"What's this terrible music you've got on?" asks Bee as she comes in the door."A seminal '90s album" I tell her, one eyebrow arched."Turn it off."It's about four in the afternoon, and I have returned from collecting the children from school. Noah has asked to put 'Ten' by Pearl Jam on the record player. I am more than happy to oblige, trying to ignore the probable reality that it is only because the vinyl is blue rather than my seven year old son has a keen love for one of Seattle's finest. You take what you can get with the children, I've discovered.We switch to The Beatles at a rather more sedate volume and concentrate ourselves on the task of making buttercream for an afternoon cake. My quest for the children's musical education continues a few days later as I have them folding the laundry while listening to Hendrix. Baby steps, and with hope, a little encouragement to subversiveness in life. As long as they've helped around the house a little...A few days later, on the way to school, I try to instill a little deviation from the routine by walking past the enormous slide in the park. With a little glint in my eye I ask if they want to have a quick go, running the ever so slight risk we may not arrive exactly on the dot of the bell ringing. Maya runs off like a hare out of the trap while Noah's eyes widen in fear. He stands rooted like one of the trees with it's reddening autumn leaves. A rabbit caught in the headlights.I drop them at their classrooms on time and return home with an enormous sense of wellbeing. And then I'm happy for the rest of the day.The chicken wings in this recipe are not the type that the parks and streets of London are paved with, but more of a spicy and exciting snack that sits well with family tacos or as an illicit supper when you're cooking for yourself and fancy some food that is, according to Bee "most definitely not a date night meal." They go really well in the evening with Pearl Jam. Quiet enough to not wake the children obviously. How very rock n' roll.Ingredients8 free-range chicken wingsFor the chicken marinade:A glug of sesame oil2 garlic cloves, grated2cm ginger, gratedA splash of rice vinegarA splash of fish sauce2tsp ground turmericA large pinch of Japanese pepper (or black pepper if you prefer)A splash of soy sauce1tbsp black and white sesame seedsFor the quick kimchi pickle:1 mini cucumberA few radishesA spring onion1 or 2 green chilliesA good splash of rice vinegar1tbsp Gochujang2tsp coconut sugar (or other sugar. It's all the same. I just had some to use up)A pinch of saltMethodMarinate the wings for up to 24 hours (or at least four hours)Grill until cooked through and starting to char, turning occasionally and spooning over the marinade every so often.Thinly slice the pickle vegetables and whisk together the vinegar, gochujang, sugar and salt. Mix the vegetables into this and leave to rest while the chicken cooks.Serve the wings with a sprinkle of sesame seeds, the kimchi pickle and a lot of napkins. This is a terrifically messy and delicious dish.This week:Watched: The final episode of Doctor Foster. Preposterous nonsense. I can't work out if I loved it or hated it. I'm leaning toward the latter. Started Fargo, series threeRead: Finished Christ stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi; The New Yorker; A feature about Hassidic Jews moving to Canvey Island in the Observer; Started Middlemarch by George Eliot. We shall see how that goes...Listened to: Fleet Foxes latest album. Nice to have on in the background while writing, although I'm sure they would take offence to that... Neil Young, 'Hitchhiker', Soundtrack to '8 1/2'Eat: Pop Brixton, nice tacos, unfriendly bao. Devastated that Kricket has closed there. Lahore Karahi, Tooting. Excellent chicken methi, deep and flavourful dahl, tasty lamb chops and seekh kebabs. And only £25 for two...
I've been working much more than usual this week which has turned the children into faint outlines in my memory for whom I have to make packed lunches for early in the morning and clean out the ravaged lunchboxes in the evening when they get back from summer club.
Bee is taking over the lunch duties this week as she has now given up on work for August and I'm thrilled. As if getting up in the morning isn't traumatic enough, trying to cram some limp ham into a few slices of bread to an orchestra of dissatisfaction at the lack of lunch imagination is not my idea of a gentle start to the day. I'm always dissapointed my morning doesn't begin to the gentle wafting of a string quartet's notes to rouse me, followed by coffee, perhaps a rose-scented madeleine or two and a freshly ironed newspaper. Every bedtime I'm full of childish and futile hope that the morning will one day surprise me. Perhaps when we go on holiday.
Saturday saw me though, in the spirit of being pampered, undergoing a little shiatsu to unlock the 'qi' that I thought had been thrown away a long time ago, or at least lost somewhere behind the sofa. Her verdict was my hands were very tense. Although mostly I was tense at how close she was to the fruit and veg department, and how she seemed to enjoy kneading my bottom rather enthusiastically, leading to worries of the wind section stating to play at any time without warning. But, eventually I relaxed. And after a long, lazy afternoon like that, you don't want to sully yourself with long and complicated meals. Sometimes, a quick ham and egg on toast makes a great supper, sometimes a quick bowl of pasta with butter and cheese.
This recipe fits those moments perfectly if you're not after a huge feast but fancy something interesting. It also makes a perfect side dish for a barbecue too, so suit yourself. Bee introduced this to me a few years ago and it's as delicious and trashy as ever. No-one really needs mayonnaise and cheese together on a corn on the cob, but once you've tried it, it's hard to go back. And if you've recently had to be peeled off the ceiling after a small Polish woman has prodded you in spots that felt like she was using an electric cow poker you may need a little treat like this.
1 corn on the cob per person
A good handful of grated cheddar, or Mexican cheese I suppose would be quite apt Zest and juice of half a lime per person
About half a teaspoon of chilli powder per person plus chilli flakes to serve
Enough mayonnaise to spread over each cob
Black pepper to season
A little coriander leaf to finish
Boil the corn in salted water until cooked then drain.
Try and find the corn forks, find one complete and one broken then give up.
Spread each cob with mayonnaise, roll in the grated cheddar, season with pepper and squeeze over the lime juice.
Add the chilli powder and flakes if you like it hotter and serve immediately with coriander. It really couldn't be much simpler.
I'm writing this lying on the floor in the middle of a cheese coma. The sudden trauma of morning, getting the children ready for school and repeating 'brush your teeth' over and again until you become insensible is not a good way to start the day, even though one of them somehow and somewhy got dressed by itself this morning. I'm still suspicious of her motives, but she got telly with breakfast as a reward, and it hurried her brother along to join in, so I didn't question her.I've been meaning to make this dish for a couple of months, ever since we went to Chai Naasto in Beckenham where I had a tin pot full of it. Today seemed like the perfect time and just reward to compensate for the reality of the morning which was not, as I hoped, to have been gently woken from a peaceful and deep sleep by a string quartet and to have my valet bring me bed tea.This is fairly quick and very simple to make, but the noises that came from me as I took the first bite are best kept private. It's an indecent snack, and certainly an indecent breakfast. A good extra drizzle of chilli sauce over the cheese is welcome, and use the remaining half an onion, finely sliced with some chillies and coriander to serve as a little salad on the side to cut through the richness.Ingredients for four to six people as a snack500g cubed paneer. You can easily make your own, but buying it is even easier than that.For the sauce:3 cloves garlic, chopped1tbsp ginger purée1/2 a medium red onion, choppedA few green chillies, sliced2tbsp chilli sauce (I used Linghams)1tsp tomato purée1tbsp water1tsp ground Szechaun pepperFor the batter:2tbsp flour1tbsp cornflour1tbsp chilli powder1/2tsp cumin powder1/2tsp turmeric powder1tsp Garlic puréeWaterSalt and pepperRapeseed or peanut oil to frySliced spring onions, green chillies, a sprinkle of chaat masala and Coriander leaves to serve.Make the sauce by gently sautéing the garlic in a little oil then adding the onions, ginger, pepper and chillies. Cook for about three minutes then stir in the chilli sauce, tomato purée and water. Cook for another minute or two, and keep warm in the pan.Make the batter by mixing together the flours, spices, seasoning, garlic and enough water to a cream-like thickness. Leave it to rest for about 20 minutes while you wonder off and try to work out why the children have left mud all up the hallway wall.Toss the paneer cubes through the batter and deep-fry them in hot oil until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.Toss through the chilli sauce and serve with a sprinkle of chillies, spring onions and coriander.
I always get excited when I stumble across new ingredients. I'll try anything as long as it's not a joke or a dare. Or fugu. Or a still beating snake heart. Or a Ginster's pasty.The food that really captures my imagination and makes my appetite dance around with anticipation is Indian. The spices, the variety, the flavours, the smells, the occasional cartoon version of me with steam coming out of my ears all get me going.If I go too long without some form of Indian food, my curry levels drop and I need treatment. That just doesn't happen with any other cuisine for me. As much as I love rich, subtle and elegantly robust French food and the beautiful simplicity of Italian food, it's just not the same level of wonder.I made one of my regular, but too infrequent trips to Tooting last week to seek inspiration and hopefully a green chilli pakora or two from Ambala if I timed it right. (They're at their best straight from the fryer, before they've had time to sit around and lose their enthusiasm). I didn't time it right, they didn't open for another hour. Instead, I managed a spicy container of chickpea chaat failing dismally at pretending I was walking through the street-food markets of Mumbai on a cold January London morning.My favourite shop since the much missed Dadu's mysteriously closed down is now V&B, not too far down the traffic-filled road. As I was loading the trolley with things I had no idea about, and vegetables I photographed the names of to Google when I got home, I found a packet of 'Punjabi wadi'. The word wadi looked similar to 'vadi' to me -you'll be impressed at my deduction there- which are one of my favourite snacks, so in they went. (There is a recipe here). These dried lentil dumplings turned out to be a popular Punjabi ingredient, which should come as no surprise to the sharper among you.The packet instructions suggested cooking them in a tomato based sauce and that's exactly what I did. I followed the instructions and even looked up on the internet what they are supposed to look and taste like and what texture they are supposed to be. I got everything right. I'll not be making them again.These are from an extensively vegetarian cuisine, but I'd rather have ande ki sabji, the tomato and egg dish, or chana masala. They are equally quick to make, and you're quite likely to already have the ingredients in the cupboard. If you're vegan though, these may be a winner. The sauce was delicious, the accompaniments and flavours all tasty. I just couldn't get along with the texture. Almost meaty, quite substantial, but a little reminiscent of compacted damp cardboard. Perhaps my mind can be changed if ever I'm in Amristar, but it won't be my life's mission.You can buy these online if you want to try them, but if I've not filled you with excitement and ambition, use the sauce base for an aaloo egg curry. I'd recommend trying the radish pods (mogri) if you can get hold of them, they were simple, tasty and fun. And I bought the sarson ka saag ready-made. It's a dish I love, but can be tricky to get the right leaves.Ingredients for two100g Punjabi wadi1tsp cumin seeds1tsp black mustard seeds1/2 thumb of grated ginger1/2tsp ground turmeric1tsp chilli powder250g chopped tomatoes1tbsp palm sugar/jaggery250ml waterRapeseed oilA few green chilliesSaltFor the mogri masalaA couple of handfuls of mogri1/2tsp mustard seedsSmall pinch asafoetida1 green chilli1tsp ground corianderRapeseed oilSaltFor the sarson ka sagBuy a tinMethodMake the tomato sauce by heating the oil in a heavy saucepan then adding the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the remaining spices, cook for thirty seconds on a low heat then add the ginger and wadi then cook for a further minute.Add the tomatoes and water and simmer away for ten minutes. Slice the green chillies and throw in the pan toward the end of cooking.Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan for the mogri and add the oil and mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the remaining ingredients and toss around the pan for a couple of minutes until they've cooked a little but are still crunchy.Warm the sarson ka saag and serve everything together.
The grey and dreary London streets are now exploding with wispy and bedraggled underfunded Christmas lights wrapped around flickering streetlamps. Apart from the showpiece Regent Street lights, most of the decorations elsewhere seem to have been found at the back of a cupboard from the '70s. Still, not one to complain about Christmas cheer, it is now permissible to talk about celebrating it and to start making plans.Two days ago I had my first mince pie of the year. And I had it for breakfast. That's how rock and roll I am. I also managed to burn it slightly, so really it turned into dark pastry holding mincemeat at a temperature approaching that of Krakatoa in full flow. But all this aside, I have also been cooking plenty of festive food for the various shoots I've been involved in over the past fortnight. And to be honest, I need a break from ham, turkey, filo parcels, prawn canapés and the like. And with all this extra cooking, sometimes the only energy I can summon at mealtimes will last the length of time it takes to make an omelette, bake a potato or cook a quick pasta dish.That doesn't mean it should be bleak though. Simplicity is beautiful and the best ingredients don't need a lot doing to them to make something delicious. So this classic pasta dish (usually made with spaghetti, but I prefer linguine) is spot on. And this is where it's worth having great quality pasta and special olive oil. Not the stuff you'd cook with, but the secret, small 250ml bottle you keep on the shelf hidden behind the unappealing tin of mixed beans you kid yourself you'll use one day. Be generous, this is its moment.Ingredients for two200g linguine (use spaghetti if you must)2 cloves of garlicHalf a mild red chilliExcellent quality olive oilSalt and pepperGrated fresh Parmesan to serveMethodBring a huge pan of water to the boil and throw in more salt than the doctor would be happy with.Add the pasta, return to the boil and stir occasionally until cooked al dente. Drain, but not quite fully - it's better if you keep back a tablespoon or two of the starchy cooking water - and return to the pan.While the pasta is boiling grate or mince the garlic, finely slice the chilli and add the olive oil to a saucepan. Heat until the garlic starts to fizz and bubble a little then season and remove from the heat.Add the pasta to the oil, or the other way round if you haven't enough space and mix so all the linguine is coated and silky with oil.Serve immediately with a blizzard of cheese, black pepper and some more of that excellent oil.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. And while this is not pudding and I have nothing to prove, the only way you're going to understand how delicious this dish is, is by making and eating it. I urge you to do this as soon as you can.Read More
We've recently started taco evenings with the children and they've been a roaring success. I suppose it's the spread of food in front of them and the feeling of building your own meal that appeals to them. We're sharing everything together and I think it means they feel quite grown up and part of the fun.Usually, I'll just make a chicken dish seasoned with cumin, oregano, chilli and other bits and pieces (we call it taco seasoning, it could be called adobo spices), but this time I got the heavy guns out and went a bit nuts. There was plenty left over which went in freezer bags for next time, so it wasn't as crazy as it looked when I lay it all down. I'd suggest picking one or two dishes depending on how many people you're feeding and depending on how long you want to spend in the kitchen. I was in a food frenzy, you may not want to be.Whatever you do, you must serve the tacos with guacamole, sour cream, chopped tomatoes and grated cheddar.The dishes we had are as follows (deep breath):Homemade corn tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, adobo sauce, chicken with taco seasoning, red onion pickle, sour cream, slow cooked shredded pork cheek with barbecue sauce, fried prawns with Old Bay seasoning, lime and coriander mayonnaise, shredded gem lettuce,spring onions, coriander leaves and lime wedges.All this for an early evening supper with the kids. Totally bonkers and never again on such a scale, unless someone pays me.The children loved making the tortillas though, and if you don't have a tortilla press (they're cheap and available on mexgrocer.co.uk along with almost everything you may need for mexican receipes) you may want to save yourself the bother and buy corn tortillas ready-made. Of course, they're not as good and often have wheat flour in but if it saves your nerves from becoming as shredded as the pork, then it's probably a good thing.The pickled red onion recipe is here, but for the rest (apart from guacamole, I'm not going to bother giving a recipe for that) hold your breath and keep reading.Corn Tortillas:One part masa harina (corn flour) to one part warm water and a pinch of salt.Simply mix the ingredients together until they form a dough much like 'playdoh', leave to rest and then form into small balls and press between sheets of plastic (I used a cut up ziplock sandwich bag) on the tortilla maker. Cook on a volcanic cast-iron griddle pan until both sides are tortilla-like then throw on a plate and continue until you have a pile of them. Cover and leave until you're ready to eat.Pico de Gallo:This is essentially a fiery tomato salsa, but here, I've left the cherry tomatoes quite large so it's a little like a salad. Just mix together a load of chopped cherry tomatoes, some finely sliced onions, a chopped serrano chilli, some fresh coriander, salt and a good squeeze of lime juice. Leave to rest for about twenty minutes before serving.Adobo Sauce:I soaked a large dried ancho and chipotle chilli in hot water for about half an hour then blended it with a thumb of ginger a tablespoon of ground cumin and a pinch of salt. That's it. It's pretty intense and sharp, but goes really well with the other dishes.Chicken with Taco Seasoning:Take one chicken breast and slice it thinly across. Toss it in a bowl with as much as you feel of paprika, pepper, onion powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, salt, chilli powder and ground coriander. Why don't you start with equal amounts of each, see what you like and adjust it from there. Then, as I have done, you can make a big jar of it and you've got tacos a-go-go hey presto!Sauté the chicken in a hot frying pan with some olive oil until cooked. Add a splash of water at the end to deglaze the pan and pour everything into a bowl.Shredded Pork in Barbecue Sauce:This is a slow-cooker winner. I now buy all my meat from the incredible Anne Petch at Heal Farm in Devon. It's close to the supermarket prices and miles above in quality and welfare. She sends it by courier the next day and I cannot recommend her highly enough. I discovered her in Jane Grigson's 'English Food' and was delighted to find she's online and thriving. I felt I knew the pigs I was eating, and being in London feel much more connected to the food as is possible in a city.Take one onion, two cloves of garlic and 500g of pork cheek (diced) and brown them in a pan with some olive oil. Season well and add to the slow cooker.Add one sliced green chilli and some dried thyme sprigs and turn the slow cooker onto high. If you don't have one, you could cook this in a casserole in a low oven for the same amount of time.Make the barbecue sauce by stirring together: 1tsp tomato purée, a pinch of coconut sugar (or brown if you don't have any), a good squeeze of lime juice, probably about a lime's worth, a large pinch (depending on the size of your fingers) of garlic powder, some chilli powder, Cayenne pepper, thyme leaves, dried oregano, ground cumin, finely diced onion, chipotle paste, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, a spoonful of Dijon mustard and some tabasco sauce. As for exact amounts, just trust your nose and instincts. I make mine with varying pinch sizes every time and it's always delicious.Add the barbecue sauce to the pork cheeks, stir well and cook with the lid on on high for four hours. Cool a little and shred with a pork. Pour into a bowl to serve. This one's a winner the next day in a sandwich too.Fried Prawns with Old Bay Seasoning:Or shrimp, as the Americans would have it, is a version of the famous fish taco. You can buy Old Bay here and I'd recommend a box for the packaging alone. I made a quick batter with flour, sparkling water and a good few spoons of Old Bay then deep-fried them until crisp. Easy as that.Lime and Coriander Mayonnaise:Make some mayonnaise and stir in some lime juice, lime zest, pepper and chopped coriander. What else do you want to know?And that's pretty much all you need for a taco party. Just make sure you're wearing elasticated trousers and have no plans for the evening. Even if you're having these at lunchtime.
It's not often I'll cook pork at home. Or anywhere else for that matter. I'm not a huge fan really, apart from in sausages, which doesn't really count. I just find it pretty dull. Loin, fillet, medallions, snore. Occasionally a chop will appear, but generally I prefer the rest of the pig.So why is there a pork chop recipe here? Because I believe in second chances. Although in porkies case, it's been far more than two chances. This time I've thrown loads of flavour at it and because of it's big, dense meatiness, it can take it.Sweet onions and charred tomatoes with the spicy chilli and chorizo all melting in with the garlic and onion are hearty and satisfying. Here's a twenty minute meal, then, that has saved pork from the chop.Ingredients for two:2 pork chops, preferably bone inA few handfuls of vine on cherry tomatoes10cm chorizo, diced1 red onion, cut into eight wedges2-3 garlic cloves1tbsp dried rosemary1tbsp dried parsleyA handful of radishes, quarteredA couple of green chillies, sliced lengthways2 spring onions, slicedDried onions to garnishOlive oilSalt and pepper to seasonBalsamic vinegar to deglazeMethod:Heat the oven to 180c.Heat some oil in a saute pan and add the onion nd garlic. Cook slowly for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until golden.Sprinkle the rosemary and parsely over the pork and season well.Add the chorizo and stir well. Cook for . few minutes and add the pork, standing it up on its fatty edge so it browns.Add the tomatoes and sit the pork back down flat.Add the radishes and chilli then drizzle over a little more olive oil.Put the pan in the oven and roast for about 10 minutes.Stir through the spring onion, sprinkle over the dried onions and serve straight to the table.
Sometimes I like to pretend I'm an Italian nonna, sitting at a table outside my stone-walled house gently rolling fresh conchiglie as my black dress flaps in the breeze. I'd chat with my neighbours, the old Montalbano and Captain Alberto Bertorelli from 'Allo 'Allo, all of us fanning ourselves with our headscarves.Perhaps not, but I do like to take pasta making seriously. It's such a simple thing, yet comes in so many shapes and sizes. It can be like origami at its most intricate or as simple as cutting the sheet into strips. And that's what I've done here. You need to set aside some time to prepare the pasta, don't try and start this half an hour before you want to eat.I've used spelt flour this time, interchangeable with strong wheat flour, but sometimes it needs a little more moisture. This is something you'll have to judge by hand. You'll get used to it with practice.This recipe is simply a touch of garlic, marinated artichokes, lemon zest, chilli and parsley. Then topped, of course, with good olive oil. You can put this together just before the pasta cooks, it only takes a few minutes to warm in the pan.So sit down, channel your inner dolce vita and treat it like therapy. I like to play the soundtrack to Big Night or songs by Olivia Sellerio and drift into the olive groves.Ingredients (for 4 people)400g spelt flour2 eggs2 egg yolksA large pinch of salt1tbsp olive oilFor the 'sauce'1 clove of garlic, finely choppedA jar of artichokes marinated in olive oil and herbs1 red chilli, slicedZest of one lemonOlive oilSalt and pepper to seasonMethodMake a volcano of flour and salt on the kitchen surface and put the eggs, yolks and olive oil in the middle. Gradually work the flour into the yolks in a circular motion, drawing it in until everything is well mixed and breadcrumb-like.Knead the dough for about ten minutes until stretchy and supple. If it's dry and flaky, add a splash of water. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and rest it in the fridge for at least half an hour. When you bring it out, it should be golden and silky feeling.If you have a pasta machine, roll the dough out gradually to the thinnest setting and lay the sheets on the counter, covering them with paper so they don't dry out. If you don't, you'll have to use a rolling pin and a good bit of elbow grease. But if nonna can do it, so can you.Roll a sheet up lengthwise and cut it into thin strips. Put them in a tray, dust them well with more flour and a bit of semolina and continue until finished. Dry them out a little on the backs of chairs or coat hangers before cooking. It helps a little with the texture. If you don't need all of it, completely dry what you want to keep and store in an airtight container. If you don't want your kitchen to look like goldilocks has been scalped you can cook the pasta straight away.Heat a sauté pan and gently soften the garlic with the olive oil. Add the chilli amd artichoke and warm through. Season and stir through the parsley and lemon zest.Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water for two minutes, drain and add to the sauté pan. Mix well and serve.
Bee has gone out again, leaving me alone to play with my favourite cupboard in the kitchen, The Cabinet of Curiosities. For once, though, I'm not tempted by dried fish souflé with truffle juice and barberry powder. As tempting as that may sound to you, you'll have to write that recipe yourself. Don't fear though, here's a five minute dish that is the epitome of quick, simple cooking with good, fresh ingredients. I don't often eat squid at home, so tonight was the perfect opportunity. The cupboard can wait.Squid, quickly seared and served with a little kick of chilli flakes, salt and pepper is one of my favourite snacks. Even better if it's in a light batter. Batter light than never I always say. The perfect sunshine accompaniment to a cold sparkling drink outside.You could use papardelle pasta if you prefer the carbs, but I was on a low calorie day anyway so held back.Ingredients (for two people)250g small squid1 Courgette2 small cloves of garlic, crushed1 red chilli, as hot as you likeOlive oilSalt and pepperLemon zestShave some ribbons of courgette with a vegetable peeler and sauté them for no longer than a minute with the garlic and a sliced red chilli. Put that on the side, heat the pan to vesuvius levels, throw in a splash of olive oil and cook your well seasoned squid for about a minute each side before mixing with the courgette.Serve with lemon zest, a good twist of pepper and some chilli flakes. Pretty easy really.
I've had falafels in the past where I'm not sure if they've dropped a squash ball in the wrap and disguised it with garlic mayonnaise or after a busy day, they've swept all the dust from the floor and glued it together with chilli sauce. That could, however, be down to the kind of places I've visited and the time of day I've found myself there.I've heard talk here and there of the best falafel in London, without really paying attention, but toastandbutter.net mentions a place just down the road from me. I will visit one day, it's down the path of good intentions. It's just that the thought of dragging myself over to a windswept and lonely park isn't very appealing.In the meantime, I've made my own, and honestly, these are the best falafels I've ever made. However, I think they may be the only falafels I've ever made. I'd recommend eating them fresh from the pan, hot, just slightly crumbly and wrapped in warm, homemade flatbreads with chilli sauce and peppers.If you like, you can make the mix, shape it and keep it covered in the fridge for a day. It's better to cook them to order than to eat them after they've been hanging around for a while, like someone in a kebab shop queue.Let me know how you make yours, and if you have any secret ingredients.Ingredients1 tin of chickpeas. Even better would be the equivalent amount, dried and soaked overnight, but you may have forgotten, like I did, or maybe you can't be bothered. Either is fine2 banana shallots, finely sliced. Peeled of course1 red onion, finely sliced, as above1 mild red chilli, chopped (or more if you like them poky)2tsp ground cumin2tsp ground corianderA pinch of grated nutmegA handful of baby spinach, quickly wilted, finely chopped and cooled1 free-range egg, lightly beaten2tbsp olive oil2tbsp chickpea (gram) flour for dusting. Or plain flour if you don't have anySalt and pepper. Use decent salt with everything, please250ml rapeseed oil for frying I like HillfarmMethodSlowly sauté the onion, shallots and spices in a pan until soft and golden. Season well, add the chilli and cook for a minute more.Put this in a large bowl, add the spinach, chickpeas, egg and a dash of olive oil then mix well.Mash the mixture together. I used my hands for the fun of it. I won't do it that way again, it took ages. I'd use a potato masher or stick blender, but be sure to not turn it into a purée. It's best if some of the chickpeas remain whole or halved to give a better texture.When you're happy with the mix, shape them using your hands or two tablespoons into quenelle-like shapes. You can then squash these down into patties if you like.Dust them in the flour and put in the fridge to firm for about an hour.Heat a deep pan with the rapeseed oil to about 180c and when ready, slowly drop in a few of the falafels, one at a time. Cook until golden all over, turning them occasionally in the oil. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain while you finish the rest.Serve with tahini yoghurt and some flatbreads and banish those bad memories.
Savoy cabbage, quickly cooked, with butter and pepper is pretty good as it is. But if you want to pep it up to serve as a side dish with south-east Asian food it may not quite cut the mustard.The trick with cabbage is to not cook it for a whole school term. A flash in the pan to soften it is enough, so be careful and be quick. This is fiery and comforting at the same time and goes really well with some steamed fish with lemongrass and lime leaves.Ingredients1/2 Savoy cabbage, shreddedCoconut oil for frying2 hot red birdseye chillies, sliced1tbsp red Thai curry paste1tbsp dessicated coconut1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce1tbsp lime juice100ml coconut creamSalt to seasonMethodSauté the cabbage in some coconut oil, letting some of the shreds almost burn. Add as much chilli as you like, my chillies were surprisingly hot, so be careful.Add the curry paste to the pan (home made if you can be bothered) and add a little more coconut oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well so it doesn't burn.Pour in the coconut cream and heat through. Tip into a bowl and blowtorch the top of the cabbage if you have one to give it a little bit of a dramatic char. Add a little more sliced red chilli and some hazelnuts sprinkled on top if you fancy, and serve.
Here’s a quick and easy way to add a little more flavour to your cooking. Depending on what you’re making, using infused oils to cook with can make the difference between a good dish and a great one.I like to use this garlic, rosemary, chilli and tomato vine oil to make tomato sauces for pasta, such as arrabiata or beef ragú.IngredientsThe vine stems from four packs of tomatoes1 sprig of rosemary5/6 cloves of garlic2 chillies (serrano are good for this)400ml olive oil100ml rapeseed oilA splash of cider vinegarMethod
- Gently heat the oil and add all the ingredients to the pan.
- Cook on a medium heat for five minutes, until things start to sizzle and change colour.
- Turn the heat off and leave to cool and infuse for 20 minutes.
- Add the vinegar and store in sterilised airtight glass jars or bottles.
Other oilsOils are good to experiment with; here are some other ideas for oils that can add in-depth flavour to your cooking:Curry oil: a mix of cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds with peppercorns, cloves, garlic and ginger powder in a 50/50 mix of olive oil and rapeseed oil.Chilli oil: add chilli flakes, a selection of fresh chillies, some garlic and a dash of vinegar.Lobster oil: roast lobster shells in a little oil, then smash them up and add more oil before storing in a jar.Lemon oil: this one is great for South East Asian cooking. Blend lemon grass, lemon zest and lemon juice with some kaffir lime leaves and, if possible, verbena in a 50/50 mix of olive oil and rapeseed oil.
I would love to go to Texas for the barbecues and the chilli. I want to eat 24-hour smoked brisket and tender ribs with the meat falling off them. What I’d really like to try is the way the long, slow cooking over smoke makes everything pink, juicy and uniquely charred in a way that you’ll never be able to recreate in the home kitchen.Until recently, I'd only ever eaten insipid chilli, with perhaps a touch of cumin or chilli powder to tell you that it wasn't a bolognese. So when I was asked to make it for my Dad’s 60th birthday, I was determined to find a recipe that would make me rethink it.I researched its history and how it is made in the chilli heartland of Texas, and finally came up with this version, which I think is truly delicious and has totally transformed my view of the dish.Serves: 6 peopleCooking time: 3 hours Ingredients500g beef skirt or brisket, thinly sliced2 racks of pork ribs2 large onions, finely chopped4 cloves of garlic, crushed4 jalapeño chillies6 tbsp brown sugar2 bottles of lager200ml apple juice250ml tomato ketchupCider vinegarDijon mustard2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce1 tbsp Paprika1 tbsp chilli powder1 tbsp ground cumin1 tbsp Cayenne pepper1 Chipotle pepper1 Ancho chilli1 large green pepper, sliced1 tin red kidney beansFresh coriander leaves to garnishMethod
- Make the barbecue sauce by heating some minced onion, two cloves of crushed garlic, ketchup, two tablespoons of brown sugar, the mustard, vinegar and apple juice. Pour in the Worcestershire sauce, leave to simmer for a couple of minutes, then set aside.
- Heat some oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the meat and season well. Cook for a few minutes and add the chillies and spices. Stir and add the pork ribs and cook until browned.
- Add the green pepper, pour in the lager and barbecue sauce, stir well, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook for about two and a half hours. Add the kidney beans, cook for a further half hour and serve garnished with coriander.