Friday, 22 August 2014

August 2014 Favourites List

The end of August means that school children are trying to squeeze the last bits of fun out of the school holidays whilst their parents frantically try to get things in order in time for September. New school uniforms for kids going up "to the big school", replacing items torn or worn beyond rescue, replacing outgrown bits of kits, all these have to be found in the approved colours and in a size which will allow for a few months worth of growth. Books from the teachers' recommended lists, bought in anticipation of the term to come. New stationery in bright, vibrant colours. The shops are full of Back To School stuff, reminding the children that the end of Summer is on its way.

I have my new diary for the academic year 2014-15. My new students will be arriving next month. I have been doing my resit assessment marking, the very last task at the end of one academic year, before the start of a new year. I am in desperate need of having a clear out of all my out of date materials from the year just ended, and a big tidy up. So I know all about that "back to school" feeling. 

Before we do find ourselves back in the classroom, doing homework, marking and all those things that term

time brings, I hope we will all take a little time to have a breather. A little time to enjoy the sunshine. A walk in the park, a lazy weekend, meeting with friends, an evening out. These are the things that help us refresh ourselves. We need a little refresher before the craziness begins.

This month's pictures are my Summer colour pictures from my Instagram account. I've been learning how to use Instagram this Summer, and have been experimenting. Summer flowers are always a delight, and I love their colour, zest and fun. They are defiant, that despite lasting only the blink of an eye, they will make the most of their time. 

If you want to follow me on Instagram, my handle is snigskitchen.


Henry Dimbleby shares Leon restaurants' Moroccan meatball recipe and talks about how to make perfect meatballs:

Tips on how to marinade, which marinades to use with which meats and a 5 herb and garlic marinade recipe from Rachel Phipps for BBQ season:

Law student and cooking genius Dewi makes his return after exams to share a vegetarian Harissa spiced lentil salad recipe (egg on top is optional): 

Ferran Adria, legendary El Bulli chef, shares his Gazpacho recipe:

Jason Atherton's salads for Summer; crab and asparagus salad with radishes, Avocado, baby gem and sauteed baby carrot salad, Beetroot-cured sea trout with roast beetroot and horseradish cream:

Pork chop with pears, ginger and lentils by Allegra McEvedy: 

Tony Singh's Satay inspired dish of peanut butter chicken thighs with caramelised nuts and steamed rice:

London Unattached's Fiona McLean's tasty tuna for the 5:2 diet:

Three part salad masterclass from Leon's Henry Dimbleby.
Part 3: How to put quinoa, bulgur and rice to good use in a healthy salad:

Final Destination & Heroes actor Ali Larter gives her blueberry crumble recipe:

Articles/Know How:

What I eat or don't eat, my size and body shape are none of your business. Shocking stories of women being confronted by strangers for something so simple as actually enjoying food.

Tim Ho Wan is the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world, serving up affordable Dim Sum. Shame it's all the way in Hong Kong!




The Joy Of The Guitar Riff


Jessie Ware - Devotion

The Lilac Time - lilac6

Jackson C Frank - Jackson C Frank

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Kerlern Ong’s Homemade Banana Cake

Regular readers and twitter followers will know that I am a university lecturer by day and hobby blogger by night (or weekend!). One lovely aspect of my work is that I get to share my interest in food with the many brilliant students I meet. Because many come from Commonwealth countries, we also find that our food chats are truly global and international. 

This blog post is a guest post by Kerlern Ong, one of my students from Malaysia. She has been kind enough to share one of her recipes with me and my readers, for which I am very grateful. Kerlern was my student in 2009, where I taught her civil litigation and drafting. Yes, poor girl, those subjects really are as "interesting" as they sound! 

Kerlern passed the course with flying colours, since she was always hard working and has great natural intelligence. After being called to the Bar and becoming a Barrister of England and Wales, she went back to Malaysia to practice law. Kerlern deals with more than one area of law, but specialises most in conveyancing. It suits her as she can be both a Barrister and a Solicitor, without having to select a particular path. 

Given that the recipe she is sharing with us is for her homemade banana cake, it will come as no surprise that she is a keen baker in her spare time. Kerlern loves baking cakes and often posts droolworthy pictures of her handiwork online. Kerlern also enjoys prawn fishing in her spare time. 

Kerlern is a modest, lovely young woman. So much so, she didn't want me to use a picture of her for this blog post. In lieu, she has provided a picture of one of her much beloved cats, Gingy. Gingy as you can see is an exceedingly handsome and dapper cat. He lives with Gizmo where they argue over cat food and who gets the most petting from Kerlern.

Kerlern is on instagram, you can follow her by looking for: kerlern. Warning; Kerlern's Instagram feed may contain lots of cute cat pictures. Management accept no responsibility for hours of work time spent (wasted) poring over pictures or Gingy or Gizmo. 

Thanks very much for sharing, Kerlern!
  Kerlern Ong’s Homemade Banana Cake


195g All purpose flour
1/2tsp Baking powder  
1/2tsp Baking soda  
1/4tsp Salt 
130g Unsalted butter  
130g Granulated sugar  
1 Egg  
1tsp Vanilla extract  
190g Mashed banana  
85g Whipping cream  
1tsp Lemon juice  
2 Bananas for topping
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling on top of the cake


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Line 20cm x 20cm pan with baking paper.

Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together.

Mix the whipping cream and lemon juice together.

Beat the butter and salt until soft, add the granulated sugar then beat until light in colour, add the vanilla, beat until combine.

Add the egg, beat until combine, add the mashed banana, beat until combined. 

Pour 1/3 of the sifted flour into the bowl, fold to combine, pour half of the whipping cream mixture into the bowl, fold to combine, repeat with the rest of the flour and the whipping cream mixture (end with flour).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, cut the banana into small rings, and place on top of the cake.

Sprinkle with or Demerara sugar.

Put into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Heston Blumenthal's BBQ Chicken Wings with Waitrose

This Summer in the UK has been a doozy so far, hasn't it? Lots of warmth, sunshine and hot days. It's just the kind of season you want to eat al fresco, or perhaps cook outdoors. 

Trouble is, I think that sometimes barbeques get a little predictable. Sure, burgers are classics, but can't we have something a little more original? Sausages make a great staple, but sometimes you want to be more adventurous. 

With adventure and flavour in mind, Waitrose have asked the legendary Heston Blumenthal to devise some barbeque recipes for the home cook. Better known for creations like his Snail Porridge (as served at The Fat Duck) or Meat Fruit (as served at Dinner), Heston is known for technically difficult and highly scientific recipes. How well would these recipes work for someone having a small scale barbeque with friends? I decided to investigate.

I had a browse through the variety of recipes written by Heston for this Summer Barbeque season. You will find them here; Heston's ultimate BBQ recipes

I selected the chicken wing recipe, which appealed because barbeques are really all about finger food, eaten in the garden, standing around, with family and friends. And because I think the meat on chicken wings is underrated and well worth the effort of nibbling around the bones!

The chicken wing recipe is here;

My backpack barbeque (I can't post this the right way up)
Using a small "backpack" barbeque was going to test how achieveable the recipe was going to be. Not everyone can buy a large gas barbeque, either for cost or space reasons.

The barbeque was easy to assemble. The tray is deep enough for a good amount of charcoal, enough for one large helping of grilled meat at a time. The stand was stable, which is important to ensure the safety of the grillmaster.

Once that job had been done, it was time to start preparations. First up was marinating the chicken wings. 

The marinade itself was very simple indeed, the juice of 4 limes and 4 tbsp of oil. So simple, in fact, that I was sceptical about how much difference it would make to the taste of the cooked wings. But I decided to trust Heston and cook the recipe as written. 

The marinade was mixed thoroughly with the wings and left to stand for 45 minutes.

The grill was filled with charcoal (we used Supagrill charcoal).

Of course, as you will know, the coals have to be lit and allowed to burn yellow for a time, and food should only be cooked when the coals are white hot. 

The dipping sauce was easy to make, as it was just soured cream and soft blue cheese beaten together. I used Dolcelatte, as we like the contrast between its softness and tang. Heston recommends that you use a hand blender to do this. I do not own a hand blender, so I did this by hand, and it took a little while, giving me more of a workout than I am used to! I made the sauce a little in advance and put it in the fridge to keep it cool before tackling the next stages.You use the same weight of cheese as volume of cheese; 300g cheese and 300ml of sour cream if you are making the full amount.

Sour Cream and Blue Cheese Dip

The barbeque sauce was more of a challenge. 9 different ingredients, the necessity of making a caramel....  I took a deep breath, rolled my sleeves up and got going....

One criticism I have is that I had to weigh out liquid ingredients. Yes, the stock was bought in a 500g container, but having to weigh it again after reducing it was a bit of a pain. As was weighing out the ketchup and rice wine vinegar. I completely understand that Heston might have developed the recipe by weighing out the ingredients, but the amounts could have been translated into liquid measures by volume. I know that 1g of water is 1ml. But I was wary of assuming that vinegar and ketchup would be the same weight by volume. Still, never mind, I measured everything out in advance and started cooking.

So those sauce ingredients are:
500g pack Heston from Waitrose Chicken Stock
100g white caster sugar
100g rice wine vinegar
200g tomato ketchup
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Tabasco Pepper Sauce, to taste
2 tsp Cayenne pepper
First I reduced the stock, as I mentioned above, and I am not featuring a picture as you all know what a pan simmering looks like! Next I had to heat up the caster sugar in a pan. Here it is beginning to soften.

This soon turned into a medium caramel. 

My next task was to pour in the vinegar, gradually, whisking to dissolve the caramel. 

PLEASE be careful when you do this! The caramel does not like the vinegar and bubbles, somewhat like when a dribble of water falls into a frying pan full of hot oil. Liquid caramel is hot, thick and clingy, if it goes on you, it will burn and keep on burning because you won't be able to get it off your skin. So take your time, whisking and adding the vinegar slowly. I didn't take any pictures because I decided I would concentrate whilst doing this to avoid accidents.

I then added all the other ingredients for the sauce; tomato ketchup, mushroom ketchup, sesame oil*, cayenne and tabasco. I mixed them all up and cooked gently until it started to thicken.

The crudite accompaniment was easy, simple and fast to prepare

But what about the chicken? After marinating and when the barbeque was ready for cooking with, the wings went on. We were able to fit all but 3 from our 1 kilogram of wings on the grill, which was pretty impressive given how compact the backpack barbeque was.

At the start of the cooking time:

 The first turning of the wings:

Getting near the end of the 20-25 minute overall cooking time (the wings need a couple of turns to cook evenly).

I put the still hot barbeque sauce into a my casserole dish, as it was the only container big enough to fit the sauce and the cooked wings together which would allow for the wings to be moved around in the sauce.

Since many people are unable to eat sesame seeds, owing to allergies (more information about sesame seed allergies here: So here is the finished dish without the toasted sesame seed topping. 

* - If you are allergic to sesame seeds, I think you could use another oil in the sauce, perhaps sunflower or rapeseed.

We are not allergic to sesame seeds and particularly love their flavour and crunch. I therefore toasted the sesame seeds in a dry pan. They are fussy things, cream coloured one minute, when suddenly they change colour. Look away for a moment and they go from tan to burnt! Beware!

Here is our finished dish:

And a close up.....

The taste verdict:

The wings were the right combination of slightly burnt on the extreme outside edges, but soft in the meaty parts. The marinade maintained the moisture during the grilling process. 

The barbeque sauce was the best I have ever tasted. It had a spicy kick and decent afterburn but was not so fiery that it took away from the enjoyment of the dish. Making it at home meant the flavours were much more vibrant and intense than shop bought, which can be too cloying, bland and over-sweet. 

The crudites in the blue cheese dip were a great contrast of texture and flavour to complement the wings, and being so simple, were ideal for this slighly fiddly and time consuming dish.

We were very impressed with the richness yet punch of the sauce, and it was a delight to nibble around the bones of the wings, savouring the succulent meat. 

An impressive barbeque dish for foodies to give a try. 

Snigdha would like to thank Waitrose for sending the barbeque and ingredients for the dish.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Squaring the circle: Pizza Rossa brings pizza al taglio to London

Obviously, pizza is very popular in its native Italy, and we Brits can't get enough of it, either. However, there is a street food tradition of buying pizza by the slice in Italy which we haven't quite embraced. "Pizza al taglio" is intended to be a portable slice of bready deliciousness which can be eaten on the go.

Pizza Rossa's founders love that "al taglio" tradition and wanted to bring it to London. Sadly, it isn't a simple task. Making good quality pizza bread, topping it with authentic premium toppings, making it fresh for each customer, so that it is portable and fast presents a number of challenges.

Firstly, the pizza must be portable. This is achieved by a square slice. A wedge taken from a circular pizza tends to flop, making it a poor portable meal. We've all been there, the crust doesn't quite support the heavy, moister middle. I think this is why we tend to eat pizza using cutlery, rather than grasping the nettle and using our hands.
Secondly, it must be freshly made for the customer, so that the pizza tastes at its best. We've all had pre-prepared pizzas sitting under hot lamps to keep it hot. The topping ingredients start to dry out, and the texture of the crust gets ruined. If using topping ingredients which have been chosen for their high quality, the customer wants to enjoy them at their best, not dehydrated mozzarella developing a thick skin on top or parched vegetables.

Thirdly, the pizza should be light. It shouldn't feel stodgy when eating and should not leave you feeling heavy after you've eaten. 
Pizza Rossa talked me through their process, from which I learned a lot about how to make my own pizzas at home. Although, for reasons which will become apparent below, not all of their techniques are suited to the home cook.

The ingredients used are good quality flour (ordinary wholemeal flour and durum wheat flour), fresh yeast, premium olive oil and sea salt.

Luca, our pizza chef, told us that using fresh (living) yeast was particularly important for a light, bubbly base which is crispy yet yielding. If put in warm water and allowed to revive itself for a few minutes before use, the yeast will be in prime condition. The aim is to use as little yeast as possible to achieve the proving and rising. Increasing the amount will cause the base to be overly flavoured of yeast and results in that heavy and bloated feeling you sometimes have after having eaten a pizza.

The flour and yeast water is mixed first. Then the salt and olive oil are added and then mixed thoroughly. The dough is then brought together into a ball. 

Luca at work!

 The dough is left to prove, wrapped in cling film, to allow the yeast to respire.

The dough is then rolled out, shaped to fit a baking tray, trimmed, and then rolled with a piercing tool to create little dips. These increase the surface area to volume ratio, which serves to make the base crispy on the outside after baking.

Because Pizza Rossa are not making home style pizzas, and because their pizzas are cooked to order for their customers, the base is given some initial cooking in the oven. Enough to make it spongy and to make it rise a little. It can then be put aside for the rest of the day for use later. 

Pizza Rossa's target customer is someone who loves good food, but doesn't have a lot of time. Essentially, a working customer seeking lunchtime or late afternoon sustenance.

Each pizza is made to the customer's order with toppings added just before a final blast in the oven.

 The final article, with a variety of topping combinations:
- Mozzarella and aubergine
- Artichoke, peppers, mozzarella and olives

What's my verdict?

The base was completely different from any pizza I have had before, either here or in Italy. It was very crispy and extremely light. There was a definite crunch when biting. The lightness of the overall pizza means I could enjoy a slice of pizza at lunchtime without feeling guilty about having gorged on something I would ordinarily consider as unhealthy. Although the base had been cooked initially and stored until later, that did not come through in the taste or texture. 

I liked the fact that the final blast in the oven was very short, it meant that the mozzarella has been melted, but the vegetable ingredients were not overcooked, dried or limp. 

The slices cost a pocket-friendly £2.95 - £3.95, making them as inexpensive as a pre-prepared sandwich. I know what I would prefer.

So I'm hoping that Pizza Rossa will come to my work neighbourhood over in "midtown", the Holborn area. 

They are currently at a pop up location in the City, just outside Leadenhall Market, but will be opening permanent restaurants very soon. You can find out more here:

Snigdha visited as a guest of Pizza Rossa.