When you have a surprise batch of lemons sent to you from your Mum in Cyprus, but they aren’t ripe, what do you do? Put them on a shelf to ripen, and then forget about them. Of course!
Well, that’s what I did anyway, so I figured the only way to use them up (you know me, hate wasting food) was to make a variation on Clementine Cake, as it involved simmering the fruit for two hours. That’ll rehydrate them I said!
Bless their lemony, pip populated hearts, after simmering for two hours they had plumped up very nicely and then the poor things deflated. One of them started puffing like a miniature steam train when they were simmering, though I'm fairly sure Thomas didn't smell cleanly of citrus.
These particular lemons are from my Mum’s tree. They are extremely thin skinned, and full of pips, but very juicy. This is the baking aftermath, so yes, a lot of pips for 5 lemons there.
Because it’s me, I made changes. To be fair, I have made this before, exactly to the recipe, so I felt that I was allowed some tweaks.
I had just over 1lb of fruit, so I used them all. In hindsight (which is always 20/20) I should have added more ground almonds but hey ho.
16 oz lemons
5 medium eggs (I hate anything that’s too eggy)
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups ground almonds
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp Sicilian lemon extract (Hey, you’re both islands, you get to be in the same recipe. No fighting.)
After de-pipping, everything went into the food processor, got whirled around until the lumps disappeared, and then poured into a tin. You could actually do this without a food processor as the fruit gets so very soft. Just chop it as finely as you can.
I lined the tin with non-stick foil, as I’d run out of non-stick liner.
I am now in love with non-stick foil.
After trying not to just eat the batter, I baked it for the full hour, at the temperature specified in Nigella’s recipe, and a skewer came out clean. It is, however, very fudgy. It is definitely a pudding cake. Smooth in texture, but tart in taste. The vanilla smooths the edges off the tartness, making it taste almost like a creamy lemon marmalade.
Husband liked it, so that, to me, is a total win.
I will make it again with lemons, but up the almonds a bit more.
As a result of yesterday’s Foodie Fest, I had some salted capers and pancetta to use. I also had fresh pumpkin ravioli.
I thought of a caper butter sauce, then thought of adding nutmeg. Easy to do. I was going to fry the pancetta, but then decided I wanted something different to offset the soft pasta. Grilled pancetta crisps. Oh yes.
I grilled the pancetta, and then set that aside to cool.
I soaked the capers for 5 minutes in warm water, and then drained them to rinse off the salt. I chopped them a little to release more flavour.
Then I melted 2 – 3 tablespoons of butter in a shallow pan on a gentle heat, with a drizzle of olive oil so that it browned a little as it foamed but didn’t burn.
Added in the capers, and let them infuse into the butter. While that was gently bubbling, I started cooking the pasta.
Plunge them into boiling water, cook for 4-6 minutes, then drain. They cool quite quickly but that’s fine.
Grate maybe 1/4 tsp of nutmeg into the browned butter, add the drained ravioli, and gently reheat, turning to coat each ravioli thoroughly.
Serve with the crisps asap!
There are times when one finds oneself at a loose end, but can’t actually find the energy to go out and DO something. This was the case this past Saturday. I could have spent the whole day at home, just relaxing and being slept on by the cat but, much as I needed the rest, that wasn’t sitting well with me. My friend Becca happened to have a rare, free day and as we’d been talking about having a crawl of some of the Italian delis in London for ages, we decided to make it a reality. A quick natter to another friend, Kate, and we had our partner in crime for the day.
We started out at Bermondsey Square market. This much overlooked market really needs to be recognised. There were two organic veg stalls, overflowing with gorgeous looking produce, the tops of the leeks fair waving over the partitions, and an immense tumble of tubers, root veg and squashes. There was one selling highly scented cheese and Italian goodies and then there was the stall that was the reason for my visit.
Scarlet Rosita. A powerhouse of creativity when it comes to food. Her ranges of gluten free and RAW goods are simply amazing but she doesn’t just do that. I can’t praise her highly enough. She works so very hard to accommodate peoples’ needs, and she has a loyal customer following. She used to be based at Maltby Street, but for no reason that anyone can discern, they didn’t renew her place. Their loss. There’s no way that I would let a stall go that provided soups, curries, cakes and cookies for all. Her knowledge of food is encyclopaedic, and her warmth and kindness know no bounds. Go, and go soon. I get hugs and everything when I go, maybe you will too.
Cake for breakfast was the only way to go. It was coffee cake, so that counts as a morning food, right? This is what I call a proper cake. Moist, packed with flavour and with a frosting that wasn’t that overly sweet fluff that you seem to get a lot these days. I often think that the frosting is the very last thing, not the whole of the thing. Style over substance in cakes is a very sad occurrence, and it should not be so.
Becca chose gluten free carrot cake, and it was one of the nicest carrot cakes I have ever tasted. So fresh, and gently spiced with, I think, a hint of coconut, which never fails to garner my attention. I apologise for not getting a picture. We were eating.
I came away with some of Rosita’s roasted hazelnut biscotti – intense hazelnut flavour imbued throughout;
and also some vanilla and sultana scones. The vanilla is subtle, but lends almost a softness to the scone.
Just the thing to have with a cup of tea on a dreary Sunday afternoon. (which it is as I am typing this.)
Full of cake, we stopped off for a beverage or two, and then took to knocking seven bells out of our travelcards by bussing it all over the place.
First stop was Terroni’s, on the Clerkenwell Road, just up from the blue and gold Italian church.
My first job was in Bowling Green Lane back in 1989, and Terroni’s and Gazzano’s were regular haunts. Becca lived in Northern Italy for four years, and I spent entire six week summer holidays in Southern Italy, almost as far south as you could get without being in Sicily. Our food experiences were fairly different, but we both have a passion for la bella lingua, and very definitely for the food.
Terroni has a different smell to how I remember, but then it has changed and branched out over the years, now serving cooked food as well as being a deli. They closed for a fair while, but it’s very good to see them back, just where they should be. That area is so much little Italy.
There was a certain amount of excited gaping at the shelves, and wishing that I had a car with me, or a bearer. They have a huge range of products at one end, and a large selection of wines at the other, with a cooked meat, cheese and olive counter in the middle. Friendly service, knowledgeable staff and excellent products.
Pancetta and mortadella are always my first choices, and I bought provolone cheese too.
We all stocked up on various things, bought some Neapolitan sfogliatelle and sat outside in the sun to get covered in crackling pastry shards and icing sugar.
Gazzano’s used to be a tiny place, and I have a recollection of a stone floor and a cool, calm interior with not a lot of room but stacked to the ceiling. They moved over to what used to be the Guardian building while their shop was being totally refitted, and now they are back in place. I almost preferred the first incarnation, as it was far more reminiscent of Italian alimentari shops that I visited as a child, but this is London, with a different clientele and different weather.
The range of products is still every bit as good though, and I bought some gorgeous pumpkin ravioli and some plump, garlicky Italian pork sausages.
Again, lovely, friendly staff and an overwhelming array of goodies.
Our next bus ride took us to Kings Cross, to the Continental Store on Caledonian Road. Now that is a shop that hasn’t changed at all. It’s still run by the same man , Leo, that started it in 1964. He is 80 years old and you would not believe it to see him.
This shop is small, stacked high, and smells right. There’s always something new to try out on the counter, so this time I got pan forte for £2 and salt packed capers for 50p. Yes, that’s right, 50p. Oh and a can of San Benedetto orangeade. Beats the hell out of Tango.
Leo is so friendly, that when I go there, I go there as much to see him as to buy things. He and his shop bring all that I remember from my childhood front and centre and into the present day. If he tells you which olive oil is the best, then you know that it absolutely will be.
This time he took great pleasure in showing us a ‘cheese and ravioli’ board where the cheese and the raviolis were all made of white chocolate. Christmas anyone?
I hope that the council don’t manage to price him out of existence, but they are trying.
Go see, eat a sandwich that he makes you and shop. It’s is so very worth it.
The squeakiest of cheeses has certainly become a hit in the last couple of years. There are many places that now offer a halloumi based dish as the vegetarian option, with some even going so far as to use it in place of the fish in fish and chips. (I’m still not sure about that one, but I am not going to turn it down if it’s offered to me.)
I’ve had a love for it for as long as I can remember. My uncle Lucas used to ship us great metal canisters of it over from Cyprus, preserved in brine, that we would then use for grating over pasta and macaroni, so salted was it that it was akin to parmesan. The softer kind was bought here, and that is the one which exudes a deliciously tender chewiness when grilled or fried, but still retains most of its shape.
As today was a very sunshiney day, I felt like having a reminder of my Cyprus home, and so bought some very lovely Turkish flat bread and a packet of halloumi. Halloumi sandwich here I come.
It wasn’t quite as I had planned it.
The brand of halloumi I bought definitely said halloumi on the pack. It said Pappas underneath that, and nothing else.
When I took it out of the packet it did seem very soft, but some of them do. Nonetheless into a non stick frying pan it went, sliced and with a touch of olive oil.
While it cooked, I toasted the bread. The big, flat ovals of Turkish bread are quite airy, and so they stand up better to a warm sandwich if they are toasted. One drizzle of olive oil and balsamic and the base for my sandwich was ready.
The cheese, however, seemed reluctant to play its part.
When I went to turn it over to cook the other side, it had melted. Anyone who has ever cooked halloumi knows that the bonus of this particular cheese is that it doesn’t melt, hence it being useful for barbecues. Sometimes it emits liquid when you fry it, but you just keep on cooking and it gets there in the end.
This stuff would have oozed through grill bars like ectoplasm through a cracked ceiling.
It eventually melded together like a giant flat doughnut.
Perhaps it will taste okay, thought I, and proceeded along with my sandwich. Getting it out of the pan was interesting as bits just slowly and stringily fell off if you tried to lift it out. Eventually I just tore bits off with the tongs and placed it onto the bread.
It didn’t smell halloumi-like either. In anticipation of extra saltiness, I added some gorgeous, sticky sweet blackberry vinegar that was a present from my friend Lynne. That and the balsamic on the bread really cut through the slightly greasy feel of the cheese and saved my lunch.
It tasted like and had the mouth feel of a cheddar halloumi mix. It was okay, but not what I had hoped for. I won’t be buying that brand again, that’s for definite. I now have two brands that I won’t buy again. Lynda and Pappas. Lynda was just unbelievably salty (and I like salt) and this one was…well, it was just NotHalloumi.
Cypressa seems to be the most consistent so I shall stick with that.
I feel it my duty to warn people of the gloopy nature of this cheese. It would make a total mess of any grill, and slouch lazily through the bars of a barbecue, coating the coals like a layer of thickened whitewash.
You can tell how unimpressed I was because there’s some left, and I am not even a bit tempted to eat it.
Halloumi should be as good in its uncooked state as it is when grilled. It makes a fabulous filing for a sandwich with crisp, cool cucumber and juicy tomatoes. I think this one would have made everything else soggy and sad.
Leave this one alone kids.
This is an ever evolving recipe or so it seems!
Originally a Den Lepard one: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/20/dan-lepard-ginger-honey-cake-recipe
then made by my lovely friend Stephanie, with necessary tweaks: http://procrastinationrecipes.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/honey-and-ginger-loaf/
and now by me, with MY necessary tweaks.
We all have times when we run out of stuff, or go to make a recipe and find that what is needed wasn’t there, and this was one of those times. Not enough honey? Make up the shortfall with ginger jam, or marmalade, or golden syrup. Black treacle maybe? (In my case I found a little clear honey and a block of comb honey, so melted the comb block and added that)
Not enough fresh grated ginger? Use the lazy, ready pulped stuff. Or perhaps add in a bit more powdered if it turns out your tube of ginger is only 75g not 100g…or again, if you haven’t enough ready pulped, just accept the fact it will have less of a ‘burn’ and add a teaspoon or two of mixed spice.
Oh, no sunflower oil? (I never have it, hate the stuff.) Use olive oil. 1000s of years of Greek baking can’t be wrong, right?
And here we are.
This may be the Granny Weatherwax’s broomstick* of baking, but that’s the FUN of it!
Ginger & Honey Loaf
180g honey (a mix of all the bits I had, in my case)
220g orange and ginger marmalade (Fortnum’s don’t you know)
75g melted butter
50 ml olive oil
3 eggs (I had large in the house)
75g freshly grated ginger OR ready grated ginger from a jar OR ready pulped ginger from a tube (I used a whole tube of Gourmet Garden pulped ginger, and it retains ALL the heat of fresh. Wow!)
225g plain flour
100g sultanas or currants (or raisins, or chopped dried apricots or ooh dates!)
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
Extra butter and honey for glazing. (If you’ve got any left!) It softens the crust, apparently.
Put the honey, ginger preserves/jam/marmalade, melted butter and oil into a bowl. Whisk very well until smooth then take a grainy phone photo.
Whisk in the eggs, pulped/grated fresh ginger as well
Then mix in the flour, dried fruit, spices and the baking powder.
Pour into a greased and lined tin or, in my case, a buttered silicone loaf tin.
Lay a line of cold sliced butter along the top if you want it to crack. If you don’t want it to crack, then don’t do this bit!
Place in oven.
Wait patiently for 70-80 minutes while your kitchen smells divine. Test with a skewer. Mine took 90 minutes.
Let it cool in the tin, as it is quite fragile until it sets.
Slice when cool.
I didn’t brush the top with butter, and we rather like the crusty top.
It’s quite dense, very spicy and warming. Would be excellent with ice cream or custard too. My husband’s on his second slice now. I’m thinking of nabbing another bit as well.
*Granny Weatherwax is a Terry Pratchett character, a witch of the Discworld. (Although I suspect that she would be highly insulted if anyone told her that she was a character in a book.)
The only thing which repeatedly defeats Granny is her flying broomstick. It refuses to start smoothly, despite dwarfs replacing both handle and sticks many times. She maintains, however, that it "will be Right as Rain with a bit of work" [sic]. Wikipedia
I use herbs and spices a lot in my cooking, possibly sometimes a little too much I suppose, but then I was brought up with food that always had some sort of flavouring added. Even a plain fried pork chop would have dried oregano added to it. Our Cypriot bread has mahlepi and masticha in it – the inner part of the cherry stone and the resin from the mastic tree.
My mum used to make afelia – pork in red wine, flavoured heavily with crushed coriander seeds – and I loved the taste, though I did spend ages picking out the seeds. I’m not a great fan of bits in my food, so I will tend to use ground spices, or larger pieces that can easily be spotted.
This dish was inspired in part by watching back to back episodes of The Incredible Spice Men and absolutely loving it, and in part by my own love of spice. Not heat so much, I can only take a bit of zing, nothing more, but spicy does not have to equal hot.
Also, I found French trimmed lamb chops on the reduced shelf from Tesco, with a proper amount of fat on them.
There is another dish in Cyprus called Hirino Spithkasimo – home-style pork – and that uses cinnamon and cumin as its spice flavours, so I drew on that for inspiration.
And here we are.
6 small lamb chops (trim some of the fat if you really must but it keeps the meat moist and tender)
2 fat cloves garlic
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sea salt
Crush the garlic in a pestle and mortar with the sea salt, mix in the cumin and cinnamon and enough oil to make a paste.
Pour that over the chops, massage in and leave for an hour or more if you want.
Heat a griddle pan to smoking and place the chops in, fat side down first. I cooked them for about 5 minutes.
I then covered the wooden handle in double layered foil, laid the chops flat, and stuck the whole thing on the oven on about 170C for 1/2 an hour.
Served with steamed broccoli, it was just a perfect dinner.
Yes. Cyrus. He of The Incredible Spice Men fame that’s sweeping the nation. The one without the kilt and who sings Calypso.
Of course, he has been around for a lot longer than just this series. He’s been in this country 20 years now, is a chef of great renown and even has an MBE and an OBE to show for it.
In 2000, he was awarded an MBE for services to the restaurant and catering industry. He was subsequently awarded an OBE in the 2010 New Year's Honours List.
He is Chef Patron of Café Spice Namaste in Aldgate,
and also now the creator of spicy pickles, chutneys and sauces over at http://mrtodiwala.com/. Alongside the amazingly patient and very sweet Mrs Pervin Todiwala, of course, who is a chef in her own right.
I will admit that Cyrus has captured the nation’s heart this year, along with his adorable friend Tony Singh. Spices have been a part of the British Empire for so long, that I think we sometimes forget that we didn't always have them, and these two gentlemen have brought them to life.
Imagine Christmas without the scents of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. The warming hit of stem ginger in cakes and the dusky heat of the ground powder in gingernut biscuits. Easter Simnel Cake or bread pudding with an abundance of mixed spice.
The English/Cypriot kitchen I grew up with always had spices of some kind. Mine still does.
Cinnamon goes with sweet and savoury things, nutmeg gets added to puddings and Bolognese sauces, or spinach and cheese dishes. Dried mint goes into halloumi pie. My roast chicken has a butter with cinnamon and garlic under and over the skin. I do tend to add ‘a little bit of spice’ to most things, as I just can’t seem to leave it alone.
I went to school with many Indian children, and spent a great deal of time in their homes, being fed delicious food by their mothers.
The Gujarati cooking of Honey Kalaria’s Mum remains etched most firmly in my mind; delicate spicing but such an array of flavours and textures. Nobody has ever made me tindora curry since then, but oh how I wish someone would. To her I owe the discovery of asafoetida (heeng) with potato, and sliced onions cooked with just cumin (jeera) and turmeric (haldi).
I had Sikh friends who invited me to their beautiful weddings, where we consumed vegetable pakoras by the ton, or so it seemed. Hindu friends from the Punjab who showed me roti (chapatti and I still cannot get them as perfectly round as they did), keema (minced meat) with peas and amazing vegetable dishes, and another Gujarati friend who gave me my first ever taste of sweet and silky srikand. From them I learned how to make spiced potatoes, by first boiling the potatoes in their skins, and then peeling, not the other way around. They seemed to retain a far more intense potato flavour that way. They also taught me how to cook rice. Very important, that.
I did become rather obsessed with Indian food, and our spice cupboard was stuffed full of cardamoms, cumin, mustard seeds, mango powder and other such delights. My mum and step-dad didn’t seem to mind though! Okra with mustard seeds was a favourite dish. It did actually get to the point where I only knew the Indian names for things, and forgot the English. Oops.
I love good Indian restaurant food, but I was brought up with the home cooking, and I do sometimes wish that restaurants turned more to the home cooking ways, rather than the Anglicised versions. I am fortunate to have visited a place called Bengal Village on Brick Lane a fair number of times, and they have changed part of their menu to showcase home-style Bengali dishes. Amazing flavours, hot but not overpowering, and a real taste of what Indian restaurant cooking can be, but so often isn’t. Their Chicken Shatkora (Bengali Lemon) Tawa just has to be tried.
Anyway, there was a point to this. I’m sure there was. Yes. Cyrus. Having watched his approach on Spice Men, to be invited to an evening where he cooked with another of my favourite ingredients, turkey, was thrilling. I met Paul Kelly last year, when we toured his magnificent turkey farm, and so I already knew how good the base product was. He also taught us how to cook turkey properly, and now I apply his principles to all my poultry cooking because it works.
Having completed a trek across London, doing battle with sets of roadworks at Bank, Café Spice was a calming haven. Welcomed with a peach Bellini or a mango lassi, Kavey and I took our seats as other guests started to turn up. I sat right at the front because there was no way I was going to miss any of this. Yes, I know, I never learn.
I couldn’t resist going and fawning a bit when Cyrus came out. I just had to tell him how good the TV series was, and to say thank you for it. MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING BBC2!
Paul Kelly of Kelly Bronze Turkeys gave us a lovely introductory speech, and then off we went. Turkey really is a much underrated meat, and it shouldn’t be. A turkey isn’t just for Christmas!
Cyrus is absolutely a delight to talk to, and so is his lovely wife. They were all happy to chat, and to share the whole experience with us, making it interactive, not just us sitting and watching.
This is Cyrus in full flow. There was a lot of flow. Admittedly being a chatterbox myself probably contributed to this a lot. Ahem.
Everything was laid out ready to go.
Note that the onions have the root cored out. Apparently those bits don’t cook down properly and so they take them out. Watching Cyrus chopping all of those onions at double quick speed, whilst not even looking was…unnerving….
And then…out came some appetisers.
Turkey samosas with a spicy tomato sauce.
Delicately crisped puris stuffed with turkey meat and topped with coriander.
Onion bhajias/pakoras with a tamarind chutney.
We should have realised that eating only one of each was the proper way to go. Oops. But they were so tasty!
The demo started with Cyrus talking to us about cooking with bits of the bird other than just the breast and thigh. Nose to tail eating, yes, absolutely. I wish I could buy turkey thighs to cook with off the supermarket shelf, because they are delicious.
We spoke about offal, and I believe I was pointed at and told “You’re Cypriot. You eat everything!”
Turkey necks are very meaty, and also exceptionally tasty, and so into a pressure cooker they went, with whole spices, to make Khari Gurdun.
Next up were the turkey livers. They are dark, stronger in flavour than chicken livers and more firm in texture but very good indeed. He cooked them quickly in a dry curry style, and I could cheerfully have eaten them wrapped in some bread with chutney.
We were shown a stir fry dish in the Goan style, and then some beautifully herbed light omelettes. One with tomatoes, onions and spices, and one more substantial with strips of fried turkey meat.
Cyrus was cooking up a storm, all the while talking to us about each dish, or about various uses of spices and herbs.
The came the turkey neck curry. Stunning. The meat came off the bone so easily, and was exceptionally tender and sweet. This is not a dish for people who don’t like meat on the bone, sorry.
The next dish was a kofte using minced turkey. At this point I gave up being sedate and went up to the cooking stage to get in closer with my camera. Cyrus very obligingly held the pan for me so that I could take a shot! Photo courtesy of @British Turkey there. Sneaky.
I did help by handing out the finished dishes though, so I didn’t feel like I was intruding too much.
Tummies were starting to fill. We looked at the rest of the menu still to come. We worried.
Out came more bowls and plates of steaming food. To say that the atmosphere was heady with spice would be to understate it greatly.
Turkey sheek kebab omelette roll, Mini turkey masala pie and Bhuna turkey dosa.
Then three types of Tikka. Mild, hot and OMG MY MOUTH.
This is Peri Peri on the left, which nearly killed me and Malai on the right. All three were beautifully tender and juicy.
Cafreal – almost iridescent green, so tasty but quite hot.
This is the Malai, my favourite both for the mildness and the taste.
Cumin rice – beautifully savoury and light.
Potato Dosa Bhaji – also very light, intense potato flavour, and gentle with nutty white lentils, mustard seeds and fragrant curry leaves.
Leeli Kolmi ni Curry – Red Sea king prawns, with coconut and cashews. DELICIOUS. When I go back – which I will – I shall be having a tureen of that please.
It was at this point we realised that dessert was still to come, and may have panicked a bit. Not least because it was getting quite late and some had trains to catch. This is the problem with keeping a chef talking when he is trying to cook. Especially a talkative one!
Dessert arrived. Saffron, ginger and cardamom creme brulee with fruit salad.
I dislike saffron and am really not keen on cardamom, but I really liked this. I could taste the saffron, and I admit that I could have done with a little less of it, but it didn’t stop me eating the dish, because it was very nice indeed.
All in all, I had a brilliant time. Cyrus and his wife are incredibly welcoming, and really made me want to go back and try the restaurant for myself.
Another lovely write up on the evening can be found here, at Snig’s Kitchen: http://snigskitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/cyrus-todiwala-talks-turkey-turkey.html
Huge thanks to Cyrus, Pervin and the staff for putting up with us, and for the ever garrulous Paul Kelly and British Turkey for making turkey an excellent product again. More people need to realise that it really is not just for Christmas, it’s a fabulous ingredient.