Friday, 29 June 2018

Summer holidays popsicles and creamsicles (recipes)

 Summer holiday fruit popsicles


The weather is horribly muggy - particularly if, like me, you live in a city. I feel very sorry for anybody who has to take the tube home from work. Perhaps London will one day resemble European cities such as Paris and Barcelona, which are empty in August. It's simply too hot to function.
I am thus keen not to cook. All I want during weeks like this is ice cream and cool drinks.

For these recipes, you'll need an ice lolly kit or, failing that, a muffin tin and lolly sticks. To loosen the frozen popsicles, briefly dip the mould in warm water. Any combination of fruit works - here are a few ideas...

Watermelon and chocolate popsicle

Makes 4-6 popsicles

1/2 small seedless watermelon, skinned and crushed in a blender
50g dark chocolate
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tbsp sprinkles (optional)

Fill the popsicle mould with the watermelon. Once frozen, melt the chocolate (30 seconds in the microwave) and mix with the coconut oil. Unmould the popsicle and dip the end into the chocolate mixture. You can, if you wish, dip the chocolate into sprinkles. Leave to set.

Pineapple and coconut popsicle (with rum for adults)

Makes 4-6

100ml coconut yoghurt (CoYo is very good)
1 small pineapple, skinned, cored and crushed in a blender
100ml spiced rum (optional)

Fill the popsicles halfway with the coconut yoghurt. Leave to freeze with a lolly stick in place. Mix the pineapple and rum together and, when the yoghurt is sufficiently frozen, add to the popsicle. Leave out the alcohol when making these for children.

strawberry and pistachio creamsicles

Strawberry and pistachio creamsicles 

You can make ice lollies with any fruit of your choice. Either blend the fruit completely or leave some pieces whole. I settled on a combination of strawberry and pistachio.

Makes 4 to 6

For the pistachio flavour
50g green nibbed pistachios
100ml double cream or Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
1 tbsp caster sugar

For the strawberry flavour
200g strawberries, de-stemmed, hulled
75ml double cream or Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
3 tbsp caster sugar

For white chocolate dipped 
50g white chocolate
1 tsp coconut oil
Sprinkles of your choice

Blend the pistachios with the cream or yoghurt and the sugar.

Blend the strawberries with the cream/yoghurt, adding the sugar as the berries are not very sweet.

Fill the moulds with the pistachio flavour and leave to freeze with a lolly stick in place. Pour the strawberry flavour in.
If you want to dip them in white chocolate, briefly melt the chocolate (30 seconds in the microwave) and mix with the coconut oil. Dip again into a bowl of sprinkles.

Strawberry white chocolate dipped creamsicle

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

West Hampstead Restaurants, introducing Feldo's

West Hampstead is not quite Hampstead. It is lower than Hampstead geographically, price-wise and in terms of star power, but way posher than defiantly grimy Kilburn to the west. West Hampstead is smugly surburban, although there is a healthy sprinkle of arty lefty intelligentsia - the dead Doris Lessing and Dusty Springfield; the living Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Bill Nighy. The early Rolling Stones had a flat there, the Beatles auditioned (and were rejected) at Decca Records and both Jimi Hendrix and U2 played at The Railway pub.

The village has a long and winding high street, West End Lane, with independent shops amongst the coffee bars and charity shops. Daytimes, there is a fearsome yummy mummy contingent sipping skinny lattes after driving their uniformed progeny to private schools in Hampstead. The downside is the dreadful parking situation: the large houses have all been divided into flats so there are too many cars for the narrow streets. Fortunately the transport links are excellent: the area boasts a tube, an overground and the Thameslink.

West Hampstead has a mixture of chain restaurants, local franchises and some truly unique places worth trying.

Best for... Indian


This place describes itself as 'modern Indian', which can mean old-fashioned Indian with teeny portions. But we were pleasantly surprised by the menu offerings: authentically and freshly-spiced but not-too-hot dishes, each with a distinctive sauce. 

Best for... high end cooking

Really superb food from this French-Korean restaurant that combines Western cuisine traditions with Korean ingredients. The prices aren't low but this is talented cooking. One standout dish was the buttered kimchi cabbage with kimchi sauce, which made us want to stand up and applaud. Chef Jae trained at Nobu and Hélène Darroze, while his wife Yeon does front of house. 

Best for... British

Independently owned and run, the Wet Fish Café is a local favourite, serving 'modern comfort' food, focussing on British fish, at remarkably reasonable prices. The name comes from the fact that it was a fishmonger prior to being a restaurant, and it retains the characteristic interior, all 1930s tiled walls and high ceilings.

Recommended menu items include Cornish cod in tempura, black beluga lentils and good cocktails. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, Early Bird menus are £21 for 3 courses. On Wednesdays they have 'music dinners' featuring live music, with 3-course menus for a mere £30. On sunny days you can sit outside.

Best for... Middle Eastern

Lebanese restaurant The Cedar is a local franchise (two other branches in Maida Vale and St. John's Wood) which has an extensive menu with high quality, flavoursome mezza: the mini za'atar; fattoush; moutabal; muhammara; makdous, pickled baby aubergines stuffed with walnuts. Hell try everything - it's all good. Best to wear loose clothing and an elasticated waistband. The service is particularly friendly.

Best for... tapas

Sirous Tapas Bar and Restaurant

What this tapas bar lacks in Spanish authenticity, it makes up for in generous portions. One can so often find at small plates dining establishments that you end up spending upwards of £30 a head and are still hungry afterwards. At Sirous, we had so much food we took home a doggy bag. The wine list is well-priced, we ordered a spicy and full-bodied red Tempranillo for a mere £18. Outdoor tables are popular in good weather.

Best for... beer

Czech Club Restaurant

It's worth the trip to West Hampstead just to visit this Czech restaurant, which has been running since 1946. Founded by Czechoslovak fighter pilots, the décor has hardly changed since World War Two. Located in a large private residence with stained glass windows, the massive beer garden in the back is packed during the summer. 

It possesses that forlorn air that you get in deserted cafes abroad; the odd sound bouncing off the formica tables, dusty faded calendars pinned up, a lone man sitting in the corner, a TV booming news you can't understand. 

The menu is pure Eastern bloc: dumplings, schnitzels, pork knuckles and a whole section referred to simply as 'floury dishes' (basically variations upon fried dough). Wash down this hefty fare with Pilsner and Budveiser or try the Slivovice fruit liqueurs. Some people find the place a bit strange, but we loved the slightly Cold War/John Le Carré vibe.  

Best for... tea and cake

Sanctuary café, Sheriff road centre, West Hampstead. Pic: Kerstin Rodgers
Sanctuary café, Sheriff road centre, West Hampstead. Pic: Kerstin Rodgers
Set in a church that functions as a multi-use community centre with a post office, children's soft play park, political meetings, yoga classes, the Sanctuary café offers pots of tea, good homemade cakes and free wi-fi. All sorts come here to enjoy the lofty stained glass windows, vaulted roof, pillars, and arches while sitting on the comfy sofas and armchairs scattered behind the wooden church pews. 

Best for... bagels

Roni's Bagel Bakery

Roni's Bagel Bakery, West Hampstead, pic: Kerstin Rodgers
onion bialys at Roni's Bagel Bakery, West Hampstead Pic: Kerstin Rodgers

Bakery on site, in the back, this bagel shop does plain, poppy seed and the rarer (in this country at least) onion bialy. West Hampstead, being close to Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb, still has a large Jewish population who like to buy their baked goods, lox and schmear here. 


A little further, near Child's Hill, is Feldo's, the name is a portmanteau of owners Felda and Oliver, whose background is in nightclubs.  This is their first restaurant and it did have a slight nightclub vibe, all smart dark interiors with bronzed orange highlights and comfortable chairs. 

I ate at this brasserie-style restaurant this Sunday and was very impressed by the high standard of cooking. The place has only been open four months but there was a decent amount of guests on a hot afternoon: sons taking their mums out to lunch, families and couples. 

The gazpacho, so often flavourless and lacking in restaurants, was brilliant, with the green tinge of generously applied good olive oil. Tuna Tartare, a favourite of the chef, was spicy and very moreish. I applied my litmus test of 'how good can you make a Margarita?' to the cocktail maker, and it was one of the best I've ever had in London.

What motivates me is flavour, and this chef was a dab hand at seasoning, everything tasted delicious. While beautifully presented, it wasn't the usual lacklustre foams, dribbles and droplets that you find in high-end cooking. I felt overjoyed that I had finally had a decent restaurant nearby!

One thing to look out for, as both owners, appropriate to the area, are of Jewish heritage, is their Friday Night dinners, complete with challah and kiddush wine. It's a supper club format with a fixed menu for £49.50 (children £15). They also have a Neil Diamond night. Probably one of my best ever supper clubs was the Barbra Streisand Friday Night dinner, so I'm looking forward to both. 

This is an ever-evolving list. As new restaurants open, I'll add to it. 

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/


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/