Archives for the month of: July, 2011

This is taken from the book ‘Street Food Revolution’, which I highly recommend – lots of interesting stories about people passionate about their own little corner of the food universe, facing adversity and coming out the other side with some truly tested recipes. And then being so good as to pass them on. The chapter which most captivated me was the story of Kitty Travers and La Grotta Ices; because how could you not fall in love with the idea of raspberry and fig leaf granita, or lemon granita for breakfast with biscotti? What I actually got the ice-cream machine out for, though, was this chocolate pudding ice-cream, intrigued by the concept of an egg-free ice-cream thickened with cornflour. She says it’s ‘cheaper, lighter for the digestion…and it doesn’t inhibit the flavours of the other ingredients like egg can’. And, I might add, you’re not stuck with a load of egg whites to use up.

I’m not sure I can wholly agree with the claim that it’s ‘ridiculously simple’ – there are definitely easier ice-creams out there – but it’s not difficult, and it’s worth following the instructions properly because the end result is the silkiest, smoothest ice-cream you’ve ever tasted. It’s surprisingly rich for something that’s actually pretty low in fat, but in a delicate, non-sickly way. In other words, go and make this. You won’t regret it.

Chocolate pudding ice-cream

Serves 4-5

450ml whole milk
15g cornflour
50g good quality cocoa powder
75g golden granulated or caster sugar
pinch of salt

Mix 100ml of the milk with the cornflour to a smooth paste.

Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan over a medium heat. Mix the cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a bowl large enough to hold all of the milk. When the milk reaches a simmering point, pour it over the cocoa mixture, whisking as you do so to take care of any lumps.

Return the mixture to the pan on the hob and cook over a low heat, barely at a simmer, for 6 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent it catching.

Add the cornflour mixture and whisk again. Simmer for a further 2 minutes until quite a bit thicker.

Strain the mixture into a clean container and cool in an ice-water bath, stirring regularly to prevent a skin from forming. When cool, refrigerate for at least 4 hours (this gives the ice-cream better body and texture).

Churn in an ice-cream machine and freeze.

Kitty suggests serving this with ‘cashew nuts and a pinch of lightly toasted Ancho chilli seeds ground up with sea salt, or with sweetened whipped cream and grated dark chocolate’, both of which sound delightful, if you get past eating it on its own, which we didn’t.

From ‘Street Food Revolution’, by Richard Johnson


I’m sorry if you’re sick and you’ve been desperately waiting for the third instalment of sick person food while I was banging on about barbecues and meringue-based desserts. Hopefully, though, if you’ve got to this stage you’re so relieved to be past the worst that you’re in a good frame of mind.

For stage three: the recuperation, I turn to Nigella. Always a source of comfort, I find. In fact, the ideal situation would be to have Nigella as your mum, and then you wouldn’t need to bother nursing yourself through the various stages of cold at all.

This, which Nigella calls ‘my mother’s praised chicken’, is really more of a guideline than an actual recipe. I think of it as a more substantial and easy to prepare chicken soup, and it’s one of the most soothing things both to cook and to eat – it’s very good after a particularly over-indulgent phase as well as after having been ill. There’s something very healing and strengthening, whether real or imagined, about chicken stock, and this dish provides lots of it. Then there are vegetables and chicken, gently poached to a yielding state of digestibility. And rice, which I prefer to be brown. This is not exciting food, but steadying, calming fare, almost spiritually so.

Nigella’s mother’s praised chicken

Serves 4-8, but aim to have leftovers

This is the basic recipe pretty much as written, but you can adapt it easily. Last time I made it I went down a more Oriental route, frying a garlic and ginger paste with the oil, using Shaoxing wine instead of vermouth, and coriander stalks, star anise and spring onion instead of the bouquet garni and usual stock vegetables.

1 chicken
2 tsp oil
100ml white wine or dry white vermouth
2-3 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and sliced into long chunks
2-3 carrots, cleaned and cut into chunks or batons
1-2 sticks celery, sliced
cold water
2 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened
1 bouquet garni, or whatever suitable herb stalks you can muster, plus a bay leaf or two
2 tsp sea salt flakes (or 1 tsp pouring salt)
2 tsp red peppercorns, or a lot of ground black pepper

to serve:
chopped parsley leaves (saved from the stalks that went in the stock)
dill (Nigella’s suggestion – I hate dill)

You will need a pan big enough to hold the whole chicken, preferably quite snugly.

Un-truss the chicken, put it breast-side down and press firmly on it until the breastbone cracks and you are able to flatten it out slightly. Cut off the ankle joints using kitchen scissors or cutting in between the bones with a sharp knife.

Heat the oil in the pan and brown the chicken, breast-side down, for a few minutes. Turn the chicken over and toss in its ankles. Turn up the heat and add the vermouth or wine, letting it bubble a little, then add the leeks, carrots and celery.

Pour in enough cold water to just cover the chicken. Put in the garlic, bouquet garni/herbs, salt and pepper. Bring it just to the boil, then cover the pan and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken, but obviously until it’s cooked through with no pink juices. During the cooking time, prepare your rice.

Divide the rice into serving bowls and spoon over ladlefuls of stock and vegetables, giving each person a portion of chicken. Sprinkle with parsley and eat with mustard and/or dill if you like.

This meal gives some of the most useful leftovers it’s possible to have. The stock and meat can be separated and either frozen or used for soups, risottos, salads, sandwiches etc., in combination or alone. Or you can just keep the leftovers as is and reheat for subsequent days when you feel a bit fragile.

From Nigella Lawson’s ‘Kitchen’


So, apparently the other day I had a barbecue with some ghosts.

Whenever we break out the barbecue, I tend to turn to middle eastern foods – not really surprising, given that it’s pretty much the go-to region for grilled meats and grilled meat accompaniments. We’ll usually have merguez sausages, delicious, skinny wands of lamb, either the spicy or less spicy version from the brusque guy behind the meat counter at the Maroc deli. Then houmous, of course, some kind of aubergine salad, maybe even more lamb in the form of koftas or a marinated shoulder. I’m usually lukewarm about lamb, but barbecued I love it.

So on this Sunday we had all the usual barbecue components, plus a box of crushed up meringue I’d rescued from work and planned to turn into Eton Mess. And then I wondered what would happen if I continued the Arabesque theme into dessert, adding a little bit of orange blossom water, some honey, and mixing the cream half and half with yoghurt. Meringue isn’t very middle eastern, whichever way you look at it, but I figured that in lots of countries they put gum mastic in their ice-creams, which gives a sort of chewy texture perhaps not a million miles away from the inside of a homemade meringue. I might be stretching it a bit now. Anyway, I think it worked – one of the guests had brought along the M&S orange and passionfruit meringue pie, which is Very Good, and we had some of that left. But the Marrakech mess (I think Nigella, who I think of as the queen of naff food names, would be proud) was all gone.

Marrakech mess

Serves 6, with seconds

1 big punnet strawberries
2 tbsp honey, or to taste
2 tsp orange flower water
250ml double cream
500g pot thick, full-fat yoghurt, e.g. Total Greek
6-8 big meringues, preferably homemade
rosewater, to taste

Hull and quarter the strawberries and mix them with the honey and orange flower water. You may need more or less honey, depending on how sweet your strawberries are (I had the disappointing kind that look big and juicy and ripe but make your mouth pucker when you bite into them.)

Whip the cream to soft peaks. It should more or less double in size. By the time you’ve done this, the strawberries should have started to exude some juices. Stir the softly whipped cream and yoghurt into the strawberries.

Crush up the meringues roughly if they’re not already broken, and fold them into the strawberry mix. I like quite a meringue-heavy mess, so adjust if you don’t.

Stir in a tsp or so of rosewater. This will give it a more pronounced sort of exotic flavour, but you can always leave it out if you don’t like the flowery stuff.

In part two of my helpful guide to what foods to eat when suffering with a cold/flu/manflu we deal with the worst stage of all: the cold sweats. In this state you have most likely moved your duvet onto the sofa where you can more comfortably feel sorry for yourself with the TV and a collection of medication within easy reach. You’ll probably want something non-challenging to watch. I like a street dance film on such occasions. Luckily there are plenty of them, and the plot is always the same, so no worries if you drop off – just make sure you’re awake for the final big competition finale.

But what if you’re feeling a bit peckish and want something equally bland and non-challenging to eat with your DVD? But both proper cooking and going to the shops seem too much effort? Well, if you have pasta and parmesan in stock (and I’m assuming if you read a food blog, you do) then I have the answer for you…

Cacio e pepe

Serves 1

I first discovered this as sick person food via Orangette, the source of many great things. Her powers of description being far superior to mine, I should probably just recommend you read her post on the subject, but should you be in need of such a simple thing I hereby present a UK-ized version of the recipe.

100g dried spaghetti
30g-ish chunk parmesan (you’re really meant to use pecorino, which is probably better, but also less likely to be in your fridge)
lots of black pepper

Cook the spaghetti in very salty boiling water.

Grate the parmesan/pecorino finely.

When the spaghetti’s done, scoop out a small amount of the pasta water in a cup. Drain the pasta, sitting the colander above the serving bowl that you will be eating the pasta from so the hot water drains into the bowl. Swill it around and empty it (this warms your serving bowl). Don’t dry the bowl, as the starchy water helps moisten the pasta.

Tip the drained pasta into your bowl.

Tip most of the grated cheese over the pasta and stir it about. If it seems dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and grind lots of black pepper on to finish.

Retire to sofa.

I have had a cold for two weeks and counting. It peaked a week or so ago with hot sweats, multiple body aches and a permanent fistful of tissue before gradually tailing off to its present state of lingering not-quite-wellness. After plenty of time for reflection on the various appetites of a person in the throes of poorliness, I have come to the following conclusions:

Stage one: a desire for strong tastes discernible through a blocked nose, preferably Asian and therefore with a vaguely healthy, healing aspect and a good dose of chilli, garlic and ginger to chase out the germs.

Stage two: a descent into cravings for bland, comforting stodge, junk and nostalgic childhood snacks. Anything which can be purchased on a trip to the corner shop in tracksuit/pyjama bottoms or delivered to the door.

Stage three: a determined attempt at fighting back accompanied by feeling well enough to cook again. Restorative, calming, soul-soothing preparations are the order of the day here.

I think I’ve found the perfect recipe for each of the three stages of the journey into sickness and back (sparing the worse elements of the middle stage). I hereby present to you part one: the sniffles…

Fish-fragrant aubergines

Serves 1 hungry sick person, or 1 with leftovers

Another gem from Fuchsia Dunlop’s ‘Sichuan Cookery’. There’s no fish in it, as you might think – the name refers to the method of cooking, which involves the same ingredients as would typically be used to prepare fish. Last time Tom made it for me, he inadvertently halved the recipe but left in the full quantities of garlic and ginger, which is how I’ve reproduced it here for extra immune system defence.

One more note – you really have to deep-fry the aubergines; I once tried shallow frying them and they took forever, cooked unevenly and soaked up a horrifying amount of oil. It doesn’t have to be really deep, deep frying, but the aubergine pieces should be immersed.

1 large aubergine
enough oil to deep-fry
1 tbsp Sichuanese chilli bean paste
3 tsp finely chopped ginger
3 tsp finely chopped garlic
75ml stock (preferably homemade chicken, if you have it)
scant tsp sugar
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
3/4 tsp potato flour, mixed with 1 tbsp cold water (cornflour can be substituted, but you may need to use more)
3/4 tsp Chinkiang or Chinese black vinegar
2 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Cut the aubergine into evenly sized chunks, slightly larger than bite-sized. Sprinkle the pieces with 3/4 tsp salt and leave for a minimum of 30 minutes to draw out the bitter juices (if you are using the smaller oriental sized aubergines, you can skip this step).

Heat the deep-frying oil in a wok to 180-200c, until it’s just beginning to smoke. Add the aubergines in batches and deep fry for 3-4 minutes until soft right through and golden brown on the outside. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll.

Drain off the deep-frying oil, give the wok a quick rinse if necessary, and return it to a high heat with 1-2 tbsp oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry for about 20 seconds, so the oil is red and the paste evenly distributed. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry for another 20-30 seconds, watching that they don’t burn.

Add the stock, sugar and soy sauce and mix well. Taste and season with salt if necessary.

Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and simmer gently for a few minutes. Sprinkle over the potato flour mixture and stir until the sauce thickens. Stir in the spring onions and vinegar and leave for a few seconds, just so the onions are no longer raw. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

I like this with plain rice or soba noodles.

From Fuchsia Dunlop’s ‘Sichuan Cookery’