Saturday, 28 November 2020

SYRIAN PASTA WITH POMEGRANATE MOLASSES & LENTILS


A half used bottle of pomegranate molasses, hiding at the back of my kitchen cupboard, inspired this utter flavour bomb of a recipe. 

Totally vegan, packed with warming spices and just about one of the best pasta dishes I have ever made, you may not have thought Syrian cuisine and pasta would go together but boy this is a full 10/10. 

Make it now, thank me later.

SERVES 2-3

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g tagliatelle
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 2 cardamom pods, bashed
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sumac
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 400g tin green lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 50g pomegranate seeds
  • 60g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt

METHOD

  • Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water for about 7–8 minutes until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. 
  • Add half the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes until golden.
  • Put the garlic and half the coriander into the pan and mix well. 
  • Add the dried mint, cardamom, allspice, cumin, sumac and cinnamon. 
  • Season with a good pinch of salt and mix well.
  • Tip the cooked pasta and drained lentils into the pan with the onion and add the tomato puree, stock, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. 
  • Mix together really well. 
  • Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 5–6 minutes or until the pasta is beautifully tender. 
  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a small non-stick frying pan over a high heat and stir-fry the remaining onion for 6–8 minutes until really golden and crispy. 
  • Divide the pasta mixture between serving bowls and garnish each one with pomegranate seeds, walnuts, fried onions and the remaining coriander. 

Thursday, 26 November 2020

LOCKDOWN CANAPÉS


2020 is the year of at home wining and dining and that will no doubt continue into the festive season.

One of my favourite things in the run up to Christmas are the canapés, that source of food, not quite a meal, usually a bit more than an elegant bite, designed to soak up all the alcoholic beverages enjoyed at various office parties and friend-mas get-togethers. 

Now, we all know this will be a Christmas like we've never experienced before but that doesn't mean we can't find new ways to celebrate old traditions! 

So I say arrange festive drinks with your friends on zoom, make yourself some proper yummy canapés and get yourself in that real Christmas mood, heck we can all do with some light hearted fun after this utterly bizarre year! 

Below a few new "party at home" canapé favourites, tried and tested by yours truly, best enjoyed of course when all dressed up with no where to go and a glass of fizz in hand!

BAKED CAMEMBERT IN PUFF PASTRY WITH CARAMELISED ONIONS

INGREDIENTS:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thinly into semi-circles 
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs for garnish
  • 1 (8 ounce) wheel camembert cheese, cold
  • 1 sheet ready made puff pastry
  • 1 whisked egg, for egg wash

METHOD:
  • Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of oil. 
  • Once hot, add in the sliced onions along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they become deeply golden-brown and caramelised for about 20 minutes.
  • Once golden, stir in the teaspoon of sugar, followed by the balsamic vinegar, and allow the mixture to bubble up and reduce, stirring to incorporate; allow the onions to cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently now, until jam-like and deeply browned; then, add the 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves, stir to combine, and remove from pan and allow to cool.
  • To prepare the baked camembert, roll out the puff pastry sheet and place the brie in the centre of it.
  • Spoon over the cooled, balsamic caramelised onions, then fold the puff pastry sheet over top to cover everything, creating a little “package”.
  • Place the wrapped brie “package” onto a small baking tray lined with parchment paper, and very gently brush some egg wash over the puff pastry (avoid allowing it to pool underneath).
  • Meanwhile heat your oven to 200 degree celsius,
  • Once ready to bake, place the camembert into the oven and bake for roughly 35-40 minutes, or until deeply golden and puffed.
  • Allow the baked camembert to stand for 10 minutes before serving, to avoid it oozing out too much.

CARROT FRIES WITH PARMESAN

INGREDIENTS:

900g carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 in thick ‘fries’
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
Mayo for serving

METHOD:

Gently toss the carrot fries in the oil and salt and pepper before spreading them in a single layer on a paper lined baking tray.
Roast in a a preheated 220C oven until tender and lightly charred, about 16-20 minutes, mixing half way through.
When ready, top the carrot fries with parmesan and serve with your favourite flavoured mayo.

BAKED FIGS WITH GOATS CHEESE, HONEY & WALNUTS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 medium-sized figs
  • 80g soft goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
METHOD:
  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  • Cut off the stems and make an X cut in the top of each fig half way through.
  • Stuff the figs with soft goat cheese using a teaspoon. 
  • Sprinkle some chopped walnuts and sage over your stuffed figs and drizzle them with honey. 
  • Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
  • Place in a suitable baking dish and grill in the oven for around 5 minutes or until the figs start to look soft.

Monday, 23 November 2020

HOMEMADE SWEDISH PUNSCH BARS (DAMMSUGARE)


These Swedish punsch bars or "vacuum cleaner cakes" (Dammsugare) are one of my ultimate favourite cakes and I was more than impressed with my homemade version! 

Their slightly strange nickname is in reference to their flavour and appearance – the outside is made out of green marzipan, the ends of which are dipped in chocolate. Inside there is a mix of sponge cake, punch liqueur, butter and cocoa powder.

Legend has it that many years ago trainee bakers used to gather leftover cake crumbs from the floor (which is where the “vacuum” part comes from) then mix them with punch liqueur to disguise the taste of the old crumbs. The name Dammsugare (Swedish for vacuum cleaner, literally “dust sucker”) therefore refers to the gathering of the crumbs to be put inside the pastry. Arrack, a sort of Swedish high percentage spiced liquor, is usually used to give the bars their extra kick but I used Kraken rum which worked a real treat,  I actually even preferred it in terms of taste compared to the traditional version.

I managed to buy a ready-made and coloured sheet of marzipan from my go-to store for all things Scandi, the Scandinavian Kitchen, but you can as easily make your own with some marzipan, food colouring and elbow grease.

Yes, these little cakes may sound and look a bit odd but they are one of the most famous Swedish cakes for a reason, trust me! You'll be a committed hoover cake fan in no time!

Be warned, they are a little fiddly to make but once you get the hang of it they are fairly easy to rustle up!

INGREDIENTS

  • 75 g (⅓ cup) butter or margarine, softened
  • 5 tbsp icing sugar 
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 250 g (1¼ cups) cake (fairy cakes, muffins or any leftover cake)
  • 4 tbsp Swedish punsch (or 2 tbsp of rum, I used Kraken rum )
  • 350 g marzipan
  • 1 tsp green food colouring 
  • OR
  • 1 sheet of coloured marzipan (you can order it here at the Scandinavian Kitchen)
  • 75 g dark chocolate

METHOD
  • Put the butter, sugars and cocoa powder in a food processor.
  • Whizz briefly until evenly mixed.
  • Add the cake and rum and whizz until evenly mixed.
  • Cut two pieces of greaseproof about 37½ cm x 10 cm each.
  • Divide the mixture between the two sheets and roll into two long sausages, trying to ensure that each sausage is an even diameter, something that is easier said than done!
  • Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (a crucial step to make assembly easy)
  • Unroll your green marzipan sheet on a clean work surface OR in a bowl gradually add green food colouring to the marzipan, mixing until it is the desired shade and evenly coloured and roll out until you get a thin sheet.
  • Cut it into 6 cm wide strips.
  • Cut the cake filling into equal sized pieces
  • Roll each one up with marzipan.
  • Chill them for at least 30 minutes.
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and then carefully melt it in a microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  • Dip one end of each roll into the chocolate mixture and then transfer it to some greaseproof paper until the chocolate sets.
  • Repeat with the other end of each roll. (I found that if I tried to do both ends at once the chocolate sometimes run down the marzipan.)
  • Transfer to a tray lined with greaseproof paper and refrigerate until required. (Don't take them out too early or they will lose their shape.)

Saturday, 21 November 2020

CREAMY SAFFRON PASTA WITH PRAWNS & CRAB


This dish is simple yet utterly yummy and for me the perfect end of week supper that looks and tastes impressive but is surprisingly easy to make!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 450 tagliatelle
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 1 3-inch piece lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 100g fresh white crab meat
  • 250g frozen or fresh raw king prawns
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Handful of flaked almonds

METHOD
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain.
  • In a small saucepan bring the cream, lemon peel and saffron to a low boil over medium-low heat.
  • Turn off the heat and let the saffron steep for 10 minutes.
  • In a large frying pan heat the butter and stir in the shallot and garlic for 1 minute, then add the crabmeat and shrimp; season with salt and pepper. 
  • Cook until the shrimp are pink and just firm, 3 to 4 minutes. 
  • Stir in the wine.
  • Discard the lemon from the cream and pour over the seafood. 
  • Stir in the cayenne and turmeric. 
  • Add the pasta and toss. 
  • Top with the parsley and flaked almonds.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

SESAME GINGER NOODLE SOUP WITH CARAMELISED MUSHROOMS


This is a wonderfully warming, flavourful and surprising noodle soup that makes the humble and versatile mushroom the true star of the show. 

Don't be put off by the unusual combo of flavours (pomegranate molasses and tahini don't usually feature in an Asian noodle dish) because here they work an absolute treat and though it may not have looked as impressive as some of my other lockdown dishes, this was most certainly one of the tastiest dinners I have rustled up in the strange, strange year that 2020 has been.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (I got mine at Sainsbury's)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 3 cups shiitake and other mixed mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 400g rice noodles
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 2 green onions chopped, for serving


METHOD
  • To make the sauce: combine 1/2 cup soy sauce, honey, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, tahini, molasses, 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 clove garlic, and 1/3 cup water in a bowl.
  • Cook the noodles according to package directions. 
  • Drain. 
  • To the pot used to cook the noodles, add the broth and 1/2 of the soy sauce mixture. 
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stir in the spinach. Keep warm.
  • Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. 
  • When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms. 
  • Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes or until golden. 
  • Add the shallots, 1 tablespoon ginger, and 2 cloves garlic. 
  • Cook 4-5 minutes, until fragrant. 
  • Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and a large pinch of pepper. 
  • Cook another 2-3 minutes, until the mushrooms are caramelised. 
  • Add the sesame seeds, cook 2 minutes. 
  • Spoon the mushrooms out of the frying pan and onto a plate.
  • Add the remaining soy sauce mixture to the frying pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 
  • Add the noodles, toss to combine, and cook until the sauce just coats the noodles, 2-3 minutes. 
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Ladle the broth into bowls. 
  • Add the noodles and toss combine. 
  • Spoon the mushrooms over the noodles. 
  • Top with green onions and enjoy!

Monday, 16 November 2020

PUMPKIN GNOCCHI WITH WHIPPED RICOTTA & A BURNT BUTTER, SAGE & HAZELNUT SAUCE


OK, I may be becoming slightly obsessed with all things pumpkin at the moment, particularly now that I know that Wholefoods sells an organic tinned version in the run up to Thanksgivings, giving me even more reason to use this small time window of proper pumpkin season to cook as many dishes involving it as possible. 

Which is exactly why I simple HAD to make these outstanding pumpkin and cauliflower gnocchi, served on a bed of cooling, creamy whipped ricotta, and topped with the most simple yet stunning burnt butter sauce with hints of sage and an extra crunch from slightly roasted hazelnuts.

This was my second attempt at homemade gnocchi, early on during lockdown 1.0 I tried my hand at some rather successful sweet potato gnocchi, and I have to say once you have the hang of it they are pretty easy, quick and fun to make, the perfect cathartic kitchen activity to enjoy while sipping on a glass of wine.

I adored the final composition of the dish - whipped ricotta (a game changer when you usually have it straight out of the tub), topped with the heavenly pillows of pumpkin and cauliflower goodness, even more flavourful than the sweet potato version I made, and honestly what is a better combo than butter, sage and garlic as the ultimate finishing touch to this autumnal flavour bomb.

There are ways to cut corners here. There is of course my new favourite pumpkin puree (though it is easy enough to make pumpkin puree from scratch as you can see here) and instead of tackling a whole cauliflower - cutting it, cooking it and pureeing it, I used the newest low carb lie that is "cauliflower rice" which you can get at most big supermarkets now and which basically is finely shredded cauliflower that you can simply whack in the microwave for five minutes, mash with a fork a little and then instantly use for the gnocchi mixture, a little lazy, I know, but ultimately it eliminates unnecessary mess and hey I can't be making everything from scratch, even during a lockdown!

This was restaurant level good which I guess makes the current situation of not having the option to go to one a little easier to stomach - trust me this is a keeper kind of recipe!

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2-2 cups cauliflower florets (or 1 cup cauliflower
  • rice, steamed in the microwaved and mashed with a fork)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups flour, more if needed
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • 250g ricotta, whipped in the food processor


BROWNED BUTTER WITH SAGE, GARLIC & HAZELNUTS
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
  • 12 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup raw hazelnuts 


METHOD

  • If not using the cauliflower rice: bring a large pot of water to a boil. 
  • Add cauliflower florets and cook until tender, 10 minutes. 
  • Drain well.
  • Add the cauliflower to a food processor, pulse until smooth (or simply mash well with a fork). 
  • Measure out about 1 cup mashed cauliflower and transfer to a large bowl. 
  • Add the pumpkin, 2 1/2 cups flour, the parmesan, egg, and salt. 
  • Stir the mixture until just combined. 
  • If the dough seems wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time, until it can be formed into a ball. 
  • Generously flour a clean counter and scrape the dough out onto it. 
  • Cut the dough into four equal pieces. 
  • Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into a rope about 1 inch thick and cut into bite-size pieces. 
  • Repeat this process with the other pieces of dough. 
  • Place the gnocchi on a baking sheet that has been dusted with flour. At this point, the gnocchi can be kept covered in the fridge for up to 1 day, and then boiled just before you are ready to eat. Or boiled right away.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
  • Boil the gnocchi until they float to the top and are cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. 
  • Remove the gnocchi using a slotted spoon or spider strainer. Reserve about a cup of the gnocchi cooking water. 
  • To make the sauce: heat the butter, garlic, sage, and hazelnuts in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook butter until it begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes. 
  • Add the nutmeg, 1/4 cup of the reserved gnocchi cooking water, and season with salt and pepper. 
  • Bring to a simmer. 
  • Drop the gnocchi into the sauce, gently tossing to combine. 
  • Spread the ricotta cheese into the bottom of each individual serving bowl. Spoon the gnocchi and sauce over the ricotta and enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

TAHINI SESAME CHEESECAKE WITH SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE

This rather impressive looking cheesecake once again proves that Tahini is an all round flavour bomb which works surprisingly well when used for sweet dishes, it's nutty note adding a unique and complex dimension to a dessert that can be a bit dull (vanilla cheesecake anyone!?)! 

It is also super easy and quick to rustle up, prepped in less than half an hour and decorated in a matter of minutes. 

Of course you could make your own caramel sauce, but I am going to be honest even during lockdown 2.0 my commitment to cooking from scratch has its limitations and Jude's does a wonderful ready made one, and apart from that it is more of an assembly job which is, in any case, quite fun and satisfying to do on a Saturday morning, an ideal time to get in the kitchen to allow the cake enough time to set in the fridge, ready for dinner time. 

The finished result is a total dream: a Biscoff biscuit base combined with a silky Tahini and vanilla cream cheese filling, finished off with lashings of salted caramel sauce and shards of sesame snaps, for that final visual wow. I have to say this is one of the better cheesecake 

I have made in my life and the combination of flavours simply couldn't work better, not too sweet, not too rich but the perfect dessert centre piece for yet another elaborate lockdown weekend dinner!

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g Lotus Biscoff biscuits
  • 140g salted butter, melted
  • 750g soft cheese 
  • 100g light brown sugar 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200ml double cream 
  • 75g tahini 
  • 200g salted caramel sauce (I adore Jude's version found at Sainsbury's)
  • 3x 30g packs sesame snaps (also found at Sainsbury's)
  • Coarse Malton sea salt for a final sprinkle on top

METHOD
  • Line a 20cm x 30cm baking tin with baking paper. 
  • Blitz the Biscoff biscuits to crumbs in a food processor, add the melted butter, then blend again until well combined. 
  • Tip into the tin, then use a spoon to press the crumbs into an even layer. 
  • Chill in the fridge or freezer while you make the filling.
  • Scoop the soft cheese into a large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla, then whisk using an electric hand whisk  until smooth and the sugar has dissolved. 
  • Add the cream and tahini, then whisk again until the mixture begins to thicken. 
  • Scrape into the tin, then use a spatula or spoon to spread out to cover the base. 
  • Leave the surface a little uneven  for the caramel sauce to later seep into.
  • Chill for at least 3 hours.
  • When you’re ready to serve, drizzle over the caramel sauce, sprinkle with a good pinch of sea salt flakes and  decorate evenly with the sesame snaps AND ENJOY!

Monday, 9 November 2020

NO STIR PUMPKIN & GOATS CHEESE RISOTTO WITH CRANBERRY SAUCE



It combined a savoury risotto with swirls of a luscious cranberry sauce, utterly wowing me with it's great fusion of flavours and leaving me desperate to re-create something similar at home. 

Being in the midst of autumn (and yes also a global pandemic not like we can forget) I thought it was only fitting to centre the savoury element of this dish around the humble pumpkin, and in proper American style I actually managed to find some tined pumpkin puree at Wholefoods, after all pumpkin puree is kinda a big deal in America around Thanksgiving time where it is used to make pies and all sorts of other dishes. 

If you can't find it tinned,  simply roast some seasonal pumpkin until tender in the oven,  blend it in a food processor and BAM you've got your puree (if you still need a recipe this one couldn't be more straightforward), not hard to do just slightly more effort involved than simply opening a tin.

This was my first oven, no stir, risotto and it was seriously amazing how you could get that perfect creamy texture in the final risotto without any stirring and obsessively watching pan involved! 

The mix of pumpkin, broth, fresh herbs and spices, finished off with a helping of white wine and goats cheese, was simply outstanding and one of the most fragrant and refined risottos I have ever sampled.

Not that the dish stops here. OH NO! The finished risotto gets topped with a wonderful cranberry sauce, made from scratch using frozen cranberries in a matter of minutes, more creamy goats cheese and some sunflower seeds for added crunch and texture. 

It sounds like a fancy restaurant dish, it certainly looks the part and wow, wow, wow it also tastes it. I was quite proud of this recipe, slowly getting confident enough to execute my own flavour combinations and recipe adaptions, and I cannot recommend making this enough. 

Quite literally autumn on a plate - vibrant, fragrant, surprising and veggie friendly. A solid 10/10 from me and the perfect dish to brighten up a dull lockdown evening in the most tasty of ways!

Serves 2-3


CRANBERRY SAUCE

INGREDIENTS
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml fresh orange juice
  • 250g frozen cranberries (I got mine at Sainsbury's)
METHOD
  • Tip 100g sugar and 100ml orange juice into a saucepan, then bring to the boil.
  • Stir in 250g frozen cranberries, then simmer until tender but still holding their shape – this will take about 5 mins.
  • The sauce will thicken as it cools. 
  • Set aside until your risotto is ready to be plated up, ready to warm up when needed.


PUMPKIN RISOTTO

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (from a tin or homemade)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 155 goat cheese, reserve 50g to speckle on top of the finished risotto
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

METHOD
  • Preheat your oven to 200 degree celsius. 
  • In a large glass measuring cup or bowl whisk together a cup of the vegetable broth with the pumpkin. 
  • Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed and oven proof sauce pan (with lid) over medium-high heat. When hot, add in the shallot and sauté for a minute. 
  • Add in the garlic and sauté another 30 seconds. 
  • Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Pour in the rice and stir everything together.
  • Pour in the pumpkin broth mixture along with the remaining 3 cups of vegetable broth. 
  • Add in the herbs, spices and season with salt and pepper. 
  • Stir together and cover with the saucepan lid. 
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, stir the rice then remove from the heat and place on the middle rack of the oven. 
  • Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the rice is tender and cooked through.
  • Remove the pot from the oven. 
  • Remove the lid and pour in the wine and goat cheese.
  • Stir vigorously for 2 minutes until the rice is thick and creamy. 
  • If the risotto seems dry add more vegetable broth or water. 
  • Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper then taste for seasoning.
  • Serve the risotto topped with extra crumbled goat cheese, warm cranberry sauce and sunflower seeds AND ENJOY!

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

KIMCHI, MUSHROOM & MISO SPAGHETTI WITH PARMESAN


Ok, this fusion mash up dish may sound a little odd but works an absolute treat! Trust me.

I mean kimchi + cheese has already proven to be an ingredient marriage made in heaven (who remembers my kimchi mac n cheese and kimchi cheese toasties recipes?!) and here combined with red miso and mushrooms creates a very rich and comforting pasta dish not too unlike a meaty bolognese. 

Even better it is prepped and plated up in less than half an hour, so ideal for one of those evenings where you fancy something a bit different to your standard pasta with pesto but don't want to spend hours in the kitchen!


SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 450g spaghetti
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup kimchi, chopped
  • 2 tsp red miso
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Parmesan shavings, to taste

METHOD
  • Cook pasta in salted boiling water by following the directions of the package.
  • Meanwhile, heat a wok or a large frying pan over medium high heat, add butter and let it melt. 
  • When the butter has melted add the mushrooms and fry until the mushrooms are starting to brown.
  • Stir in kimchi, miso, sake and black pepper and cook everything together about 4 minutes.
  •  If the sauce gets too thick too fast, add 1/4 cup of pasta water at a time.
  • Stir in cooked and drained pasta into kimchi sauce and toss everything together. 
  • Sprinkle on some Parmesan and enjoy!

Monday, 2 November 2020

GLORIA'S GLORIOUS TRUFFLE PASTA

Oh man, here we go again..

Get ready for another month of elaborate recipes and plenty of cooking content from my side, mainly to preserve my sanity but also to maybe inspire you to get a little creative in the kitchen while life grinds to a hold once again.

From Thursday gyms will close (sighhh) and restaurants will be limited to providing takeaways only BUT there are ways to keep enjoying some eating out favourites at home, particularly with many London restaurants sharing the recipes for some of their most iconic dishes with the general public to keep up moral! 

Gloria, my favourite fabulously over the top Italian restaurant in Shoreditch, did just that and shared the recipe for their infamous truffle, mushroom and mascarpone pasta and tell you what it tasted EXACTLY like the dreamy dish I have ordered so many times at glorious Gloria. 

OK, my room will never quite measure up to the grant interiors that make all of the Big Mamma operations so iconic and insta worthy (in London of course also at Circolo Popolare and in Paris at the interior feast for the eyes that is Pink Mamma) and there is no army of handsome and very charming Italians serving up the dishes, adding that element of service which makes eating out such a delight and experience when done right. 

For now however we will have to do without those elements and this truffle pasta at least means we can enjoy a luxury tasting and awesome looking piece of Big Mamma magic at home, and heck when if not now is the time to buy some truffles for your personal use, not like we will be wasting money at the pub or else where out for quite some time!

Let's cook it out, stay positive and make the most of the next four weeks, honing our culinary skills and having some fun in even the most uncertain of times.

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 400g mafaldine or tagliatelle
  • 70g parmesan
  • 20g butter
  • 3 tbsps of truffle oil
  • 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
  • 20g black truffle (you can order these online), half finely chopped, half finely sliced
  • 200g button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 30ml white wine
  • 80g mascarpone

METHOD

FOR THE TRUFFLE CREAM
  • Melt the butter with the truffle oil in a frying pan.
  • Add the shallot and half of the finely chopped truffle, then the minced/chopped mushrooms.
  • Let it brown for a few minutes, then deglaze with white wine, stirring well with a wooden spoon. Let it simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes, and then stir.

FOR THE PASTA
  • In another saucepan, cook your pasta in boiling salted water, until it’s a little less than al dente. 
  • Add the mascarpone to your simmering truffle cream, combine and heat gently. 
  • Add the pasta, grated parmesan and a little bit of cooking water, if necessary. 
  • Serve immediately, garnishing with fine slithers of the remaining truffle (you can use a peeler for this).

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

CARAMELISED APPLE & VANILLA CUSTARD PUFF PASTRY GALLETTE



Another cheats' dinner party dessert centre piece that takes minimum effort to make but wows on the taste front and looks pretty impressive too!

But shhh for all anyone knows you have been slaving away for hours making this in the kitchen ;)!

Top tip: Go for a fancy ready made custard as you will use it for the tart base but also to serve with the finished result. I adore M&S vanilla flecked version.


INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTRY
  • 1 packet all-butter ready-rolled puff pastry

FOR THE CUSTARD
  • 1 pot of ready made vanilla custard 

FOR THE APPLES
  • 5 granny smith apples, peeled and cored
  • 50g unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar


METHOD
  • Preheat your oven to 200 C baking tray with baking paper.
  • To prepare the apples, quarter them, then cut each quarter into four slices.
  • Heat a large frying pan, add the butter and stir to melt. 
  • Add the apples and toss them through the butter until they begin to soften slightly.
  • Add the brown sugar and stir, coating the apples in caramel, until the apples are par-cooked (remember they will continue to cook in the oven).
  • Drain the apples, reserving the caramel sauce, and allow them to cool in the fridge.
  • Unwrap your puff pastry sheet, lay on top of the lined baking tray and score a few holes to prevent rising.
  • Use a small offset spatula or spoon to spread an even layer of the custard, leaving a small border on all sides.
  • Arrange the apples on top to cover.
  • Place the tray in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. 
  • Reduce the temperature to 180 C and bake for a further 15 - 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffed and the apples begin to caramelise.
  • Remove from the oven, cut into slices and top with the leftover caramel sauce and serve with the leftover custard.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

A WEEKEND ESCAPE TO DÜSSELDORF (AND FROM 2020)

Before lockdown 2.0 inevitably comes upon us, I managed to escape to Düsseldorf for a long weekend -filled with fabulous food, drinks and quality time with the mother, getting a much needed break from my bedroom / office / mini universe that was slowly but surely driving me a little cray cray! 

Below a little summary of this wonderful weekend, including where I stayed, new foodie discoveries and revisiting old favourites!



WHERE I STAYED: RUBY COCO HOTEL





Even though I have been to Düsseldorf at least twice a year ever since I moved over to the UK over 16 years ago I had never heard of Ruby Coco, a true gem of a hotel, intriguingly located on the upper floors of a luxury shopping arcade on Dusseldorf’s answer to Bond Street, the picturesque Königsallee.
 
That set up may sound a little unusual but honestly Ruby Coco turned out to be one of the best hotels I have stayed at in Europe.

Firstly the location is superb. You literally could not be more centrally located in Düsseldorf, in walking distance to the old town and the Japanese quarter, right by the best shops and a 5 minute hop, skip and jump away from the most amazing huge German supermarket, Edeka Zurheide, where you can stock up on just about any grocery and wine you can think of.

Then there are the minimalist, huge rooms, which are way bigger than your standard affordable boutique hotel size, and which give away that, in fact, the hotel's rooms used to be cooperate offices (which makes sense as the other floors within this “mall” and hidden away alongside the retail shops are lawyer offices). 

My room definitely used to be an exec’s office: spacious, with huge windows and with that typical Styrofoam ceiling, painted in a stylish bright white, which gave the room a unique character that I instantly fell in love with.

Fittings were top notch as well. There was an outstanding rain forrest shower, the most comfy bed, high-end toiletries and a spotlight mirror. Indeed every detail was perfectly thought through and applied to the room in a way that made this a proper luxury hotel experience.

Now, the Covid aspect to the hotel stay. Yes, it was emptier than usual which was odd at times but it meant that service was simply outstanding - thoughtful, proactive and appreciative of us simply being there as their guests

Rooms were impeccably clean and the check-in and out process fully digitised, making the whole hotel experience feel incredibly safe yet still very much like staying at a great hotel in the good old days.

Breakfast again was flawlessly adapted to the strange world we live in, single serving everything, from butter to jam to musli toppings - yes maybe a little space age but not compromising on style or taste.

Overall Ruby Coco was simply a 10/10 in terms of affordability, room quality and service, even during these very bizarre times we live in, and if you go to Düsseldorf, trust me stay here, you couldn’t have a better base for weekend away in my favourite city in Germany.


THE NEW DISCOVERY: NOA FOOD BAR



I am a creature of habit and usual I hit up the same 2 restaurant on every weekend trip when seeing my mum (Münstermann Kontor on a Friday and Brasserie Hülsmann on a Saturday), BUT this time I said to myself let’s see what exciting thing Düsseldorf’s culinary scene really has to offer which is how I stumbled across Noa Foodbar, a modern fusion, sharing plate concept restaurant with an outstanding orange and natural wine list that I never expected to find in Düsseldorf. 

Heck, I wouldn't really expect this sort of place even really London if I am honest, the food at Noa Foodbar in fact fully on par with the level of culinary skill and also creativity I last experienced in Copenhagen.

A sourdough bread with seaweed butter was out of this world while our shared main plates were so imaginative and beautifully execute as well as presented that I haven’t stopped thinking about them since.

There was an outstanding creamed spinach with mascarpone, ramen egg and puffed rice - quite the veggie experience in so many ways, super fragrant sweet potato fritters with fig yogurt, pecan nuts and pak choi, and lastly a rather incredible pumpkin risotto with sheep’s cheese, pumpkin seeds and cranberries, just about perfecting the balance between sweet and savoury, tart and warming.

This was truly food that wowed, showcasing culinary skill and imagination you seldom get to experience, let alone at these very reasonable prices. In London this sort of place would have queues out of the doors every single day of the week, but in Düsseldorf it is an exceptional culinary hidden gem and a must visit for anyone into outstanding food and great natural wine. 

A solid 10/10 that made me very happy I left my usual traditions behind.


THE RE-DISCOVERY: NA NI WA



Na Ni Wa is still the best place in town for authentic Japanese noodles and ramen, equally filled with Japanese after a taste of home and Westerners aware of just how good this place is. When you go make sure you order the fried noodles in a Japanese omelette - it sounds odd but wow, you won’t stop thinking about it once you’ve gobbled the thing up and I for one have to have a portion of it at least once a year.


THE BEST FRIES IN TOWN @ WILMA WUNDER



Shut for quite some time because of a water leak and I guess Covid repercussions, all day eatery Wilma Wunder is back open and OH MY they still serve the best truffle fries I have ever had! 

Even better, they are a total bargain at €7 for the hugest portion of chunky, crispy chips, topped with parmesan shavings and truffle oil, served with the most insane truffle mayo.

I am very happy they have survived the initial Corona hit and can only cross all fingers that they will be still be there when I next make it to Germany, even though god knows when that will be…


AND TO SWEAT IT OUT @ BECYCLE


I adore the strong women that run BECYCLE, a boutique fitness studio in the heart of Düsseldorf, and simply had to fit in a quick spinning session during my 3 days in the city. Once again I left impressed by the state of the art studio, instantly welcoming atmosphere and hard core programming that will push you to your limits while truly feeling part of their community.