Monday, 2 March 2015

Meatless Mondays recipe: vegan mint, pistachio and violet chocolates


Bristol-based energy company OVO has decided to cater only meat-free food at its in-house café on Mondays, a sentiment I can get behind. It makes sense environmentally, ethically, health-wise and of course, saves the lives of animals. Ovo have produced an infographic that shows that by serving 500 meatless recipes one day a week, it will offset 5000 miles of travel emissions. Imagine if every business, school, hospital, government building in the UK did that? Initatives like this really make a difference. C'mon, just one day a week without meat...it's no biggie, you can do it. Ovo have commissioned me to develop a Meatless Monday recipe which is easy and delicious; guilt-free chocolates. If you use dark chocolate in the recipe, as I do, it's vegan.
Meatless Mondays

Vegan mint, pistachio and violet chocolates recipe

Makes 12-15 chocolates depending on your mould

You will need a non-stick silicone chocolate mould, which you can buy at Lakeland for instance or any good kitchen shop. I used nibbed pistachios here, which I bought on a recent trip to Istanbul, but you could use ordinary pistachios, shelled. The bright green of the nibs contrast beautifully however with the violet petal pieces.

150g dark mint chocolate
20ml of brown rice syrup or agave syrup
1 pack of nibbed pistachios or any shelled pistachios
2 tbsp of glazed violet petal pieces

Break the mint chocolate into pieces into a small glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. If necessary, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. If you don't have a microwave, you can melt the chocolate in a bain-marie, that is the heatproof bowl placed on top of a saucepan of hot water, but the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.
Once melted, add the brown rice syrup or agave syrup into the chocolate and stir.
Take your mould and add some of the nibbed pistachios and violet pieces into the bottom of each chocolate mould. Pour the chocolate over. Leave to chill.
Then pop out the chocolates and enjoy your pretty vegan treat.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Turkish delight recipe (vegan)

 Pistachio and Raki flavoured Turkish Delight
Like thick wallpaper paste
 The resin like gell
 Once the raki is added, it goes milky white

 This recipe is soft enough to have a gorgeous mouth feel




The saga of creating Turkish Delight: it's not an easy recipe, requiring approximately an hour and a half at the stove, stirring constantly. Things can go wrong: my first attempt, due to following an untested recipe (readers, if there is no photo, you can generally be sure the writer didn't test it) and a moments inattention, ended up dotted with little rock-hard lumps, rendering it inedible. The second attempt, which had too much cornflour in anyway, I got a phone call and even though I'd only stopped stirring for perhaps a couple of minutes, the bottom burnt and I had to chuck it.
I sighed and started again: third time lucky. I reduced the cornflour too.
Traditional Turkish Delight is thickened and set with cornflour not gelatine, meaning that in its proper form, it is vegan. The key to this recipe is getting the amount of cornflour right: too much and it becomes impossible to stir towards the latter stages and sets too hard; too little and it sets too soft.
Other complications in creating this recipe included announcing, while on a press trip to Istanbul, that I had this fabulous idea for raki flavoured Turkish Delight, raki being the Turkish aniseed flavoured drink, and then discovering that one of the other bloggers at the lunch table, erm nicked the idea (consciously or unconsciously, it's amazing how we absorb things) and blogged about it before I could get to it. I mention this in case any readers do a little google and think that I have copied the idea from someone else.
The raki tempers the sometimes cloying sweetness of Turkish delight, adding a naughty alcoholic edge. I wanted to keep the Delight as pale as possible, like raki itself, avoiding notes of amber, and stud it with bright green nibbed pistachios, like insects caught in resin.
I finally got there and am pleased with the results. I will be serving this at a Yeni raki supper club in March where I'll be exploring other culinary possibilities of this delicious drink.

Raki and Pistachio Turkish Delight

Makes 60 pieces

You'll need at 25 x 25 cm straight sided square cake tin, spray oil and clingfilm. You'll also need two mediumish-sized heavy-weight saucepans (one larger than the other) and a strong bicep. And finally you'll need a sugar thermometer or digital thermometer.

For the Turkish Delight:
800g white sugar
375ml of water
Juice of half a lemon
140g cornflour
1 tsp cream of tartar
500ml of cold water

Flavourings:
30g nibbed pistachios
150ml raki (I used the Yeni brand)

but you could also use:
1 tbsp of rose water
or
1 tbsp of orange flower water
or
a few drops of lemon essence
and/or
a handful of blanched almonds or blanched hazelnuts or macadamias
plus a few drops of food colouring say pink or orange or yellow.

To dust:
2 cups of icing sugar
1/2 cup of cornflour

(I've used cups here because you don't have to be accurate to dust, you just want a generous quantity)

Prepare the cake tin by draping cling film (saran wrap) over it, covering the sides, and spraying oil over the clingfilm.
Measure out the sugar, water and lemon juice in one saucepan. Put the cornflour, cream of tartar and cold water in the other, larger saucepan, stirring/whisking well as you pour so that there are no lumps.
Bring the sugar/water/lemon pan up to boil, stirring all the time. Once it reaches 115º (the soft ball stage) remove it from the heat. This will take around ten to fifteen minutes.
Take the other pan with the cornflour, cream of tartar and cold water and simmer the mixture so that it is warming up. Once the sugar pan is ready, pour it into the cornflour saucepan, a little at a time, stirring all the time, so that it is incorporated. Once all the hot sugar is incorporated, settle in for a long wait by the stove, stirring on a low heat for an hour.
On my third go, bored stiff, I prepared my iPad with a movie, propped it up and watched while stirring. This made the hour go by a lot faster.
The mixture will become stiffer and stiffer.
When the hour is up, add the pistachio nuts to the mix then pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Leave to cool and set in a cool place but not in the fridge.
Prepare a flat surface with the icing sugar and cornflour. When the Turkish delight is cool, pull up the sides of the oiled clingfilm and flip it onto the icing sugared/cornfloured surface.
Flip it over again so that both sides are thickly covered.
Using an oiled knife cut the Turkish Delight into inch squares (2.5 cms by 2.5cms). Turn each side of the squares in the powder so that every bit is covered.
Set the squares aside and put the icing sugar/cornflour mix into a pretty box lined with waxed paper. Place the Turkish Delight squares into the box.

Enjoy with Turkish coffee or apple tea.




Friday, 20 February 2015

Peppers Piedmontese recipe, vegan version



This is a classic Elizabeth David recipe. It really couldn't be easier to make. In fact the ease:deliciousness ratio is ridiculous. No effort for maximum flavour.
So the usual recipe contains a few anchovies, tiny salted brown fish, naturally seized with lavish savoury potential. How to replace the easy umami flavour boost of fish or meat with vegan ingredients is a challenge for the vegan cook and forms a chapter of my forthcoming book V is for Vegan (Quadrille) out on April 23rd. You can pre-order it now though.

Vegan peppers Piedmontese recipe


Serves 4


4 red peppers ( usually bell-shaped but in this case I used 1 red bell pepper, 1 long Romano red pepper and 1 green pepper. Use what you have in the cupboard.)
8 tomatoes or 16 cherry tomatoes, blanched and skinned, quartered
2 -3 cloves of garlic, sliced, minced or grated.
1 or 2 preserved lemons, sliced
2-3 tbsps of capers (I used brined capers. I bloody love capers.)
2 or 3 tbsp of pine nuts
Sea salt
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180cº.
Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, the white pith. You can keep the stems on. Place in an oiled baking tray.
Cut a cross in the top of the tomatoes and blanch them for a couple of minutes in boiling water. You will easily be able to peel off the skins.
Pop the tomato segments into the pepper halves.
Grate or mince the garlic onto the tomatoes.
Add preserved lemon slices. (Hopefully you've made these yourself. Go on. I do at least a couple of jars every year, it's not even hard, and they are better than shop bought).
Sprinkle the capers into the pepper halves.
Tuck in the pine nuts, dotted around.
Rub the sea salt between your fingers into the crevices of the peppers.
Pollock the olive oil all over.
Roast for 30 minutes or until the peppers are soft with the edges curling in, slightly browned, hugging themselves.
Serve warm or cold. For starters. For lunch. For big messy hands canapés. Whatevs.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Pancake day: Sri Lankan hopper recipe with sugar and lemon

Here is a recipe for a different kind of pancake, a Sri Lankan hopper. Mostly these are served savoury, often with an egg cracked in the middle. But they can also be eaten as a sweet dish, in fact they are usually served this way in Malaysia, with palm sugar and lime juice.
It's easier if you can get hold of a hopper pan, available in Asian shops. But failing that you could try a wok or a normal frying pan but you won't have the shape. My parents visited Sri Lanka and brought me back one of these small bowl-shaped frying pans. 
Here I've made it with the traditional British topping of sugar and lemon.
I've tried a few recipes but this has been the best so far...


Sweet Sri Lankan hopper recipe

Makes 6 to 8 hoppers

3 tbsps of warm water

1 tsp of rapid action dried yeast
225g rice flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
400ml good quality coconut milk, (check the percentage and whether there are too many thickeners)
4 large eggs

Combine the yeast and warm water, leaving it for a few moments to froth up.

Mix the rice flour, sugar, salt together.
Add the coconut milk and eggs, then the yeast mixture.
Leave to rise for two hours.

To cook:

Heat up the pan with a little groundnut oil. I tend to dip some kitchen paper in the oil and give the pan a wipe with the oil each time. Expect that your first 'hopper/pancake/crepe' will be a flop. 
Turn the heat up high and scoop in a half ladle of the batter. Swirl it around, up the sides, until it forms a bowl shape. Add a little into the centre if necessary. You want a lacy effect.
Put the lid on, this helps it to cook more evenly. Check every so often.
Then remove, plate, and add sugar and lemon juice, or shavings of palm sugar and a squeeze of lime juice.
For a savoury version, crack an egg in the middle while cooking and garnish with fresh coriander, chilli and coconut.

Light and delicious, something different for this Shrove Tuesday...

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Fish and chips recipe using Skrei, a Norwegian cod


News has just come in that Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, a land-locked country, has its first British-style fish and chip shop, A classic English dish, fish and chips were introduced to this country by Portuguese Jews in the 16th century. But you can't get decent fish and chips in London: I've tried all the recommended places and none of them are all that. Although I've yet to try Bonnie Gull in Exmouth Market, a specialist fish restaurant, run by my friend Luke Robinson,  about which I've heard good things. My parents, who live in that street, and always have fish and chips on a Friday, recommend Bonnie Gull. Their other fishnchip hangout is Kennedy's, round the corner in Clerkenwell, on Goswell rd. The main reason for visiting is to see the train of black cabs parked outside on a Friday night, with drivers lining up, wearing their green cabbie badges around their necks, for fried fish. A truly cockney experience.
The best fish and chips I've ever had was in Birkenstead, near Liverpool. I was taken there by my mate Derry, an Amazonian blonde Liverpudlian with a quick wit and the ability to drink more than any other woman I have known. (With the possible exception of another Scouse woman I knew in France who, one night when I was with her, drank 5 litres of rosé by herself, one of those big plastic jugs, and was still standing).
Derry and I and my kid looked at the counter; the hot glass compartment where they usually keep the fried battered fish was empty. "Oh they've run out" I lamented.
Derry looked at me sideways "we'll have two cod n chips!" her voice rang out.
To my surprise, they took fresh fish, battered and fried it right there in front of our eyes. Being a cockney (all Londoners are cockneys to Liverpudlians) I'd never seen this before.
We ate our dinner from paper soggy with malt vinegar and salt, fingers warmed by the moist potato, crispy golden pillowy batter and scorching pearlescent fish. Food always tastes better when you eat it outside, in the biting wind, by the sea.
In January I went to the Norwegian embassy in London for dinner. It was down a street I'd never been into before, a private road, Kensington Palace Gardens, lit by gas lamps. Going to posh parts of London is as bizarre as visiting a foreign land. Along the dark wide avenue, so much secret space in the centre of London, stood armed policemen, guarding all the different embassies. I asked the way and got chatting. "Somebody just bought a house here for 90 million pounds" one Diplomatic Protection Officer said.
Behind the wrought iron gates of the Norwegian embassy, Michel Roux Junior was hosting the dinner in the grand dining room. It was held to publicise the existence of 'skrei', a type of Norwegian cod that is seasonal, fished in the winter months and sustainable. Michel Roux Jnr is very charming and modest, easy to talk to. A fan of skrei, "it's got big white flakes, a wonderful texture" he told me.
Afterwards we talked, his kids attended the French lycée in London like my daughter. I mentioned Madonna, whose daughter Lourdes went there at the same time. Michel Roux Jnr felt the same way as many parents: "I had to work so hard to get my children into the school, I had to petition the French ambassador and we are both French, my wife and I..."
I chipped in "and Madonna has only a very tenuous link with France, her mother was partly French Canadian" continuing "I had to move country to get my daughter into the lycée, move to France for a year".
Then I told the story about how another friend of mine, who is very ambitious and upwardly mobile, moved heaven and earth to get her kid into the lycée, partly, I suspect, to make sure she made friends with Madonna's daughter.
One day she complained to me that her daughter was upset because of this horrible girl in her class who kept making fun of her clothes. "I went up to the teacher" my friend said "and complained about this Lola."
Turned out Lola is the nickname of Madonna's daughter. Then Madonna wrote a children's book about four nasty bullying English girls, one of whom had the same name as my friend's daughter...

Fish and Chips recipe

Serves 4

I'm using half of Felicity Cloake's batter recipe; it was really good, producing a crispy billowy coat, keeping the fish inside moist. Felicity emphasised that the batter ingredients should be very cold, even briefly freezing the flour, in order to get the reaction necessary when the batter hits the hot oil. Ideally the fish is deep fried, I used a special deep fryer.
Start by 'blanching' the chips, leave them to rest, then fry the fish. Once all the fish is fried, you can fry the chips a second time.

6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into thick chips
Maldon's sea salt
4 litres of Groundnut oil for frying


200g plain flour, cold (kept in the freezer for 15 minutes before using)
1.5 tsps baking powder
275ml cold beer (I used Buddy's Bourbon Beer with a hint of honey but you could use pale ale, bitter or lager)
1/2 tsp salt
a few shakes of white pepper
4 x 250g Skrei filets, skinned


Prepare the potatoes, cutting them to the size and shape you like.  Then bring the oil to a temperature of 145ºc. Prepare a baking tin lined with kitchen towels. Taking care not to overcrowd the pan or chip basket, fry them for five minutes until translucent. Then drain, remove and put the chips in a single layer in the baking tin. Sprinkle them with Maldon salt. Continue until all the chips are blanched. Raise the temperature of the oil to 185ºc.
Make up the batter in a bowl, mixing until you have a thick cream. Dip each filet into the batter until it is thickly covered.
Make sure there is enough oil to comfortably cover the fish (you will find that the fish and the batter seem to expand). Lower the battered filet into the chip basket which is already in the oil. Leave to fry for around ten minutes or until completely golden.  If you are concerned that the filets are not cooked, use a digital thermometer probe to check that the centre of the fish is cooked, around 70ºc.
Remove the fish and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
Fry the chips a second time at the higher temperature until deep golden.
Serve with wedge of lemon or malt vinegar and more salt.