Archive for February 2011

Cheddar cheese and onion tart

February 20th, 2011 — 7:32pm

I pride myself on being able to make dinner out of what looks like nothing. I get into this zone where I think I’m in some kind of Ready Steady Cook-style competition and get all excited about how I can make a 3 course dinner out of an old bag of nuts and an egg. I didn’t make a 3 course dinner, I just made a tart, but still.

It’s good for using up any odds and ends of cheese, this tart. Chuck ‘em all in there. I used the fading remains of a block of cheddar plus 3 types of onion: red, white and spring. The pastry was shop-bought, knocking around in the freezer. It was rich, filling and mmmm cheesy. Not bad for a bit of fridge foraging.

Cheddar cheese and onion tart

150g cheddar cheese, crumbled
2 large red onions, sliced into thin half moons
2 medium white onions, sliced into thin half moons
4 spring onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig rosemary (or thyme), leaves removed and finely chopped
2 eggs
100ml double cream
250g shortcrust pastry
Salt and white (or black) pepper

This recipe fills a 24cm tart dish.

Begin by caramelising the onions. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable or groundnut oil in a heavy based frying pan and add the red and white onions. Once they are sizzling, turn the heat down as low as possible and let them cook gently for about an hour, stirring every so often, until very soft and caramelised.

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Roll out the pastry to fit the dish and carefully lay it in, covering the base and sides. You want the pastry to overhang the sides by a couple of centimetres, as it will shrink during cooking. Make sure to patch up any holes. Fill the pastry base with baking beans (or dried beans or rice) and cook for ten minutes before removing from the oven and setting aside.

Mix the cheese with the spring onions, rosemary, eggs, cream and caramelised onions when ready. Season with salt and white pepper. Pour the filling onto the tart base and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Serve warm or cold with a sharp green salad.

25 comments » | Cheese, Foraging, Lunchbox, Main Dishes, Pastry, Picnic, Tarts, Vegetables

Peckham’s best food shops

February 13th, 2011 — 6:34pm

I’ve been meaning to write about my favourite shops in Peckham for ages. Another local recently made a map of his and described me as an ‘expert’ on the area when it comes to food so I thought I’d better pull my finger out. Here are my recommendations.

1. Persepolis. Arguably the most exciting food shop in the area. I’ve written about it before, but damn, if it doesn’t just keep getting better. I call the shopkeeper, wholesaler and food writer Sally Butcher a friend, as I imagine many of her other regular customers do. If you don’t have her first cookbook, Persia in Peckham then you really should. It won Sunday Times Cookbook of the Year in 2007, which is seriously impressive for a first-time author.

Sally is currently building up a fresh deli section in the shop. I’ve been in already to check it out and scored myself a pot of the most incredible pickled garlic (£4.99/kg). That garlic has been pickling for 14 years! During this time the oak and spice flavours that develop are astonishing. Some pieces are softer and taste like well-matured chutney; those are the pieces good for spreading on bread. The firmer pieces are great sliced and dotted in a kebab; in fact they are perfect with any grilled meat. To be honest I’ve been eating them whole straight from the pot. Apparently the Iranians eat them “with everything”.

28-30 Peckham High Street
SE15 5DT
0207 639 8007
Persepolis is open from 10.35am – 9.59pm (yes really) – 7 days a week.

2. Khan’s. I’ve written a whole post about that place too. Sadly they’ve replaced the shabby yet charming sign above with a shiny new one sans tag line but I, hand on heart, will always ‘walk in & see the variety’. They sell the usual vegetables you can buy up and down Rye Lane like yams, plantain and tropical fruits but also things you don’t generally find like those lovely small cucumbers, mild Turkish peppers and herbs which are otherwise hard to find in Peckham, like dill (you’ll commonly find coriander, mint, thyme and parsley). The rest of the shop is taken up with ingredients you’ll want if you like Middle Eastern or Indian food. They also sell plastic animals.

Khan’s Bargain Ltd.
135 Rye Lane
SE15 4ST

The rest of Rye Lane is filled with food shops which pretty much sell the exact same things (along with hairdressers, nail bars, mobile phone shops and popcorn vendors). Everything the Caribbean and African cook wants, right down to the giant land snails. It’s just a case of working out your personal favourites really. They all compete on special offers and prices so look out for the best deal. I once bought a bag of 12 red peppers for a quid, now that’s a bargain.

3. Wing Tai Asian supermarket is incredibly well-stocked considering its size. I’ve never had any trouble finding ingredients here. In fact I spend hours roaming around inside, slinging unidentifiable things into my basket then trying to work out what to do with them. The staff are helpful in general if you don’t know where to start, although I have to say that the girl who works on the till is just astonishingly rude, so brace yourself for that.

Wing Tai Supermarket
Unit 11A Aylesham Centre
SE15 5EW
Tel: 020 7635 0714

4. Peckham Farmers Market is where you’ll find the middle class people of Peckham on a Sunday morning. The market is small, but it’s good quality stuff. There’s usually 1 meat stall, 1 fish, 2 veg and some people selling products like pies and sausages. They set up outside the library, probably Peckham’s most famous building after The Bussey.

Peckham Farmers Market
Every Sunday, 9-1pm outside the library (Peckham High St.)

5. Frog on The Green is a deli/cafe which, strictly speaking, is in Nunhead but it’s so close that I’m going to include it. The owner, Xhon has worked as a chef for the past 12 years, at some really fine restaurants, like The Square. I imagine running a deli is quite a change of pace. The fresh veg outside were picture perfect under streaming sunshine and I found unusual varieties like pale, bulbous Sicilian aubergines the size of honeydew melons. Inside, I clocked Brockley honey, lots of different types of pasta, rice and grains. Beans, jarred things. Cakes. There’s a small cafe section at the back. I bought some rustic hand-rolled Palestinian cous cous (“sorry it’s over-priced”) and ambled the 5 minute journey back to Rye Lane.

Frog on The Green
119 Consort Rd
SE15 3RU
Tel: 020 7732 2525

6. W. Bunting butchers has been trading from the same premises for over 30 years, owned by the same family. “I used to live above this shop as a lad” the butcher told us, “we had some great fry-ups I can tell you”. The shop isn’t particularly convenient for me as it’s on the other side of Peckham by the Old Kent Road, which I do try and avoid whenever possible. It’s a shame though, as the sirloin we bought was good; fairly well aged, nice bit of fat. If you live nearby I’d recommend it, although it’s easier for me to walk to the G. G Sparkes van on North Cross Road in East Dulwich (highly recommended).

For a short time, there was a greengrocers called Kilo next door to W. Bunting which looked really good. I never had the chance to visit and now it’s closed down. When I went to visit a sign in the window informed that they have ‘closed due to unforeseen circumstances’.

W. Bunting
13 Peckham Park Rd
SE15 6TR
Tel: 020 7639 3718

Elsewhere in Peckham, buying meat is a gamble. Sally from Persepolis tells me there’s a good place near her but I’ve not had a chance to try it. There are many butchers up and down Rye Lane but I can’t recommend any of them and in some places I’ve had bad experiences; being sold minced lamb that had gone off was one of them. If you’re into cow feet, chicken feet or tripe though – everywhere.

7. Caribbean Spice Bakery is the sister shop to my favourite takeaway in Peckham, Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre. This place, funnily enough, is more about the baking. Hard-dough bread, bulla cake and patties galore. They do have a small selection of takeaway savoury dishes too but I’d suggest taking the short walk down to the Jerk Centre if you want anything other than baked stuff.

Caribbean Spice Bakery
170 Bellenden Road
SE15 4BW
Tel: 0207 639 8009

8. Anderson & Co. is a very new cafe/deli on Bellenden Road (the posh bit of Peckham) and I’m sure it will thrive. I was drawn in by the stack of hand made loaves in the window; they’re really filling a gap because elsewhere in Peckham you’d have a very hard time finding bread like this. You can buy hard dough, pitta and flatbreads like barbari and lavash easily but to find a sourdough or focaccia? Impossible, until now. They also had some really good looking sausage rolls which I only avoided because I’d just eaten a shedload of hummus plus a pumpkin kibbeh. Some feta and pumpkin seed muffins fresh from the oven were drawing gasps of admiration too. Apparently they’re going to open in the evenings but details are sketchy. I’m checking it out in a couple of weeks.

Anderson & Co.
Bellenden Road
SE15 (will update with the exact details when I have them)

Also on Bellenden you’ll find the Melange chocolate shop which I’ve heard is good. I’ve not been in myself so if anyone knows the place and wants to leave a comment below that would be appreciated.

A very ‘Peckham’ bag of shopping…

So, we don’t have a huge amount of shops but it’s a strong selection and I can honestly say that I very rarely shop in supermarkets nowadays. The independent places are more convenient and the ingredients I can buy more exciting. And much cheaper. It’s also more of an adventure shopping in Peckham; you never know what you’re going to find next. It keeps me on my toes, as a cook, which is just the way I like it.

49 comments » | Peckham, Shops

Baked feta

February 9th, 2011 — 9:21pm

I’m not going to bang on about this but I just want to encourage you to try baking feta, if you haven’t already. You’ll get some lovely chewy burnished edge bits and the warm centre stays firm, yet acquires an endearing wobble. I’d suggest eating it with some good flatbread and perhaps some olives. And maybe tabbouleh. And perhaps baba ganoush.

Baked feta

Get yourself a block of feta and put it in a small roasting tin. Add some robust herbs of your choice (I used thyme) and drizzle with olive oil. Add some pepper. Stick it in the oven at about 200C for 15 minutes. It should be golden at the edges and wobbly in the middle.

29 comments » | Cheese

Brown bread ice cream with a raspberry jam ripple

February 7th, 2011 — 9:43am

Brown bread ice cream might sound weird but it’s actually one of the best flavours ever invented. Fact. Crumbs are caramelised in the oven with brown sugar and butter until gooey malt; the edges crisp and the centre remains soft so the final effect is like Ben and Jerry’s cookies n cream with chewy, dough-like pieces flecked throughout.

I got thinking along the lines of toast and jam; lots of nutty caramel from the crumbs and a ripple of sweet (high-fruit) raspberry jam running through. This is about as old English as it gets: a Victorian recipe with a ripple in it. Gawjuss.

Brown bread ice cream with a raspberry jam ripple (I used Keiko’s recipe as a starting point)

4 medium egg yolks
45g caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla paste (I used Nielsen-Massey vanilla paste from a jar but you can use half a vanilla pod or a little vanilla extract)
80g crust-less wholemeal bread (make sure it doesn’t have any seeds)
1 teaspoon cornflour
250ml semi-skimmed milk (use whole if you want to but I don’t think it necessary for this recipe)
40g butter
50g light brown sugar
250ml double cream
High-fruit raspberry jam (not too much sugar basically), for rippling

Preheat the oven to 180C

Whiz up the bread to make crumbs. Melt the butter then mix it with the crumbs and light brown sugar. Spread this mixture out on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until the crumbs are crisp. They may remain a bit soft and chewy in the middle but this is a good thing. Allow them to cool completely then break them up into crumbs again; make sure to leave some big bits.

Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan, add the vanilla paste and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave for 15 minutes to infuse.

In an electric mixer or in a large bowl with a hand whisk, beat the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until thick and pale. Pour over the hot milk very slowly, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook it over a very gentle heat, stirring all the time. After a while the custard will begin to thicken slightly; when it coats the back of a spoon it is ready. That’s at 80C if you have a thermometer. Cover with a cartouche of greaseproof paper and leave to cool.

Stir the cream into the custard, tip into an ice cream machine and churn until thick. Stir the crumbs into the mixture, churn for 5-10 minutes until ready to serve. If you let your ice cream get too thick before you’ve added the crumbs, just stir them in by hand. Tip your ice cream into a freezer proof tub. If your ice cream is rather soft at this point, stick it in the freezer for an hour before adding your ripple. To add the ripple, take a tablespoonful or so of the jam and put in a bowl, mix it very well with a spoon to loosen it up. Put dollops of the jam on top of the ice cream and use a skewer to create a ripple effect.

17 comments » | Ice Cream

High energy: working a kitchen shift at #MEATEASY

February 3rd, 2011 — 1:05pm

Kitchen Gimp. Or, me on a Wednesday night in the #MEATEASY kitchen. What was I thinking? I had actually, genuinely volunteered myself to spend an evening at the bottom of the kitchen food chain. I would report to the Grill Boss flipping the burgers, the Fryer in charge of um, frying stuff, the Burger Bed Prepper,.I would report to every man, and every man’s dog. I was, in short, their bitch.

So what does General Gimping involve? Well there’s the cutting of burger buns for a start. It’s an important job, you know, cutting those buns evenly. Slicing into your hand is optional, and to be honest I wouldn’t really recommend it. Onion ring splitting is obviously up there with the important shit too – actually quite difficult and generally regarded in the kitchen as “the most annoying job in the world.” Any membrane must be carefully removed because if it gets into the batter it’s a nightmare to get out and it increases the danger of the onion slipping out of the ring, sticking to your chin and burning it. Now that’s the most annoying thing in the world.

Other duties included weighing out beef. A whole lot of beef. The smell! The smell of the fresh meat was boss. I weighed it, rolled it into balls and stored ‘em just how the Grill Boss liked ‘em, ready for him to flatten on the grill. I washed up. I fished manky, unidentifiable crud out of plug holes. I basically rotated my way around various gimp tasks, pausing only to take a swig from my ever present Meantime beer, drink a shot, or eat a wayward chicken wing deemed not crisp enough to leave the kitchen. Every now and then my razor sharp focus would be interrupted by a call for “MORE FORKS, GIMP!” ’cause #MEATEASY really didn’t have enough forks.

Working in that place was exhilarating though. The energy was so high; you’d have had to be dead inside not to get caught up in it. It sounded like it was going off on the other side of the pass; I couldn’t see the customers but I sure could hear them. The bell dings to mark the start of another chilli challenge; a glass breaks; a cheer; someone turns the music up. I think I even volunteered myself a second time for on-demand Gimping because it was so much fun. I set a trend, everyone wanted to get into that kitchen. Since when has glorified KP been a desirable job? Perhaps they wanted to spy and steal the secrets behind the best burgers in London? Well I know some and I ain’t telling.

Read my interview with Yianni and Scott Collins from Capital Pubs here. The top photo of me gimping was taken by Chris on his iphone. The amazing pictures from that point forward were taken by the brilliant Ben Brown. Check out his #MEATEASY set here.

Goldsmiths Tavern,
316 New Cross Road,
New Cross,
SE14 6AF

#Meateasy on Urbanspoon

12 comments » | Meat, Restaurant Reviews, Street Food

Fantastic fritters: 2 recipes

February 1st, 2011 — 9:04am

I really do love a good fritter. Salt fish fritters for when I’m feeling very ‘Peckham’ or juicy corn fritters at the end of summer when there’s so much corn going cheap I can’t fry fast enough. Recently, I’ve been grating all those stubborn winter root vegetables into submission.

First to get the treatment were the beets; grated into the mix with whole chickpeas and sharp feta cheese, sizzled and drizzled with minty yoghurt.

The carrots got shredded in with plenty of fresh coriander leaves and spring onions, fried till orange-gold and served with a ginger infused sauce. You can’t really go wrong with fritters; as long as the mixture isn’t too sloppy and your oil is hot you’re set for crisp and crunchy dinner satisfaction. A few singed edges here and there on your first batch won’t matter either.

Frittering root veg seems to bring out their sweetness, which is why the slightly sour yoghurt works so well as an accompaniment. I prefer the creamy full-fat Greek style version but if you want to use regular or even (shudder) low-fat then cut back on the citrus juice, it will be too astringent otherwise. Seriously though, you’ve just fried vegetables in oil, enjoy them properly.

Carrot and coriander fritters with gingery yoghurt (serves 4 as a starter)

500g carrots, grated
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
Handful coriander leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Oil, for frying

For the yoghurt

250g thick natural yoghurt
Squeeze of lime juice
1 inch piece ginger

Once the carrots are grated, squeeze them to extract as much juice as possible. Mix with the rest of the fritter ingredients. Squeeze some of the mixture together in your hands to make sure it won’t fall apart when cooking. If you think it will, add either some more beaten egg or flour, but just a little.

Cook the fritters in batches: heat a 1cm depth of oil in a heavy-based frying pan. When hot, drop spoonfuls of the batter into it, immediately pressing flat with a spatula. It’s important not to crowd the pan; you’ll probably cook 3 at a time. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until golden. Don’t be tempted to turn the fritters before they have formed a good crust underneath, or they will break. Remove to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain with excess oil then keep warm in a very low oven while you cook the remaining fritters.

Mix the yoghurt and lime juice in a bowl. Cut the ginger into small pieces and squeeze through a garlic crusher – all the juice should come out in the bowl and any ginger root should be finely crushed. Serve dolloped on top of the hot fritters.

Beetroot, chickpea and feta fritters with minty yoghurt (serves 4 as a starter)

350g cooked beetroot (if cooking yourself, simmer whole then rub the skins away afterwards)
200g cooked chickpeas
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons parsley leaves, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Zest of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons flour (plain white flour or chickpea flour)
Salt and pepper
Groundnut or vegetable oil, for frying

For the sauce

250g tub thick natural yoghurt
Handful mint leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper
To make the sauce, put the yoghurt, mint and lemon juice in a blender and whizz until thoroughly mixed. Taste and season with salt and pepper

To make the fritters, grate the beetroot into a large bowl then transfer to a sieve and press down to squeeze out as much of the juice as you can. Transfer back to the bowl and mix in all the other fritter ingredients. Season with salt and pepper but be sparing with the salt as the feta is salty. Squeeze some of the mixture together in your hands to make sure it won’t fall apart when cooking. If you think it will, add either some more beaten egg or flour, but just a little.

Heat a 1cm depth of oil in a heavy based frying pan. Drop spoons of the batter into the hot oil, immediately spreading out to a flat fritter shape (the fritters need to be the same thickness all over).

It’s important not to crowd the pan; you’ll probably cook 3 at a time. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side then set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Don’t be tempted to turn the fritters before they have formed a good crust underneath, or they will break. The fritters can be kept warm in a very low oven while you cook the next batch.

Serve at once with the sauce.

11 comments » | Fritters, Vegetables

Back to top