The most delicious homemade prawn bisque

Have you ever had prawn bisque at a restaurant and wondered how you could recreate it back in your home? To remind you of those summer days spent by the sea, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves and the fishermans boats bobbing around in the water on the horizon. We associate food with memories and I hope my prawn bisque will bring back happy memories when you make it.  It’s surprisingly very simple indeed. Basically the next time you are cooking prawns in the shells – perhaps on the BBQ like we did.

OR even a curry – perhaps my Bengali prawn curry – make sure you keep the heads and tails – in fact the whole shell, as you will then be able to make the most exquisite prawn bisque afterwards. The pile of shells may not look pretty or particularly appetising, but I can assure you that after you’ve added the ingredients listed below and let it simmer gently for half an hour, all the flavours from the prawn shells are drawn out. Don’t worry about the heads and tails –  that all gets blitzed up and then after going through a sieve the bisque is completely smooth and delicate.

Seriously it is so good there will be no going back once you have made it once.

 

Prawn Bisque

serves 4 

All the prawn shells and heads from the prawns you used from your BBQ/curry. I had 800g of prawns and used all the shells

(even if I have a little less I still follow the same recipe and the same goes if you have a little more)

cover the prawns completely with boiling water

1 red onion,  chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

4 bay leaves

5 black peppercorns

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

juice of quarter of a lemon

1 tbsp tomato puree

1.2 tsp sugar

salt to taste

1 tsp cornflour – 3 tsp cold water

  1. Place the prawns shell and heads in a deep pan and cover completely with boiling water.
  2. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, red onion and garlic to the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a hand blender blend the contents of the pan. This might sound unusual to blend the shells and heads, but trust me the flavour that comes from them is incredible.
  4. Place the contents of the pan through a fine sieve. Use the back of a spoon to push all the goodness through. What comes through should be a completely fine liquid. Discard the remaining shells that have not gone through the sieve. Overall it will make around 800ml-1 litre of liquid.
  5. In the same pan add the butter and when it is melted add the tomato puree, smoked paprika, lemon juice and sugar. Add the prawn broth liquid and stir gently. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
  6. In a small bowl add the cornflour and cold water to make a smooth paste and then add the broth to thicken slightly. Simmer gently for a further few minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  7. Season further to taste and then serve. You could also easily freeze this once it has cooled ready to use on a separate occasion.

Pork and Onion Curry, known as Dopiaza


If you are new to curry making and want a really simple one to kick start your curry affair then this pork dopiaza is a dream. Seriously it is SO good. Believe it or not it only has 4 spices – yup you heard correctly 4 – so there is no excuses that you don’t have all the ingredients. The only slightly trickier one is fenugreek seeds but all large supermarkets will stock this so look out for it in the spices section when you next go shopping or ordering online.  You can also make it with chicken and I reckon it would also be rather delicious with jackfruit (which has the same texture as pork – or pulled pork) if you want to go down the vegetarian route.

So you are probably wondering what dopiaza actually means? In short “two onions” or at least onions cooked in two stages during the cooking. The recipe comes from Persia and the time of the Mughals and is very popular in Indian and Pakistan. If you are on instagram then I have done a short IGTV showing you how to cook it exactly. Take a look. I have not added any tomatoes. The rich red colour comes from the Kashmiri chilli powder – which gives curries a wonderful deep red colour without too much heat – so perfect for the family.  I like to serve it with fluffy rice and some dal.

Pork and Onion Curry (Dopiaza)

serves 4

400g onions (slice half thinly and chop the other half)

2 tbsp ghee/vegetable oil

650g boneless pork shoulder, cubed into bite sized portions

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

2tsp ground coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp salt, to taste

a little water to loosen whilst cooking

1/2 lemon, juice only

 handful of fresh coriander – to serve

1. Heat the oil/ghee in a deep pan and add the chopped onions (remember to keep back the sliced onions) and cook gently for 7-10 minutes on a low heat until bronzed, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl to one side.

2. Using the same pan add the pork and increase the heat slightly so that the pork is lightly browned on all sides – but not cooked through. This should take around 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place to one side.

3. Continuing with the same pan (you may want to add a little more butter/ghee/oil) add the fenugreek seeds and allow them to crackle for 20 seconds before adding the sliced onions, coriander, turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powders and salt. Fry for around 10 minutes.

4. Return the lightly browned pork and add a little cold water and the juice of half a lemon and gently cook covered on a low heat for 45-50 minutes. Stir it at intervals. I rather like it when it catches a little bit at the bottom and you get really charred bits on the pork. You may need to add a little more water a couple of times during cooking if it begins to look too dry or over chars.

5. After 30 minutes return the fried onion and cook for another 15 minutes continuing to stir at intervals.

It is perfect with fluffy rice or some Indian flat bread.

 

 


Cooking a Sri Lankan Curry For Critical NHS

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all keeping well and remaining upbeat in these uncertain times. This week I am doing a collaboration with the effervescent British-Sri Lankan interior designer and boutique hotel and villa owner of Kalukanda House in Sri Lanka, Dee Gibson. She also happens to be a fellow south west Londoner like myself.

Photo credit: Kalukanda House

Dee has worked super hard over the past few years bringing her expertise in design to create Kalukanda House from scratch. The original building had to be pulled down as it was structurally unsound. You can read all about the incredible transformation here.

The finished result is beautifully designed and a real oasis of tranquility and peace. It is fully staffed and can be rented exclusively or on a more boutique hotel set up.

Photo Credit: Kalukanda House

Dee contacted me earlier this week to see if I would come up with an exciting recipe for Kalukanda House and one that we can encourage readers to cook and in return donate a money to ‘support front line critical care staff’  – Critical NHS

By supporting the critical care frontline staff at St Georges and other London hospitals over the next few weeks and months, will in turn support the local shops and restaurants in doing so. They have decided to set up a PayPal pool where you can send donations, which you can see here here.

My recipe will be going on Dee’s blog, as well as her social media feeds – instagram @kalukandahouse as well as Youtube (Kalukanda House) so we would LOVE it if you are able to cook it and share it on your feeds. Any donation – however small – will be of immense help.

So the recipe I want to share with you is twofold. Firstly it is a home-made Sri Lankan roasted curry powder. If you don’t have all the spices, please do not stress and simply use the ones that you have. You can even use a bought one or a curry powder  you have at home that needs using up!

If you do make my one however (which I hope you will) you do need to grind it up either with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder -I use this one. You then have a delicious curry powder that you can use on many occasions going forward – just remember to store it in a sealed jar.

The main event however, is my vegan Sri Lankan butternut squash curry. It is super easy and I hope you have most of the ingredients already in your store cupboards. If you are on instagram I’ve done short films of me cooking both recipes on my IGTV so have a look.

Best of luck and please tag me #chilliandmint and #kalukandahouse if you make it and are on instagram. Otherwise please write in the comments box below and I will get back to you. Let’s try and raise some money together for Critical NHS.

 

 

Sri Lankan Roasted Curry Powder

makes a small pot

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp uncooked basmati rice

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds

5 cloves

5 green cardamom, opened

10 fresh/frozen or dried curry leaves

 

I haven’t added any dried chillies but you can add a couple if you wish to make this a ‘hotter’ curry powder.

If you don’t have any of the spices above, leave them out and you have created your own new version of a Sri Lankan curry powder.

  1. Warm a frying pan and then add all the spices, rice and curry leaves.
  2. Keep on a low heat and move around the pan so that they do not burn. Wonderful aromas will be released.
  3. After 5 minutes the spices, rice and curry leaves will be nicely bronzed so transfer to a bowl to cool and remove the green husks of the cardamom pods and discard.
  4. Then either pound in a pestle and mortar or use a spice grinder to grinder to form a smooth powder.
  5. Store in a sealed jar for a couple of months.

The curry powder works well with all meat curries, as well as vegetarian/vegan curries too.

 

 

 

Sri Lankan Butternut Squash Curry

serves 4-6

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

10 curry leaves (if you have them)

1 red onion, sliced into half moons

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1.5 inches of fresh ginger, finely diced

1 tsp salt

900g butternut squash, cubed

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 heaped tsp Sri Lankan roasted curry powder

1x400ml tin of coconut milk

300ml water

a couple of 2 inch pandan leaves, optional

 

  1. Heat a deep pan and add the coconut oil. If you don’t have coconut oil, you can use vegetable or groundnut oil.
  2. Add the mustard, fennels seeds and curry leaves if you have them. Allow them to sizzle in the pan for 30 seconds, before adding the onions.
  3. Now add the garlic and ginger and stir into the spices and add the salt to help soften the onion. Move around the pan for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the butternut squash followed by the turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powder and Sri Lankan roasted curry powder and mix well.
  5.  Add the coconut milk, saving a little of the creamier part for later, add the water as well.  IF you have them add the pandan leaves, but absolutely not essential if you don’t have them to hand.
  6. Stir and then cover for 15-20 minutes, checking intermittently and giving a good stir.
  7. Add the remaining coconut milk. Check the seasoning and using a sharp knife check to see if the butternut squash is soft.

Serve with a scattering of fresh coriander leaves and some lemon or lime wedges. Serve alongside basmati rice, chapati or paratha.

If you want to add more heat to this curry you can add fresh or dried chillies when you add the mustard and fennel seeds to begin with.

 


Hot Cross Buns

I know I know the ship has sailed and Easter has come and gone BUT it is Easter Monday so I’m not too out of kilter. Did you have a good Easter  – albeit one that none of us had planned? I think having wonderfully hot weather helped – so much so we had our main Easter meal in the early evening outside in the garden. It all felt rather summery and wonderful. It might seem a little strange me posting a hot cross bun recipe now, but I use this blog as a record of my cooking exploits and I will be returning to this recipe in the future. I felt that if I don’t write down the recipe I will forget it for next year. I had planned to post it a week ago but I only managed to find some bread flour (albeit a little out of date) in my cellar on Saturday. I had been looking for bread flour for some time when I had been doing our food shop, but alas I was always out of luck. So I was thrilled to find a bag of it hidden away in my cellar. Please note my cellar is basically my pantry and is not as strange as it sounds.

So I spent the Easter weekend trying to perfect the art of hot cross bun making, something I had not done before. The first batch I made tasted great but the dough had not risen to my liking in the resting period. Basically my house wasn’t providing enough heat to make it rise sufficiently (well that was my excuse!).

The second time I found a cunning way to make dough rise and will be using this method going forward. Basically you turn your oven on a low heat for 10 mins and then turn off the oven. Keep the door of the oven slightly ajar and pop in your bowl with your dough inside, covered, for a couple of hours and then BINGO you have perfect dough that has risen. Again when I let the dough rest for the second time, once I had made the dough into individual buns, I did the same thing and it worked perfectly. Maybe you have a warming oven, warm laundry room, or just live in a warm climate so do what works for you.

 

I followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe, which I had seen him creating on instagram. For the honey glaze at the end I added a little of ginger syrup to the honey, but other than that I stayed pretty close to his recipe.

I was pretty happy with the way they turned out and they tasted really delicious.

Here is the recipe and I think it is pretty straightforward. Have you made them before? Whose recipe do you follow?

Hot Cross Buns

makes 12

200ml semi-skimmed milk

55g unsalted butter

a little nutmeg

455g strong bread flour

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp sea salt

55g caster sugar

7g dried yeast

1 egg

85g sultanas

30g stem ginger

2 tbsp flour and a little water

2 tsp honey

1 tsp stem ginger syrup, optional

 

  1. Warm the milk and melt the butter in a pan and add a little nutmeg. Leave to one side once the butter has melted.
  2. Mix the strong bread flour, cinnamon powder, sea salt and caster sugar together.
  3. Next add the dried yeast and egg and the milk/butter/nutmeg.
  4. Use a spoon to mix together and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead of 10 minutes.
  5. Place in a clean bowl and cover. Heat an oven for 10 minutes and then turn off completely and keep the oven door ajar. Place the bowl with the dough in the warm oven (which has been switched off) and leave for a couple of hours. It will double in size.
  6. Turn it out of the bowl and spread it open (see photo above) and add the stem ginger and sultanas. Fold over and then roll into a long sausage.
  7. Cut into 12 even parts and roll into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Keep them close together so that they will end up touching once they have been left to rise again.
  8. Return to the warm (although switched off)oven for 20 minutes. Remember to keep the oven door ajar.
  9. Mix some flour with water to create a smooth paste – not too runny. Spoon into a pipping bag and then snip off the end and create crosses over the buns.
  10. Heat the oven to 190 degrees fan and bake for 15-20 minutes. Once baked place them on a rack to cool.
  11. Mix the honey and stem ginger syrup together and brush over the top of the hot cross buns.

Delicious to eat when still warm, although you can always heat them up at a later stage or eat them at room temperature.

 

 

 

 


A Couple of Simple and Yet Tasty Lunch Ideas

Hi everyone. How are you all doing? The days seem to be flying by don’t you think? Have you managed to get yourself into a rhythm that suits you and your lifestyle?  I’m loving all the cooking and baking that everyone seems to  be doing on instagram. Being stuck inside seems to have unleashed inner domestic culinary gods and goddesses in us all; it is wonderful to see. It seems everyone is baking banana bread and making their own hummus – I can almost smell it when I step outside on my daily exercise.

Meal times have always been a special time for my family to get together, update each other on each others days and news and during this period of uncertainty they have become even more sacred. We take it in turn to cook as it’s a good way to relax and focus the mind and we try and come up with interesting things to cook, to keep the diet varied and interesting. I thought it might be helpful to share a couple of lunch, or indeed supper ideas, that we have eaten recently that were super simple, require few ingredients and take 15 mins max to cook.

First up is my spaghetti alla puttanesca – also known as prostitutes pasta – as it can be made quickly, in between other obligations, hence the prostitute allusion! My version is similar to the Neapolitan in that omits anchovies as I think it makes the dish just too salty. I also add spinach because I LOVE spinach and you can add fresh chillies or chilli flakes but I have omitted these this time round.

The main ingredients are tomatoes, garlic, black olives and capers and together they work so well with the spaghetti. You can use linguine too, whichever you have to hand.

 

Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca

serves 4-6

Spaghetti/linguine (enough for 4-6 or however many you are feeding)
2 tbsp olive oil
8 medium tomatoes, quartered
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 large tbsp of stones black olives, halved

1 tbsp capers
salt
pepper
3 large handfuls of fresh spinach
1 cup pasta water

1. Fill a large pan with boiling salted water and add the spaghetti/linguine.

2. Heat a large wide pan with olive oil then add the tomatoes 🍅 followed by the garlic. Stir

3. Add the olives and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes to allow everything to soften and meld together.

4. Check to see the spaghetti is cooked and when it is to your liking add it to the sauce, mix well with tongs and then add the spinach.

5. Add a cup of the pasta water to loosen and continue to fold in together. Simmer for a couple of minutes.

6. Serve immediately.

It’s deliciously sweet from the tomatoes and salty from the olives and capers and I love the taste of spinach and garlic binding it all together.

The other easy meal is “cauliflower fritters”. I was inspired by Sami Tamimi (Yotam Ottolegnhi’s business partner) who made them on his instagram feed. If you are on instagram have a look at him cooking them on his feed – you can find him @sami_tamimi.  I made a few changes in that I added a heaped tsp of curry powder and some black urfa chilli from my favourite spice provider in the US Burlap & Barrel. If you live stateside I highly recommend you ordering some of their spices. They are incredible. I always try and pick some up when I am in the US or have friends bring some over. I also only used plain flour, but you can use chickpea/bread flour or whatever you have to hand.

I also decided they would go really well with a simple tomato, fresh coriander, black olive and feta salad on the side, instead of his suggestion of a yoghurt raita or tahini dip, but it’s totally up to you.

Spiced Cauliflower Fritters

serves 4 (makes around 11 large fritters)

1 cauliflower, chopped into even size piece and the green leaves washed

 2cups/ 300g flour or enough to form a batter (you may need to add a little more so adjust as need be)

3 eggs

water – a little to loosen the batter

1 white onion, finely diced

1 large handful of fresh parsley, finely sliced

1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp cumin powder

1 heaped tsp of curry powder

1-2 tsp chilli flakes (black Urfa chilli, Allepo chilli flakes, red pepper flakes)

1 heaped tsp salt

pepper

 

*********

Tomato salad

8 tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 tbsp black olives, stone removed and halved

handful of fresh coriander (or parsley) chopped

1 tbsp feta, broken up

 

  1. First boil a large pan of water and then add the cauliflower, including the green stalks, which you keep at full length at this stage.
  2. Meanwhile mix the flour with the eggs, water, spices, parsley, salt, pepper and white onion.
  3. When the cauliflower has completely softened – around 6-8 mins, drain and remove the green stalks.
  4. First thinly slice the green stalks and add them to the batter.
  5. Using a knife or potato masher, roughly break up the cauliflower so that it is broken down but not like mashed potato.
  6. Turn it out into the batter and mix together.
  7. Heat a large pan with a little vegetable or sunflower oil – you want to shallow fry  NOT deep fry.
  8. Using a large spoon turn out some of the cauliflower batter into the pan and flatten with the back of the spoon. Fill up the pan – I find three work well as you don’t want to over crowd the pan. Leave the fritters to bind together and bronze. If you touch them too early they will break apart.
  9. Leave to bronze on both side. This will take around 3-4 minutes per side. If it is not bronzed sufficiently leave for a little longer.
  10. Once both sides have bronzed, turn out to a plate with some kitchen roll and keep in a warm oven whilst you continue with the others.
  11. Prepare the tomato salad whilst the fritters are bronzing and place in a bowl ready to serve.
  12. Once all the fritters are ready serve and eat whilst still hot.

 


Ten Easy Chicken Recipes for the Whole Family

Hi Everybody, I hope you are all fairing up ok and making the best of the situation we all face.  I plan to hunker down with a many good books, give huggles to loved ones and catch up on those box sets – I plan to watch Game of Thrones – I know, I know I am very late to that party and yes if you are reading this dear brother and sister-in-law, I do plan to start Clarissa by Samuel Richardson that you gave me for Christmas (it’s probably the thickest novel I have ever seen) – has anyone read it?

The sun is shining and spring is definitely in the air – I managed to cut the grass today (that’s as exciting as it gets round here at the moment) which has given our postage size garden that summer feel – we may well be spending a lot of time in it in the coming weeks. As we are all being told to slow down and not really go out we have to keep ourselves busy and our minds occupied. Video calls with multiple pals on each call, seem de rigour with our evenings literally scheduled back to back with calls to friends around the globe – checking in and keeping us all feeling upbeat. It’s important to keep in touch with family, friends and neighbours as much as we can and a call – especially a video call – is a great way to do this.

When it comes to food, a number of you were requesting some easy family chicken recipes that you can cook over the coming weeks. I’ve had in mind ones that don’t have too many ingredients, that you can cook and the whole family can enjoy together.

First up is the one that I cooked live on IGTV with my mini mini me at the helm of my camera (hence the low angle shots and the humming in the background – all very sweet), is ‘Smoked Paprika Chicken, Cannellini beans and Rainbow Chard’.

From start to finish it takes 20 minutes max and it goes a long way. You can eat it as is, or cook some rice (I made some red camargue and wild rice, which worked really well. ) or couscous on the side, or pop some cubed potato into it if you fancy.  Take a look at the ingredients:

I actually ended up only using one tin of cannelloni beans but you can add two if you are feeding more than 4 people to bulk out the meal.

Smoked Paprika Chicken, Cannellini beans and Rainbow Chard

serves 4

2 tbsp oil (I used my shallot confit and a little rapeseed, but olive oil works just fine too)

1 white onion, finely diced

2 bay leaves

thyme leaves, 5 stems (or any herb you have that needs using up)

3 garlic cloves

4 chicken thighs, skin on

2 chicken breast, cubed

2 tsp smoked paprika (you can use sweet/hot paprika)

salt to taste

pepper to taste

3 large tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp tomato puree

4/5 stem and leaves of rainbow chard, diced (you can use spinach, kale, cavolo nero instead)

 

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the onion and a little salt to speed up the cooking of the onions.
  2. Add the bay and thyme (or herb of your choosing)
  3. When the onion begins to soften add the chicken thighs – skin side down – and the chicken breasts and add some pepper.
  4. Add the garlic. Allow the chicken thigh skin to begin to bronze and then turn over.
  5. Add the paprika, tomatoes and tomato puree. Add a little water to loosen the ingredients.
  6. Place a lid on the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  7. Taste test and then add more seasoning as required.
  8. Add the rainbow chard/greens and simmer for a few more minutes, until wilted and soft and then serve.

 

Remember if you don’t have chard, use kale, spinach, cavolo nero or even peas.

 

Another crowd pleaser and one of my fav chicken dishes (that isn’t Indian) is my Spanish Baked Chicken recipe. I cannot tell you how BLINKING delicious this one is.

You can find the recipe HERE.

Next up is my Keralan Chicken Stew. Ok I am hoping you have some spices, if you don’t, then you’ll have to sadly pass on this one. I was taught it by a lovely lady in Kerala called Moly, who I spent the day with a number of years ago.

It does have Kashmiri chillies in it, but these are not hot in the slightest and the dish is nicely spiced as opposed to spicy and my girls love it.

OK, next up is one of my childhood memory dishes – Japanese Katsu Curry.

You can read WHY a Japanese dish featured so highly in my childhood by clicking HERE for the recipe.

If you are looking for a beginners curry then the one above ticks the box. It requires very few ingredients and will appeal to a palate that is not accustomed to spices.

You can find the recipe HERE.

My traditional Bengali chicken curry, above, is loved by my children and I hope yours will love it too. If you have a whole chicken cut the chicken into 10 and remove the skin and cook it on the bone – it tastes so good this way. If you are nervous about cooking like this then it is fine to cook it using simply thighs, breast – boned or unboned. It’s a one pot dish, although I often make some rice to go alongside it.

Now for this next chicken dish you can replace the barberries for cranberries, raisins or sultanas – don’t worry if you don’t have barberries – I know it’s not what most people have lurking in their pantry. This dish is called “Zereshk Polow” and it is basically the Iranian version of an Indian Biryani. Again if you don’t have saffron use a pinch of turmeric.

You can find the recipe HERE

As you know I love my broths so thought perhaps this one might be a good one to consider. Just tone down the chillies you add if you are giving it to children or you can take them out altogether.  You can find the recipe HERE.

Finally I am going to leave you with a couple of recipes I found on the web that look super easy and don’t require many ingredients.

Creamy Herb Chicken and you can find it HERE

Sticky Chinese Chicken Traybake HERE 

Let me know if you cook any of the above, would love to hear how they were received. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves, be safe and I’ll be back soon with another post.

 

 

 

 

 


Eating in Sri Lankan ‘Paradise’

For those who love spice, and more specifically Sri Lankan food, a trip to newcomer Paradise on Rupert Street is definitely worth a visit. It is the brainchild of Dom Fernando, whose inspiration comes from his native Sri Lanka. There are five chefs in the kitchen (which is hidden away from view) all with Sri Lankan heritage  – with head chef Charith Priyadarshana leading the brigade.

I visited at lunchtime recently and secured a perch at the bar. You can only book a table for 4 diners or more – walk-ins are given a place at the bar counter or window. Apparently on busy evenings you can expect to wait up to an hour – there are only 30 covers – so choose your timing wisely. Lunch times seem perhaps a better gamble for a first visit if you are not fond of waiting.

Before I get on to the food, let me just speak about the overall look and feel of the restaurant. The attention to detail is so on point. Of particular note: I loved the herringbone style floor tiles (see in photo above) which were made in Bali I am told; the fact there are hooks to hang things under the bar (so obvious but so many places fail to do this); the industrial style brushed concrete grey walls and black steel light fittings; the dark brown water glasses, which are made from their recycled beer bottles then cleverly cut and smoothed off to make glasses; the hand wash and hand cream in the bathrooms smell divine and are made in Sri Lanka.

Whilst we are talking bathrooms, I also liked the fact that a small trug of plants was sitting on a shelf under the hand dryer allowing ones wet hands to gently provide drips of water to the plants underneath. In short, A LOT of care and attention has gone on the aesthetics and mood of the place, which has not gone unnoticed. In an increasingly competitive market the ambiance works hand in hand with the whole dining experience. I was not surprised to hear that East London designer, Dan Preston (who was commissioned to do Smoking Goat, Kiln and Brat) was behind the stylish interiors.

Now onto the food. Firstly the menu is short – big tick – nothing worse that a menu that is too long. It also lists all the places it buys its meat, fish and eggs, which as a diner, I find really helpful as increasingly we all want to know the provenance of the produce we are eating. The menu itself is broken up into ‘short eats’, ‘hoppers & breads’, ‘sambols & rice’, ‘veg & plant’, ‘land’, ‘sea’ and ‘dessert’. There are between 3 and 6 choices in each section – the largest choice being under the ‘veg & plant’.

We kicked off the proceedings with the ‘short eats’ and opted for the mutton shoulder rolls with fermented chilli, crab patty empanadas with lunumiris mayo (Sri Lanka version of Sriracha) and sea-salt fried whitebait, black garlic mayo. The standout was the mutton shoulder roll. The whitebait was tasty, but I felt was not particularly ‘Sri Lankan’ – I would have liked to have had a delicate spice rub on them perhaps, instead of just seasalt!

The hoppers were both excellent – I liked the originality of the turmeric and fennel seed hopper, but the classic egg hopper also got a definite thumbs up. I accompanied both with the mango and chilli chutney. In the ‘veg & plant’ section I opted for the dahl and was pleased to see the pandan leaf and curry leaves making an appearance giving it a genuinely authentic taste. I will definitely try more of the veg next time as the charred pineapple salad with green chillies and the southern cashew curry with Maldive fish definitely sounded appealing.

This was all followed by the Jaffna spiced lamb chops and the roasted baby squid curry with cardamom and coconut. The former was a little fatty and I personally would want more heat to the rub. The squid however was a delight and highlight sitting in a creamy coconut infused sauce with hints of cardamom. Definitely slurp worthy!

Being rather full at this point we weren’t able to squeeze in ‘dessert’ but the buffalo milk ice cream with cashew and butterscotch brittle, the lime and coconut sorbet, basil and chilli oil and the Wattalapam gelato, salted cinnamon meringue, stem ginger caramel all sounded heavenly – especially that buffalo milk ice cream. Next time.

The menu, I am told, changes every 8 weeks. I’ll be back before then though to work my way through the menu – especially the veg and plants as I feel I didn’t give them much air time this time round. Always good to have an excuse to go back.

 

Mains: £7-13.50

Short Eats/Hoppers/Rice/Sambols: £2-5.50

Paradise | 61 Rupert Street, Soho, London W1D 7PW

All views are my own and this is NOT an ad

 

 


Walking and Eating in Bologna

Our five days in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy went something like this – explore, culture, lunch, walk, culture, relax, supper, sleep, on repeat. It was wonderful. The days were bright and sunny and I could almost smell summer…..almost. We covered a distance, on foot, of 10 miles a day, which meant we could completely enjoy the food without any guilt of being a little bit piggy. We used Bologna as our base and then did day trips to Modena, Parma and Verona – all under an hours train ride away.

I chose a fabulous Airbnb in the old part of the city, which is where you will find the oldest university in the world. It had a wonderful little roof terrance with vistas across the whole of the city.

A stones throw from the apartment is the University Library of Bologna, which was founded by Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, a noble of Bologna, in 1712 as an Institute of Sciences. He endowed it with his own scientific collections, 900 oriental manuscripts and 120 manuscripts relating to his work. It was later enlarged in 1755 by Pope Benedict XIV with 25,000 printed volumes and 450 manuscripts. In the same year a copy of every printed work was ordered and the following year the library opened to the public. We were given a free private tour by a very enthusiastic undergraduate who was able to tell us all about the history of the beautiful library. I think they get few visitors so you will be treated royally if you visit.

Within 10 minutes of the apartment is a ‘quadrilateral’ of ancient narrow streets east of Piazza Maggiore, which is bursting with meat, cheese and produce sellers. It’s the type of place that makes your heart beat faster with excitement and your stomach begin to moan with hunger, even if you’ve just had breakfast!

Amongst these streets you will find a covered market – ‘Mercato di Mezzo’, where you can eat and drink local produce. It’s open every day and stays open until midnight.

This area is as close as you will come to experiencing Bologna street food, so is definitely worth seeking out. We had lunch there on more than one occasion.

We particularly loved Salumeria Simoni – I recommend ordering a charcuterie of delicious hams, salami and cheese washed down with a glass of chianti.

What better way to walk off lunch than by walking along the Portico di San Luca, which is one of the longest covered walkways in the world, numbering 666 arches and gaining 215 meters. It was built between 1674-1793 and is 3.8 km long connecting Porta Saragozza to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca.

The portico walkway starts off nice and flat, which eases you in, but when you reach Meloncello Arch it begins to steepen. I won’t spoil the surprise, but lets just say the locals don’t need to join a gym if they complete this walk a couple of times a week. There are 15 chapels along its path so you can chapel crawl if you are so inclined. The view from the top is pretty spectacular and the light breeze was most refreshing.

After making it back into town we rewarded ourselves with a gelato – I opted for my favourite flavour ‘bacio’. Ridiculously good.

Refreshed and eager to see more of what Bologna has to offer consider climbing one of the medieval towers in town to get the best vistas of the city from the centre of the city. Bologna used to have hundreds of towers – a sign of its prosperity, today however only twenty are still standing. The most famous are ‘Le due Torri’ – the ‘Two Towers’ Torre Degli Asinelli and the Torre della Garisenda. For five euros you can climb the highest one, the Asinelli Tower.

It’s not for the fainthearted or unfit but the trek up is so worth it for the beautiful views.

On the hill in the far distance you can see Santuario di Madonna di San Luca. Thats a pretty good hike there and back before dinner. You’ve got to work up an appetite after all right?

Before heading out for supper you may want to have an aperitivo at Le Stanze. The location itself is worthy of a drink don’t you think?

We ate in a number of lovely places in Bologna. One of our favourites was definitely Cesari on Via De Carbonesi, 8. It is a family run restaurant with a relaxed and informal vibe with a good mix of locals and tourists. The food was excellent and as we were there out of season and arrived promptly after opening, we didn’t need a reservation. I would suggest however, that you book ahead if you can. What we often tend to do in a new city is scope out a place for dinner in the day and then make the reservation, but it’s up to you.

For pizza, Trattoria Belle Arti was perfect. In fact, their pasta dishes are also worthy of a mention. Whilst it may not win prizes for decor, it became our local as our apartment was virtually next door. They serve all the traditional dishes too – their brodo (tortellini in stock broth) was excellent as was there pasta bolognese and carbonara. It’s relaxed and informal and was always busy.

For super low key – sawdust on the floor kind of place (almost, but not really) is the Osteria Dell’Orsa. It’s basic, has all the obvious local dishes, communal wooden tables and is probably a good place to go if you are a small group or not wanting to splash out too much.

My sources also recommend the following for memorable meals:

Trattoria di Via Serra.

and

Osteria Bottega

After all this eating don’t forget to visit all the beautiful churches and Duomo and the fascinating 17th century anatomical theatre carved from spruce.


Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

 

If you are after a salad that is healthy, zingy, super tasty, fresh AND will feed a crowd, then my Vietnamese chicken and cabbage salad with a nuoc cham dressing works a treat.

Much of the salad can be prepped in advance and it is far easier to prepare than you would think if you have a magi-mix as it can do all the slicing (other than the chicken) easily and efficiently.

The three herbs that I like to use to give it a delicious freshness is mint, coriander and Thai basil (you can easily pick this up in large supermarkets these days). The addition of peanuts and fried shallots (you can have these ready made too to save time) really adds to the textures and flavours.

 

Vietnamese Chicken Salad 

Serves 8-10

1/2 white cabbage, finely chopped

1/2 red cabbage, finely chopped

7 carrots, peeled and finely grated (you can do this in the magi-mix too on the grater setting)

6 chicken breasts, skin removed

3 large handfuls of coriander, finely chopped

2 handfuls of fresh mint, finely chopped

2 handfuls of fresh Thai basil, finely chopped

2 handfuls of unsalted peanuts

2 handfuls of crispy fried shallots (to save time buy these already made)

 

Nuoc Cham Dressing

3 tbsp  fish sauce

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1-2 limes, freshly squeezed

1 heaped tbsp caster sugar

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped (keep seeds in if you want more heat)

 

  1. If you have a magi-mix place your attachment, which has the thinnest slicer, and slice the red cabbage and white cabbage. If you do not, then you need to do this by hand.
  2. Next change the attachment to the grater and grate the carrots. If you do not have this you can do this with a regular grater.
  3. Place the chicken breasts whole into a deep pan and cover with water and bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts and allow to cool and then use two forks to shred finely. Place to one side in bowl.
  4. Next finely chop the coriander, mint and Thai basil.
  5. Heat a frying pan and when it is hot add the peanuts and allow to bronze slightly – this will take around 3 -4 minutes. Keep moving around the pan so that they don’t burn. Once lightly bronzed remove and place to one side.
  6. If you are preparing the shallots from scratch – instead of bought fried shallots – simply finely slice them and then shallow fry them in sunflower or vegetable oil until bronzed. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper.
  7. Next you want to make the ‘nuoc cham dressing’. The trick is to add all the ingredients to a pan and warm up so that the sugar has completely dissolved. It is important to taste test so that you have a good balance of salty, sweet, zingy and sweet. If it is too salty from the fish sauce add a little more caster sugar. If you find it too chilli hot, strain the dressing and therefore remove the chillies.
  8. You can prepare all of this a day in advance and keep in the fridge (minus the shallots, which can be kept in a sealed jar). IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO ADD THE DRESSING UNTIL JUST BEFORE SERVING.
  9. When you are ready to serve add a little of the dressing to the chicken and mix in to soften and flavour the chicken.
  10. Next use a mixing bowl and add a little of every ingredient and a little of the dressing and mix well before repeating the process. Make sure you keep back some of the shallots to scatter on the top along with a little of all the herbs.
  11. Serve on a large platter so guests/family can help themselves. It also looks rather lovely presented in this way.
  12. Best eaten at room temperature.

Any leftovers will keep in the fridge easily for a few days. If you want to feed more then use the whole cabbage, add a few extra chicken breasts, add an extra handful of herbs and double up on the dressing.

 

 

 

 


Butter Chicken

After quite a number of requests, I bring you my butter chicken recipe this week. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser, liked by all ages, owing to its creamy tomato flavour. As the name suggest it contains butter – quite a lot if I’m honest – and cream, so perhaps this is one that you cook once in a while as opposed to each week. It’s delicately spiced as opposed to spicy so by default appeals to most palates. It is the one curry that using the breast meat works well. Typically I would always suggest using chicken thigh or the whole chicken cut into pieces by your butcher, but for butter chicken breast meat is perfect.

Whilst it is super straightforward to make there are a few stages to consider. You need to marinate the meat – minimum an hour or even overnight if you are really organised. After this you then char the chicken in a pan (grill also works well). Using the same pan you lightly bronze the onion and blitz that into a smooth paste. Next step is to create a buttery, creamy tomato sauce before adding the onion and meat and allowing it to simmer and infuse together. It can be cooked in advance so is certainly a good one if you are entertaining. I think you are going to like it. If you are on instagram and you make please tag me @chilliandmint #chilliandmint

Have a good week everyone.

Butter Chicken

Serves 6 (if serving with other dishes)

750g chicken breast or thigh (boneless), cut into bite sized pieces

marinade

3 tbsp full fat natural yoghurt

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp coriander powder

juice from half a lemon

1 tsp salt

 

onion puree

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter

2 tbsp oil

2 white onions, roughly chopped

 

creamy tomato sauce

75g salted butter

400g passata (or fresh tomatoes)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

1 tsp salt

pinch freshly ground black pepper

150ml double cream

1 tbsp dried methi/fenugreek leaves

 

  1. First you need to marinate the chicken. Mix all the marinade together and then cover tightly with cling film/foil and place in the fridge for an hour – to overnight.
  2. Once you have marinated the chicken sufficiently heat the ghee/butter in a frying pan.  Add the pieces of chicken so that they sealed and charred on both sides. This takes about 3-4 minutes on each side. They won’t be completely cooked at this stage so don’t try and nibble a piece quite yet! You will need to char the chicken in batches so that it does not overcrowd the pan. You do not want to steam it so don’t overcrowd the chicken or put a lid on the pan.
  3. Once all the chicken pieces have been charred, place in a bowl and keep to one side.
  4. In the same pan add the ghee and gently fry the onion so that it begins to bronze – this will take around 6 minutes. Remove from the pan, with all the charred scrapings from the bottom and blitz into a smooth paste using a small blender.
  5. In a deep pan/karahi, add the butter. When it is melted add the spices followed by the passata, black pepper, salt and jaggery/sugar. (If you are using fresh tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes in the pan and then blitz these too into a smooth paste and then return to the pan to follow the next steps.) Allow to simmer on a gentle heat for 7 minutes, by which time the sauce will have thickened sufficiently.
  6. Add the double cream, onion puree, chicken and dried fenugreek. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes on a low heat. Taste test and add more salt (and butter if you fancy) if needed.

To serve add a pinch more dried fenugreek and a drizzle of double cream. Equally fresh coriander on top would work well to serve.

It is delicious eaten with naan or rice. Accompanying dishes that would work well would be my chana dal and I will be eating mine with my tindora/ivy gourd curry.