just manageable to handle, and plied it to a spear shape. I must add that this was rather coincidental as I was initially trying to create this shape with a spoon, but as it cooled and stuck to my spoon, I tried to twist and pull it away, and thus… this rather perfect shape was created! I made a pierced the stars through with the needle from the syringe, then very carefully let the sugar spear follow through. This was a very delicate job.

Well, it’s not really a filling desert as such, but it was rather fun to create. It’s quite remarkable what can actually be done with edible paper. Used with the right vegetable ink, edible paper can leave suspended txt/images in jelly. This looks very impressive, but is actually really quite simple. You can also buy edible ink (not for all printer types, mainly inkjet Canons and HPs), which doesn’t have the best quality finish, but does mean you could possibly eat a picture of yourself!!! Homaro Cantu’s restaurant in Chicago, Moto, prides itself on being a futuristic, postmodern eating experience, by using inkjet printing on edible paper in their recipes/inventions. Diners order from, then eat the edible menu which is made of parmesan-flavored rice paper which has been imprinted with edible soy ink. Puffed rice and freeze-dried shallots frame the menu, which sits on bed of crème fraiche. Once the presentation has been admired and the food ordered, the “menu” is stirred up and becomes the first course of risotto. Sounds mental… looks it too. Here’s a link to their website: . It’s defiantly worth a gander if molecular gastronomy is your kind of thing. Happy Eatings!

Monday, 6 September 2010


Everyone loves a good BLT, and I’m sure there are a few interesting takes on the classic. I have quite a few: BLT with a healthy spreading of Philly; BLT with dried onions; BLT with mustard and mayo; BLT with a generous dollop of Nando’s sauce…. But this is all dependent on what’s in the fridge really. It’s good to improvise I find. A good veggie take is Baco Bits instead of actual bacon… it’s surprisingly yummy, but nothing compared to real bacon. I have sampled a lot of bought BLTs and none come close to Pret’s. I think it’s the generous filling that does it for me. The equal amount of bacon to tomato and lettuce and the creamy mayo all in between two wholegrain multi seeded buttered slices. I also recommend Madison’s (New Cross). They have a “special BLT” which has the addition of coleslaw, and if you ask, red onion too. The problem with shop bought BLTs is that they tend to use streaky bacon, and as crispy as it is, it’s not as good as a proper rasher of salty, meaty, porkyness. A nice rasher of bacon gives a fullness to the sandwich, so a home made BTL wins hands down, any day for me. It’s something that I think requires a bit of time and dedication. So before my cousin’s engagement do on Sunday, I knocked up a few hearty sandwiches to see us through the day. It didn’t help with getting into our saris, but it kept us content till dinner.

The four essential ingredients: Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and the Bread, have to be of reasonably good quality. I used free range, beechwood smoked English dry cures back rashers, from Hampshire Bores. Their meat is known for its tenderness and taste. I got my tomatoes and gem lettuces from the local farm shop. The multi seed bread was bought the day before from our local baker. It really isn’t very expensive to ensure the use of good quality food, it just requires a bit of effort and it’s well worth it in the end. My additions were: Camembert cheese, shallots in balsamic vinegar, oxford sauce and mayonnaise. Oxford sauce is difficult to describe. It’s a little bit like HP sauce, but not really. It goes well with mayo. The BLT works well, cause it has the saltiness from the bacon, the crunch from the lettuce, and the tomato acts as a flavour combiner and natural sauce creator. There are so many things that work well with each element of the sandwich that makes combinations limitless. Like cheese, mayo and butter. All quite fatty, but they go well with the salt from the bacon. The freshness of the salad leaves and tomato cut through the salty fattiness, and cleanse the pallet, ready for the next bite. The shallots were caramelised in balsamic vinegar to rid of any acidity and make them a little sweeter. Shallots tend to crisp up a little to, so also add a bit of texture as well as taste.

To cook my bacon, I got my griddle pan out, turned the heat up on the gas, put a little oil in the pan once it got hot, then once it started to smoke, I placed my bacon rashers down. I gave them less then 30 seconds on each side, took then off and placed to sit whilst I got on with toasting my bread. If I were feeling really naughty, I would have got my toasted bread and soaked it in the bacon juices in the pan. But instead of this, I toasted my multi-seeded bread in the grill, then spread on my special oxford-mayo sauce. I then began the stack:

For food porn lovers… here’s a close up….

Right, so I closed the sandwich… sat down with a big cup of tea and took my time over enjoying ever bite. My mother wasn’t very happy, but she’s a vegetarian and got a cream cheese and salad sandwich. “Why are you taking pictures of your sandwich? We’re already running late.” She did have a point. But it was so yummy, I could have had another one… oh well, till the next BLT… Happy Eating!

Thursday, 2 September 2010


As Autumn comes around the corner, and as less fresh fruit is in season, a good way of preserving the tastes of summer fruits is simply drying them out. I’ve had quite a few apricots and peaches I bought from a local farm in Olney sat in my fruit bowl. I was planning on doing something with them, but just couldn’t make my mind up on what. So a few days passed, and I started to notice my organic apricots were starting to become a little over ripe. I needed to take drastic action. I didn’t want to make apricot jam, as it seemed clichéd and there wasn’t much left to the imagination after the jamming process. So I looked into other preserving methods, and drying seemed the most obvious. Now, the dried fruit you by from the shops tends to have been through a really long soaking and drying process, which I just didn’t have the means of recreating. They also then to have a lot of added sugar in them which takes away from the actual sweetness of the fruit. So I looked into other more traditional ways of drying, but this requited a hot, dry outdoor climate… not going to happen. But I could try and create a hot, dry environment with my oven. This, I found out, could be done by turning the oven up to a very modest temperature of 60°C and leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Also, to ensure the fruits dried evenly, they had to placed on the lower shelf, and straight onto the rack. The cooking process is long, and dependent on how big/dense the fruit pieces are and on how “dry” you want your fruit. All fruit before drying in the oven needs to be preserved in some kind of sugary preserving solution. In mine, I dissolved 1 part sugar and 1 part honey to some water. I placed on the hob till it bubbled and reduced. I then added the pitted and halved apricots and let them sit in the solution for 2 minutes. I removed and placed on my wire rack in the oven. I was initially planning on keeping them in the oven for 6 hours, but after this time, I realised I needed to push the fleshy part of the fruit up a little and let it dry out a little more for a further 2 hours.

Long, yes. But it is well worth it. The flavours are even more concentrated and the skin becomes wonderfully chewy. My apricots were finished by 10 in the evening, and as I had a little munch on my dried fruit whilst watching Top Chef… I had a little brain wave, that just wouldn’t leave the circulating thoughts in my head…. Peach Meringue Roulade. I had all the ingredients… I needed to make it reality. Crisp, but spongy meringue, peach jam, honey vanilla cream, topped with flaked almonds and chopped dry, chewy apricots! I set about making it:

Meringue Base:
5 Egg Whites
300g Organic Unrefined Caster Sugar
3 tbsp Cornflour
1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar

To make the meringue base, I whisked the egg whites till they got to the soft peak stage. I then whisked in the vinegar and gradually added in the cornflour and sugar. The meringue mixture is ready when I becomes glossy and very stiff. I spread out the mixture as evenly as possible at approximately an inch thick on a large piece of greaseproof paper, and then placed in the oven on the middle shelf at 160°C for 15 min. I then turned the temperature down to 110°C for a further 20 min. Once completed, I took it out of the oven to cool.

Peach Jam:
4 Plump Peachy Organic Peaches
200g Organic Unrefined Caster Sugar
4 tbsp Lemon Juice

I firstly got my peaches and scored a cross on the bottom of them. I placed them in boiling water for a couple of minuets. I then removed them and instantly placed them in a bowl of iced water. This process helps making removing the skin a lot easier.

Once skinned, I chopped them up and placed in a saucepan along with the sugar and lemon juice. I read somewhere once, that to keep the colour of any jam, it needs to be cooked on a high heat, and very quickly. So all in all, once blitzed and allowed to bubble, I let it reduce and cook for no longer the 15 minuets. I let it cool by an open window. Once cooled, it becomes more viscous and more jam like. I spread this on the turned-upside-down meringue.

Dried fruit:
I decided to chop up some of my dried apricots to use in my roulade. So I carefully removed, chopped and separated the chewy skin parts and the fleshy inner parts for the apricots. The skins to be used as a topping on the roulade, and the fleshy part to be mixed in with the cream.

Honey, Vanilla, Apricot Cream:
1 Pot Double Cream
1 Pot Crème Fraiche
1 Vanilla Pod
3 tbsp of Honey
10 Fleshy Halves of Apricots
200g Organic Unrefined Icing Sugar

I whisked the cream and crème fraiche together till it became thick. I then mixed in the vanilla seeds, the honey and the apricot halves. I slowly sieved in the icing sugar which I thought I decided to add to give the cream mixture more stiffness… but it became a little more watery at this stage which was worrying. I let it set in the fridge for a good half hour, and nothing changed. It was getting late, so I decided to pour the cream out over the meringue anyways and let it set. I waited another 30 minuets.

The time was coming closer to 2am, and my patience was running thin. I was starting to feel a little tired and run down by the long cooking process. Surely I had the patience to wait, especially after all this hard work…

What can I say. Impatience got the best of me. It was purely a moment of impulse, and if I was thinking straight I would have known, Icing sugar takes a good hour to set properly. I knew it was a destructive reckless moment and there was no way of mending my now very sorry looking roulade.

I was very very upset, but all I could do was make best of what I had. So I plated it up as well as I could, sprinkled my toasted flaked almonds and dried apricot skins over the top. It didn’t look very nice, but it tasted absolutely delicious! It was tangy, sour, creamy, crunchy and so very naturally sweet. They honey and vanilla cream complimented the peach jam very well. The meringue sponge was the right density, but still lovely and crisp on the outside. It was lovely. I think next time I will have to either exclude the icing sugar… or just be more patient, as the next day when I opened my fridge to get some milk, I noticed the cream in the roulade had set nicely to the right consistency… oh well. Made a nice change from Weetabix for breakfast. Happy Eating!

Monday, 23 August 2010


The one thing I have always longed to cook with is the Moroccon tajine. Before my trip to Marrakesh this summer, I had only seen the tajine on cooking shows or in the odd Moroccan restaurant in London. I believe the first time I had tried a tajine was at Sidi Maarouf on Edgware Road. It was a lamb tajine with sticky dates and almonds. The ceremony of bringing out the large beautifully decorated tajine, then having it opened in front of you, with the hot steamy aromas of the lamb being wafted over to you, and amongst the steam and simmering bubbles lies the meat surrounded by the most amazing looking self amalgamated juices. I knew then, that the lamb I was about to devour was going to be more special then any lamb had before. It was truely epic. It’s a way of cooking that has to be admired. The deign hasn’t changed for centuries. How does it work? Well, the cone lid isn’t just aesthetic. It increases the surface area for condensation. So as the contents steams and cooks slowly over a low flame, any evaporated moisture hits the lid then drops back down mix and basting at the same time.

When in Marrakesh I sampled a lot of different tajine dishes. I’m not going to lie; I did start to get a little annoyed at the lack of choice when I came to dishes cooked in the tajine. Such a perfect way of cooking but such lack in variety? So one day when wondering through the souk we were invited into a stately home which was also open to the public with a restaurant at the back. We walked in and were amazed at the sheer size of the place. It was a little dated, a lot of faded browns and lime greens trying to fit in with the original traditional Moroccan architecture. We were shown a few pictures of old Morocco and given a short history in the city’s development from the early 20th Century. The young boy giving the tour was clearly opposed to the booming tourism in Marrakesh and Morocco’s reliance on it for a stable economy. After the tour, I felt a little ashamed to be a tourist. I felt a little disgusted at having been sucked into a lot of what we thought was the “real” Morocco, but really, another money making scam aimed at tourists by deceiving money making Moroccans. After the tour, we were led to the Riad (court yard) where the resturant was and offered lunch. We accepted as it was a good chance to sit somewhere cool and out of the sun. Also beacuse it seemed like we were the only visitors they’d had all day, and they seemed like such nice people. So as we sat down and looked through the menu, I was glad not to see yet another chicken in preserved lemon tajine. There wasn’t much choice, so we ordered the Kefta and Egg tajine. I like a good kefta, and I was willing to see what they had to offer in the kefta department. Egg seems like an unlikely accompliment, but I felt a little daring and open to new things. I really had no idea what to expect. And like most things on holiday, the unexpected turned out to be truly memorable and a definite highlight of our eating experiences. And because of that, I felt it appropriate to recreate that very dish in my new fez style tajine. After much research and testing, I have come up with a dish that I think tastes pretty similar, if not a little better too.

To make the Kefta:

500g finely ground lamb
1 white onion, grated
A small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Firstly I got my dried spices and ground them all together in a pestle and mortar. I then fried off my grated onion in a bit of sunflower oil till it turned a nice golden brown. It’s important to fry the onion off properly as any liquids released whilst in the kefta will cause the balls to fall apart during cooking. I then added the spices with the heat off, but the pan still warm, so the spices didn’t burn. I added the parsley and let to cool by an open window.

Once cooled, I added the onion mixture to the ground mince. Using my hands, I mixed it all together then left it in the fridge to sit whilst I made the sauce.

To make the sauce:

1 tbsp ghee/butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Half inch of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
2 green chillies, sliced
2 fresh tomatoes with pips removed, chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
Juice of one lemon
Small bunch of parsley, chopped

3 eggs, whisked

In a non-stick pan, I first fried off the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies in the ghee and olive oil till the onion started to turn golden brown. I then added the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and cooked it off till the tomatoes made a sauce and were not so distinguishable as bits. I then added the dried spices; turmeric, cumin and coriander. Once I had cooked off the spices, I added half a cup of water and let the mixture come up to a boil before adding the lemon juice. I let this simmer for around 20minutes to allow all the ingredients to mingle, and get to know each other. As this happened, I got my mince out of the fridge and started to form little kefta balls no bigger then golf balls. I transferred the sauce into my tajine and placed the balls in and around the sauce. I covered it with the lid and placed it in a preheated oven at 170°c for an hour and a half.

I also made a Moroccon salad to go with it. The salad adds a nice crunch and is a quite refreshing side for a dish with a lot of spice.

Moroccon Salad:

Half a cucumber, cored and finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Sunflower seeds
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Ground cumin

Mix all the ingredients together. Unlike most salads, it’s actually quite nice to squeeze the lemon and mix in the cumin and leave it in the fridge for a few hours. I wouldn’t leave it more then 6 hours though.

We also had cumin bread with it. Any bread is fine, even rice or cous cous would be good.

I got the recipe from:

When cooking with a tajine, it is essential that the tajine is not opened during the cooking process. This requires a lot of patience. It’s pretty difficult to burn things with the tajine. Although, there are two different types of tajine: the heavier clay tajine, which is suitable for gas top cooking. This kind of tajine needs to be treated before use. As this kind of tajine is in direct contact with the heat, there is sometimes the chance of burning on the bottom. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as whist in Marrakesh, a burnt bottom was my favourite bit to scrape at with bread. I bought an oven safe tajine, which had already been treated and glazed. These types of tajines are lighter, and easier to transport back home. They are not suitable for gas tops, and therefore not exposed to direct heat, so not very likely to burn. The tajine is also very very hot when it comes out of the oven, and contains the heat for a good period of time, so care has to be taken. Especially when placing on certain surfaces, as I learnt the hard way (melted my plastic chopping board!) If you don’t own a tajine, it’s really easy to make most dishes in clay pots, or even in ovenproof dishes, just make sure it’s covered and sealed well.

The time came to removed the tajine from the oven. I opened the lid… and I can not even begin to describe how amazing it smelt. I poured the whisked eggs over the sauce with the keftas still poking through. I placed the lid back on and put it back in the oven for 15 minuets.

Once the egg was cooked through, I sprinkled a handful of chopped parsley over the top, and served. There was also the option of Greek yogurt for those who found it a little too hot. Personally it wasn’t needed. Like most Moroccan dishes, instead of being spicy, the dish was more aromatic. There were quite a few fragrant spices in the keftas that were echoed through into the sauce, and this worked really well. The soft bread and fresh salad worked as perfect sides.

It defiantly took me back to the stately house in Marrakech with it’s 70s Moroccon décor and outdated furnishings, and it made me realise… this dish is oddly rather retro too. The whisked egg covering the unassumed sauce with the little brown keftas popping through. It reminded me of those gluten free pies I'd once and been appalled by in an Atkins cook book. Maybe the menu in the restaurant hadn’t changed since the 70s. I hadn’t seen this recipe in any other restaurant whilst on holiday. I even had a lot of difficulty finding it on the internet. A similar recipe with a whole cracked egg was more common, and understandably, but that’s not how I had it. Maybe this dish was popular back then with the beginning of tourism in Morocco, and maybe like the remaining charming interior, the menu is still stuck in time. A time that saw the beginning of change in Marrakech… for better or worse is debatable, but for the people who owned this stately house, they were clearly happy with the way things were.

As nice as the dish was, my soul purpose for buying the tajine is for its amazing slow cooking abilities. I don’t think it should just be restricted to cooking Moroccon food, but anything that would be good slow cooked – vegetables, joints of meat, casseroles, curries, maybe even soups. A whole world of tajine cooking awaits me and I’m really really excited! Happy Eatings! : )

Monday, 16 August 2010

Potato & Nutmeg Ice Creams

I’ve never really had much appreciation for ice creams. I’ve always tended to favour more substantial desserts if I had the choice. One reason for this is my sensitive teeth situation: biting into cold solid ice-creams leaves my mouth feeling numb, my fingers feeling sticky and my teeth zinging with pain. But all this was put behind me when I had my first ever Italian Galati. A creamy, silky, rich scoop of melon and passion fruit galatia saw the beginning of my love affair with ice creams. It opened up my world to the many different possible flavours out there and even more exciting, the combinations! I started replacing my shopping break coffees with galatias, picking a different flavour each time. This even continued back in England. Despite an erratic summer and the lack of sun, I was spending money which would otherwise have be spent on alcohol, on ice-creams and lolly pops. I rediscovered childhood favourites like Mr Whippy, Mint Choc Chip, Solaro, and even Milk Ice Creams. When I felt like being adventurous I’d pick the most colourful or most bizarre looking ice cream; discovering the more unusual flavours like Pistachio, Chilli, Saffron, Blue Diamond, Macaroon, and Oreo Cheesecake. Yep, there are so many possibilities when I come to ice creams, you could be well spoilt for choice.

So one day, after having a very unusual conversation with a friend about how surprisingly nice cold mash potato is, and then coincidentally coming across a recipe for purple yam ice-cream that very same day, I decided to embark on making potato ice-cream. I could have well used sweet potato, yam, or cassava, but I happened to have left over boiled potatoes in the fridge from lunch so I used them

It was rather late at night when I decided to make this, so had to work with what I had in the fridge. I decided just potato wouldn’t hack it, so needed something suitable to work with the texture and ordinary taste of your standard potato. I decided to play it safe and use nutmeg. So in a bowl I popping in boiled, skinned and chopped up potatoes; single cream; unsalted butter; caster sugar; and a pinch of nutmeg. As it was rather late and my mum was asleep upstairs, I thought it rude to wake her up by using the food processer. So the considerate person that I am, I took the hard route and mashed up all the ingredients together with a fork. This was very very hard work. So I got out a sieve and pressed it through so the mixture had no lumps and was smooth, but not too runny. I wanted to keep the texture of the potato so added enough cream to make it silky, but not too smooth so it resembled the consistency of clotted cream. I put it in a tub and let it set, mixing it every 30 min. But as it was rather late, I only managed to mix it twice before hitting the sack.

The next morning I woke up in much excitement. I ran down stairs, went into the kitchen, opened the freezer, opened the freezer drawer, took out my ice-cream tub… and it looked normal! Thank heavens! I got a spoon scrapped at the top layer… normal again. Then I put a bit in my mouth. Interesting… tasted like cold mash potato, but sweeter. The nutmeg came through and worked well with the creamy potato texture. It did feel more dense then normal ice-creams, but the smoothness counteracted this buy melting evenly on the tongue. Overall it was a pretty good breakfast. The more I ate, the more I enjoyed the complexity of the simple flavours. Next time, I’d probably improve it by adding another layer of flavour to it instead of nutmeg. I'd keep the smooth texture of the potato though as it made the ice cream rich and creamy. So maybe to replace the nutmeg I'd add ground up cashew nuts or even almonds. Maybe even using cashew nut/almond milk instead of cream. Till then I think my potato and nutmeg ice cream was probably the most unexpectedly rewarding ice cream I’ve eaten this summer and I really do recommend it. Happy Eatings!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Suini Sudato (Sweaty Pigs)

Don’t be put off by the name. Basically posh pigs in blankets or for the more common person, like me and you, posh sausage rolls. I chose the name as sausage rolls, or pigs in blankets, tend to be associated with colder periods of the year. Heavy and baked, they are best eaten warm, and preferably in large portions. This is where my sweaty pigs differ… my love for sausage rolls is a round the year affair, and preferring The Cornish Pasty Shop’s warm, flaky and butter recipe. I have sampled a fair few sausage rolls in my time, but haven’t found a single one that’s more adventurous with their filling. I recently came across a recipe for pork and brambly apple rolls, and this gave me some confidence to come up with my very own pork mixture. I wanted a filling that would compliment good quality pork, but also be light on the palate.

I wanted to use puff pastry instead of flaky pastry, so it would be lighter but still buttery. I chose a filling of red onion, balsamic, parsley and mozzarella. An Italian filling, hence the Italian name. I heard an Italian friend say this recently and thought it the perfect name for my new recipe. It was important to chop up the red onion as fine as possible, and sweat them down properly. I them added the balsamic and made a thick reduction. I added this to lean pork mince mixed with bread crumbs, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. I was in a bit of a dilemma as how to add the mozzarella: if served warm, it would have been better to have added a strip of mozzarella on top of the pork mixture before rolling in the pastry. But as they were being served cold out doors, I decided to break it up and add it to the pork mixture. Which was a good in a way, as it was a beautiful ball of mozzarella, not the stringy type typically found on commercial pizza, but soft and moist.

So all mixed up and allowed to rest in the fridge for an hour, I got the pastry ready (ready made off course). I wanted the rolls to be two bits sized, so it was easier to manage. The small size meant that each bit had a crispy end where the pasty went extra crusty and the meat went nice and brown. I brushed on some melted butter on the top, then placed in the oven for 15 mins at 170 °C. They acted as more of a snack and went down really well along side my mum’s chilli chutney and a glass of bubbly. I defiantly recommend making your own sausage rolls. It really is easy, and even if you don’t want to make your own filling, use your favorite sausage, remove the skin and place in bought pastry, roll, brush with butter/egg wash and put in the oven. It’s so simple, and better then any bought sausage roll. You’ll never go back. Trust me. Happy eatings : )

Saturday, 15 May 2010


Kadhi is a north Indian soup dish typically eaten with a meal. It’s made from yogurt and gram flour and has a variety of spices in it to give it a distinct flavour. Every house hold has a different way of making kadhi, and a different concoction of spices that goes into the soup. When back home, we have kadhi a couple of times a week. Said to be good for your insides due to the yogurt, turmeric and spices, warm kadhi is also supposed to be a good way of cooling down in the hot Indian sun. Classic complements include dhal and pigeon peas. Kachori is a popular Indian fried snack; in my case only eaten on special occasions. A fried dough ball, with a range of different fillings including peas, dhal, or even meat. I decided I should learn how to make kachori, because I’ve found it rather hard to find a good enough ready made kachori. So I did some research and asked my mum how she makes her kachori. Her filling of peas, onions and mustard seeds are really nice eaten simply straight from the fryer. This is mainly because of the thin layer of pastry she manages to create, with a generous filling. But most frozen varieties have more dough to filling ratio resulting in a doughy, not crunchy surrounding, and therefore requiring ketchup or chilly sauce to dip in to making it less dry and easier to swallow.

So why combine the two? Well, it has never been done before, and when the flavour combinations are an Indian classic why the hell not? It could almost be like an Indian dumpling soup. I chose to fill the kachori with both dhal, peas and a variety of spices. Having just dhal or just peas as the filling would make it far too dense, so the combination would keep things more interesting and lighter on the palate.

So to begin, I had to make kadhi. I started of by adding:
8 Cups water
4 Cups of natural Yogurt
1 Cup Gram Flour
Generous Pinch of salt
1 Chillie chopped finely
½ inch of Ginger grated
2 teaspoons of turmeric

This has to be stirred or whisked thoroughly over a medium heat to prevent the yogurt from splitting and till the gram flour is cooked through. At this point the mixture will begin to boil. The kadhi will have thickened and taken on the consistency of double cream. The kadhi should be left to simmer whilst the spices are prepared.

So the list of spices to flavour our kadhi can be changed to suit individual preference. The spices are fried in ghee (clarified butter) in a separate pan. This is then added to the kadhi to give it it’s distinctive flavour. In my mum’s kadhi, she puts in order: broken cinnamon sticks and cloves; she then adds the cumin and mustard seeds till they start to pop; the garlic is added next till it turns a golden brown; then the asafetida; then the nim leaves and then the coriander. The kitchen will fill up with the most aromatic smell and just before the coriander starts to discolour, add it to the kadhi. The kadhi is then ready to be consumed. Add a little bit more salt if needed.

So whilst the kadhi sat, I got on with making the kachori. I started by making a simple dough of; 4 Cups Plain flour; 4 Tablespoons Sun Flower Oil; pinch of salt; and mixed together with warm water till a soft dough was formed. I left this for 30 mins with a cloth over the top.

So whilst the dough was left to sit, I got on with the kachori filling. I let a cup full of split dhal soak in enough water to cover for 10 minuets. I then added a cup full of frozen peas, aniseed, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and a pinch of salt to the dhal. I added ¼ of a cup of water and put in a pressure cooker to let cook for around 20 minuets. After the whistle blew, I let the mixture cool down then added some fresh coriander, mustard seeds and a little bit of chili powder.

So once the mixture was cooled down, I began making the kachori. It is vital to wait till the filling is cooled, so the dough doesn’t become soggy. It also prevents holes when frying. Also remember to have a well floured surface to work on, so the dough doesn’t stick.

They don’t take very long to fry, approximately 6minuets, just till the dough goes crispy golden. The choice of shape is purely aesthetic. Traditional kachori is normally round but, you can be a little creative with this. Try and keep the pastry around it as thin as possible, so you don’t have uncooked dough after frying. It can be eaten just as it is, but in this case I rather enjoyed having it with the kadhi. Not only did they compliment each other will, but it was a more interesting way of eating two of my most favorite Indian comfort foods. Happy Eatings!