Monday, 28 September 2015

Vegetable pakoras with Premier Inn Purple Sauce

Premier Inn is a well known chain of hotels promising good quality accommodation at a reasonable price. If you are able to time your booking well, this is absolutely the case. I have stayed at their establishments and been an utterly happy camper. One particular occasion when I was teaching in Leeds springs to mind, where the level of comfort and service I received was over and above the “budget” tag often applied to Premier Inn, in my view unfairly.

Premier Inn wants to provide good food on top of its agenda of good value and good service. As a result, it is seeking to revolutionise breakfast dining. It has therefore launched its own bespoke condiment: Premier Inn Purple Sauce. It has been available since this Summer, with a view to reviewing its success and perhaps launching nationally through sales in supermarkets. 

So what on earth is “Purple Sauce”? Well, if you know your rock and roll, you would know that purple is as regal and cool today as it has been in Roman times. Purple Rain and Purple Haze resonate and rock hard, proving that the aubergine hue will always live long in people’s imagination. I confess it is my favourite colour and I wear it often. I do hope they will make this sauce generally available as it is a brilliant alternative to ketchup or HP sauce. 

Premier Inn Purple Sauce has been invented by Ed Baines. Ed Baines is a chef who trained with the much esteemed Anton Mosimann at The Dorchester, going on to work with Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum and at The River CafĂ© with Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray. He now runs Randall & Aubin, his flagship restaurant. He has written two cook books; Best Of British and Entertain.  

The Premier Inn Purple Sauce contains blackberry, cracked black pepper, crushed chillies, cider vinegar, toasted cumin and smoked salt. It is made of natural ingredients with no artificial colours or flavourings. It is also suitable for vegetarians. You can read more about it here:

The Purple Sauce naturally goes well with a cooked breakfast; bacon and sausages benefit from its sweet, sour and spicy tang. But I wanted to try something more tea-time. In India, tea time doesn’t involve cake or cucumber sandwiches. It involves steamed lentil cake (khaman/dhokla), samosas or pakoras. The Purple sauce flavourings of chilli, cumin and black pepper lends itself to Indian food and in particular, Indian snacks.

Since I have no talent for baking cakes and you all know how to make cucumber sandwiches already, I have decided to share my recipe for vegetable pakoras with you. Perfect with Premier Inn Purple Sauce. 

Vegetable Pakoras

Serves 2-3 as a snack


2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ginger paste
1 small onion, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced
½ courgette, peeled and cut into julienne
¼ small cauliflower (2 handfuls) cut into small dice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
Freshly ground black pepper
2 finely chopped chillis
1 tablespoon coriander, finely chopped
6 tablespoons chick pea (gram) flour
3 tablespoons cold pressed rapeseed oil or groundnut (peanut) oil
Premier Inn Purple Sauce, to serve


1. Prepare all the vegetables as described above. Place in a non-metallic container. Add the salt, turmeric, garam masala, garlic, ginger paste, black pepper and chilli and mix well. Leave for half an hour for the flavours to combine and for the salt to draw moisture out of the vegetables. 

2. Add the coriander leaf and mix well.

3. Sieve the chick pea flour. 

4. Add half the chick pea flour, mix well. Then add half of what remains and mix well. You may not need to add all 6 tablespoons of the flour. Keep adding, mixing as you go. When it starts to get sticky and gluey, and holds together well, then you know you have made the mixture for the pakoras.

5. Heat the oil in a frying pan.

6. Add the pakora mix in dollops. You will be able to make 5-6 good sized pakoras using the amount of mix. 

7. Fry for 5 minutes or until brown on one side. Then turn over. Do not turn over until the base is solid or the pakoras may fall apart.

8. Fry for another 4-5 minutes until brown on the opposite side. 

9. Put onto kitchen roll to absorb any excess cooking oil.

10. Serve at once with Premier Inn Purple Sauce. 

Alternative sauce ideas:

If you like your Indian food mild, use Sweet Mango chutney, just like you find in your local curry house. 

If you want to try something tangy, sour and authentic, try Tamarind chutney, Nizami make a very nice Tamarind chutney.

Mr Todiwala’s also make great chutneys and pickles.

Snigdha would like to thank Premier Inn for sending a sample of their Purple Sauce for testing purposes. Snigdha has received no incentive, financial or otherwise for this blog post. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

September 2015 Favourites List

Summer is struggling to have a last shout here in the UK. We haven’t quite had the Indian Summer we had hoped for after a pretty wet August. So I am using this opportunity to share some of my last Summer flower pictures in this Favourites list.

Of course, September is a big month in the educational calendar, marking the commencement of a new academic year. Schools reconvened a couple of weeks ago, with new uniforms, pencil cases and timetables. Universities are now following suit.

My new students arrive on 21st September, their registration day. I am looking forward to meeting them and getting to know them over the coming weeks. Wish us luck as we embark on a journey to take them from being academic lawyers to practical, problem solving ones.

To anyone in education, whichever side of the classroom you are on, I wish you a happy and successful academic year.

Now to my favourite things for the month of September.


From Diana Henry's Bird In The Hand book, a chicken thigh salad with avocado, spinach, spring onions and fresh coriander:

Very simple and quick prawn rice noodle salad for when you need dinner fast:

A foolproof way of making caramelised onions, using a slow cooker:

Cherry tomatoes, herbs, white beans and chorizo in a sunshine-on-a-plate salad for what might be our last Summer day:

Pasta with bottarga (compressed fish roe) from Ms Marmite Lover, Kirsten Rodgers:

I love Paella but find the proper way of making it time consuming and a massive faff. I'm very tempted by this cheat's version:

This walnut, and anchovy and herby pasta dish has a name suggesting it is from the Amalfi coast. A wonderful part of the world, with fabulous food:

Sweet corn prepared with Thai flavours and aromatics and a fennel gratin from Thomasina Miers. Inventive veg dishes:

Articles/Know How:

Want to understand the sometimes bewildering topic of Japanese Sake? This is a clear, easy to follow guide by Kavita of Kavey Eats:

Helpful guide to pasta - A Pasta Primer from the Pasadena Chef blog:

The latest list of UK Michelin starred restaurants:

If you keen to "de-bug" and clean your salads and veggies, you might like to try this:

High time we had a Gothic/Fantasy round to the Bake Off! Who wouldn't want to see a baked Alien (from the famed Alien "Quadrilogy")?

"The soup of stupid peasants? Excellent choice, Sir." Hilarious, rude and frankly mystifying menu translation fails.

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Very pleased to have had Snig's Kitchen named as one of the 50 best food blogs in the UK!

And over at Snig’s Classroom:

Essential Summer preparations for Wannabe Barristers:

How to survive the first two weeks of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), by the students in the know:

Part Two of how to survive the BPTC by my brilliant former students:

Registering for the BPTC is only the beginning, having coping mechanisms are vital:

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.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Roka, London, Restaurant Review

Roka Restaurant is one I've been hearing great things about. It specialises in Japanese robatayaki cooking. Robatayaki translates as "fireside cooking", meaning that the food is cooked on a barbeque in the sight of diners. I visited the Aldwych restaurant, where the dining space is a large room, with a central open kitchen where the preparation and barbeque cooking takes place. I have mentioned before my love of open kitchens, where the ebb and flow of activity provides a mesmerising display. This was no different. 

The design of the restaurant has been achieved with ingenuity, you can see all the heat and flames, but none of the smells from the kitchen seem to seep out, despite being in the same open space. Here are the masters at work....

I visited with two companions for what we intended to be a big treat lunch; no rushing, indulgent and full on. But what were we going to have? The menu seemed unfamiliar, none of us have had the good fortune to visit Japan and sample this authentic cuisine before. Everything sounded great, but where to start? 

We settled on the tasting menu with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne. We were advised it had most of the best/signature dishes available and from our perusal of the menu, seemed to offer good value for money. Not cheap, I hasten to add, but a good value way of sampling many of the dishes on the main menu. 

Kampachi sashimi no salada
Yellowtail sashimi with yuzu truffle dressing

The wafer thin sliced yellowtail (Japanese Amberjack fish), was fresh and mildly flavoured with the citrus toned truffle dressing. The truffles did not overpower the fish, and when eaten with the shiso leaves and carrot topping, made a refreshing start to our lunch.

Iceberg salada no wafu
Iceberg lettuce with caramelised onion dressing

If I am honest, this was never a dish I would have ordered from the menu by choice. It just doesn't sound too special, does it? Expecting something a little bit bland, I was surprised to find this very strikingly presented dish come to the table. Lined up like dominoes, the lettuce was cut into perfect little squares with caramelised onion dressing, sesame seeds and shredded seaweed sprinkled on top. But it isn't just a beautiful plate of food, it tastes great too. Somehow the caramelised onion dressing lifts the lettuce so far above the mundane, I am still scratching my head how they managed it at all. There is sweetness, depth, umami along with the fresh tasting crispness of the lettuce. It's mind bogglingly good. 

Wagyu no tartar
Pure breed Japanese Wagyu tartar, ponzu pearls, nori cracker

Made from the legendary Wagyu beef, this tartar was served on a slightly crumby cracker flavoured with Japanese seaweed. This was a beautiful morsel of food, and the beef was tender and delicate. However, being a very small portion, there wasn't enough opportunity to discern other subtleties... in a heartbeat, it was gone. Seconds, please!

Sashimi moriawase ni nin mae (Sashimi platter)
Selection of premium sashimi, yellowtail tartare with rice cracker, daikon chirashi roll with avocado

The tall glass contains the long rice crackers (baked with black and white sesame seeds) with the yellowtail tartare in the base of the glass. The small wooden spoon is to place the tartare on the cracker. The tartare was fresh, herby and lightly flavoured with clean citrus flavours. The super crunchy home made crackers a lovely conduit for eating the tartare. The whole platter was jaw droppingly gorgeously presented (the pictures do not do any of it justice) and super tasting. 

One of the highlights of the dish was the fact it was served with genuine grated Wasabi. The Wasabi root was brought out to us and grated before our eyes. The sad shame is that so rare and in demand the Wasabi root is, us folk in the UK vary rarely get to eat the real stuff. I hate to say it, but much of our "wasabi" is actually... dare I say it.... horseradish dyed green!

There was only one thing which could accompany this pretty array of sashimi; some sake! We ordered the simple chilled Junmai, as we are chilled sake novices, still finding our way around the types and terminology of this most traditional of Japanese tipples. 

Asparagus to tamago maki
White asparagus and truffle, with Japanese omelette and shiso mayonnaise

Light and gently flavoured, this course was designed to be a change of pace from the previous. 

Gindara to kani no gyoza
Black cod, crab and crayfish dumplings

We were fighting over these delectable little dumplings, with chopped black cod, crab meat and crayfish tail as their filling. Premier league seafood has been used here, where much cheaper and simpler seafood could have been used. Very luxurious! The steam-grilled skins were made at the perfect skin-to-filling ratio; not too heavy, not too thick, not too cloying.

Hinadori no miso yaki
Baby chicken, lemon, miso and garlic soy

Marinaded and chargrilled, the baby chicken was still soft and moist on the inside, whilst browned and caramelised on the outside. The lemon, miso and garlic soy sauce marinade had imparted their flavours on the chicken, leaving barbeque food to die for. If you are having a barbeque this Summer, you seriously need to bribe the chef for the recipe of this little number!

Eggplant in mirin, ginger and soy

This is the best aubergine dish I have ever eaten. The aubergine "meat" was cooked to a just-soft texture, but not so that it was oozy and mushy. The caramelisation of the aubergine gave a sweetness, which was enhanced by the mirin. The soy lent umami and salt, the hints of ginger flavour added complexity. 

Kani no kamameshi
Rice hot pot with king crab with wasabi tobiko

The big, beautiful pot pictured above was brought to our table, instantly creating a sense of drama and anticipation. We were not sure what to expect beneath the wooden lid....


The hot pot is thoroughly stirred and mixed up by the waiting staff at your table and served up on gloriously chunky hand made little dishes. Time to tuck in!

The rice is like a subtle, creamy risotto, deeply satisfying and comforting. Little ribbons of crab meat and tobiko eggs cling to the rice, meaning each small amount you eat (as I did with chopsticks) has all of the different flavours and textures intended in the dish. The tobiko explodes as you chew, releasing its salty flavours of the sea, the hints of wasabi are gentle and do not overpower. Wasabi can be sinus-blastingly hot, here it was tempered and mild, allowing the rest of the dish to work in harmony.

One of the chefs prepares asparagus in the open kitchen

Roka mini dessert platter

As if all of the food above wasn't enough, take a butcher's at this showstopper! Fresh fruit, prepared and presented with style, homemade ice cream, cake, a delicate biscuit roll, a little sesame decked stick biscuit (which you might be able to see sticking out of the terracotta bowl). 

By this point of the meal, I was full up. So I tried a little of everything, but couldn't manage to eat anything more. It was all lovely, but when I am full, I have to say I don't appreciate food as well as I normally do. I had hoped my second stomach, the "pudding belly" would have appeared by magic, but it wasn't to be. My dining companions were delighted; to the victors, the spoils. They scoffed the dessert platter with gusto, and licked the plates clean. 

This was a very memorable meal in a restaurant where attention to detail is observed in all areas. Presentation, service, serving implements, dishes, bowls, the chilling of cold items. Everything is well observed in a way which is positively artistic.

My only criticism is because the decor of the restaurant is trying to achieve clean lines and lack of clutter, there are no soft furnishings in the restaurant space at all. As a result, sound bounces off every surface. With the dining area being large with a good number of tables for customers, the many conversations taking place can turn into a general hum of noise. It's a small complaint, but it does have a small effect on the overall restaurant experience. I would be more inclined to return here for lunch rather than a romantic evening meal.

Roka Aldwych
71 Aldwych
020 7294 7636

Snigdha and her companions paid in full for their meal at Roka. Snigdha has received no 
reward, financial or otherwise for writing this review. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Snig's Kitchen - named a top UK food blog

Blogging is fun, and I thoroughly it. It's a great way to express my love for food and drink, to share my passion, and connect with people. But sometimes it can be lonely. When I am sitting at my computer by myself, blank screen before me, waiting for ideas to come, I can feel totally alone. Sometimes you wonder if people are reading you, because your reader statistics show that you've had a slow day. And these are the times you wonder why you bother.

Today is not one of those days. I am very pleased and proud that RebateZone (who provide consumers with valid promotion and coupon codes) have named me as one of the 50 best food blogs in the UK.

Here is their full list:

I am grateful to RebateZone for including me in their list. I have not given them any payment or incentive to be included.