Friday, 20 January 2012

A Healthy Brownie?

I am a small time, stupid risk taker. I'm the kind of person who will pop into the supermarket for bananas and milk, and therefore not take a basket and end up with so much stuff piled up in my arms, something clamped in my armpit and struggling to the till will spy an offer on washing powder and think 'grrr, i'll try it' and hold it somewhere between my chest and my chin. Inevitably something has to give.
I will also fill my water bottle up in the gym, with one hand on the tap and the other clutching my bottle together with my iphone thinking 'I really hope my ipod doesnt get wet'
Another thing I do really quite a lot is heat a pan of oil and see if I can skin and chop 2 onions in time, or bake a cake and leave the house. 
If it's a 40minute bake, I know I can run to the high street in that time, if I bump into someone I keep conversation short and tell them I really have to go, I have a cake in the oven at home. I wonder if anyone believes me.
Anyway, if you're the same, or just impatient, or even scared of baking, this recipe for raw brownies will be right up your street. 
It started with an experiment. I love my brownie recipe and so do my friends and family but they may hate me if they saw how much butter and sugar was in those gooey squares of joy.
So, the raw brownie. Trust me, they are yummy. There is no chocolate, no eggs, no flour, no sugar, no butter. This is guilt free and good for you.
In a food processor... blend...
1/2 cup of cocao nibs
2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups pitted Medjool dates (not any old dates)
1 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp raw cacao (not cocoa)

Now, press into a tin lined with greaseproof and leave in the fridge for at least one hour. These last days in the fridge and are best eaten slightly chilled. I cut mine into hearts, you don't have to.
The other brownies were baked, and it was a mad experiment and I used all these ingredients and you know what, they were good but the after taste of courgette lingered and so I need to work on this one a bit!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Spice Menu at Corrigan's Mayfair

Last night I was invited to a spice demo in the kitchen of Corrigan's with Richard Corrigan, head chef Chris McGowan and Arun Kapil founder of Green Saffron.
These guys are so passionate about their offering and their energy bounced off one another.  Arun is one of those people, so enthusiastic about what he does, so eager to share his knowledge. His family business ship the most wonderful quality, fresh spices from farms in India and supply not only professional kitchens but also home cooks.
Spices (below) the one in the middle is Amchoor powder, made from dried, unripe mangoes, it's like a natural sweet and sour. 
Richard and Arun together with Atul Kochar of Benares have designed a bar menu of small Indian inspired sharing plates and a spice infused cocktail menu to boot. We watched two of the dishes being prepared, the lobster and the grey mullet and then took seats at the bar to sample the menu. Had I only been presented with the finished result of these dishes I may not attempt them at home but really this is simple cooking, just using the freshest ingredients and letting the spice sing.
An example of which is so beautifully showcased in the crab salad (above). Aromatic black cardamon seed infused rose water and blood orange salad was so fragrant but harmonious enough for the crab to hold its place. I always crush my cardamon seeds but it really isn't necessary and in a delicate dish such as this, they look very pretty whole. Arun also told us not to keep spices longer than 5 months, to buy little and often and not to roast all the spices before adding them to dishes as you can often lose the flavour.
Spiced, roasted lobster demo
Richard took inspiration for his Lord Lurgan's Broth from a Beef tea recipe from a 17th Century book given to him when he opened the restaurant. This was like a warming, cleaner and lighter take on a beef Consommé. It was the perfect dish to start with, perfectly spiced and with vegetables, vintage basmati rice and shredded Chicken oyster. My mum showed me when I was little the cook's perk of the chicken oysters!
 Crisp Spiced Grey Mullet, Muhammara red pepper relish - definitely one to make at home.
Atul kochar’s rogan josh- Hardwick farm mutton shoulder with sweet potatoes
 Spiced, Roasted Lobster with more of that fluffy aged basmati
What a wonderful evening we had, so informative but fun too. Also got to chew Arun's ear off with questions I had on particular spices and farming methods I've had niggling at me since my India trip this time last year and to my delight it turns out he sells the Kerelan curry leaves I was banging on about here last year.
I highly recommend trying the bar menu for a more relaxed dining experience and the Spice menu only runs until Saturday and it is not to be missed. You can order 3,5,7 or 9 dishes and Nicholas at the bar is a top guy and will look after you.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Quinoa tortilla

I think going into January on a detox is a bad idea. Going things cold turkey and all that just seems silly. If you are anything like me your clothes are feeling a little tight and starving yourself just after a month of gorging yourself will be hell. So I am going on a health kick. Like a small tap of the foot, not a kick in the ribs.  I've started with something I make a lot. Tortilla. But instead of using yummy waxy potatoes that I simmer in oil for the best tasting tortilla, I've swapped it for Quinoa. I've banged on about the health benefits of Quinoa before, I promise this is no compromise, it's delicious and I've made it twice this week. If feeling lazy I buy the red and white quinoa which is precooked in a vacpack from M&S.

1 very large onion
60g of feta cheese
2tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
6 eggs
150g cooked quinoa

Fry off the onions until they are browned and caramelised then add the garlic on a low heat for 2 minutes. 
Crumble the feta over the onions and season with chilli salt and pepper
Whisk eggs and mix with cooked quinoa. Pour mix in the pan and slowly bring the cooked sides in to allow the raw egg to take its place. Turn the heat down for 3 minutes. 
Using a plate, placed upside down on the tortilla, flip quickly and slide back into the pan. Turn the heat off and leave the tortilla to slowly cook through in the residual heat. I like it when it is slightly gooey in the middle. 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Beef Tataki

I went to Reiko's last night for dinner and dun dun durrr she didn't cook Japanese! She made roast lamb with kosheri, stuffed mushrooms and ratatouille and it was yummy. She did make green tea icecream and aduki bean icecream though,so we all got our Japanese fix.
I had my friend Jo over for lunch the previous day and cooked Japanese, some things from Reiko's book and some just made up. She really liked the Beef Tataki I did for starter, so here is the recipe from me to Jo via Reiko! I left out a step in the recipe of dipping the hot beef into soy and mirin as I didn't have much time on my hands.

Serves 4
1 large onion thinly sliced
440ml cold water mixed with 2tbsp salt
4 garlic cloves, VERY thinly sliced
5tbsp veg oil
400g beef fillet
100ml soy sauce
100ml mirin
6-8tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
Put the onions in a bowl and leave for  15 mins, then rinse and drain by squeezing out the water.
Make the garlic chips by bringing a small pan of oil to medium heat and gently fry the garlic until golden, not brown!
Sear the beef on all sides to seal in the juices and continue to cook for 5 minutes (or more if you don't like it too rare)
Mix the soy, mirin, tahini, vinegar and sugar for the marinade.
Cut the beef into 5-7mm thick slices and place on top of mounds of onions, top with the sauce and garlic chips, I added a little spring onion as my plate wasn't very colourful. 

Posh nibbles

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

My foodie weekend in Paris

So my adventure started at the end of the Summer when I met Nancy. Nancy came to our place in Spain for a Yossum Yoga retreat armed with homemade banana bread, cookies and cheese from Paris. She would pop her head into the kitchen now and again and ask about my recipes, 'Did you use rice flour in this?' or 'Have you ever made Kale chips? haven' you want to know a good recipe?' She was just as passionate as I am about baking, about experimenting and about talking about food 24/7, I had met my match. I was so envious she lived in Paris, I have been a few times before but always for the sightseeing or, the last time a University Architecture trip and I hadn't explored the amazing things Paris had to offer on my plate.
This is Nancy, crazy that in 4 days we didn't take pictures of us anywhere, only this one of her in the doorway of her friends tart cafe in Marais.
 So, it was a bit of a last minute decision to go. Nancy had said I was welcome anytime, so I took her as true to her word and I hopped on the Eurostar. I knew this could potentially be a pricey weekend, and so after huffing at the prices of hotels on the internet for some time, I went to and found myself a room in someones apartment to rent for a few nights. That someone turned out to be Mary, a wonderful girl to spend the weekend with in her homely home. Here, this is where I stayed.
I loved everything about her apartment, so warm and full of character, it was also super conveniently located. Mary works in social media and couldn't believe I wasn't on twitter. So, now after a quick tutorial, I am. Although I haven't said much yet...will keep you posted on that one!
So, no sooner am I in my room, I'm off out, for buckwheat crepes at Breizh Cafe, Rue Vieille du Temple. These photos are terrible but I'm going to put them up, for memories sake. It was a beautiful little place, like a cosy wood cabin and serving bowls of cider with your crepes. Nancy and I both had goats cheese, honey, pinenuts, grapes, raisins and salad and then, for dessert I had caramalised pears in a salted caramel crepe with vanilla ice cream, perfect. The pretty girl in the last photo was our Spanish waitress who had been in living in Paris all of two weeks and jumped at the chance to speak English to me, she was charming and made the evening that much more special.
Saturday morning. The moment I have been waiting for, for literally 3 years since I read David Lebovitz' blog post on a small but perfectly formed speciality food shop in the 2nd district, 58 rue Tiquetonne. It's called G.Detou and it's a play on words, unlike the kitchenware shop around the corner A.Simon, G.Detou is not the owners name. It means J'ai Detou which translates as 'I have everything' and sure enough he does! I was in pure heaven, with a smile plastered on my face and eyes that couldn't have widened any more. 
Shelves buckling with tins of mustard, pate, liqueurs! See all the pots of colour below? They stock every crystalised petal you can imagine, I bought giant rose petals and 'Perles d'agrumes Citron Vert' and 'Brisures Lilas Roses lissees' - remember I sprinkled those on my kabocha cakes? Anyone who knows me are probably relieved they weren't with me, I spent almost an hour in there, picking up everything from black sugar to Iranian pistachios and Chilean raisins, my wallet took a hit.
Dehillin and Mora were the most wonderful cookware shops, they were actually inspirational, I had so many ideas perusing.
And then we headed to Marais to have lunch at Rose Bakery. I have wanted to go here for years too. I had one of their cute square tarts and salad, complimentary sourdough and butter and a pot of tea. Then a short walk away to Tartes Kluger on rue du Forez for a peak at Nancy's friends place. - I wish there were more places like this in London. We then walked past Poilane where a shop assistant who at first glance looked like he hadn't wandered far out of the shop to have a cigarette, was actually chewing on a piece of sourdough, probably as addictive.
Pretty Cream puffs at Popelini
Loaf cakes on display at Rose Bakery
Poilane loaves with the signature 'P'
Tartes Kluger
Oh and this is a cute place Nanashi owned by Kaori Endo who worked at the Rose Bakery and now has opened her own cafe, Japanaese, opposite Tartes Kluger. I love the little open kitchen bench in the street window.
The outdoor market
Nancy bought some bass for a home cooked Japanese meal at her beautiful apartment for the following night inspired by Eric at the breakaway Japanese Kitchen, yum.
Nancy also introduced me to some outstanding teas, think loose black tea with toasted coconut and also Polish cakes from her Polish roots. I've never seen so many poppy seeds being used in one cake!
mmm cheese
More tea at Mariage Frères
And then, after a night in Bastille, sinking cocktails in Mojito lab with one old, and some new friends I needed comforting in the morning. So, on my last morning in Paris, I met with Nancy again at her favourite Boulangerie I don't need to tell you how good the patisserie is here, just look at the hundreds of layers in those croissants, I took loads home and a couple of things for the eurostar home. 
And although I haven't shared anything with you non foodie that I did, how cute is this water bowl in the wall for dogs? Only in Paris. I really do love Paris, and I left plenty of things on my list to discover..until the next time.