29/09/2013

Sunday Baking: Honey & Ginger Loaf

This is an ever evolving recipe or so it seems!

Originally a Den Lepard one: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/20/dan-lepard-ginger-honey-cake-recipe

then made by my lovely friend Stephanie, with necessary tweaks: http://procrastinationrecipes.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/honey-and-ginger-loaf/

and now by me, with MY necessary tweaks.

We all have times when we run out of stuff, or go to make a recipe and find that what is needed wasn’t there, and this was one of those times. Not enough honey? Make up the shortfall with ginger jam, or marmalade, or golden syrup. Black treacle maybe? (In my case I found a little clear honey and a block of comb honey, so melted the comb block and added that)

Not enough fresh grated ginger? Use the lazy, ready pulped stuff. Or perhaps add in a bit more powdered if it turns out your tube of ginger is only 75g not 100g…or again, if you haven’t enough ready pulped, just accept the fact it will have less of a ‘burn’ and add a teaspoon or two of mixed spice.

Oh, no sunflower oil? (I never have it, hate the stuff.) Use olive oil. 1000s of years of Greek baking can’t be wrong, right?

And here we are.

This may be the Granny Weatherwax’s broomstick* of baking, but that’s the FUN of it!

Ginger & Honey Loaf

180g honey (a mix of all the bits I had, in my case)

220g orange and ginger marmalade (Fortnum’s don’t you know)

75g melted butter

50 ml olive oil

3 eggs (I had large in the house)

75g freshly grated ginger OR ready grated ginger from a jar OR ready pulped ginger from a tube (I used a whole tube of Gourmet Garden pulped ginger, and it retains ALL the heat of fresh. Wow!)

225g plain flour

100g sultanas or currants (or raisins, or chopped dried apricots or ooh dates!)

3 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp baking powder

Extra butter and honey for glazing. (If you’ve got any left!) It softens the crust, apparently.

 

Put the honey, ginger preserves/jam/marmalade, melted butter and oil into a bowl. Whisk very well until smooth then take a grainy phone photo.

Honye, butter, fresh ginger mix

Whisk in the eggs, pulped/grated fresh ginger as well

With the eggs added

Then mix in the flour, dried fruit, spices and the baking powder.

Pour into a greased and lined tin or, in my case, a buttered silicone loaf tin.

Lay a line of cold sliced butter along the top if you want it to crack. If you don’t want it to crack, then don’t do this bit!

Loaf about to go in the oven

Place in oven.

Wait patiently for 70-80 minutes while your kitchen smells divine. Test with a skewer. Mine took 90 minutes.

Loaf fresh out of the oven

Let it cool in the tin, as it is quite fragile until it sets.

Slice when cool.

I didn’t brush the top with butter, and we rather like the crusty top.

It’s quite dense, very spicy and warming. Would be excellent with ice cream or custard too. My husband’s on his second slice now. I’m thinking of nabbing another bit as well.

Loaf slice

*Granny Weatherwax is a Terry Pratchett character, a witch of the Discworld. (Although I suspect that she would be highly insulted if anyone told her that she was a character in a book.)

The only thing which repeatedly defeats Granny is her flying broomstick. It refuses to start smoothly, despite dwarfs replacing both handle and sticks many times. She maintains, however, that it "will be Right as Rain with a bit of work" [sic]. Wikipedia

21/09/2013

Cinnamon Cumin Lamb Chops

I use herbs and spices a lot in my cooking, possibly sometimes a little too much I suppose, but then I was brought up with food that always had some sort of flavouring added. Even a plain fried pork chop would have dried oregano added to it. Our Cypriot bread has mahlepi and masticha in it – the inner part of the cherry stone and the resin from the mastic tree.

My mum used to make afelia – pork in red wine, flavoured heavily with crushed coriander seeds – and I loved the taste, though I did spend ages picking out the seeds. I’m not a great fan of bits in my food, so I will tend to use ground spices, or larger pieces that can easily be spotted.

This dish was inspired in part by watching back to back episodes of The Incredible Spice Men and absolutely loving it, and in part by my own love of spice. Not heat so much, I can only take a bit of zing, nothing more, but spicy does not have to equal hot.

Also, I found French trimmed lamb chops on the reduced shelf from Tesco, with a proper amount of fat on them.

There is another dish in Cyprus called Hirino Spithkasimo – home-style pork – and that uses cinnamon and cumin as its spice flavours, so I drew on that for inspiration.

And here we are.

6 small lamb chops (trim some of the fat if you really must but it keeps the meat moist and tender)

2 fat cloves garlic

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp sea salt

olive oil

Crush the garlic in a pestle and mortar with the sea salt, mix in the cumin and cinnamon and enough oil to make a paste.

Garlic cumin and cinnamon

Pour that over the chops, massage in and leave for an hour or more if you want.

Chops marinating

Heat a griddle pan to smoking and place the chops in, fat side down first. I cooked them for about 5 minutes.

Searing the fat

I then covered the wooden handle in double layered foil, laid the chops flat, and stuck the whole thing on the oven on about 170C for 1/2 an hour.

Served with steamed broccoli, it was just a perfect dinner.

Finished dish

Talking Turkey with Cyrus Todiwala

Yes. Cyrus. He of The Incredible Spice Men fame that’s sweeping the nation. The one without the kilt and who sings Calypso.

Of course, he has been around for a lot longer than just this series. He’s been in this country 20 years now, is a chef of great renown and even has an MBE and an OBE to show for it.

In 2000, he was awarded an MBE for services to the restaurant and catering industry. He was subsequently awarded an OBE in the 2010 New Year's Honours List.

He is Chef Patron of Café Spice Namaste in Aldgate,

Cafe Spice

and also now the creator of spicy pickles, chutneys and sauces over at http://mrtodiwala.com/. Alongside the amazingly patient and very sweet Mrs Pervin Todiwala, of course, who is a chef in her own right.

I will admit that Cyrus has captured the nation’s heart this year, along with his adorable friend Tony Singh. Spices have been a part of the British Empire for so long, that I think we sometimes forget that we didn't always have them, and these two gentlemen have brought them to life.

Imagine Christmas without the scents of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. The warming hit of stem ginger in cakes and the dusky heat of the ground powder in gingernut biscuits. Easter Simnel Cake or bread pudding with an abundance of mixed spice.

The English/Cypriot kitchen I grew up with always had spices of some kind. Mine still does.

Spice cupboard

Cinnamon goes with sweet and savoury things, nutmeg gets added to puddings and Bolognese sauces, or spinach and cheese dishes. Dried mint goes into halloumi pie. My roast chicken has a butter with cinnamon and garlic under and over the skin.  I do tend to add ‘a little bit of spice’ to most things, as I just can’t seem to leave it alone.

I went to school with many Indian children, and spent a great deal of time in their homes, being fed delicious food by their mothers.

The Gujarati cooking of Honey Kalaria’s Mum remains etched most firmly in my mind; delicate spicing but such an array of flavours and textures. Nobody has ever made me tindora curry since then, but oh how I wish someone would. To her I owe the discovery of asafoetida (heeng) with potato, and sliced onions cooked with just cumin (jeera) and turmeric (haldi).

I had Sikh friends who invited me to their beautiful weddings, where we consumed vegetable pakoras by the ton, or so it seemed. Hindu friends from the Punjab who showed me roti (chapatti and I still cannot get them as perfectly round as they did), keema (minced meat) with peas and amazing vegetable dishes, and another Gujarati friend who gave me my first ever taste of sweet and silky srikand. From them I learned how to make spiced potatoes, by first boiling the potatoes in their skins, and then peeling, not the other way around. They seemed to retain a far more intense potato flavour that way. They also taught me how to cook rice.  Very important, that.

I did become rather obsessed with Indian food, and our spice cupboard was stuffed full of cardamoms, cumin, mustard seeds, mango powder and other such delights. My mum and step-dad didn’t seem to mind though! Okra with mustard seeds was a favourite dish. It did actually get to the point where I only knew the Indian names for things, and forgot the English. Oops.

I love good Indian restaurant food, but I was brought up with the home cooking, and I do sometimes wish that restaurants turned more to the home cooking ways, rather than the Anglicised versions. I am fortunate to have visited a place called Bengal Village on Brick Lane a fair number of times, and they have changed part of their menu to showcase home-style Bengali dishes. Amazing flavours, hot but not overpowering, and a real taste of what Indian restaurant cooking can be, but so often isn’t. Their Chicken Shatkora (Bengali Lemon) Tawa just has to be tried.

Anyway, there was a point to this. I’m sure there was. Yes. Cyrus. Having watched his approach on Spice Men, to be invited to an evening where he cooked with another of my favourite ingredients, turkey, was thrilling. I met Paul Kelly last year, when we toured his magnificent turkey farm, and so I already knew how good the base product was. He also taught us how to cook turkey properly, and now I apply his principles to all my poultry cooking because it works.

Having completed a trek across London, doing battle with sets of roadworks at Bank, Café Spice was a calming haven. Welcomed with a peach Bellini or a mango lassi, Kavey and I took our seats as other guests started to turn up. I sat right at the front because there was no way I was going to miss any of this. Yes, I know, I never learn.

Table setting

I couldn’t resist going and fawning a bit when Cyrus came out. I just had to tell him how good the TV series was, and to say thank you for it. MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING BBC2!

Paul Kelly of Kelly Bronze Turkeys gave us a lovely introductory speech, and then off we went. Turkey really is a much underrated meat, and it shouldn’t be. A turkey isn’t just for Christmas!

Paul Kelly

Cyrus is absolutely a delight to talk to, and so is his lovely wife. They were all happy to chat, and to share the whole experience with us, making it interactive, not just us sitting and watching.

This is Cyrus in full flow. There was a lot of flow. Admittedly being a chatterbox myself probably contributed to this a lot. Ahem.

Cyrus in full flow

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Everything was laid out ready to go.

Onions

Turkey eggs

Spices

Cored onions

Note that the onions have the root cored out. Apparently those bits don’t cook down properly and so they take them out. Watching Cyrus chopping all of those onions at double quick speed, whilst not even looking was…unnerving….

And then…out came some appetisers.

Turkey samosas with a spicy tomato sauce.

Turkey samosa

Delicately crisped puris stuffed with turkey meat and topped with coriander.

Puri stuffed with turkey mince and herbs

Onion bhajias/pakoras with a tamarind chutney.

Onion bhajia

We should have realised that eating only one of each was the proper way to go. Oops. But they were so tasty!

The demo started with Cyrus talking to us about cooking with bits of the bird other than just the breast and thigh. Nose to tail eating, yes, absolutely. I wish I could buy turkey thighs to cook with off the supermarket shelf, because they are delicious.

We spoke about offal, and I believe I was pointed at and told “You’re Cypriot. You eat everything!”

He’s right.

Turkey necks are very meaty, and also exceptionally tasty, and so into a pressure cooker they went, with whole spices, to make Khari Gurdun.

Next up were the turkey livers. They are dark, stronger in flavour than chicken livers and more firm in texture but very good indeed. He cooked them quickly in a dry curry style, and I could cheerfully have eaten them wrapped in some bread with chutney.

Turkey liver

We were shown a stir fry dish in the Goan style, and then some beautifully herbed light omelettes. One with tomatoes, onions and spices, and one more substantial with strips of fried turkey meat.

Turkey chilli fry

Herbed omelette with onion and tomato

Scramble with whole yolks chopped and mixed in

Cyrus was cooking up a storm, all the while talking to us about each dish, or about various uses of spices and herbs.

The came the turkey neck curry. Stunning. The meat came off the bone so easily, and was exceptionally tender and sweet. This is not a dish for people who don’t like meat on the bone, sorry.

Turkey neck

Turkey neck meat off the bone

The next dish was a kofte using minced turkey. At this point I gave up being sedate and went up to the cooking stage to get in closer with my camera. Cyrus very obligingly held the pan for me so that I could take a shot! Photo courtesy of @British Turkey there. Sneaky.

Me taking photos

I did help by handing out the finished dishes though, so I didn’t feel like I was intruding too much.

Kofte frying

Kofte

Kofte close  up

Tummies were starting to fill. We looked at the rest of the menu still to come. We worried.

Out came more bowls and plates of steaming food. To say that the atmosphere was heady with spice would be to understate it greatly.

The ‘starter’.

Turkey sheek kebab omelette roll, Mini turkey masala pie and Bhuna turkey dosa.

Dosa, mini turkey pie, seekh kebab

sheek kebab

Turkey dosa

Mini turkey pie

Then three types of Tikka. Mild, hot and OMG MY MOUTH.

This is Peri Peri on the left, which nearly killed me and Malai on the right. All three were beautifully tender and juicy.

Peri Peri and Malai tikka

Cafreal – almost iridescent green, so tasty but quite hot.

Cafreal green turkey tikka

This is the Malai, my favourite both for the mildness and the taste.

Malai tikka

Cumin rice – beautifully savoury and light.

Cu,im rice

Potato Dosa Bhaji – also very light, intense potato flavour, and gentle with nutty white lentils, mustard seeds and fragrant curry leaves.

Potato Dosa Bhajee

Leeli Kolmi ni Curry – Red Sea king prawns, with coconut and cashews. DELICIOUS. When I go back – which I will – I shall be having a tureen of that please.

Leeli Kolmi Ni Curry

It was at this point we realised that dessert was still to come, and may have panicked a bit. Not least because it was getting quite late and some had trains to catch. This is the problem with keeping a chef talking when he is trying to cook. Especially a talkative one!

Dessert arrived. Saffron, ginger and cardamom creme brulee with fruit salad.

Creme brulee and fruit salad

I dislike saffron and am really not keen on cardamom, but I really liked this. I could taste the saffron, and I admit that I could have done with a little less of it, but it didn’t stop me eating the dish, because it was very nice indeed.

All in all, I had a brilliant time. Cyrus and his wife are incredibly welcoming, and really made me want to go back and try the restaurant for myself.

Another lovely write up on the evening can be found here, at Snig’s Kitchen: http://snigskitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/cyrus-todiwala-talks-turkey-turkey.html

Huge thanks to Cyrus, Pervin and the staff for putting up with us, and for the ever garrulous Paul Kelly and British Turkey for making turkey an excellent product again. More people need to realise that it really is not just for Christmas, it’s a fabulous ingredient.

07/09/2013

Brasserie Vacherin - Croydon

A Sunday night in south Croydon may not seem like a very romantic thing to you, but I can assure you there are two places which make this entirely possible.

One is Albert’s Table, reviewed by your heroine on these pages before, and assuming the status of a very firm favourite. Now we have Brasserie Vacherin, the place that used to be Fish and Grill.

The chef is Malcolm John, and he has imprinted his style and class most definitely here.

The night we went, the temperatures were still in the twenties, so they had almost the whole front of the restaurant opened up, and it made for a very appealing café culture look.

We were early, but the staff made us immediately welcome whilst they readied our table. Halfway through our drinks we were shown to our places. We didn’t even have to carry our drinks, they were brought to us.

Part of the very nice lobby and bar area here:

20130901_201745

and the view to the street from our table.

View from our table out

This is a rather spectacular fish display, but I was too shy to actually go and take a photo of it.

Fish display

The menu proved a problem. We just could NOT decide what to have because everything sounded so appealing. To pass the time, we ate rather a lot of delicious French bread with some beautifully subtle anchovy butter.

Fresh bread and anchovy butter

Eventually, we chose. Scallops with Black Pudding, Alsace Bacon and Apples to start for both of us.

It was exquisite. The scallops were perfectly cooked, even with that level of caramelisation, they were still soft and slightly pearlescent inside.

Scallops, black pudding, Alsace bacon and apple

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We made very short work of that.

Next was Navarin of Lamb for me, and a Breton Fish Stew for Simon.

The lamb in this dish simply fell apart when I pulled my fork against it. Very rich, but not cloying, and not at all fatty.

Navarin of Lamb

The vegetables retained all of their colour and freshness, and they contrasted with the rich, sweet lamb in just the way that I wanted and expected. Nothing was under or over cooked. I couldn’t have wanted for anything better.

Navarin close up

Here we have Simon’s Breton Fish Stew. He assured me it was utterly delicious, and I will take his word on that. I just really cannot stand mussels, and they taint everything around them for me, so even the perfectly cooked clam that I tried tasted of mussel.

The fish looked wonderful though, and the vegetables were tender without falling apart.

Breton Fish Stew

Now, where to go from there. Did we want dessert? Yes, we really did. Need didn’t come into it. WANT most definitely did.

Cherry Clafoutis for me, because in cherry season, what else could I do?

Cherry Clafoutis

It was utterly delicious. Sweet batter sponge, not eggy at all, (which is always a worry for me) and any richness was cut by the cherry drizzle and the crème fraiche.

Can’t you feel yourself drawn in by the very lusciousness of this pudding?

Clafoutis close up

Simon had a Chocolate Fondant with Amaretto Ice Cream.

Yes, I know, we’ve all had a fondant before but this…the inside was properly liquid as it should be but it was also darkly chocolaty, so not at all over-sweet. I tried a small piece, and the bitterness of the chocolate came through beautifully, but wasn’t overpowering. Excellent.

Chocolate Fondant

I am terribly sorry not to have a photo of the chocolate sauce oozing glossily over the plate, but we were both too busy eating.

We finished with a latte for me – milky, yes but strong and sweet, just as I like it – and a rather fine port for Simon.

The meal – 3 courses, including extra bread, drinks, a cocktail, a port and service came to a shade over £80.

The wait staff were absolutely top notch, all calmness and efficiency. At one point we even had Chef John sitting at a table next to us, chatting to some customers.

It’s a very comfortable setting, and I am fairly sure we will go there again. The Autumn menu will be out soon, and I really want to see what they have on offer.

Decor

Thank you Chef, and all the staff, for making it a perfect evening for us.

Brasserie Vacherin

48 - 50 South End, Croydon,

CR0 1DP

Telephone: 020 8774 4060

Fax: 020 8686 8002

info@brasserievacherincroydon.co.uk