Thursday, 14 June 2018

Papas arrugadas with Mojo Rojo recipe

papas arrugadas with mojo rojo recipe pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
Every home in the Canary Islands has their own tweak for this dish. I've added red pepper to brighten the colour and add flavour. But I give you the standard recipe as well.

The best kind of potatoes to use are the 'bonita' cultivar, which stems from the original South American tubers, some of which are still available in the Canary Islands. I delighted in wandering the Canarian food markets, peering at the authentic varieties. One type of potato, wrinkled, pitted and dark-hued, reminiscent of what I ate and bought from locals when I spent three months in Peru back in 1989. I'd buy them on the street, with a little brown salt to sprinkle inside from wide tanned face women squatting down in traditional dress, the little hot spuds wrapped in their voluminous and colourful woollen skirts.

Traditionally papas arrugadas are boiled in Mediterranean sea water, which is in short supply in London.

But I must insist: don't worry about the salt.

a) All that health concern about salt is bullshit and even British scientists are coming around to agreeing. The NHS is lagging behind of course.

b) There might seem to be a lot of salt in the recipe but it doesn't taste particularly salty. The salt serves to draw out the water from the potatoes, making them fluffier, denser and drier. Baking potatoes on salt has a similar effect. Be brave. 

Papas Arrugadas with Mojo Rojo Recipe

papas arrugadas with mojo rojo recipe pic: Kerstin Rodgers/
Feeds 2

1 kilo of small potatoes, washed, unpeeled
120g of sea salt
1 litre of water

Put all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan and boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until a fork goes in easily.
Drain the water.
Put the potatoes back in the pan and simmer for 15 minutes or more, 'drying' the potatoes. 
Eventually the potatoes will have a silvery salty fine crust.

Mojo Rojo

8 garlic cloves
2 mild dried chilli peppers, soaked in hot water, then drained, deseeded and stem removed
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
150ml olive oil
2tbsp Sherry vinegar

Optional: 2 roasted romano peppers, skinned and deseeded for sweetness and colour

Whizz everything up in a powerful blender, or grind in a pestle and mortar. 

papas arrugadas with mojo rojo recipe pic: Kerstin Rodgers/


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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Sour/Sweet for summer

rhubarb pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

I've a passion for sour flavours, even those sour fizzy sweets, created with a mixture of citric acid and sugar, that you find in corner shops. There is a mouth-puckering masochistic pleasure from the acidity, and combined with sugar, it shines even more tartly.

Rhubarb, the unforced kind, is seasonal right now, from April to June.  I also love the sherbet flavours and beach hut colours of passionfruit, gooseberry, lemons, raspberries, sour cherries, lemon and grapefruit. Other sour foods, considered good for your health, are vinegar, yogurt, pickles, kefir, sauerkraut, buttermilk. Most curries contain some kind of souring agent, be it yoghurt, dried mango powder or Tamarind. They add a welcome acidity to curries, punching through the oil and spices.
Try these summery light refreshing dessert recipes. The perfect pudding for an al fresco meal. All of these can be whipped up in minutes.

Rhubarb Soufflé

Home cooks are unjustifiably frightened of soufflés. I recently did a P and O 'culinary' cruise with patissier Eric Lanlard, who, in a masterclass, reignited my love of soufflés. He gave me a few tips.

1. Butter and sugar your ramekin, if making a sweet soufflé.
2. Fold gently
3. Flatten the top with a palette knife.
4. Run your (clean)fingernail around the inside rim of the ramekin, making a small line between the dish and the soufflé. It'll rise better.
5. Serve quickly.

Makes 6-8 large soufflés

500g rhubarb, topped, tailed and cut into 4 cm lengths
250g sugar
1 vanilla pod, slit lengthways
Butter and sugar to coat the ramekins
100g of egg white (3 egg whites)
Icing sugar to top

Preheat the oven to 200c.
Roast the rhubarb for 30 minutes in an oven dish, with the sugar and vanilla pod.
When soft but still intact, remove from the oven and let cool.
Prepare the ramekins.
Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks then gradually add the rhubarb and syrup.
Scoop into the ramekins.
Level the top with a palette knife.
Run your thumbnail around the inside rim.
Cook for 12 minutes in 200c oven.
Remove and sprinkle a little icing sugar on top.

Passion Fruit Syllabub

Makes 4

This is one of the oldest English recipes, dating from Tudor times. I made it with ice wine but any sweet dessert wine will do. It's so simple yet deliciously naughty.

350ml double cream
100ml dessert wine
100g caster sugar
2 passion fruit, interiors scooped out

Whisk the double cream into soft peaks then add the dessert wine, the sugar and 1 1/2 passion fruits. Continue to whisk. Spoon into decorative but sturdy glasses and top with the remaining passion fruit.

Raspberry Curd

Makes around 500ml

Curds can be made in any fruit flavour more or less. Raspberry curd is a pleasing dusty pink colour. It'll last a couple of weeks in the fridge, and can be used on toast, panettone or as an 'insert' for cupcakes. There are 3 basic methods for making curd:
1. The old-fashioned way, over a Bain-Marie and stirring for a long time.
2. The high-powered blender, easy and quick.
3. The microwave method, also very rapid.

150g raspberries
175g caster sugar
100g butter, cubed (salted or unsalted, depending on your preference)
Juice of 1 lemon
6 egg yolks

1. Cook the raspberries in a medium saucepan over a low heat. When they break down, sieve them to remove seeds. Return the raspberries to the pan and add the butter, sugar, lemon juice. Whisk together then gradually add the cubes of butter. Keep stirring for about 20 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Scoop into sterilised jars.

2. I use a Vitamix for this. Every day I fall more in love with this blender which saves so much time in the kitchen. Because this pulverises every ingredient, you don't need to deseed/sieve the raspberries. Put all the ingredients except for the butter into the Vitamix. Blend for 5 minutes on high. Then, reduce the speed to 5 and gradually add the cubes of butter one by one until incorporated. Finally push back up to high speed for 30 seconds. Pour into sterilised jars and chill which sets it.

3. In a glass or ceramic bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Add the sieved raspberries, lemon juice and butter. Microwave for one minute, each time mixing the ingredients together thoroughly. Do this repeatedly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Pour into jars and chill.
raspberry curd pic: Kerstin Rodgers/


My next supper club is Swedish themed, a Midsummer event, hopefully in the garden. 

Swedish chef Linn Soderstrom and I are getting together for the 4th year running to do our annual Swedish midsummer night's feast. These are always popular so book early.

When: 22nd June, the longest day

Food: home smoked salmon, sandalwood herrings, vegan meatballs, Finnish Karelian pies with egg butter, strawberry cake, crispbread, Scandinavian cheeses, gravad lax.

Look: Swedish/Scandi/flower crowns/Viking/ Sheild Maiden.

Bring: your own booze. (Swedish vodka, beer, cider, perry, aquavit is recommended).

Tickets: £50

Passionfruit syllabub pic: Kerstin Rodgers/

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Paddleboarding for beginners

Just to let you know that I'm changing this food and travel blog into a sports blog.

Just kidding. But, despite my widening girth (not helped by years of close-contact immersive food reportage), I do like to be active and adventurous, especially anything to do with water sports (no sniggering). So while I wasn't quite sure what paddleboarding was, I leapt at the opportunity to try it.

Paddleboarding is also known as SUP, an acronym for Stand Up Paddleboard. A paddleboard is like a surfboard, but thicker, sturdier and inflatable. It's easier to stand on than a surfboard and you row with a paddle. I have tried surfing, and it's very difficult if you aren't under 20 and super-fit when you start. Paddleboarding is a great deal easier, therefore accessible to older, less fit people. 

The Red Paddle Co, who invited me on the trip, are the market leaders of this sport in the UK, which was originally developed in Australia.

In the morning I dug out my shortie wetsuit and just managed to wriggle my body inside, looking like an over-inflated lorry tyre about to pop. That afternoon, we took the train to Bedford, about an hour north of London. The idea is that you don't need to go far to have an adventure and paddleboarding is something you can do after a day at work. It can be done on rivers, canals, lakes or the sea ( at sea you would have a lead attached to the board). 
The Canoe Trail Company drove myself and the other sports bloggers (I was double their age) to the River Ouse. The paddleboard, when deflated, folds into a wheelie bag, so this equipment is easy to transport. 

The first thing they did was pump up the boards. The longer and slimmer the board, the faster it goes. 
'Can I have a short wide one, please?' I immediately asked.
Out of seven journalists, three of us were girls. 
'Have you ever done it before?' I asked one.
The other woman said: 'I've done it a little bit.'
Later I discovered she actually had one at home. She was in front the whole way and ended the journey bone-dry. 

My paddleboard (a 10/8, whatever that means) was white and blue and had three little red fins underneath. I dragged carried it to the river. (Pause here to say, wow, the countryside is actually quite near to London.) Someone held it steady in the water while I gingerly clambered onto the middle section of the board, on my knees. 

I saw the others had stood up. I was so stiff in my wet suit, I couldn't bend. I paddled over to the wooden pier to hold onto it while I tried to stand. I planted my feet wide either side of the central strap. As I was accomplishing this feat, I heard the boss man from the Canoe Trail Co laugh:
'I can't even look.'
I managed to stand. Underestimate me at your peril. We started to paddleboard up the Ouse. We were going to be travelling 4 1/2 miles to a camp, staying overnight and getting the train back to London by 10am next morning. A micro adventure. 

At first it was fine, but my feet started to hurt and cramp. My years of Iyengar yoga obviously need a tune up. The wind blew up and it looked stormy. I was lagging behind the others. Finally a gust of wind blew me backwards off the board. I fell in. The water was warm - warmer than outside of the water anyhow. 

I tried to get back on my board in the middle of the river, which wasn't easy. Arran, a kind young man, helped me up. 
'Look,' he said, 'someone else has fallen in. You aren't the only one.' 
'I feel less shame now,' I spluttered gratefully.
Arran stayed with me for the rest of the journey. To be honest after the first two miles, I'd had enough, as a first go. It was pretty hard work, all that rowing, especially against the wind. I spent the last two miles on my knees, which is acceptable, I believe, within the paddleboarding community. I fell in only five times. By the end I was shivering. 
Slipping over muddy steps and following a path to the camp in the middle of the forest, a campfire was blazing. Is there a more welcome sight? Hot chocolate in enamel cups was handed around. I took off my wet clothes under a towelling poncho. I put on my thermals, which doubled as pyjamas.

Later that night we made S'mores over the fire. London and urban life seemed so far away.
'What's happening tomorrow morning?' I asked.
'Swimming at 6am, breakfast at 7.'
I laughed. Nobody else laughed.
I found the words 'Are you fucking kidding?' escaping my lips.
'No,' replied the sports writers with puzzled faces.
That night I proved my hardcore adventure credentials by sleeping in a hammock suspended between two trees. I barely slept. Everything hurt: my shoulders, my arms, my elbows. Nonetheless I was out of my hammock by 5.55am, ready to do the morning swim. Everyone else was asleep. Fibbers! I thought.

Returning home the next morning, I felt tired but exhilarated. I would definitely do this again, though possibly in better weather.


Red Paddle Co: paddleboards from £899
Canoe Trail Co: paddleboard excursions from £25