Friday, 18 March 2016

March 2016 Favourites List

It’s March and my students are in the middle of their study leave. Earlier this week they took an important exam in ethics. Study leave means no classes, but it doesn’t mean I’ve been idle. Assessment season is upon us, and it is time to get the red pen out and knuckle down to some serious marking.

Assessments and exams are such a cause of stress, it makes me feel for my students. It’s a time of tribulation and tension. Sometimes the will to go on, the motivation to keep studying and striving can escape you.

But Spring is doing its best to make its presence known, in amongst the cold, chilly days. Flowers are blooming and the days are perceptibly longer… It is easier to be hopeful. The green shoots, the yellow daffodils, the young vibrant new life bring a feeling of freshness. Nature’s renewal, will, I hope, give my students some cheer and some inspiration.

This month’s pictures are some of the beautiful Summer flowers of South Africa; agapanthus, proteas, among others. I always find that the colours and textures of flowers are a mood booster. Their endless variety are remarkable and wonderful. Whatever it is that lifts your spirit when times are tough; find it, and give yourself that little boost. Small things can make a big difference; your favourite food, your favourite song, a quick chat with a loved one. Keeping going is what you need to do. Help yourself to achieve it.


Inspired by the flavours and ingredients of the Far East, a speedy Sea bass and herby noodle salad.

The EDL fell for a spoof story of a bakery supposedly not putting an X on Hot Cross Buns to avoid offending other cultures. Can a story about ignorant bigots inspire some fabulous baking? Baking which celebrates our brilliant diversity? For Kavey, such things come naturally! A super blog post I had to share!

The classic take away dish made at home. Pad Thai. (You can substitute prawns or tofu, too!)

A cool old school steak pie recipe I found, although I'm highly likely to cheat and use shop-bought pastry. (Don't judge me!)

An unusual tray-bake supper dish of chicken and rhubarb to bring in Spring:

Observer Food Monthly has collected together 20 best pasta recipes. This first part includes Angela Hartnett's pasta dough, and a Sicilian pasta dish from Giorgio Locatelli:

The second instalment of Observer Food Monthly's top 20 pasta recipes, Elizabeth David's hare ragu, a pasta salad, Angela Hartnett's fennel rigatoni. Varied and diverse use of wonderful pasta!

Seafood linguine, bucatini carbonara, clam linguine, oxtail peirogi and a pasta puttanesca. Part 3 of the Observer Food Monthly collection of 20 best pasta recipes.

Don't fear Ladies' Fingers (Okra), I know they are a bit slimy when you cut them, but they're delicious!

Double baking joy from Cookwitch Lisa - a blood orange, almond and pistachio cake PLUS Ras Al Hanout cakes:

Diana Henry's recipe for Vietnamese style pork meatball banh mi:

Another Diana Henry meatball recipe, this time inspired by Turkish and Persian food.

The third and final Diana Henry meatball recipe; a Mexican beef meatball dish you can tweak by adding beans to.

Articles/Know How:

Where to get great Indian street food in London:

Around the world in 40 dumplings... how many of these have you tried? (Shamelessly stolen from Mimi of Meemalee's Kitchen)

What gets your goat about recipes and cook books? Lots of things which ring true here. But for me, the number one unforgivable sin is not telling us clearly at the top of a recipe a stage such as soaking or marinading which is required either overnight or for more than an hour. AAARRRGGGHHH!!

Lisa Cookwitch has reviewed last week's amazing visit to Asma Khan's Darjeeling Express pop up at The Sun And 13 Cantons in London's Soho.

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Seafood curry laksa, a Peranakan classic recipe from Ekachai:

Luiz Hara, AKA The London Foodie has put together a beautiful, innovative cookbook of his native Nikkei cuisine. It is a rare cookbook of quality, accuracy and helpfulness. Read my full review at Snig's Kitchen:

Live review and pictures of Beach Baby's show at London's Scala in support of Bill Ryder-Jones.


Forget Me Not


Michael Clayton

The Lookout


Kabul Kitchen

The Sound Of Song


The Beatles – Revolver

Bill Ryder-Jones – West Kirby County Primary

Kurt Vile - B'lieve I'm Goin’ (Deep) Down... (Special Edition of B'lieve I'm Goin Down…)

Black Uhuru - Red

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.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Seafood Curry Laksa by Ekachai

I have previously written about Ekachai’s fun, inexpensive and authentic restaurants serving up selected pan-asian street food dishes. Set up by friends Thomas Tjong and Sidney Tsang, their aim is to bring a little taste of their home countries in the Far East to the UK. I wrote about them in more detail and posted the recipe to their highly popular Wor Tip dumplings here:

I keep hearing about how Spring is on its way, but except for a smattering of sunshine, it remains chilly and cold. I do not dare leave the house without gloves or a pashmina/shawl style scarf to keep me toasty. I am still craving comfort food with substance to provide a little internal central heating. Laksa fits the bill perfectly!

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup in the Peranakan cuisine, which is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine. Laksa consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli with chicken, prawn or fish, served in spicy soup. This laksa uses seafood, a little indulgent coconut cream and rice vermicelli to make a nutritious and low fat dish which packs a flavour punch.

My only warning is not to wear a white shirt or blouse when you eat the laksa. Delicious as it is, it is prone to tiny little splashes which will cause staining and annoyance. This recipe uses dried turmeric powder, but you could substitute a small piece of fresh root turmeric, peeled and chopped finely. You can find it in a Thai, Chinese or Indian grocers.

I would like to express my deep gratitude to Thomas and Sydney for sharing their house recipe.

Seafood Curry Laksa 

Serves 2

Dry Ingredients:

1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp black peppercorns
2 green cardamom pods

Wet Ingredients: 

8 dried chillies, soaked in boiled water for 5 minutes to soften
8 Asian shallots
4 cloves garlic
2cm piece fresh ginger
2 lemongrass stalks
50ml water

Other ingredients:

8 tbsp cooking oil
8 king prawns (shells on)
8 pieces calamari
150g vermicelli noodles, soaked in boiled water for 10 minutes to soften
100g spinach
75g bean sprouts
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp shrimp paste 
750 ml water
1 tsp salt 
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
100ml coconut milk
Juice 1 lime
Small bunch coriander
1 fresh red chilli, sliced

Toast the dry ingredients in a wok until fragrant, then leave aside to cool. Use a pestle and mortar and ground until fine, then set aside

Blend wet ingredients until puréed. 

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together with the turmeric powder, shrimp paste, salt and sugar to form a paste.

Heat the cooking oil and fry the paste until fragrant. Add the water, prawns and calamari. 

Bring to boil and then simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes, before adding the coconut milk and spinach and cooking for a further 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. 

Put the noodles and the bean sprouts in a separate bowl and then pour over the fish sauce. Garnish with lime juice, coriander leaves and sliced chillis. 

Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for this post. This post is not a sponsored post. 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Nikkei by Luiz Hara, cookbook review

Nikkei food is the fascinating collision and subsequent co-evolution of Japanese and South American cooking traditions. Geographically, you could hardly get two food cultures which are further apart. But Japanese people moved to Peru and Brazil and over the years, a mingling of these very different cuisines occurred, combining cooking techniques and incorporating varied and surprising ingredients into the mix.

Luiz Hara has long written the very enjoyable and informative blog “The London Foodie”. He’s that rare beast; a former Square Mile city financial whizz kid who chucked it all in for his passion for food. Luiz has ever since devoted his attention to the London food scene, writing atmospheric reviews which are the next best thing to dining in the restaurant itself, writing recipes and hosting a successful supperclub. Luiz’s parents are Japanese and Italian, so this is hardly surprising; he has inherited the culinary heritage of two of the world’s greatest cuisines.  

Luiz lived in Brazil up to the age of 19, so was immersed in the Nikkei tradition from his earliest days. A qualified Cordon Bleu chef, Luiz knows cooking inside out. I was therefore keen to see his highly original and ground breaking book on Nikkei cooking and to give a couple of the recipes a try. 

First was “A Nikkei buta no shoga yaki salad”; Pan fried pork belly and ginger with green leaves and avocado salad in a wasabi vinaigrette. The dish is a variation on a popular Japanese Summertime meal, envisaged as an all in one meal, balanced, zingy, intense and refreshing. 

I cut the pork belly into chunks, it was marinaded for 15 minutes at room temperature in soy, mirin, ginger and freshly ground black pepper; very typically Japanese ingredients. The wasabi vinaigrette consisted of soy, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, wasabi, sunflower oil and sesame oil to achieve a little hit of heat with saltiness, tartness, sweetness and ginger flavours seeping in. 

I made the salad with rocket, sugar snaps, coriander, spring onions and prepared avocado covered in lemon juice to prevent it browning. I confess I left the iceberg lettuce out, because the meal was only for two, and I didn’t want to have over half a lettuce left over. I used more rocket to make up for the lack of iceberg. Apologies for not making the recipe as written, but for me, the overall result did not suffer for the slight deviation.

The onions and garlic were fried before cooking the pork with its marinade. 

I wonder if I should not have used all of the marinade, because it didn’t come out looking caramelised and glossy like it does in the picture. 

I confess that the dish does not look as it does in the book. Perhaps if I had reserved some of the marinade (in case I needed it later) and cooked in either on my griddle pan or under the grill, it would have been more attractive.  But the taste! A spicy, fresh, flavourful dish which was simple and achievable on a weekday night, I was not disappointed with the end result! I will be revisiting this dish! A particular advantage being that it can be rustled up from ingredients bought on the way home from work with ease. A weeknight winner!

The other dish I tried was “Aubergine, pork and rice noodle salad with a zingy soy, chilli and ginger dressing”. 

The pork is a pork mince “soboro”, where the meat has been cooked slowly in a combination of ginger, sugar, sake, mirin, sesame oil and soy sauce. This means the mince is tender, infused in aromatics and teeming with a balance of sweet, salty and umami flavours. 

The noodles are cooked simply and then drained in anticipation of the assembly of the rest of the dish. 

The deep fried aubergine sounds incredibly decadent, but it is fried whole. Once cooked, rested and peeled, it is not oily at all, meaning you have soft, yielding aubergine which is sweet and delicious. 

The dressing of chilli, ginger, soy, sesame oil, rice vinegar and Asian chicken stock is a balanced set of flavours which brings the dish together expertly. 

Easy to make, yet highly individual and satisfying, this was a fantastic supper dish. One we will be coming back to again and again. 

This cook book has been put together with a great deal of love and care. The instructions are carefully explained with accuracy. The amounts of the ingredients expressed with clarity and avoiding all confusion. I dislike cook books where the descriptions and definitions are vague. Don’t ask me to estimate a “handful” or a “drizzling”. I bought your book because I want your help! Here, you do not have to worry; the instructions are very precise and helpful.

I particularly like the fact that there are recipes which can be achieved by beginner cooks and more challenging recipes for the more experienced and confident home cook. Often cook books try to appeal to extremes; catering only for the rookie or the master. On a weekday night, even the most accomplished and skilful home cook wants to make something easy but delicious. 

You will note I did not use the F word in my first paragraph of this review… "fusion". The “Nikkei” are the Japanese people who moved away to live elsewhere (from the Japanese word “nikkijin”, as Luiz Hara notes in his introduction to the book).  Luiz himself explains the reason he is reluctant to have Nikkei food seen as are mere part of “fusion” cooking: “For many food purists, fusion is anathema; and particularly in relation to Japanese cuisine…For me, Japanese cooking is among my favourites, and it would be upsetting for me if people suggested it was being manipulated without much thought. Nikkei cuisine is a byproduct of migration and adaptation, created over 100 year ago in South America. It was a cuisine created out of necessity; it is part of my family history and that of millions like me  and so, unlike food fads, it is here to stay.” The fusion trend of the 1990s didn’t have tradition or history behind it, and was often ill considered and trying too hard to put together disparate cooking traditions. Forget any fusion you’ve had before. This is the real deal. 

Please note that some of the ingredients  you will need for dishes in this book are not standard supermarket fare (they are explained at the back of the book if you are curious). You will either need to look in a Japanese supermarket, online or, you can trust Luiz’s selection of suppliers as listed in the book. Planning ahead may be necessary, but for inventive food with such freshness and vigour, it is well worth it. 

I know I am going to have fun with this cook book, making dishes repeatedly and experimenting with other recipes for the fun of it. Luiz Hara has put together a book which he has written with great care and accuracy, with inspiring pictures, helpful information about cooking techniques, ingredients and suppliers which surpasses the standard of most cook books available generally. This book is a keeper, when many cook books are a temporary fad, finding their way to the charity shop within months after purchase. 

“Nikkei Cuisine; Japanese Food the South American Way” by Luiz Hara is now available from Jacqui Small Publishers. 

Snigdha was sent a copy of Nikkei Cuisine by Luiz Hara by the publishers to review. However, her recommendation is a genuine one, for which she has received no incentive, financial or otherwise.