Monday, 26 March 2012

Sticky Lime & Ginger Chicken with Mango Salsa

Sticky Lime & Ginger Chicken with Mango Salsa
Wow, winter has well and truly had its sorry arse whipped by spring, only for the upstart that is summer to come along and tell it "do one" even before it's got its blossom-clad feet under the table. To celebrate my first sunburn of the year thanks to a vigorous bout of gardening at the weekend, I whipped up this fruity and flavoursome feast. Sweet and tangy sticky chicken and a mouthful of fresh mango salsa with a hearty kick of chilli – simple, yet utterly amazing. Serves 2.

3 pieces stem ginger in syrup, drained and finely diced
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
finely grated zest of 2 limes
juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 skinless chicken thighs

For the mango salsa:
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 chilli, finely chopped
small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp brown sugar
small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
small bunch fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1. Place chicken and all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Stir well and chill for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 230C/gas 8. Spread chicken in a ceramic dish or foil-lined tray and pour over any remaining marinade. Cook for 20 minutes, turning once halfway.
3. To make salsa, place all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Serve chicken and salsa with steamed rice or salad.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Irish Beef & Guinness Stew with Herb Dumplings and Colcannon Mash

Irish Beef & Guinness Stew with Herb Dumplings and Colcannon Mash
St Patrick's Day does my head in. Actually, that's not true, I've nothing against the Irish (I have some very funny memories of Dublin and I've been to Cork a couple of times and had a great time on both occasions) and they could certainly teach the English a thing or two about celebrating and being proud of national identity without a) worry that you're offending anyone, and b) becoming horribly boorish and arrogant and, yes, actually offending someone. No, it's the plastic fakeness of St Paddy's Day that bothers me (people calling it St Paddy's Day, being one – drunken English idiots wearing Guinness hats, being the other). So when March 17th comes around I'll usually be as far away from a night out in a city centre pub as possible (to be honest, with two young kids this is not that difficult – and not that different from any other night of the year, sadly). Instead, I'll be in the kitchen making this thing of beauty while talking in a mock Oirish accent and laughing like a leprechaun at how they say "turd" instead on "third". Sláinte. Serves 5-6.

2 tbsp plain flour
750g braising steak, cut into chunks
275g streaky bacon, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
350ml Guinness
200g onions, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
400g carrots, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 beef stock cubes
2 tbsp tomato purée
125g button mushrooms
salt and pepper

For the dumplings:
140g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
55g butter
½ tsp salt
1 tsp parsley, chopped
2-3 tbsp water

For the colcannon mash:
200g savoy cabbage
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 tsp salt
50ml milk
50g butter
4 spring onions, finely sliced

1. Preheat oven to 190C/gas 5.
2. Toss the cubed beef in the flour mixed with salt and pepper until lightly coated.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the bacon and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove bacon leaving fat and oil, then add the meat in batches to allow a good brown crust to form. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until browned all over.
5. Place the bacon, meat and oils into a large casserole dish (deglaze the pan with a touch of Guinness first to remove all the flavour, also adding to the dish). Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, Guinness, stock cubes and tomato purée. Top up with hot water if necessary. Cover with lid and place in middle shelf of oven for approx 3 hours.
6. Bring a large pan of water to boil. Season with salt and add potatoes. Ten minutes after potatoes have been on, add the cabbage and cook for further 10 minutes until tender.
7. Mash well and add milk and butter that has been warmed in a small pan, adding more salt if you want. Fold in the chopped spring onions. Keep warm.
For the dumplings, rub together the butter, flour, salt and baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the parsley and add a little water at a time until the mix forms a dough. Pinch out clumps of dough and roll into balls.
Remove lid of stew and check consistency and flavor, adding mushrooms. Place dumplings on top of stew and and put back in oven uncovered for a further 30 minutes.
10. Serve with the colcannon mash

Friday, 16 March 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns
Ok, here are the things I like about Easter, in no particular order: two extra days off work, chocolate eggs, normally an extra game of football to go to, a big family roast feast and hot cross buns. That's about it, really. I certainly don't do church or religion and I find the whole story behind Easter the biggest borefest ever conceived. I don't even know if you're supposed to be happy or sad. At least you know where you are with Christmas and it's got some bloody catchy songs to sing along to. Maybe if Slade released a toe-tapping Good Friday single to play in the shops every year it might not be so bad. "IT'S EASTERRRRR!!!!" Easter just doesn't have an exclusivity about it – chocolate eggs and hot cross buns are available to buy and scoff almost before the final knockings of the Christmas stilton is digested and flushed down the toilet, so by the time Easter comes around there's just a massive "so what?". And before I receive any emails (please) piously stating that the hot cross bun has the Christian symbol of the crucifixion on its sweet, sticky dome, I shrug my shoulders in indifference in your general direction. My dad used to do Spot The Ball religiously every week (and probably prayed to god for a big win in the process), marking his entry with hundreds of bloody crosses, and for what? (Actually he did win £500 once, so maybe the big beardy fella in the sandals was listening after all.) Look, it's a cross. On a fruity bun. And they get a big thumbs up from me. Other denominations are available. Here's how to make them, thanks to Felicity Cloake of The Guardian. Makes 16

200ml milk, plus a little more for glazing

3 cardamom pods, bruised

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves
¼ tsp grated nutmeg

14g dried yeast

50g golden caster sugar, plus extra to glaze

450g strong white flour

100g butter

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground ginger

3 eggs
150g currants

50g mixed peel

3 tbsp plain flour

1. Heat 200ml milk gently in a pan along with the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg until just boiling, and then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour. Bring back up to blood temperature and then mix the strained milk with the yeast and 1 tsp sugar.
2. Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and grate over the butter. Rub in with your fingertips, or in a food mixer, until well mixed, and then add the rest of the sugar and the salt and ginger. Beat together 2 of the eggs.
3. Make a well in the middle, and add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture. Stir in, adding enough milk to make a soft dough – it shouldn't look at all dry or tough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, then lightly grease another bowl, and put the dough into it. Cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – this will probably take a couple of hours.
4. Tip it out on to a lightly greased work surface and knead for a minute or so, then flatten it out and scatter over the fruit and peel. Knead again to spread the fruit around evenly, then divide into 16 equal pieces and roll these into bun shapes. Put on lined baking trays then cover and put in a warm place to prove until doubled in size.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and beat together the last egg with a little milk. Mix the plain flour with a pinch of salt and enough cold water to make a stiff paste. Paint the top of each bun with egg wash, and then, using a piping bag or teaspoon, draw a thick cross on the top of each. Put into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until golden.
6. Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp caster sugar with 1 tbsp boiling water. When the buns come out of the oven, brush them with this before transferring to a rack to cool. Eat with lots of butter.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Burgers & Burger Buns

Hamburger and Fries
There's a fashion these days for burgers to be the size of rugby balls. You can't go into a pub, it seems, without the obligatory gigantic colon-clogging homemade version served with bacon, mushrooms, blue cheese, onion rings, egg, and probably a pork chop as well. Oh, and that'll be £15, thank you very much, and we'll throw in eight chips stacked up Jenga-style. If you're reading this expecting a recipe for one of these 1lb-plus meaty monsters that you'll be crapping out for days, then you're going to be disappointed. Look, there are hundreds of recipes for weird and wonderful burgers out there – they're not exactly difficult to make. However, what this recipe will show is that simplicity is sometimes better, because these burgers contain just two ingredients: 1. Meat. 2. Salt. That's it. Seriously, no onions, no breadcrumbs, no eggs. Meat and salt – not even any oil on my hotplate. And the size? About 125g each, which is kinda a quarter-pounder size (and when I make them again I'll probably make them even smaller – about 85g should do it).
What you need is decent beef with a meat to fat ratio of about 70%-30%. You can use a mixture of brisket and chuck and get your butcher to grind it for you, or just buy some good-quality mince, avoiding anything too lean. Of course, add anything to your finished burger that takes your fancy – the one above simply has mayo, lettuce, tomato, American cheese and ketchup – but let the beef be the star. And, yes, I did make the burger buns as well, the recipe for which comes from Comme Ça in Los Angeles, a restaurant that knows a thing or two about burgers.

Burger Buns (makes 8)
250ml warm water
3 tbsp warm milk

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
750g bread flour

80g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Sesame seeds (optional) 

1. Combine water, milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so it can be a bit messy, but keep in mind that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. Try to leave them tackier than you would a round loaf.
3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover with clingfilm and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours.
4. Line a baking sheet with grease-proof paper. Divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of clingfilm lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one hour.
5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 200C. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Burgers (makes 4-6 burgers depending on size):
500g good-quality beef mince

1. Divide the mince into 4 (125g each) or 6 (80-85g each). Form into burger patties – roll between hands and flatten with the palm. Excuse me for writing the following, but try to avoid handling the meat too much. Do not season at this stage as the salt will draw out any moisture, leaving dry burgers when cooked. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.
2. Heat a frying pan, griddle pan or hotplate to a hot heat. Do not add any oil. When ready to cook, remove the burgers from the fridge and make an indentation in the top of each with your thumb (seen it done before, seems to help cook evenly).
3. Season the burgers on each side with salt. Be generous here, as beef can take a lot of seasoning. Place the burgers on the hot pan/plate and leave for 2 minutes. Do not attempt to flip them yet as they will just fall apart. After two minutes, enough oil will be released and the burgers will come away easily.
4. Flip, and again leave for two minutes. After this, cook to taste, maybe another minute or so each side.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Murat du Carta Chilli-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mehmet Murat from Embassy Electrical Supplies
Where exactly can you buy the best olive oil in London? Maybe Harrods has some exotic Spanish number, with olives lovingly hand-picked by the finest dusky maidens, and served in a phallic diamond-encrusted bottle? Or how about that posh Italian deli with the dried pasta hanging in the window and Luigi behind the counter with the sausage down his shorts? Or perhaps you could try that tiny electrical store down that back street in Clerkenwell, a place crammed from floor to ceiling with cables and light bulbs and switches and other technical electrical shit, but also with the finest olive oil in one corner. Er, what? That's right, an electrical store selling what The Guardian, no less, recommends as one of the top three olive oils money can buy. New York magazine even went so far as calling it the best olive oil in England, but they're Americans so what do they know? It's the equivalent of finding a specialist bookstore selling the finest kobe beef – Slaughterstone's, if you will. Welcome to bizarro world.
Ok, so here's the background. Embassy Electrical Supplies is a small family run business owned by Mehmet Murat, who inherited his parents' olive groves in Cyprus and Turkey. He now produces and sells the olive oils out of a corner of his shop, and via a very modest website. As well as the chilli-infused Cypriot oil I bought, there are also basil, garlic, lemon and mandarin varieties. But it's not just oil on sale, as the deep, pungent smell of oregano that smacks you right in the nose will testify – there are herbs, spices and olives as well. Oh, and behind the tiniest of counters is a poster advertising the family's villas for hire. It really is the oddest shop I've been in, but I love it.
Olive oil prices range from £4 for a 250ml bottle to £22 for a 2.5-litre flagon, however, as I was buying for some friends as well I managed to get a very generous discount on four bottles of 500ml for £20. Phenomenal value, considering the prices you can pay for oils of no better quality. The oil itself is incredibly smooth to taste – it's rich, grassy and warming, with just a hint of heat from the chilli. It will be delicious to drizzle over something like grilled fish or a pasta dish such as arrabiata. I imagine the lemon variety would be amazing as well, especially with salads.
Embassy Electrical Supplies is an absolute gem of a find and I can't wait for the next fuse to blow at Albion Tavern towers.

Embassy Electrical Supplies
76 Compton Street
London EC1V 0BN

T: 020 7251 4721