Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A Dish a Day: Polpetto’s Clams with Wild Garlic

Clams with wild garlic and crème fraiche

Today the spotlight is on the clam. Particularly the ones in the newly opened Polpetto in Soho: fiddly to get to and salty to taste, slightly sweet on the chew and enveloped in a thin coating of sauce (crème fraiche with wilted wild garlic). The fingers of focaccia are torn off to mop up the juices and collect the flecks of wild garlic flowers.

In between dishes are sips from a tumbler of a sweet bellini, softly fizzy and pink with rose and rhubarb.

The second best dish consists of slivers of cauliflower with the edges browned and wizened, a sculptural shard next to plump scallops, and hidden under the folded fat that is lardo. All on a cream-coloured purée of truffled cauliflower, which is utterly moreish.

Actually, joint second is a dish of Marinda tomatoes from Sicily which are naked bar a modest lick of oil. In short, I recommend that you visit Polpetto in Berwick Street, because it seems at home in its new home and you’ll soon feel at home there too. Especially when you've a bellini or two in hand.

The rude bottom of a Marina tomato
Polpetto 11 Berwick St, London W1F 0PL 020 7439 8627

Read my first thoughts on the original Polpetto.

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Monday, 10 February 2014

A Dish a Day: Blood Orange Posset

Ramblings from a voracious eater 

on the dish that made her day

The blood orange posset

Once a year, around January and February, the sunset colours of blood oranges give us wintry cheer. The oranges that we have are from Sicily - from the foothills of Mount Etna, so Riverford tells me, and the blush of the segments varies from modest to deep crimson - evoking those Mediterranean hues of the evening sky.

After considering a granita or a jelly, I decide to make a posset. I haven’t many oranges left (after many are consumed nakedly fresh, without fanfare, and as instant cure for the effects from the-night-before) and posset doesn't require a lot of juice. With its use of three ingredients – oranges, sugar and cream, this is possibly one of the simplest puddings to make while looking as though you've put in abundant effort.
Squeezing the orange
Serves 4-6
125ml fresh blood orange juice (about 2 oranges)
500ml double cream
115-120g caster sugar (to taste. I don’t like it too sweet)
Zest from one orange
Blood orange segments - from 1 or 2 oranges
Shortbread to serve

Put all the ingredients into a pan - I love pouring the blood orange juice in last and watching the ruby liquid marble the cream as I stir with a wooden spoon. Like thick paints that you mix in primary school, watch the cream turn a pale peach (not unlike the colour of strawberry angel delight).

Heat until it reaches a simmer, then cook on the lowest heat for five minutes. Take off the heat and cool at room temperature. This should take an hour or two. Stretch clingfilm over the mixture to prevent a skin forming.

Served up

Pour into champagne coupe glasses and chill in the fridge until set (another three hours at least). Garnish with two segments of blood orange and serve immediately with a thin shortbread.

More reading
Diana Henry writes a fascinating article about the blood orange here.

Friday, 7 February 2014

A Dish a Day: Slow roasted lamb shoulder on a bed of potatoes

Ramblings from a voracious eater 
on the dish that made her day
Sunday lunch on a Tuesday: lamb shoulder and potatoes

A Sunday lunch meal for a Tuesday night supper. Not everyone has the luxury of pottering in the kitchen in the daytime, making friends for five hours with a juicy lamb shoulder on a layer of sliced potatoes. But luckily for us our friend Stew has; he is executing a Tom Kerridge recipe - a one tray dish for five hungry friends (six if you include the dog, who aches for that bone). The tender meat is a little garlicky, has hints of rosemary. The potatoes are soaked with juices from the lamb, they are salted and encrusted with it. Half an hour before serving, Stew has to decant some of the lamb juices and put the bed of potatoes (sans lamb) back in the oven to crust them up even more, and these become the most coveted bits that everyone wants to steal off one another's plates.

I find lamb the most communal of the meats; all round the table partake in the shredding (in particular the hapless labradoodle Ted whose wet nose pops up every five minutes to see whether we've finished).

Stew forgets to tell us that there's another course before the trifle: that he's put a camembert in the oven topped with caramelised onions, served - in wholesome manner - with homemade bread. We make noises and grumble that we would have been more abstinent with our second helpings - both of lamb and last bits of potato in the tray that we dig straight into with our spoons. But in truth, we really wouldn't have.

Watch Tom Kerridge's video recipe of slow-cooked lamb shoulder with boulangere potatoes here.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A Dish a Day: Tom Yum Soup - a Monday night supper

Ramblings from a voracious eater 
on the dish that made her day
A quick bowl of steaming Tom Yum soup

Today, supper is a Thai Tom Yum soup - a warming furnace that sets innards alight; igniting the body with its head-clearing properties. The broth itself is clean and wholesome, but when you add those classic four flavours - sweet, salty, hot and sour - right at the end, the soup is transformed into something spectacular. Most enjoyable is the rasp of chilli that hits the back of your throat just when you least expect it. 

I had some chicken bones in the freezer that I used to make a quick stock, but if you have ready made stock, this soup for two can be cooked in ten minutes. 

Tom Yum ingredients:
coriander, lemongrass, chilli, ginger, kaffir lime leaves

Simply heat up a litre of light chicken stock until boiling. Turn the the stock down to a simmer and add all the fragrants: a stick of lemongrass, a few slices of ginger, a few slices of galangal (or a teaspoon of paste), a handful of coriander stems and 2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves - all bruised slightly with a pestle. The flavours will infuse perfectly after a 5 minute simmer. 

Fish out the spices, add a big handful of king prawns and cook until pink. Turn off the heat add some splashes of fish sauce, a teaspoon of palm sugar, a generous squeeze of lime and plenty of sliced chilli (birdseye is the best - and as much as you can manage) - enough to blast through the February chill. Garnish with coriander leaves and a slices of spring onion. 

Serve with rice and feel restored. 

Other Tom Yum recipes

I'm a big fan of Felicity Cloake's 'Perfect' series. Read about her perfect Tom Yum soup here.

Andrew Kojima's version for the Telegraph is quick and easy. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Dish a Day: Beef Rendang (for ten)

Ramblings from a voracious eater on the dish that made her day
Beef rendang and green beans with prawns and coconut
‘It’s England v France on Saturday, can we host the match?’ he asks. It’s rugby season. The Six Nations is about to begin. I can tell he wants to cook beouf bourguignon (or to be patriotic, beef stew).

I’ve got other ideas. I’ve a craving for spices and chilli and put my case in for Nonya food from Malaysia. I have in mind the deep, complex textures of beef rendang; pieces of beef shin cooked down in coconut milk until tender and spiced with the flavours of South-East Asia: lemongrass, galangal, chilli… ‘Indulge me,’ I plead.

‘Okay, but what’s that got to do with England (or France for that matter)?’


‘I suppose there is Rory and Tony Underwood…’

Rory Underwood was a rugby hero of mine when I was younger, the England wing whose Malaysian-Chinese heritage made our family proud whenever he was on the pitch. He reminded me of my older brother, my other rugby hero (though only for about three years, and on a cold, Hertfordshire school pitch). When both he and his brother Tony played for England, the camera would pan onto their diminutive mother, who fiercely cheered at the sides. We adored her in our household, and enjoyed the incongruity of stern Chinese mother letting rip at a rugby match.

And so the conversation goes on and the ‘Underwood menu’ is born: beef rendang, green beans in a light prawn and coconut sauce, and tamarind chicken. At kick-off, the rendang is ready; each piece coated with four hours of flavour. It’s had a lot of oven love.

England loses. By a sliver of a breath. The room is inconsolable. There’s only one thing to do, and that’s to tuck into seconds.

Bruising the rendang spices before putting in the spice grinder

Beef Rendang (serves 8-10)

In the past, I’ve cooked rendang with more spices – star anise, cinnamon, cardamom. This time I used a recipe from ‘The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook: Nonya Cuisine’ as a base, which calls for minimal spices. I've also adapted proportions and cooking time (her recipe calls for boiling for 30 minutes, but the shin would be toughened by rapid cooking).

3 onions, sliced
1.8kg beef shin, diced
3 x 400ml cans of coconut milk
3 slices of tamarind block soaked in 400ml boiling water, then paste squeezed through a sieve (available from Chinese supermarkets)
2 handfuls of dessicated coconut – toasted in a dry pan until light brown. These give texture to the tender pieces of shin
2 tablespoons palm sugar

In the spice grinder: rendang spice paste
12 slices galangal
12 slices ginger
12 cloves garlic
6 red chillies (usually made with 15 dried chillies, but I only have fresh ones)
3 stalks lemon grass (white part only)
3 tablespoons ground coriander
1 and ½ teaspoons ground cumin

Preheat the oven to 160C or 140C (fan oven).

Bruise and roughly chop the rendang paste ingredients, before either pounding (hard work) or spice grinding into a paste.

In a big heavy bottomed pan, add the spice paste and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to make sure every piece of beef is mixed well with the coconut milk.

Half cover the pan with a lid and stew in the oven for 2 hours. Bring up to the stove top and skim the fat off with a spoon. It’s worth doing this as there will be a lot.

Bubble for another 1-2 hours on a medium heat until a third of the gravy is left. Stir frequently to avoid the stew sticking to the bottom of the pan. The stew should be quite dry and change colour to a deep deep brown.

Serve with rice.

Other rendang recipes

Feast to the World contends that rendang doesn’t have coconut milk or tamarind in it. I look forward to trying his recipe here.

For another variation, here’s a recipe for ox cheek and venison rendang.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Dish a Day: The Rum Kitchen’s Jerk Fried Chicken Thighs

Ramblings from a voracious eater on the dish that made her day
The jerk chicken garnished with onion rings
Though a lapsed vegetarian’s weakness may be bacon, mine would be steak or fried chicken. And as this is a celebratory dinner (heralding one promotion, and the end of the week), we ought to eat in celebratory manner. Hence two rum sours, one classic daiquiri and a portion of fried chicken. 

Outside the Rum Kitchen are the clean lines of Carnaby Street’s Kingly Court. Inside is a holiday of Caribbean colour, tactile waitresses, reggae and rum. Diners are here for one reason only: to party. If they aren’t partying now, they will certainly be partying later. All this place needs is to do away with the tables, install a beach and a pool the colour of the ocean, and the beach shack it so aspires to be is complete. There is no standing on ceremony here, it’s fingers in as the food arrives. The chicken is crunchy with a heavy-handed deep nut-brown batter but delicately spiced - too delicately perhaps (I’d like more allspice and ginger in mine). Stacked on top are onion rings (light and crisp), pineapple slaw (where is the pineapple?), and ‘rum jerk bbq ketchup’ (satisfying, fruitily tart and scotch bonnet hot). It’s not the best jerk chicken I’ve had; I’m not sure whether my St Kitts sister-in-law would approve, but when you’re nursing that daiquiri and you know the lie of the evening land ahead, it will be the best £7.50 you have ever spent. 

The Classic Daiquiri

Rum Kitchen, 1st Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby, Soho, W1B 5PW

The Rum Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Friday, 31 January 2014

A dish a day: Bocca di Lupo’s Rabbit Saltimbocca

The voracious eater on the dish that made her day
Every now and then, an evening falls into place. When you can, with half closed eyes, sit back and appreciate how right it feels and let it swim over you in that moment. Last night, London thrilled in a way I’d forgotten it could – I’d been away in dreamlike Brazil for three weeks on honeymoon; the cold rain quickly washed away any vestige of sun and samba – but wandering the streets of Soho surrounded by lights blinking and the sound of spirited drinking, I knew there was a reason this was my favourite city.

That moment last night happened in a dimly lit Bocca di Lupo, on a first date back in London with my new husband (I’m still stumbling over that word – I’m a terrible newlywed). We’d done that classic Soho thing of wandering from restaurant to restaurant after drinks, admiring yet annoyed at the queues outside each one. But of course, on the quiet of Archer Street, peering into the window of Bocca di Lupo was like looking into the warmth of your grandmother’s fireplace through a frosty window. It was irresistible. It was nostalgic. I’ll always remember my first visit here, when I ate one of the best pasta dishes of my life – rigatoni with guanciale (cured pigs cheeks); a simple dish but for some reason impossible to recreate.

To be honest, I could talk about the whole menu – the ungovernable cream of burrata (pictured) which licked the aubergine beneath, the clever clever salad of wafer thin radish and celeriac (layered with the salt tang of pecorino, bursts of sweet pomegranate, uplifted with the unmistakable whiff of truffle), the teal that was squashed open and grilled to perfection, and lay on a bed of deep red treviso.

But it was the first taste of saltimbocca that made us truly relax. We’d been frantically talking – about what Antonio Carluccio was eating (he was sitting on the next table, tucking into a treviso salad), about the future, about the crazy two weeks since coming back to work – and ate frantically to match. But when it arrived, the meal felt complete. Under a blanket of prosciutto was flattened rabbit loin – pale and glistening. Before each piece could reach our mouths, we would run it over the serving plate again, mopping all the rabbity Marsala it could; on bite - a little salty, a little sweet, a little tender, a little crisp.

After the meal, we ran over the road to Gelupo for some salted caramel and fresh mint ice cream. We huddled over a table and shared three scoops. It didn’t matter that we were in the thick of winter. This was what we were coming back for – the cold, the wet, Bocca di Lupo and a whole host of dates in the best city in the world.

Bocca di Lupo, 12 Archer Street, London, W1D 7BB, 020 7734 2223
Bocca Di Lupo on Urbanspoon
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