Sunday Leftovers No. 7

Sunday, 14th September 2014

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At least, I think it’s No. 7. I haven’t done one of these for a while. I shall get right into it…

– I must first say that I am obviously thrilled, ecstatic and beyond delighted that Peckham Bazaar re-opened on Friday. My bank manager no doubt feels the same way. It boasts a swanky new interior, a gorgeous shiny grill and the same incredible food and wine. Do please go and feast.

– In case you missed it, I caused a little bit of a stir by calling out the burger chain Almost Famous on their idiotic attitude towards women. Just for the record, it wasn’t ALL about those toilets. My rant was picked up by The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Metro and various other Northern publications, apparently. Some of the comments on my original post (and naturally, on the Guardian) illustrate Lewis’ Law perfectly.

– For a while there, I had a bit of a thing for afternoon tea. The best I’ve had recently was at the gorgeous Warren House in Kingston. Second rounds of excellent finger sandwiches, crumbly scones with superb jam (made on site) and well judged cakes. I was also impressed by the presence of the Twinings tea brewing timer, with different timings for black, white and green tea; something like that should come as standard, I reckon. When the sheer quantity of sugar got the better of us, we took the leftovers away, hopped on a river cruise down to Hampton Court Palace and polished them off in the rose garden with some bubbly. How English summer is that?

– If you’re interested in hot men and sandwiches from Guadalupe (who isn’t?), check out my review of Bokit’La on The London Review of Sandwiches. You can also see my Top 10 Sandwiches in London on Chowzter here.

– Some bits and bobs I’ve enjoyed recently include: the ‘Fuck, That’s Delicious‘ series on Vice Munchies, this piece by Tim Hayward in the FT about making your own knife, and this video on the Blok Knives website, which is beautiful.

– Finally, I apologise to everyone trying to get their mitts on Peckham Jerk Marinade, it will be back with full force come the end of October.

7 comments | Sunday Leftovers

BBQ Leg of Lamb with a Hibiscus Marinade

Friday, 12th September 2014

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I have a Big Green Egg BBQ. I know. It’s okay, you can hate me. In all fairness, you should be grateful, actually. You heard. You should be grateful I haven’t been boasting about this for the past year because that’s just about the amount of time I’ve owned this piece of exceptional BBQ equipment. I’ve actually been very kind, if you think about it properly. I can contain it no longer, however: BGE’s are incredible. Everyone should sell an organ (might need two actually) in order to buy one.

Anyway, this recipe. I’m always seeing hibiscus flowers around Peckham but I’d never bought them. I knew that they’re used to flavour the ‘sorrel drink’ that one finds in Caribbean takeaways but…yeah that was the limit of my knowledge. They also love them in Mexico though I’ve since found out, which is where my flowers actually came from, brought back as a gift by a friend. Apparently they use them a lot more in cooking there, and also eat them candied as sweets.

The amount of flavour and shocking red colour that leaches from a handful of the dried flowers once soaked, is staggering. The flavour is a bit like red berries, with a tart, lemony edge and it occurred to me that this might work very well indeed with lamb.

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I steeped the flowers with an assortment of Mexican chillies: piquin (quite hot), guajillo (fruity), puya (similar to guajillo but hotter) and pasilla (literally: ‘little raisin’). Then I added garlic (because it’s lamb, and it’s the law) and bay. The resultant liquid was a frankly terrifying shade of red which stained the meat the colour of those curly pigs’ tails, tongues and penis shaped things (penises?) you see piled up in Brixton market. Thankfully, it was also extremely tasty: a sort of fruity, floral (yes I know), smoky thing going on.

I dunked the lamb into its bath for 24 hours, then drained it, rubbed the meat with more chillies and rammed with more garlic before cooking low and slow in the Egg. The marinade I reserved, reduced until syrupy and used for basting. That gave it a lovely sticky glaze. The leftovers were mixed with juices from the drip tray to serve at the table. We ate it in a sort of feverish caveman style, hunched over, fingers in, after-dark.

Oh and those things wrapped in foil around the outside of the lamb? Yeah they’re called ‘Death Star Onions’. They need work.

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BBQ Leg of Lamb in a Hibiscus Marinade

The idea here was to get a subtle flavour seeping in from the marinade, then add the rub for more of an aggressive ‘crust’ to form during the first part of cooking, then add the glaze after that. Seemed to work.

1 x 2kg bone-in leg of lamb

For the marinade and basting liquid

50g dried hibiscus flowers
2 bay leaves, torn in half
4 cloves garlic
A few peppercorns
1 dried guajillo chilli
1 teaspoon dried piquin chillies
1 dried puya chilli
1 dried pasilla chilli
100g golden caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons

For the rub

1 dried guajillo chilli, de-seeded
1 teaspoon dried piquin chillies
1 dried puya chilli, de-seeded
1 dried pasilla chilli, de-seeded
2 tsp sea salt
10 black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic

In a saucepan, combine the hibiscus flowers with 1 litre of water, plus 2 cloves of garlic peeled and bashed a bit, the bay leaf, sugar and the chillies. Simmer this mixture for 5 minutes. Allow the marinade to cool then make slits all over the lamb, submerge it and refrigerate overnight. I had mine in there for 24 hours and I turned it once and basted it a few times.

When ready to cook the lamb, remove it from the marinade, pat dry, then strain the marinade into a bowl through a sieve. Add the extra sugar and reduce the marinade by about half until it starts to look thicker and more syrupy.

Prepare the BBQ. You want it at about 150C. You want to set up a drip pan too. This is going to be different depending on the type of BBQ you have.

Blitz the chillies, salt and peppercorns for the rub in a spice grinder. Rub this all over the lamb. Slice the 2 cloves of garlic and push the slices into the slits in the lamb.

Cook the lamb for about 2.5-3 hours until tender. After the first hour start basting it with the marinade mixture every 20 minutes or so. There will be marinade left over, so mix this with the lamb juices from the drip tray and serve at the table.

7 comments | Barbecue, Big Green Egg, Main Dishes, Meat

Fries with Your Misogyny, Madam?

Monday, 1st September 2014

EDIT 02/09/2014 16.53: Almost Famous have posted a statement on their website saying that they are removing the offensive statements from their ladies’ loos! Result. 

Go here to see the statement and a picture of them being removed. 

Almost Famous is the name of a chain of restaurants serving burgers that aren’t very good. That doesn’t bother me, because I just don’t go there. What does bother me is the way they go about their business, because when it comes to decorating their restaurants, video advertising on their website or naming the dishes on their menu, they never miss an opportunity to either sexually objectify women, or use derogatory terms to describe them.

I’ve written about this before. The reason I am writing again is because I was angered by an e-mail I received from a friend who visited their latest opening in Leeds and was seriously offended by what she found in the ladies loos. Painted large and loud on the wall were these messages to women who thought they were okay to just go for a pee in a restaurant.

Almost Famous

Your eyes do not deceive you. It’s a list of women’s potential insecurities, written on a toilet wall. What could motivate someone to do this? And surely more than one person is responsible. Surely this piss poor excuse for interior design wasn’t dreamt up and sanctioned by a single person? A committee of people must have sat around a table and agreed this was a great idea. Apparently there is nothing equivalent in the men’s toilets. Quelle fucking surprise.

This kind of pathetic woman-bashing is straight out of the Almost Famous school of ‘edgy design’. But what about the people that don’t get angered by this, like me, or my friends? What about the people who are affected and as a result feel awful about themselves and whichever part of their body Almost Famous has reminded them they’re not satisfied with? As my friend put it, ‘we have enough of this shit already in magazines and other media’.

As I mentioned in my other post, their menu writing is equally anti-female. Fancy some ‘slut sauce’ for your burger? How about some ‘bitch juice’ to wash it down? Yes, items on their menu are gleefully named after derogatory terms for women. Almost Famous think that misogyny and sexism is cool. This is completely unacceptable; it’s ignorant and lazy and it should not be allowed to continue. There isn’t anyone to police this kind of amateur bullshit so people need to speak up. People need to complain, because this is 2014. Women are equal members of society now guys! We don’t sit back and let insults wash over us. We don’t tolerate being belittled, or judged sexually and aesthetically. We don’t need you to pitch in with the evaluation of our self-image, and neither do we need to be portrayed as weak or submissive. Do catch up.

173 comments | Rants

How to do Afternoon Tea. Properly.

Tuesday, 19th August 2014

Afternoon Tea

I have recently developed a massive thing for afternoon tea. The reason for this, I am sure, is the same reason I love a buffet: the variety. I want all the dainty bits and bobs and plenty of them. The afternoon tea was introduced by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who got bored of the 4 o’clock slump and decided to do something about it. The practice spread, grew more and more elaborate, and by Edwardian times it was a full on gowns and fine china job. I have a book called ‘Afternoon Tea at The Ritz’ full of lovely titbits (bit like the tea itself) about afternoon tea etiquette, such as that “those who take sugar in their tea are advised to propel the spoon with a minimum of effort and to remove it without fail before raising the cup”. Even now the idea of leaving a spoon in the cup while sipping seems unthinkable, doesn’t it?  What are you, some kind of Cup-a-Soup guzzling animal?

Nowadays, some people do afternoon tea as a tourist activity, like having a cream tea in Cornwall, or gumming at a soggy pasty in the rain. There are people who enjoy the ceremony of it, and there are those who just enjoy sitting about in a nice room with a silver teapot, discussing whether or not it really should be Humphrey’s turn to drive to Henley this year. Some people go only for the cakes, while some enjoy the sandwiches just as much. I want the whole package, and I have strong ideas about how said package should be delivered.

The Sandwiches

The sandwich to cake ratio is usually 1/3 sandwiches, 2/3 cakes. This is not correct, because the sandwiches, to me, are of equal importance. You know I like sandwiches, right? Did I mention anywhere that I like sandwiches? Some places, like Claridge’s, offer unlimited rounds. This is both a blessing and a curse because, well…talk about a red rag to a bull. I ate three rounds and had to take half the cakes home. Some of you will live and learn. I won’t.

The flavours of the sandwiches should be as follows:

1. Cucumber. The classic, and a good test of the measure of a place. The cucumber sandwich, you see, can’t be made too far in advance. I had an afternoon tea recently at a hotel in Scotland, where the kitchen was very much into making stuff in advance. I mean, more than was appropriate. Needless to say, cucumber sandwiches did not feature in their afternoon tea. The bread should be very white and fresh, the butter pure and salty, and the cucumber glistening.

2. Egg mayonnaise, which can come with or without cress, I don’t mind, but do be careful if you’re going to start adding anything else. This is an English egg mayonnaise, not an American egg salad. There definitely should not be any crunch. Some Americans put celery in their egg mayo. CELERY!

3. Smoked salmon, with either cream cheese or butter. If going with the latter, then it will need a squeeze of lemon. Black pepper. Light brown bread.

4. A meat sandwich. The obvious options are ham (with mustard, or I’ve had a rather nice variation with celeriac remoulade; bit Frenchy but I’ll allow it), or beef (preferably with horseradish). Some go for chicken. Few get away with it. Claridge’s did, but then they can get away with pretty much anything.

After that, it’s up to the individual. A few points to bear in mind however:

1. There should be no dipping of knives into chutney jars. Sweet fruit chutney (the kind you find at food markets between the painted plates and olives) is disgusting, but nobody else seems to have realised.

2. Salad leaves should be used with caution, because it’s difficult to make them dainty and the texture isn’t right for a finger sandwich. If watercress is involved, it needs to be chopped so it doesn’t come out in one long piece, pulling half the filling with it, before slapping against your chin.

3. All or almost all of the fillings should be British.

4. A generous amount of seasoning is really important; I’m forever adding salt to afternoon tea sandwiches.

Claridge's Tea Sandwiches

Scones

These should always be included and served warm, with strawberry or raspberry jam and clotted cream. I had an afternoon tea recently where the scones came with whipped cream (top photo). Whipped! I ask you. Someone should be sacked for that.

I care not for the argument about whether cream or jam should come first, despite having Cornish ties.

Scones

Cakes

Tricky area, this, as there’s so much room for variation, but here goes.

1. It’s a tad controversial, but I do like to find some sort of dainty cheesecake or moussey arrangement. It needs to be classy, though, with a fruit flavour; no chocolate and no cheese shaped wedges. This isn’t TGI Friday’s.

2. There should be a spongey thing, but again, it needs to meet the visual and size requirements, which can be a challenge because sponge falls more into the WI cakes category.

3. There should be a chocolate number, preferably adorned with spirals and twirls of other chocolate, possibly in different colours. I don’t mind as long as they look like they were really difficult to make.

4. A pastry tart is nice, with a very thin, obscenely buttery casing, filled with custard, topped with fruit and finished with a glaze that makes it shinier than Pierluigi Collina‘s head. 

Shiny Fruit Tart

Fruit Tart or Pierluigi Collina?

5. There should be some sort of cake which is the equivalent of the Great British Bake Off showstopper. It should have layers of things made via different, preferably complicated techniques. It should be dusted, decorated, bejewelled, encrusted with diamonds, covered in ambergris, whatever. The point is that it should be impressive.

6. Cupcakes do not belong.

7. I feel a bit funny about macarons. Are they a biscuit? Are they a cake? Are they just annoying? They seem to be the most over rated confection ever. I don’t mind seeing them sitting on the silver stand but they’d better be damn well perfect.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes: NO

Claridge's

Diddy perfection at Claridge’s

Things in Shot Glasses

If it were up to me, I’d do away with these. Yes, they add some height above the other cakes, and, as they’re often filled with some sort of fruit jelly, I do see their place in lightening the whole tea but, to be honest, I find them tacky. Also, the spoon never fits right to the bottom of the glass, which is just frustrating.

Biscuits

Fuck off.

The Tea

If you know what you’re doing, this should be proper, loose leaf tea. There are astonishing loose leaf teas available nowadays, and because they’re not cooped up in a bag, the leaves have room to unfurl. You can get a few brews from a fat pinch, with different subtleties of flavour each time. It’s called afternoon tea FFS, so the tea bit is very important. Teapots should be silver, or at least pretend to be.

Champagne

Always. This is the only place that any biscuity-ness should be happening, so you want something that’s spent time on its lees (bits of yeast and whatnot leftover from fermentation). Yeah, that’s right, I’m down with the wine lingo nowadays. Something like Roederer non vintage should do nicely. 

So, does anyone else have any strong views on the AT? Does the order of jam and cream still matter if it’s not a cream tea? Are macarons really the most exciting confection since the Beefeater’s Horn of Plenty?

 

68 comments | Afternoon Tea, Cakes, Sandwiches

Courgettes with Yoghurt and Chilli

Friday, 8th August 2014

Courgette Meze

I go through 1kg tubs of yoghurt at an alarming rate. I love its cool creamy blandness, which can take on many other flavours, be they salty, spicy or sweet. It’s no wonder it’s so important to so many cuisines. One of the reasons I love Turkish food so much for example, is that every meal is accompanied by yoghurt based dishes; cucumber, purslane or celeriac are my favourites, swathed in thick, whippy clouds. They beg to be dunked into with too much fluffy bread. It would be impossible to do a no-carb diet in Turkey unless you have some seriously steely willpower. I put on about half a stone in the week we were there, which just goes further towards proving that bread should be considered as the One True Evil if you are ever trying lose any weight. It obviously had nothing to do with the all the kebabs and künefe I was scarfing three times a day. 

I can’t believe this tastes so good, because it has only a few ingredients: courgettes, chilli, yoghurt, salt and an optional squeeze of lemon. The key really is in the method. The courgettes must be salted and allowed to drain their liquid, otherwise you’ll have a soupy disaster on your hands. If you want to take this in a slightly different direction, with more of an Iranian bent, then a little chopped mint would be lovely.

Courgette Meze

Courgettes with Yoghurt and Chilli (serves 4 with other dishes)

450g courgettes, young if possible (different colours make it look extra pretty)
1-2 red chillies, seeded and finely sliced or chopped
Enough natural Greek style yoghurt to combine (about 5 tablespoons or so)
Salt
Squeeze of lemon (optional)
Bread, to serve

Grate the courgettes (most easily done in a food processor with grating attachment). Put them in a colander then sprinkle with about a level teaspoon of good salt and toss well. Set over a bowl or the sink for about half an hour, to drain their liquid.

Put the yoghurt in a bowl and beat it a bit with a fork until smooth. Put the courgettes in a separate bowl and add the chilli then gradually add some yoghurt until it’s all nicely bound together. Taste for seasoning, it will probably be salty enough. Add the lemon if you like. Scoff with bread and kebabs.

13 comments | Barbecue, Dips, Gluten-free, Healthy, Nibbles, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads, Turkey, Vegetables

BBQ Adana Kebab Rolls

Wednesday, 23rd July 2014

BBQ Adana Kebab Rolls

Since returning from an Istanbul > Beirut > Istanbul jaunt way back in April, I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of recipes I want to re-create. Despite writing about lahmacun, yoghurt with celeriac, liver and onions Turkish stylee, and Turkish lamb meatballs with rhubarb, I am in no way through dealing with Istanbul, and I’ve barely started on you, Beirut, posting only about the marvellous man’oushe.

This recipe was inspired by a restaurant in Istanbul that actually, we didn’t much like. I think that happened once in our entire trip. It’s in Beyoglu, which seems to be the trendy bit of Istanbul. It’s also the area I enjoyed the least. It felt a bit young and hip and I dunno, I guess I’m really not the latter, because it’s just not the kind of atmosphere I enjoy when I’m exploring a new city. Is that weird? Maybe that’s weird. It is? How dare you! I’m very cool, it’s just that a thousand spaghetti-strapped women and block print embellished denim-ed men leaning around in bars playing Europop isn’t my idea of a good time. That’s a really unfair picture of Beyoglu in general, but perfectly accurate when it comes to the surroundings of this restaurant. The staff thought they were THE SHIT, too, prancing around like the restaurant floor was a fashion show or something. Totally aware that’s the kind of thing my mum said when I asked if I could have those high-heeled patent sling backs for my first year at Big School, but anyway.

They did one good thing, and that was to introduce us to adana kebabs rolled up into cigar shapes inside very thin bread. This is brilliant because you get the contrast between crisp bread and soft meat, but also because all the juiciness from the lamb soaks into the bread. This one dish made the whole sorry experience worthwhile. There’s also the opportunity to roll all sorts of other goodies inside with the meat of course, which I duly did…ranging from yoghurt, to feta, to spring onions. There was something else too but I’m not prepared to admit it.

It took a bit of experimenting to get the recipe right. Although the meat remained moist (there is a shit load of lovely fatty lamb in there after all…) they just weren’t QUITE juicy enough, so in the end I decided to cook the kebabs, before spreading the bread (lavash, by the way, it’s appropriately thin) very sparsely with some of the meat mixture, plonking the ‘bab onto it, rolling up, then commencing crisping. It does weird you out a bit, putting cooked meat on top of  raw, but it’s only for a moment and anyway, just get on with it.

BBQ Adana Kebab Rolls

BBQ Adana Kebab Rolls

BBQ Adana Kebab Rolls

The other major change I’ve made with my adana is to add some Georgian ajika paste so this is a little bit fusion I suppose but come on, Turkey and Georgia are bordering countries. Ajika is a rather fierce chilli paste, which some dunce rather dopily describes on Wikipedia as ‘vindaloo strength’. It’s pretty hot, basically, but with an incredible flavour. It’s a magic ingredient, the kind of thing you end up chucking into all sorts of dishes. I’ll post my own recipe for it here soon.

BBQ Adana Kebab Rolls

BBQ Adana Kebab Rolls (makes about 6 kebabs, depending on size obviously)

400g fatty lamb mince, 150g lean lamb mince (such as neck)
1/2 onion
1/2 red pepper
1 tablespoon ajika paste
2 cloves garlic
Few pinches salt
Lavash bread
Yoghurt (optional)
Feta (optional)
Spring onions, finely sliced (optional)

Blitz the lean mince into a blender with the onion, pepper, ajika and garlic. Add the fatty mince. Season highly with salt and give the meat a really good mix, kneading it with your hands almost like bread for a few minutes. Refrigerate for an hour or so if you can before shaping onto soaked wooden skewers (the kebabs will be easier to turn if you use two per kebab), then refrigerate again. Reserve about a tablespoon of meat per kebab, for smearing on the flatbreads later.

When ready to cook, prep your BBQ, and when the coals are covered in white ash, sling those ‘babs on, they won’t take long – 5 mins each side. Don’t try to turn them until they’ve built up a crust or else they wills stick. Cut a piece of lavash large enough to encase each kebab (remember you’re rolling it up), smear this with a tablespoon of the reserved meat, then plonk your cooked ‘bab on top and add any cheese, yoghurt, spring onions you fancy and roll it up. Slap back onto the grill until crisp on each side.

I like to serve these with extra garlic yoghurt and huge plates of herbs.

10 comments | Barbecue, Bread, Cheese, Istanbul, Main Dishes, Meat

Cornish Sea Salt

Thursday, 3rd July 2014

Cornwall

“I’ll never remember all this” I thought as I was given a guided tour of the Cornish Sea Salt production site. The ‘operations director’, Philip Tanswell, was whipping us from point to point, explaining machinery and chemistry and…salty things, telling us how he couldn’t believe no-one else had thought to harvest Cornish sea salt. Personally, I think it’s more likely that people have had the idea, but after reading up on the production thought to themselves, ‘nah, bugger that’. I wish I could tell you how it’s harvested, I really do, but I can’t because the process was complicated, and the explanation of it full of words like ‘microfiltration’, sub-atomic particles’, exchanger twist flugelbinder’ and ‘flomboggle wangcharging maxalatron’. I may possibly have made some of those up. I also can’t tell you about much of the process however,  because Philip wants to keep it a secret, lest people steal his methods. The world of salt is competitive, it turns out, and things are said about both Maldon and Halen Mon which I want to repeat here but probably shouldn’t. Interesting, though. Veeeeery interesting.

In short, the way salt is made goes like this: when the sodium and chloride particles are bobbing about in the sea they are separately positively and negatively charged, but when they are processed, and they run out of space to do whatever they like, they attract each other, and become salt crystals. The Cornish Salt Company have a piece of kit related to this process which is unique and does…something. That’s the secret bit. The key with the whole business is to get the best shape to the crystals, you see. That’s what it’s all about. Oh, and the other biggie: water clarity. Cornish sea salt is made from a stretch of water off the coast of The Lizard, which is somewhere I remember whizzing through on many a childhood holiday (good pasty place out at Lizard point if I remember rightly?). Beneath the water is a big ol’ reef, and a dangerous one by the sounds of it: over 500 ship wrecks sit eerily under the water. It’s a marine protection zone with Grade A water, which means it’s um, really, really clean. The minerals in the clay around Lizard also make a difference to the uniqueness of the salt, as the area is different to rest of Cornwall, geologically speaking. It’s magnesium and calcium changes which make a difference to the way different salts taste, so some salts will be more sweet, some more salty.

Cornwall

There’s salt in there…

To come up with a recipe based around salt proved a little challenging at first because, well, everything has salt in it. These pitta chips may seem overly simple but trust me, they’re the kind of snack you start walking away from them turn back halfway through for another hit. I could go wild for a fistful or thirty right now. They’re really good when made with both the Cornish Sea Salt ‘Luxury Pepper’ and chilli mixes and of course just the regular salt flakes and they’re incredibly easy to make. I suppose they’re healthier than crisps too. What more do you want from me?!

Pitta Chips with Cornish Sea Salt

Salty Pitta Chips 

2-3 pitta bread (depending on size)
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon either Cornish Sea Salt Luxury Pepper blend or chilli blend

Heat oven to 200C. Cut the pitta chips into pieces, splitting some if you can, so they get extra thin and crisp. Mix the oil and salt then rub into the pitta pieces, making sure they’re evenly coated. Spread on a baking tray and cook for 7-10 minutes, tossing halfway through. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Allow to cool and serve with some dippage, such as hummus.

See Cornish Sea Salt Website for stockists or to buy online

9 comments | Bread, Nibbles, Snacks

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