Sunday, November 24, 2013

Felicity Cloake's Perfect Goan Fish Curry is Perfect

I have been using a lot of Felicity Cloake recently. She really is the go-to for classics, as her column and books are about the best version of a recipe, hence the title, 'Perfect'.  So when you have a hunch about what to have for dinner, she usually has a recipe to match your wont. Last night we wandered down to the fishmonger's and bought two hunky looking Kingfish steaks, which naturally led us to sniffing out a south indian curry recipe. Felicity's recipe was mighty fine and refreshingly simple. I tweaked a few things as for instance we didn't have any curry leaves in, but other than that we pretty much stuck to the plan. Notable were the 5 cloves of garlic which really completed the aromatic picture and I wouldn't have had the guts to add this many had she not stimpulated so. One mentionable change was that I grated the onions. This worked really beautifully in making a velvety texture around the meaty fish. Served with simple buttery cardamon infused basmati, this was indeed 'perfect'.

For the masala:
3 cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 star anise
½ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 tsp salt
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3cm root ginger, peeled and grated
1½ tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, grated
1 large tomato, sliced into segments
165ml tin of coconut milk
2 fresh green chillies, slit lengthwise
2 kingfish streak
½ tsp mustard seeds
To make the masala, in a dry frying-pan toast the cloves, coriander, cumin, chilli flakes and star anise. When they are emitting a strong fragrance pour into a heavy duty pestle and mortar and give them a good grind. The star anise particularly need some elbow grease. Now add the turmeric, sugar, salt, garlic and ginger. This will gradually become a sticky deep orange. When you are exhausted with an aching elbow, add the vinegar. 

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the onion and sweat for about 5 minutes. Now add the masala paste, stirring for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and about 300ml of water and chillies. Simmer for 20 minutes or so. When the sauce is silky and thickened, add the steaks and simmer for a further ten minutes. Whilst the fish cooks, make a tadka by frying the mustard seeds until they begin to pop in a pan of oil. Pour this straight into the curry and serve. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dinner? Yes Please!

We were recently taken to Heston Blumenthal's restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, Dinner. Fancy! It was a hugely absorbitant treat which had long been brewing. The babysitter was booked, the outfits pressed, and off we went with my in-laws, on a Friday jolly. We had all perused the menu online, pondered our orderings, done a little research and generally psyched ourselves up. Restaurants in hotels can be a bit odd in my opinion, a bit airless and lacking in character (but always done up to the nines by an interior designer). However, on arrival we were pleasantly surprised. Reflecting the concept, dimming the wall-lights were massive milky shades based on old jelly moulds - very Mrs Beeton. Simple and effective.

The pure pleasure of being really well treated it noteable here. The waiters are perfectly attentive and explain everything, including the rotisserie roasting pineapples groaning and turning on heavy-duty iron machinery. It looks more like something you might loose a limb to in the industrial revolution. The very visible kitchen is like as beehive, full of activity and calm and order. Very very ordered.

To start, I had a simply served roast marrow with snails and anchovies. The accompanying pickles were so lightly preserved they still had a fantastic fresh crunch and life, and the cauliflower was cured with a little turmeric, a perfect twist to the tale. Served on an alabaster piece of bone it was simple and effective. The other main event in the starters was of course the meat fruit for which Dinner is famous: a pate encased in a mandarin gelatin case. It was so believable you could easily have slung the single fruit into the christmas centre-piece! And once bust open, the most delicate and slightly boozy parfait emerges. This dish is full of theatre but backed up with flavour.

Main courses were just the right size. I was fearful of a big lunch, as it often renders one entirely useless for the afternoon ahead (and sometimes even the next day). But these plates were just right. We had the Cod in cider with mussels and chard. The latter was firm and al-dente, if a leaf can be that. Seasoning was really perfect. A dollop of over-buttered silky mash was the perfect side order here. There was also Hereford ribeye, just the way you want it (which came with a deep spiced mushroom ketchup); chicken cooked with lettuce which was a plain and well constructed affair (a breast served in a tube, perhaps cooked in a sous-vide?) garnished with leaves; and hallibut which came with a few different seaweeds, always a favourite with me. Each dish was effective. The purpose of Dinner is to recreate old recipes. As we none of us know much about medieval foods it is hard to say whether Heston succeeds. However, he certainly makes beautiful, gentle and thoughtful food.

The puddings were all exciting. Biased, I definitely thought mine was the best: Taffety tart which was a perfect little sandwich of bursting flavours. The fennel and liquid aniseed nestled naturally amoung the frosted rose petals, brittle pastries and soft ice cream. The actual apple element with a set layer more like a membrillo which was spiced and rich. Coffees were strong (just what you need after this sensory marathon) and came with near-liquid ganache pots, such was the ratio of cream and chocolate.

Once I have recovered my waistline (and the in-laws bank balance) I would love a return to Dinner. It was everything we wanted it to be: the perfect balance of theatre, excellence and luxury.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


One of my new favourite things is a bean sprout salad. It sounds a bit worthy, but trust me, it brings new light to these odd jellylike strands which have always rather confused me. Bought in big bags in the Wing Tai Supermarket, we usually use half a bag in a hot chicken broth and then the remaining sproglets lurk in the fridge until they take on a really rather revolting odour. Whilst this speaks volumes of my bad organisation in the refrigeration department, it also highlights how I suspect few of us really know what to do with a bean sprout. Great with some chicken skewers and simple rice, this really is like penicillin. Given that sprouts are very high in water you need to add flavours which are punchy and bring life, so don't hold back on the salt or toasted sesame oil - it really completes the picture. 

Inspired by one of the best spots in Brixton Market, I've added kelp. This adds a really meaty angle to the simple salad. At Mama Lan's you can eat in peace (sometimes a hard task in Brixton!) I always order the vegetarian dumplings with a seaweed salad. It is always an absolute treat and entirely restorative sanctuary.

So, you need: 
a bag of beansprouts
some dried kelp
toasted sesame oil
light soy sauce
caster sugar
sea salt
a little chilli oil
the green tops of spring onions, sliced finely
black sesame seeds

All these ingredients can be bought from a Chinese supermarket like the Wing Tai. First of all bring a salted pot of water to the boil. When this is at a rumbling boil heap in the bean sprouts. Blanch for about 3 minutes and then plunge into cold water. They should be translucent. Meanwhile, pour boiling water of a handful of kelp to bring it back to life. Make the dressing by combining the sesame oil, soy, sugar, sea salt and chilli oil. The dressing should have a good salty kick so don't be shy. Thoroughly drain the sprouts and kelp, even placing in a clean drying-up cloth to absorb any excess water. Dress generously and garnish with lots of black sesame seeds and spring onions. This salad will keep for a few days in the fridge which is always helpful.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Right now, the darker the chocolate, the more hallowed it seems to be. And often, this is true. Milky chocolates can be over sweet and sickly. However, recently I've been fed up with the trend so wanted to explore some dairy chocolate cakes that are less intimidating than their deep dark chocolate counterparts (which often dry the mouth). The results have become a standard within weeks at Rosie's. Paired with banana, milk chocolate makes a fantastic loaf, a little chocolately, a little sweet and a lot comforting. The recipe from whence this comes has been slightly tweaked around. Yogurt instead of sour cream for example. Come and do a taste test. I'll throw in the tea for free. xxx

Saturday, October 12, 2013

a few pictures for a sunny saturday

These were taken by Stefan at Pixeled Studios who kindly rushed down one afternoon a few weeks ago. We love them! Especially the vivid colours.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Swede not Suede.

I recently made a really delicious stock. The trick was that I chucked in half a swede. So happy with my revelatory creation that I frantically tweeted the information, before realising that swede is not spelt suede. Bummer. It rather shows the perils of premature social media outbursts! Whether it be  leathery or rooty, swede really does make for a sweet and delicious stock, paired with a good chicken carcass and some allspice berries, and simmered for a very long time.

The risotto itself was pretty simple and followed the usual pattern. Shallots, butter, saffron, rice, vermouth. I added roughly chopped string beans which have been in abundance of late and piled in the parmesan. Shared with my one of dearest of girlfriends, and washed down with cheap-corner-shop-wine and some seriously good gossip, it made for a perfect midweek dinner.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Doubled-Up Bolognese. Familiar classics.

These day I find myself cooking a lot of meals: those for us, and also our 1 year old boy. Chillies are out and cheese is in. I've been cooking much more traditional food. The stuff that is nostalgic and comforting and very very sturdy. Fits-all-food. All these meals can make life rather complicated though. The fear is that one will end up cooking 6 rather than 3 meals a day and be a constant slave. However, I am dodging this with some clever one-pot juggling. This evening I've a couple of friends coming round so I've cooked up a pot of vegetable heavy bolognese. The soffritto is packed with blended celery, chunks of carrot and loads of tomatoes. It's definitely more than 1 of your 5 a day! I stewed the whole pot right down without adding any sugar or salt and have kept a good few tubs aside for Billy (the boy). Meanwhile I have turboed up the remaining grown-up pan with seasoning (lots) and a generous dose of vermouth for kick. Roll on dinner time. It may be nursery food, but it's going to be very good nursery food. Here's the recipe, which feeds 3 adults and 1 child:

Classic Bolognese

2 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, blended or finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, blended or finely chopped
4 sticks of celery, blended or finely chopped
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
500g minced beef
100ml vermouth
1 dsp lea and perrins sauce
Sea salt, sugar and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed medium pan on a medium flame. Blend the onions and garlic together so that you have a smooth mix. Pour into the pan and sweat for a few minutes, mixing frequently. Now add the carrots and celery and again sweat, this time for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to simmer for half an hour on a low heat. Meanwhile heat some more oil in a frying pan. Add the beef and then quickly and meticulously stir and break it up as much as possible. There should be NO lumps. When the meat is beginning to brown, add to the vegetables and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.

At this point, remove however much you need for your child to a container and refrigerate when cool. Continue cooking the grown-up sauce, adding vermouth and seasoning and worcester sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Cook your spaghetti and add parmesan or mild cheddar to serve.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


The nice people at Carlton Publishing sent me a rather beautiful book recently. A whole book dedicated to kitchen stuff, Essential Equipment for the Kitchen, this book isn't the normal sort of thing that I talk about on here. But that's the deal: you get sent a book. You talk about it. I could dress it up with some sort of preamble but that usually looks a bit heavy handed. So I won't.
That said, this book is genuinely right up my street. And I'm not being paid to say so or anything! Each page is dedicated to a different design classic or kitchen object of desire. I do love a design classic.
The reassuring fact here, is how many of these design classics I actually own. It makes me feel like I'm really getting somewhere, building my tiny little empire of Kilner jars, pyrex jugs, Nambu Tekki saucepans (a wedding present). The beauty of this sort of a catalogue is that it makes you look at those ordinary every day objects with renewed respect. It's easy to forget how brilliant the ordinary is.
And then the other quality of a book like this is that it gets the juices flowing for the list of 'wants': my top three are the Robert Welch candlestick; the Jasper Morrison Kettle (so sleek!) and more Global knives. Anyone, feel free to gift!
This book makes for an excellent bit of bedtime reading and well worth giving to someone that a. likes design. b. likes cooking. Simple.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


My husband has gone away for the weekend. And he's taken the baby! I haven't been alone for ten months. Not really. Not without Billy. So this morning, having bid them farewell, I slunk back to bed to watch the last episode of Luther on the iplayer, lolled around in my pyjamas, oiled all the worktops and finally headed out with my shopping trolley. With the world (well, Peckham) as my oyster, I headed for Franks Cafe and had a shandy and some mackerel escabeche. It was delicious, uninterrupted and very sunny. I cruised into Charlie's at Flock and Herd for a piece of gammon and headed home with the ambition of some focussed recipe testing. The pavlova base is cooling in the oven and here's the lemon curd recipe to accompany these little snaps.


Makes 400ml

4 lemons, zest and juice
200g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, diced
4 egg yolks
1 egg

Place the zest, juice, sugar and butter in a small mixing bowl over a baine marie. Heat slowly until all these ingredients are combined. Now briskly whisk in the eggs. Keep on the heat, whisking from time to time until thick like custard. Cool a little and then pour into sterilized jars. 

Pretty easy, right?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Can YOU bone a chicken?

This is such a great recipe I just wanted to share it with you all. It is of course, rather tricky to bone a chicken but once mastered it is quite therapeutic. And of course, presenting this dramatic, marbled and flecked stuffed bird will definitely wow your audience and have them marvelling at how you achieved such an effect. I couldn't possibly explain how to do it. That would take days. If you can't do it yourself, get your butcher to do it for you, carefully stipulating that it needs to be meticulously done with no holes (as they would then leak out the stuffing). For the stuffing, mix together sausage meat, wilted kale, diced chorizo and roasted red peppers. Sew your chicken up, roast at 180 degrees and cool. Once cold, slice like a ham. Isn't it gorgeous. The recipe for this can be found in Supper with Rosie, on page 126. X

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Brick Lane Lox

I woke up at 4am on Thursday such was my excitement over The Brick Lane Lox. Sean and I have been working away on this and tweaking and finally today, tasting. With both cured salmon and pickled cucumbers it requires some forethought and patience but I recon it's really worth the wait... We will be serving it tomorrow at Rosie's. The bagels come from the bagel shop on Brick Lane (where else?) We cured the salmon with beetroot, dill and sugar and salt, and the cucumbers are a house classic, soaked in a brine with fennel seeds. And of course the whole thing is glued together with a creamy cream cheese flecked with fresh dill. And it's just beautiful to look at! What more do you need from a Saturday hangover cure? Let us know what you think here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


It's been sitting right under my nose for ages so I feel a bit stupid for evangelising now, but have you been to The TFC? It stands, I presume, for The Turkish Food centre and it's wicked. A bit like a slither of Harringay, they sell all sorts of delicacies from Turkey: the freshest baklava I may have ever tasted outside of Istanbul; a full butchers array; every sort of pulse worth shaking a stick at; mini pans for heating milk; and enough Halloumi, or Helim, to feed a smallish army. In short it is extensive and excellent and really gets the creative juices flowing. I went there a few weeks ago and bought a mere 20 lamb cutlets which were reasonably priced and just fantastic. We marinated them in a light yogurt dressing with turmeric and fennel seeds. Quickly fried on a slab of cast iron they were rare and green tasting. Along side these, we had warm bulgar wheat with chickpeas (very good chickpeas. They come in glass jars. Look out for them) lots of soft sweet onions and again turmeric. It was bloody delicious. Check it out.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring Cleaning and Salt Beef

We've  been closed for a week, with Sean at the helm of a refurbishment for Rosie's. It has given me nightmares but when I arrived at the deli yesterday morning I was totally overcome by what an amazing job he had done and how lovely our little cafe is. The music was pumping and the vibes were very very strong! And all the girls were busily putting everything back in place and creating the warmth and vitality that we are known for. I caught up with an old friend over coffee and then ordered what is fast becoming a signature sandwich, The Reuben. It was absolutely sensational - sharp pickled cabbage, salty wet beef, fat gerkins, swiss cheese and a delicious sweet dressing. It is honestly one of the tastiest things I have ever had. So come on over, check out the new improved deli (even with a roof window drenching the place in natural sunlight) and try a classic Reuben on rye. Wash it down with a flatwhite and bob's your uncle. To be honest, I am so hungover this morning after Sink the Pink that I might actually have to get an express delivery.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spice up your life

.... In the words of The Spice Girls.

My husband has been away for 2 weeks, living it up on work in LA. I have been looking after Billy, our baby, a wonderful and relentless task. You frequently forget to eat and I have been totally devoid of inspiration in the kitchen. This is because food for one, at the end of a very long day, is just boring. There are no two ways about it. I made a pasta sauce and that lasted a few days. And then there was some set polenta, which when shallow fried makes a delicious treat. Hardly interesting though.

Raf got home and within an instant, the chillies were out and we were plotting our dinner. Maybe that's the point. You get to plot and ruminate together and converse until you reach the decision of what is for supper. Then you go shopping and grab a few things, and then things start hotting up. Last night we had a simple crunchy noodle salad, loaded with chillies and turmeric baked chicken thighs. And tonight I've quite literally knocked up a peri peri chicken marinade (perhaps fitting as our first date was actually to Nandos!) We decided on buttery rice like they serve in the Portuguese cafes in and around Brixton, and a crunchy lemon dressed bowl of iceberg lettuce. It just seems so much more exciting than what I've been cooking in his absence. Thank god he is home.

To make Peri Peri Sauce, it really is very easy. Whizz up the following... A roasted red pepper (I used a jarred one), 4 garlic cloves, 7 small red chilies, 1 lemon, juiced, 2 tsp salt, lots of freshly milled pepper, 1 tsp smoked hot paprika, 1 tbsp ketchup, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 2 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp white wine vinegar. Pour over your chicken. I took the wings off mine and then chopped the whole carcass in half which required a little elbow grease. Leave for a few hours to melge. Shortly Raf will sling it on the BBQ, that's if I can wake him from his jetlag induced sofa coma.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

An untraditional Easter lunch

We have been plotting today's lunch all week. It's very simple actually, dependent on a good homemade chicken stock and some decent sea bass. It was, I must concede, perfect. Light but filling. Delicate and straight forward. There is a waft of aniseed from the crushed fennel seeds which nicely off sets the fish. And equally the creaminess of risotto rice juxtaposes the clean fish meat.

Simply, make a risotto starting with celery and shallots. Use lots of butter. Add puréed butternut squash, saffron and good stock. Finish with more butter and Parmesan.

For the fish, it will take about 6 minutes. Make a rub by grinding fennel seeds, red pepper corns and rock salt. Rub this on the skin side of fillets of sea bass. Fry in a non stick pan on a high heat so that the skins become crisp and brittle.

Serve with crisply fried pancetta for a salty injection.

We got our sea bass from Soper's in Nunhead. Just so you know.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop

I gave my husband, Raf, Every Grain of Rice for Christmas. This was clearly a selfish present. However as it turns out, he gave me Charles Phan's Vietnamese Home Cooking, so we are basically even. Or both obsessed with food. Both books are beautifully published and insight extreme cooking lock-ins!

As Raf was in Miami this weekend, my best friend Doctor Helen and I had planned to engulf ourselves in Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop. A Chinese banquet of new proportions. We chose an array of dishes, some new to us and some more familiar friends, and a few of our own too. It was an absolute blast and I can't think of a much better way to spend a Saturday. While Billy, the baby, bounced in the doorway, we poached beef, smashed cucumbers and pressure cooked the most unctuous ribs I have EVER tasted.

What's great about Fuchsia's book and something really noteworthy, is that each of the dishes we produced looked exactly like the food photographed in the book. This isn't always the case. For extreme proof of this, checkout Pip's acerbic blog on just this subject. Here is a beef dish and a cucumber salad which are almost identical to Fuchsia's. The beef dish called for shin, not a cut I have previously bought. You slow poach it for hours with ginger and spices (which makes the house smell fantastic). Cold and finely sliced, heaped with crunchy celery and nuts and a dressing, it's not your average Chinese take-away standard. It's hot and deep and thoroughly pleasing (I was worried it was going to be dry but it's not. It's flaky and delicious). The cucumbers were also a triumph. Literally smashed, with a rolling pin, and marinated in Chinese chilli oil and Szechuan pepper corns, this salad is disceptively fiery and fantastic as a result: hot from the dressing and cold from the watery cucumbers.

We also made Chicken with blackbeans, which sounds more recognisable. You might be imagining diced breasts and a gloopy blackbean sauce. THINK AGAIN. Like every cook worth their salt, she stipulates thighs, a much more tasty portion of bird, being close to the bone and blessed with more brown meat. The thighs were marinated in a light mix of soy sauces, shaoxing cooking wine (which smells just like sherry actually) and potato flour. At the last they were fried in Doctor Helen's well seasoned wok with peppers and salted black beans. These, like many ingredients listed in this great book, can be bought at a good Asian super market. Our nearest and dearest is called Wing Tai Supermarket and without stressing the point too much, is my favourite shop in the world. Whilst these new fangled ingredients may be off putting initially, don't be faint hearted. By exploring new ingredients you will learn so much. The black beans came in a small packet and were shrivelled with a slight bloom. Rinsed, they were absolutely delicious. I would happily eat these just as they are with a cold beer as a snack. They are small and potent and salty and when added to lightly seasoned chicken they are the perfect juxtaposition. Once you have cooked (and quickly devoured, hence the lack of photo) this dish properly you will understand why it has become such a stalwart in the Anglo-Chinese restaurant culture.

In short, buy this book. It's bleeding good and the food is delicious. Accept the challenge, do some foraging in your local shops and you too can have a perfect Chinese banquet.



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Just a note on dumplings x

After our recent trip to Australia, I decided to go the whole hog, the extra mile, and start making dumplings. We tried some really good ones. Din Tai Fung near paddys markets does wicked hot stock filled bombs. Here I have made classic pork dumplings and also beetroot root and ginger ones, slightly less traditional. They made a perfect early supper, dippedin a sharp vinegar sauce. I can not wait for our little boy to start eating food. We are going to have so much fun with this s**t! X