Wednesday, 29 January 2014

January 2014 Favourites List

Hello everyone!

I am feeling rather sorry for myself. I caught a cold over the weekend, which has been incubating and growing in virulence to the point where today I was just feeling too bad to go into work. I should be more philosophical about these things, after all, if you work in a university, you are in very warm buildings with lots of warm bodies and germs are going to be transmitted between students and tutors. But I'm finding it difficult. I have so many things I'm meant to get done, and I have zero strength and vim to do them. 

So I won't be writing a long introduction to my carefully curated treats for the month of January. I'd just like to remind everyone who is in the middle of Winter like us folk in the UK to wrap up warm. And to keep your hands clean. Cold virus bugs can survive on door handles and the like for 24 hours. So keep your hands clean, please sneeze into a tissue and cough with your hand covering your mouth.

My cousin Barnali shared her cold remedy recipe with me, so I thought I'd post it here for anyone similarly suffering:
Boil a pot of water of 4 quarts (About 4.54 litres)
10-12 garlic pods
4 lemons halved (wax free)
Honey (amount to suit your taste)
Reduce water to half.
Strain and let it work its magic.

This month's pictures are from the Hundertwasser Haus in Vienna, a crazy, kookily creative block of flats remodelled by visionary artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) who loved colour and despised straight lines and flat floors. 

You can find out more about his life here: and the website devoted to his art and architecture is here:

I'm off to make me some hot lemon......

Blogs Worth Following:

British home cooking with a New World twist:

Chef Ashish Bhatia's wonderful writings about Indian cuisine:

Lots of ideas and inspiration for vegetarians and vegans:


Roasted cauliflower, chickpea and quinoa salad with jalapeno lime dressing:

Recipes with booze: Green Apple Guinness Melt Recipe, Beer Beef Stew Recipe and Tamarind And Dark Beer-Glazed Wings:

Ottolenghi does lentils: Crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin with flatbreads and Puy lentils with mushrooms and preserved lemon ragout:

Cute little ricotta and spinach dumplings! How to make Malfatti:

Japanese Panko breadcrumbs are crispy deliciousness, so how about beery panko onion rings? MMMM!

Black chick peas are nuttier and pleasantly chewier than their pale counterparts, here is a recipe for a curry using them:

Articles/Know How:

For foodies wanting more bang for their buck, the 10 best value places to eat in the UK:

Wines for miserably cold grey weather? Sounds wonderful!

Know your pasta shapes and what to match them with:

It would, of course, be better if we got all our vitamins and minerals from our food and drink. But being realistic, I know I don't. This is a helpful and informative guide to vitamins and supplements.


Songs That Saved Your Life 


Despicable Me


Sherlock, Season 3 (BBC, 2013)

Suits, Season 2


The Penelopes - Never Live Another Yesterday

David Bowie - The Next Day

The Pastels - Slow Summits

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Thai style salad with stewed beef

Thai salads are spicy, fresh tasting and glorious. They are vibrant, colourful and full of flavour. Seared beef is a common Thai salad ingredient. We love to have a hot, fiery, fresh tasting seared beef salad every now and then. Other than the preparation of the salad ingredients, is a swift and easy weekday supper. 

But every now and then you crave something a little different. As we are still in the middle of Winter, we've been enjoying lots of casseroles, curries and stews with slow cooked and tender meat. So we got to thinking, what would a Thai salad be like with a slow cooked and tender beef instead of quickly seared?

This dish was the result of our experimentation. Much of the credit goes to Him Indoors, my stalwart life partner and joint head chef. I don't profess to say that this dish is authentic. Hence the "Thai style" moniker. It is an imagining of a Thai salad with a few twists. The first being the slow cooked beef. The second being the dressing, which although it includes a number of classic Thai ingredients, would be highly unlikely to include Oyster Sauce. It was chosen as it so beautifully complements beef.

This recipe will require overnight marinading. So please note that there are definite stages to this recipe. Stage one is the marinading overnight, so you need to plan ahead. Then there is the second stage, the stewing, which will take a fair amount of time. Then the third is preparing the salad and dressing. You will need to plan when you want to make this dish accordingly.

Hopefully you will like this new recipe. Please get in touch with your impressions, thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thai style salad with stewed beef

Serves 2


350g sirloin steak cut into 1" (2.5cm) cubes

For the beef marinade:
1 stick lemongrass, peeled and very finely sliced
50ml fish sauce

For the beef stew:
1 stick lemongrass, peeled and cut into chunks of 1" (2.5cm)
1 birds eye chilli, chopped
1 400ml can coconut milk

For the salad:
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow pepper cut into slices/chunks
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped roughly
a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped roughly
1 to 2 Thai shallots, sliced finely

For the dressing:
1 lime, juiced
1 birds eye chilli, chopped finely (deseeded if you don't like your food too hot)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tbsp palm sugar, crushed/ground


Prepare your beef by cutting to size and then marinading overnight with the fish sauce and lemongrass in the fridge in a non-metallic container. A plastic sealable container would be perfect.

The next day, drain away the marinade and discard the first stick of lemongrass. Put in a saucepan with the second stick of lemongrass, the chilli and the contents of the can of coconut milk. 

Put on the hob and cook on a simmer for 40 minutes. 

Drain away the coconut milk and pick out the lemongrass. 

Prepare your dressing, ensuring it is thoroughly mixed. The oyster sauce and palm sugar will be difficult to mix. Either whisk up or put in a jar and shake vigourously. Leave for 10 minutes or so for the flavours to combine.

Assemble the salad, by mixing up the tomatoes, red onion, peppers and herbs, piling the beef on top and then dressing.

Enjoy immediately before the herbs get soggy.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Chotto Matte, a fascinating fusion

Life gets busy and complicated without you even knowing it. Before you know it, it has been months since you saw your best friend. A whole ruddy term has gone by in a whirl of seminars, lectures, marking, and learning objectives. You feel terrible; guilty and fearful that your friend will be distant, cold and unforgiving. Should you make that call, should you try to arrange a get together? 

Of course you should! What a silly set of thoughts! 

After a busy and stressful first term, I realised that I hadn't seen my best friend Chris since the Summer. Thankfully, he is a forgiving and faithful soul who didn't rebuff my request to get together. Proof to everyone, that whoever it is you've been out of the loop with, get it sorted out! Make the call! Get a date in the diary. And don't let it happen again.

So, we met up, for a long and leisurely lunch. Where would we go? After a little bit of aimless wandering, we decided to visit Chotto Matte. Situated in Frith Street, Soho, it's right in the heart of the West End. It describes itself as serving food which is a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines, based on a cultural tradition over a century old.

The ground floor of the restaurant is dimly lit, with a lovely wrap-around graffiti mural, protected from grubby hands by a perspex screen. The comic book art, stylish and beautifully rendered.

The menu is not simple, as the dishes are categorised not as "starters" and "mains", but according to the type, eg "sushi", "chicharronia", and "anticucheria". The idea being you go from small cold dishes to the hot, more spicy dishes and that you round off with sushi.

So whilst we perused the menu, we had a bowl of the Padron peppers. At £4.50 they were pricey for the portion size, but the combination of sea salt and miso made them moreish with a little moist sweetness.

We studied the menu whilst watching the staff prepare sushi in the open kitchen....

Seafood ceviche (£7.50)
Prawn, scallop, sea bass, sweet potato, Peruvian corn, coriander, chive oil, citrus sauce

Wonderfully balanced with sharp citrus and a counterbalancing sweetness, this was a taste explosion. Somewhat small portion, but lovingly presented. The chive oil, whilst being a very small part of the dish made itself known without being a big bully. What is the difference between regular sweetcorn and Peruvian? The Peruvian is much lighter in colour, super crunchy and humungous! I've never seen kernels as huge!

Calabacín a la parrilla (a vegetarian dish) (£4.95) 
Courgette, pickled shallots, beetroot crisps, chilli bean sauce

Our next dish was one of delicately grilled courgettes with a mass of slightly crispy but not dry beetroot shavings. A very pleasant dish to pick at, with the sauce and pickle providing effective accent flavours.

Whitebait, mussels, squid, prawn, corn sand, jalapeño sauce

"Seafood tempura with a Peruvian twist" is what this dish said to me. By and large this was fluffy batter, crispy on the outside with yielding and tasty seafood morsels on the inside. The squid, whitebait, and prawns were a hit with us. However, the mussels were dry and a little chewy. The sauce was well judged, complementing the seafood and not spicy for the sake of it. It was quite mild, given that it was made from jalapeños. My other issue with this dish is the corn sand. It added no flavour and ended up clinging to the pieces of seafood, ultimately ending up in the sauce. Hence getting towards the end of our dish, the sauce was growing thick and claggy. Please ditch the corn sand. Or serve with a larger, deeper bowl with more sauce in it. 

Camarón de tigre (£11.95) 
Prawn, semi-dry orange, Peruvian chilli

Chargrilled prawns with tangy orange and chilli. We tried to suck as much prawn meat as we could from the tails of the little blighters! Tasty little morsels, which get a big thumbs up from us.

Conchas aji Salsa11.95) 
Scallops, quinoa and blackberry chilli salsa 

The scallops were just cooked, exactly how I like them. There was a gravy in which the small, but effective amount of quinoa was thoroughly coated. Overall the flavours and textures came together in an unexpected, original and highly tasty manner. It was a shame to have only 3 scallops between two of us, but we managed to share out the dish equitably.

Chicha Morada Crumble (£7.00)

This was a sort of "deconstructed" crumble. What I mean is that it wasn't baked as a proper crumble, with fruity base and topping. The biscuity crunchy "crumble" was lightly baked before being liberally sprinkled over the stewed fruit, which was sweet with slight sour tang. Pleasant and comforting, if nothing special. It was good, but lacked "wow" factor. 

Salted caramel chocolate fondant (£7.50)
Orange compote, vanilla ice cream

As soon as Chris' dessert arrived, I felt the pang of Pudding Envy. Chris had definitely made the better choice, lovely as my dessert was. The fondant was just spongy on the outside, and when he cut it with his spoon, all the glorious chocolately goo came out in a leisurely ooze. It tasted rich, indulgent and wonderful...

The ladies lunching on the table watched the oozy splendour and both immediately pointed to their waitress, declaring "We'll have what he's having!".

This is a restaurant which treads the line of being trendy, a little different, but with low key and polite service very well. We had a great lunch, and were not remotely rushed. We were allowed to natter, and given our space. Very nice indeed.

Snigdha and Chris paid for their lunch with their trusty debit cards.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Juicers and Juicing: A guest post by Jen Dean

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful time with family and friends over Christmas. It’s always such a lovely period of celebration and socialising. Of course, along with the gift giving, another source of joy is Christmas food! It’s a time of indulgence, and for many (like me!) over-indulgence!

Some of you might therefore be considering New Year Resolutions, healthy eating plans, fitness kicks or out and out diets.

Many of us could do with eating more healthily. One way of achieving an overall healthier diet is through juicing. Eating more fruit and vegetables will always be the best way of obtaining vital nutrients, rather than taking supplements. Cooked vegetables are great, but often the cooking process means that the nutrient content is reduced. Juicing means that you preserve the nutrients, all those precious vitamins and minerals, whilst giving yourself something palatable and easy to consume. Some people just can’t get along with eating raw, chopped fruits or vegetables. Personally, I can’t imagine doing anything like the raw food diet

Many people use juicing as a method for achieving weight loss. Personally, I would advise caution. Whatever diet you use, you must ensure your overall food and drink intake is balanced. Juice can count for one of your “five a day”, but not more. The reason for this is that the dietary fibre is left behind in the juice machine.

I’m not a juicing expert, so I am delighted that one of my former students, Jennifer Dean (or Jen as she likes to be called) has written you a short guide to her juicer, how she uses it and some hints and tips for newbies. 

Jen Dean is a qualified Barrister who has worked on various Government agencies, and currently has a term of office on a advisory committee on environmental issues. This post involves advising on the making and implementation of environmental legislation. In addition, she is a legal advisory consultant for a major trade union, working on employment law cases including disciplinary hearings and mediations. She is also the Chair of the Law Specialist Group at the British Computer Society for the 3rd year running. She was one of my very best advocacy students, and is a passionate foodie. 

So, without further ado, over to Jen!

Hello readers!

My Juicer is a 960 watt centrifugal one bought new on Ebay for £49, approximately. It is unbranded.  It’s my 3rd juicer. 

Jen's current juicing machine - a centrifugal juicer
I juice carrots and other ‘hard’ items like beetroot. The 960 watts is good power and makes light work of everything.

I do not juice frozen ginger as that is too hard. Frozen ginger is like rock for my juicer and reduces the life span. This is my 3rd Juicer of this centrifugal type. I have a small kitchen and I am watching my budget. These are considerations to take into account when selecting a juicer. Some of the ‘cold press’ juicers eg the ’Vitamix’ have a bigger footprint and are more costly. You will need to think about your priorities.

Juice from my type of machine lasts about 2 days. The centrifugal type is not as efficient as the cold press juicers which extract more juice and the juice can last up to 3 days in the fridge. Another consideration is that  you can get attachments for the cold press juicer to do other things. 

My friend has a cold press but she bought hers in the US and brought it over. It looks a bit like this:

A typical cold press juicer

I juice carrots, apples and celery mostly. I wash my carrots, apple and celery (especially the celery as it can have lots of dirt). I cut the heads off my carrots, and core the apples.

Your root veggies need thorough washing

All the hard and inedible bits need to be trimmed off

Apple cores need removing and celery needs thorough washing

So that was 20 carrots, 1 stick of celery (you don’t need much, it gives a lot of aroma and taste to the juice, which you don’t want to be overpowering) and 2 apples. All should be prepared as much as you can bother to do, to prevent the dreaded sticking!

Then I put them in the juicer, a few at a time, otherwise it gets stuck. It’s a bit messy to get unstuck. And also you have to remember to switch off the machine or you could lose a finger!

Jen's juicer - in action!

The carrot and apple pith (even the celery  pith) left over can be made into a cake or in the West indies where I come from we make thick ‘pone’ (eg cassava pone, which is a bit like bread pudding).

The finished product!

The above quantity gave me this amount of juice. That is the green 750 mls plastic container and the 500ml silver top bottle. It’s a good amount of fresh juice, without any artificial colour, preservatives or other unexpected nasties. 

Then comes the task of the clearup. You need to switch off the power, disassemble the machine, scoop out all the pith before washing. Well designed machines will be easy to take apart and put back together.

Disassembling the machine

This is what it looks like all washed up which,  thankfully, is easy to do.

All washed! Phew!

I hope that this helps anyone who is thinking about starting to do their own juicing. It's easy and convenient, and tastes much nicer than anything you buy. 

My thanks to Jen for providing this post, which she did completely out of the goodness of her heart. We aren't promoting any type or brand of juicer.