Monday, 17 November 2014

NEW RECIPE: Eton on a messy gap year!

Here's a little twist on an old favourite. I was just going through some old recipes from this time last year, and this was a seasonal crowd pleaser. This makes a lovely fusion dessert for an Asian inspired dinner.


I had some leftover ingredients, and knocked this up one quiet afternoon. Credit goes to Max, my old chef, who came up with the name. Super easy to prepare in advance, but don't construct until just before serving or you'll end up with soggy meringue.


Eton on a messy gap year

Ingredients:
4 free range egg whites
115g icing sugar, sieved
115g caster sugar
120g pistachio nuts, toasted & roughly chopped
500g plums
1 tsp cinnamon powder
60-80g brown sugar (to taste)
4 or 5 green cardamom pods, crushed & seeds well bruised
250ml double cream

Method:
1. Heat the over to 90 C, and line a large tray with a non stick liner. Foil and baking paper tends to stick, so baking parchment or liners work better.
2. To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl (not plastic) until they form light fluffy peaks, then add the caster sugar, whisking as you go. The mixture should become glossy and thick.
3. Sieve the icing sugar in to the bowl, a little at a time, gently folding or whisking in the mixture, until it's thick and well mixed. be careful not to overmix or you will knock out the air.
4. Blend half the pistachios to make a smooth paste and then fold into the mixture. Then scoop the mixture onto the tray to make several rough rounds of meringue. Place in the oven and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Once cooked, leave to cool fully, then break into large pieces. The pistachio meringue will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.
5. In a small frying pan, gently toast the cardamom pods and then mix well into the cream. Gently heat the cream in a small pan, but don't boil. Leave to steep and fully cool. Then pour through a fine sieve. Lightly whip the cooled cream.
6. To make the plum compote, remove the stones from the plums, and cut into quarters. Place the fruit into a pan with brown sugar, cinnamon powder and 30ml water.
7. Bring to boil and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes until fruit is softened and starting to break down. You still want to have chunks of soft fruit, so avoid over-cooking.
8. When ready to serve, take a tall glass and add a few pieces of meringue, then add layers of plum compote, cardamom cream and meringue, until glass is filled. Top with cream and some of the remaining pistachio nuts. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Hungry Gecko Shop is open!

I've been so busy, it's been a tricky few months juggling dining pop ups with events, and launching my online shop. I'm hoping to launch the pad Thai sauce very soon. But for now, you can buy my delicious shashlik paste in my new online shop or check out the local suppliers.




My Indian shashlik paste is an authentic marinade for paneer, vegetables, meat and fish. Each product is hand made by me, from toasting the authetic spices and roasting fresh ingredients, to blendingand testing to ensure the highest quality product.  The perfect marinade for BBQs, grilling and roasting. The paste can also be used to amke a delicious spicy curry and fried Indian snacks.

This product is 100% vegan and gluten free.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

MORE courgettes!!!

They just don't stop coming do they? I've got three grow sacks with courgette plants in my garden. I must admit, my seeds went in a little late (I had to to do a second sowing after the mice ate the first ones). So I've still got courgette flowers as well as lots of courgettes of varying sizes. Then my brother-in-law sent me some super-sized ones (basically their neighbour gave them some plants, and they just forgot about them!) so I guess they're marrows. 

The last time I was this swamped in courgettes, I posted a blog of some of my favourite courgette recipes. I think it's time to add to this list.

Courgette & spilt channa dal

Since the shift in the weather and feeling a bit chillier, I needed to eat something warming. I made a big batch of this at the start of the week, so it's fed us well on several occasions. The dish is only gently spiced, and has more of a fragrant cumin hit than chilli, so very child friendly dish. Serve with a soft flat bread such as chapati or roti, or steamed basmati rice. I had a dollop of hot pickle on the side with mine too.

2 cups of split channa dal (soak in cold water for one hour prior)
3 courgettes, chopped 1" pieces
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp black cumin seeds
couple of pinches of asafoetida
2 fresh or dried large red chillies, finely chopped
2 onions finely chopped
3 tsp of sambhar masala powder (use garam masala as alternative)
2 large tomatoes, chopped
handful of fresh coriander
pomace oil
3 pts water

1. Put half of the prepped onion into a heavy bottomed pan with a little oil. Saute until softened, then add courgettes, turmeric, salt and drained channa. Cover with water and bring to boil. Simmer for 1-2 hours until channa is soft (but not mushy and falling apart). Add more water as dal cooks to maintain a soup like consistency.
2. In a small pan, add oil with cumin and asafoetida. Fry until seeds splutter, then add fresh or dried chillies, diced onions, tomatoes and sambhar masala powder, and cook until onions and tomatoes and completely soft, and oil has separated.
3. Pour tempering mixture over the cooked dal and stir well. Serve scattered with fresh coriander.


Bean & courgette soup

A little variation on a French pistou soup.

2 large courgettes, chopped, bite size pieces
1 med onion, finely chopped
250g green beans, fine sliced
1 tin of haricot beans, washed and drained
1 tin of black eye beans, washed and drained
3 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of fresh basil
3 medium tomatoes
salt & black pepper
1 tbsp parmesan cheese (or similar) grated
olive oil
2 pts water

1. Gently soften the onion in 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the green beans, haricot, black eye and courgette and then cover with water and bring to simmer, for about 15 minutes.
2. Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender, and add about 1-2 tbsp olive oil to make the pistou.
3. Just before serving, pour the pistou into the soup and stir well. Serve with a few fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan on the top.

Courgette & feta frittata
This is one of my favourite frittata combinations. A protein packed meal for a vegetarian, which I like to eat with a big tomato salad. And makes a great alternative to sandwiches for a packed lunch, as it will keep for a few days in the fridge.

150g new potatoes, quartered & boil until tender
1 red onion, fine sliced
80g feta cheese
2 courgettes, fine sliced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
large sprig of fresh thyme
salt & white pepper
6 free range eggs

1. Saute the onions in the olive oil until they start to soften, then add the sliced courgettes and the thyme leaves, and cook for three minutes. Add the cooked potato quarters and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
2. Beat four of the eggs together. Separate the whites of two eggs and set aside. Beat the remaining four eggs with the egg yolks from the other two. Then whip the egg whites until fluffy and meringue like, and gently fold into the main egg mixture. This is what will  make your frittata light and airy.
3. Crumble the feta over the vegetables, then pour over the egg mixture and cook on a very low heat about six to eight minutes. Then place pan under grill and cook until eggs are fully set.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Trip to Nanban


I don't get to eat out much when I'm working in the kitchen. But having hankered to taste some of Tim Anderson's Japanese soul food since our filming days together during MasterChef 2011 (usually limited to sneaky tastings when production staff weren't looking), I made the determined decision to go to his current pop up while working down in London this last week. Nanban, Tim's Japanese soul food, currently has a residency at Market House Brixton during August.


It was definitely one of my better eating out decisions. The food was incredible, and for my part as a vegetarian, I was sincerely wowed by the reimen dish, a Korean influenced chilled noodle soup with yuzu, chilli and a tea pickled egg. Where so much restaurant vegetarian food feels like an after thought (and indeed if any thought has been taken), the yuzu-chilli reimen stands out as one of the best vegetarian dishes I've ever enjoyed. Zingy, punchy and refreshing, with the kind of depth of flavour that demonstrates a chef who understands umami in food. Thanks Tim. It was truly a joy!





Joined by Mat Follas and Zam, our bus sous chef, as well as a couple of dear friends who live nearby, we ordered everything on the menu. 


We all wolfed down the lotus root crisps before Mat arrived, so we showed him a photo, which seemed to make him more cross ;) The bacon wrapped peppers (kushiyaki) vanished almost as soon as they hit the table so I had to get a photo from Tim's Pinterest page. I snaffled the shitake mushroom ones before I got a picture. 



The chicken kaarage was clearly addictive, as Tim kept sending more boxes that were very quickly emptied. The butter shoyu sweetcorn was so perfectly cooked and flavoured, I even braved stealing some more from one of Mat's plates after finishing mine! The enormous bowls of ramen broths and sticky udon noodles were beautifully constructed, punchy and deep, and the others voted the yuzu-chilli reimen and the kumamoto ramen (with pork belly) as their favourites. Although Donna then changed her mind when she found she couldn't stop eating the kaarage despite being full.



Tim brought over some of his new Nanban craft beer and ice cream for us to try. I'm hoping his beer might join us at the IMBC dinner in October. The Whippysan ice-cream was delightful, and we all agreed that a big mouthful of the chilli chocolate whippysan was perfected by following it with a big spoonful of the peach flavour.

You really should go folks, while you have the chance. The food is simply very very good!




Monday, 4 August 2014

Events Update

Thought it useful to post a few more upcoming event dates on here. I'm bringing Barbarella to some selected events around the country over the next month or two (as well as putting the hours in with the MasterChef street food bus team). 

August
First up, I'm down in London village with the MC bus, bang in the middle of Covent Garden. You won't miss us! We've got a great new summer menu, and I'm really looking forward to working with my old mate Tom Whitaker and Jack Lucas from this years final.

From Friday 22nd August, right through to the bank holiday Monday (woo hoo!) I will be at Bolton Food & Drink Festival. This is a fantastic Northern food event with an array of fantastic North West producers (and probably one of the most well organised events I've ever been to). I love it. Bolton is an old school friendly place too, which always makes life that bit better. My gas regulator failed on the bank holiday, the last time I was there. After I tweeted the disaster, a local camp shop came to the rescue with a set of little butane stoves. Then my old tow car left me stranded in the town centre. Once again, a local driver with a Landcruiser saved my skin. You've just got to love Bolton.  Hopefully, it'll be all the fun again with none of first year teething problems!

September
I'm then taking Barbarella to London, where I'll be serving my food outside the Blue Fin building. The building is hosting the MasterChef pop up for six weeks from the start of September, and for some of that time on weekdays only, you can come and get some lunch with me. I'm very excited about a proper street food stint in London!

On the weekend of 20th & 21st September, I'm joining forces with the talented foraging chef Mark Lloyd at the Great Taste Festival of Food & Drink. Clumber Park is a stunning woodland park between Mansfield and Sheffield. You can even camp there for the weekend!

The weekend after that (following a few more days at Blue Fin) I am bringing my vegan street food to VegFest at Olympia in London for Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th September. The last time I joined these guys in Bristol, it was one of my best events and I'm excited to showcase some new vegan dishes for the crowds.

October
There are still a handful of tickets left for the Indy Man Beer Con dining event at Victoria Baths in October. Spent a wonderful evening with the IMBC gang tasting beer and testing the menu. It's a hard life sometimes ;0)


November
And last but not least, come November, I'll be back down to Derbyshire with the team at Seasoned for a great day of cooking and eating. There are still a few places left on the Malaysian and Thai cookery day, and the Flavours of China cookery day.


 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Halloumi-gate (part 2)

I went on holiday for 10 days and came back to a new menu on the MC street food bus. It was the 'roadshow' menu. As a result of limited prep time and storage, and with all round challenging logistics, we had somehow ended up with portobello mushrooms and halloumi cheese.  For those of you that remember halloumi-gate part 1, it should come as no surprise that I wasn't overjoyed! So after much discussion I was given the go ahead to turn it into something that could be a burger. I came up with this...



We didn't know what to call it, as it was a hybrid of the simple (and lazy chef) griddled portobello halloumi. The idea came from one of the few restaurants that do something more with halloumi than stick it on a griddle. Halloumi menander is a much loved Mughli menu item, served with a tangy tamarind dip.  So I took the idea of a menander batter, giving it a little twist with the fabulous ajowan seed (all hail the ajowan seed!), wedged the halloumi inside the mushroom, dunked it in the batter and fryed it.

We served it with all the goodies going on in the smoky chicken burger.  This veggie burger flew out and morphed into a gluten free special with no roll, which we thought made a lovely dish in itself.  Mat Follas reckons everything tastes better with bacon, so we had a third special of halloumi, mushroom & bacon going out by the end of the week. 

So here's the recipe.

4 portobello mushrooms, remove stalk, dust off any soil/residues
1 pkt of halloumi cheese, cut into 60mm slices
3 cups of gram flour
1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp ajowan seeds
2 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder (add more chilli if you like it spicy, or perhaps fresh chopped)
3 tbsp paprika powder
salt to taste

Toast the seeds in a pan, once aroma is released add the powdered spices and toast for another 5 minutes.  Leave to cool. Mix gram flour with cold water to make a thick pancake like batter, then add spices and seasoning. Whisk well and taste batter to check seasoning.

Heat deep pan of oil or fryer to 180.  Fill mushroom with halloumi slices, then dip in batter.  Gently place in fryer, with halloumi side facing upwards. After 2-3 mins, gently dunk using tongs so that the batter seals the halloumi in place. Cook for a further 2-3 mins on each side.

Turn onto kitchen roll, halloumi side down to allow any excess oil to drain away.

We served our burger in a milk roll, with Tim Anderson's gochujang burger sauce, Mat Follas' smoky tomato sauce, homemade pickles and salad leaves.  To serve as a gluten free starter, we lay the salad leaves into the box, drizzled with burger sauce, added the spice battered mushroom halloumi burger (yeah crap name I know), then topped with smoky tomato sauce and some pickles.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Slow Cooked Vegetable Ragu

Recipe time!

This is one of my stock recipes for having something delicious, healthy, quick and ready to eat during the week, when we’re all busy and the last thing I want to do when I get home from a ten hour day is chop more veg!

I make this slow cook vegetable ragu every other week at home. Instead of making it this week, I'm blogging it, after a special request from a local yoga teacher. A big batch usually goes on the stove on a Sunday afternoon while I’m making dinner, and consists of whatever vegetables are knocking around in the fridge drawer. Core stock ingredients and often a few Mediterranean veg that we all eat regularly like peppers, courgettes, aubergines and the like.

The ragu makes a great pasta sauce on it’s own, but I often add a veggie mince for a Bolognese or use it to make lasagne or an aubergine bake, sometimes with cooked puy lentils. I'm making some gnocchi to go with ours this week, or how about ricotta dumplings. It’s great for a ready-made homemade dinner after a long day at work and I can hide a few veg the teens are less keen on (teen girl isn’t keen on cooked carrots and teen boy doesn’t like aubergines or mushrooms as he thinks they have a weird texture). No matter, the secret to this sauce is to cook slowly and for a long time.  A Creuset style pot is best, and once the ragu is simmering, put it on the smallest gas ring on low.

The ingredients vary. Start with 2-3 onions, fine chopped. Then any number of the following that you may find lurking in that fridge drawer, all diced…
Aubergine, carrot, leeks, peppers, celery, mushroom, courgette, fennel (no more than half a bulb or it will overpower the flavour) etc etc


Saute all your veg in a large heavy bottomed pan, with a good splash of pomace oil. This needs a gentle sauté, for at least 15 mins, so that the veg is a bit sticky and soft. Then add water. The next part all depends on quantities of veg used. The more veg, the more water and seasoning you will need. I added 2 litres to the pan above. Add the following seasoning per litre of water:

1 tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp black pepper
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary
small handful of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tins of tomatoes
1-2 tbsp dark soy sauce or 1/4 tsp marmite
little squeeze of lemon or vinegar

Then bring to full simmer, and turn down heat to lowest. Place a lid on the pan, and leave to cook gently for 1 - 2 hours.  Check up on it every 40 minutes or so, and see if there is enough water. Add a little more as necessary.  This dish should have a soft velvety texture.  If you need to hide the veg a bit further, I sometimes give it a rough mash. Add salt and pepper to taste. This will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. Enjoy!