Dry-Fried Ginger and Turmeric Okra

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Okra, or rather ‘ladies fingers’ tends to divide people. Those in the negative camp tend to complain about  ‘a slimy texture’ as the main reason for not raving about this vegetable.  I have recently discovered the reason for this and the way to keep slime at bay whenever you cook with okra.

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It’s simple. After washing the okra you need to dry them throughly. There cannot be a drop of water remaining on the okra. You need to dry each and every okra with a dry tea towel. It only takes a moment to do but the finished result when you eat your okra will be worth the little drying exercise.IMG_2281

In Cochin recently I was shown a very simple and straightforward okra dish, which is great to accompany with meats, fish or dal. Ten minutes max and you have yourself a tasty little dish. If you also prepare my speedy dal then you have yourself a satisfying feast in no time at all.

Did you know there is also a vegetable called ‘gentleman’s toes’? I am totally serious. You can find out more about this tasty vegetable on my blog post here.

So remember don’t add water when cooking with okra and make sure the okra is super dry before cooking with it.

Dry-Fried Ginger and Turmeric Okra

Serves 2

1 tbsp coconut oil

250g okra, washed and completely dried and then chopped and sliced (see photos above)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp ginger powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp salt

  1. Heat the oil in a pan.
  2. Add the okra, spices and salt and stir.
  3. Place a lid on the pan and stir at intervals for 6-8 minutes.
  4. Taste to see if the okra has softened but still held its shape.
  5. Serve immediately.

 

 


Keralan Prawn and Kokum Curry – Chemmeen Olarthiathu

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Hidden away in the calm and tranquil backwaters of Kerala you will find a homestay called ‘Philipkutty’s Farm’ that sits on 35 acres of a small island, which totals 750 acres. The island was reclaimed from the backwaters of Lake Vembanad in the 1950’s by the present inhabitant’s late husband’s grandfather.

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Today the farm is run by Anu (pictured above) and her mother-in-law, known as Aniamma, but it was Anu who warmly greeted us as we made our way from the opposite shore in a wooden canoe known locally as a ‘vallam’ (country boat), powered by a local using a wooden punt. After sipping on homemade cool ginger lemonade we were shown our cottage where we would be spending the next couple of nights.

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To say that it was charming was a massive understatement. I read in the visitors book that one lady had stayed for 5 weeks and had returned numerous times. I could see the attraction. It was without doubt the perfect place to unwind, write a book perhaps or simply just relax.

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Without modern day distractions such as television (there was only wifi in the main house) you felt positively cut off from the outside world. Bliss. It enabled you to sit and admire the views and watch the passing traffic, aka houseboats, drift by. My daughter’s fished with Anu’s daughter and managed to collect a number of fish, before always returning them to the waters. Mr B bravely swam in the backwaters themselves, much to all our amusement.

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The highlight of staying at Philipkutty’s Farm, however, is the food. Aniamma, Anu and their team of helpers prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for guests, which all congregate in a thatched pavilion close to the main house. As there are only a handful of cottages there tend to be no more than 12 or so guests. We all sat on one large table, swapped storied and filled our bellies with dish after memorable dish of food.  The cuisine was predominately Syrian Christian with a strong backwater influence. The vegetables and spices were grown on the farm and these were accompanied by a wide range of fish and meats. I was in heaven.

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I have a feeling that if I stayed for 5 weeks, like one guest, there would be a high chance that I would return home a little more ‘wholesome’ than when I arrived!

IMG_2912Each evening Anu and Aniamma would do a cookery demonstration of a couple of the dishes we were to eat that evening. So it was during these informal demonstrations that I learned a host of new recipes.

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This prawn and kokum curry – known as chemmeen (prawn) olarthiathu, was interesting as it included an ingredient I had not come across before. Kokum is a fruit bearing tree that is native to Western coastal regions of India and has many health benefits. The outer skin of the fruit is halved and dried, which in turn curls and becomes a dark purple black colour – apparently the darker the colour the better the kokum.
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Whilst they undoubtedly add a sweet and sour element to a dish (similar to tamarind) they also add a smokiness that is unlike anything that I have tried before. They never drown out the main taste of a dish, instead complementing it with their gentle souring notes.  As such they are used in a host of fish and prawn curries as well as dals and vegetable dishes. I realise that a trip to Kerala to source kokum maybe a little tricky for my readers so instead you can easily buy them online here or here. It stores easily for a year, I am told, in a sealed jar.

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I used prawns with tails on but you can use whatever prawns you wish.

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You’ll need red onion, shallots, ginger, garlic and fresh curry leaves. You can pick up fresh curry leaves from most Asian grocers. I tend to freeze mine and then dig them out of the freezer as and when I need to use them, which is most days.
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Above shows Aniamma adding the cherished kokum to her curry.

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I served mine with my Indian toor dal, which you can find here and some basmati rice.

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Kerala Prawn and Kokum Curry (Chemmeen Olarthiathu)

Serves 4-6

1-2 tbsp coconut oil

1 large or two small red onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped

3 shallots, finely chopped

10 curry leaves

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli powder

2 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped

500g prawns

4 pieces of kokum, pre soaked in 150ml boiling water for 20 minutes

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the coconut oil and then add the garlic, shallots, ginger and curry leaves.
  2. After a minute add the red onion, salt and chilli powder (if using).
  3. On a medium to low heat, add the turmeric and allow the ingredients to soften, which will take around 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the fresh tomatoes and stir into the other ingredients and allow to soften.
  5. Add the prawns and move around the pan so that they are coated in all the ingredients.
  6. After 3 minutes add the kokum and gently cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Add the fresh black pepper powder just before serving.

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Each morning at Philipkutty’s Farm the urns would have different arrangements of fresh flowers floating in them. So pretty and symmetrical.

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Keralan Chicken Stew

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Recently my family and I spent the day with a local Keralan family in Cochin: Lt. Col. Mathens, Moly and Philip. The intention was to spend the day with them cooking and eating so you can imagine how excited I was about this. After a good hours drive from our hotel we arrived at their house, still in Cochin but away from the old centre.

Before the cooking began we were given a guided tour of their garden, which grew all manner of spices, vegetables and fruit. They had planted this magnificent oasis themselves when they had bought the property some years before. It had been shrub land, but with such fertile soil, sunny weather and good rains in the monsoon, the vegetable garden had thrived beyond belief. There was no reason to go to the market to buy fresh produce as they had such a bounty waiting for them in the garden.

How many of the above can you recognise? Let me know in the comments box below.

We were showed at least thirty different vegetables, fruit and spices and to see them growing in their natural habitat was hugely memorable – although looking back through my photographs I cannot be certain about a couple of the plants. A return trip is necessary perhaps to further my education? Any excuse really!

After our garden tour we made our way to the kitchen where Moly explained the different dishes we would be cooking and the others she had prepared earlier that would accompany our feast.

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One of the dishes she showed us was her Keralan chicken stew. A couple of things that stood out with the way that she actually prepared the stew.

Firstly it was cooked on the bone, like all authentic curries should. Secondly she add the coconut milk in two stages. To begin with she added the thin coconut milk and at the very end she added the thicker, creamer coconut. The third point was that she added the thin coconut milk when some of the chicken was still pink. She did not measure anything as such, so I frantically took notes as to the approximate amount she was adding into her stew.

It does have a chilli kick to it with pepper, cardamom and clove notes resonating through the dish. By all means reduce the amount of chillies to suit your palate. I added a teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder, but this is not necessary and looking back in my notes I don’t believe Moly added it so for the recipe below I have omitted it although when I was testing the recipe I did add it, hence the photos have a red/orange hue to the dish. Yours will not have this in quite the same way if you follow the recipe below.

She did not measure out the coconut milk, but as it generously covered the chicken I think she must have used the equivalent of two tins of coconut milk or thereabouts. I find some brands of coconut milk have a thick creamy coconut milk at the top and a more water milk at the bottom. If you can try and get hold of these types of coconut milk.

Keralan Chicken Stew

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 red onions , finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely diced

7 Kashmiri chillies

2 potatoes cubed

1 whole chicken (approx 1.2kg) skinned and chopped into 10-12 pieces

1tsp cardamom seeds

4 little pieces of cinnamon bark

1 1/2tsp fresh ground black pepper

10 cloves

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ginger powder

2x400ml tins of coconut milk

  1. In a deep pan – I find my Le creuset casserole works well – add the coconut oil. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the onion, garlic and dried chillies. Leave to cook in the pan for 3 minutes. Keep on a medium low heat.
  2. Now add the cubed potatoes and stir into the other ingredients and allow to cook away for a further 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and stir before placing the lid on the pan for 5 minutes. Some of the chicken will have whitened but do not be alarmed if some of the chicken is still a little pink at this stage.
  4. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon bark, ginger powder and black pepper.
  5. Add one tin of the thin coconut milk and the salt. Put the lid back on the pan and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring at intervals.
  6. Test to see that the potato is soft and the chicken is cooked. Add more salt if necessary.
  7. At the very end turn the heat down very low and add the thick coconut milk and stir into the stew. It is important that you do not let it boil as the coconut milk will split.

Serve with rice, luchi, chapati or the traditional Keralan appam.

 

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Dreaming of Kerala – Squid Coconut Fry

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Kerala, often called ‘God’s own country’, is the perfect destination for the avid traveller who seeks adventure, beauty and tasty food. It encompasses so many different experiences and terrain in this sunshine state that no day is ever quite the same. Over the course of the last few weeks my family and I (and not other animals) spent time in Cochin, exploring their diverse places of worship as well admiring their famous Chinese fishing nets.

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The Western ghats, which provide the state, and much of the wider world, with tea, cardamom and coffee.

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The calming, slower pace of life in the emerald backwaters,

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and of course the palm fringed beaches of the coast and the gloriously warm Arabian sea.

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Along the way I met some wonderful people, both locals and fellow travellers, who all made our experience of Kerala very memorable. It was tough to say goodbye to the warm rays and friendly smiles and head back to a much colder London, which is now firming in the throes of winter.

During our travels I learned to cook a wealth of Keralan recipes from chefs and home cooks who welcomed us into their homes and kitchens. Meet some of them below. From left ‘Mummy’ from Philip Kutty’s Farm,  Sreeja  from Marari Beach Hotel and Moly from Cochin, who allowed me to shadow her for the day.

Prior to visiting the state I had a preconceived notion that a lot of the cuisine would be vegetarian, however this is not the case. In Kerala, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Jews (there are only 6 now left in Cochin) live harmoniously and respectfully amongst one another. As such we feasted on chicken, lamb, pork and beef as well as delicious fresh and seawater fish, shellfish and a host of vegetarian dishes. Coconut oil and coconut in many forms, is the heart of many Keralan dishes along with the irresistibly sour tamarind and kokum, the latter being new to me. “Kera” in Malayalam (the language of Kerala) means coconut. As Kerala is abundant with coconut plants, it naturally got the name Kerala. Yes, many of the dishes in Kerala have heat, but with the cooling qualities of  coconut, many had their chilli bite tempered.

Over the coming months I will intersperse my blog posts with temptingly delicious Keralan dishes that will hopefully encourage you to try cooking them at home.

First up is ‘Squid Coconut Fry’, which in all honesty takes 10 minutes and that includes the prepping and cooking. So look no excuses not to give this a whirl. It is so good you’ll be cooking it time and time again. IMG_2160

 Squid Coconut Fry

Serves 2 (or 4 if serving with other dishes)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 dried red Kashmiri chillies, halved and seeds removed if you like it less hot

10 pieces of thinly sliced fresh coconut or dried coconut slices

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tsp ginger paste

1 fresh green chilli (2 if you like it hot)

10 curry leaves

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

300g squid tubes, chopped into thin rings

1/4 juice of a lemon

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 garam masala

  1. First get all the ingredients ready as the dish takes no time to cook and you will want to eat it immediately. This dish is not good to be reheated.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a pan. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and red chillies followed by the thin coconut slices. Keep the heat on a medium to low heat.
  3. After 20 seconds add the garlic, ginger, fresh green chilli and curry leaves.
  4. Move around the pan for a minute before adding the red onion and salt.
  5. Now add the chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and allow the flavours to come together in the pan. Allow the onion to soften for 3-5 minutes
  6. Add the squid and move around the pan. Cook for a further 3 minutes.
  7. Add the lemon, pepper and garam masala. Move the ingredients around the pan.

Serve immediately. All the wonderful flavours will have wrapped themselves around the squid culminating in the most appetising of dishes.

This wonderful recipe was demonstrated to me by Sreeja, which I have adapted slightly. Quick and easy. I would serve with rice, a vegetable curry and a dal (see my recipe library).

 


Sauteed Chicken Livers with Madeira, Capers, Parsley and Red Onions on Toasted Sourdough

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Christmas beckons and you are now, most probably, all sorted on what you are going to cook over the coming days, well on Christmas day at least. I don’t know about you but I find the week between Christmas and New Year is filled with feasting and if you have family or friends stopping by you want no fuss food that tastes divine with minimum preparation effort.

This is where my sautéed chicken livers come in. They are so darn tasty and can be rustled up in 10 minutes. Seriously folks, 10 minutes and you have a perfect appetiser or relaxed lunch. If you have a mental block over chicken livers I urge you to put it to side this once and dive right in. Sauteed in Madeira and capers these chicken livers are totally transformed and I love the flavours coming from the crunchy red onions and fresh flat leaf parsley. Served on toasted sourdough and you have yourself a real treat.

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If, like me, you adore chicken livers then do try my chicken liver curry here.

I’m going to be checking out now until mid January, but you can find me on Instagram and twitter as I work my way around Kerala in Southern India. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year full of festive cheer, merriment and of course feasting.

I’ll be back in 2016 with lots of Keralan treats to share with you.

Sauteed Chicken Livers with Madeira, Capers, Parsley and Red Onions on Toasted Sourdough

Serves 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 banana shallot, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

400g chicken livers

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbsp Madeira or Sherry

2 tbsp capers

1 red onion finely sliced

a generous handful of fresh flat leaf parsley

4 this slices of sourdough bread, toasted under the grill on both sides

  1. Turn on the grill so that it is ready to toast your sourdough bread in a few minutes.
  2. In a frying pan heat the oil and then add the diced shallot and garlic.
  3. After 3 minutes add the chicken livers and a little salt and pepper and let them brown in colour. Gently turn them over so that they heat through evenly. This will take around 6 minutes.
  4. Whilst the livers are browning, slice the red onion and remove the leaves of the flat leaf parsley. Place to one side.
  5. Place the  sourdough bread on a baking tray and lightly sprinkle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Grill it so that it is lightly bronzed on both sides. It happens quickly so keep an eye on it.
  6. Add the Madeira and capers and gently moved around the pan. Turn the heat down and simmer for a further couple of minutes.
  7. To plate up cut the toasted sourdough in half and lay evenly on a serving plate. Sprinkle with a few red onions and parsley. Lay the chicken livers and capers over the toast and then scatter with a little more red onions and parsley.

Eat immediately so that it is still hot.

 


A Year in Cheese – Now isn’t that a thought!

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The brothers Alex and Leo Guarneri who run the London fromagerie ‘Androuet’ and the restaurant next door have just brought out a rather delicious sounding cookbook called ‘A Year in Cheese’. Along with their Italian chef Alessandro Grano they have put together a collection of their favourite recipes incorporating cheese. Much like vegetables, fruit and meat, cheese is also seasonal and it is with this in mind that the brothers have come up with some tasty cheese dishes to whet the appetite all year round.

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Images from A Year in Cheese: A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook by Alex and Leo Guarneri, Recipes by Alessandro Grano. Photographs by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln.’ 

Those who love ‘kinfolk’ style, myself included, will be naturally drawn to this recipe book. I particularly love it’s matt, rustic, moody photographs and recipes that look homely and inviting. Just browsing through the book, I love the sound of the ‘portobello mushrooms stuffed with walnuts and gorgonzola’, ‘french onion soup with 18-month-old comte’, ‘baked camembert with rosemary, honey and almonds’, ‘green and white asparagus with red Leicester crisps with sauce vierge’. The ‘watermelon and feta’ combination is always a winner and the brothers have come up with their own take on one of my favourite salads – see below. Salty, sweet with a blast of colour – what’s not to love!

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Images from A Year in Cheese: A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook by Alex and Leo Guarneri, Recipes by Alessandro Grano. Photographs by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln.’ 

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The book is split into chapters according to seasons and then there is a separate chapter on cheeseboards and complementary wines. The book is original – I can’t think of another one focused on cheese in quite the same way – so for any cheese lover it is certainly a great addition to their recipe book library.

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As a christmas present, I think I would probably pair it with an interesting cheese and a fancy cheese spoon – how about this one – to complete the well thought through gift. I know that I would love to receive a gift like that.

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I decided to make their ‘tomato tarte tatin with Saint Nicolas De La Dalmerie’. It comes under the summer chapter, so perhaps I should have chosen one of the winter dishes because the cheese suggested was clearly not going to be in season. As such I replaced it with and English ‘Rosary plain’, which is a mild and creamy fresh cheese made from pasteurised goats milk.

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The recipe was delicious and quite frankly perfect for any time of year, the only thing that I need to work on was making the puff pastry rise better, as mine had not puffed up as well as the one in the photo in the book. I fear that there was too much balsamic vinegar making the pastry a little too wet to puff as much as it would like. As such I have made some alterations to the recipe.

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The olive oil that I like to use is the Nudo variety, which make a whole range of wonderful olive oils that come in eye catching tins. The extra virgin comes in the green tin (I used  this one for this recipe), the yellow tin is infused with lemons and the red tin has notes of chilli. The olive oils themselves make great gifts – see here for the trio selection, but I am also a huge fan (and have been for a number of years) of their gift idea where you ‘adopt’ an olive tree and then receive extra virgin olive oil through out the year. The gift that keeps on giving – perfect. Click here to learn more about the olive tree adoption.

 

 

Tomato Tarte Tatin with English Rosary Goats Cheese

Serves 4-6

500g cherry tomatoes, halved (you can use larger just slice them thinly)

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Nudo olive oil, for drizzling

salt and pepper

1x320g sheet of chilled puff pastry

1 egg, whisked

50g English Rosary goats cheese

 

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (375 degrees Faranheit/gas5) and butter a tart tin. I used my regular 8 inch diameter cake tin. In the book they suggest using 2 6 inch diameter tart tins.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for 10 seconds and then move them to a bowl of cold water. The skins will then peel off easily.
  3. Half the tomatoes and then drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar, sugar, olive oil and fresh thyme.
  4. Arrange the tomatoes neatly in the tin and then drizzle the remaining juice over them and add salt and pepper.
  5. Place a pastry topping over the top of the tomatoes and prick with a fork. Gently brush the pastry with the whisked egg.
  6. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, so that the pastry has puffed and bronzed.
  7. Remove from the oven and then place a plate of the top of the tin and turn upside down so that the tomato tarte tatin comes out.
  8. Crumble the goats cheese and place under a grill for around 10 seconds so that it begins to melt.
  9. You can scatter with a few rocket leaves and pine nuts if you have them to hand.

Perfect served hot or at room temperature.

 

 


Book Review of Nikkei Cuisine – Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara

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Luiz Hara has been on my culinary radar for a couple of years now. Word has it that he runs THE most exquisite supper clubs from his town house in Islington focusing primarily on Japanese, Nikkei and French cuisine. I’ve been procrastinating for far too long so I will definitely get my skates on in 2016 and give Luiz’s supper clubs a go. He is also the man behind the successful food blog, ‘The London Foodie’, which focuses on food, wine and travel. Most recently however he has published his very first cookbook called ‘Nikkei Cuisine – Japanese Food the South American Way’. It sounds intriguing right?

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‘Above Image from Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara. Photography by Lisa Linder. Published by Jacqui Small (£25).’

Nikkei cuisine is the cooking of the Japanese diaspora. Japanese immigrants often found themselves in countries that had very different cooking techniques and ingredients to what they were used to. They had to adapt to their new surroundings but at the same time wanted to continue using Japanese techniques and traditions. The resulting cuisine is called Nikkei. To say ‘fusion’ would be wrong and Luiz goes to great lengths in his introduction to explain Nikkei cuisine and how it is a very distinct cuisine in its own right. He explains “Nikkei cuisine is a byproduct of migration and adaption, created over 100 years ago in South America. It was a cuisine created out of necessity”.

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Outside Japan the highest contentration of Japanese live in South America, namely Brazil and Peru. It was in Brazil that Luiz’s family finally settled and became part of the Nikkei community. The cuisine has been part of his family history and is certainly no food fad. Luiz himself moved to London for university after which he worked in Finance in the city.  Much like myself he created his blog ‘The London Foodie’ as a creative outpost for this food thoughts and exploration. It was love of food and cuisine that they led him to quit his day job and embark on a new chapter in food. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu, where he graduated with the Grande Diplome in 2012. It was following his training and some time spent in Japan learning from the masters, that he then opened up his own home to friends and strangers by hosting his supper club. As well as continuing to this day with his supper club, he teaches cooking and writes in many national and overseas publications on the topic of food and travel.

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Which brings us to the book itself. To say that it is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly is a massive understatement. It’s colourful, bold and exciting.  It’s the type of book that is perfect for confident homecooks or for those who like to be pushed in their abilities. I recall some people grumbling over the ingredients lists of the hallowed books from the Ottolenghi empire, but for me this was a revelation and not something that phased me in the slightest. Luiz’s book must be treated with the same respect. Yes, it requires a bit of thought and forward planning, but with the help of some wonderful Oriental supermarkets in the UK and online, it is not too difficult to create the dishes. Luiz even lists a ‘directory of suppliers’ in the back of the book to help you if you are unsure where to buy certain ingredients. He also lists all the ingredients you may be unfamiliar with and gives an overview about each one.

‘Above Images from Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara. Photography by Lisa Linder. Published by Jacqui Small (£25).’

The sound of the dishes coupled with the stunning photographs in the book (see above photos) really inspire you to try cooking these yourself. How about duck breast robata with pickled pearl onions and sancho pepper vinaigrette or salmon and passion fruit tiradito with crispy butternut squash and espelette pepper or Nikkei hotpot of pork belly, cod and seafood? Mouthwatering hey. Word of warning, never read this book if you are feeling hungry as it will make matters a whole lot worse believe me.

I decided to trial one of his recipes. Deciding which to go for was a hard job as they all looked so good. In the end I chose the ‘Aubergine, Pork and Rice Noodle Salad’ as most of the ingredients I had in my kitchen – I’m also partial to little pork mince from time to time. I kept pretty to close to his recipe with the few alterations being:

  1. The amount of pork I used. He said 300g and I used the whole pack of 500g. Unless you go to the butcher, most packets of pork mince in the UK are 500g, hence I decided to use the lot.
  2. I also used vegetable bouillon instead of Asian chicken stock. I went to Korea Foods and when I asked for Asian chicken stock the guy showed me what looked like a regular chicken stock but with Chinese writing all over it. This was probably the Asian chicken stock that Luiz was referring to but the packet was so large I decided that I would replicate it with my regular vegetable stock.
  3. I would recommend you suggest cooking the aubergine for  nearer 7 minutes as opposed to 5-6 as you want to make sure that the aubergine is properly soft inside.
  4. For speed I opted for ginger paste instead of fresh ginger!
  5. I used reduced salt soy sauce.

The recipe was really very straightforward and I would most definitely cook it again. Flavoursome, with great balances of salty and sweet with only a hint of chilli.

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Aubergine, Pork & Rice Noodle Salad

Serves 4

for the pork soboro:

2 tbsp sesame oil

500g pork mince

50ml sake

50ml mirin

100ml reduced salt soy sauce

2tsp ginger paste

2 tsp caster sugar

****

for the dressing:

1/2 tsp of vegetable stock powder (Asian chicken stock if you have it)

4 tbsp boiling water

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp finely chopped red chilli

2 tsp ginger paste

****

100g dried rice vermicelli noodles

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

sunflower oil for deep frying

2 aubergines

2 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

a sprinkle of shichimi pepper

  1. First start by making the pork soboro. Place the sesame oil in a pan and when it is hot add the pork mince and allow to brown in colour (this will take around 5 minutes) before adding all the rest of the ingredients in the list for the pork soboro. Cook on a medium heat for around 20 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool on one side.
  2. Cook the dried rice vermicelli noodles according to the packet and when cooked through, drain allowing cold water to run through the noodles. Add the fresh coriander to the noodles and place to one side.
  3. Next you need to make the dressing by adding all the ingredients together in a mixing jug. Place to one side.
  4. Using a pan  bigger enough to hold both aubergines gently heat up some sunflower oil. You want to fill the pan up to half way with the sunflower oil. Clean the aubergines and make a few delicate incisions into each aubergine to prevent them from bursting in the pan. Gently place the aubergine into the hot oil.
  5. Gently turn the aubergines over every minute and allow them to cook for 7 minutes.
  6. Get a large bowl of cold water (pop in some ice if you have any). When the aubergines have cooked for 7 minutes, plunge them into the iced cold water. They will immediately shrivel up.
  7. Once the aubergines have cooled, peel their skin. It will come away really easily.
  8. Now cut the aubergine lengthways so that you have 4 pieces. Take one aubergine section and cut it lengthways on the diagonal. Place both sections onto a serving plate.
  9. Place a portion of the noodles across the centre of the aubergine on the diagonal. Layer the pork soboro on top and finish off with some of the dressing, sesame seeds and shichimi pepper.

Luiz suggests eating it at room temperature, which I did. All the elements of the dish can be prepared in advance, which is always a bonus if you are entertaining.

Please don’t be put off by the lengthy ingredient list. From start to finish this dish will not take longer to prepare than 30 minutes. It really is very tasty indeed.

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Foodies Christmas Wish List

Where has this year gone? Faster than the Japanese bullet train out of Tokyo, if you ask me. Before you know it Father Christmas will climbing down the chimney, so I thought some gift inspiration for your foodie loved ones might be rather helpful. I have included a wide range of present ideas: from those you can eat, drink, serve, read and experience. Hopefully there will be a few that will jump out at you. At the bottom of the post I have listed the order of the products with a bit more info and if you click on the name of the product it will send you through to the website where you can buy the product. They range in price from stocking filler ideas to more extravagant presents to hopefully suit everyones budget.

I’d love to know what stands out to you so do leave me a quick comment below.

 

 

Nikkei Cuisine by Luiz Hara Competent homecooks will adore supper club guru and food blogger ‘Luiz Hara’s’ first cook book, recently published by Jacqui Small. It has been described as ‘the first cookery book outside of Latin America to explore the exciting marriage of Japanese and South American cuisines’. The photographs are a feast for the eyes and the recipes so different and exciting that just leafing through the pages itself is wonderfully exciting.

Cheeky Smelly Garlic Pickle Recently in Selfridges as part of ‘Meet the Makers’ campaign this tasty little pickle is utterly moorish and I love a dollop of it on most savoury things. Cheeky Food Company also have some adorable pickle, chutney and sprinkle hampers for £14. Other pickles and chutneys  include: messy mango and tickly tamarind. I also adore their tasty sprinkles: silly sesame, pecky peanut and nutter coconut. Perfect stocking fillers. Check out their site on the link of their name.

Stone Pestle and Mortar by Tom Dixon – How beautiful is this? This is the Queen of all pestle and mortars. Stunningly crafted it would fit right in in a contemporary kitchen. Big love.

Sipsmith Quarterly Sipping Service – For those who like surprises this is a fabulous gift for gin lovers. Every 3 months Sipsmith select the 4 best gins they have trialled that season – and send them directly to you. It will mean you get first dibs on knowing what these gins are, finding out what’s happening behind their blue Distillery Doors, getting to taste them, and letting them know what you think.

Dreambirds Pitcher – My brother and his ladylove bought me the cake stand version of this and I absolutely adore it. It’s designed by South African artist Ruan Hoffmann. A veritable master at combining traditional craftsmanship with modern art, the Johannesburg artist continues to span the surfaces of everything from ceramics to paper goods with his exquisite motifs. Gorgeous gift for someone special.

Turmeric, Original, Cacao and Berry Almond Milk by The Pressery – The Pressery is THE almond milk company to purchase your almond milk beverages from.  Set up by dynamo duo Chi-San Wan and Natali Stajcic they will soon be launching a high-quality and pure, long-life almond milk. They sell in a number of London based outlets but watch this space as it won’t be long before you will be seeing this brand of almond milk all around the UK and beyond.

Lulu Cocktail Glasses Set of Four – I rather love these miss matching cocktail glasses. Fun, quirky and yet elegant, they make cocktail drinking that bit more fun.

Acacia Honey with Black Truffles – Award winning honey with black truffles is a gift from the gods. How exciting would it be to receive this as a gift. Definitely on my radar to pick up a pot or three. Easy to order online through Fine Food Specialist

Citrus Squeeze Bottle Opener – at £10 this is the perfect stocking filler. Stylish, sophisticated and handmade.

Taste: The Infographic Book of Food by Laura Rowe & Vicki Turner – This book is refreshingly different and original in that it charts history and predicts trends with the help of naturally-styled imagery and fact-packed illustrations. It’s the type of book that you’ll want to pick up and dive into from time to time. Perfect for a coffee table as well as in the kitchen.

Form Square Tray by Tom Dixon – Beautiful crafted tray made from spun and welded brass sheet. It has then been polished and dipped in a warm gold wash. Sophisticated and decadent I think this would be the centre piece of any occasion with Christmas cocktails, mulled wine or champagne.

Tikapur Oven Mitts – The Kantha stitching on these mitts won me over. I think they would look perfect in any country cottage or city dwelling.

Perello Pitted Olives THE tastiest olives around. Seriously they are so good I could eat cans of them. Perfect stocking fillers. Deliamo offer a wide range of goodies perfect for the foodie in your family and can deliver.

Palmeral Mug White/Green – If you are into prints and patterns, House of Hackney, is the epitome of cool. Making a trip to the Shoreditch High Street store itself is highly recommended although you will find it hard to drag yourself away.  I adore the whole Palmeral range from the mugs to the plates and teapot. Start the collection by purchasing a mug and then build from there, but trust me when I say you won’t be able to stop at just one.

Nudo Adopt  We all have family members or friends who are tricky to buy for as they have everything. This gift is perfect for said individuals.  I have, in fact, bought it a couple of times for friends and they’ve loved it as it is so original gift. It’s simple. All you do is choose olive oil or tea. If you go for the former you adopt a tree in Italy and receive three 500ml tins or an ongoing subscription – whereby they send you three tins 4x a year. You can also visit the olive grove should you happen to be in Italy (I see a good ruse for a holiday here ;o) and 20% off Nudo products. If you opt for the tea you adopt a tea garden in Darjeeling. Like the olive groves you can also visit it as well, which would be pretty special. You receive either 125g tea sachet as a one off or you can have it sent to you quarterly. What’s not to love.

Easy Tasty Magic – Truffle Salt – Stocked in Selfridges this truffle salt sounds wonderfully decadent and I adore the turquoise packaging – it is certainly eye catching.

A Year in Cheese by Alex and Leo Guarneri – This beautiful cookbook come from the team behind the  famous artisan cheese shop Androuet, which was established in Paris in 1909 and opened in fashionable Spitalfields in London in 2009. Did you know that cheese like vegetables are seasonal? This wonderfully crafted book walks us through what to eat when sharing delicious recipes along the way. The photographs are wonderful – matt and atmospheric and make me actually want to cook the recipes. An absolute must for any lover of cheese. Published by Frances Lincoln.

Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron Round Casserole – in Cool Mint (of course) – Many moons ago I received one of these casserole dishes from Le Creuset as a wedding present and I can honestly say that I use it all the time. Cast iron, whilst obviously heavy, does actually cook the food really well. It is perfect for stews, casseroles and curries as it holds in the heat well and is large enough to feed a number of mouths. At £145 it’s not cheap but the fact that they really do last a life time it is certainly a very worthwhile investment. I adore the cool mint colour that they have bought out. Which is your favourite colour?

Gleaming Feather Cocktail Shaker – I thought this cocktail shaker would be perfect to accompany either Good Things To Drink or Wild Drinks and Cocktails.

Nudo Olive Oils – I have been a fan of Nudo oils for years. This set of three is a gorgeous spoiling present. Extra virgin olive oil with lemons, extra virgin olive oil with Sicilian chillies and extra virgin cold press. Great packaging to boot.

Good Things To Drink – Tis the season and all so what better way to get in the festive mood than to have a tome to help guide you. Ryan Chetiyawardana (the man behind award-winning London bars White Lyan and Dandelyan) is the man to help you guide you with his user friendly cocktail recipes to create in the home. As well as winter feasting and fireside serves he has chapters focusing on ‘morning buzz’, ‘market fresh’, ‘summer social sips’, ‘pre-dinner’, ‘friday nights’ and ‘rambles’. Published by Frances Lincoln I can see it being a christmas hit.

Portland Bar Set  – You have the book and the cocktail shaker so may as well look like a pro with this Portland bar set. Cocktail making has never been so stylish.

Gimmer Ring Coaster – I adore copper and think these coasters are perfectly formed in every way.

Vida Sky Salad Set  – Simple and elegant. I have my heart set on a pair of these for christmas.

High As A Moon Mug – Stylish mug for the coffee/tea drinker.

Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Tan – It’s time folks to embrace drinks featuring local, fresh, or foraged ingredients and craft drink expert Emily Tan’s new book will show you how.  She’ll teach you the techniques you need to know to handcraft you own infused waters, syrups, vinegars, tonics, spirits, wines and sodas.

Glass Teapot With Porcelain Infuser 700ml – A graceful glass design, the Weave teapot is designed to celebrate the ancient Chinese art of tea brewing. Designed and made in Shanghai by Loveramics, this simple piece combines smooth modern style and functionality to produce a cup of tea tailored to your taste buds. I adore it and think it would make the perfect gift for any tea enthusiast.

Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer – Fermentation expert Amanda Feifer serves as your guide, showing you, step by step, how you can create traditional, delicious fermented food at home, using only simply ingredients and a little time. Using only veggies, a few spices and a glass jar, you can make zucchini bread pickles, curried cauliflower pickles, the simplest sauerkraut, green bean kimchi and more!

Squirrel Nut Cracker  Christmas is all about cracking open nuts around the fire. So this whimsical squirrel nut cracker is both charming and useful.

Pimp my Rice by Nisha Katona – Nisha is a food writer, Indian cookery teacher and founder of Mowgli Street Food in Liverpool and Manchester. Her first cookbook focuses on rice as its star ingredient. The world loves rice right and Nisha has come up with a wide array of exciting recipes incorporating rice in refreshingly original ways. From Lebanese rose petal rice to pimped rice piri piri, her recipes breath a new lease of life into plain boiled rice. Published by Watkins Publishing it is out now.

 

HAPPY SHOPPING

 

Don’t forget to leave comment below to let me know what takes your fancy.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Spinach with Shallots, Green Raisins and Red Peanuts

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My latest addiction is spinach.

I know I know how crazy do I sound? I’ve always liked it mind you, but of late it’s gone up a notch or two. It’s probably my body screaming at me that ‘I NEED MORE IRON‘.

 I’m happy to eat it in all its incarnations for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s super versatile and is cooked quicker than the time it takes to get your bowl/plate and cutlery together.

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Recently I visit a local eatery called ‘The Little Taperia‘ in Tooting in the strip, which is fast becoming increasingly hip and cool. Sitting next to Soho House’s ‘Chicken Shop’ and virtually opposite the newly established the ‘Trafalgar Arms’, ‘The Little Taperia’ offers Spanish tapas at it’s best; I could literally eat the whole menu. It was packed on my visit with a wonderful buzz to the place. The decor (love the floor tiles) and general vibe was conducive to a relaxed, memorable evening, so if you have not yet been I urge you to get down there and experience it for yourself.

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Back to the spinach. You are probably wondering where spinach and ‘The Little Taperia’ fit together.  Well it was there that I ate a delicious spinach dish that inspired me to create my own version of the dish for you today. They used pine nuts and I can’t recall if they added raisins but I’m thinking they did as the dish had a subtle sweetness, which I don’t think was coming from the onions alone – but may well have been. Needless to say the dish was utterly delicious and I think the one that I have created for you equally hits the spot.

I’ve eaten it on a few occasions since and this time I accompanied it with my Indian dal with butternut squash. I don’t actually have that recipe up on my blog but a very similar one using marrow can be found here.

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I add a dollop of ghee – clarified butter – on the top but if you are off diary or watching your waist line then just omit that part.

Spinach with Shallots, Green Raisins and Red Peanuts

2 tbsp light olive oil

2 banana shallots, finely sliced

pinch of salt

35g red peanuts (works out to be a handful)

35g green raisins (works out to be a handful)

240g fresh spinach

1 tbsp ghee

  1. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is medium hot add the banana shallots and pinch of salt and leave to soften and begin to bronze, which will take around 5 minutes.
  2. Add the green raisins and red peanuts and move around the pan. After a minute add the spinach.
  3. Place a lid the pan so that the spinach wilts. After a minute give a stir and then add the ghee. Let it melt and then serve immediately.

It is perfect with meat or fish but in this instance I ate it with some of my butternut squash dal, which was hit the spot for a delicious vegetarian supper. My butternut squash dal is similar to my marrow dal but uses butternut squash instead of marrow. Check it out here.

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Sweet Potato, Albacore Tuna, White Bean, Avocado and Rocket Salad

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Salads in winter are a revelation. Whilst I adore and encourage wonderful winter warming stews and curries, I also love to have light salads on occasion. I crave fresh spinach and rocket and am also rather partial to consuming an avocado. This salad I literally threw together one lunch time last week and had not planned to create a blog post around it – hence the one photo I took on my iPhone quickly before devouring  the meal.

This salad I literally used up things that needed eating in my fridge and the result was heavenly. It got a number of instagram likes so thought I would share it here too. It’s more a case of assembling than anything else, but I hope I can encourage you to try it. I often tend to roast extra sweet potatoes so that I can use the leftovers in a salad a day or two later – hence the ones I used here.

Sweet Potato, Albacore Tuna, White Bean, Avocado and Rocket Salad 

serves 2

2 roasted sweet potato, cut into bite sized pieces

1 avocado, cubed

4 tbsp white beans

1/2 jar of Albacore tuna in olive oil

2 large handfuls of fresh rocket

salt and pepper, to taste

*****

Lemon and Basil Oil Dressing

juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp basil infused olive oil

*****

  1. Assemble all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl, gently mix and then plate up.
  2. Scatter each salad with a little basil infused olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

Enjoy.