Archive for May 2010

Big Lunch Update: Number 1

May 31st, 2010 — 9:40pm

As if the challenge of organising, cooking and hosting a Big Lunch wasn’t enough, their people have sent me a video camera to record ‘updates’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well up for it – it’s you I feel sorry for. On the one hand, making this was a good laugh; on the other hand I’m scared that people may stop reading  forever from this point forward. I apologise in advance. So here’s a video of me waffling a little bit and then doing the same around Peckham. I’ve basically left in all the bits that other people would probably cut out, in the hope of giving you something that is at least mildly entertaining, if only for its awfulness. The middle section is rather surreal. Anyway, I promise to try and get better…

I must just say that I’ve made a couple of mistakes (other than the obvious). I’ve said Kate Thal from Green and Blue Wines is sending flour and sugar when in fact she is sending flour; the sugar will come from Billington’s. I’ll be doing more detailed updates about the products that people are so kindly donating and the recipes I’m going to make with them; there are some absolute crackers, so watch this space.

12 comments » | Film, Peckham, The Big Lunch

Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu

May 30th, 2010 — 11:12am

This is, quite simply, one of the most stunning tofu recipes I’ve ever eaten. No, forget that, it’s one of the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten in recent times, and that’s coming from a girl who’s been to possibly her two favourite London restaurants in the past month. It’s up there with ma po tofu and that’s got pork in it where this doesn’t. People, this is serious.

It’s intense, really intense. The foundation of the sauce is 12 sliced shallots; that’s a lot – a whole lot of shallot. There are 12 cloves of garlic, plus five whole tablespoons of crushed black pepper. It’s hot – really hot; I thought my face was going to fall off, and that’s even without the eight recommended chillies. I’d overlooked this part of the recipe and had just one lonely, shrivelled specimen lurking in the fridge. Feeling lazy I thought, sod it, I’ll just add some chilli flakes at the end if its not hot enough. I seriously cannot even imagine the raging inferno had I used even three or four. That pepper alone is something special.

It’s amazing though, and hugely addictive. The first key to its success is getting that sleek, healthy tofu, and giving it a damn good frying in hot oil until a golden crust forms all over. It’s then added back to the shallots, garlic and chilli, simmered with three kinds of soy sauce (light, dark and sweet) and garnished with spring onions. Bob’s your uncle.

This dish needs to be eaten fresh and hot; it’s the kind of thing you think will taste awesome cold for lunch the next day – it doesn’t. It’s a shadow of its former self; just a warning.

Recipe here. Go! Make it!

22 comments » | Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Tofu

Buen Provecho: Seriously Good Mexican Street Food

May 23rd, 2010 — 9:41pm

I love SE London, I think we’ve established that. Some areas though, really make you dig deep. For me, these places are the Old Kent Road and Elephant and Castle. The latter, thankfully, is now benefiting from a bit of regeneration. One new initiative is a food market, which is there every Sunday and occupies the same space as the weekday market, piled up in the labyrinthine space between subway and tube station.

The market is small but there’s an interesting set of stalls; we passed Ethiopian food and coffee, and jerk chicken. For me to pass a jerk stall and not buy any is pretty much unheard of but I’d been tipped off about this Mexican guy by the same woman who prodded me in the direction of The Meat Wagon last summer and I trust her tastebuds (thanks Catherine).

Arturo Ortega Rodriguez makes, in his own words, “authentic Mexican food” and boy, is it good. We bought 3 tacos each for a fiver, with 3 different fillings. The pork meat, marinaded in orange juice and achiote, with the texture of pulled pork, was incredible. Sweet and smoky, we wolfed it down, amber juices dribbling down our chins and arms.

Arturo blisters the tacos on a hot plate, before loading them with your chosen meats plus a dollop of deep mole sauce; you seal the deal yourself with spoons of spanking-fresh condiments – hot salsa, creamy guacamole, crisp onions and the most amazing ‘salsa asada’, a roasted tomato and chipotle concoction. I only remembered when I looked at the photos that he sells it in tubs to take away. Kicking myself doesn’t even cover it.

He’s been doing his thing for about 3 years apparently, and usually sets up in Waterloo at lunchtimes. I want a job in Waterloo. He was also kicking out chilaquiles (“tortilla strips topped with chicken and red sauce with crème fraiche and cheese”) and quesadillas, those spectacular melty cheese tortilla towers.

We stuffed our faces perched on small plastic stools by the side of the stall, enjoying a bit of people-watching (which can get quite fruity in the Elephant) and wiping our mouths literally every two seconds with the provided sheets of kitchen roll. Mexican food has got to be the next thing to take off  in London, don’t you think? Aside from Wahaca what have we got apart from the ubiquitous burrito?

Elephant might be the kind of place you put firmly in the ‘avoid, avoid, avoid’ category, unless your idea of a good time is getting lost in a subway maze for an hour and then catching a bus to just about anywhere but I promise you, this place really is worth the journey.

You can find Arturo at the Elephant food market most Sunday’s (although not for the next 3 weeks – he’s on holiday) and lunch times in Waterloo (I’m not sure where, I haven’t been there – please comment if you know).

44 comments » | Mexican Food, Street Food

Taste of London (not that one)

May 19th, 2010 — 11:03am

I’m not talking about the annual restaurant festival in Regent’s Park, but a project by an art student called Junior Monney (awesome name), who’s studying graphic design at The University of The Arts. The idea of the project is that Junior visits Londoners in their own homes and they cook him a meal and have a little chat about their own food history. He therefore builds up a picture of the stories behind food choices. This of course encompasses culture, personal experience, individual taste and the practical and emotional. He said he had some difficulty with the project as most people were wary of letting a stranger into their home. Me being a person who meets people ‘off the internet’ all the time however, invited him right in without question and crossed my fingers he wasn’t an axe murderer.

Turned out he was just a really lovely bloke. Phew. I’d decided to make him some of my salt fish fritters; they’re simple, Peckham-themed and – being finger food – dodge the major problem that is me not having a dining table. What a right royal pain in the rear that is. I also had another motive though, which was to update the recipe with an accompanying sweetcorn salsa.

I served them with a spicy tomato sauce last time, which was nice, but no match for those juicy sweet kernels. Mint, coriander and lime juice kept it fresh. Junior seemed to enjoy them anyway, and even took one home for his mum. I told you he was a lovely bloke.

We had fun cooking, eating, filming, drinking beer and taking pictures of each other taking pictures. If you want to see the films that Junior made then go here – there’s a woman cooking some frankly rather massive rhubarb; beef bourguinon with a Caribbean twist; some interesting photos of Vaisakhi celebrations in Southall and a vegan guy cooking Trinidadian oxtail soup for his family.

The film about my fritters is on that home page too. Personally, I can’t bear to watch it because I think I look and sound weird, which bodes well for my upcoming film updates for my Big Peckham Lunch. The flipcam has arrived, and I’m ready to roll. These things can only get easier, I assume. Even if you feel the need to mute my rambling though,  there’s some footage of Peckham Rye on there which is worth a gander. Did I mention I love Peckham?* Oh right.

An excellent idea for a project I think you’ll agree; I’m very pleased to have been able to help out with it. People and food are surely the two best things to be interested in and I’m filled with confidence that Junior will breeze through that degree and then some. I wish him the very best of luck.

Sweetcorn Salsa to go with Salt Fish Fritters

I er, didn’t write anything down. I used a large tin of sweetcorn, which I drained and heated in a dry pan first, until the liquid cooked off and it started to toast and colour; a small handful each coriander and mint leaves, chopped; 1/2 a red bell pepper, diced; 1/2 a red chilli, chopped and the juice of 1 lime. Mix it all together. Oh and salt and pepper. I think that’s it. Taste and adjust, that’s the way to do it.

* I was very pleased to see my love of Peckham in print in The Times last week – see crumpled piece of paper below.

15 comments » | Caribbean Food, Film, Fish, Street Food, Vegetables

SPAM: Food of My Youth

May 16th, 2010 — 5:54pm

The SPAM (it’s a bánh mì with SPAM)

SPAM: chopped pork and ham in a can. It’s probably not something you ever expected to read about on this blog, or many other food blogs, to be fair but hold your horses right there reader, because I’ve a few things I want to say about it. Let’s take some time to enter the realms of guilty pleasure, to put aside all thoughts of pork as you generally know it and (if your family was anything like mine), to cast your minds back towards the flavours of childhood.

Maybe you are turning up your nose right now, before wistfully reminiscing about the sophisticated little you tugging on your granny’s starched apron strings while she whisked resplendent glossy meringues and taught you all the secrets of perfect pickles. Well while you did that, I was eating SPAM (actually, my nan made stellar pickles and my parents are great cooks but that’s not the point); for me and my childish palate, highlights were salty chopped pig from a tin, and Mr. Brain’s faggots.

As I got older I turned my back on SPAM, deciding I’d grown out of it; I was embarrassed to admit it had ever passed my lips. It was like ditching an old mate because you moved up to big school and decided they’re not good enough to fit in with the cool kids. Harsh. It’s only in recent years I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s OK to eat something and damn well enjoy it once in a while, even if you know deep down it’s pretty wrong.

SPAM is meat in a can; let’s think about what that means. I’m aware that it doesn’t contain the finest cuts of rare breed swine with a royal blood line and that what it does contain is salty as hell, conceals a significant proportion of your daily fat intake and slides out of the can with an alarming jelly-lubed slurp. There’s no denying though, that on certain days in certain ways, I’ll chomp my way down memory lane and like it.

And you know what? It’s amazing how many people share in my occasional appreciation. Simon Majumdar for example, revelled in his opportunity to judge at the SPAM cook of the year awards, while my good friend Lizzie introduced me to one of her family’s favourite ways to eat it. Su-Lin serves up a classic SPAM, egg and rice, Sunflower makes some stonking Chinese pancakes and the Hawaiians are mad for SPAM Musubi.

When the people at SPAM offered to send me a cooking set, I accepted with the enthusiasm of the ten year old me. In it were such treasures as a SPAM apron; a SPAM oven glove; two pens (appropriately embellished, obviously); a cook book; a spatula and of course, a tin of SPAM. In return for this gift, the official people have asked me to come up with a recipe. I thought about the best way to use it. It’s a luncheon meat and the only really acceptable time to eat luncheon meat for me is in either something Chinese-style or in a dish similarly spiced, funked and/or pickled…

Enter the SPAM mi (that’s a bánh mì using – you’ve guessed it – SPAM). I smothered slices with a mixture of crushed garlic, black pepper, fish sauce and sesame oil before frying until crisp and stuffing into warmed baguette piled high with familiar bánh mì garnishes. It really hit the spot.

The taste and smell of the pink fried slices transported me back in time almost instantly, but my own personal history with the mystery meat is minuscule compared to the bigger picture. World War II troops practically lived on the stuff and in Hawaii, they still do the same today, feeling sufficiently passionate to celebrate it with the annual Waikiki SPAM Jam festival. It’s even on the menu at Maccy D’s. There’s a fan club, an outrageously famous comedy sketch, a cook book and a museum. While I probably limit my own consumption to a couple of tins per year, it’s a guilty pleasure that I’m happy to embrace because let’s face it, sometimes only the saline whack of a low budget cured pork product will do.


340g SPAM (can size), cut into 1cm slices
2 tablespoons coarse, crushed black pepper
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large clove crushed garlic


Coriander leaves
Mint leaves
Sliced red chilli
Thinly sliced red onion or spring onion
Thin, de-seeded cucumber slices
Carrot and daikon pickle (there are loads of recipes out there – it’s really about adjusting to taste. Here’s one from Viet World Kitchen).

Baguette (to stuff it all into. Apparently the best ones are made from rice flour but I’ve never found one so I just use a normal one and scoop out a bit of the insides if it’s really dense).

For the SPAM, mix the pepper, fish sauce, sesame oil and garlic together well then rub over the SPAM slices and allow to marinate for an hour. After this time, fry the slices in a small amount of vegetable oil until golden and crisp on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper.

To build, lightly warm your baguette in the oven and then smear on the mayo, add the SPAM and all your other ingredients as desired.

18 comments » | Guilty Pleasures, Meat, Sandwiches

Brunch a la Peckham

May 12th, 2010 — 8:36pm

A weekend brunch is about chilling in the homestead; for me this is the most important time to be ducking in and out of  local shops and showing some love for the hood. Anyway let’s face it, if your Friday nights are anything like mine you probably can’t move your sorry ass too far from the sofa anyway come Saturday morning. It’s a case of a Supermarket Sweep* style dash – gather the goods – in and out – back home to rustle up something warming, protein-heavy and importantly, filling.

So, it’s a Peckham twist on yer classic egg, sausage and tomato combination and it goes like this: in a decent, heavy frying pan brown some sausage slices (I used some beefy ones from Persepolis but you could use chorizo or similar, whatever you can find), then set them aside and soften some good old onion, garlic and chilli (I used fruity and fierce scotch bonnet). Add a tin of good quality tinned toms and 2 generous handfuls of spinach. Finally, crack a couple of eggs on top and let simmer until they’re cooked. A sprinkle of citric sumac, a warmed wedge of onion seed-speckled bread and a dollop of coriander flecked labneh (strained yoghurt) complete the Peckham theme. If it’s the season and you can get your hands on it, Must-e-Moussir (yoghurt with spring garlic) works a treat too.

This still tastes delicious even if you’ve dodged the hangover, but it’s a damn fine cure if you didn’t.

*For a truly disturbing ‘dance’ remix of the Supermarket Sweep theme tune featuring host Dale Winton, various shoppers and a guy in high-waisted bleached denim, click here.

12 comments » | Breakfast, Brunch, Eggs, Meat, Peckham

Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream

May 6th, 2010 — 3:01pm

Ice cream of my dreams.

Rhubarb? Check. Little doughy crumble pieces? Check. Complete absence of faffy custard base? Checky check check. It’s basically perfect. Not that I’m going to take the credit of course, that must go to Saint Delia. Her recipes always work.

You roast your barb with sugar (I added a splash of rosewater – orange blossom water would also be nice) then purée and mix with cream before churning, adding the crumble pieces at the last minute. The finished ice cream has an aerated cloud-like texture and oh my goodness is it ever creamy and tart and spun through with squidgy cookie-dough-like pieces.

Next time, I’ll use a bit less sugar, to let just a smidge more of the barb’s characteristic tartness to come through and steer it in a slightly more grown up direction. Not too grown up though. I mean, it’s ice cream after all and for me, it’s all about the memories. Hunched up in a secret corner somewhere, knees up to my chest, bowl balanced on top, performing the same strange ritual of mashing and moulding and eating that I always, always did as a child. I marvelled at its magical soothing properties; the only thing I could ever eat when ill (or pretending to be ill). It was about the excitement of learning every new flavour and the painful learning curve that is realising how to avoid a brainfreeze. Now it’s more about sensitive teeth and weight gain. It’s definitely worth that extra run every week though, and I know I’ll still be hoovering it up when I’ve no longer got any of my own teeth left. Just think – if I leave out the crumble bits, I won’t even need them.

Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream by Delia Smith (original recipe here)

For the ice cream:

1 lb (450 g) trimmed rhubarb
8 oz (225 g) sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
15 fl oz (425 ml) whipping cream
A splash of rosewater or orange blossom water (optional)

For the crumble:

3 oz (75 g) plain white flour
2 oz (50 g) butter
2 oz (50 g) light brown muscovado sugar
½ level teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all the crumble ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to rub the butter into the flour as if you were making pastry. You want small, pea sized pieces of dough. Sprinkle these evenly into a baking dish and put to one side.

Cut the barb into 1cm lengths and put in a shallow baking dish, then sprinkle over the lemon juice and sugar mixing well. I added a splash of the rosewater at this point. Put the dish on a low shelf in the preheated oven and the crumble mix on the top. The crumble needs to be baked for 10 minutes then removed and left to cool. The barb may take another 15-20 although I found this slightly too long so remember to check it. When it has cooled slightly, blend it to a purée.

Break up the crumble into pea sized lumps again.

Stir the cream into the purée then churn in an ice cream maker until it has the texture of softly whipped cream, then scrape it into a plastic tub (with a lid) and stir in the crumble pieces quickly, before freezing.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, do as Delia says and “freeze the cream and rhubarb mixture (without the crumble) in the box for 3-4 hours, then whisk and return to the freezer. Re-freeze for a further 2 hours, then whisk again and stir in the crumble before the final freezing. If frozen solid, the ice cream will need to be transferred to the main body of the fridge for about 25 minutes before serving to allow it to become soft enough to scoop.”

25 comments » | Desserts, Ice Cream

Back to top