Friday, 22 March 2013

Favourites List - March 2013

If you live in the UK, it has been difficult to be enthusiastic about anything this March. We've had Siberian winds and low temperatures, and not much sign of a change of season. Spring, it would appear, has been delayed in the post. The clocks won't be put an hour forward until the very end of the month, so we are still in 'Winter' time. Add to that the state of the economy and the worry many people have for their futures, it's been pretty grim all round.

So I've not really come out of Winter mode. I've been wearing my duck down coat more than any other this month. I've been wearing boots, often with 2 pairs of socks underneath. I've really wanted to dig out my pretty pumps and ring the changes, but it's just too cold! I'm not losing all feeling in my toes for the sake of style. And so far the fashion police have not come a-calling with an arrest warrant with my name on it. Phew!

Likewise, I've not come out of Winter mode with the food I've been eating, cooking or reading about. It's all been about the comforting stuff; the hearty, warming, sustaining dishes. The oven has been commissioned frequently for making stews and casseroles. The hob has been working on creamy risottos. 

I'm hoping that the Post Office or FedEx or whoever has the contract to deliver the Great British Spring will get round to doing it soon. And when they do, I'll happily sign for it, and pay any surcharge, if the correct postage was not paid in the first place. But please, call when I'm in the house. And if I'm in the house, not when I'm having my shower. 

When that Spring package arrives, I'll unwrap it, putting all the packaging dutifully in the recycling, and make sure I share it with everyone. 

I look forward to April, when I hope I will be feeling and sharing the joys of Spring with you. 

This month, my pictures to accompany this post are of the Dambulla Cave Temples in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. They were unbelievably beautiful, even on a day where it poured with rain. 

Blogs worth following:

Not just roast potatoes, but great recipes:
Restaurant reviews:
Beautiful artist designed recipes:


We had a virtual cook along of this Jamaican stew on FB, recipe by the lovely Tash:
A quick and tasty tomato soup, for a busy evening or when in the middle of revision for exams:
Yum Woonsen - glass noodle salad similar to that at Kao Sarn, Brixton (just add cooked king prawns):
A rapid chicken stew for when you have friends round and no time:
Healthy and quick, with no soaking and boiling of the Chick peas required. It's Mamta's Chick pea curry:
How to use red quinoa (in a bean based salad) and bulgur wheat (in a beefy stew):

Want to eat more fish? Here is a salmon (oily fish) recipe and a snapper (lean fish) recipe:
Pistachio & Cumin Crusted Rack Of Lamb (gluten free):
Speedy dinner: Chicken Marsala with mushrooms:
In need of a healthy packed lunch? Try a salad in a jar - and it won't come out soggy!
Who ate all the pies? Varied spins (sweet, savoury, meaty and fishy) on pies:

Pickle crazy!
How to make pickled green beans (Video recipe):
Indian style Mango Hot Pickle - Gupta Family Style from Mamta's Kitchen:
Mauritian style vegetable pickle (fusion of Indian meets western):

Articles, know how etc:


Steve Mason and Dennis Bovell - Ghosts Outside

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs

David Bowie - Hunky Dory

Radiator - Super Furry Animals


Red Lights


Engrenages Saison 2

The Killing II

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Jerk Chicken Bahamas style: A Guest Post from Lena M Bonaby

If you read this blog every now and then, you will realise that I am a full time Senior Lecturer at a Law School in Central London. I have had the pleasure of teaching many students from different cultural backgrounds.

It is often surprising the frequency with which we eventually turn to matters food and drink. I think that each culture's heritage is firmly rooted in its culinary heritage. And it is in discussing our similarities and differences that we can cross the bridges of distance between nations. Many years ago, Keith Floyd pronounced that to know a country, one had to eat a country. I have repeated it many times, not because I am unimaginative, but because to me, it really seems to be the truth!

Lena M. Bonaby is one of my former students (formerly Lena Hield). She was a hard working and committed student. She was called to the Bar after successfully completing the course to qualify as a Barrister and returned to Freeport in the Bahamas to practice. Yes, whilst I slave in the grey and cold and rain, Lena gets to work in the tropical sunshine! There are days it is inevitable that I sink into envy, but never bitterness. Lena was always a student who deserved every success and her smile was like the bright beautiful sunshine of her homeland. She really was able to brighten a room, just by being in it. 

Lena married McKell Bonaby in February 2011 and in November 2012 welcomed son Blaine into the world. Blaine is an adorable little boy, who apparently falls asleep to the strains of Beyonce singing 'Halo'. 

All new arrivals need time and care. And we can forgive it if they take their parents' attention from other things. So I hope you won't mind if Lena has been unable to post a picture of the completed dish. She has meant to, but I think we all agree that it is only right that little Blaine comes first.

Now, without further ado, I'll pass you over into the far more capable hands of Lena....

My love for cooking began when I was a little girl. My mom was a stay at home mom, and she began cooking when she was only eleven years old.

She had numerous cookbooks, and tried just about every recipe that one could think of. I use to watch her cook, and I would taste whatever she cooked. My love for cooking stems from my love for food, and from watching my mom cook.

When I was old enough, around ten, she allowed me to assist her with some dishes. I was cooking on my own from I was about eleven or twelve, just like my mom, but my cooking was limited as she was the sous chef in our home.

By the time I was twelve, I had mastered many dishes, including one of my favourites, Lasagne.

I absolutely love cooking, and I can cook and bake 80% of my favourite foods. 

I love making Lasagne and other Italian dishes, and various Caribbean and Indian dishes. My favourite cake that I love making is pineapple upside cake.

Lena M Bonaby's Jerk Chicken Recipe

(Serves 4+ depends on whether the chicken leg is separated from the thigh)

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Total time: 3 hours +

Jerk marinade:

4 chicken thighs (with legs, attached or detached) 
1 lime, juiced
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing grill grates
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/8 – ¼ cup light brown sugar (to taste)
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (season to taste)
Fresh parsley, for garnish


Score chicken and season with kosher salt and ground pepper, and put in a casserole dish or into a resealable plastic bag.

Combine all marinade ingredients in a blender (or food processor). Blend all of the marinade ingredients together in until smooth.

Cover the chicken with the jerk marinade and toss to coat. (If you used a casserole dish, cover it with plastic wrap OR if you used a resealable bag, ensure that you secure the bag properly with a tie or knot). Refrigerate the chicken with the marinade for at least 2 hours for the flavours to meld. If you have the time, let the chicken marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 35 minutes in the oven.

Remove from the oven and finish on the grill (use oil on the grill to prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill).
This is the chicken before it has been grilled

Preheat grill to high. Grill for 2-4 minutes on each side

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

Snigdha's interfering busybody notes (why can't she just keep her nose well out of it?!):

350 degrees Fahrenheit works out to 177-180 degrees Celsius/Centigrade.

Please marinate in a non-metallic bowl, as the acids in the marinade will taste funny if left in a metal bowl.

Scallions are the American name for spring onions.

A jalapeno is obviously a chili. If you can't find them then substituting another type of chili should be fine.

If you can't find low sodium soy sauce, then you could use regular, but you may need to drop the amount of salt you add.

Allspice is not a mixture of spices, but a powder made from grinding the Allspice berry (AKA Jamaica Pepper).

Kosher salt is salt with no additives, so if you cannot find specifically 'kosher' salt, then use additive free salts such as Maldon Sea Salt.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Elish Maanch Dupiaza - Bengali Fish Curry: A Guest Post by Rupa Aminuzzaman

You, dear reader, may already be aware that I am a Senior Lecturer and Barrister at City Law School. You may also know that I teach on the Bar Professional Training Course, helping Wannabe Barristers realise their dreams by training them in the essential skills and knowledge they will need for practice. 

Well, many of my students come from Commonwealth nations, whose legal systems are founded on the basic principles of the law of England and Wales. It means that their young lawyers are able to qualify here, and creates a rich cultural exchange. I am often surprised how often that exchange relates to food. It appears that our common need to fill our bellies and our common desire to experience tasty food is one of the great barrier breakers. It helps us all sit across the same table from each other in an honest and genuine way.

I meet, through my work a whole host of amazing young people. Rupa Aminuzzaman is one of my lovely former students. Originating from Bangladesh, Rupa completed the course last academic year, through her steely determination, good humour and work ethic.

Elish Maanch is a quintessentially Bengali fish, much beloved in Bangladesh and in the East of India. My family originate from the region, but were displaced in the partition of 1947. They, like many other Hindu Bengalis, moved to West Bengal post Partition. There were many atrocities both during and after the Partition, on all sides of the 2 borders. It is a sad set of episodes in the history of the subcontinent.

However, Bengalis, whether living in Bangladesh or West Bengal in India love their Elish (or Ilish) Maanch (or Maach, meaning "fish"). It is a key element of the culinary heritage of their people. Fish is plentiful, cheap and nutritious. 

Bengalis have a reputation of being intellectuals. Nobel prize winning poet and author Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali (incidentally, he gave a certain M.K. Gandhi the title 'Mahatma' meaning great soul). It is thought across the rest of India that this is due to the high consumption of fish. There is an Indian saying mothers tell their children: 'Eat your fish and become brainy like the Bengalis'. When they say it, they are thinking about bright buttons like Rupa. They are not thinking of me.

Looking into Elish Maanch, it appears that it is high in Omega 3 oils, which assist good brain function. Apparently, they provide "insulation" to the nerve cells of the brain. This improves their efficient communication and it is thought that those whose diet is low Omega 3 oils are more susceptible to bipolar disorder, eating disorders, ADHD, depression and schizophrenia. Who would have thought what sounded like an 'old wives tale' turned out to have some truth to it?

Elish Maanch is available in some Indian and Bangladeshi shops in the UK. I am sure you can substitute with other fish. If you want to know more about Elish Maanch, have a read here:

I'm really proud to host this recipe which is part of my cultural heritage, even though I have never lived in India or Bangladesh and do not speak the language. It is still part of my life experience, having had my mother, aunties and granny make this for me, which I ate with relish. 

Now it is over to Rupa who wanted to say a few words before launching into her recipe:

Eating or cooking Elish maach always reminds me of home, sitting around the dinner table with my mum, dad and my little brother. It was the one fish that we all agreed upon. My father is an avid fish eater, my mother loves her veggies, my little brother was a hardcore carnivore and usually only ate red meat, while I was a lover of all things poultry. So in a way elish maach unified us. 

My mother could cook elish maach safe in the knowledge that we would all eat it, and moreover eat with relish and without complaint. It is because of this that I will always have a soft spot for elish maach. It makes me nostalgic and reminds me of my family especially as now we are all scattered across the globe. 

So bon appetit everyone!
Elish Maanch (Fish) Dupiaza cooked in Mustard Oil
To serve: 3 to 4 people as a main with plain long grain or basmati rice

6 or 7 fillets of Elish fish
2 medium to large onions, roughly sliced
2 whole green chillies, slit down the middle
Half a teaspoon of turmeric powder
Half a teaspoon of coriander powder
Quarter teaspoon of cumin powder
Quarter teaspoon of bay leaf powder
2 tablespoons of mustard oil
Half a lemon
Half a cup of water
Salt to taste

1. Put the fish fillets in a non-metallic bowl or large plate and squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the fish.

2. Add the sliced onions to the bowl with the fish fillets.

3. In a separate bowl add the spices: turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and bay leaf powder. Add a tablespoon of water until the mixture forms in to a paste.

4. Add the spice paste to the fish fillets and onion. Mix in the spice paste until the fish fillets and onion are completely marinated with the spice paste.

5. Add the mustard oil to a frying pan over medium heat.

6. Add the fish fillets, onion and spice mixture to the frying pan. After about 5 minutes check to see that fish fillets are adequately cooked and browned on one side and then carefully turn each of the fish fillets over.

7. Once the fish fillets are adequately cooked and browned on both sides add half a cup of water to the frying pan. Simmer for 5 mins on low heat.

8. Add the green chillies and salt to taste.

9. Serve the fish with steamed/boiled long grain rice or basmati rice.