Sunday, November 24, 2013

Felicity Cloake's Perfect Goan Fish Curry is Perfect

I have been using a lot of Felicity Cloake recently. She really is the go-to for classics, as her column and books are about the best version of a recipe, hence the title, 'Perfect'.  So when you have a hunch about what to have for dinner, she usually has a recipe to match your wont. Last night we wandered down to the fishmonger's and bought two hunky looking Kingfish steaks, which naturally led us to sniffing out a south indian curry recipe. Felicity's recipe was mighty fine and refreshingly simple. I tweaked a few things as for instance we didn't have any curry leaves in, but other than that we pretty much stuck to the plan. Notable were the 5 cloves of garlic which really completed the aromatic picture and I wouldn't have had the guts to add this many had she not stimpulated so. One mentionable change was that I grated the onions. This worked really beautifully in making a velvety texture around the meaty fish. Served with simple buttery cardamon infused basmati, this was indeed 'perfect'.

For the masala:
3 cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 star anise
½ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 tsp salt
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3cm root ginger, peeled and grated
1½ tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, grated
1 large tomato, sliced into segments
165ml tin of coconut milk
2 fresh green chillies, slit lengthwise
2 kingfish streak
½ tsp mustard seeds
To make the masala, in a dry frying-pan toast the cloves, coriander, cumin, chilli flakes and star anise. When they are emitting a strong fragrance pour into a heavy duty pestle and mortar and give them a good grind. The star anise particularly need some elbow grease. Now add the turmeric, sugar, salt, garlic and ginger. This will gradually become a sticky deep orange. When you are exhausted with an aching elbow, add the vinegar. 

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the onion and sweat for about 5 minutes. Now add the masala paste, stirring for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and about 300ml of water and chillies. Simmer for 20 minutes or so. When the sauce is silky and thickened, add the steaks and simmer for a further ten minutes. Whilst the fish cooks, make a tadka by frying the mustard seeds until they begin to pop in a pan of oil. Pour this straight into the curry and serve. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dinner? Yes Please!

We were recently taken to Heston Blumenthal's restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, Dinner. Fancy! It was a hugely absorbitant treat which had long been brewing. The babysitter was booked, the outfits pressed, and off we went with my in-laws, on a Friday jolly. We had all perused the menu online, pondered our orderings, done a little research and generally psyched ourselves up. Restaurants in hotels can be a bit odd in my opinion, a bit airless and lacking in character (but always done up to the nines by an interior designer). However, on arrival we were pleasantly surprised. Reflecting the concept, dimming the wall-lights were massive milky shades based on old jelly moulds - very Mrs Beeton. Simple and effective.

The pure pleasure of being really well treated it noteable here. The waiters are perfectly attentive and explain everything, including the rotisserie roasting pineapples groaning and turning on heavy-duty iron machinery. It looks more like something you might loose a limb to in the industrial revolution. The very visible kitchen is like as beehive, full of activity and calm and order. Very very ordered.

To start, I had a simply served roast marrow with snails and anchovies. The accompanying pickles were so lightly preserved they still had a fantastic fresh crunch and life, and the cauliflower was cured with a little turmeric, a perfect twist to the tale. Served on an alabaster piece of bone it was simple and effective. The other main event in the starters was of course the meat fruit for which Dinner is famous: a pate encased in a mandarin gelatin case. It was so believable you could easily have slung the single fruit into the christmas centre-piece! And once bust open, the most delicate and slightly boozy parfait emerges. This dish is full of theatre but backed up with flavour.

Main courses were just the right size. I was fearful of a big lunch, as it often renders one entirely useless for the afternoon ahead (and sometimes even the next day). But these plates were just right. We had the Cod in cider with mussels and chard. The latter was firm and al-dente, if a leaf can be that. Seasoning was really perfect. A dollop of over-buttered silky mash was the perfect side order here. There was also Hereford ribeye, just the way you want it (which came with a deep spiced mushroom ketchup); chicken cooked with lettuce which was a plain and well constructed affair (a breast served in a tube, perhaps cooked in a sous-vide?) garnished with leaves; and hallibut which came with a few different seaweeds, always a favourite with me. Each dish was effective. The purpose of Dinner is to recreate old recipes. As we none of us know much about medieval foods it is hard to say whether Heston succeeds. However, he certainly makes beautiful, gentle and thoughtful food.

The puddings were all exciting. Biased, I definitely thought mine was the best: Taffety tart which was a perfect little sandwich of bursting flavours. The fennel and liquid aniseed nestled naturally amoung the frosted rose petals, brittle pastries and soft ice cream. The actual apple element with a set layer more like a membrillo which was spiced and rich. Coffees were strong (just what you need after this sensory marathon) and came with near-liquid ganache pots, such was the ratio of cream and chocolate.

Once I have recovered my waistline (and the in-laws bank balance) I would love a return to Dinner. It was everything we wanted it to be: the perfect balance of theatre, excellence and luxury.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


One of my new favourite things is a bean sprout salad. It sounds a bit worthy, but trust me, it brings new light to these odd jellylike strands which have always rather confused me. Bought in big bags in the Wing Tai Supermarket, we usually use half a bag in a hot chicken broth and then the remaining sproglets lurk in the fridge until they take on a really rather revolting odour. Whilst this speaks volumes of my bad organisation in the refrigeration department, it also highlights how I suspect few of us really know what to do with a bean sprout. Great with some chicken skewers and simple rice, this really is like penicillin. Given that sprouts are very high in water you need to add flavours which are punchy and bring life, so don't hold back on the salt or toasted sesame oil - it really completes the picture. 

Inspired by one of the best spots in Brixton Market, I've added kelp. This adds a really meaty angle to the simple salad. At Mama Lan's you can eat in peace (sometimes a hard task in Brixton!) I always order the vegetarian dumplings with a seaweed salad. It is always an absolute treat and entirely restorative sanctuary.

So, you need: 
a bag of beansprouts
some dried kelp
toasted sesame oil
light soy sauce
caster sugar
sea salt
a little chilli oil
the green tops of spring onions, sliced finely
black sesame seeds

All these ingredients can be bought from a Chinese supermarket like the Wing Tai. First of all bring a salted pot of water to the boil. When this is at a rumbling boil heap in the bean sprouts. Blanch for about 3 minutes and then plunge into cold water. They should be translucent. Meanwhile, pour boiling water of a handful of kelp to bring it back to life. Make the dressing by combining the sesame oil, soy, sugar, sea salt and chilli oil. The dressing should have a good salty kick so don't be shy. Thoroughly drain the sprouts and kelp, even placing in a clean drying-up cloth to absorb any excess water. Dress generously and garnish with lots of black sesame seeds and spring onions. This salad will keep for a few days in the fridge which is always helpful.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Right now, the darker the chocolate, the more hallowed it seems to be. And often, this is true. Milky chocolates can be over sweet and sickly. However, recently I've been fed up with the trend so wanted to explore some dairy chocolate cakes that are less intimidating than their deep dark chocolate counterparts (which often dry the mouth). The results have become a standard within weeks at Rosie's. Paired with banana, milk chocolate makes a fantastic loaf, a little chocolately, a little sweet and a lot comforting. The recipe from whence this comes has been slightly tweaked around. Yogurt instead of sour cream for example. Come and do a taste test. I'll throw in the tea for free. xxx