Wednesday, 23 May 2018

May 2018 Favourites List

This month’s pictures are from Brighton on the south coast (of England). It is often called “London by the sea”, which seemed rather apt to me. Brighton is fun and full of things to do. It is cosmopolitan, multicultural and cultural. Brighton has always been close to my heart, since I studied there…. ummmm… *some* (ahem!) years ago. 

I could have shared pictures of the seafront, Palace Pier or Brighton Pavilion. All are beautiful and worth visiting. But they are already iconic and you will have seen them before. I have decided to focus on the street art of Brighton, something which wasn’t around in my student days. There is street art everywhere in Brighton, bringing some fun and colour to the city. However, the North Laine is particularly rich in street art. Pottering around the independent shops, tripping up on the latest street art is a lovely way of spending an idle afternoon. 

I hope you like these pictures. The “Icons” mural and David Bowie with his 12 string guitar were two of my favourite works. 

I also hope you will enjoy my monthly collection of food writing, recipes and cultural bits and bobs. 


Chicken Shawarma recipe from Dan, The Curry Guy, for anyone looking for a barbeque dish to drool over:

Pakistani Keema paratha, perfect for lunchtime weekend cooking:

Nobuko in Kawaguchiko makes a mean miso potato at her little Izakaya (pub/restaurant). This recipe comes close... but we are still trying to recreate the experience!

"Ruff puff pastry" - a quick homemade version of puff pastry with Spring asparagus and home caramelised onion.

Colourful ceviche with an unexpected crunch. I would substitute the popcorn with roasted whole corn kernels (corn nuts):

Summer is on the way... so here are some early Summer salads from Nigel Slater:

I haven't used my seed sprouting jar in a while. I've been looking for new inspiration. This noodle, prawn and sprouted bean and grain salad looks worth trying out!

Who's ready to try savoury porridge? This is a congee style porridge recipe, meaning it has quite a bit of fluid added. But you could also try a risotto or dahl style consistency. Sweet porridge doesn't seem right a lunchtime, so this is a bit of a change. (You can buy Chiu Chow chilli oil and Shaoxing rice wine from your local oriental grocers):

If you saw my blog post about Adam Handling at The Frog restaurant cooking with Kikkoman ingredients and you liked the look of the soy sauce "salted" caramel, this might be interesting:

Michel Roux Jr made this dish part of his marathon preparation - fish cooked en papillote. Cooking fish in paper or foil is a great way of avoiding overcooking and introducing flavour:

In an effort to try to eat more wholegrains, I bought a pack of pearl barley. But it has been languishing in the kitchen cupboard, as the only use I could think of was to chuck it in a stew. So here's Nigel Slater to the rescue with a sort of Barley risotto... a "barlotto" if you will!

I've always liked Yotam Ottolenghi's approach to flavours. So his collection of tray bake dinners - one cooking receptacle for a whole meal - is intriguing. Easy and tasty? Yes, please!

A highly original vegetarian and vegan grilled fruit and grilled corn salad with quinoa:

Celebrate Spring with this menu for four people - Baked pork and saffron rice, Raw asparagus, fennel and ricotta salad, Smoked-haddock, radish and celery-leaf remoulade, Strawberry jelly with lime-basil syllabub:

Food articles and food writing

"Curry". What smell is that, anyway? I've had a thousand assumptions made about my food, my cooking and the "smells" all my life. So much so I wear a shower cap when I cook Indian food to avoid getting the smell in my hair. So many resonances with this for me, but I say one thing: cook what makes you happy!

I really enjoyed this thoughtful and eloquent piece of food writing from the fab Gavin Uren (AKA Le Petit Oeuf); why the politics of food is never simple and why "industrial" food deserves more love:

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen

Chef Adam Handling cooks Kikkoman at The Frog restaurant, London:


Raised By Wolves (Series 1)
Plebs (Series 3)


Easy Money trilogy (Sweden):
Easy Money (Snabba Cash)
Easy Money II
Easy Money III: Life Deluxe


Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
Agnes Obel - Citizen of Glass

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, 6 May 2018

The Frog cooks Kikkoman

I received an intriguing invitation to a food happening which sparked irresistible curiosity; a British food experience, with Kikkoman’s Japanese products as the inspiration. The happening was seven course dinner at The Frog by Adam Handling, the renowned chef. Chef Handling has achieved swift and remarkable recognition; Scottish Young Chef of the Year 2011, Scottish Chef of the Year 2015, Newcomer Restaurant of the Year 2015 and the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year 2014. You might recognise him from Masterchef, The Professionals, where he was a runner up.

Arriving at the bar attached to The Frog, Eve Bar, Adam’s cheeky humour was immediately evident. The neon sign declared “resist everything except temptation”, a spin on the infamous Oscar Wilde quote. As I descended the stairs, apples were placed on each step. Geddit? Adam has called his bar Eve, and Eve succumbed to temptation, eating the Forbidden Apple. 

The evening was designed to show how well ingredients most usually used in Japanese cuisine can help add flavour to any cooking. In particular a new Kikkoman product, Ponzu.

Ponzu is a watery sauce made of Shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), Mirin (a sweetened rice wine), bonito fish flakes (the same thing sprinkled on Takoyaki in Japanese restaurants), Konbu (a type of seaweed) and citrus fruit. Here, Kikkoman have used lemon. The result is an umami flavoured, deeply savoury sauce with a sour, tart tasting edge.

Bing Yu Lee of Kikkoman told us we didn’t need to save Ponzu for Japanese food alone, suggesting we should use our imaginations. He suggested we could use it on our salads to give a healthy, flavoursome low fat dressing and particularly on fish, in the same way as you'd use malt vinegar.

Adam Handling talked us through his solidly British food philosophy. He explained that whilst he uses some ingredients not typically associated with England, that doesn’t make his food “fusion”. He explained that his cooking is not as French influenced as most British chefs. This is because he feels too often British chefs look to France. Britain, he emphatically explained, is multicultural. His intention is to be more British in his cooking which to him is bringing together those multicultural influences. Many of the dishes we were going to enjoy, we were told, featured soy sauce. Soy sauce, Adam explained, has the umami flavour which makes everything taste great.

Dish 1: Kingfish, Jalapeno, avocado
(with Kikkoman Tamari gluten free soy sauce)

Served on a beautiful, chunky, quirky handmade shallow plate, our first course brought together super fresh kingfish, intense dill, with squishy peaks of whipped avocado. The heat of the Jalapeno was subtle, just in balance, not overpowering the dish. A teasing dish, leaving me anticipating the courses to follow.

Dish 2: Baked celeriac, soy cured egg, apple, truffle
(Made with Kikkoman naturally brewed soy sauce)

Adam explained that this was a play on his signature dish "Mother" which includes an egg yolk which is cured in soy sauce for 24 hours. This is to alter the texture and to bring out flavours including sweet, sour and umami. Here the cured egg has been cut in quarters and served with very thin slices of apple, slim juliennes of baked celeriac with finely grated truffle. This was a a little dish punching well above its weight, with a creamy mouth feel, intense umami, sweet apple, and surprisingly sweet celeriac.

Dish 3: Agnolotti of mushrooms, Teriyaki broth, frozen Foie gras
(made with Kikkoman Teriyaki marinade)

Our hidden private dining room in the basement Eve bar has a kitchen bench where the dishes are given their final touches before going out for service. Naturally, I had to investigate, watching Chef Adam Handling at work!

The agnolotti were delicately thin pasta parcels stuffed with soft minced mushrooms, Adam had brought out umami savoury flavours in the mushrooms, ensuring the filling wasn't bland. Tiny little cubes of al dente carrot gave a variation of texture. The creamy yellow sauce with teriyaki broth, topped with a herb oil made from spring onions was rich, intense and so tasty, I wish I had some bread to mop every drop up. My photo was taken at the kitchen bench to take advantage of better lighting. At my seat (which was in a semi-lit corner) frozen foie gras crumb was added, but I wasn't able to take a decent picture. Trust me when I say it was a surprising ingredient which gave an original and tasty twist. 

Dish 3: Broccoli, chilli, Dengaku, lime
(Made with Kikkoman less salt soy sauce)

Watching Adam delicately top the next dish with a special secret ingredient, I knew we could expect something special. Turns out the precious topping was English caviar from Exmoor.

Adam explained that the grilled broccoli in this dish was picked today, having been grown locally. It had been marinaded in mirin (sweetened rice wine), sake (rice wine), miso (fermented soy paste), and sugar. Once cooked, it was cooled to bring out the inherent flavours. Even the most hardened broccoli refusenik would find this dish gorgeous. Served with the merest hint of chilli and a touch of broccoli puree, the reduced salt soy sauce did not taste like it was low in salt. I will be using the reduced soy sauce in my cooking in the future as here there is no sacrifice of taste. 

Dish 5: Cod, prawn, gem lettuce
(Made with Kikkoman naturally brewed soy sauce) 

You might think that a delicate white fish like cod couldn't stand up to a full on set of flavours such as you find in soy sauce. In this dish, the soy sauce (the regular Kikkoman sauce rather than the reduced salt version) was in the sauce drizzled over the dish at the table. 


Forgive me for the dark photograph, but I was sitting in an area with low light. My cod was cooked as I like it (just cooked where the texture has only just changed), the prawns were succulent with a touch of sweetness. The sauce, with more herb oil, complemented the seafood so well. A lovely dish! 

Dish 6: Tamari Glazed Pork, cauliflower
(Made with Kikkoman Tamari gluten free soy sauce)

The tamari glazed pork, featuring top quality Iberico pork was served with a sweet, thick, dark coloured sauce, intensified by the soy sauce. Served with roast cauliflower, creamy roasted cauliflower puree, beef jus and leek oil, this was meaty perfection!

Dish 7: Chocolate, Lemon, Soy caramel
(Made with Kikkoman naturally brewed soy sauce)

As this dish was being served, Chef Handling had a confession for us. He told us that he realised the dessert was too large after 6 previous courses. However, he had to serve up a big portion because he only has one mould available. As you can see, we benefitted from his kitchen's lack of equipment! (Don't do anything to remedy this, Adam! Your diners will thank you!). The Tofu mousse Adam explained was an obviously more Asian influence. The soft, intensely creamy centre to the mousse was indulgent and satisfying, served on a rich chocolate biscuit base. For me the most interesting element was the Soy caramel. Salted caramel is all the rage right now, with people falling for the juxtaposition of salt and sweet. Here, Adam has used the soy sauce for its salty and umami flavours. The soft caramel with its inviting contradiction of flavours was better than any salted caramel I've tasted. 

The bonus treat

Doughnuts with mango custard cream

Despite feeling very full by this point, there's always space for more sweet, right? I found my hidding "pudding belly" to enjoy these light, fruity and utterly naughty doughnuts. At one point Crab doughnuts were one of Adam's signature dishes (you can find the recipe in his book Smile Or Get Out Of The Kitchen), but right now, after so many memorable plates of food, this was perfect. 

Chef Handling's menu was a voyage of discovery, revealing a new wider horizon of British food. Before it, I perhaps had a form of tunnel vision about which ingredients can be used for which type of food. Obviously, nothing I cook at home will be anywhere as sophisticated or skilled as Adam's food. I am a unashamedly a home cook, with modest skill. However, I hope to use this evening as an inspiration for new cooking adventures!

So as I went up the stairs to get back to street level, passing by Eve in all her glory, I thought about how I might use what are seen as Asian ingredients in my wider cookery. 

Snigdha attended the Kikkoman press event at The Frog by Adam Handling as a guest of Kikkoman. Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for writing this blog post.