Archive for October 2008

The Tipped Chilli Cook Off – the winner is…

October 28th, 2008 — 8:00am

…! This past weekend, the Mucky Pup Pub in Islington was host to the first ever Tipped chilli cook-off – 8 chillis went head to head in a blind tasting and miraculously, my chilli won! It was a tough call though – there was some serious competition in there – number four, damn, you were tasty.

The chilli wasn’t the only heat that pup was packin though, we enjoyed nachos, salsa and guac from Mucho Mas, some awesome tuneage and – last but by no means least, the Sarah Palin Pinata (above). Boy, did she take a hammering…and after that, well, I couldn’t possibly reveal her sticky end….

What I will reveal however, is my chilli recipe. The quantities below will serve about 8-10 on my reckoning, less if you are greedy like me.There are a couple of things I do which I think makes the chilli extra delish. Firstly, I use two scotch bonnet chillies, which I roast first (with the garlic), to mellow out the heat and intensify the sweet, fruity flavour. I also always make sure to use dried kidney beans rather than tinned for their superior bite and I add some dark chocolate at the end of cooking, to give the chilli depth and a touch of sweetness.

Cheers to the guys at Tipped for a truly awesome day and to all the tasters for voting my chilli to win – hurrah! You can see I was rather smitten with my new chef’s hat, crocheted chilli (thank you, Aromy!) and my ‘pocket gardens’ – soon I will be growing my very own chillies at home. Hot damn!


Chilli Con Carne

1200g stewing beef, cut into bite size chunks
1 whole bulb of garlic
2 extra large scotch bonnet chillies
2 onions, diced
1 handful coriander leaves
100ml beef stock
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
3 tins cherry tomatoes in their juice
2 romero peppers, diced
400g kidney beans, soaked overnight and cooked
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
A splash of red wine
A teaspoon or two of red wine vinegar
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

– Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Remove the outer papery layers from the garlic bulb (leaving the cloves intact and the bulb together) and cut the top 1/2cm from the top of the bulb. Put the garlic and chillies in a small roasting dish, drizzle with oil and cover with foil. Roast for about half an hour until the garlic is soft. Remove from the oven and tease the garlic cloves from their cases and scrape the seeds and skin from the chillies, set both aside.
– Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for a minute or so until they start to smell aromatic (keep giving the pan a shimmy so they don’t burn). Remove to a pestle and mortar (or grinder) and grind to a powder.
– Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil (I like groundnut) in a large cooking pot, brown the meat in small batches and set aside.
– Heat a couple more tablespoons of oil in the pot and add the onions on a medium heat until soft and opaque before adding the peppers for a few minutes until softened. Add the garlic, chilli, cumin, coriander (seed) and oregano, stir for a couple of minutes and then add a good splash of red wine and allow the alcohol to burn off.
– Return the meat to the pan together with the beef stock, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and simmer for 2 hours or more on a really low heat (lid on) before adding the vinegar, dark chocolate and fresh coriander. The chilli is best eaten the day after you make it, with a touch more fresh coriander to finish.

39 comments » | Food Events

The Kitchen at Parson’s Green

October 26th, 2008 — 9:16pm

Earlier this week, The Kitchen at Parson’s Green was brave enough to fling open it’s doors to some friends of Trusted Places. Among our group – Su-lin, Chris, Bron, Lizzie, Alexthepink, terryturbojr, Lea, Lolly, Melanie, Tom and Niamheen. The idea behind the place is this; you choose some dishes online before you arrive, they get all the prep ready, you turn up and follow the instructions to assemble your meals which you then take home and finish cooking. Michelin starred chef Thierry Laborde came up with the recipes, which all take around 15 minutes or under to cook once at home.

We were welcomed with a glass of vino and all found our places around the long workbench, marvelling at how methodically everything was set up. All the prep for each dish is in front of you on a big tray, you simply follow the recipe to assemble everything, pack it in a tray and seal it ready to toddle off home with. I noticed people peeking into my bag on the tube with very envious eyes! Perhaps it was the veal saltimbocca with green beans and sicilian lemons (yum) one of my four chosen dishes. The others included salmon teriyaki with bok choy and shitake mushrooms, puy lentils and split pea dahl samosas with a creme fraiche dip and organic salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes with homemade ketchup. Not bad eh?

Apart from the food being mighty tasty, we had a really good laugh around that table, messing around with food and trying our hardest not to eat the ingredients.

Here’s a couple of the cooked dishes. I was really glad to see instructions for oven-baking the samosas – I’m not a deep-frying kind of gal – makes me feel ill just thinking about it actually. I made sure they were properly doused in melted butter before bringing them home so they crisped up beautifully, shame I had to share it (of course you can have some honey..). As usual, we both burnt our tongues because we couldn’t wait…

The teriyaki salmon was also delicious, beautifully caramelised and glazed with sticky marinade. I burnt my tongue on that too.

OK, so us food bloggers are not really the target market, we all make a lot of time for cooking and to us, the process is just as important as the finished product but, if you lead a hectic lifestyle and you’re not interested in/no good at/can’t find time for cooking but you want great grub at home, it could just be for you. And if all that assembly seems like a bit too much effort you can arrange to pick up the meals ready to go, just take ‘em home and cook ‘em. You won’t find a ready meal like that down your local Tesco…

The Kitchen at Parson’s Green
275 New King’s Road
Parson’s Green
0207 736 8067

11 comments » | Shops

Chorizo, Kale and Chickpea Stew with Sherry

October 4th, 2008 — 10:18am

I have one foot already out the door as I’m writing this but just want to share it with you while I still have the warm cosy feeling inside. After the food and sherry pairing with Heston Blumenthal earlier this week, I was blessed with a bottle of Manzanilla sherry. Unfortunately, I was also the recipient of a nasty cold and so needed something to fortify and comfort – stew. When a big bag of kale arrived in the vegetable box I immediately thought of a favourite chorizo-kale-chickpea dish but a little splash of sherry makes it that bit more interesting, adding extra flavour and depth. I’ve used sherry with similar ingredients before (in a soup) with great success and I shall be adding a slosh to all manner of braises, soups and hearty winter grub in the near future.

I cannot urge you enough to make this dish with dried chickpeas – they are totally worth it for two reasons, firstly – the knobbly firm texture and secondly, the nuttiness. As I’m sure most of you already know, they are far superior to the tinned version and yet require a little more effort on the part of your memory and your time. It is necessary to re-hydrate the peas overnight by soaking in water and then giving them a bit of a cooking to avoid a rather nasty stomach upset. That out of the way, you are rewarded for your efforts accordingly.

It then just remains for you to crack on with the one-pot wonder that is stew, leave it while it plop plops away on the stove, filling your house with the most droolsome aroma and then finally, ladle yourself a big bowlful, curl up  on the couch and prepare yourself for a big cosy food hug. Just don’t get impatient and burn your tongue like I always do.

P.S – I know that I promised you that recipe I have finally perfected after so many years and for which I picked up the missing ingredient recently at Persepolis. It is coming – next week I promise, to you and myself.

Chorizo, Kale and Chickpea Stew
I have lost the paper on which I recorded quantities but I think stew is something you add to as necessary anyway, while quantities are not hugely important. However, if you would like a more clearly stated recipe – don’t hesitate to e-mail me. Here’s the rough version.

Fry some onions until opaque, add carrots, peppers and garlic, followed by a good glug of sherry. Let the alcohol burn off then add stock, passata (or tinned tomatoes), the chickpeas, cooking chorizo, kale, a little potato and a good pinch of (hot) smoked paprika to taste. Let simmer for about an hour, then season and add fresh chopped parsley.

13 comments » | Main Dishes, Meat, Pulses, Vegetables

Sherry & Food Pairing with Heston Blumenthal

October 2nd, 2008 — 8:54pm

Moi? Hanging out with Heston? Well, not quite but I was there, at a sherry and food pairing evening along with fellow London bloggers. We gathered at Shoreditch House for the event, the point being to show off the results of Heston’s recent experiments – analysing the flavour compounds in sherry.

We got the low down on how his team have isolated a particular set of compounds, known as diketopiperazines (my spell checker wants to change that to crazinesses, how brilliant?), which accentuate the flavours of umami-rich foods. We learn how the research has provided insights into existing flavour pairings – apparently it’s all about the volatiles (aromas) and non-volatiles (tastes), which are joined up by that miraculous neurological mass, the brain – resulting in the overall experience of flavour.

The sherry and food pairings are made on the basis of molecular structure, resulting in new and exciting combinations. I must say, the evening completely changed my view of sherry. I actually enjoyed every glass (and there were quite a few) – the once-a-year tipple of choice for the over 80’s no longer. Sherry has come out of the closet.

First up, Manzanilla paired with crab and paprika on toasted country bread. I was very pleased with myself for detecting a green apple aroma in the sherry and then reading it in the tasting notes. I think I may even have made a ridiculous squealing noise due to sheer astonishment at my inexperienced yet triumphant sherry sniffing nostrils.

Next it was posh cheese on toast (Gruyère and cloves), Heston’s take on cheese fondue. Just a tad classier than the 1970’s cheesy dipping sauce. This was paired with a Fino – peachy, floral and woody. Apparently, it is those crazinesses enhancing the impact of the cheesy flavour and a bit of oh-so-simple molecule matching between sherry and clove, that makes the combo such a knock out.

To follow the cheesy-clovey-Finoey goodness, Amontillado paired with pata negra ham, peaches, rocket, Marcona almonds and balsamic vinegar…

Heston mentioned in his introduction that some ham is actually cured with peach kernels – who knew? They were already partners in crime. The tasting notes remind me that the Amontillado was woody and spicy and the pairing with the ham and balsamic was delish – really stunning actually.

The smoked mackerel rilettes you see below were served with an Oloroso (smoky and deeply fruity). The sherry “balances the smoky flavour of the fish and [has] enough acidity to cope with the oily texture”. I can confirm that  this is definitely the case. This was actually one of my favourite pairings – that was, until….

Scotch eggs! – amazing. They were made from the juiciest caramelised pork – the case for a dainty quails egg – cooked so the white was perfectly set while the yolk remained gooey and soft. How the hell did they do that? So impressive I ate two, even though I was feeling fairly over-indulged. The eggs were served with a pale cream sherry – intense, meaty and smoky.

Alas, at this point I had to leave, duties called from elsewhere but I am reliably informed that the next two courses were Eccles cakes with Stilton and sherry butter (gutted I missed that) and miniature sherry trifles – paired with a cream sherry and ‘PX’ (Pedro Ximinex), respectively. You can see both of these for yourselves here and here, along with more pictures of the evening.

So I’m sitting on the bus home and thinking ‘how much sherry did I drink tonight?’ – ‘how flipping fascinating is molecular gastronomy?’ ‘how much do I need to visit The Fat Duck?’ – but in the end, I just kept coming back to those ridiculously perfect scotch eggs…

13 comments » | Food Events

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