Archive for November 2010

Top tip for making sloe gin

November 29th, 2010 — 8:40am

The only ‘hard work’ involved in making sloe gin is foraging those sloes. Most recipes also advise you to painstakingly prick each sloe with a pin to allow the juices to leach out in the bottle. Forget this. I recently ran into Sipsmith’s master distiller, Jared Brown who gave me an absolute blinder of a tip – put the sloes in the freezer before bottling. This way, their structure breaks down through the freezing process, eliminating the need to prick.

Now it is really just a case of chucking everything in a bottle.

Sloe gin (makes a 1 litre bottle)

Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn bush and are best picked after the first frost, when they should be ripe.

500g sloes
Gin (I used Beefeater – not too simple or complex in flavour)
100g-150g caster sugar (I used 100g as I don’t like it too sweet but most recipes use 150g)

Once you’ve foraged your sloes, pick over and wash them thoroughly. You can be diligent and remove all little stalky bits if you like but as you can see I didn’t even bother doing that. Once frozen, sling the sloes into a clean 1 litre bottle. Funnel in the sugar and then cover with gin.

Turn the bottle daily for a week or two, then just turn it (upside down and back again) every week or so. You can drink it after about 2 months but 6 would be better (no-one ever waits that long). When ready to drink, strain the gin through muslin and re-bottle.

10 comments » | Drinks, Food From The Rye, Foraging, Fruit, Peckham

Baby squid stuffed with prawns and black beans

November 24th, 2010 — 1:48pm

Oh how I love to stuff a squid. Two favourite fillings are chorizo and rice or minced pork and lime leaves.

Last night I found myself once again with the urge to stuff. I buy bags of frozen baby squid either from my fishmonger or the local Asian supermarket; they’re cheap and they de-frost quickly, making them perfect for a speedy dinner.

Rather than use something soft inside like a grain I wanted to keep a bouncy texture; prawns immediately came to mind. Once minced, they bind together into a wonderful springy filling, like that of a Thai fish-cake. To increase the effect I chopped up the tentacles of the squid and added them to the mix too.

This seafood centre is studded with the extraordinary deep, salted and funky flavour of fermented black beans. I had to stop myself from eating it all pre-stuffing.

The squid would be great eaten straight from the BBQ in warmer months but last night I served them sliced over rice for a more substantial meal. A pile of steamed greens on the side is very welcome too, and adds moisture for the rice.

Baby squid stuffed with prawns and black beans

8-10 baby squid
200g cooked prawns, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon light soy
1 teaspoon dark soy
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 large pinches of hot chilli flakes
A few drops of sesame oil

Rice, steamed greens and extra spring onion, to serve

Remove the tentacles from the squid if still attached and chop them finely. Heat some groundnut or vegetable oil in a wok (a couple of tablespoons) then stir fry the garlic, ginger and black beans for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the tentacles and stir fry again for 30 seconds. Add the 2 soy sauces and cook for a further 30 – 1 minute. Remove from the wok and set aside in a bowl.

Mix the tentacle mixture from the wok with the chilli flakes, spring onions, prawns and lime juice. Make sure it is very well mixed.

Stuff each squid 3/4 full with the mixture. Secure the end of each with a cocktail stick. Heat a heavy based frying pan, add a little oil and fry the squid for a couple of minutes each side. You’ll need to adjust the cooking time to the size of your squid. Test they are warm in the middle by inserting a skewer into the middle.

Serve sliced over rice with steamed greens. Add a few drops of sesame oil to serve.

12 comments » | Barbecue, Fish, Main Dishes, Seafood, Side Dishes, Snacks

Rosehip Ripple Ice Cream

November 20th, 2010 — 12:00pm

A few weeks ago I went on a foraging walk around the green bits of Peckham (yes, there are green bits) and came back with a load of sloes and rosehips, not a load of wayward hair extensions and chicken bones as the cynics among you might expect. The walk was led by a lady called Penelope who is known locally for ‘Pickling Peckham‘ (it’s an ‘urban foragers guide’). She is very knowledgeable about the local fauna and although most of the good stuff was gone, I’ve noted some of the spots she showed us for next year.

When I looked around for rosehip recipes, it seemed that all anyone ever did with them was make a syrup. Would it work as a ripple through ice cream? Oh yes, yes it would. The flavour of the hips is something like a cranberry but more aromatic; swirled through a basic vanilla ice cream it’s heavenly. I warmed through a little extra syrup and drizzled it over the ice cream to serve. Saucy.

Rosehip Ripple Ice Cream

First, make your syrup. I used Hugh F-W’s recipe here. Basically you just need equal quantities of sugar and rosehips, plus some water and a clean tea towel or muslin to strain the syrup. I’ll repeat the recipe here in case that link stops working (in halved quantities, which is what I used to get the 2 jars of syrup you see in the photo above).

500g caster sugar
500g rosehips (picked over, stalks removed and washed thoroughly)
A clean tea towel or some muslin

Bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a saucepan. Roughly chop the rosehips and add them to the water. Bring back to the boil then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.

Line a colander with your tea towel or muslin and set it over a bowl. Strain the rosehip mixture through it, squeezing to extract all the liquid. Set the bowl aside. Return the rosehip pulp to the saucepan with another 500ml of water, bring to the boil, take off the heat, then leave to infuse for 30 minutes .

Strain through the muslin or tea towel as before then return all the reserved syrup to a saucepan. Bring to the boil and boil until the volume has decreased by half. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the sugar until dissolved, return to the heat and boil hard for 5 minutes. Pour into sterilised jars.

To make the ice cream

I found this recipe in a book which accompanies a John Lewis ice cream maker. I made it in my Magimix with no problems. It’s a very easy recipe that doesn’t require you to faff about making a custard. It instead makes a soft ice cream not unlike an old school ice cream van variety.

225ml whole milk
450ml double cream
125g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the milk and sugar into a bowl and stir with a whisk until all the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cream and vanilla extract then cover the mixture and refrigerate for an hour if possible. Turn on your ice cream maker and pour in the mixture. Churn until you have a soft ice cream. Pour into a tub then freeze for a few hours until it has firmed up slightly (if you try to ripple it when too soft the ripple will just blend in too much).

When you have a firmer ice cream, drizzle some of the rosehip syrup over the ice cream and stir through to create a ripple effect. I drizzled a little extra warmed syrup over to serve.

Next time, I might try making a sorbet from the syrup first for a thicker ripple.

13 comments » | Foraging, Ice Cream, Peckham

Jaflong, East Dulwich

November 15th, 2010 — 6:45pm

There are probably 10 Indian restaurants on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, if not more, but in the 3 years I’ve lived within spitting distance I’ve visited only 1 (Tandoori Nights if you’re interested – massively overrated). For some reason though I developed a ‘feeling’ about Jaflong, part of which was based on my completely incorrect assumption that it’s new. According to the waiter I’ve been walking past it for 2 years. Huh.

The outside looks modern, but inside it’s classic curry house circa 1990: doilies in abundance, carnations in white vases and pink napkins folded into the shape of birds. This worried me slightly, but the starters looked promising, with some unusual dishes I’d not come across before.

Chingri meerchi was stir fried prawns with mountains of shredded spring onion, coriander and green chilli. I worried it might be like munching on a bag of grass but it was surprisingly well balanced; light and fresh. The two brown, disk-shaped things are pakra: ‘avari’ leaves layered with a spiced chickpea paste, rolled, sliced and deep fried. They were unusual, blissfully unhealthy and moist despite their dessicated appearance. Murgh tikka lasania was chicken marinated in spiced, strained yoghurt which formed a thick outer crust and rendered the inner meat supremely soft, as if double-brined. It might have looked anaemic, but the flavour was powerful. I clapped my hands with glee whenever I wasn’t stuffing something into my face.

As we moved on to the mains though, it began to fall apart. Every dish that arrived contained an alarming amount of sugar. I wondered if it might be an accident, but each of our choices – the same. The mixed grill was otherwise fine, I suppose. A bit timidly spiced and oh I just can’t help myself, no Tayyabs, but seriously, just so sweet. A pinch of sugar can work wonders, no doubt about it, but this was like curry for kids.

Shah Jahani (smoked Bangladeshi fish cooked in the tandoor) sounded great but suffered the same problem. My accompanying gajar-e-naan sounded brilliant on paper (‘naan stuffed with grated carrot and smothered with mashed garlic’) but there was no carrot inside, just a stingy grating on top. It was good and garlicky but guess what? Yeah, too sweet. Even the raita was sickly.

Jaflong are trying to offer something different rather than banging out the usual ‘lamb, beef, chicken or prawns in masala, balti or vindaloo sauce’  and there are genuinely interesting choices on the menu. The meal started so well I was ready to rave about the place but they are serving a serious swerve ball with those mains. It was a meal of two halves, like the chefs swapped halfway through. I wanted to like it so much that I dreamt up excuse after excuse but there was no denying the fact that we were one of only 2 tables at prime time on a Saturday night.

There’s a lot of competition on Lordship Lane and Jaflong are trying to stand out from the crowd. What saddens me, is that they’re doing it for the wrong reason.

41 Lordship Lane

SE22 8EW
Tel: 020 8693 6353

The meal cost around £55 for two with a couple of Cobras.

4 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

168SLA Pizza, Peckham

November 10th, 2010 — 8:03pm

A new pizza place has opened up on Bellenden Road, the ‘posh bit’ of Peckham. Yes, there is a posh bit. It’s in the spot that housed the once popular Bellenden Brasserie which apparently went downhill and eventually closed as a result. 168SLA Pizza hasn’t been open long and when we approached on a Thursday evening it was mostly empty save for a table of three and a nervous looking owner pacing around inside.

I was relieved to find that they make one thing only: pizza. I defaulted to my favourite toppings of anchovy and capers. I also ordered a green salad, not to make myself feel healthier but because I genuinely enjoy a green salad with my pizza. Apparently this is hard for some people to understand. Anyway. The pizza was actually pretty good. A decent base – not too thin, nor thick. Mine could have done with a bit more char but my companion’s was perfect and come on, they’ve just opened. Toppings were good quality, well judged in quantity and the tomato sauce and cheese melded into a very silky, almost liquid layer like it does on all the best pizzas.

That said, I can’t avoid mentioning the side salad, which was diabolical. A few supermarket leaves, half of them doused in a bottle dressing and half of them completely dry. This upset me. Just wash a lettuce, cut it up, make a decent dressing and coat the leaves with it. Please.

There has also been criticism from the ever eagle-eyed users of the East Dulwich Forum about the interior; mainly they consider it too bare and well, it is. At first our voices echoed – it felt like a hurriedly half-finished refurbishment and I became self-conscious. Later though it started filling up and with it came more atmosphere. I hope that once they’ve found their feet the place develops a little more character – they’ll need to cosy things up for the winter months. Despite those grumbles, I hope they do well. It’s clear they care about the pizza, they just need to care a little more about everything else.

168SLA Pizza
168 Bellenden Road
SE15 4BW

Opening hours:

Mon-Fri: 6.30pm-11.30pm
Saturday: 12pm-12am (last orders 11pm)
Sunday: 12pm-11pm

At the time I visited they were only able to take payment in cash, so bear this in mind if you’re planning to visit.

20 comments » | Peckham, Pizza, Restaurant Crawls

The Kolkata Street Food Experience

November 10th, 2010 — 10:03am

There is some really cool shiz going on around Brixtonish way this Sunday. Angus Denoon is bringing the sights, sounds, smells and most importantly, tastes of Kolkata to the mean streets of Sarf Londinium.

The event is taking place at an incredible location: The Whirled Cinema, which looks like one of those places you can’t believe you didn’t know about. Angus will be showing his award-winning documentary, which winds through the whirlwind streets of Kolkata. It promises to be raw, unconventional and inspiring.

“The film is of the mighty city of Kolkata as seen from dawn to dusk through the constant kitchens of the pavements that provide fuel for millions on the move. An extreme and intense situation that spawns some of the most delicious, nutritious and cheapest food anywhere.”

You can try the street food for yourself. Stalls will include jhal muri, pulchas, ghugni, channa masala, mango lassi and Bengali chai, which as Angus says is, “food you generally can’t get over here.” My friend Petra, describes the jhal muri as, “a kind of wet Bombay mix – puffed rice, tamarind, dried chickpeas, mustard oil, lime, coriander, toms, cucumbers, ginger, coconut, onion, garlic…sorts you right out!”

Sounds flippin brilliant, I think you’ll agree. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than immersing yourself in this 3D sensory blowout. There will also be a bar and smoking deck for you rebellious types.

Street Food Kolkata at The Whirled Cinema, 259 Hardess St, Brixtonish, SE24 0HN.
2.30 – 6.30 on Sunday and 7.30 – 10.30 on Monday evening “same deal but more of a Monday feel”.

Cost is a measly £15 for everything except drinks at the bar. Cancel your plans.
For more information and a taster, here’s the website.
Facebook page, here.

Angus is also a member of Eat.St – driving British street food forward.

10 comments » | Film, Food Events, Street Food

Chana dahl with spinach: feeling the pressure

November 7th, 2010 — 9:14pm

Damn you, pressure cooker! What is wrong with you? Or is it me?

People rave about their pressure cookers and how they can’t live without them, which is why I accepted the invitation to review one recently.* I was curious and terrified. All that hissing and steaming and well, pressure. Scary. A few days passed and it sat unused on the hob. Eventually, rather than just looking at the damn thing, I plucked up the courage to try using it. The idea of the PC is to produce the results of slow cooking in a fraction of the time. The first dish that sprang to my mind was curry goat.

The meat usually takes a lot of long, slow simmering to tenderise and I wondered how much the PC could shave off the cooking time. After 45 minutes I had a peek inside. The meat was tender – falling apart, but there was way too much liquid. This really threw me, because I’d worked out quantities according to the advice in the instruction booklet, resisting the temptation to add more due to multiple warnings that one must NOT LET THE PRESSURE COOKER BOIL DRY. I then had to reduce the sauce for another 45 minutes without the lid on, which defeated the whole point. A very disheartening first attempt.

Next I decided to try cooking a big hunk of meat in there. A joint of lamb marinated in pomegranate molasses went in, with some liquid. It cooked well, and fast. It was falling apart after cooking for a shade past an hour but I missed the crusty outer bits I’d get from a roast. The recipe is a keeper (coming soon) but the method, nah.

By this point the PR are wondering when the hell they are going to get their review. I didn’t want to say I couldn’t work it out before I’d given the thing a proper go though so it was time to move on to something else: dahl. All the Indian cooks I know told me that the PC revolutionises your relationship with lentils. “Cook a dahl in 15 minutes! You’ll never look back!” Okay. I started off frying the onions in the base of the PC just as you would a normal saucepan then added garlic, chilli and ginger, the spices, tomatoes and an alarmingly small amount of stock. After checking guideline amounts about 10 times I bit the bullet and got on with it; 15 minutes later and we were oohing and ahhing around the hob – perfectly tender chana dahl. At last, the sweet taste of success. I could now cook 1 thing in a pressure cooker.

Or so I thought. Today I made the exact same recipe. I added the same amount of liquid, the same quantities of everything and cooked it for the same amount of time. When I opened the lid however, the chana remained uncooked. People, I am baffled.

I don’t want to give up because I can see the value but frustration is really setting in. I’m a competent cook for Pete’s sake. Strange forces are at work here. The PR are probably going to wish they’d never got their review now, but it’s not like I don’t want to love it, I do. A decent dahl in 15 minutes really is something I could get used to and I want to try cooking chickpeas in it, and stews. Seriously though, I need advice. What am I doing wrong?  How can the exact same recipe cook differently on 2 separate occasions? Readers, it’s over to you.

Chana dahl with spinach (this is the recipe which worked the first time and took ten minutes longer to cook the second time around. However long it takes, it is delicious).

300g chana dahl
500ml stock or water
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
10 curry leaves
4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
1 dried red chilli
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 large bunch of spinach (a few large handfuls)

Groundnut oil, for frying

Lemon wedges and chapattis, to serve. I also like mine with natural yoghurt and red onion slices

Start by using the pressure cooker like a normal saucepan. Set it over a medium heat, lid off. Heat a few tablespoons of groundnut oil then fry the onions, stirring often until softened and beginning to colour. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and cook for a minute more, stirring constantly. Add all the spices and curry leaves and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes and lentils, stir to combine, then add the stock and some salt. Turn off the heat.

Fit the lid onto the pressure cooker and ensure it is secure. Make sure the pressure regulator is turned to the (I) position. Turn on the heat and after a few minutes the visual pressure indicator should rise, followed by a gentle hiss sound, meaning that the required pressure level has been reached.

Reduce the heat by approximately a third. The steam should be gently hissing and the pressure indicator should remain up. Start timing now and cook for 15 minutes.

After this time, turn off the heat and move the pressure regulator gently to the steam release position.

Remove the lid and stir in the spinach until wilted. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve.

*The Prestige ‘This Morning’ range is available at Debenhams (yes, ‘This Morning’ the daytime TV show). RRP: £80. I was sent the pressure cooker for review and did not pay for it.

18 comments » | Cookware, Curry, Healthy, Lentils, Lunchbox, Main Dishes, Products, Pulses, Side Dishes

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