Archive for March 2012

Sandwich à la Khan’s Bargain Ltd.

March 27th, 2012 — 10:32am

Many of you will know about my love for Khan’s Bargain Ltd. It’s one of the best shops in Peckham; so good in fact that I felt moved to write a whole post about it. Recently, a reader left a comment on that post saying that Mr. Khan has sadly passed away. I went down myself to verify this and sure enough, there was a sign behind the counter. The man who gave his name to such an endearingly chaotic shop is no longer with us.

I considered ways to pay tribute to Mr. K and his Emporium of Random and it seemed fitting to create a sandwich à la Khan’s because there have been oh so many over the past few years. I’ve stuffed them with various bits of cheese or vegetables depending on my mood; creamy labneh with slender crisp slices of baby cucumber perhaps, a slick of muhammara or a dollop of baba ganoush. Always a big handful of fresh herbs.

The sesame speckled flat breads they sell are incredible, so soft and moist. I split one and layered it with aleppo pepper paste (a spicy blend made almost entirely from aleppo pepper and chillies), silky fried aubergine slices, pan scorched halloumi and plenty of coriander. It was a cracking sandwich; base chilli heat, juicy aubergines and salty cheese is a winning combo. Some of the best Khan’s ingredients all together. I didn’t know Mr. Khan personally, but I know his shop inside out; it’s one of the reasons I fell head over heels for Peckham 5 years ago and it’s one of the reasons I continue to relish shopping here. Rest in peace, Mr. Khan, your customers remain loyal and your shop, the most charming ramshackle arrangement of groceries, home wares and plastic animals on Rye Lane.

Sandwich à la Khan’s Bargain Ltd. (makes 2)

2 round soft flat breads
Aleppo paste (if you can’t get this, use another spicy paste, such as harissa or make a paste with red peppers, chilli and oil)
1 packet halloumi cheese
1 large aubergine, sliced into 2cm sliced
Very finely sliced red onion
Plain flour
Oil, for frying
A handful of fresh coriander leaves

Heat some oil to a depth of about 1cm in a heavy based frying pan. Spread some flour out on a plate and dust each aubergine slice in it, then drop into the hot oil. You will need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Keep the cooked aubergine slices on a plate covered with kitchen paper in a low oven while you finish cooking the rest. When all the aubergines are cooked, keep them all in the oven while you fry the halloumi.

To fry the halloumi, slice it thickly then drop into a dry pan until golden on both sides.

Warm the flatbreads briefly, then split them in half and spread with pepper paste. Layer on the halloumi, aubergines, onion and fresh coriander. Serve immediately.

29 comments » | Bread, Cheese, Food From The Rye, Peckham, Sandwiches

Smoked Chicken Wings with Honey & Chipotle

March 19th, 2012 — 1:20pm

Last weekend I decided on a whim that it was, without a doubt, the official start of BBQ season. It was a beautiful day and we flung open the doors on to the balcony, letting sun stream into the flat, fired up the grill and had a bunch of mates over to devour what I rather modestly titled a ‘Mexican Feast’. We ripped through a mountain of tacos, piled with slow-cooked pork with blood orange and chipotle plus about seven different salsas, guac and sour cream (got carried away) followed by chocolate mousse sprinkled with honeycomb. To start, it was a big pile of these wings, which we set upon like a bunch of feral animals.

When cooking wings on the BBQ, there’s always the question of how to get the skin nice and crisp (i.e you’re not deep-frying them). I spent a lot of time last year cooking chicken wings, a LOT of time, and I found that even 40 minutes over indirect heat can sometimes leave them a little flabby of skin. Recently however, I discovered a new method via Serious Eats. A new method! Joy! The meat is treated in a mixture of salt and baking powder, then suspended on a wire rack over a dish in the fridge. This needs to happen for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. I also added dried oregano (on the Mexican vibe) and some Old Bay Seasoning.

The wings don’t really look that different in the morning, but when they’re cooked over indirect heat on the BBQ for about 45 minutes, they go all sort of dry and weird looking. I was a little worried at that point.

They’re then doused in the sauce and flashed over direct heat to caramelise and char. It turned out I needn’t have worried, as the result was the crispest skin I’ve ever achieved on a BBQ and some juicy meat within; the wings are so fatty that they can be cooked for ages without ever drying out inside. The sauce is a mixture of smoky spiced chipotles in adobo (that’s smoked jalapeño chillies in a sweet sauce) which I was kindly sent by the Cool Chilli Co. but have also made at home with much success. They’re incredible and will add smoky intensity to many dishes. I used quite a lot in this recipe which gave the wings a good kick of heat. Balanced with plenty of honey they were super sticky too, cut with the tropical astringency of lime juice.

They’re so good I just made another batch yesterday and I’m making a third next week for a mate’s birthday. The buzzing heat of the chipotles builds with every wing, yet is numbed by the sweet honey, making for an addictive cycle which makes you go back for another and another and another. Have plenty of kitchen roll handy.

Smoked Chicken Wings with Honey & Chipotle

Makes enough for 15-20 wings (depends on their size really)

For the rub

1 heaped teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

For the sauce

3 heaped tablespoons canned chipotles in adobo (the ones I had were from Cool Chilli Co. and were chopped up in the sauce, in contrast to the ones I’ve made at home/bought before)
1 tablespoon chipotle ketchup (optional)
50g melted butter
Juice 2 limes
5 tablespoons honey

You will also need a handful of hickory wood chips, for smoking.

Start this the day before you want to eat. Mix all the ingredients for the rub together. Pat the wings dry then cover them with the rub, making sure to massage it in to each wing. Spread the wings out on a rack (I used a cake cooling rack) and suspend this over a baking dish or other large flat dish, so that the dish can catch any drips and the air can circulate around the wings. Refrigerate the wings but don’t cling film them, as they need exposure to air.

The next day, make the sauce. Melt the butter then add it to a blender with all the other ingredients and whizz until well combined.

Fire up your BBQ and set up the coals for indirect cooking (by which I mean wait for them to turn white then move them across to one side of the BBQ). Place the wings skin side down on the side of the grill that is NOT over the coals, throw your soaked chips into the coals, then put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. After this time, turn the wings and cook for another 20 minutes or so (with the lid on).

After this time, douse each wing in sauce then return to the grill, this time OVER the coals; this is to get some char on each wing and caramelise that sauce. This takes about 15-20 minutes.

Once the wings are good and caramelised, you may want to douse them in any remaining sauce.

31 comments » | Barbecue, Hot Sauce, Meat

A Massive Carrot Cake

March 6th, 2012 — 9:08pm

I wasn’t going to tell you about this cake (as you can presumably tell from the shoddy iphone photo) but it’s so good I can’t help myself. Basically, I’m on a mission to make the ‘ultimate’ carrot cake because I think it’s just the best cake ever. The crumb stays so moist with a particular kind of sweetness from the carrot shreds, which along with the walnuts also give it an amazing texture. The final whammy is of course, CREAM CHEESE ICING, which should be a clincher in anyone’s book because it is the most delicious icing known to woman. Butter, cream cheese, sugar. Hubba.

So anyway, I’m trying out different recipes to get a feel for things. This is the Hummingbird Bakery version.

To their standard recipe I added the zest of half an orange, plus I used half walnuts and half pecans to mix things up a bit. I didn’t use vanilla extract in the cake because I er, forgot and I reduced the sugar in the icing by 100g because I er, ran out. That’s minimal, mostly unintentional tinkering so this is still basically the Hummingbird recipe and it’s excellent. It’s not quite my ultimate, but it’s definitely food for thought.

This behemoth proved far too much for two people, so I lugged it into work and gave it to my colleagues. It barely lasted a day.

Hummingbird Bakery Carrot Cake 

300g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract (I forgot this)
300g carrots, grated
Zest of half an orange
50g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra, to decorate
50g pecans, chopped, plus extra to decorate

For the icing

600g icing sugar (I only used 500g and it was fine)
100g butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold

Preheat the oven to 170C. Prepare 3 x 20cm cake tins with loose bottoms by greasing then lining the bottoms with greaseproof paper.

Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed (don’t worry if it looks slightly split). Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, orange zest and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.

Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand. Pour into the prepared cake tins and smooth over. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes (mine took 40 minutes, which seems to be the feedback from other cooks, too), or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment again until well mixed. Add the cream cheese, then beat again until well mixed. Turn the speed to high and continue to beat until light and fluffy but stop when you reach this point; if you over beat it the mixture will turn runny.

When the cakes are cold, spread about one-quarter of the cream cheese icing over it with a palette knife (I used less). Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the icing over it (again, I used less). Top with the last cake and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides. Decorate with walnuts around the edges and chopped pecans on top. Hummingbird suggest adding an extra dusting of cinnamon but I’m really not into that at all – the cake is now delicious.

69 comments » | Cakes, Desserts

Eating in Amsterdam

March 1st, 2012 — 8:46pm

A friend and I spent last weekend in Amsterdam. Quite a lot of things went wrong. We arrived to find a rather inappropriate transparent shower cubicle in our shared room, I got sick, we crashed our hired bicycles in the middle of a major junction causing chaos and we missed both our trains home. Through sheer grit and determination however, we did manage to fit in some good grub.

After 5 hours of train and tram travel, we were starving and headed straight to Albina in Albert Cuypstraat for some Surinamese food, a cuisine I’d never even heard of until we started looking into places to eat in the dam. The South American Republic of Suriname was a former colony of The Netherlands and so there are a lot of Dutch Surinamese living (and cooking) in Amsterdam. Completely coincidentally, a reader e-mailed me about Surinamese food almost as soon as we arrived back in London (weird), so I know that our first dish of fried potatoes topped with a kind of fish floss is usually made with cassava. Maybe it even was cassava. She also told me that the floss on top is called teloh, made with cod. Like kids in a sweetshop we excitedly doused it with the various condiments on the table, our favourite being a kind of sweetened soy concoction.

Moksi meti (above) was a dish of roasted chicken, pork, sausage and green beans in a sweet sauce; it was lovely but no match for the flakiest of rotis which came atop a mild chicken curry (below). Underneath the roti nestled boiled potatoes, which had spent their time soaking up all the precious sauce and were to be squished, savoured, treasured and fought over. Despite being full to bursting we managed to pack away most of this. The boiled egg however, was a bridge too far.

The next day we managed to pack in a bit of sandwich action despite my sickness, in the form of herring rolls from a stall called Frens Heringshandel. Two glistening fillets of rich herring were beautifully soft, contrasted by crunchy nuggets of diced onion and sweet/sharp pickles. I would have liked twice as many pickles but then, I always do. An excellent sammich. I warn you though, it makes you stink of fish and onions. This wasn’t a problem for me and my mate; we’d been sharing a bed and a room with a see through shower compartment and a toilet in the middle. Fishy onion breath was nothing.

On the subject of street eats, I’d definitely recommend also grabbing a cone of chips at the awesomely named Vleminckx Sausmeesters on Voetboogstraat. The chips seemed triple fried to me as the exterior was thick and crunchy. Topped with a sweetened mayo and diced onion they were excellent. The service was very fast, which is just as well as the queue was constant; a steady stream of tourists and locals, with more than the odd incredibly stoned person after a cure for the munchies.

On the other end of the street food scale, there’s the Febo automats. That’s deep fried stuff, plus burgers and sausages, from a vending machine. I kid you not. The poor burgers looked incredibly sad and the shrivelled sausages were a sorry sight but we chose a deep fried sausage shaped thing which was labelled ‘vegetarian’. It turned out to be filled with a very salty cheesy mushroomy gloop which was actually rather addictive, and I wasn’t even drunk. Worth a try if you’re game for a laugh.

So there’s a few pointers for you, in case you find yourself in the dam with an appetite. Ahem. We also visited a fancier restaurant which my friend assures me was lovely; I wouldn’t know because it was then I got sick and so ended up sitting there watching her eat it alone. Woe! Still, I pushed on through in the name of research, even grabbing a second herring sandwich for the train home. The one we were a spectacular two hours late for.

Eurostar return to Amsterdam from £99. It takes 5 hours but for someone like me who has a fear of flying, it’s an appealing option. 

Albert Cuypstraat 69, 1072 CN Amsterdam

Frens Heringshandel
Singel Hoek Koningsplein, 1017 AW Amsterdam

Vleminckx Sausmeesters
Voetboogstraat 31, Amsterdam

39 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Street Food, Travel

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