Dispatch and Ottolenghi

I’ve never been a “Take Away” kind of Gal, but during Lockdown I gave it a whirl and I have to say with mixed results!

For Himself, a recent birthday gift was 4 cooking classes complete with a home delivery of all the food stuffs along with a video course. As he loves good Indian food ( not your corner shop type of curry) this seemed the perfect answer. The only problem was, well there were a couple, a) upon ordering the course one had to choose the dates, so these were picked at random by me, and b) fitting it in with our not so busy schedule. I say not so busy, but nonetheless it seems difficult, compounded by the fact that I got carried away and found another “Take Away” that we just had to try !

Yotam Ottolenghi who grew up in Jerusalem, with a German grandmother and an Italian one and learnt to cook by way of London and his partner Sami Tamimi a Palestinian who grew up also in Jerusalem, so a complete melange of Arab, Jewish, German and Italian and a mutual love of food. Both of them arrived in London in 1997 and realised that they both wanted the same thing. Looking at their list of restaurants and takeaways, it was an obvious step to do a Cook It Yourself type of menu. This was ordered via a company called Dispatch, one of many which sprung up during our various Lockdowns.

Since then, they have opened 7 restaurants/deli’s/ takeaway venues.

They are :-

  • Rovi in Mayfair
  • Nopi in Soho
  • Spitlefields, which is their largest, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Islington
  • Belgravia, which is small and mostly a takeaway
  • Notting hill
  • And the last is Marylebone my neighbourhood, which is small but open for breakfast and lunch. Must make a mental note to try it for breakfast.

Our Takeaway menu was for starters copious, it was meant for two, but we actually had it over two nights. It consisted of lamb and Portobello mushrooms, Flatbreads, caramelised onions with green herb dip, Smokey marina feta cheese, burnt aubergine with tomato and tahini, smooshed carrots, coriander and pistachio pesto and pickled onions, Chaat masala, chickpea and polenta chips. Dessert was Muhallabieh, burnt honey orange syrup, with Kataifi and pistachio sugar. Phew that was a lot and even better, everything, was extremely well labelled, or rather numbered so the instructions very easy to follow. This has not always been the case with the Atol Kochar. For example in the first delivery there were no instructions to keep the spices for the following weeks ( not a problem here as I waste not want not). Ottolenghi even provided the skewers and rubber gloves.

So as yet, I have not delved into my various books and recreated this menu, bottom line, it was indeed simple to do but 18 packages of this and that, means that one needs maybe a sous chef as well, one negative , and a little on the greasy side !

Keralan food including some very yummy Beetroot.

We have been on our travels for the past two weeks. We started off on the French Alps, our home from home. Autumn was in full swing, the colours were just amazing. Autumn in the mountains ( and in a lot of France) life almost comes to a standstill. Of course most of the population still go to work and kids go to school but cafes, bars and restaurants take a break and this was so with what we consider our local in Morzine. However all that were open, even outdoors scanned our Pass Sanitaire! I now have three versions and the simplest to use is the Irish version and scans well!

We were there for only a few days but found time to do a mammoth shop ( mask wearing of course, after all it is mandatory in France). Why the shop? We were heading to the South of France to meet up with the rest of our family for a long overdue Wedding Anniversary. Twice cancelled we now wanted somewhere warmer than the UK, so wine was needed.

We rented a renovated 16 C farmhouse in the Luberon which would be big enough for 12 of us, and it was. The downside was, the Pool was closed, but the upside was Chantel who appeared and cooked our evening dinner.

Two vegetable dishes have recently come my way. The first was something that is very very French and I have known and have eaten many many times but had forgotten just how lovely it is. Grated Carrot salad. Actually the previous last time I ate this salad was in Brasserie Zédel, one of Corbin and Kings restaurants in London. Here they offer a Prixe-Fixe menu and the starter is listed as shredded carrot. I think the average Englishman might not understand this as being a salad, but it is indeed.The lovely Chantel served this as one of our starters on evening.

To make this very simple but very delicious salad, grate some carrots ( quantities do not matter as any extra can be refrigerated for the next day) add a chopped green onion ( scallion) and if you like some chopped walnuts or pecans along with some chopped parsley. Make a vinaigrette ( or use shop bought )using sone oil, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt. Mix well with the grated carrots and serve.

The other, vegetable which we have both decided is a really quiet delicious, is basically curried beetroot. Himself had taken delivery a few weeks ago, of the second of his cooking class meals. This time it was Kerala Sea Bass with a coconut sauce, Rice and Beetroot.

The beetroot is simplicity itself, especially as it can be bought ready cooked.

Very simply, take a pack of cooked beetroot and roughly chop ( I prefer smaller bits but whatever suits you). Chop about an inch or so of ginger, and a green chilli . Heat a pan and add some oil either coconut or sesame is best. Add 2 tsp of yellow mustard seeds and cook until it pops! Add the ginger and chilli along with a pinch of salt, 1 tsp of turmeric 1/2 tsp chilli powder and the beetroot. Cook for a few minutes until the beetroot is heated through. To give it a bit more umph I added 1/2 tsp of English Mustard powder. One could also add a lump of creamed coconut. I recently served it with some grilled salmon. Will now be on my list of must eat vegetables.

A Devils Chicken ( Poulet Grillé à la Diable)

In French cuisine it is well known that any meat or poultry that has a mustard and pepper coating followed by breadcrumbs, is called à la Diable, or in simple terms, Devilled. Take a simple hors d’oevres of boiled eggs, the yolk when mixed with something spicy, they then become devilled eggs! Hence anything that has a spicy coating can be called devilled.

I was wanting something different to make using simple chicken thighs. If you can buy them deboned so much the easier, but it simple to remove the bone, all you need is a sharp knife and maybe a bandaid/ plaster or two. And for this dish DO NOT remove the skin ! I know that, we all know that the skin is calorific but when crispy it is the tastiest bit. So don’t remove the skin ! ( and when I want some spicy chicken I will use this mixture on chicken breasts)

I like to make this dish with a combination of Dijon mustard, English mustard powder and some hot chilli powder. You will also need some fine dry breadcrumbs , homemade is best but a bit of a pain really so use shop bought ( non coloured) breadcrumbs, or panko crumbs, but these will have to be smushed some as they tend to be rather chunky. ( do this by putting the crumbs into a polythene bag and rolling with a rolling pin.)

  • Serves about 3
  • heat oven 180 C
  • 6 chicken legs or thighs, deboned
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons of English mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 4 Oz / 120 grms breadcrumbs
  • 2 Oz butter

Mix together the mustards and chilli powder. Pour the eggs into a shallow dish. Put the breadcrumbs into another dish. Smooth the mustard mixture over the chicken ( it does gets a bit messy), dip into the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Place the chicken into an ovenproof dish. Dot each bit with a knob of butter and bake for about 30 mins. Put the chicken onto a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Food Glorious Food!

Having spent the past 18 months or so being confined to quarters, it all changed this last week. We seemed to have dined out on a more or less continuous basis. And not just a trip to the local hangout ( some have closed anyway) but to some really good places. Himself said, there goes our dining budget for the next 6 months !

We started off at a Mexican restaurant, here in Marylebone. Mexican food often gets a bad rap, because the average person associates it with TexMex, which it certainly is not. TexMex obviously has its roots deep in Mexican cuisine, and in the UK we have our own version of Tex Mex in a chain called Wahaca. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Wahaca, and the founder fell in love with Mexican food, but eldest daughter who lived in Mexico City for 5 years would probably dispute its authenticity.

Our visit to KOL was superb ( except maybe the ££££) the basic menu of 6 courses was not over the top expensive, it was just the add ons or more likely the Mescal which Himself and son-in-law drank. ( they could have had the Mescal pairing, but did not!)

Fermented beetroot, arbol chilli and mezcal broth
Enoki and Cornish crab chalupa, pistachio, fermented gooseberries
Squid, cashew mole, cauliflower, beach herbs
Lobster, smoked chilli, cucumber limes
MOLE (supplement course)
Purple carrot cecina, fermented blackcurrant truffle – black +£25 white +£65
Chalk stream trout, pasilla Oaxaca, courgette, berries, pine
Served with condiments and fresh tortillas to share for the table
Carnitas – Confit pork cheek, cabbage leaves,
gooseberry and pear salsa, black beans
Sunflower seed ice cream, flowers, mezcal cajeta
Pulpo – Whole grilled octopus, bone marrow, potato, seaweed macha
Menu 70.
Drinks pairing 55.
Mezcal pairing 85

This wonderful meal was quickly followed by another in Nottingham ! Nottingham is the home of Sat Bains ( Satwant Bains, whose parents were Sikhs who had recently migrated to the UK)

He has won two Michelin Stars with his restaurant RSB which is housed in an old farm house on the edge of a small industrial estate on the outskirts of Nottingham. On our first visit several years ago we did wonder where we were going, but after eating at the chefs table in the kitchen we have rated the whole thing highly. It has 8 rooms and although obviously not necessary to stay over, if dining at night it is well worthwhile as the breakfast is equally good as the dinner. More recently one of his chefs won the Master Chefs the professionals and his during the pandemic, he teamed up with his mother to cook Vegan Indian takeaways !

And if you decided to visit, be it for lunch or an overnighter, take the train! ( travelling from London that is!)

And finally, we ate at Din Tai Fung in Covent Garden London. Din Tai Fung, was started in Taiwan, where we ate many years ago, not realising that it was iconic. Fast forward to 2017 and whilst in Hong Kong I discovered that there was a branch, which indeed held a Michelin star. It is absolutely nothing to look at and is more like a cafeteria, but the dumplings are what makes it extra special. Indeed I was so impressed that on a more recent visit ( pre-pandemic) to Hong Kong I dragged himself along . Since back in London we sampled the establishment in Covent Garden, maybe a little smarter in appearance but food equally good. And so it was that we went there again, this time for our grandson, who had just turned 14. The highlights of his day was a visit to Daunts books to order his years supply of books ( his annual present from us), a visit to Foyles bookshop and then to Din Tai Fung, where he took charge of ordering as he is very much a fan of Dim Sum, and noodles.

It is the dumplings that are the best, the xiaolongbao that are the piece de resistance. Delicate with 18 folds and in fact there seems to be an army of cooks making them.

Chicken Salad.

Sometimes the old ones are the good ones. I have recently Culled some of my cook books. I may live to regret it, but went on the principle of, “ if I haven’t ever used that book, or it’s been a very long time since I used that book, or simply it has really gone out of style” then it was time for them to go! Especially as I had several new ones ready to take their place. But as I have said before, I also have a filing system on a totally separate iPad just for recipes, ideas and information. Today, I needed to have dinner/ supper ready before we went out. And so it was on one of my very rare trips to a very small supermarket that I spied green grapes! Bingo! Chicken salad with grapes.

I was given this basic recipe many years ago from a dear friend, who has since died. She made it one day for me for lunch and at times it is the perfect, lunch or supper dish. Make ahead, chill, serve, eat and leftovers for lunch the following day! I’m sure that you have made a variation of this as with Coronation Chicken was popular several years ago, but in case you have forgotten, just like I did, then here it is, one more time.

For 4+ servings

  • 3 cooked skinless chicken breasts, cooked, I cooked mine in some chicken stock, as that way they are juicier. Leave to cool and either shred or cut into chunks
  • 2/3 cup ready made mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
  • Small bunch green grapes cut into halves
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1tablespoon French mustard
  • A teaspoon or so of prepared English mustard ( according to taste
  • A splashed or two of Worcestershire sauce.

Very simply mix together the sauce ingredients, then carefully add the chicken, grapes and nuts. TASTE, add sal and pepper to taste.

This keeps well boxed until ready to use , serve on a bed of lettuce.

Healthy Chocolate Cake? Well Gluten free at least!

I have to admit that I am not a baker. I love to cook but baking is not my forté. However, as a Mom, I did always turn out birthday cakes be it for the kids or for Himself.

A chocolate train for my youngest first birthday, a Barbie doll or an igloo. But my go to cake for all such occasions was a chocolate cake, almost bordering on a Saccher Torte from Vienna. Rich to say the least covered in chocolate Ganache. And as such, it was in demand from my eldest for her wedding cake and 8 years later by my son for his.

This actually was a real conundrum, multiplying up the quantities, in huge amounts and how to stop layer upon layer sinking into each other. Masters of invention, stiff plastic discs were imported from Houston, holes drilled and metal rods inserted along with washers to keep them in place. A Herculean task to transport cake from home to reception, but succeeded we did.

The recipe which was used without fail over several decades was from from Elizabeth David in her 1960 publication of French Provincial Cooking. Hers was always the “Go to” book for she was the authority on French cooking, no pictures or photographs but somehow she inspired a generation, me included.

However, this year I have sinned, I have deviated from my self imposed routine and made a different cake. My mind was elsewhere but had seen a recipe which I thought was rather nice and so proceeded to make the cake ( chocolate of course). It was perfect, it rose some but not too much, when tested, the skewer came out clean. But when I released the spring form pan, DISASTER, the cake became cracked as in a crevasse ! OH No! To remove the cake from the base of the spring form also proved to be challenge, fortunately I have a large flat kind of pizza pell and this came in very useful. I cut a circle of cardboard and managed to manoeuvre cake onto it. Fast forward enough chocolate ganache was made, chilled and whipped to save the cake from total disaster. After all, when covered with chocolate, crackes and crevasses could no longer be seen!

The basic recipe for this is:-

  • 150 grams ground almonds
  • 225 grams of good dark chocolate ( 75% cocoa)
  • 225 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 200 grams fine caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated

Method is simple:-

  • Heat oven to 300F/150C, slightly less for fan ovens
  • Grease a 9” round spring form pan
  • In a food processor or with an electric whisk beat the eggs and sugar until pale and light, add the egg yolks and marry well
  • Gently melt the chocolate, this can be done in a microwave, one quick burst at a time
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff
  • Pour the molten chocolate into the egg/ butter/ sugar mix and again, marry well
  • Then carefully fold in the egg white, until there are no white peaks.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake for +/- 45 minutes. A skewer will come out clean when the cake is cooked.

Leave to cool before attempting to remove the spring form and care must be taken. This is where I came a cropper as I didn’t expect the cake to be so fragile, but it is!

Do not despair as melting good dark chocolate in equal quantities of double cream, mixing well, leave to cool and refrigerate, beating until a thick chocolate coating that can be piped/ spread onto the cake, will come to the rescue !

Gourmet Home Cooking, Indian Style

Himself had a birthday recently, and what do you give the man who has everything? Cooking classes! Not one, not two, not three but four of them!

Lesson one, food duly arrived, everything weighed and measured and packaged. Recipe came printed out and with video instructions as well. He is a good pupil, and watched diligently the video .

Indian fusion is the name of the course and is given by Atul Kochher. He has held two Michelin stars and now has several restaurants ( as they all do) with the latest ones, being in London and Marlow Buckinghamshire..

Lesson one , Kadhai Murgh, Courgette Masala and Paratha. There was an enormous quantity of herbs and spices, some of which seemed to be superfluous, as Himself followed all instructions meticulously. The ingredients included chapati flour, grown in the Punjab. Also typical of the Punjab is the big use of ghee and fenugreek leaves.

The courgette masala was particularly interesting and will definitely make it again. Am always looking for alternative vegetable recipes and ideas.

  • About a kilo of courgettes, cut into 2 cm pieces
  • a largish onion finely chopped
  • A green chilli finely sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, turmeric powder, chilli powder black mustard seeds
  • Pinch Garam masala, pinch or two of salt
  • Small handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • 6 dried curry leaves
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

Heat the ghee and add the cumin and black mustard seeds, add the chilli, onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the curry leaves and courgette. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, Garam masala and the coriander leaves. Add the water and cook for another couple of minutes.

Ease itself and another way of including vegetables into your repertoire.

The paratha was stuffed with dates and I would also make this again.

All in all, it was a great dinner and I am looking forward to the next delivery in a couple of weeks time.

Mackerel? Do you like it?

Personally, I don’t like mackerel. I eat almost all fish, but am not keen on smoked haddock although with a poached egg it is ok. Not over keen on Shark, would never choose it but like or love almost everything else. My condemned mans last meal would be Fish and Chips ( though I am very choosy about how it is cooked and the chips have to be triple cooked). Himself ? He likes most things, will try anything as long as there is no fat or gristle ( memories of childhood). And really likes mackerel. it being one of the oily fish, it is really good for you!

The first time I had mackerel was many years ago in Berlin , where himself was studying and myself a mere tourist. Didn’t grab me them and doesn’t grab me now.

However, I am always on the lookout for ideas and inspirations and have recently tried a new one which involves Nduja and chickpeas.

Quiet by chance I had some Nduja in the refrigerator and naturally had all of the other ingredients as well, including the fish.

Nduja is a spicy spreadable sausage from Calabria in southern Italy, though other regions in Spain and France have something similar. The roasted hot chilli peppers give it a deep red colour and a fiery taste and has become popular in the USA and the UK.

For 2 Servings

  • 2 +2 tabs olive oil
  • Small onion chopped
  • +/- 75 grams Nduja
  • a tin of cherry tomatoes or a good handful of fresh cherry tomatoes (I used fresh as I had oodles of them)!
  • Can chickpeas drained
  • A couple of cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Small bunch parsley chopped
  • 1/2 lemon including zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2-4 fillets of mackerel depending on size
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and add the onion until, soft but not coloured
  • Add the garlic and then the Nduja, cook for about 5 minutes breaking it up as it softens.
  • Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, cook until the tomatoes are soft. Season to taste .
  • Mix together the parsley and lemon juice and zest.
  • Dust the filets with the paprika
  • Heat the remaining oil and cook the mackerel skin side down until crisp , quickly flip over and cook for a quick minute.
  • Spoon the chick pea, tomato mixture onto a plate or a bowl. Top with the fish and then the parsley (oops I forgot to add the parsley)!

So if you like fish then give this one a try. Obviously with a strong tasting fish like mackerel thIs works well, but I really don’t see why it wouldn’t work with other fish as well, especially Salmon. I will give it a try!

Broccoli Love it or Hate it ?

Who doesn’t like Broccoli? It would seem many people but the most famous being George H.W.Bush the 41 st President of the USA, though apparently his wife liked it enough to eat his share. Here in our Tower, I think indifferent is the word used for broccoli, though Himself expresses a dislike for purple sprouting broccoli and Kale, whereas son in law dislikes Brussels Sprouts. Each to their own I guess. My own son has always disliked baked beans and willowy blond detests mushrooms. When they were younger and I made Spaghetti Bolognese I would take whatever vegetables were in the refrigerator, blitz them in my food processor and incorporate them into the sauce. My son recently accused me of making my sauce RED, well maybe I did, but it would be the result of carrots and tomatoes!

These days, we occasionally have broccoli but I have to admit not often. However, when I choose my delivery from the lovely Watts Farm, I troll through the vegetable options and will always choose a variety, including broccoli. I have been meaning to try alternative recipes for it and have found one, which I adapted to use other things that were in my refrigerator

For my Broccoli Salad I used

  • A large head of broccoli, blanched and and cut into small florets
  • A handful of toasted nuts ( pistachios, peanuts or hazelnuts)
  • Some chopped mint leaves
  • Some chopped coriander leaves
  • Some chopped dates
  • A squeeze of runny honey
  • Half teaspoon chilli in oil
  • Any other salad type ingredients, such as baby tomatoes, spring onions, chopped celery.

For the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice ( bottled is ok)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1tsp caster sugar
  • 1tablespoon rice vinegar
  • A piece of fresh ginger about a thumb length
  • 50 mls sesame oil ( or olive)

Throw all of the dressing ingredients into a blender or hand blender and whizz until well blended.

Mix together all of the salad ingredients, and toss with about half of the dressing, serving the rest on the side.

Some useful information:-

  • A good source of Vitamin C
  • Useful amounts of beta carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A
  • Some folate, iron and potassium
  • The darker the florets and stem the better the Vitamin C content
  • Much better to steam, stir fry or microwave to retain most of the vitamin C

A Birthday Lunch and a Gentleman’s Relish

Another year, another Birthday, but in the same restaurant, albeit several years apart but weirdly enough with some of the same dishes still on the menu! Is this complacency or is it because these dishes are just so good that they can not be removed from the menu. To my mind it is the latter!

A few years ago we ate at Dinner for dinner, en Famille, at the Chefs table but this time we ate at Dinner for lunch and just Himself and Myself. The service is just as good ( he sneezed and tissues appeared by his side, my handbag was on the floor, a table hook appeared, with apologies and bag was duly hooked onto table). And the food? We took the lunch menu and yes the dishes that were on the menu last time, were just as wonderful as before.

We started with Hay Smoked Salmon, which had its inspiration from 1730 and was served with Gentleman’s Relish.

Next came the pièce de resistance. The Meat Fruit from the 13th -15th century. When is a Clementine not a Clementine? When it is a meat fruit. This wonderful concoction looks like a Clementine but is in fact chicken liver parfait.

Duck and Turnip from absolutely ages ago written about in the edible History of Pompeii Ref Apicius

Of course Heston being Heston, he is not satisfied with one Pièce de Resistance but there are two. The second being the Tipsy Cake. This dates from the early 1800’s as in the English Cookery Book by J.H.Walsh. I don’t often eat dessert, but this is absolutely DIVINE. A kind of Brioche in its own little cocotte with I think a hot crème anglaise and hot roasted pineapple, Umm Umm !

Himself also discovered a red wine which , we decided it was very tasty.( I did have a sip).

Gentleman’s relish was a 19 th century gentry’s favourite and was called Patum Peperium. Why? A play on words, Patum for paste or pate and Pererium from Greek for pepper. The fact that it is made with lots of anchovies and garlic and butter is indeed neither here nor there !Maybe a 19th Century version of Anchovy butter?

To make your own relish you will need

  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • About 25-30 anchovy fillets, best to buy tops quality Ortiz is the best
  • 150 grams unsalted butter softened
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • A good grind of good black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme.

Simply blend all of the above either in a mortar and pestle, with a hand blender or in an electric blender, until smooth . Put in a pot, you can refrigerate it but take it out before using to soften, spread on toast, add to Welsh Rarebit, add to Caesar Salad dressing, put onto grilled fish, stuff mushrooms and so many options! And of course the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret. At Dinner it is a bit of a hybrid as they mix it with fine mayonnaise.