S Mag Recipes: Beans/Turmeric

I forgot to mention these at the time but consider this a belated boast about the most recent recipe sets I developed for S magazine in the Sunday Express.

The way the pages are laid out in S doesn't leave much room for chat. But the concept I had in my head for the first set was evenings when there's not a lot in the fridge or veg rack but you spy some tins of beans in the cupboard. They might not look exciting but, in fact, with only a few extras, So: tinned bean recipes.

Pic from S Magazine, styling by Victoria Gray

Pic from S Magazine, styling by Victoria Gray

And the next lot was about ever-so-trendy turmeric. The spice is hailed as some kind of cure-all these days and I'm not sure how much of the evidence for that stands up but it's still pretty tasty. Testing these left half my kitchen equipment dyed bright yellow but it was worth it. I was particularly proud of the chicken dish which was inspired by a dish I ate at the Soho branch of Rosa's Thai Cafe. And the cake which took ages to get right. Voila: turmeric

Thai Basil

This all started with some idle musing on herbs and the differences between sweet basil and its Thai cousin. We’re all familiar with the former. You, like me, have probably got a slowly dying supermarket pot of it on the kitchen windowsill right now, a triumph of hope over bitter experience.

The Thai stuff is less well known but fairly widely available in Asian supermarkets (and in Waitrose!). But I hadn’t really tried doing much with it except adding it to stir fries. When I started wondering about what the two herbs had in common and where they differed, it occurred to me to try playing around with some classic Italian dishes, swapping out the sweet basil for Thai and adjusting a few other things accordingly.

thai basil tricolore salad

A Tricolore salad seemed the obvious place to start. With silken tofu replacing mozzarella as the creamy, bland element and soy sauce joining balsamic vinegar in the dressing. You sometimes get thinly sliced red onions on a Tricolore so I brought in a mixture of spring onions and crispy, fried bits. This is barely a recipe but it worked really well so I thought it was worth sharing.

“Thai” Tricolore Salad

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (large or cherry)
  • Silken tofu
  • Avocado
  • Thai Basil
  • Spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
  • Crispy onions

For The Dressing

  • 2tbsp olive/rapeseed oil
  • 1tbsp sesame oil
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • A few grinds of black pepper

Method

  1. Chop up the tomatoes, avocado and tofu and arrange them however you like.
  2. Put the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously until combined. Taste. Depending on the sweetness of the balsamic and saltiness of the soy you may need to add some sugar and/or salt. When seasoned to your liking, drizzle over the salad.
  3. Scatter over both types of onions and garnish with Thai basil.
thai basil tricolore salad

Ifs And Ands

  • I wanted this to be super simple - like the original - so the familiarity of the dish pointed up the few changes that had been made. But there’s plenty you could do. I got the idea for a soy/balsamic dressing from J. Kenji López-Alt’s fantastic book The Food Lab. I stripped it right back but his is delicious and worth trying too. Or swap out the soy for fish sauce.
  • The “Thai” name comes only from the basil. Other Asian flavours would work too. Gussy it up with coriander and mint. Finely slice a couple of chillis and add them to the garnish. Or try sweet chilli sauce in the dressing.

So all of that was buzzing round in my mind when I read David Chang’s piece in Wired on his “unified theory of deliciousness”. A lightbulb went on. Obviously he’s working on a way more elevated scale, but the idea of various dishes having cross-cultural “base patterns” really chimed with me.

So I tried playing around with another famous basil recipe. The most famous basil recipe I guess. Just transposed. Thai basil instead of sweet. Peanut butter instead of pine nuts. And fish sauce taking the place of parmesan in providing umami.

thai basil pesto

“Thai” Pesto With Rice Noodles (Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch thai basil
  • 4tbsp neutral oil (I used rapeseed but peanut would do admirably)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1cm ginger, peeled
  • ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1tsp lime juice

To serve

  • 200g rice noodles

Method

  1. Set aside a couple of sprigs of basil for garnishing, if you are that way inclined, then put the rest, stalks and all, in a food processor with the oil and blitz. Getting it chopped and each bit coated in oil so the leaves can’t oxidise and turn black is the key to a lovely green pesto. https://food52.com/blog/17841-the-quest-for-the-genius-elusive-world-s-best-pesto-recipe
  2. Add the other ingredients and continue blending until smooth.
  3. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and drain.
  4. Toss with the pesto and serve with a sprig of basil on top.

Ifs And Ands

  • Again, I kept this really simple but you could add all sorts of things to the pesto. Coriander and lemongrass seem the obvious candidates.
  • Some of those crispy onions would make a great topping for textural contrast.
  • Try so instead of fish sauce to make it vegan. Or, if you're not bothered about that aspect at all, bulk things up with cooked prawns or chicken.

Kale Salad With Pickled Carrots

This one is long, long overdue. Not only did I graduate from Leiths more than two months ago but it's actually a recipe from the first term. Way back in November, for our first group cooking exercise, eight of us did a Silk Road-themed buffet.

To be honest, I think we only decided on that because no-one could agree on a more contained regional cuisine. The Silk Road thing placated everyone and meant we didn't have to choose between Asian and Middle Eastern dishes.

We needed something green and my own contribution was this vaguely Japanese-inspired salad. A lot has happened since but it's colourful, all kinds of crunchy and tastes just as delicious now, in the dying days of summer, as it did then. So, despite the pictures being pretty crappy, I think it's is still worth sharing. Here goes. 

kale salad

Kale Salad With Pickled Carrots


Ingredients

  • 2 medium/large carrots
  • 100ml rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ red cabbage
  • 200g kale
  • oil for deep frying
  • 2 shallots
  • 50g peanuts
  • 80g frozen edamame beans
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 garlic clove
  • thumb size piece of ginger
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • lemon/lime juice to taste

Method

  1. Julienne the carrots and transfer to a bowl. Put the sugar in a small pan with the vinegar and heat gently until it dissolves then pour over the carrots. Add a little bit of water if you need more liquid to submerge them then set aside.
  2. Finely shred the red cabbage. Toss with tablespoon or so of salt and leave in a sieve over the sink for five or ten minutes.
  3. Destalk and shred the kale. Blanch it in a large pan of boiling water until just cooked then refresh in a bowl of cold water.
  4. Rinse the cabbage and dry thoroughly.
  5. Peel and finely slice the shallot. Meanwhile heat the oil until a test piece sizzles when thrown in then cook the rest of the slices until golden and crispy. Drain on a piece of kitchen towel.
  6. Cook the edamame beans.
  7. Put the peanuts in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin or similar heavy object to crush lightly.
  8. Blitz the garlic, ginger, orange juice, sesame oil and soy sauce in a blender until well combined. Taste and season with more soy if needed and a little lemon or lime juice to taste.
  9. Drain and dry the carrots. Slice the avocado.
  10. Toss the kale, cabbage, carrot and edamame beans in half the dressing, lay the avocado slices over the top, drizzle on a little more dressing and sprinkle over the peanuts and shallots.

Ifs And Ands

  • Delicious with smoked salmon or some mackerel in a lunchbox. You can make it more substantial with some brown or sushi rice or soba noodles.
  • Make more shallots than you need as they keep well in an airtight container and are good for jazzing up salads etc. Or, iff deep frying seems like a faff then you can find packets of crispy shallots in most Asian groceries.
  • Try sesame seeds instead of (or as well as) peanuts.

(Rocky) Roads Diverged

P1040613.jpg

It may be nearly the end of January but plenty of plenty of people, myself included, still have Christmas oddments sitting around the kitchen or secreted in the freezer. 

People say Christmas is all about the children but I really it's adults who are fixated on having the twinkliest time possible. Or at least convincing themselves they've provided it. Kids are just in it for the presents. 

Case in point: when my brother Adam and his family came to stay with us just before the big day I was determined that my three-year-old niece should have the festivest time ever. As part of the plan I had baked the flat-pack components of a gingerbread house. (I used an Edd Kimber recipe we were given at school which came with templates.)

Emma was reasonably diverted as her father and I built the house and pretty excited about the jelly tots, mini marshmallows and sugar snowflakes I’d bought to decorate it. 

P1040408.jpg

She, reasonably enthusiastically, put a row of jelly tots along the ridge of the roof and added a few marshmallows to one side. Adam suggested we add some snowflakes as well but apparently this was at odds with her design vision. When it came to gingerbread architecture it was her way or no way for Emma. 

“You to finish it,” she said, gesturing vaguely in my direction. “With marshmallows and marshmallows and marshmallows.” And pottered off “to watch cartoons.”

Aunty Clare’s Magical Festive Gingerbread Funtimes had lasted a total of 17 minutes and naturally no one ate the biscuity building.

I stole the idea of using it up in a version of rocky road from my friend Helen Zaltzman who used to host a yearly gingerbread party. She'd bake hundreds of gingerbread people (gender is definitely an illusion when you're a featureless silhouette made of spiced dough), provide icing and let her guests loose on them. These are my efforts from a few years back (apologies for poor quality mobile phone pics):

IMG_0983.jpg
IMG_0985.jpg

Helen once gifted me a large box of rocky road made from the leftover and abandoned gingerbread and it was delicious. Sweet for sure, but with the spices undercutting any potential sickliness.

So here’s my version. It includes some stem ginger in syrup along with the cherries which provides a tiny bit of heat and I experimented with a tip I found online to freeze the marshmallows before adding them. They don't actually melt if you use them room temperature but a spell in the ice box does help them keep their shape and remain a bit chewier in the finished product. I didn't save any chocolate to make a neat layer on top but this is a good idea too if you care about presentation. 

I used 2:1 dark to milk chocolate as I was giving some to friends with children so didn't want them to be too “grown up” (as if anything containing mini marshmallows can ever be classed as “adult”) but feel free to go all dark. I also think if I was doing it again for non-minors I’d soak the raisins in booze.

This makes roughly a baking tray’s worth which was about 40 small squares, just right for a sweet thing to nibble on with a cup of tea. I was pleased with the balance of chocolate, butter and syrup which gives a nice soft texture without being greasy. They're nicest if you eat them out of the fridge.

Gingerbread Rocky Road

Ingredients

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 100g butter
  • 2 large spoonfuls stem ginger in syrup
  • 50g mini marshmallows (stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes before using)
  • 200g gingerbread
  • 200g glacé cherries
  • 200g raisins

Method

  1. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water along with the butter and syrup. Don't stir too much but make sure they're properly combined.
  2. Meanwhile put the gingerbread in a plastic bag and hit it with a rolling pin to break it up. I like a decent sized chunk to give  a bit of bite but just carry on whacking if you prefer it crumblier.
  3. Stir the broken biscuits and other ingredients into the chocolate mixture and spread out on a greaseproof-lined baking sheet. Chill until set then cut into squares.

Ifs And Ands

  • Soak the raisins in whisky or rum for a few hours before using.
  • You can basically use any dried fruit you like here. Substitute some of the raisins for cranberries. Or the glacé cherries for dried sour ones. Try candied peel. Maybe even dried apricots, figs or prunes (which, despite their healthy-breakfast overtones are very good with chocolate)?
  • Add some orange oil.
  • Make a rocky road ice cream instead by making a chocolate ice cream base and freezing it wit the other ingredients stirred through.

Addendum

IMG_5981.jpg

RIP Alan Rickman. By coincidence, my Christmas cake had been a tribute to his role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, my third-favourite festive film. As well as all the gingerbread there was a good third of this leftover too so I made it into ice cream. Just a plain base with a tot of whisky added and the cake and marzipan crumbled though (no icing, especially no fondant - the texture's too weird).

OK. There we go. I promise it'll be a salad next time...

HNY!

wooden spoon

Merry 2016! And many apologies for the lengthy silence. I’d hoped to keep this blog going through my first term at Leiths but was caught off guard by the workload. 

It’s always been really important to me that the recipes here are my own. Of course they’re often inspired by other writers’s work or things I’ve eaten in restaurants but I’ll always give credit when that’s the case and the dishes, in the form they appear here, are my own inventions.

I don’t post anything here until it’s been tested and tweaked. It was never my intention to put up already-published recipes and write about my experience of cooking them (not least because it infringes copyright!) and during term time I didn’t have time to do a lot that wasn’t from How To Cook.

I've loved Leiths - having initially only signed up for the Foundation Certificate, I decided to stay on for the full Diploma - but it's definitely been strange having 20 years of experience and confidence in the kitchen dismantled and learning new (and very particular) ways of doing things.

For a while I felt a bit split personality-ish, the creative (if occasionally slapdash) home cook I saw myself as, at odds with the rigorously specific professional-level skills I was learning. But over the Christmas break the two halves seemed to come together into a more self-assured whole.

Term starts next week. I'm looking forward to it but have got a few things in the bag so should be able to return to regular updates here.

Coming very soon are some ideas for any Christmas leftovers that might be still hanging around and others for good-intentioned healthy New Year type stuff.

First though I wanted to try and distill some of what I've learned. Not the very technical stuff but things that will, hopefully, be useful to anyone who likes cooking and wants to raise their game a bit. 

1) Knife Skills

Rolling Chop and Clawhand are my new favourite superhero-and-sidekick duo. I knew about them before but, when not paying attention (most of the time), always reverted to cutting away from myself. This is much better. Smoother and easier as well as quicker. There are lots of tutorials online. This is a good one.

2) When In Doubt, Sieve

Not just flour for cakes and pastry, but beaten eggs prior to turning them into quiche or baked custards. Also creme Anglaise-style custards, soups, sauces and gravies after cooking to get a smoother texture. And boiled potatoes pushed through a sieve makes the best mash: way fluffier than you get with a ricer and easier to wash up too.

3) Blanche And Refresh

You know that bit just before you serve a roast dinner when you have to get the veg on and make the gravy but the meat needs carving, you're worried about the spuds burning and no one’s helping to lay the table? Well it all becomes much less stressful if you did all the veg was blanched and refreshed earlier.

Prep the carrots, beans, cabbage or whatever (almost anything except broccoli), cook them to al dente in boiling water then plunge into a bowl of cold water which stops the cooking and helps the colours stay fresh. Drain them and set aside covered with a damp piece of kitchen paper. Then they just need heating in boiling water right at the last minute. 

4) It's Open Season(ing)

I suppose I knew the difference between flavouring and seasoning before but I'd never really heard it articulated. If flavours have their own personalities, lending something of themselves to a dish, then seasonings are there to enhance the flavours that are already there. And its not just salt and pepper that fulfil this role. 

When thinking about this piece I was very struck by line from Rachel Roddy’s column in Saturday’s Guardian Cook section: “It’s the equivalent of a sound engineer, adjusting the balance, lifting deepening, sharpening, brightening, filling out, making things taste more like themselves.”

She’s talking about lemons but really could be referring to any seasoning. Salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar and so on. Anything that supports what’s there but doesn’t steal the limelight. Taste as you go and see what's needed. 

5) Plan Ahead

This doesn't have to be a minute-by-minute job as required at School. If cooking more than one thing, even a few lines scribbled on a Post-it with the order things need doing, oven temperatures and times etc. will be far easier than leafing backwards and forwards through recipe books or jabbing marinade-covered fingers at your smartphone.

 

Preserved

My first ever set of recipes published anywhere other than here came out at the weekend in the Sunday Express's S Magazine

The photo of a membrillo-like paste illustrating my much more chutney-ish Quince & Wasabi thing is a bit confusing but it was a real thrill to see my creations made flesh.

There should be another set (chilli-themed this time) appearing this weekend.

Change is afoot...

I'm ashamed to say that a mixture of work commitments and ill-health has made updates here slightly erratic of late. Apologies. I'll be starting at Leiths on Monday so will be taking a break from the thrice-weekly schedule for a little while but will still be posting as often as I can so do check back for updates. 

Lots of love,
Clarence xxx

Patty Or Cake?

I’m not sure what to call these. I hate it when something claims to be a “burger” when it’s not made of meat. The breadcrumb coating makes them look a bit like a fishcakes but “butternut squash cake” suggests something sweet and baked. So I have settled on patties, even though it is a word that gives me the heebie jeebies. Other suggestions gratefully received.

Like my last post, this was made strictly with things that were already in the house so their success gave me a bit of a frugal high.

They’re a bit autumnal and a bit tail-end-of-summer-y. There’s a lots of lovely contrasts going on: between the sweet squash and salty feta, then the hot patties and cool leaves, some tenderness, some crunch.

butternut feta patties

Butternut squash and feta patties with Tomato & mint salsa (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 150g feta cheese
  • handful plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 handfuls breadcrumbs
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 sprigs mint
  • 2 little gem lettuces

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Halve the butternut squash and scoop out the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and put a splash of olive oil in the cavity. Roast for 25ish minutes until tender (keep the oven on). Leave to cool then, when it’s handleable, scoop the flesh from the skin into a bowl.
  2. Crumble over the feta and season with black pepper. Mix with your hands then form into 8 evenly sized patties.
  3. Put the flour on one plate, the breadcrumbs on another and whisk the egg in a small bowl.
  4. Take the patties and roll them in the flour just to get a thin coating. Dip them in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs until evenly covered.
  5. Put the crumb-covered patties on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, turning once.
  6. Meanwhile make the salsa. Cut the cherry tomatoes into eighths and put in a bowl with a splash of olive oil, the red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and pinch of sugar. Finely chop as much of the chilli as you like (I used about half) and add it. Just before serving shred the mint and add it to the salsa.
  7. Serve sandwiched between lettuce leaves with a spoonful of the salsa.

Ifs And Ands

  • Other sorts of squash, or even sweet potato, could do instead of the butternut. And blue cheese might be nice instead of feta.
  • I like the lettuce as it keeps things light but for a more substantial meal you could put the patties in pitta bread pockets or a bun instead.
  • Frying them in a little oil would make them crunchier albeit less healthy.

 

Green Light

Poor James. My husband is sad about the current direction this blog is taking. Too many salads, he thinks: “Why don’t you make a nice pie?”

Today’s recipe is not a salad but, sadly for James, neither is it a pie. And it is made out of avocado, which he hates. 

I was inspired by While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s comedy with Adam Stiler and Naomi Watts as disappointed Gen X-ers befriended by a hip millennial couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. I really liked the film. It was sad and funny and everyone in it was great.

But I will admit that one detail stood out for me: Seyfried’s character, Darby, runs some kind of artisanal ice cream business and in one scene they try her “avocado and almond milk sorbet”. I think it’s supposed to convey something of the younger couple’s self-consciously cool, of-the-moment lifestyle. But doesn’t it also sound delicious? 

avocado almond sorbet

This turned out pretty well with a lovely texture, halfway between ice cream and sorbet, creamy but refreshing. Although it wasn’t as almondy as I hoped. Perhaps that’s down to the brand of milk I used? Alpro’s unsweetened stuff was a bit disappointing so perhaps nut milk aficionados could point me in the direction of a better one?  

avocado almond sorbet

A few toasted nut on top brought out what almond flavour there was though and pomegranate seeds were another good addition, providing a beautiful contrast visually and a pop of acid sweetness against the cool, creamy green. 

The whole thing is, I grant you, a little bit “wellnessfor which I apologise. Especially after all the recent courgetti. I’m not against Ella and her ilk, but I tend to feel they’re peddling a personal brand rather than anything more meaningful. Generally speaking I make salads etc. because I like them and because I like how I feel when I eat healthily. I’m not against pies or puddings or anything. I cooked this because I thought it would be nice and I make no claims about it's health-giving properties. 


Avocado & Almond Sorbet (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 150ml almond milk
  • 4tbsp agave nectar
  • squeeze of lime juice

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until creamy.
  2. Transfer the cream in an ice cream maker and churn until firm.
  3. Serve immediately with chopped toasted nuts, slivered almonds, berries or pomegranate seeds or store in the freezer (remember to remove 20 minutes before serving).

Ifs And Ands

  • Other nut milks could work instead of almond.
  • Add cocoa powder instead of lime for a richer, chocolatey dessert.
  • I used agave nectar here just because I couldn’t be bothered to make a sugar syrup, thought honey would overwhelm the other flavours and happened to have some in the cupboard. Either would be worth playing around with.