Archive for August 2011

Spiced rum and apple cake

August 31st, 2011 — 8:47am

It’s not very often my thoughts turn to cake but when they do, those thoughts generally include spices and booze. And fruit. My boss collected a big bag of cooking apples from her garden which I raided for the best specimens, leaving all the bruised and maggoty ones for my colleagues. They could moan about that, but then I gave them cake so I think I got away with it. See what I did there?

This is a very squidgy cake. The apple chunks are tart but this is a very good thing because the cake is quite sweet. I spiced it with allspice and rather a conservative amount of cinnamon which could easily be increased if you are more into it than I (e.g. you are American). I finished it with a glaze of rum and butter which seeps into the cake while still warm, hence all the little holes in the surface. It’s a very moist, boozy, sharp/sweet cake which would be very happy sitting underneath a blob of creme fraiche, alongside a cup of tea. I’m rather annoyed that it looks a little dry in the picture below, on account of its being so damn squidgy, but I weighed this up against your potential frustration at not being able to see the inside of the cut cake, so here it is…

Spiced rum and apple cake recipe (based on this recipe)

(fills 1 x 20cm springform cake tin)

125g butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
225 plain flour
225g dark muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
500g cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced

For the glaze (I only used half of this in the end)

3 tablespoons rum (the better the rum, the better the cake, obviously)
50g butter
50g sugar

Heat oven to 160/fan140/Gas 3

Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.

Cream the butter and muscovado together in a food mixer (or by hand if you don’t have one), then mix in the egg. Sift over the flour, plus the spices and baking powder. Fold the mixture together, then add the apple. Mix it in. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 mins-1 hour, or until golden and risen.

To make the glaze, melt butter, sugar and rum together in a small pan. When it starts to boil and thicken slightly, it’s ready. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 mins in the tin. Poke holes all ove the top of the cake with a skewer, then brush on the glaze, letting each bit soak in before adding the next. I only used about half this glaze.

14 comments » | Cakes

Hickory smoked corn with chilli and lime

August 23rd, 2011 — 8:58am

I was privy to an e-mail recently that said all I ever talk about is pork. Well, Mr. Anti-Swine, stick this in your judgement pipe and smoke it.* Corn! A vegetable! Serious!

Defensive? Moi?

The golden cobs were 5 for a pound in Peckham last week, which is obviously an offer only a stupid woman would refuse. I decided to smoke them using hickory chips, considering I’d had such success with the hot wings (that’s chicken, right? Pigs don’t have wings, silly!) The Gods of Confidence were there to teach me a lesson however and the first time I was way too enthusiastic with the chips. It is definitely possible to over-smoke things, which seems really obvious now that I’ve done it.

My default topping for corn is usually butter mixed with chipotle and lime but I didn’t want to confuse things with smoky chipotle and smoky corn so I just gave them a thorough butter-bath followed by a scattering of my best (unsmoked) paprika, the zest of a lime and a good squeeze of its juice.

I can see myself using these in some sort of relish, or maybe serving them frittered with bacon. Oh no wait…

*Okay FINE, so it has been a little pork heavy around here lately. Ahem.

Hickory smoked corn

Paprika, cayenne or fresh chilli (whatever takes your fancy)
Lime juice and zest
Salt and pepper

Hickory wood chips for smoking (1 handful. Do not be tempted to add any more for 4 cobs).

Light your BBQ for indirect cooking (with the coals to one side). The corn doesn’t necessarily need indirect cooking but you’re using wood chips and (apparently) should never cook food directly over the smoke. Soak a handful of chips in cold water while the BBQ is lighting.

When it is hot, put your corns on the side that is without coals, throw your chips into the coals then put the lid on your BBQ. Cook until the corn cobs are tender and juicy – about 20 minutes. Adorn with butter, lime, chilli, salt and pepper.

17 comments » | Barbecue, Vegetables

Shu Castle, Old Kent Road

August 20th, 2011 — 1:45pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as much as I love South East London with all my heart, there are two areas that really test the limits of my affection and they are Elephant and the Old Kent Road. There’s just not much going for them, aesthetically or gastronomically speaking. When I worked in the city my bus would chug down the OKR every single day and I studied every inch of its bleak length looking for anything that might be remotely worth the effort of checking out. For some reason I had dismissed Shu Castle straight away; I mean, a Chinese place on the Old Kent Road, no-one’s exactly going to rush to try it, are they?

Turns out Shu Castle serves Sichuan food, which is very good indeed. Refreshingly, they don’t seem to have a massive, dull Cantonese menu too (just a very little one as a set menu), as many places do, presumably in an attempt to please everyone. Mainly they just do their thing and they do it very well. We had two cold dishes to start:

Century eggs with green chilli pepper. My first century egg – unbelievable, I know. They arrived, pungent and alarming in colour; the yolks tinged green and the whites, orange/purple. Their preservation for several weeks or months renders them scary in appearance and odour but I was pleased to find, relatively subtle in flavour; just like an egg, but richer, creamier. Addictive. This dish was hot, because there was a massive great pile of chopped green chillies on top. Duh.

Cold chicken arrived sliced in chilli oil, scattered with sesame seeds; slippery and tender. Cold poached chicken fat should be horrible but somehow is pleasingly silken; the Chinese love those jellified textures and so do I.

Pickled beans with pork mince. Pickles and pork, in the same dish? It was always going to get ordered. Little bullets of preserved beans, slightly musty, slightly bitter seemed to enhance the sweetness of the pork; it’s the kind of dish I’m going to spend silly amounts of time thinking about over the next few weeks.

We kept it simple with the meaty main: beef in chilli oil. This is what I want when I go for a Sichuan meal, bits of stuff bobbing about in a bloody great vat of spicy oil. “It’s hot” said the waitress “we know, that’s why we came here” said my mate. Tender slippery strips of meat plus bamboo shoots and Chinese leaves were fished from the scarlet depths. I particularly enjoyed the freshness of the coriander on top; something you don’t often see in Sichuan restaurants. I would have a liked a little more numbing from Sichuan peppercorns, but still, a great dish.

There were also boiled porky dumplings with chilli oil, soft and exactly as expected; a simple dumpling fix. There was a broth of gourd and again, pork, which was delicate, tasting subtly of simmered pork fat (in a good way, promise). Strangely moreish.

A reason to visit the Old Kent Road; who’d have thunk it?! The restaurant is tucked into the side of a hotel; the toilets are um…well, it’s not The Ritz is it, it’s a restaurant on the Old Kent Road. The carpet speaks of more than a few major spillages (chilli oil is a right bugger to get out, trust me, I speak from experience); the food however, is very good indeed. I’d like to feel a few more Sichuan peppercorns anaesthetising my mouth but apart from that, no grumbles. The portions are huge and we spent £76 between 3 with 3 beers each. South East London, with Wuli Wuli and Shu Castle, you really are spoiling us.

Shu Castle
194 Old Kent Road
Tel: 020 7703 9797

Shu Castle on Urbanspoon

13 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Sichuan

Serious sandwiches: my current top 5

August 19th, 2011 — 2:06pm

I’m a sandwich fanatic. Rarely does a day pass by sandwich-less; often I’ll grab a  slice of bread with a meal and stuff whatever is on my plate into it. There’s something so satisfying about biting down on a well-made slice; the countless contrasting combinations within; the carb fix; the convenience. So, my current top 5 Serious Sandwiches:

1. The Mexican Torta (top).  I first came across this in Thomasina Miers’  book, Mexican Food Made Simple. It’s basically a big party of Mexican tasty all stuffed into a sturdy ballast of bread; probably the messiest sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Mine was packing: guacamole; tomato salsa; grilled chorizo; smoked chicken; refried beans; lettuce and smoked scotch bonnet mayo. One of the most delicious and gut-busting sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. I had to lie down on the sofa afterwards, like a giant beached blimp.

2. The BLAT. Bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato (sometimes a cheeky touch of spring onion). A hangover stalwart for the past goodness knows how many years. Proper bacon is essential; none of that supermarket shite. My avocados of choice are those massive ones you can find easily in Peckham. Hass are otherwise good, if you can actually find a ripe one.

2.1 A sneaky extra coming in at number 2: the BLT with fried green tomatoes. This got made because I was kindly gifted a big bag of green tomatoes by Andre, which I sliced, coated in crumbs and fried, the American way. I’d heard somewhere that these are good in a BLT. They were. A nice crunchy layer of fried stuff in the middle of a bacon sandwich was never going to be a bad thing. That’s a remoulade on the bottom made with mayo, pickle brine and Frank’s hot sauce.

3. Ham cooked in cola with deep-fried pickles. Deep-fried pickles are the best thing to happen since regular pickles and deep-fried things that are not yet pickled. The ham was simmered in cola and glazed with molasses. I finished the sandwich with home-made hot sauce. Another day I deep fried more pickles, and okra, to make a sandwich with shredded, hickory smoked hot wings. Never dismiss the option of slinging in a few deep-fried pickles. Did I mention how brilliant the deep-fried pickles are? The deep-fried pickles are very good. This is an important message.

4. The best chicken sandwich of my life. I made this after I’d cooked chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, using the garlic and chicken fat enhanced oil to make mayonnaise which I mixed with the leftover chicken. Phwoar. About 10 million calories in that one by my very scientific reckoning.

5. The SPAM mi. It’s a banh mi with SPAM. The thought of eating chopped pork and ham from a can may repulse you, but this is one of my favourite guilty pleasures and something I ate rather a lot of as a child. The Chinese love the stuff (I enjoyed it a lot at a steamboat restaurant in Chinatown the other evening) and it also works very well indeed in this Vietnamese banh mi.

I’ve just realised that 5 of those contain pork. Ah well, I don’t think anyone is under any illusions any more about how much pork I eat. I think this also illustrates rather nicely why I need to get up at 6am to exercise. Swings and roundabouts.

14 comments » | Round-ups, Sandwiches

Tayyabs deliver…to Peckham?!

August 16th, 2011 — 8:29am

[EDIT: After a brief spell, My Salivation have restricted their delivery area and are no longer delivering to Peckham. It had to happen I guess. I’m pleased I got on in while it lasted]

Oh yes. Legendary Whitechapel grill Tayyabs are now delivering, all the way down to SE15. I didn’t waste any time in taking advantage. I mean seriously, I live 7 miles away and someone is going to bring the food to me? I didn’t care if it would be cold when it got here. Hit. Me. Up. They’re doing it through a site called ‘My Salivation’. Uhuh. We ordered the classics; lamb chops; seekh kebabs; parathas; tinda masala; dry meat. I did have concerns about how nice the grilled stuff would be once it reached us but bravely soldiered on (snigger).

The phone rang. “Um, this is My Salivation. The delivery charge on the website (£6.50) is wrong, it’s going to be £10.” “TEN POUNDS?!” I spluttered. “Er, you live 7 miles away” he replied. “Ah yes.” I knew there was a catch in there somewhere. I wanted Tayyabs badly so I agreed to pay the extra on delivery. Two hours later another, very apologetic phone call telling me I wouldn’t have to pay delivery at all since the food had taken such a long time. “It’s Ramadan and the restaurant is very busy” he told me. I felt bad. He was very lovely. My stomach growled.

When the food arrived it was delicious; I mean, it’s Tayyabs, silly. Even without the theatrical sizzle of the grilled meats, the chops and kebabs were still incredible. The rest was lukewarm too of course (we don’t own a microwave) but we wolfed it in 10 minutes. “The spicing really is incredible” I said for the ten billionth time. How do they make food so highly and yet distinctly spiced? No muddy flavours here.

So it’s a bit ridiculous that Tayyabs will even consider sending their food down to Peckham but in the end, it sums them up really; so lovely, so eager to please. I can’t say I’ll be doing it too often, but having the option there? Magic.
New Tayyabs

22 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

Queens of ‘Cue, Peckham

August 14th, 2011 — 12:59pm

Last night, I went to check out the Queens of ‘Cue supper club/underground restaurant/whatever you want to call it, in Peckham. At 6.30pm, we found ourselves wandering around what seemed like a derelict yard off the Old Kent Road, BYO booze in hands, lost and slightly confused. The signs, they are small.

Eventually though we came across a precarious metal staircase and ascended to a vast, bright studio (one of the hosts is an artist), stopped briefly to wallow in envy and then followed our noses outside to find 3 BBQ’s on the go, one stuffed with beef ribs, the other grilling steak, various pots and pans bubbling on top. An excellent (spiky and tart) caipirinha was thrust into our hands and we munched on ‘giobada and queijo toasts’, which were in fact little chewy, cheesy buns, kind of like savoury scones, with home-made cheese and a guava paste exactly like membrillo, but obviously made with guava. The theme of the evening was Brazilian you see, and they’d gone to town on making things ‘authentic’.

The steak had come from a Brazilian butcher in Brixton; they’d intended to buy it from the East London Steak Co. but felt a pang of local loyalty post-riots and decided to support a local business instead. Good on them I say. We helped ourselves to salad from the table and demolished slices of perfectly cooked, butter-tender steak. The flavour of the meat was excellent (I’d been a bit dubious for some reason) with a moreish, properly seasoned crust.

The ribs had come from the East London Steak Co. after all and were huge; a peek under the BBQ hood on arrival had got me very excited. In the end they could have done with a bit more cooking to be honest; I’m not against a chewy rib believe me but they were very large and a bit hard to eat. That said, great flavour, great rub and fantastic sides of feijoada (a rich stew of beans with beef and chorizo), rice with sweetcorn and peas and a healthy serving of kale. Oh how I love the iron intensity of kale.

An unexpected watermelon granita filled a gap and preceded a creme caramel made with condensed milk because, according to our hosts, “almost everything in Brazil is made with condensed milk.” There was coffee to finish, served with obscenely good chocolate truffles which we wolfed before staggering out into the night to our taxi.

So, I would recommend Queens of ‘Cue to locals and non-locals alike. One guy said he “hated South London” after he’d had a hard time travelling from Dalston. Did he go via the moon? “You’re talking to the wrong woman mate” I hissed through gritted teeth.

The evenings each have a different theme; ours was a ‘cow feast’ and the next is ‘fish’ (3rd September) followed by ‘game and venison’ (17th September). It’s £25 and BYO booze. There’s a lot of food for your money (seconds were offered too), the hosts are charming and interesting, the studio space is great and you get to wander around a ramshackle yard in the dark, pissed, looking for a questionably plumbed toilet in an outhouse. That last bit doesn’t sound appealing? Oh come on, where’s your sense of adventure…

Queens of ‘Cue, Peckham
£25 pp, BYO booze
Address available after booking, see blog for details

11 comments » | Barbecue, Food From The Rye, Peckham, Underground Restaurants

Why I Love Peckham

August 10th, 2011 — 8:44pm

After shops in Peckham were smashed, burned and looted during Monday night’s riots, the people here started sticking post-it notes on the front of a boarded-up Poundland. There are messages about why the people living here love Peckham so much and statements about the strength of our community. I went down to see it this morning and it brought a tear to my eye. This is the reason I love living here: the people. This really sums up our spirit; I’ve never felt more proud. Here are some more pics. I’m really glad someone (other than me) felt moved to mention the food…

Update: The people behind the wall sent a message via Peckham residents association saying, “Poundland replaced their window today but were so touched by the communities work that they paid for a new board to be put over the glass so that the people of Peckham could continue with a new Peace wall. The previous three boards, now all full of amazing post it notes, have been moved to Peckham Library for public display until a more permanent home/exhibition space is found for them.” Check out their website.

35 comments » | Peckham, Uncategorized

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