Chermoula – North African Marinade

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Stuck for marinade or rub ideas? Or perhaps you simply want a tasty relish to go with some grilled or BBQ meat or fish. Chermoula is the answer, seriously it is sooooooo good you are going to be doing a happy dance once you’ve prepared and tasted it. Trust me.

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This tasty Moroccan herb spiced marinade can be prepared within minutes and adds so much flavour and exotic notes to a dish that I can guarantee you’ll be wanting to prepare it time and time again.

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Chermoula is used in cooking throughout North Africa, particularly in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. It includes fresh parsley and coriander alongside spices such as cumin seeds, sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, saffron. These are then mixed with garlic, lemon juice, fresh red chilli and extra virgin olive oil. It really is that simple. It’s also one of those marinades that you can marinade meat or fish an hour before you cook, or serve it in a bowl for people to serve themselves. Versatile and flexible, what’s not to love?

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You can make it super smooth, but personally I like to have it so that you can still see bits of garlic, parsley, coriander and chilli.

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North African Chermoula

Serves 4-6 (double up if you are catering for larger numbers)

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 garlic gloves, roughly chopped

1 tsp sweet paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

pinch of saffron (optional)

12g fresh coriander, finely chopped

12g fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste

juice from 1/2  lemon

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  1. Dry roast the cumin seeds for around 20-30 seconds to release their smell and then place them in a hand blender *.
  2. To the same hand blender add the rest of the ingredients and 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Blitz briefly with the hand blender then add the rest of the olive oil. Blitz again briefly, unless you want it super smooth.
  3. Check the balance of salt and sour and add more salt or lemon if needed.
  4. Either place in a serving bowl, cover and leave in the fridge until ready to eat or add to your meat or fish for up to an hour before cooking.

I ate my chermoula with lamb chops and a salad on the side. Perfect summer out door dining.

*or mortar and pestle

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Broccoli, Mushroom and Sesame Salad from Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo

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Korean food has come a long way – from a mainstream perspective –  in the UK over the last couple of years. I wrote an article for Country & Town House Magazine about it being the ‘next big thing’ a couple of years ago – you can read the article here. Whilst a number of exciting Korean restaurants have sprung up in the centre of London giving us the chance to sample a wide range of mouth watering dishes, I sense we are still a little reluctant to cook it in the home. This reluctance mainly comes from not being familiar with the ingredients and knowing what to cook exactly. Recently however there have been a couple of Korean recipe books published that will no doubt give many the confidence to give Korean cooking a try in the home.

Korean Food Made Simple

Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

Judy Joo’s ‘Korean Food Made Simple’ is what we’ve all being waiting for. In many respects we want our hands held whilst we get familiar with Korean cooking and once we build in confidence we want to attempt dishes that challenge our new skills. Joo’s book gives a wonderful taster of Korean food and guides us on what we need to buy before we embark on this new culinary venture. Her store cupboard chapter is very useful as she spells out all the ingredients that are used in the recipes within the book. If I had to narrow ingredients down for first time Korean cooking I would suggest you buy: Doenjang (Korean soya bean paste), Gochujang (Korean chilli paste) and Gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes). With these few ingredients you can begin to make some of the dishes.

Late Night Naughty Noodles

Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

Joo’s chapters go through the usual chicken, beef & lamb, seafood etc but also have a section on salads and veggies, pancakes, dumplings and other small bites, kimchi and pickles, sauces and breads. There is a lot to read and digest and the beautiful photographs both of the recipes and of Joo and Korea itself really engage the reader and encourage you to try making some of the recipes.

Joo’s rise in the culinary world has been impressive. After a successful stint on Wall Street in New York as a fixed income derivatives sales, Joo felt something was missing in her life. Whilst she liked her job she knew that she had to go down a different path to feel completely fulfilled. Hence she quit and enrolled in cooking school at the French Culinary Institute in New York, which gave her a culinary foundation that she could then build upon. Fast forward to today and she hosts her own cooking show – Korean Food Made Simple – and is regularly on TV. In addition she has opened her own restaurant in London and Hong Kong – Jinjuu –  where she is Chef Patron.

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Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

‘Korean Food Made Simple’ is Joo’s first cookbook. The book itself is immediately striking because of it’s lustrous copper, yellow and lilac cover and the glossy photographs within, by Jean Cazals, capture the essence of Korea and Joo’s recipes exceedingly well. It’s the type of book that you want take time to pour over, with stunning photographs of Korean street life and food, architecture and it’s people. The narrative  also sets the scene and gives the reader the encouragement to start cooking Korean food themselves. I think Joo has managed to balance many easy and delicious Korean recipes to prepare at home along with more ‘cheffy’ recipes for those who want their skills to be pushed. The recipes themselves range between classics, classics with a twist and fusion largely owing to Joo’s Korean upbringing in America. She describes herself as a ‘French-trained Korean American Londoner; and the different influences in my life show up in my cooking’.

Many of her recipes appeal – mixed rice bowl with beef, known as bibimbap, is a great one to start with if you want to dive straight into a Korean main course, making your own kimchi is a must – it really is not as hard as you think. Once you have mastered that you can then make all many of delicious treats – kimchi fried rice or pork belly and kimchi stir-fry with tofu as examples.  I adore seabass and Joo has an enticing ‘steamed ginger sea bass’ that I will be trying in the months ahead. On the fusion front I particularly love the sound of the pork tacos and krazy Korean burgers (shown below).

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Korean Food Made Simple by Judy Joo, photography by Jean Cazals. Published by Jacqui Small (£22). More information on the book can be found here.

I made her ‘Broccoli, Mushroom and Sesame Salad’ (see the 1st photo on this blog post), which is light, fresh and super quick to rustle up. The Korean ingredients transform the broccoli and mushrooms giving the dish a real Korean taste. I did not have Korean apple vinegar, but instead opted for the rice vinegar, which Joo says is a good alternative. Korean ingredients are beginning to be sold more mainstream, although I tend to make the trip to Korean Foods in New Malden. For those living out of London you can easily purchase the Korean staples from a number of online supermarkets who’ll send them to you – Oriental Mart – for example. I would love to hear how you get on with some of her recipes so leave a comment in the comments section of this blog post.

Broccoli, Mushroom and Sesame Salad

Serves 4

2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp Korean apple vinegar (sagwa-shikcho) or rice vinegar

1/4 tsp of Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru)

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

175g broccoli florets

115g button mushrooms, stems tried and thinly sliced

2 spring onion, thinly sliced on an angle

  1. Slice, grate and prepare the garlic, spring onions, mushrooms and broccoli.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  3. In a separate bowl add ice (or very cold water). Place to one side.
  4. In a frying pan toast the sesame seeds for a couple of minutes so that they bronze slightly in colour and let off a nutty smell. Place them in a large bowl along with the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, chilli flakes, garlic and salt to taste.
  5. Place the broccoli florets to boiling water for no longer than 2 minutes. Strain and immediately plunge the florets into the ice bowl so as to stop the cooking process.
  6. Add the blanched broccoli, mushrooms and spring onions to the bowl with the dressing to coat thoroughly.
  7. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with more chilli flakes and serve.

 


Dhokla – A Savoury Cake from Gujarat

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Dhokla or khaman dhokla, to give it’s proper title, is a spongy steamed snack that originates from the state of Gujarat in India. Traditionally it is steamed for around 15-20 minutes before a hot tadka is poured over the top. Tadka, or tempering as it is sometimes referred,  is a form of cooking in the Indian subcontinent where whole spices are roasted briefly in oil or ghee to release their flavours. They are then put on the top of dals, curries and of course dhokla. The tadka completely lifts the whole dish and is key in many recipes.

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The magic ingredient in dhokla is an ingredient called Eno. You’ll be able to pick it up at any Indian grocers. Do not be alarmed when you buy it in a bottle and it reads ‘fast refreshing relief from stomach upset’. You are buying the right ingredient. Do check the guidelines on the back and if anything applies to you then give it is a miss. If Eno is hard to source then I suggest using bicarbonate of soda in it’s place. It won’t be as spongy but the dhokla will still taste great.

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One other addition that you can decide whether to add or not is the sugar component at the end. Whilst dhokla is principally a savoury snack it does often have a little sugar added to the tarka which is then poured over the steamed dhokla. It gives the snack a delectable lightly sweet and salty taste to it, although it is principally a savoury snack.

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Dhokla

150g gram flour (chickpea flour)

25g course semolina

140g natural yoghurt

2 small fresh green chillies (keep the seeds in for added heat)

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp lemon juice

approximately 120ml water (add more if necessary)

1/2 tsp salt, to taste

1tsp  Eno

*****

Tadka

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp sesame seeds

1/4 tsp hing/asafoetida

Around 15 fresh curry leaves (cleaned and dried)

1 tsp sugar, optional

25ml warm water, optional

To serve

1 handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

1/2 tbsp fresh or dried coconut shavings

  1. First line your tin with baking parchment and rub a few drops of olive oil into the sides and bottom. My tin is just over 19cm in diameter and fits perfectly into my wooden bamboo steamer. If you do not have a steamer, simply use a large deep pan (which has a lid) and place an upside down bowl that you can rest the cake tin on. You need to then fill the pan up with water so that the water level remains below the bowl or first level of the bamboo steamer.
  2. Next you need to sieve the gram flour and semolina and then add the natural yogurt. Stir together and then add the finely chopped chilli, ginger paste and salt. Pour in the water gradually so that no lumps form and you have a smooth paste, slightly denser than pancake mixture.
  3. Heat the pan so that the water is boiling and ready to steam the dhokla.
  4. Add the eno (or bicarbonate of soda) and stir continuously for about 1 minute to allow air to enter the mixture. You will notice that the size of the batter will increase slightly.
  5. Immediately pour the dhokla batter into the baking tin and place in the steamer for around 20 minutes on a medium heat. At 17 minutes insert a toothpick or knife into the dhokla to see if it comes out clean. If it is then it is ready, if it has some mixture on it then leave it for a further few minutes. When it is done, remove from the steamer and leave to rest for 5 minutes, before turning it out of the tin and removing the baking parchment.
  6. Meanwhile heat a frying pan with oil and when it is hot add the sesame seeds, mustards seeds, asafoetida and fresh curry leaves. Leave to fizzle for no more than 20 seconds, moving around the pan.
  7. In a small jug mix the sugar with the warm water and add to the pan. It will spit so be careful. Move around the pan for a few seconds and then pour the tadka over the dhokla so that it soaks into it and scatter the coriander and coconut garnish as well.
  8. Eat immediately or at room temperature.

* I have friends who make it with just semolina and no gram flour and you can also make it with dhokla flour itself (a combination of gram flour and rice flour).

You can also omit water altogether and simply use yoghurt so use my recipe as a template to find the one that suits you and your taste best.

* you can find eno (fruit salt) in any Asian grocers. It is the ingredient that makes the cake spongy in appearance.  If you do not have it to hand you can use bicarbonate of soda although it will be more dense in texture. 


Easy Classic Scones for a Big Occasion

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My little brother is getting married tomorrow so I thought I would do a spot of baking. I have co-ordinated a whole team of bakers in fact to make all manner of deliciousness for guests when they arrive back at the house from the church. Scones are great when you need to bake in advance as they freeze really well. When you’re ready to eat them all you need to do is defrost them completely and then place them in a low oven  for 2 to 3 minutes to warm them up. It’s that simple.

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After you have combined the self-raising flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and butter (you crumb the butter so that it is mixed in completely) you make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in warm milk – which has a couple of drops of fresh lemon juice and vanilla extract. Using a knife mix the warm milk into the flour and a beautifully soft dough will form – you can add a little more flour if it remains too sticky.

 

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Place it on a floured surface and fold it over a few times either by hand or using a rolling pin. Flatten it so that you still have about 4cm thickness and then using a cutter (5cm in diameter – smooth edges is probably more preferable but I only had a wavy edge one!) make your scones. I dug out one of my children’s cookie cutters that actually allowed the dough to bulge out the top, which I thought worked rather well. Place them spaced out on a large baking tray covered with baking paper. Glaze each scone with your beaten egg mixture.

 

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Place them in a preheated oven – 220C/fan 200C if using a non fan for 11 minutes precisely.

The proportions below will make 11-12 scones. I made mine in 6 batches as I found it a lot easier doing it this way.

You can either serve them immediately with clotted cream and strawberry jam or once cooled freeze them until ready to use (in which case defrost thoroughly and then reheat them for a couple of minutes in a low oven).

 

Easy Classic Scones

adapted from BBC good food 

350g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3 tbsp caster sugar (optional – see notes below)

175ml milk

few drops of fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten to glaze

strawberry jam

clotted cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C if using a fan oven, 20 degrees lower if not.
  2. In a large bowl sieve the flour and baking powder. Add the salt, sugar and cubed butter and using your finger tips break up the butter to form little crumbs when mixed with the flour – you don’t want any large butter cubes remaining.
  3. Warm the milk in a pan/microwave so that it is warm but not boiled. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Make a well in the bowl of flour mixture and gently pour in the milk.
  4. Using a knife mix the milk into the flour to form a dough ball. Flour your hands and the work surface and move the dough onto the surface. Flatten it with your hands and fold it over a few times. You can gently use a rolling pin but you need to make sure that the dough remains fairly thick – around 4cm deep.
  5. Place some baking paper onto your baking tray and place the scones at intervals so they do not touch. Brush the tops with beaten egg.
  6. Once you have used up all the dough place in the oven for 11 minutes exactly. Remove from oven and then either leave to cool completely and then freeze or eat immediately with jam and clotted cream.

Note: A couple of batches I completely omitted (forgot) sugar and honestly I could not notice a difference once I had placed clotted cream and jam on top.

If freezing, when you want to eat them simply defrost completely then heat in a very low oven for 2/3 minutes to rewarm the scones.


Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Lemons – one of my favourite dishes to feed a crowd

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Cooking for 6+ guests always requires a bit of thought and forward planning. You typically want something that is relatively fuss free, that you can pop in the oven and leave to cook. I have a very open planned kitchen so if I am prepping veg, talking and raising a glass at the same time it can become a little overwhelming. I prefer to plan ahead and then enjoy my guests company once they arrive without being frantic in the kitchen.

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Moroccan food is a great people pleaser and tasty all year round. It’s spices are delicate, fragrant but not hot spicy; think along the lines of cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, saffron and paprika. They are perfect gently marinaded and cooked with some tender chicken thighs or even some lamb. Olives and preserved lemons are synonymous with Moroccan cuisine and are key for this recipe. I need to do a post on preserved lemons so those of you who live in places where preserved lemons are hard to source you can make your own and store them.

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The marinading can be overnight or in the fridge or for an hour or so if you are working to a tight deadline. The part that takes the longest is browning off the chicken thighs. You want to leave them for about 5 minutes each side so that both sides are nicely bronzed. Then you place them to one side on kitchen paper whilst you prepare and cook the onions. I cook my chicken thighs in batches as I don’t want to overcrowd the pan.

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You can cook the whole dish on the stove, however I often find it is easier to place in a preheated oven for around 30 minutes so that the chicken thighs are sufficiently cooked and moist and all the flavours have blended together to create the most delicious of dishes.

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I tend to serve with spiced rice or couscous with pomegranates, slithered almonds or pistachio nuts and fresh coriander or parsley. It is always best to cook more than you need as seconds is pretty much guaranteed or if you feeding a reserved bunch then at least you have lots of lovely leftovers for another day. It’s a win win.

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Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Lemons

Serves 6-8

2.7kg chicken thighs, skin removed

2 heaped tbsp garlic paste

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp of ground cumin

1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

4 tbsp of olive oil

3 medium sized white onion, finely chopped

1 tsp of saffron threads

1 tsp of ground turmeric

370g green olives, stonned

1 fresh lemon

6 preserved lemons, quartered

1.  Remove excess skin from the chicken and place in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the garlic paste, paprika (I love using this one), cumin, black pepper and half the olive oil. Smother the chicken completely with the paste and leave covered in the fridge for a few hours, or even overnight if you are being organised.

3. Heat the remaining oil in a casserole dish or shallow pan. Add the pieces of chicken so that they are golden on both sides – this may need to be done in stages. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with kitchen roll so as to soak up the oil.

4. Add the chopped onion to the oil, add more oil if you feel it is necessary. When the onion is golden, add the saffron, turmeric and olives and let it simmer for a few minutes.

5. Pour the juice of the fresh lemon over the pan along with 200ml/7 fl oz of cold water. Add the preserved lemons at this stage. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer. If you find there is too much liquid then increase the heat again to reduce the liquid.

6. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees centigrade.

7. In a couple of ovenproof dishes spread out the chicken and pour over the onion, olive, preserved lemon and juice equally. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, by which time the chicken will be sufficiently cooked and ready to serve.

8. Serve with either couscous, pomegranates, almond slithers and fresh coriander or cinnamon rice with brown lentils – both work equally well.

You can cook the chicken ahead of time and then simply heat up gently in the oven for 10-15 minutes (add a little extra water to keep it juicy) then serve.


Crispy Savoury Donut known as Medu Vada

IMG_2627I want to introduce you to a new kid in town that will seriously impress you.

Step aside donut and cronut (croissant and donut pastry) and make way for the Indian savoury donut known as ‘medu vada’. These savoury delicacies look very similar to their saccharin cousins the donut, but are filled with lots of wonderful spices instead of sugar.

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They are really fun to make and you can add your own twists to make them your own. They are a little bit naughty in that they are fried, but hey a little bit of fried deliciousness now and again is absolutely fine in books. They are made of urad dal – the white dal you can easily find in any Asian grocers-  that is soaked for at least 3 hours and then blended to form a soft fluffy paste.

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My daughters find them equally irresistible so they really are a treat for the whole family. They are typically eaten in southern India and Sri Lanka either at breakfast time or as a snack with a coconut chutney or possibly a dal or sambal. I could quite happily eat them for my breakfast but more often then not I make them for an afternoon snack with a cup of warming tea.

They are crispy on the outside and have a soft texture on the interior.

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My recipe makes around 13 little donuts, but if you want to make more just double up on the ingredients. There are no set rules here other than not making the dough too wet.

Medu Vada – Indian Savoury Donuts

Makes 13

175g white urid dal

1/2 tsp salt

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

 12 fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional)

1 green/red fresh chilli finely chopped (optional)

  1. Soak the white urid dal in a bowl covered with water for at least 3 hours.
  2. Strain the dal and place into a blender. Blend and if needed add literally a tsp at a time of water to loosen it slightly. Do not over water. You want it to have the same consistency as a fluffy light dough.
  3. Place the lentil dough into a large bowl and with your hand lift the dough, folding it over so that it gets air into it about 15 times.
  4. Add all the ingredients and mix well with your hands or a spoon.
  5. Heat a pan with cooking oil and when it is hot wet one of your hands and create a small ball (a little larger than a golf ball) and then place your thumb in the centre to create a hole through the dough. Then gently loosen the dough off your hand and place into the hot oil. Be careful when doing this as the movement from placing the dough into the pan and removing your hand needs to be super quick.
  6. Place a few donuts in the pan at once and leave them to bronze on one side for a couple of minutes, before turning them over with a slotted spoon for another couple of minutes.
  7. You are looking to get a yellowy bronze hue as opposed to brown, so be careful to watch them closely.
  8. Remove them from the pan and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.
  9. Continue to make the rest.
  10. If you are planning to serve them as a snack when friends come over simply place them in a preheated oven that has subsequently been turned off. They should stay warm for a good hour.

They are perfect to eat with a chutney, dal or sambal (see links in the body of my post).

Note: 

  • I often don’t add chilli so that all my family can comfortably eat them. For those who like the chilli kick, you can serve them with a hotter chutney, which keeps all parties happy.

 

 

 

 

 


Malaysian Inspired Street Food in the Heart of Soho – Sambal Shiok

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Soho, as a location, has always had a certain mystique and vibe completely unique to any other area in London. It’s bang central and could be described as the beating heart of touristy Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Regent Street and Oxford Street. The seediness that it had in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s has largely dissipated and now it is a magnet for those seeking to nourish their bellies and soul with memorable food, washed down with an ale or cocktail.

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Located on the corner of Beak Street and Great Pulteney Street – an intersection you’ll find at the end of London’s iconic Carnaby Street, you will find a pub by the name of ‘The Sun & 13 Cantons’. After a fire in late 1880’s, 13 Cantons was added to its name after its Swiss patrons who lived and worked as watch makers in the vicinity. Cantons, the Swiss word for counties, at the time had 12, but due to the Swiss community frequenting the pub it was charmingly given the name ’13 cantons’ as a tribute to it’s loyal customers.

The pub hosts culinary residencies, or extended pop-ups if you will, for 6 months plus, serving Indian/Asian inspired food at very affordable prices. Up until October they have ‘Sambal Shiok’ with chef Mandy Yin at the helm, tempting diners with addictively spicy Laksa Noodle Soups, Hainan Dumplings, Beef Rendang, Nasi Lemak or Malaysian Fried Chicken as well as a number of smaller starter dishes and sides. Yin grew up in Kuala Lumpur and after a two year stint feeding the masses at some of London’s markets, she made the transition to her own private residency at The Sun & 13 Cantons.

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I had been salivating over her Laksa noodle soups for quite some time, thanks to instagram, and with the interchangeable weather we have been having in the UK, I felt a strong need for something spicy and warming to give me that inner glow of happiness.

The pub itself was given a new lease of life in 2015 and today has Parisian inspired interiors with dark green leather banquette seating and different shades of green metro tiles and mirrors on the wall; all rather chic indeed. After deliberating on which laksa to choose I decided upon the spicy prawn and tofu. I am often suspicious when restaurants say something is spicy as they are invariably ‘Western spicy’ as opposed to properly spicy, but this laksa is dance about, super spicy. I loved it. My lunching companion, who I discovered whilst ordering is not so in favour of spice, opted for the Hainan dumplings and fried chicken with a tasty peanut satay on the side. Chicken portions were generous and more conservatively spiced, which appealed to my companion. It’s not often I get to eat fried chicken, although I do recall rather loving KFC as a child, but this fried chicken was lip-smackingly good.

Would I return, hell yes, I’ll be found slurping the laksa from time to time until the next residency starts in October.

Sambal Shiok
The Sun & 13 Cantons
21 Great Pulteney Street
London
W1F 9NG
Tel020 7734 0934

lunch 12pm to 3pm Tuesdays to Saturdays

dinner 5.30pm to 9pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

On Thursday and Friday evenings Sambal Shiok’s simpler street food menu will be available on a no reservations basis. Takeaways will be available at all times. Last orders will be at 2.30 and 9pm for each session.


Mediterranean Fish En Papillote

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I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest on Wandsworth Radio by the bubbly Emma Gordon aka Mrs Stylist. She also runs a great instagram feed brightening up each day with styling inspiration and pops of colour. As well as working as a stylist she also hosts the ‘Wandsworth Workday’ slot every Tuesday from 1-4pm. She wanted me to come and talk all things food and blogging with her and her audience.

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Before you ask, no I am not wearing an Ascot creation hat. I know it looks that way but really it’s the logo of the Wandsworth radio and my sunnies (it gets mighty bright in the studio) !!

During the course of the afternoon we covered a number of topics, but one thing that came up was how to cater for friends and family who really can’t handle spice. My answer was to go along the herb route by serving guests ‘en papillote’ style, which basically means ‘in parchment’.

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It is a fabulous, fuss free way to cook fish as you make individual parcels and then pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Within each parcel you have a complete meal in a little ‘present’ which guests can open up themselves on their plates. It’s super simple and other than compiling the parcels before guests arrive, you really don’t need to do too much, thus freeing you up to enjoy your guests company.

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You really don’t need that many ingredients. The only ones that I have not included in this shot are a small knob of butter and a splash of white wine.

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You can use whatever fish you like, but typically I use seabass, bream, cod, trout and salmon – just make sure it is MSC certified. You can also have the fish filleted or kept whole, both ways work equally well, although the latter requires more ‘work’ for your guests.

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When you wrap the fish you need to make sure that you keep an air space within it – so don’t wrap it too tightly. The smells when you open your parcel are wonderful and very reminiscent of the flavours of the mediterranean.

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The taste of the whole dish is sweet from the tomatoes and basil, salty from the olives, zingy from the lemons and the flesh of the fish just falls apart. It really is a whole meal in a parcel.

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Mediterranean Fish En Papillote

serves 1 (simply x by how many you are serving)

baking parchment

2 or 3 slices of a large potato, thinly slice lengthways

small knob of butter, optional

pinch salt

pinch black pepper

200g fish (white or pink filleted or unfilleted works well – this time I used cod)

2 or 3 thin slices of lemon

1 vine of cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp of pitted black Kalamata olives

5 fresh basil leaves

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white wine

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade if you are using fan or 20 degrees higher if you are not.
  2. Place the thinly sliced potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes and then drain and dry completely. Place to one side.
  3. Tear off some baking parchment at least three times larger than the length of your fish.
  4. Place a couple of thinly sliced potatoes in the middle of baking parchment.
  5. Place a small knob of butter (optional) and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and then lay the fish on top.
  6. Next lay some thinly sliced lemons on top of the fish followed by the vine of cherry tomatoes.
  7. Place the olives over and around the fish.
  8. Add the fresh basil leaves and sprinkle a little more salt and pepper and add the white wine on top.
  9. To seal the fish ‘en papillote’ you simply need to bring up the top and bottom pieces of baking parchment and fold them over a couple of times, making sure that there is a nice air vacuum between the fish and the baking parchment. At either end fold over as if you are wrapping a present and then tuck each end underneath the fish.
  10. Place in the centre of the oven for 22 minutes, by which time the fish will be soft and flakey and the potatoes will be equally soft.
  11. Serve immediately. Place one ‘en papillote’ on each plate and allow your guests to unwrap their present.

Important Notes:

  • You do not need to add butter, you can simply add the white wine and extra virgin olive oil
  • Sometimes I omit the boiling first of the potatoes, but I think to be on the safe side it is best to boil the potatoes for 5 minutes first so that they soften at the same time as the fish.
  • You can also add thinly sliced red onions if you fancy.
  • Adding asparagus is also another great option
  • Thyme or lemon thyme also works well for this dish if you don’t have basil to hand

I would love to hear how you get on. What personal twists do you add to this dish?

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Kolkata Style Mustard Mackerel Curry

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Bengalis love fish in a big way.  Mention ilish/hilsa or rui and their eyes will light up. In Kolkata the use of mustard seeds, mustard oil and mustard paste is used in a lot of their cooking. For this dish I have used mackerel as it is easy to source in the UK, is super tasty and is packed full of omega 3 fatty acids – the type of fats that are good for our health. For those who have been following my blog for quite a few years will recognise this recipe as I realise I posted a very similar one with bream back in 2013. You can see it here.

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This dish is something that can be rustled up in no time at all – from start to finish is max 15 minutes and unlike many mackerel curries, the fish is not fried. My mother-in-law cooks it fairly frequently so it has naturally become one of my staple dishes too.

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There is no need for onion or garlic in this dish, the ingredients are very simple: turmeric, nigella seeds, fresh chillies, chilli powder, wholegrain and English mustard and fresh coriander/cilantro. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

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Kolkata Style Mustard Mackerel Curry

Serves 4

3 mackerel, cut into 4 pieces (you can keep the head if you wish, which would make 5 pieces)

4 tbsp oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

4 fresh chillies, slit at the top to release some seeds

3 heaped tsp of wholegrain mustard

2-3 heaped tsp English mustard

pinch of chilli powder

75ml water

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Heat the oil and when it is hot add the nigella seeds, turmeric, chilli powder followed by both mustard pastes and the fresh chilli. Move around the pan for up to a minute.
  2. Add approximately 25ml of water, salt and then add the fish. Be careful not to move them around too much as you do not want them to break and fall apart. Place a lid on the pan.
  3. After a few minutes cooking add a further 50ml water and gently turn the fish over and replace the lid on the pan.
  4. Cook for 12 minutes and then take off the heat.
  5. Before serving sprinkle fresh coriander leaves. If cooking ahead of time gently reheat the fish adding a little more water and then add the coriander leaves.

Serve with rice or Indian breads.

As a side note: this dish is fabulous to eat as leftovers the next day. I like to add a little more water, a heap of fresh spinach and a couple of tomatoes quartered. It tastes delicious.


Spiced Tamarind Drink and ‘Summers Under the Tamarind Tree’ Book Review

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I love nothing more than browsing through cookbooks on a Sunday afternoon (actually in truth it doesn’t have to be a Sunday), cup of tea in hand, gleaning inspiration and ideas and planning feasts that I will then cook for loved ones. Cookbooks that take me to foreign shores, where the recipes sound enticing, exotic and evocative are my favourite.  Photographs are also key as they help to set the stage for the reader.

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Image from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

So it was with sheer pleasure that I received a copy of fellow food blogger, ‘Sumayya Usmani’s’ first cookbook, ‘Summers Under The Tamarind Tree – Recipes & Memories From Pakistan’. The first thing you notice is the beautiful, understated and yet elegant cover for the book. The tamarind tree is in the middle with Pakistani style art surrounding it. The green, similar to the Pakistan flag, really complements the golden ornate artwork. Before even opening the pages you know you are in for a treat.

Pakistani cuisine has never really been given it’s own voice here in the UK, so it was with this notion in mind that Sumayya set out detailing some recipes from her very own Pakistani heritage to share with a wider audience. She begins by giving the reader a brief overview of Pakistan both geographically and historically. Understanding it’s DNA helps the reader begin to understand the sheer breath of influences that make up Pakistani cuisine. The next few pages are filled with charming black and white, sepia and colour photographs of her growing up with her relatives in Pakistan and we learn about the wonderful food experiences that were etched upon her memory.

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Image from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

The next chapter talks about cooking methods -‘Pakistani techniques explained’, which I found really useful and interesting to read. I love the sound of ‘dhuni (smoking)’ by infusing meat or vegetables with coal smoke. I also like the fact that there were some photographs accompanying some of the techniques. Before embarking on the recipes themselves Sumayya gives ‘A note on Spice’, which does not overwhelm the reader with too many spices – 9 spices will be mainly called upon within the book. She then gives us recipes to a number of her family’s masala blends. The chapters are organised along the lines of :

Breaking bread and sharing rice -breads and rice dishes

Meaty markets and weekdays bazaars – beef, lamb and mutton

Birds from the Empress – chicken and other birds

Sailing the seas – seafood and fish

My grandmother’s garden – vegetables, fruit and salad

Homegrown guavas – chutneys and pickles

Under a motia-filled sky – celebration feasts

The sweet taste of mango heaven –  desserts

Chani-pani – hot and cold drinks

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Images from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20).

It all sounds very tempting indeed. Standout recipes for me are undoubtedly: Hyderabad-style samosas, sweet potato and squash parathas, Baluchi-style chicken sajji, spicy crabs, yoghurt and turmeric soup with curry leaves and egg, slow cooked lamb shank curry, mummy’s festive minty beef kofta curry, mango and chilli pepper, spiced pomegranate sharbat. Anyone who loves spice (not necessarily heat) and flavour will love cooking and eating from this book. There are some refreshingly new recipes that will interest and encourage the reader to try some home-cooking Pakistani style.

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Images from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan by Sumayya Usmani, photography by Joanna Yee. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20).

The recipe that was calling out for me to try and show you today was most probably the seed, from which the whole book grew. Summers under the tamarind tree – Spiced tamarind drink. It is Sumayya’s best memory of the many childhood summers she spent lounging under her tamarind tree. Once the weather heats up here in Blighty I think this drink will really come into it’s own. Move over elderflower cordial, spiced tamarind drink is taking centre stage.

 

Spiced Tamarind Drink

serves 4

4 tbsp tamarind pulp (from 200g/7oz dried or fresh tamarind)

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp kalanamak (black salt) or 1 tsp chaat masala

500ml/17 fl oz cups hot water

quarter thin slice of lemon

4 mint leaves, finely chopped

  1. Soak the tamarind in a bowl with hot water for 15 minutes. Use your hands to separate the pulp from the stones and then pass the pulp and tamarind water through a sieve. Discard the stones.
  2. Add the brown sugar, black salt or chaat masala (I used this) and then blend in a hand blender and chill in the fridge.
  3. Serve over crushed ice and add a thin slice of lemon and some fresh mint.

The sour notes from the tamarind will harmonise perfectly with the salt and sweetness of the drink. Roll on hot summer days, this drink is a keeper in my books, I hope you agree.