Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Snig's Chick Pea Salad

I'm not as good at getting my five a day as I should be. I find some salads bland, and cannot abide by overboiled veg. Perhaps I am fussy, but I do worry that I am saving up problems for the future. Hence an interesting and zingy salad is always a source of excitement to me.

I recently visited my local Turkish grocers, where I found some very appetising looking shish kebabs. Perfect for a weeknight when I can't be sure when the slings and arrows of the London Transport system will finally allow me to cross my own threshold. There have been days that the 6 miles from home to work (as the crow flies) has taken an hour and a half – how depressing!

This salad is a great accompaniment to grilled meat, fish or halloumi, this salad is inspired by the food of the Eastern Meditteranean.

Serves 2-3 as a side dish with meat/fish/meat substitute


½ red onion, sliced into fine slices of about 1” (2.5cm) long
2 spring onions, cut into rounds
2 tsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
4 tbsp dry couscous
3 tbsp hot water
8-10 ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
cucumber chopped into ½ cm (or just slightly larger) cubes
400g tin chickpeas, drained then rinsed
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. In a small container with a lid, combine the couscous and hot water. Leave for 5 minutes, stir thoroughly and leave for another 5 minutes. Fluff up with a fork.
  2. In a bowl, combine the reconstituted couscous, onion, spring onion, tomato and cucumber. Mix up to allow flavours to infuse into the couscous. Cover and leave until you are ready to serve.

  3. Mix up your dressing by whisking together the vinegar and oil in a mug. Set aside.

  4. Now combine the other ingredients. Dress with the dressing.

  5. Season to taste and serve.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Reggae Reggae Litigation: The High Court Verdict

Earlier this month, in my previous article about recipes and plagiarism, I commented on the High Court litigation brought by Tony Bailey against Keith Valentine Graham (better known as Levi Roots). 

I've just received notification from a lovely student of mine who has been observing the whole trial that Bailey's claim has been rejected by the court. Many thanks to her for her prompt report - (you know who you are!)

It would appear that during the course of the hearing, which has lasted two whole weeks plus, there has been much name-calling and muck-raking. 

Levi had claimed on Dragon's Den that the sauce recipe came from his 'grandma'. He has since, in the High Court trial admitted that was incorrect, and was part of a marketing ploy to make the product attractive. It appears that we are all suckers for the idea that a particular recipe or formula has been lovingly passed on from one generation to another. I wonder how many other products and recipes are similarly presented as being from granny, but end up being a lot more modern? 

Anyway, the result is that Tony Bailey's claim for a proportion of the profits of Reggae Reggae Sauce has been dismissed. Bailey as the loser of the case will now have to pay Levi Root's legal costs. 

These costs have been awarded on the 'indemnity' basis - which means that pretty much all of Levi's costs, even those not directly linked to steps in the litigation - will have to be paid by Bailey. Unless Bailey has taken out after-the-event insurance to cover the risk of losing at trial, could be so high as to financially cripple him or render him bankrupt. High Court costs for the solicitor alone start at £300 per hour.

But is this a total vindication of Levi Roots? No. The High Court Judge when delivering judgment stated that he did not believe either Roots' nor Bailey's stories. He informed the parties that his judgement had to be based solely on the evidence which was corroborated (in other words confirmed by) other witnesses. 

The chances are even this criticism will not do Roots much harm. The story will most likely hit the evening news tonight, and will fuel curiosity as to the product which led to so much bad blood and dispute. 

But will I be cracking open the Reggae Reggae Sauce? Probably not. It isn't like Granny used to make, is it?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Italian inspired bean and bacon soup

The fresh herbs will infuse their aromas and flavours through this nourishing and warming soupy-stew
This is a meal in a bowl. No fuss, no second and third courses. Just fill up your bowl and lose yourself in a warm cuddlesome soupy hug. If you don't intend to serve up for 4 people, you can refridgerate and have the next day for lunch or dinner.Just be sure you either warm on the hob until gently steaming but not quite boiling, or that you microwave in 2 stages (about 1min 30s, then stir, then another 1min 30s for a single large bowl in an 800W microwave, and stir again) then double check it is piping hot.

Serves 4 as a main course


150g dried mixed beans (I used pinto and borlotti beans) soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed.
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
5 garlic cloves, very finely diced
125g smoked streaky lardons/cubetti de pancetta
400g tinned chopped plum tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 litre chicken stock
125-140g small pasta (I used farfallini)
5 tbsp parmesan, finely grated
4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. First you need to cook the beans, they need to be boiled for 1 hour. I add a couple of bay leaves and unpeeled garlic cloves in the hope of infusing some flavour. Once cooked, drain and rinse off the mucky water, discarding the bay and garlic.
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan (I used the largest one I have). Add the onion and fry without browning for 7-10 mins (until beginning to get soft).
  1. Now add the rosemary sprigs, chopped thyme, bay leaves and garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
  1. Once all the herby garlicky oniony flavours have seeped into the oil, it is time for adding the carrots and celery. Fry gently, without browning for another 7-10 minutes.

  1. Add the lardons and fry for 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary sprigs or they will disintegrate into soggy brown leaves (unattractive!).

  1. Add the tomato puree and mix thoroughly before adding the chopped tinned tomatoes and mixing again. Increase the heat to a lightly bubbling simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
Early into the simmering process

Nearer to half an hour later
  1. Now is the time for adding in your cooked beans and stock. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  1. To add smoothness to the finished soup, using a mug, remove a mugful of the mixture and liquidise. Once pureed, put back into the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Season.

  1. Add your pasta and turn up the heat. The pasta I used cooks in 4 minutes until al dente – if using something different, follow your pack instructions. Turn off the hob.

  1. Now add half your parmesan and all of the chopped parsley. 
  2. Serve in bowls and top with the remaining parmesan. If you wish, add a little decorative glug of olive oil as an additional topping.

    Thursday, 10 November 2011

    Reggae Reggae Litigation: Recipes, Plagiarism and Lawsuits

    Yesterday I went to the library to return some DVDs (nothing interesting to report, I’m afraid!). Whilst doing so, I wandered to the section on food and drink, wondering if I’d find any inspiration. I am something of a cookery book nutter, and had I more space than a single (large!) shelf in my kitchen, my house would be overrun with the things. As it is, I sneak the odd one or two into the house when Him Indoors isn’t looking and pretend we have had the said snuck in book ‘for ages’. (Perhaps I should not have admitted to this!).

    Anyway, in my search for sources of inspiration, I discovered that someone had just returned a copy of Levi Root’s Reggae Reggae Cookbook. Given I have only recently blogged about how my love of reggae and dub has influenced my approach to cooking (, I thought this was too interesting a coincidence to pass up. Levi, (real name Keith Valentine Graham) is a reggae musician of some note and one-time friend of Bob Marley (oh-to-have-been-a-fly-on-the-wall!).

    I borrowed the book, which is a very colourful, chatty interesting book full of Levi’s Jamaican recipes ranging from curries, stews, jerk chicken, marinades and rice and peas. It also contains Levi’s reflections on his life, music and food. Having only attempted cooking Jamaican once (a disastrous jerk chicken experiment), I was looking forward to trying to make the dishes of this vibrant and flavourful cuisine. I used to work in Deptford, South London, where we had good Jamaican food in abundance; patties, curry goat, jerk, fried plantain and rice and peas (with or without gravy).

    Imagine my surprise when on my way home when I saw that Mr Roots is being sued in the High Court for stealing the recipe for his best selling Reggae Reggae Sauce (which everyone not living under a rock for the past 4 years will know was featured on BBC’s Dragon’s Den). Tony Bailey, now obviously a former friend of Levi, claims that he invented the recipe. Roots claims he obtained the recipe from his granny. The pair worked together for 17 years feeding the masses at the Notting Hill Carnival. Read the full story here:

    This got me thinking about recipes and plagiarism. The two have seemingly been connected for decades. Even the legendary Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management was apparently copied from many other cookery writers! Find out the truth at:

    So when is a recipe ‘yours’ and when is it ‘stolen’? It is a big question, given the size of both the cook book and ready-made-table-sauce-and-condiment market. My view is that there are some recipes that are beyond ownership; the proportion of ingredients in a Victoria sponge, pancake batter, boiling an egg, cooking basic steamed rice. There are others which have existed for years, but can be given a revision or overhaul by fiddling around with ingredients and techniques, making them new and original. And of course, if you are very lucky, there are the things you just dream up on a good day which no-one you know has ever thought of before. These are clearly original works that you deserve a big pat on the back for (Oh, for such flashes of brilliance to be a little more frequent!)

    I don’t know how the ‘reggae reggae’ litigation will resolve itself. It has already resulted in some pretty negative publicity for Levi Roots. The Evening Standard story was repeated in the Metro only this morning:
    This publicity and media attention really has the potential to damage his brand and reputation. This may lead Roots to settle (ADR at the last minute, anyone?) If not, we shall see whether Bailey has the evidence to prove he developed the sauce recipe (which is entirely possible) as the hearing progresses.

    If only they’d chosen a less public way of settling their differences. Perhaps they should have had an old fashioned cook-off.

    Tuesday, 1 November 2011

    How to make the original Bellini (peach Bellini)

    I have already posted on the subject of my experiments with various fruits suitable for making Bellini cocktails. Find my post here:

    Having visited our local Majestic Wine Warehouse, we discovered they have a nice selection of Prosecco wines which are of very good quality for a reasonable price of £8-9. Of course, we could choose to enjoy the Prosecco just the way it is, but during a rare last bit of sunshine just before the sun chooses to disappear for 6 months, we thought it was a good time to have a last blast of Bellinis.

    So this time, rather than the ready mixed stuff available in bars and grocers in Venice, we thought we’d make them ourselves from scratch. I’d seen Jamie Oliver make Bellinis during his series on Italian food. He found some very light coloured, flat shaped peaches which were so ripe, he was able to squeeze the juice out with his hands (using a chopping board to apply the pressure). Sadly, such peaches are not available in British supermarkets, so we looked for something ripe which we could puree with a juicer.

    Here’s what we did....

     First peel and stone your peaches. These peaches didn’t want to give up their stones easily, so I had to chop around the stones, which is the reason they are cut up in small chunks. It is probably not necessary to do this.

     Then put through an electric juicer or liquidiser. My juicer is very powerful and mushed the small quantity of fruit so quickly that it didn’t take all the juice out. So I put the pulp back through the machine to get as much juice as possible.

    It would appear that my previous post is incorrect in stating that the Bellini is served in a
    ‘Collins’ type glass. That is the impression I had from my previous research. It would appear that a Champagne flute (which I had in any event used, since I don’t have any glasses of the ‘Collins’ shape and size) is correct.

    We put 3 tablespoons of peach puree in each (small) Champagne glass and then topped up with Prosecco. You need to add the fizzy wine slowly or it will bubble up over the top of the glass.

    The result could have been better if we had access to riper, softer peaches. Ours were a little bland. Had we known in advance, we could have added a little peach schnapps or peach nectar to beef up the flavour. Perhaps we could have used peaches which were not ‘white’ peaches (although the traditional recipe calls for them, we are not in Italy with access to sweet, juicy, ultra ripe fruits).

    That is not to say they were a failure. We did enjoy them, as a little drop of fizzy and a little bit of decadence is always a good thing!