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). 

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!

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.

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)

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.