Kitchen Confidential: Inside…My Fridge

Saturday, 8th November 2014

Samsung Showcase

I’ve been thinking about how I can make reviews of a kitchen gadgets and the like a bit more interesting and fun, because actually, they can be quite useful. Also, I needed a new fridge. Okay mainly, I needed a new fridge. I’m going to base the main content of this post then on the assumption that you are nosy. If I had a chance to look in your fridge, I totally would, so I’m guessing you might want to have a look inside mine. I did think about tidying everything up inside it before I wrote this, but then what’s the point in that? No-one wants to nose into a fridge that’s been re-organised; people want to see your dirty laundry, or your slovenly storage systems. So here we go. This is the Samsung Food Showcase fridge, an absolute beast of a thing which I managed to get into the kitchen (well, two men managed to get into the kitchen) after chopping half the kitchen work surface off and moving the dishwasher. So, here we go…froooom the top.

Pickle Shelf

1. The pickle shelf. Everyone has one of these, right? I appreciate that pickles don’t really need to be kept in the fridge but despite knowing that I do it anyway. I’m particularly smug about my pickle shelf right now as everything on it is home made. From left to right: pickled corn with scotch bonnets, pickled chillies, pickled beetroot with hibiscus, pickled carrots. A good sized top shelf which can accommodate 8 x 1 litre Kilner jars no problem.

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2. Bottle rack. Nothing in this at the moment except for a packet of yufka, although there’s a casual bottle of Krug on the next shelf down.

3. The 2nd shelf is filled with labneh balls preserved in oil (I like it on my toast in the morning and no, I don’t always make my own), Philly (a desperation purchase, my preferred garlic cheese is Rondelle) and er, more pickles. There’s a mixed pickle, some capers which are lovely as they have the stalks and leaves still attached, a pot of Branston, some piccalilli….yes I have a problem. The Krug is resting on a slab of Mangalitza pig and its fat. What? One never knows when a situation may call for smoked lard. This shelf is the only annoying thing about the fridge: it sort of retracts back, which would be handy if you need to store something tall but it doesn’t sit properly when extended.

4. The third shelf has mostly become dedication to the storage of various pork products in cling film. There’s more Mangalitza fat. There’s bacon. There’s some random sausage I got from a Romanian deli in Hendon. Some er, pickles at the back, there.

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5. Vegetable drawers, which are really spacious, and contain veg that’s mostly from Wholegood, a box scheme. I love their stuff, which is more interesting than other veg boxes. In the summer I had plums and berries that reminded me just how tasty plums and berries can be and the veg selection chucks up things like rainbow carrots (yes, I know they were once all like that but still) and sprout tops (yes I know that’s just the top part of a sprout plant, but still). There are 3 massive drawers, which two of us don’t fill, so the bottom one is crammed with er, more Mangalitza pork products. There’s a big slab of fat and about 6 soft, smoky cured sausages. And a salami. Look, I need them.

Fridge

6. Door. You’d think there’s not much you could possibly change about a fridge door but it turns out this is the USP of the Showcase. It does this thing where you can open the front screen to access the outer items without opening the whole door. I guess the reason is that you can quickly grab something, so for instance I keep milk in the front. I’ve got heavy-use condiments in there too like French’s, Sriracha, mustards, tahini, brown sauce, mayo, plus butter and yoghurt. Oh and cheese: Turkish white cheese in tins, Gruyere, Cheddar, Parmesan, some cylinders of unidentifiable cheese I found in that Romanian deli.

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7. The freezer. This is pitiful. Yes, it should be crammed with frozen stock and mystery meals but the reality is a bag of curry leaves, a pack of jus-rol and a bottle of palinka. The latter is an evil spirit. It is what Hungarians do with fruit instead of eating it.

Pros and Cons of The Fridge 

Pros:

– The shelves are massive. At one point I was brining a 3kg brisket in there, no problem.

– The whole thing is massive, so a food knob like me can store an obscene amount of Mangalitza pork and pickles.

– It is SILENT, apart from a little noise which lasts about 3 seconds and happens very rarely. My old fridge sounded like a cranky old pensioner, groaning, creaking, gurgling and moaning.

– The showcase feature is actually quite cool.  At first I thought it seemed kind of pointless but it really does help for speedy access, especially when you don’t want to deal with the main door which is similar in size to the gates of Mordor.

– It has something called a ‘digital inverter’ which adapts to whatever you do to try and stuff it up, like put something inside that’s still warm, for example. The reason you’re not supposed to do this is that is lowers overall fridge temperature. I do it anyway and I bet you do too. The inverter is therefore a good thing.

– It has an ICE DISPENSER. American style fridges are still such a luxury to us Brits, huh? And what’s more, that dispenser does indispensable dispensing of both cubed AND crushed ice! This is the best feature in the world for anyone who has a hangover. Ditto, the cold water dispenser, and, it’s plumbed directly into the main supply so you don’t have to do anything awful like fill it up. Imagine.

– The digital display tells you the temperature of both freezer and fridge, plus controls the ice dispenser.

Cons:

– The retractable shelf can do one.

There’s no doubt about it, this is a swanky piece of kit. It looks the part, and it makes me feel like a boss. Every time I lunk open those doors and the mist starts to swirl around me I feel like a member of Spandau ballet, only fatter and carnivorous. Definitely carnivorous.

The Samsung Showcase Fridge Freezer website.

21 comments | Products

Beetroot Pickled with Chilli and Hibiscus

Thursday, 6th November 2014

Pickle Shelf

I find the sweet earthy intensity of beetroot hard to deal with. In fact, most sweet vegetables do my head in nowadays unless they’re steeped in a hefty amount of vinegar and spice. So here we are.

This will give you a result a mile away from those astringent crinkle cut slices that strip the tongue. The flavour is fairly sweet for a pickle, with a perfumed note from the hibiscus flowers – my new favourite ingredient since making this BBQ lamb leg – and a smoky buzz from the chillies.

Beetroot pickle with hibiscus and chilli

I created this recipe for Rix Media to promote their monthly competition.

Beetroot Pickled with Chilli and Hibiscus

1 kg beetroot, roughly similar in size if possible
300ml white vinegar
200g caster sugar
12 hibiscus flowers
2 ancho chillies
2 bay leaves
2 allspice berries
1 teaspoon salt

Simmer the beetroots until just tender, then drain and set aside to cool a little before peeling and cutting into pieces that will fit easily into the jar. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, hibiscus flowers, ancho chillies, bay leaves, allspice berries, salt and 200ml water. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

Pack the beetroot into sterilised jars and try to divide the hibiscus flowers, bay leaves and chillies evenly between the jars, then pour over the liquid and seal.

5 comments | Pickles, Vegetables

BBQ Pumpkin Filled with Cheese, Beer and Sourdough

Thursday, 30th October 2014

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What? It’s salad, I promise. I created this recipe for Big Green Egg UK. It’s an idea I nicked from the Americans, who are very serious about their pumpkins. I’ve given it a British touch though – booze. Beer is mixed with cream and poured into a hollowed out pumpkin along with chunks of sourdough and plenty of cheese. The result is like a pot of gooey fondue, in an edible smoked pumpkin bowl.

Click here to see the full recipe on Big Green Egg UK

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13 comments | Barbecue, Big Green Egg, Cheese, Vegetables

Spinach, Cheese and Sorrel Pastries, and Souk el Tayeb, Beirut

Sunday, 26th October 2014

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Beirut was quite peaceful when I visited back in April. There was a lingering military presence on the streets but hey, what’s a few machine gun armed soldiers and the odd tank between neighbouring countries? Our main concern when we were there wasn’t safety, but trying to find things. You’ll see what I mean if you go. No-one has any idea where anything is, especially not taxi drivers, who will stop several times on each journey to ask people for directions. It’s a disorientating place of many contrasts, without any real sense of cohesion. Hardly surprising.

We had been trying to find a market, Souk el Tayeb, which was apparently Beirut’s ‘first farmers’ market’. Despite a fairly central location we were flung from a taxi nowhere near it, and we’d been wandering up and down empty streets for half an hour or more. The buildings in the area are new, but old in style, which makes for a strange atmosphere – a bit like being in the middle of a film set. I imagine. Anyway we turned a corner and there it was, a very modern looking market that wouldn’t be out of place in the UK, with plastic gazebos and olive bowls.

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New-old buildings

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El Hariri mosque

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Labneh balls preserved in oil, cheese and pickles

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Pastries with various cheese and vegetable fillings

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Cakes decorated with dried fruits

There is also a restaurant associated with the market called Tawlet, the aim of which is to show off the talents of chefs from different villages around Lebanon, and also to use produce from the market. The food is great, but you should know that it’s nowhere near the market. Just a heads up. Nobody knows exactly where it is, of course. Our taxi driver stopped the car several times, wandered in and out of shops and did a lot of pointing and head scratching before we worked it out ourselves and told him where to go. It helps a lot if you speak French, by the way. Most people will speak a little English, but will more than likely be fluent in French.

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Tawlet interior

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Heaven is the buffet at Tawlet. Hummus, labneh, flat bread, herbs, artichokes, tabbouleh, cheese, peppers, yoghurt, kibbeh nayeh. On the right were dishes of rice and lentils. There was a dessert counter elsewhere.

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A close up of that glorious kibbeh nayeh (raw lamb with bulgur, onion and spices)

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Don’t mind if I do. See the rosemary at the top – it was very young and soft and used as a sort of salad leaf. A lovely idea.

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This lady was cooking on a rickety grill at the front of the restaurant.

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So anyway, it inspired me, this market, or rather a particular woman inspired me with her folded flat breads and her man’oushe. She made a triangular arrangement stuffed with onions and a very lemony tasting leaf which I thought had to be sorrel. I’ve since learned that it grows in the mountains in Lebanon. Well done, taste buds. Combined with the sumac it makes for a sharp filling which is excellent with rich cheese. I came across some sorrel at a UK market recently and off I went to make pastries. I fashioned them into little triangle shapes because frankly they look really cool and they’re actually pretty easy to do. Mine lack a little finesse, granted, and the filling kind of burst out a bit but it’s hard to completely stuff them up and I’m quite cack handed at baking. We scarfed all of these in one sitting. For breakfast.

I’ve so many recipes I want to make based on my trip to Beirut so it’s about time I pulled my finger out and got on with it. Next up, the hummus recipe that has been torturing me for six months.

Souk el Tayeb, Beirut Souks, Saturdays, 9am-2pm 

Tawlet, Sector 79 – Naher Street # 12 (Jisr el-Hadeed), Chalhoub Building # 22 – ground floor facing Spoiler Center, dead-end street at the corner of Maher Flower shop – left side, corner building.

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Spinach, Cheese and Sorrel Pastries  (makes loads, um, say 25-30)

This super silky dough recipe is courtesy of Peckham Bazaar

500g flour, type 00
1 tbsp fine salt
60 ml olive oil plus more for brushing the edges
250-300 ml warm water
Corn starch
1 egg, beaten

Mix salt and flour together then mix in the oil. Slowly add water to make a dough, then leave to rest for 45 minutes to an hour. Now make the filling.

For the filling

1/2 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
400g spinach, washed – leaves roughly chopped, stems finely chopped (you could also use chard)
50-100g white Turkish cheese such as Tulum (or use feta)
150g sorrel
1 teaspoon sumac

Cook the onion gently in about half a tablespoon of oil, until it is soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for a minute or two, stirring, then set aside to cool. In a large pan, add the freshly washed spinach and allow to wilt down. Add the sorrel at the last minute and allow to wilt also. The sorrel will wilt quickly and turn a murky colour which is sad but normal. Set the leaves aside to cool, then squeeze out as much water as possible. Roughly chop them, then mix with the onion, sumac and cheese. The amount of cheese is up to you, but it’s best to have just a little I find, otherwise the pastries are too rich. Taste, then season with salt if necessary.

To assemble the pastries

Preheat the oven to 180C

Once the dough has rested, get your corn starch, luxuriate in the bonkers weirdness of the feel of it (it also makes a non-Newtonian fluid if mixed with water). Spread the corn starch on a work surface. Divide the dough into small balls. Cover in the starch, cut the ball in half, cover both halves in the corn starch and push back together. Then roll out. You want it to be about the thickness of a 50p coin, not mega thin.

Use a glass or something similar (I used the bottom of a cocktail shaker) to cut circles from the dough. Put a blob of filling mixture in the centre of each circle but don’t over-fill, about a heaped teaspoon should do it. Brush the edges of the circle with oil then bring up one side, and pinch in the other side until it meets in the middle. It’s hard to describe this but actually very easy to do, just have a go. Pop onto a baking tray, brush with beaten egg, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

7 comments | Beirut, Cheese, Pastries, Travel, Vegetables

Bagna Cauda

Monday, 20th October 2014

Bagna Cauda

I can’t get enough anchovies in my life and I’ve been known to spaff ridiculous amounts of money on them. The £80 in 4 days incident always springs to mind. One of my favourite ways to eat them is in a recipe I affectionately call ‘sick spaghetti’ due to the frankly outrageous intensity of it – lots of garlic, chilli, anchovies, butter, lemon and parsley. So good. This dip actually outranks it in terms of punch, which is quite the achievement and fine by me.

Bagna cauda is a classic Piedmontese dip combining two of the area’s most beloved ingredients: garlic and anchovies. Traditionally, it’s served warm with vegetables such as cardoons, celery, fennel, peppers and cauliflower. A piece of bread can be used to catch the drips of sauce, and eaten at the end. Then of course it’s time to start over with a new piece of bread.

I also suggest you avoid opening your mouth anywhere near another person for at least a day afterwards.

Bagna Cauda

I created this recipe for the Inghams Italy recipe book.

Bagna Cauda

150ml extra virgin olive oil
150g butter, cut into cubes
10 cloves garlic, peeled
Enough milk to cover the garlic
15 anchovy fillets (preferably packed in salt and rinsed, otherwise packed in oil)
A squeeze of lemon juice

A selection of sliced raw vegetables to serve, such as celery, fennel, peppers, endive
Bread, to serve

Place the peeled garlic cloves in a small saucepan and add enough milk to cover them. Simmer on a very low heat for about 20 minutes, until the cloves have softened. Drain, reserving the milk.

Return the pan to the heat and mush the garlic into a few tablespoons of the milk. Add the anchovies and allow them to melt over a low heat. Add the oil and butter and heat gently. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Serve warm with the vegetables and bread.

13 comments | Dips, Fish

My Favourite Brunch

Tuesday, 7th October 2014

Brunch

I like my brunch to work an Eastern European vibe. Think eggs cooked up with the kind of spiced sausages that leach dangerous, stain-making fat onto pyjama tops.

Now you may be asking yourself, quite understandably, why the hell I’m suggesting mixing eggs and sossidge of a morning like it’s something new. Well the reason is this: cottage cheese. No, honestly. I am perfectly aware that in the hierarchy of ‘secret magic breakfast-enhancing ingredients’ cottage cheese is generally…nowhere, but I promise you, this a game changer. Firstly you need to get your hands on some decent cottage cheese – none of that watery guff they sell in the supermarket. I’ve been using the Longley Farm brand which is creamy and re-assuringly dense in the pot. It brings some freshness to the dish, as yoghurt would, but it’s more substantial. Fantastic with eggs. Yes, ‘fantastic’. Who knew?!

The dieters can keep their watery cottage cheese for topping salads. I shall get on with lobbing scoops of it into my brunch.

Brunch

Brunch Eggs with Spiced Sausage and Cottage Cheese 

There are loads of ways you can take this actually, by using smoked Hungarian sausage for example, or omitting the meat altogether and serving with pickled beetroot for a Russian flavour. Russian brunch! Fancy that. If that becomes a trend then remember where you heard it first.

Sometimes I add garlic, too, but it depends on how you feel about that kind of thing at brunch.

1 small onion, diced
6 eggs
4 spicy sausages (Greek, Turkish, whatever you like). I used sucuk, sliced into chunks
Cottage cheese
Chives

Heat a heavy based skillet and lob the sausage chunks into it. Once the fat starts to leach out, add the onions and cook gently until the onions are soft and the sucuk is cooked.

There will be a lot of fat in the pan at this point, so drain most of it off but reserve it.

Lightly beat together the eggs in a bowl, season them, and add to the pan and just sort of break them up a bit and encourage everything around the pan on a low heat so it doesn’t stick – you want nice big soft clumps of egg, not bitty over-cooked scramble.

When it’s almost done (the eggs should still be a bit under), add some dollops of cottage cheese. Give it barely a minute, as the residual heat will finish off the eggs. Take a teaspoon or as much as you like of the reserved sausage fat and drizzle over the top. Sprinkle with chives and serve with bread if you like. I don’t usually bother as it’s so filling but it would probably serve 6 if you did.

11 comments | Breakfast, Brunch

Why The Camberwell Arms is the Perfect Local

Sunday, 5th October 2014

Camberwell Arms

Quail with Caesar salad at The Camberwell Arms

I once wrote that there was no such thing as the perfect local. I lamented the lack of ‘proper boozers’ left in London – the scrotty kind with Fosters ashtrays, pickled eggs, a juke box and a pub cat. While I still have much affection for those establishments and many fond memories of the years I pissed away in them, the fact remains that times have moved on and so have I. Maturing happened within me and so here we are with a different set of criteria which have been met in their entirety by The Camberwell Arms. I am insufferably smug that this is my local. It’s not the case that TCA doesn’t provide the same warm huggy feelings as those old boozers of yester-decade, because it does, just with bevelled edges and a pickled walnut veneer. They still sell Scampi Fries behind the bar, anyway, which should be a legal requirement before any pub is allowed to even obtain an alcohol licence let alone open the doors.

At first I had my reservations. The seats in the pub area seemed too low, but that was before I found my spot. Now I regularly nestle in, read the papers and generally feel at ease with the world, with the cosmos, with myself, even. Then there was the time I ate there shortly after opening when everything wasn’t quite right but hell, the paint had barely dried. My partner owns and runs a restaurant and let me tell you – going to a place in the first few weeks, or months, even, and slagging it off because the menu isn’t perfect yet, is beyond reprehensible. YOU HAVE NO IDEA. What did you expect them to do, exactly? Run the place on empty for a few months first before they let any customers in? There will always be crinkles, and the good places will concentrate on ironing them out.

So I’ve just come back from a perfect leisurely lunch at TCA; three courses with wine and a digestif, which I enjoyed entirely on my tod. It’s that kind of place you see. I feel completely comfortable there. If you don’t want to eat in the restaurant at the back, there’s a bar area for diners which faces the open kitchen. The pub area is up front, but you can eat there too if the restaurant and bar are full, because they actually believe in genuine hospitality, not silly rules. I’ve just inhaled a bowl of excellent BBQ mussels, with house made ‘nduja and sherry, followed by grilled cuttlefish with potatoes, pickled onions and aioli, the latter being one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in months. Smoky, tender as you like cuttlefish, like a riff on polpo a la gallega. Dreamy. Would I like dessert? Well, I shouldn’t really, but okay I’ll just have a look…OH..buttermilk and sour cherry ice cream. Go on, then, just a scoop…hmm sorry but, is that a grappa made with Gewürztraminer? I’d better try it, then, eh? I don’t even like grappa to be honest but…oh my, it’s smooth, isn’t it? Blimey. Okay now really, I should go and do that shopping, no honestly I must, etc. etc. etc.

The cooking at TCA is so solid, I can’t believe it’s happening in my local. All the ingredients are proper. They still serve that slightly controversial £50 chicken for 4 people, by the way, except it isn’t just a chicken, it’s a serious, rotisserated (totally a word) chicken with herby roast potatoes, salad and aioli, for £12.50 per person, which is actually great value. Yes, great value. Don’t you dare say otherwise until you’ve tasted it. Their pies are…damn, I want to say legendary without sounding like a wanker…very impressive, with the silkiest innards and a crust the colour of David Dickinson’s face. They make their own charcuterie. Their bread is from Brickhouse. And on and on and on…

Camberwell Arms

I am writing this before I slip into an afternoon snooze, thus completing the perfect Sunday. What else is there before I go? Oh! They make a really solid martini, which is the only cocktail I drink. Well, mostly (that’s a roundabout way of saying I’m really fussy about how I take my martinis). There’s an upstairs bar too but I haven’t been yet for fear I may never emerge again. The staff are excellent and genuinely likeable. The music isn’t too loud. The bogs are always sparkling clean. The wine list is well-balanced. They do a kick ass roast every Sunday. There’s a round of free tapas-sized bar snacks early evening. Okay I’ll stop now.

The Camberwell Arms
65 Camberwell Church Street
SE5 8TR
Tel: 020 7358 4364

Follow them on Twitter for menu updates (changes daily)

15 comments | Pubs, Restaurant Reviews

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