Birthday, Silver Anniversary, Pork Cheeks & Tapas

What a weekend, ‘the boss’ is another year older, and its our Silver Wedding Anniversary, having just booked a holiday we decided to have a lazy weekend, and I would cook some nice food for us to munch through.

Omar Allibhoy runs ‘The Tapas Revolution’, Spanish Tapas at its best and was the protégé of El Bulli’s Ferran Adria, considered one of the best chefs in the world.

I recently purchased Omar’s just released book, and this weekend was the perfect excuse to have a go at some Tapas. The plan was to try a range of dishes some from the book and one inspired by my visit to Polpo, earlier in the week. Heres what I did…….

Caprese Salad – On a Stick

WP_20130824_005Baby Plumb tomatoes where halved and sandwiched a mini mozzarella ball, with a couple of Basil Leaves added for good measure, Caprese Salad on a cocktail stick. Drizzle with your finest Extra Virgin Oil, some cracked black pepper and sprinkle with Maldon Sea Salt before serving. Simple but delicious….

Carrilleras Estofadas – Braised Pork Cheeks


I’ve never had Pork Cheeks before but I wish I had, they are STUNNING……..

Whilst ‘the boss’ was sorting house stuff out I had gone shopping, ‘Casey Fields Farm Shop’, where I normally get most of our meat from and Waitrose for some fish.  With a list of ingredients and recipes planned I stumbled across the Pig Cheeks in Waitrose in the fresh meat section, dead cheap at £1.78 for the 4 in the picture, so I bought them, they were not on my list but I recalled seeing the recipe in my head.

You can see the other ingredients in the picture above, plus you need some beef stock for the slow cooking.


At this stage, I am reducing after Red Wine etc. has been added.  Next stage is to add the beef stock and continue for 30 mins. The total cooking time is about 3 1/2 hours but well worth the effort.


At the end of the cooking process, you should end up with something like the above. The Pork Cheeks could be cut with a spoon they were so soft and tender, an amazing recipe and tasted just AWESOME………


The final dish, yummy scrummy……. You have to try these they are just  beautiful……………..

Pinchos Morunos Con Mojo Picon


One of Casey Fields Farm Shop specialities is Pork, they seem to sell the best Pork ever, it’s always stunning so the ideal choice for the Pinchos Morunos I was intending to cook.  These marinated Pork Kebabs take up the flavours of Garlic, fresh Thyme, Cumin, Pimenton (I used 50% Sweet/50%Hot) and some Olive Oil. I used Pork Tenderloin cut into approx. 1cm pieces, again this is a cheap cut of meat so great value for money.

Placed onto Skewers after marinating for few hours and cooked quickly, they were delicious and very tender, you can see how juicy there were after resting for 1 minute in the picture below. I had some Mojo Picon, a Canarian Pepper Sauce in the Cupboard that I had bought whilst on holiday so used this instead of making from scratch.


Caballa En Escabeche

Pickling is a great way to cook fish and popular in both Spain and Mexico. I have eaten Escabeche a few times but never done so myself so here was a chance to have a go. I had managed to get some Mackerel Fillets so these would form the basis of another Tapas Dish.


You need to flash fry the Mackerel and make a marinade using the Wine, Sherry Vinegar, Onion, Carrot, Garlic, Thyme etc. The process is quite straight forward and does not take long. Mackerel is also really good value for money and can be bought from most supermarket fish counters during the summer months when the  fish is in abundance in UK shores.


Served simple, with some crusty bread to mop up the juices this was another delicious course for the tapas Event.

I also cooked Padron Peppers, renowned for their russian roulette heat, 1 in 3 or 4 are scorching, and a Tortilla which was also delicious. We enjoyed the various dishes over a couple of hours or so, and loved the recipes of Omar Allibhoy, the guy is pure genius..


Polpo – A little bit of Venice in London

A business meeting was an excuse to try a restaurant I have been meaning to visit for some time. Polpo, a cookery book on Venetian food has been an inspiration for cooking and amongst the many interesting recipes contained within, the Cicheti (small plates) are not unlike Tapas and feature heavily.

We decided to choose the selection for the starter, the Cicheti Plate which consisted of 1 each of Arancini, Potato & Parmesan Crocchette, Summer Pea & Speck Crostini, Melon, Prosciutto & Basil, Baccala Mantecato Crostini and Caprese.


It all tasted beautiful, and was washed down with a non-alcoholic cocktail the ‘Rock Shandy’, a mix of Lemonade, Fresh Lime and Angostura Bitters.

For mains I went for the Wild Mushroom Pizzette, a small Venetian Pizza loaded with Garlic, Mushrooms and Parsley, whilst my colleague went for Grilled Lamb, Caponata and Basil, just delicious.

Polpo is definitely worth a visit, as is the book worth investing in, a bit different but amazing food……

A Brownie or not – You decide!

I’m very fortunate to have a great team supporting me at work, doing admin booking hotels and flights as I travel up and down the country. With this in mind, and as a way of saying thank-you I decided to bake them something nice, so what to cook.

I remember watching Willie Harcourt-Cooze on television in 2008, when the series ‘Willy Wonka’s  Chocolate Factory’ appeared on Channel 4, and told his story of buying a chocolate plantation, setting up a processing factory in the UK, and persuading Waitrose to range his specialist chocolate. I have used ‘Willie’s Cacao’ several times, its fantastic chocolate for cooking and was going to be the star ingredient in my treat for the team. I purchased his first book around that time, it has some great recipes in it including one for brownies. My attempt is a variation on his recipe with some subtle changes, so read on to see what I did..

As your saw from the heading picture this is not a slimming treat, Organic Unsalted Butter, Unrefined Golden Sugar and lots of eggs being needed, but I was determined to include one of the ‘5 a day’ so fresh Raspberries were going to be a hidden surprise.

Before starting gather all the ingredients, a habit I have got into as it makes cooking so much easier. Switch the oven on and set to 175deg (fan),  then line a 20cm x 20cm square baking tin with butter and parchment paper, this makes removing the final brownie so much easier.


250g of Willie’s Drop’s are placed into a bowl over simmering water with 300g of unsalted butter and slowly melted, you can see the glossy mixture in the picture above, silky smooth and decadent. I used the 71% Sambirano Single Estate Madagascan which is beautiful and readily available.


6 Eggs and 3 Yolks were added to 300g of Golden Caster Sugar and processed by the trusty Kenwood Chef using the Balloon Whisk attachment. I set the beast going at full speed to create a very light, pale and airy mixture, this helps to lighten the final brownie, it took about 6-8 minutes and significantly increased the volume of the mixture.


With the Chocolate/Butter mix melted and combined, add to the Egg/Sugar mixture and gently fold in 100g of Plain Flour, this is more than the original recipe as is the extra Egg Yolk. You should end up with a smooth batter like the picture above. The next stage is to pour in about 1cm’s worth of mixture to cover the base of the tin, then place the Raspberries  as seen in the following picture.


Pour the remaining mixture gently into the tin, the mixture can dislodge the fruit so go slowly, then add more raspberries pushing them into the mixture so that they are just below the surface of the batter mix.

The Brownie/Cake mixture needs baking for about 30 minutes, then remove from the over and LEAVE IT ALONE TO COOL DOWN SLOWLY……..  If you don’t do this, when you try and remove from the tin, you will end up with  mess.


When the Brownie has cooled down, you can remove from the baking tin by gently lifting by the parchment paper, then dust with Icing sugar.

It was absolutely delicious, quite light and moist for a Brownie, I think its more cake like but the team loved it, as did several other people who where in the office at the time.

If you like chocolate, you should have a go at this, its quick to make and just scrummy……. Enjoy

Burgers in Brighton – Lucky Beach Cafe

Another week of exploring flavours, both from a cooking perspective but also the chance to tuck into a 35 day aged burger, care of ‘The Lucky Beach Cafe’ on the Promenade in Brighton. I had looked at Trip Advisor over the weekend and ‘The Trolls Pantry’, another highly rated specialist Burger Cafe was closed mondays so the choice was made for us.

We were in Brighton a few months ago on a day trip, and as we were walking towards Palace Pier I noticed the words, ’35 Day Aged Beef’ above a Cafe sign. On that trip we had set our hearts on ‘good ol’ Fish and Chips’ so continued to walk along the promenade, not even stopping for a gaze at the menu.

Back in Brighton over the bank holiday and as we wandered along the seafront, Junior playing on the Big Slide, Bumper Boats and other amusements I suggested it was time for a break and something to drink.

Aha, there was that sign again, 35 Day Aged so we grabbed a table and got some drinks ordered, knowing full well this was going to be our lunch stop!

2013-08-19 12.33.18The ‘funky’ menus listed some interesting choices, I opted for the ‘LB Royale’ whilst ‘the boss’ went for the ‘Green Chilli’ Burger, both with ‘Skin-on Chips’. The tables were also funky in that a ‘single wine bottle box’ was used to hold Napkins, Salt ‘n Pepper, refined Golden Sugar and Sarsons Vinegar. The service was fantastic too, friendly and welcoming which is what you would expect from a hip seafront cafe.

Freshly cooked to order the burgers arrived in good time and my god, it was worth the wait. The 35 Day Aged Beef was Longhorn and perfectly cooked, succulent and juicy, the Brioche style buns the perfect size to match the burgers (its a pet hate of mine where the buns are too big or the burgers too small), the ratio here was spot on.

I have had some decent burgers in my time, mostly in London at ‘Meat Liquor’, which started life as a ‘pop-up’ in a van until the van was stolen, and Dollars who serve amazing Wagyu Burgers, the Lucky Beach was up there with them. The Lucky Beach has been voted one of the top six burger cafes in the UK in ‘Red Online’, I know why and I will be back again.

2013-08-19 12.47.02

I also like the food presentation, enamel bowl with simple paper…. You gotta eat here

Huevos Rancheros meets Shakshuka, Wookey Hole & Cheddar Gorge

This weekend I am having a couple of days extra off to spend time with the family,  spend time in the kitchen cooking, enjoy some good food and update the blog. 1st stop was Wookey Hole to go ‘Witch Hunting’.

Wookey Hole cave was formed through erosion of the limestone hills by the River Axe. Before emerging at Wookey Hole the water enters underground streams and passes through other caves such as Swildon’s Hole and St Cuthbert’s Swallet. After resurging, the waters of the River Axe are used in a handmade paper mill, the oldest extant in Britain, which began operations circa 1610, although a corn grinding mill operated there as early as 1086.

wookey hole

Having finished the guided tour, had some food in ‘Captain Jack’s Restaurant’ and played ‘Pirate Island Adventure Golf’,  number one son let off some steam in the ‘Pirate of the River Axe’ whilst we decided what to do next!

The village of Cheddar and Cheddar Gorge is about 8 miles from Wookey Hole, and the region is famous for Cheese, one of my favourite artisan products. Both the ‘boss’ and I adore cheese with a passion, and are very lucky to have a fantastic cheese specialist nearby who supplies some amazing product, not available in the usual retail ‘chains’. If you have never tried cheese from an artisan supplier please do, you will be amazed at the difference in taste, texture and longevity if looked after carefully.

The land around the village of Cheddar has been at the centre of England’s dairy industry since at least the 15th Century with the earliest references to Cheddar Cheese dating from 1170.

Next stop was the ‘Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company’, the only producer of Cheddar Cheese in the village of Cheddar!


If you arrive before 15:30 you can see see the cheese being made, unfortunately we arrived after this time so could not spend time in the viewing gallery watching the process.  I was lucky enough to visit an Italian Cheese Factory in May this year as part of a cooking holiday and its more interesting than you might think.

In the shop you can taste sample’s of their products, and they even have mini cool boxes with ice bags, so you can buy the cheese with confidence if you have a long distance to travel home.

I ended up buying several different cheese’s, some artisan biscuits, chutney and their own special cheese straws, the two pictured above were completely different, the ‘Cave Aged’ having more texture and being quite crumbly, whilst the ‘Vintage’ was strong in flavour, but more creamy and close textured.


Huevos Rancheros meets Shakshuka!

Saturday was chill out day, reading cookery books, watching cooking programmes and not thinking about work. Lunchtime was fast approaching and an excuse to spend time in the kitchen. Thomasina Miers had appeared on ‘Saturday Cookbook’ on ITV in the morning and my mind drifted to Mexico, Tommi is famous for winning MasterChef in 2005 and subsequently opening her chain of Mexican Restaurants called ‘Wahaca‘.

I fancied a bit of experimenting, so turned to the Middle East for my spice inspiration, but basing the dish on Mexican influences.

Starting off with some new potatoes of the ‘Agata’ variety, they were quartered and put into a frying pan with some Olive Oil and butter, cooking slowly for around 10-15 minutes. Then, finely chopped onion was then added with a good sprinkle of dried Thyme,  an Orange Pepper, pith removed and cut into small dice, a teaspoon of Aleppo Chilli Flakes from Ottolenghi’s, which I find has some citrus notes and decent heat,  some Ras el Hanout spice mix, mine is from Steenbergs.

Cook for a further 10- 15 minutes to soften, then add a couple of fresh chopped tomato’s and season with sea salt and pepper, mine looked like this;


The next stage was to take a couple of Tortillas, on one drizzle some olive oil, place the other on top and move round to ‘spread’ the oil on both Tortillas. Then, place the Tortillas oil up and sprinkle with Dukkah, the oil helps the spice mix stick. I then put the spiced faces together and fried the Tortillas in a mix of oil and butter until they puffed up.

These can then go on a plate in a warm oven whilst you finish the dish, which just needs a fried egg and some chopped parsley to finish.


The fried Tortilla base with the Dukkah adds some crunchy texture to the final dish, the Aleppo Chilli and Ras Al Hanout a Middle Eastern theme, and it was really delicious.

The ‘boss’ was out when I cooked this, but I reserved some of the vegetable mixture and folded the Tortilla into a quarter, and it was devoured when she came home!

Thanks must go to Thomasina Miers, Yotam Ottenlenghi and Bethany Kehdy for the inspiration for this dish.


الفارسي الأرز جولد Persian Jewelled Rice (with an AMAZING Aubergine Veal & Yoghurt Crumble)

Continued inspiration from the Middle East this week, it amazing how many new flavours and techniques I am discovering as I work through the various cook books on my shelf.

This weeks organic veg box, courtesy of Riverford contained some ‘Graffiti Aubergines’, an amazing looking variety that was going to be the star performer in another Bethany Kehdy recipe that was going to accompany the Jewelled Rice.


There are quite a few ingredients in this particular feast, and some interesting cooking processes. Both recipes are contained in one of my fave new books The Jewelled Kitchen, don’t take my word for it, the food blogging world is awash with praise for Bethany’s new book and clicking on the title above, will take you one such blogger.

The Rice (Basmati), is washed several times until the water runs clear, this removes surface starch, and helps make the final dish light and fluffy. You then soak the rice in warm salty water for a maximum of 30 minutes, and wash again removing more starch. You then add to boiling water, bring back to boil and cook for 3 minutes over a HIGH heat, and DON’T STIR, it will break the grains up.  Then you gentle cool down using tepid water and thats the 1st stage complete !!!

The 1st stage of preparing the rice can be done a day in advance, and the rice can be put in the fridge, covered, until ready to finish.


The picture above is the rice at the 30 minutes resting stage, with the Graffiti Aubergines waiting patiently for their makeover!

Adwiya (Persian: ادویه‎), or Advieh is a mix of spice typically used in Persian cuisine, you can read more about it HERE. Mine was the number 2 variety in the back of the book and contained Pistachios, Edible Rose Petals, Saffron, Cardamon and Cinnamon. When ground and mixed, the smell and flavour is amazing. If you need a source of specialist ingredients I use Ottolenghi, Steenbergs, and have just subscribed to a new supplier ‘The Kitchen Nomad’, that provides a monthly service based on a particular country, which is well worth a look.

As well as the Advieh other ingredients include Barberries, (never used those before), flaked Almonds, Pistachios, Seville Orange rind (blanched 2-3 times), fresh Mint and Currants. The final cooking process involves steaming in water, with a cloth covered tight fitting lid to prevent the rice going soggy, before this is started, some oil is heated in the pan and a layer of rice is placed in the bottom of the pan and then sprinkled with some of the fruit, then Advieh, then another layer of rice, fruit, then Advieh etc. with the final layer plain rice.

Jewelled Rice

The cooking process produces a Tahdeeg, a crispy base which has to be tried, it’s delicious. If you click on the picture above it will enlarge, and you can just see the light brown Tahdeeg on my rice, which I placed on top after breaking up into smaller pieces.

If you like what you see go buy The Jewelled Kitchen, its a beautiful inspiring book, and the recipes are just stunning.

The Aubergine, Veal and Yoghurt Crumble accompanied the Jewelled Rice, and introduced some more new ingredients not used before.


You can see the vibrant Pomegranate Seeds, and flecks of fresh Mint, Barberries are also used along with Aleppo pepper and Pomegranate Molasses.  The dressing is a mix of Yoghurt, Tahini and Lemon Juice.  The two dishes looked resplendent on the Moroccan table in the lounge and tasted just absolutely stunning.  It did take some time to prepare both dishes but the results were well worth the effort, the ‘boss’ being very pleased with this weeks efforts.

I have just placed my advanced order for Rachel Khoo’s new book due for release in October, and also ordered a Vietnamese cookery book which I am looking forward to trying.

The final finished meal, Jewelled Rice with Aubergine, Veal and Yoghurt Crumble.    Enjoy…

Middle Eastern Chicken on Flatbread with Fattoush

Another busy week this week  included William Curleys‘ Patissiere, awesome Massamam Curry at Chaophraya in Manchester, amazing Arnavut Cigeri (Albanian Style Lambs Liver) & Kaniyarik (Aubergine stuffed with mince meat, onions, peppers, tomatoes cooked in the oven and served with rice), at Meze in Darlington. Oh, and a couple of full english breakfasts!!

It’s me and the ‘Bosses’ 25th wedding anniversary this year, and to do something a bit different we are planning a trip to Padstow, to attend a two-day Indian course at Rick Stein’s Cookery School, watch this space for a review if we manage to make it.

Back to the kitchen and more middle eastern inspired food, this time chicken….



Every time I am in the kitchen I try to do something new or different (or both!), this time was the art of spatchcocking. Before dealing with the Chicken, I prepared a marinade.  A pot of Yeo organic Yogurt is put into a bowl with a good generous handful of chopped fresh Thyme, the same of coriander, 4 tablespoons of Harissa paste, a teaspoon of Sumac, a teaspoon of Coriander powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of Cumin. Add the grated zest of a Lemon, and its juice and mix together well. Set aside whilst we prepare the chicken.


Take your chicken and turn it over so that its Breast side is facing away from you and the open cavity is on the top. Take a sharp knife (Or kitchen scissors if you have them), and cut close to the bone that runs down the centre of the chicken. You should end up with a cut like above. Turn the Chicken over so you can finish the cut safely.

Next, place the Chicken with the open flesh face down on the chopping board with the breast side up. Put your hands on the body, pushing down to flatten and ‘break’ the spine firmly.


It should look like the picture above, I was a bit nervous about this process but its actually quite easy to do if you take it steady and be careful with the knife!

So that’s the Chicken and marinade sorted, you now need to cut through and ‘slash’ the Chicken in several places to let the marinade penetrate and impart its flavour.  Mine looked like this after the next element of butchery!!


The next stage is to place the Chicken on a roasting tray and smother it in the marinade, a lovely messy job but very satisfying. Make sure you massage the marinade into the cuts to make sure the flavours penetrate right into the meat.  I put mine in the fridge after this stage and left to rest for about 7 hours….


Next step is to prepare the Fattoush, a Middle Eastern Salad of toasted Bread, Tomatoes, Onions, Radishes, Dill, Parsley, Sumac, in fact loads of delicious flavours.  There are many different variations on this dish and the one I chose was a variation on the lovely Bethany Kehdy, and her new book ‘The Jewelled Kitchen’, its beautiful and one of my favourites at the moment.

It’s an exercise in ‘Mis en place’, a phrase used in professional kitchens meaning put in place or preparing everything ready for cooking or construction, in the ways of salads.


As an experiment, I changed some of the ingredients slightly, adding about 150 grams of mixed Red Quinoa, White Quinoa and Bulgur Wheat that had been boiled for 10 minutes and left to cool.  I made a dressing from thinly sliced Red Onion, 60ml of Rapeseed Oil, 4 table spoons of Sherry Vinegar, some Salt and Pepper and massaged it all together leaving it to marinade for 10-15 minutes.

My Fattoush looked like this when completed.


Prior to starting cooking, I had popped into Waitrose to pick up some bits and pieces (read wine!), and was considering what and how to serve the Chicken. Not being inclined to spend too much time on making bread I found some interesting looking Italian Flatbreads that were thicker than a Tortilla, and had some body and texture to them.  These were going to be the ‘blanket’ for the dish.


I came up with an idea to make them even more interesting, and it involved a 1/2 inch paint brush!!

I had some Ghee in the cupboard so took my trusty brush (that is really handy in the kitchen), and brushed each Bread with the Ghee all over.  I then sprinkled Dukkah and Za’atar over both, giving them a good covering as evenly as possible.

Prior to serving, the bread’s were put together with the clean side on the outside, and heated through in a frying pan for a couple of minutes before turning over and repeating on the other side.


The Chicken needs about 1 1/2 hours in the oven, I used a temperature of 170 degrees in our fan assisted beast. The smells coming from the kitchen invoked memories of wandering around  Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh, Morroco. The market square is famous for the food stalls that start cooking late afternoon and swamp the area with amazing aromas and exotic spices.


The Chicken was roughly divided and placed onto the warm Flatbread and served with the Salad. It was absolutely delicious and actually really simple to make. You can prep the Chicken in the Morning and leave to marinade. The Salad is mostly a construction exercise, the results will delight the palate.

Have a go yourself, I am pleased I did.

L8ers, till next time.