Sunday, 18 December 2011


On Friday I received my first ever delivery from the East London Steak Company – what a wonderful bunch! Free delivery for orders over £25 (and that’s not hard), a text ten minutes before they get to you, friendly drivers and the meat….oh, the meat. I ordered 2kg of short ribs, 2 rib eye steaks and 2kg ox cheeks. The meat is cut to order the day you receive it, and you get a little card with the provenance – the breed of beef, the farm and the owner of the farm.  I will no doubt report back on the cheeks and steak in future posts but I am concentrating on the short ribs for this one. 

I must admit I hadn’t had short ribs before but Mr Redding and I took Dad to the Bull’s Head at Strand on the Green, Chiswick for lunch a couple of weeks ago. It’s a Chef and Brewer Pub, so we were expecting competent but not outstanding food but we were pleasantly surprised. Dad’s pork belly was unctuous with great crackling and my short ribs were a revelation and I was determined to recreate it for Sunday lunch. 

Short ribs are a classic slow cooking cut where all the connective tissue melts into gorgeousness.  The recipe is simple, and it looks after itself.  So grab yourself some ribs and get cooking…. 

Serves 4 hungry people 

2kg beef short ribs, separated
1tblsp. vegetable oil
2 onions, finely sliced in half moons
2 large carrots finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Can of chopped tomatoes
250ml beef stock
250ml red wine
Couple of sprigs of thyme
Teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C 

Season the ribs with black pepper. Heat the oil in a large deepish roasting tray on the hob then brown the ribs on all sides. Add the vegetables, garlic, tomatoes, wine, beef stock, thyme and sugar, snuggle everything in together then pop in the oven and leave for three hours, when the meat should be falling off the bone. 

Remove the ribs to a large warmed serving dish and gently mash the vegetables down into the sauce. Add a little boiling water if it’s too thick. Taste and season as necessary. Pour sauce over the ribs, sprinkle over the parsley and serve. I served mine with mashed potato with a little wholegrain mustard stirred in and spring greens, finely shredded and very briefly boiled.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


You must have realised by now that I am rather partial to pig cheeks. I love the way that the muscle and gristle melt into a lovely gelatinous nugget after long slow cooking, and the rich flavour of the pork can cope with all kinds of additional flavours.  There is a huge interest in Spanish cooking at the moment, heightened by the excitement of the lovely Jose Pizarro opening his first ‘proper’ restaurant in Bermondsey Street. I went to Andalucia several years ago and was bowled over by the food – tapas in bars in Seville, wandering from one to another…tiny deep fried octopi, melting jamon, unctuous crocqettas…and then there were the main courses. At one meal I had half a roast milk fed lamb. I should have felt guilty, as the kidney was the size of a teaspoon, but the flesh was incredibly tender and flavoursome. I ate it all. 

So, what to do with a pack of pig cheeks in my freezer?  I also had some cooking chorizo knocking about so it seemed obvious. The result was served with some long stem broccoli and a bit of bread to clean the dish – it was all very flavoursome…

Serves 2

1 tblsp. olive oil
I onion, finely sliced in half moons
Clove garlic crushed
500g pig cheeks, silvery sinew removed, cut into three
150g cooking chorizo, cut into chunks
1 tin butter beans, drained
500ml chicken stock
Splash of wine
Chopped parsley 

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan, add the garlic and onions and cook gently until golden. Add the pig cheeks, turn up the heat slightly and brown them off. They don’t have to be too brown, just have a little colour.  Add the chorizo and continue cooking until the chunks are a little crisp round the edges. 

Add the beans, chicken stock and wine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 hours.  You may need to remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to reduce the sauce down a little, and you can also crush a couple of beans into the sauce if you need to thicken it more. 

Spoon into 2 bowls, sprinkle over the parsley, serve with a green vegetable and some bread.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I don’t usually blog about restaurants – for a start I can’t afford to eat out a lot and so don’t feel particularly qualified to comment as I can’t compare Heston’s latest offering with Roganic.  But occasionally Mr Redding and I find ourselves desperate for something to eat and need it NOW rather than wait to get home and either cook something or order a carry out. So, we found ourselves at Camberwell Green at 9.15 in the evening, hungry and craving Indian food. I had noticed Safa a couple of times on my way to the Crooked Well or Stormbird, and we pushed open the door....
Safa is a bright, modern, smart restaurant, all wood, green and black leather. The staff are elegantly dressed in black with toning green ties and are effortlessly attentive and charming.  The wine list is small but beautifully marked and we ordered a bottle of Chardonnay with a hint of Gewurtztraminer. Poppadoms arrived and that’s when we started thinking Safa might be a bit of a find. A tray of four obviously homemade chutneys came with them – yoghurt flavoured with green chilli and coriander; tamarind; tomato and red chilli and a hot mango chutney. All delicious.
Starters were mixed vegetable pakora and Amritsai fish – chunks of cod and cauliflower, potato, aubergine and onion all deep fried in a spiced batter and served with a mint and lime sauce and a red chilli sauce. All delicious – mmm....
Then came the main course. Methi Gosht was full of fresh fenugreek and very tender lamb with just enough fat to really accentuate the flavour. I think it was neck fillet, one of my favourite cuts. Chicken Xiacutti was truly mouthwatering – chicken cooked in traditional Goan style with pickling spices. Tarka dall was tempered with red chilli, garlic and cumin seeds and the naan bread was light and plentiful.
Along with a bowl of pilao rice the bill came to exactly £40. The reason it is so reasonably priced whilst delivering a very high quality product is primarily because the portions aren’t huge. The starters are more like appetisers and the main courses would not satisfy someone looking for a post pub curry blowout. If you’re really hungry you would probably order 3 main courses between 2. But it hit the spot for us and we both felt it was one of the best Indian meals we had experienced – and between us we’ve had quite a few, from Chutney Mary and Ma Goa to the cheap and not so cheerful.
So if you’re stuck in Camberwell Green looking for a bite of something pop in and see the lovely people at Safa – they will make you feel very welcome and I am sure you will love the food.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


I am extremely fortunate in that I am on good terms with my ex-husband - we meet every couple of months for a catch up over a couple of cocktails and some nice food. When we were together I rarely let him cook (I am very selfish in the kitchen) but he is now free to exercise his natural talent and shared this recipe with me. Living in Peckham fried chicken is everywhere and is a favourite late night snack chez nous but there is no comparison with homemade – and this recipe has been given an unreserved thumbs up. So here, for your delectation, is…

*Alan’s Gourmet KFC*

Measurements are for two pieces so multiply as necessary. 

For the marinade: 

½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 red chillies (seeds removed if you don’t like it spicy) - finely chopped
½ small onion, finely chopped
Fresh coriander

2 chicken pieces, skinless (I like thighs and drumsticks with the bones in)

For the coating: 

Plain flour
100ml milk
1 egg
½ tsp celery salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper 

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and then add the chicken pieces making sure that they are completely covered in the marinade. Cover and leave to marinate for several hours, ideally overnight. 

Mix the egg and milk in a bowl, then mix in all the dry ingredients except the flour.

Scrape the marinade off the chicken pieces then dip them in the egg mixture, and then dip in flour. Dip the chicken back in the egg mix, and then in the flour for a second time. Put chicken pieces to one side on a plate.   

Deep fry the chicken pieces at 150C for 12-15 minutes until golden brown and cooked. Put the chicken on a rack in a low oven (150C) to keep warm and crisp until everything is ready.  You may want to make some chips, coleslaw, baked beans or corn cobs to accompany…. whatever floats your boat!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Wine Discovery with Eszencia

Mr Redding and I recently spent a highly enjoyable day at The Princess of Shoreditch partaking of a Wine Discovery Day courtesy of Eszencia.  The philosophy at Eszencia is simple.  We don’t apologise for our taste in music, we don’t apologise because we don’t like olives, but many of us feel we need to apologise for our ’uneducated’ taste in wine.  Dan and Alice from Eszencia want to help people to feel comfortable talking about wine, and to recognise the basics of flavour, aroma and body but don’t weigh you down with lots of information about chateaux, vintages and cru.  

The day kicked off with a pear bellini cocktail, just to get the ice broken.  We then swooshed and swallowed our way through 16 wines over the course of four hours, accompanied by canapés, chicken and tarragon pie and cheese.  

Before we got down to the wine we sniffed a variety of aromatic oils to try and identify them and discover which grapes and wines were most closely associated with them.  We sampled tannin in a glass, which was pretty horrible.  And we held our noses and rolled sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami flavours round our mouths to see where we felt the sensation each produced. We also explored body and texture….

And then we moved on to the real stuff.  We tasted the wine in pairs, contrasting different styles of wine, those from hot countries and cool countries, oaked and unoaked, wines that smell sweet and fruity but taste dry. The stand out wine for me was a Sicilian white, Cometa from Planeta made with the Fiano grape, which blew the sock off the Sancerre it was paired with.  A great example of the contrast in colour, body and flavour between a ‘warm’ wine from Sicily and a ‘cool’ wine from France. 

Eszencia offer a variety of wine tasting experiences, and also offer corporate events, so check out their websites. For an unpretentious but extremely informative wine tasting experience I thoroughly recommend them.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

East Dulwich Orchard Collective

Twitter is a funny thing. It’s not like e-mail where you see the conversation that went on before you get roped in. I’m fairly new to Twitter but have a lot of time on my hands so when I saw my name being mentioned apparently randomly I dug back and found out it was all to do with the East Dulwich Orchard Collective. I was intrigued, as I am about any independent goings on in the area, so when it was mentioned that an apple pressing was taking place on Lordship Lane I thought I had better go along.
It transpires that this has been going on for about ten years.  The founders, Damon and Jo Green, bought a cider press for their own personal use to make cider from the apples in their garden, but they soon realised that it would be fun to broaden the idea and encourage other apple growers of the area to bring along their produce, in the same way that the wine co-ops function all over Europe.  They also promote tree growing and are a font of knowledge on what trees to buy and how to grow them. 
Last Saturday they held a community apple pressing, encouraging locals to bring along their apples.  They crushed and pressed around 100kg of apples from at least twelve local trees, gave away two dozen bottles of cider and perry and raised nearly £40 in donation to support the collective.  The juice they pressed on the day has been sealed in two large sterile buckets and is fermenting away in their kitchen. Soon it will have to be moved to a cooler spot to continue the process through the winter; when spring comes and the secondary fermentation is over, they will bottle it and it will be ready for those who donated apples and signed up to the collective to collect.

They are planning another pressing at Franklins to coincide with Apple Day so if you are interested, and/or have apples go along. If you are on Twitter the man to follow is @DamonGreenITV.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


My parents both lived through World War II, in fact my Dad was in the Merchant Navy making sure the convoys carrying food and aircraft fuel got through to the UK and later to Russia.  He joined the Navy in 1942 when he was 16! They lived the early years of their marriage during the times of rationing, and that meant that we were all brought up with the strict edict of ‘waste no, want not’. And old habits die hard! 

I am one of four children so making every item of food go as far as it could was very important. A favourite dish of Mum’s was stuffed marrow.  Take the leftovers from a bit of roast lamb (we never had roast beef, it was too expensive), mince it up with lots of onions and perhaps some red lentils to bulk it out if necessary – cook slowly for an hour until you have a flavoursome mince, then use to stuff a couple of marrows.  Bake in the oven until the marrows are soft and the meat is bubbling.  Serve with mashed potatoes and, if you wish, another vegetable - perhaps carrots to provide a colour contrast. It’s the essence of comfort food to me, and brings back a lot of childhood memories – and cooking with Mum was where my passion for food and cooking came from.

For this stuffed marrow I used some left over slow cooked shoulder of lamb that we had for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago, and that I had frozen.  It didn’t need much chopping up but if you are using something a bit less well cooked it might be better to use a food processor. Just be careful not to process too much, you need to keep some texture.  This isn’t spicy, or edgy, or innovative. It’s just a bit of old fashioned English cookery. 

Serves 2 

I medium sized marrow (about 14” long), washed
1 tblsp vegetable oil
1medium onion, finely chopped
300g or so of cooked lamb or beef
If you want to make from raw use 500g mince and fry off with the onion, then stir in flour etc. and proceed as in recipe
1 tblsp. flour
Dash of Lee & Perrins
250 ml beef stock
1 tblsp. Tomato puree 

Put the oven on at 200 degrees C 

Slice the marrow lengthways and, using a tablespoon, scoop out the seeds so you are left with two ‘boats’.   

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion gently until soft and translucent.  Add the cooked meat and stir until coloured. Add the flour, stir until cooked out, then add the Lee & Perrins, stock, tomato puree and 250ml water.  Simmer for 30 minutes or so until you have a thickish mince but with a little residue gravy. Taste and season with salt and black pepper as necessary. 

Line a baking tray with foil, put the marrow boats in, try to wedge together so that they are supporting each other, and fill with the mince. Cook for 30 minutes then check on progress. Cover with foil if browning too fast. Cook for another 15 minutes. By this time the marrow should be cooked and infused with the mince juices and the mince should have a nice crusty top. 

Serve with additional vegetables and potato – we had it just as it is.

Monday, 12 September 2011


This is very much a favourite in our house.  It’s an unusual Indian dish in that it doesn’t have any dried spices in it.  The flavouring comes from curry leaves, ginger and green chillies, and a good dose of souring tamarind at the end.  I always use tamarind that has already been extracted from the pods because it is so much more convenient. However, if you have acquired a packet of tamarind pods, soak the recommended amount in hot water for 30 minutes then sieve, making sure you get all the juicy bits off that cling to the stones.   

It’s a very different tasting curry, and I feel needs a bit of pickle and some well flavoured dahl to go with it. I also made some potatoes with peas, mustard seeds, ginger and shallots, and rice steamed with cardamom pods.  I always steam my rice with cardamom pods when cooking Indian as I love opening them up and sprinkling the seeds over my food – quite apart from the delicious scent they lend to the rice. 

Serves 4 

1 tblsp vegetable oil
8 curry leaves, fresh or dried
2” lump of ginger, finely grated
2 medium onions, finely sliced in half moons
3 cloves garlic crushed
4 green chillies, finely sliced, including seeds
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1kg of boned and skinned chicken thighs
1 desertspoon of tamarind paste 

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or wide bottomed sauté pan then when hot pop in the curry leaves and sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chillies, stir, and cook gently until the onions are soft and have started to brown a little.  

Now put in the tomatoes and cook until they have softened down into the mixture.  Add a teaspoon of salt and the chicken, pour in 250 ml cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.  

Remove the lid and add the tamarind.  Continue cooking uncovered until the sauce has reduced to a thickish consistency.  If wished, add another finely sliced green chilli with the tamarind.  Taste, season, and serve!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Beer and The Rye Lane Brewery

I was never much of a beer drinker – gin, vodka and wine are my main tipples.  But on striking up a relationship with the lovely Mr Redding I was subjected to a crash course in beer – and when I say beer I mean real ale, a name I hate as it conjours up beardy sweater wearing folks, and that’s not me and Mr R.  So, beer…with the aid of the great British Beer Guide we have visited scores of pubs over the last couple of years and I have developed my favourites.  A pint of Harvey’ bitter is probably up there at the top, especially from the Royal Oak in Tabard Street, SE1.  A trip to Leyton to the William IV pub allowed us to sample 14 of Brodie’s beers, which are brewed on the premises.  Our local pub chain Capital Pubs sell beer from their micro-brewery at The Florence pub in Herne Hill -  Weasel, Beaver and Bonobo – and we hope that this will still carry on now that the pub guzzlers Greene King have taken them over. And a special mention to a couple of other local pubs that always have a range of good beer on pump available, The Old Nuns Head and Hooper’s 

So, becoming a bit more educated about beer, and the importance of local breweries making good real beer, I was intrigued to hear about a new brewery planning to open up on Rye Lane…funnily enough called The Rye Lane Brewery.  Even better, they have managed to squat at another local brewery and produce a fledgling beer, endearingly called ‘Keep Your Peckham Up’ as a rallying cry after the riots.  Things got better – I heard that the beer would be on sale at the Peckham Rye Fete, slaking the thirst of the hundreds of people turning up for the world famous dog show, Punch and Judy and other fete related delights.  So I felt it was incumbent upon me to slope over on a hot Saturday afternoon to sample the brew.   

Unfortunately, Mr Redding was not available, so my cunning plan was to take a thermos flask with me so I could take a carry out back home with me…I was not sure how this would go down with the seller.  I need not have worried.  Tom, the owner and leading light behind the brewery, was at the helm and didn’t flinch when I asked if he could put a pint in my flask. I then took a pint in a glass for my own consumption as I wandered round the fete.  Keep Your Peckham Up is a relatively light (3.6%) bitter, very much in the English style.  Lightly but noticeably hopped with a nice flowery aroma, and a long dry finish. Perfect for lunchtime drinking with fish, salads and sandwiches. Mr Redding was equally impressed remarking at the depth of flavour and finish for a relatively light beer. Right up our street.

The Rye Lane Brewery is searching out premises on or near The Lane and I hope they manage to find something soon. Tom wants this to be a brewery that the community feels involved with producing products that our local pubs want to stock.  He has a Facebook page at!/pages/Rye-Lane-Brewery/207076782686209 and the website is at

Support your local brewer!!!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


I spent 3 weeks in Andalucia in the late 1990’s and was bowled over by it: the Moorish architecture, the food, the people, the ‘manyana’ attitude and the overwhelming scent of jasmine everywhere. I loved it and it is high on my list of places to go back to – especially Seville. Memorable dinners included half a roasted lamb – a lamb so tiny that the kidney was the size of a quail egg and the flesh was meltingly tender, with the scent of rosemary and smoke…

So when I heard that Rick Stein was doing a series of programmes from Spain I had to watch them – and buy the book. The series got mixed reviews from food bloggers but I enjoyed them, and I love the book.  So over the next couple of months expect to see a few of those recipes but they may be slightly adapted, as this one is.    

Quite apart from sustainability issues, cod is expensive. I popped into Morrisons to buy 350g of cod and it was nearly £4, whereas 400g of pouting, a smaller relative of cod, was under £2 - no contest. Pouting is a smaller fish nut in a dish like this the smaller flakes don’t matter as you can leave the fish in chunks and the flavour is comparable. Rick salts his cod overnight and then soaks, before cooking it separately and adding to the chickpeas.  I find it easier to salt the fish for two hours before you want to eat then rinse it off well and cook in the stew.  I also didn’t have the time today to cook my own chickpeas so I used a can (KTC variety, which are nice and big and very tender).  Rick uses saffron but I didn’t have any - I don’t think the dish suffered from its absence.  So here we are – Peckham Salt Pouting with Chickpeas and Spinach.

Serves 2

400g pouting or other firm white fish
2 tblsp sea salt
2 tblsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried red chilli flakes
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 small potato, chopped into 1” cubes
200 g spinach washed and roughly shredded
Chopped parsley to garnish

Skin the fish, remove any bones and place on a non-metallic plate or dish.  Sprinkle over the salt and leave for 2 hours, then rinse off well and cut into chunks. 

Heat the oil in a wide deep sauté pan and fry the onions and garlic gently with the paprika and chilli flakes until soft and slightly browned. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened then add the potatoes and 500ml water and a pinch of salt. Simmer until the potato is just cooked. Crush some of the potato into the sauce.

Add the spinach and cook over a high heat until cooked down into the sauce. At this point there should be a fair amount of liquid in the pan. Lay the fish chunks over the chickpea mixture, cover and cook for ten minutes until the fish is cooked through. Check and adjust seasoning.

Spoon into bowls with the parsley sprinkled over and serve with some crusty bread if particularly hungry. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Pig cheeks have been a bit of a revelation to me. They are inexpensive (I get them at Morrisons for around £2.70 for 500g), meaty and when properly cooked have a yielding gelatinous quality that gives all the unctuousness of a fatty bit of pork belly without the fat. I’ve braised them plainly with onions and beef stock, and also Chinese stylee, but the lovely Mr Redding suggested that next time I felt like making a vindaloo I use them – and Reader, I did.  Vindaloo likes a reasonably long cooking time, which suits this cut, and they turned out rather deliciously. I don’t like my curries very hot so only used 3 dried red chillies but if you like it hotter then use more, and add a whole green chilli (or 3!), slit up the middle, to the pan when simmering.

This needs marinading overnight, after an initial 2-3 hour rub, so be warned!

And I don't know what happened with my camera but this is the only photo I have, so use your imagination!

500g pigs cheeks, each cut into 3
1 tsp salt
3 tblsp red wine vinegar

Spice paste
3 (or more) dried red chillies
½ tsp. cumin seeds
3inch cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods
7 cloves
½ tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tblsp. red paprika
5 peeled garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
3 tblsp. red wine vinegar

2 tblsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp.sugar
1 or more whole green chillies slit in half lengthways

 Rub the salt and vinegar well into the pork and set aside for 2-3 hours. 

Grind the chillies, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, or mortar if you’re feeling strong.  Combine with the turmeric, paprika, garlic, ginger and vinegar to make a thick paste. Add to the pork, rub in well, cover and refrigerate overnight (seal tightly because it’s quite pungent). 

When you are ready to cook, heat the oil in a wide frying pan until medium hot. Add the garlic and onions and fry until brown (but not burnt!).  Add the tomatoes and the green chilli if using. Stir until the tomatoes start to soften, add the sugar then the marinated meat and all the spice paste.  Fry on a fairly high heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the meat is browned and the spice mixture is cooked out.  Turn down to a medium heat, add 500ml water, and once the pan has come to the boil lower heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours.  Remove cover for the last 30 minutes so that the sauce thickens and coats the meat.

I served mine with some dhall.....

Spinach cooked with finely sliced onions and ginger, and rice with cardomom pods....

Sunday, 7 August 2011


OK, last post for a while on all things Persian/middle eastern – promise. My Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday (at nearly 50 he still buys me a birthday present) and I said I’d like some cookery books. I consulted Amazon and amongst them was Silvena Rowe’s ‘Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume’.  So when my great friend Sashimi Girl came over for lunch I thought I would try out a few recipes on her, along with a main course from ‘Persia in Peckham’.  For a more in depth view of lunch, including cocktails and pictures of my gorgeous kitten see her blog.  I won’t detail the recipes here; they’re either in Silvena’s book or Sally’s.  It was all delicious (even though I do say it myself) and there wasn’t much left….

We started with Warm King Prawn Salad with Pink Radish and Red Onion from Silvena, but I don’t like raw onion in salads so I left it out….

Then we had Sally’s Ghormeh Sabzi…

With Silvena’s pilaf with Vermicelli, Apricots and Pistachios, I left out the chickpeas as we already had enough protein….

And her Tomato, Pomegranate and Sumac salad with a Pomegranate dressing….


And to finish up the Pistachio Revani with Passion Fruit Syrup….

 We didn’t have much room by the end of it and rolled away from the table replete…thanks Ladies!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


I should just re-name my blog ‘What to do with a pack of lamb mince’, probably far more representative at the moment.  I do believe it is an extremely useful thing to have in the freezer and being of limited means....

Anyway, I have mentioned before Sally Butcher and her shop Persepolis on Peckham High Street for all things Persian – I am also the proud owner of a signed copy of her cookbook ‘Persian in Peckham’.  These kebabs are a slight variation of her recipe for Chelo kebabs …I add a couple of teaspoons of ras-el-hanout and a bit more baking powder.  The baking powder is a revelation – makes the kebabs light and succulent and ‘bouncy’, avoiding any hardness that a lot of meatballs have. 

This time I served them with some baba ganoush, beetroot in yoghurt, salad with lots of mint and coriander, wraps, and the relish in Sally’s recipe (which is HOT to my palate, so be warned!!!).  On other occasions I have made a chickpea salad with a tin of chickpeas, some harrisa, yoghurt, lemon juice, fresh dill and coriander, spooned that over salad leaves, put the kebabs on top and sprinkled with lots of coriander and finely diced cucumber.  

Chelo Kebabs

Serves 2 as a main course

250g minced lamb
½ shallot finely diced
2 tsp. Ras-al-hanout
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp. baking powder
Salt and pepper 


1 small green chilli finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
Olive oil
1 dessertspoon carrot or quince jam
2 tsp. malt vinegar 

To serve:  salad leaves, fresh coriander and mint
Combine the kebab ingredients in a bowl and knead together using your hand.  Do this for a good ten minutes until the mixture becomes sticky and homogenous.  Wet your hands then form into balls or patties or mould round skewers – whatever takes your fancy. Rest in fridge while you make the relish. 

Fry the chilli and onion in a splash of olive oil until softened, then add the jam and vinegar and simmer gently for ten minutes or so.  Spoon into serving pot. 

I generally grill the kebabs, in a futile gesture to losing weight, quite gently, 7-10 minutes a side. 

Line a plate with salad leaves and generous handfuls of mint and coriander then arrange kebabs on top.  Serve with the relish, baba ganoush, grated beetroot with yoghurt, plain thick yoghurt and flat breads to wrap it all up in. Some Persian pickled cucumbers are nice as well. And remember something to wipe your hands with!!!

Sunday, 24 July 2011


We had my Dad over for lunch this Saturday and I decided to go for French – probably still my favourite kind of food if I had to choose.  Much as I love Indian, Thai, Chinese, Spanish, Italian (to a point) and all things Middle Eastern, my last supper would be French, with wines to match.  So this lunch menu included ham hock terrine with soused vegetables, duck breasts with cherry sauce and potatoes dauphinoise and lemon, orange and almond tart.   

For the terrine I turned to Raymond Blanc for guidance, from his latest book Kitchen Secrets.  I didn’t follow the recipe slavishly but the general gist is there – I didn’t use enough gelatine so the set was a little softer than I wanted but the flavour was delicious, and the soused vegetables set it all off beautifully. 

The tart recipe comes from Mireille Johnston’s French Cookery Course Part 1.  She had two television series in the early 1990’s and both books are very useful additions to the cook’s library, packed with regional French dishes.  The television programmes were lovely, it's a shame they have never been repeated - my ex had quite a crush on Ms Johnston! 

For the terrine I used my Le Creuset terrine dish.   I bought it years ago so that I could make an iced orange souffle from the La Potiniere cookbook.  The Potiniere was a near legendary restaurant in Gullane, East Lothian (near Edinburgh) where there was a three year waiting list for Saturday dinner.  It was run by husband and wife team David and Hilary Brown (he did front of house and wine, she cooked) and they offered a fixed menu - no choice at all - and only opened for lunch time four times a week and Saturday evening. Their book, gives a flavour of what it was all about.  The restaurant is still there but no longer run by the Browns. I was forunate enough to have had two memorable lunches there.

But enough reminiscing..... 

Ham Hock Terrine 

1 ham hock (or knuckle) approx. 2.5kg in weight
A bouquet garni comprising 2 bay leaves, parsley and thyme
10 black peppercorns
10 g leaf gelatine
1 carrot diced
10 sprigs flat leaf parsley 

Soused vegetables 

400ml water
80ml white wine vinegar
80 g honey
Pinch white pepper
Large pinch sea salt
Sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
100g carrots cut into 4cm sticks
100g cauliflower cut into small florets
60g cornichons 

Put the ham hock into a large saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and skim off any scum. Bring down to simmer and add the bouquet garni and black peppercorns.  Simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours until ham is coming off the bone. 

Remove hock from pan, leave to cool and strain liquor and reserve 500 ml. The rest can be used as a base for soup etc.  Remove meat from hock, taking care to remove most of the fat, tendons, membranes etc.  Reserve six large pieces of ham and chop the rest roughly. 

Cook the carrot until just tender, strain and allow to cool. Chop the parsley finely. 

Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for ten minutes then add to the warm ham cooking liquor. 

Line the terrine with a double layer of cling film. Put in a layer of chopped ham, then half the chopped parsley, half the carrot, the large pieces of ham in a single layer, the rest of the carrot, then the parsley, then the rest of the chopped ham.  Pour over the ham liquor until the level of liquor rises above the ham.  

Fold the cling film over and put the terrine in the fridge and cool for at least twelve hours. 

To make the vegetables, put all sousing ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Add carrots and cook for 20 minutes, then add cauliflower and cook for a further ten minutes.  Remove from heat. Cool rapidly and add gherkins. 

Serve  the terrine in thick slices with the soused vegetables and some good bread.

Tarte au Citron et a L’Orange 

First a word of warning…when this goes in the oven it looks highly unlikely it will ever turn into something solid and edible.  Just stick with it – it may need a little more cooking than the recipe says but once it has set to a wobble bring it out and let it cool.  It will be wonderful…
I use jus-rol sweet pastry.  I am perfectly capable of making it but I find this product so good I don’t see the point unless I am really in the mood…. 

I pack Jus-rol sweet pastry

For the filling
3 lemons
2 oranges
75g caster sugar
70g butter
2 eggs
4 tblsp sieved marmalade
25g flaked almonds
Icing sugar to dust 

Roll the pastry out quite thinly and line a 23 cm loose bottom flan tine.  Bake blind at 190 for 20 minutes until set and lightly browned.

Grate the rind from 1 lemon and 1 orange.  Squeeze the juice from 2 lemons. Peel oranges and 1 lemon with a knife, cutting off the pith, then cut down through the membranes to release segments. Add any juice collected to the squeezed lemon juice. 

Beat together the sugar, butter and orange and lemon rinds until light and fluffy, gradually beat in the eggs and then the lemon juice.  It will all start looking curdled but don’t panic.  Put the mixture into the pastry case, level off, and arrange the orange and lemon segments on top.  Brush over with the warmed sieved marmalade and sprinkle with the almonds.  Bake for at least 20 minutes at 190, but if it still looks too wet leave for another 10 minutes.  Leave to cool in tin for at least 10 minutes then transfer to serving plate and dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Chinese braised pork cheeks

I was browsing the meat shelves in Morrisons a couple of weeks ago and saw packs of pig cheeks – so of course, I had to buy some, and at £2.75 for 500g it seemed churlish not to. The first time I cooked them I used Essex Eating’s recipe, and they were delicious, but the texture of the meat – soft and yielding with that delicious gelatinous quality, made me think of chinese pork belly and all those other bits they cook.  So why not make chinese style pig cheeks?

I looked to the master, Ken Hom, for inspiration, and amended his recipe for braised pork belly, marinating the meat first and not using as much hoi sin.  The result, served with egg fried rice and oyster sauce stir-fried vegetables, was delicious. 

Serves 2 

500g pigs cheeks 


3 tblsp. Chinese rice wine
Clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp. five spice powder
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil 


Braising ingredients 

4 dried chinese mushrooms, along with the soaking water
5 slices ginger
1 tblsp. whole yellow bean paste
3 tblsp. chinese rice wine
2 spring onions, sliced diagonally
2 tsp. hoi sin sauce

Combine marinade ingredients and marinade pig’s cheeks for up to 3 hours.

Remove cheeks from marinade and reserve liquid. Dry cheeks, dust with cornflour and brown in vegetable oil. Set aside.

Combine all braising ingredients and left over marinade in a wok or shallow pan.  Bring to boil, add pig’s cheeks then lower to simmer, covered.  Cook for 2 hours, but for last 30 minutes remove cover to allow sauce to thicken.

Before serving, slice each cheek into three and return to sauce – makes eating easier with chopsticks!!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I often tell people we live between different worlds…. we live right on the East side of Peckham Rye, a wonderful green place where William Blake once saw a vision of an Angel and where now people of all ages, colours and creeds play football, frisbee, cricket, run, jog, take their dogs for walks, picnic and sunbathe. The picture at the top of my Blog is the view fromthe bus stop outside our flats....

Behind us is Nunhead, across the Rye on the west side is East Dulwich and up the road is Rye Lane, leading to Peckham High Street.  I am going to make sweeping generalisations about these areas that may upset some people (if anyone is actually reading this!!) but they are my personal observations after living here for three years.  

East Dulwich is definitely the poshest of the three areas, a typification of yummy mummy-ism.  Stroll down Lordship Lane on a Saturday and you will be dodging three-wheeler jog-buggies and careering toddlers.  There are lovely shops on Lordship Lane – East Dulwich Deli which has great bread, Roses the butchers, Moxons the fishmongers, Green and Blue wine merchants and Franklins grocers.  There are also more Indian restaurants than you can count, a Thai, Chinese, Turkish, Mexican, a very idiosyncratic French restaurant and gastro pubs – anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I am particularly fond of Franklins, in the same family as the grocers and serving great seasonal food all day.  Northcross Road Market also offers some of the best hot dogs in London on a Saturday, courtesy of The Dogfather.

Nunhead feels completely different, almost like a town street from the 1960’s – but in a good way.  Two great butchers, Ayres the Bakers, Sopers Fishmongers and a lovely greengrocer means you can pick up most of what you need…and coming soon is Bambuni, a coffee shop and deli which will fill a big hole in the whole area I think. 

And last but not least, the direction I often end up heading in (and not just because there is a big Morrisons at the end if it) is Rye Lane. Rye Lane is an incredible experience for anyone used to shopping in the ordinary High Street.  My dad, now 85, was in the Merchant Navy in the 1940s and 1950s and spent a lot of time shipping to and picking up from West Africa. The first time I took him down Rye Lane he said ‘I could be in Lagos’…and that’s how it feels. Most of the shop have open fronts with stalls, selling every variety of fish, meat and vegetable you can think of.  It’s not all African – Indians and Arabs look after the fish and meat, whilst Africans will sell you any kind of palm oil you can imagine.  A Chinese supermarket selling the biggest prawns, razor clams and crabs you’ve ever seen completes the picture.  And there has to be a special mention for Persepolis, a Persian oasis on Peckham High Street, where Sally will sell you everything to make the most amazing Persian meals…including a cookbook!!

And shopping in Rye Lane makes it so easy for me to make the sort of food I love – handfuls of coriander, mint and dill for 70p a bunch; three bunches of spinach for a pound; two aubergines for a pound; four packs of pitta for a pound …a bit of a theme emerging there.  And all the lamb and goat I have bought from the butchers is excellent, and you always get service with a smile.  For me, walking down Rye Lane is life affirming… I love the way people greet each other; the little kids that are so well behaved; the African ladies dressed in their batik cloth dresses and headwraps and men in slinky trouser/tunic combos.  And teenage girls, full of attitude, talking about A levels and going to University.
So come on down and visit us…FoodStories, Hollowlegs , Tehbus and ginandcrumpets can give you the lowdown on our many restaurants….and Franks Campari Bar is open for the summer ….  SE15 ROOLS…

Sunday, 19 June 2011


As mentioned before, I love cooking Indian food.  And I love lamb.  So no surprise that fairly often I cook a lamb curry of some sort or another.  I am a disciple of the great Madhur Jaffrey and it is through her books that I have developed my basic curry making methods.  The idea of using pumpkin with lamb came from an unscheduled trip to the Humaira Indian Restaurant near Kings Cross – we popped in there to eat something before meeting up with people for drinks and were pleasantly surprised.  The star of the show was a lamb and pumpkin dish…I can’t remember the name but thought I’d have a go at something like it at home.  So here goes….

Lamb and Pumpkin Curry

1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2” piece of garlic, finely grated
I tsp. fennel seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
5 black cardamom pods
750g lamb shoulder cut into chunks
3 medium tomatoes chopped
Small handfulof chopped fresh mint
300g pumpkin, peeled and cut into same size chunks as lamb 
1.  In a wide based sauté pan or wok heat a tablespoon of vegetable and gently cook the onions garlic and ginger until softened and golden brown – it usually takes ten minutes to get it really melting.
2.  Toast the seeds in a dry frying pan for a few minutes and they start releasing their aromas then grind in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder. Add to the onion mixture and cook for five minutes. Add the black cardamom pods.
3.  Turn the heat up and add the lamb, stirring in the spice mixture for five minutes until browned.  Add the tomatoes,mint and half a pint of water and simmer for 45 minutes. 
4.  Add the pumpkin and cook for a further 30 minutes, uncovering towards the end of the cooking time to reduce the sauce.

I served with potatoes and spinach (recipe in a my blog of 18 April), plain steamed basmati and a very simple daal made with channa daal cooked with onions and garlic, with a tarka of hot oil in which garlic slices and coriander seeds have been cooked.  And very nice it was too!