Archive for August 2007

Avocado and Mango Salsa

August 31st, 2007 — 1:57am

Avocado and Mango Salsa

I thought I would share one of my favourite salsa recipes with you. I make this salsa so often that I do not know where I first came across it but I know that I have adapted quantities and flavours to my own taste over the years. It goes with just about any grilled fish, but is outstandingly good with mackerel, particularly barbecued. I went down to the fishmonger yesterday evening to pick up 2 fat mackerels only to find it closed after the bank holiday weekend. What I do in the event that the fish monger is closed, is turn 180 degrees on my heels and cross to the other side of the road to the butcher, and vice versa if this is closed (if they are both closed I don’t know what I would do ok?). Last night I picked up 2 rib-eye steaks and we found the salsa and steak pairing to be a (at first thought unlikely) success! This salsa is also something that I make often when I am in one of my ‘healthy’ periods (as I am at the moment). It is so good for you that you can heap an enormous pile of it onto your plate with no trace of guilt whatsoever. I vaguely remember that the original recipe called for olive oil but I think it is completely unnecessary, and much fresher without it.

Avocado and Mango Salsa

2 Hass avocados, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
Handful coriander leaves, chopped
2 ripe mangoes, chopped
Salt and pepper

– Place the chopped avocado in a serving dish and squeeze over the lime juice
– Add all the other ingredients, season with (fine) salt and pepper and mix gently.
– Set aside for half an hour or so to let the flavours marry.

N.B: You can also make a nice variation using pineapple in place of the mango; be warned though,

Helen: ‘Don’t you remember I made a nice variation on this with pineapple?’
Chris: Yeah, it didn’t really work though did it because you didn’t cut the pineapple small enough – too chunky’
Helen: ‘Oh yeah’

3 comments » | Gluten-free, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegan, Vegetables

Notting Hill Carnival

August 30th, 2007 — 7:07am

Notting Hill Carnival

We visited Notting Hill Carnival yesterday for the first time, having just missed it last year by moving from Oxford to London in September. I had no idea whatsoever about the sheer scale of the event and I have since found out that it is the second largest street party in the world, after the Rio Carnival in Brazil. The floats and costumes were really very impressive and our small party could be found dancing in the streets until the light started fading and the rum ran dry. There were many stalls selling Caribbean food and I couldn’t resist trying some Jerk chicken after my recent visit to the Jerk Cookout Festival. I have to say, the carnival Jerk was nowhere near as good, the flavour of the Scotch Bonnet chillies was not there and neither was the depth of spicy sweet flavour so particular to the Jerk seasoning. We did try some fried dumplings however, which were very good, crispy outer coating, with a sweet and fluffy inside and a hint of nutmeg. Chris ate his with a large dollop of hot pepper sauce on the side. Very moreish indeed.

Fried Dumpling

Comment » | Food Events

Saturday Night Curries

August 26th, 2007 — 1:41am


I love cooking Indian food, the exotic aromas and colours are so exciting and make me feel like I have a carnival in my kitchen. Just as exciting is the preparation, the shopping for ingredients before hand, especially on a beautiful sunny day like today. As I’ve mentioned before, East Dulwich is a treasure trove of food gems. We ventured out early this afternoon to stock up on ingredients for a curry that I promised to make. Chris enjoys a king prawn vindaloo and I will not fail to deliver. The only problem here is the question of authenticity, but I am not a snob about this kind of thing. The vindaloo originated in Goa, created by the Portugese-Indian colony and it is said that a vindaloo recipe cannot be authentic unless pork is used, as the fat from the pork, combined with the vinegar and garlic, creates a unique taste. The word ‘vindaloo’ comes from the Portugese word for wine, ‘vinho’ and for garlic, ‘alhos’. The authentic vindaloo does not include potatoes as you will find in many Indian restaurants over here, this is presumed to be an error as a result of the word ‘aloo’ meaning ‘potato’ in Hindi.

For this version, I have adapted a paste by Rick Stein, which is fairly authentic (here), and I found inspiration for the rest from a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey, in her book, ‘The Ultimate Curry Bible’. So I am partly sticking to tradition and partly adapting the recipe for today’s taste. I originally wanted to use prawns as this is Chris’ favourite variation so we headed down to our fishmonger, Moxon’s. (Brilliant. I wanted to nominate them as a local food hero but there was some problem with the website, so they missed out due to a technical error. They do not open on Monday’s as there is no catch on a Sunday – such reassurance that the fish is fresh). When we get there however, shock horror, no prawns!

So, a last minute change of plan (don’t you love that about cooking?) takes us a few steps across the road to the butchers where we pick up some beef, which I find so satisfying in a curry. After a brief discussion with the butcher about the curry I will be making, he recommends rump, and so we go away with enough to last us for several servings each as apparently, one should make a vindaloo the day before eating and so we want enough for tomorrow too.

I did make a couple of small changes to Rick’s paste recipe, but overall it was fantastic, so aromatic with a powerful kick at the end and the flavour of the cloves works so well. I used half the amount of chillies as I couldn’t find Kashmiri ones and I removed a few of the seeds. If I made the recipe again I would also use a slightly larger onion. I did use potatoes but next time, I think I will leave them out.

We ate the vindaloo with a vegetable rice, tarka dal, raita and onion ring salad. This is the real thing, so perfumed, with a satisfying fiery punch.


For the paste

7 dried red chillies, some of the seeds removed (if you can find Kashmiri chillies, use double the amount as they are milder)
1 onion
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 ½ tsp whole cloves
3inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch piece fresh ginger
4 tbsp garlic
A walnut sized piece of tamarind pulp (soak for 30 mins and pass through a sieve if you have the stuff with seeds and stones still intact)
1 tsp jaggery or soft brown sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

-Preheat the oven to Gas 8 (230°C/450°F) and roast the onion (unpeeled) for about and hour until it is soft to the core

-Put the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and cumin into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder
and blend to a powder

-Add the spices to a blender along with the peeled onion and everything else

-Blend to a paste

For the vindaloo

Rump steak, diced
1 large onion, sliced
9 fl oz water
6 small new potatoes
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
6 curry leaves
2 tbsp vegetable oil
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped

-Smother the meat with the curry paste and leave to marinade for 1 ½ hours

-Heat the vegetable oil and fry the onions and curry leaves over a medium-high heat until the onions begin to brown at the edges

-Add the meat and sear all over before adding the water and spices

-Turn the heat to low, cover and cook gently for 1 ½ hours

-Add the potatoes until cooked and the curry sauce is thick

-Finish by stirring through the coriander

1 comment » | Main Dishes, Meat

Jerk Cookout Festival

August 13th, 2007 — 6:50am

Jerk chickenWe visited the now annual Jerk Cookout Competition yesterday, held in the beautiful gardens at the Horniman museum. These gardens are a favourite destination for walks and are conveniently only five minutes from our house. The festival began last year and features fifteen of London’s best Caribbean restaurants.

We were really hungry when we arrived and the cooking was in full swing. Huge barrels converted into barbecues lined the perimeter of the field, the smoke carrying a mixture of spicy scents making our mouths water. There was a wide range of ‘jerk’ on offer; chicken, pork and snapper alongside dishes like curry goat and rice and peas. Apparently, ‘if you can eat it, you can jerk it!’

I decided to stay simple and ordered jerk chicken with salad which was delicious; perfectly grilled chicken, succulent and juicy with excellent balancing of spices. The chef had managed to capture the fruity flavour of habanero chillies without keeping too much of the heat. The chicken was then given a liberal slathering of spicy sauce which again was lip smackingly good.

It’s a shame we didn’t have time to sample more before the heavens opened and we retreated hastily to the local pub. Although it is obvious that the festival is fairly new, there was a really happy vibe and the quality of the food was high. Its definitely worth a visit if you live in the area.

1 comment » | Caribbean Food, Food Events


August 7th, 2007 — 12:15pm

Baklava side

I have been itching to make baklava for ages. I had an idea for a variation and then realised I couldn’t modify something I have never made before…..oops. The Greek thyme honey that my flatmate bought as a gift has been sitting patiently on the shelf since making this salad; a twinkling little opportunity to make a good, authentic baklava. I can’t resist that super sweet, buttery, flaky, nuttiness melting on the tongue.

I also spotted them on the menu at a Turkish restaurant a few days ago; no further encouragement needed from that point forward. The Turkish restaurant was one of many on a street in Manor House, North London; more of what you might call a ‘kebab shop’ but the food was authentic, fresh and tasty. We chose the ‘Iskender’, diced bread, topped with yoghurt, topped with spiced lamb and a very rich tomato sauce, served with salad and tzatziki. It was delicious, although very rich and we couldn’t eat it all. It was amazing to watch the chefs work and I wasn’t much company as I sat there fascinated by their speed, skill and obvious passion. A constant buzz of activity produced enormous piles of salad, sizzling skewers and steaming flatbreads, all made to the sounds of happy voices and deep belly laughter.

I adapted this baklava recipe from one that I found here. I found the original called for a little too much butter or my taste (but only a little!) and the pistachios were a welcome addition. It is the amount of nuts that make this recipe special, although again, I have modified the amounts to suit my taste. I also use less pastry than some might be used to as I really like those nuts to take centre stage. The flavour of the thyme honey was so delicious and pronounced that I cannot imagine making baklava again without it. I must Google for a Greek deli nearby!


1 standard jar of Greek honey, missing a couple of tablespoons
¼ pint water
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch lemon zest (very finely chopped)
1 pinch orange zest (very finely chopped)
½ tbsp lemon juice
200g walnuts, coarsely ground
100g almonds, coarsely ground
75g pistachios, coarsely ground
2 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
6oz unsalted butter, melted
400g filo pastry
Cloves, for studding
20cm cake tin (I used spring form and this worked well).

Preheat your oven to 200°C

-In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the honey and water, stirring until you have a syrup.
-Add the lemon juice, the zests and the cinnamon stick and cook over a medium heat until the syrup begins to thicken slightly.
-Remove the cinnamon stick and allow the syrup to cool while you assemble the baklava.
-In a bowl, combine the nuts, remaining spices and 3tbsp of the melted butter.
-Add a good layer of filo to the bottom of the pan, brushing each with melted butter before adding the next (I found around 10 sheets did it). Allow some of the sheets to drape over the edge of the tin as you will fold these over at the next stage.
-Put around 1/3 of the nuts in, put another layer of filo on, again brushing with butter as if your life depended on it.
-Repeat this until you have 3 layers, and have covered the top with filo. Then pour the remaining butter over (yes, all of it) and score into diamonds with a sharp knife.
-Stud each diamond with a clove and bake for around 30-40 minutes until golden brown and smelling divine.
-Allow the baklava to cool for 10 minutes before spooning over the syrup and leaving to rest, preferably overnight but at least a few hours (no, I couldn’t wait either – I tucked in after a mere hour, but trust me, it really is better if you wait).

Baklava above

1 comment » | Desserts, Pastries

Back to top