کوفته, κεφτές, chiftea, कोफ़्ता, Meat Balls, Nah Köfte, Something Really Tasty & Full of Eastern Promise!

WP_20150804_15_24_36_Pro[1]You should notice the picture quality has been resumed, thanks to my trusty Nokia 1020 Camera Phone. The weather has been pretty variable recently and by the time it comes to eat, the kitchen is too hot and I am, well, just not up to it. Recently, Rick Stein had a new book published to join a T.V. series, From Venice to Istanbul. I pre-ordered mine several months ago and it arrived on the day the book was released, the 1st episode starts on Friday 7th at 9:30 and I can’t wait to follow his foodie travels.

Thinking about the weather situation and thumbing through the pages I came across an interesting looking recipe that could be prepared in advance, and cooked last minute, Lamb and Pistachio Kofte, which would be served with Cacik and and a simple salad of Red Onion and Tomato.WP_20150804_15_46_09_Pro__highres[1]Cacik is a really nice side dish that you can adjust to suit your palate, and consists of mostly Yoghurt and Cucumber, in fact for two people I went for half a large cucumber, peeled and the seeds removed. It’s wise to add some salt (1/2 tsp) to the grated Cucumber to try and extract as much moisture as you can, I left mine for about 15 minutes before using a metal sieve and large metal spoon to push the remaining juice out. Half a tub of Greek Yoghurt made the bulk of the Cacik, added the drained Cucumber and mixing well.  You also need a clove of crushed Garlic, chopped Fresh Dill and Mint and some Cumin, and I also added some Lemon Zest, along with a teaspoon of Juice. You can adjust the herbs so suit, as I did. WP_20150804_16_06_43_Pro[1]To Finish the Cacik off, I dusted the surface with Sumac and drizzled some Olive Oil before covering with cling film and popping in the fridge until needed. The original recipe in Rick’s book called for 1.2kg of minced Lamb, but that was to make 8 – 10 Köfte so I went for a standard pack of 500 grams. This is where things might get contentious as I did not change the other quantities of herbs and spices. I am convinced Chefs sometimes reduce the flavour impact in their recipes and I had cooked other dishes from well known chefs and to be honest, the food has been bland. So be brave and go the whole hog if you decide to have a go, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds, 1 tsp Coriander seeds did it for me from my favourite spice supplier Steenbergs. I make no apology for keep mentioning them, their products are top quality, Organic and sometimes Fair Trade too and compared to most of the stuff you get in the shops, there is just no comparison in the flavour quality.WP_20150804_16_17_54_ProSomething else I did differently was to dry roast the spices in a frying pan 1st, until I could smell the lovely aromas fill the kitchen before pounding in a pestle and mortar and adding to the minced lamb along with a grated large clove of Garlic.

Pul Biber or Aleppo Pepper comes from Turkey and Syria and is easily obtainable mail order from The Spicery one of my other suppliers, you need a teaspoon. The Pistachio’s need crushing gently, I used about 40 grams worth and some chopped Parsley, Mint and a little Salt and Black Pepper for seasoning along with the Juice of 1/2 and Lemon (and some grated zest too). Something not in the recipe was Sumac, I love the stuff so about 1/2 tsp went in, it has citrus notes and adds to counteract the fat content of the Lamb, the mixture is bound together with some beaten egg. The book says 2 and if the mixture is too wet add some flour. I took one beaten egg and added it slowly, no flour needed at all. At this point you could take a small amount of the mixed and fry up to test the flavours if you want too. Cover and put in the fridge until ready.WP_20150804_20_17_04_ProI was planning to make some bread but in the end went for some shop bought Pitta (Lame excuse but I have been off sick so shouldn’t over do it!), The next step was a simple salad, 3 Tomatoes chopped into chunks, 1/2 Red Onion thinly sliced, 1/2 a Green Chilli de-seeded and finely chopped, some chopped Parsley (or Coriander) and a dressing of Olive Oil and Lemon (add before serving), then season with Salt and Pepper. The Lamb is shaped into Sausages (to fit the Pittas), and fried gently until cooked. In the book they are shaped onto flat metal skewers but I did not have any to hand so just did it as you can see above.WP_20150804_20_34_45_Pro[1]The Pittas were damped with water and the top surface was brushed with some butter before putting in an oven on full to heat up, the result was better than normal and the Pittas did not end up like cardboard! Once cooked, put some of the salad inside the Pitta, add the Köfte then some more salad, add a good helping of Cacik and sprinkle some chopped Parsley over the top, add a slice of Lemon and serve.

The verdict, wowser, absolutely yummy. The boss said they were the best I had aver done which was nice. To me, the thing that stood out was that no ingredient was dominant and that it was like a flavour wave riding around your mouth. These are NOT spicy, just full of flavour, so if you fancy having a go, invest in Ricks new book as it is very good indeed.

……………………………Until next time……………………………L8ers



Yin & Yang Salad with Spiced Chicken – A European take on a Vietnamese principle

Not long until I am of to Gascony for a weeks worth of cookery lessons, really looking forward to learning some new skills and flavour combinations. My recent venture to the Far East has provided  a much needed boost to the taste buds and got me thinking, how could I bring the concept closer to home. This is something that has been developing in my head for a few weeks, lets take a look.

WP_20140518_13_44_17_ProIf you are casting your eye over the ingredients and thinking ‘oh my god, you must be joking’ believe me, this works. There are some things missing from the picture above, the recipe evolved during the cooking/tasting process. There are several stages to go through, poaching the Pears, making some Caramel, marinating the Chicken etc.  so here goes.


Spiced Poached Pears

  • 2 – 4 Firm Pears such as Comice or Conference
  • 1 1/2 Litres Water
  • 1 1/2 Inch piece of Galangal, Sliced
  • 2 Strips Lemon Peel
  • 4 cm piece Cinnamon
  • 4 Star Anise
  • 1 Tbsp Pomegranate Molasses

Place all the Ingredients (except the Pears) into a Saucepan and slowly heat until the sugar has melted, whilst this is happening, peel the Pears and place in the liquid. Doing so at the last minute retains their colour. Make a Cartouche out of greaseproof paper and cut a hole in the centre, this will help keep the Pears in the liquor, but enable some evaporation to take place.

WP_20140518_14_16_41_ProThe picture above shows the technique, let the pears simmer for about 15 minutes and remove from the heat. Let cool and then transfer to a bowl/container and stick in the fridge to chill. (If you want too, make more of these as they make an awesome dessert on their own, served with something crunchy and Cream or Creme Fraiche).

Caramelised Hazelnuts

  • 20 or so Blanched Hazelnuts
  • 200 grms Sugar
  • Cocktail Sticks
  • 1/4 tsp Aleppo Chilli flakes

This element provides some texture and sweetness to the dish. Place the Sugar in a saucepan or non-stick frying pan and place on a high heat, keep an eye on things as you will have to start moving things around gently, but don’t use a spoon. I used the technique HERE, once you have viewed the video a couple of times you should feel confident to have a go, just remember melted Sugar is EXTREMELY HOT!

WP_20140518_15_41_58_ProThis one is almost ready to go, add the Aleppo Chilli at the last minute to prevent it from burning. Next GENTLY insert a cocktail stick into a Hazelnut and with the saucepan at an angle, dip the Nut into the Caramel completely, and then remove twisting the cocktail stick as you go.

WP_20140518_15_54_49_ProNow for the Chicken

  • 1 Chicken Breast/person (The best you can afford)
  • 1 Cup Plain Greek Yoghurt
  • 1 Clove Garlic, crushed
  • 3 sprigs fresh Thyme, stems removed
  • 1/2 tsp Maldon Sea Salt
  • Zest of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo Chilli
  • 1/2 tsp ground Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Sumac
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper (My variety from Steenbergs is particularly HOT, you may need more)
  • 3 twists Black Pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and add the Chicken, making sure its well coated on all sides, cover and stick in the fridge for 2 -3 hours or overnight if possible.

WP_20140518_17_30_32_ProNow for the dressing!

  • 1 Lemon (juiced) + zest
  • 3 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

WP_20140518_18_42_42_ProThis dressing needs tasting to get the flavour correct, it should be lemony and sharp, use the Rice Wine Vinegar to adjust the flavour balance. Using Rapeseed Oil gives it a really bright vibrant colour.

THE Yin & Yang Salad

  • 1 Pack Gorgonzola
  • 2 Red Raddichio
  • 2 Pears prepared as above
  • 20 Caramelise Hazelnuts prepared as above
  • 1 serving Lemon dressing prepared as above
  • 2 marinated Chicken Breasts prepared as above
  • 1 – 2 sliced Onions (Used to make  trivet to sit the Chicken on)

Put your over onto its highest heat and let it get to temperature.

WP_20140518_19_36_37_ProGet a baking tray, drizzle some Oil on the base and placed the sliced Onion on top, season with Salt, Pepper and sprinkle some Thyme leaves on top. Place the marinated Chicken on top and stick in the oven. Depending on the size of your Chicken breasts they will take 15 – 20 minutes to cook, plus another 7 minutes resting time.

WP_20140518_20_46_18_ProOur NEFF oven has a barbecue mode, where it alternates between FAN and Grilling Element, if you have this feature then use it for the last 5 minutes of cooking to develop the brown ‘crust’ on the top surface.

All you have to do now is construct the Salad. Separate the Chicory leaves, I cut the base of the stalk bit by bit to ensure there were no chunky ‘ends’, you will see when you have a go yourself. Dress the leaves with the Lemon dressing and place on a plate. Remove the Poached Pears from the fridge and chop into 1 inch pieces spreading amongst the leaves, do the same with the Gorgonzola, then the Hazelnuts, you are trying to balance the quantities to get the Yin & Yang going, Sour (Lemon Dressing), Bitter (Chicory), Sweet (Pears/Hazlenuts), Spicy (Chicken), Salty (Gorgonzola).

WP_20140518_20_57_23_ProSo there you have it, a healthy tasty Yin & Yang dish, bursting with textures and flavours it was delicious. If you are not keen on Gorgonzola, replace it it a Blue Cheese of your choice, for me the quality of the Chicken is EXTREMELY important. Mine comes from Casey Fields farm shop and is pure and natural with nothing injected. You HAVE to try some to realise how poor supermarket Chicken is. My partner was amazed at the texture and moisture in the Chicken, partly due to the sealing effect of the marinade.

Have a go at this, its wowzer.

Till next time,







Al Fassia and Canteloupe Melon!

The days are getting longer, the year is flying by and I am starting to get excited as in 4 weeks I will be in Gascony, learning some new cookery skills for a few days. I recently organised our teams monthly meeting which offered a chance to find somewhere to eat, something that I find challenging as most love Nando’s, (I am not saying Nando’s is good or bad as I have only been ‘forced’ to eat there once, but never again, its just not me!), so I try and find cost effective interesting places to eat that don’t ship in pre-prepped food, where you can see the menu changes, and is seasonal.

So what to do in Windsor on a Thursday evening and research pointed to Al Fassia, a Moroccan eatery full of promise.

WP_20140424_20_17_40_ProThe Meze was amazing as you can see in the picture above, everything from the most perfect Hummus, Broad Beans, Spinach, Aubergine it was fantastic, tasty and fresh.

WP_20140424_20_17_49_ProMerguez Sausages arrived, spicy, piquant tasty but unfussy and rustic. We also had some Filo stuffed parcels, my mouth was zinging the starter was a real success.

WP_20140424_19_57_24_ProAnyone that knows me will appreciate my love of wine, I am not really a beer person, except maybe a Real Ale at Christmas or if the food dictates it as part of the tasting experience.  The Chateau Raslane, pictured above was AWESOME, it wasn’t cheap at £29.95 but for a Restaurant, amazing value for money.

WP_20140424_20_44_14_ProWhen in Morocco as they say! Mains were a couple of Tagine’s, one Chicken and one Lamb they smelt as delicious as they looked, the steamy mist rising to the ceiling as the top was removed, (poetry is not one of my strong points but hey ho!).

I forgot to take a picture of dessert, which was Seffa, a sweet Cous Cous dish with Cinnamon and Coconut which was delicious, never had it before, will do if I see it again.

So if you happen to be near Windsor, or need an excuse give Al Fassia a try, the service and food was exceptional and very good value, certainly prepared fresh. The owners brother has a Restaurant in Marrakech and part of the inspiration behind this gem.

WP_20140427_17_41_11_Pro Looking for a light and tasty dish over the weekend seemed an excuse to play around with Salads. This is a French Rick Stein inspired dish, with the core ingredients being Canteloupe Melon and Goats Cheese. To add some further flavour Marmande Tomatoes, Aleppo Pepper, and Poppy Seeds are used along with Cucumber with the seeds removed, and thinly sliced and a dressing made of 3 Tbls Rapeseed Oil and 1/2 Tbls Moscatel Vinegar, which is slightly sweeter than regular Red or White Wine variants.

WP_20140427_17_49_38_ProThis dish is mostly a construction job, such as thinly slicing the Red Onion and adding to the Marinade/Dressing, which starts to cook and soften what can be a harsh flavour. Adding Poppy Seeds to the dressing adds another interesting texture and flavour.

WP_20140427_18_07_37_ProMelon can be quite bland, unless your sitting in some hot country where it grows naturally so to add some extra flavour, shiffonade some Mint leaves and layer the Melon and Mint, leaving for AT LEAST 2 hours in the fridge, it imparts a beautiful but subtle element which lifts the Melon. The Goats Cheese is sliced and sprinkled with the Aleppo Pepper, again, leaving for a couple of hours to infuse. The Sour Dough Bread is used to make some crispy Garlic Croutons, adding texture to the Salad along with more flavour.

WP_20140427_19_54_39_ProYou can layer the Salad, starting with some Lettuce, then the Melon, Cucumber then the Goats Cheese topped with the Red Onion Dressing, finish with the Croutons.

Richard Bertinet is one of my food heroes and his ‘proper’ bread is now available in the Newbury Waitrose, I used leftover Sour Dough for the Garlic Croutons, I had scoffed the rest earlier that day, his bread is awesome if you can get it and worth checking if you live in the South West around Bath, Swindon and Newbury areas.

This Salad is a very simple dish that just needs time to prepare, marinate and construct, but tastes delicious, it’s one I will be repeating in the future.

Till next time


وفته kufteh In Search of the perfect………….Kebab!

I love a Kebab, the only issue I have is that they are typical a bit bland, covered in a ‘not very nice’ tasting Tomato Chili sauce and the meat origin is suspect. This is a generalization as I have had some awesome Kebabs, but whilst dining in a half decent restaurant. This post is the result of some creative I have been working on over the past few months, and uses some unusual and exotic spices to create an amazing flavour. I cannot repeat/print what the boss said last night as we were munching our way through them but it was highly commendable 😉


For me, food is about what you see, smell, taste and FEEL. Texture is important when eating, and this version of the popular take-away will have you wondering why you did not make them yourself before. I will start with the ingredients, you may need to invest in some of them as they are not found in your typical supermarket, but are readily available from my favourite suppliers such as Ottolenghi’s and Steenbergs, once you have tried this dish, you can experiment with other Middle Eastern Delights!

For the Kebab

  1.  500 grms Lamb Mince
  2. 1 Red Onion
  3. 1 Clove Garlic
  4. 1/2 tsp. Anardana
  5. 1 tsp. Sumac
  6.  1 tsp. Aleppo Pepper
  7. 1/2 tsp. ground Cumin
  8. 1 tbsp. ground Coriander powder
  9. 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  10. 1 tsp. Thyme
  11. 1 tsp. Peppermint
  12. 1 tbsp. Dukkah
  13. 1 tsp. Pomegranate Molasses
  14. Zest of 1 lime
  15. 2 tbsp. dried Barberries

For the Red Onion Relish

  1. 1 Red Onion
  2. 2 tbsp. White Wine Vinegar
  3. 2 tbsp. Castor Sugar
  4. 60 ml Rapeseed Oil
  5. 1 tbsp. Poppy Seeds

For the Mint Yoghurt Dressing

  1. 250ml Greek Yoghurt
  2. 2 tbsp. Dried Mint
  3. 1 tsp. Sumac

To Serve

  1. 1 Baby Gem Lettuce, Leaves separated and halved lengthways
  2. 2 Tomatoes, sliced and sprinkled with some Sea Salt,  covered in 1/2 small bunch Chopped Coriander
  3. Pitta’s Grilled and Cut width ways to form pockets


Part of the secret of this dish (it’s probably not a secret really, but the phrase sounded good at the time of writing!), is to cook the Onion and Garlic/Spice mix first, and add It to the meat when cooled, to marinade. So cut the Onion finely and cook in some Butter and Oil (or Ghee), on a lowish heat for at least 15-20 minutes, then add a splash of water and continue to cook, until the Onions are soft, melting and sweet, about another 15-20 mins. Crush a clove of Garlic and add to the Onions cooking for 2-3 mins then add all the other herbs and spices, fry for 2 minutes more then take off the heat, add the dried barberries, Lime Zest, Pomegranate Molasses, stir and leave too cool.

WP_20140126_17_26_37_ProWhen the mixture has cooled, mix well into the Lamb mince, cover and pop into the fridge for at least a couple of hours, half way through, take out and mix again, making sure the Onion/Spice is well distributed.

The accompaniments make this special, a simple dressing of Yoghurt and lots of dried Mint, with some Sumac sprinkled on top, and for me, a killer Onion Relish which is dead easy to make, and comes from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s salad recipes which I have posted before. Thinly slice the Onion and place in a bowl. Dissolve the Sugar in the White Wine Vinegar and add to the onion, mixing well, then add the Rapeseed Oil, using your fingers to blend everything together, then finish by adding the Poppy Seeds and set aside for at least an hour (in the fridge).

The Lamb Kebabs need to be gently fried, about 3-4 minutes each side. To Serve, take a halved Pitta, opening up the large end, pop in 2-3 pieces of lettuce, some of the Onion Relish, some of the Tomato and Coriander Slices, pop in a Kebab and spoon on some Yoghurt Mint dressing.


A simple dish to make but packed with flavor and texture, its well worth investing in some new and unique spices to make this dish. I started my culinary journey when I was seven, but only really discovered the delights of Middle Eastern flavours in recent years, and I am so glad I did. Using Cold, Hot, Piquant and Spicy really makes this dish stand out, its not Chili Hot, so you experience waves of flavor, and texture.

Till next time.


Freaky Freekeh & A Dessert Invention

This week saw the arrival of some new cookery books, Pitt Cue Co, based on an up and coming restaurant in Soho, London, and focussing on barbecue, My Vietnamese Kitchen by Uyen Luu and Dos Caminos, Mexican Street Food by Ivy Stark and Joanna Pruess. Flicking through the pages has whet the appetite even more to experiment with different textures and flavours.

So into the kitchen and this week we are going to be trying some new grains, Freekeh (or farik)  and Mograbieh. Freekeh is a green wheat that is roasted and Mograbieh, a giant cous cous that has a soft chewy texture.


Both are available in the UK from Ottolenghi’s online store and are being served as an accompaniment to Lamb Shanks, slowed cooked in Vegetable stock with Shallots, Aleppo Pepper,  Allspice, Bay Leaves, Coriander Seeds, Garlic, Ginger, Almonds, pine nuts, Coriander, Pomegranate Molasses and Barberries.

The recipe is a subtle variation on Bethany Kehdy’s Freekeh with Lamb & Rhubarb, in her fantastic book ‘The Jewelled Kitchen’. I could not get any fresh Rhubarb so substituted dried Barberries which I had in the store cupboard.

Lamb Shanks

The process is quite straight forward, rub Lamb with Aleppo Pepper, Allspice, Salt & Pepper, brown some button onions or shallots, remove from pan, add lamb, brown all over, remove from pan, add spices and cook till the aroma fills the room, add the lamb and onions back and Vegetable stock, cover and cook long and slow.

cooked shanks

I cooked mine at 130 degrees for 4 1/2 hours.  The Freekeh is boiled in stock for about 45 minutes, it has a delicious nutty texture when cooked and is completely different from any other grain I have tasted. The Mograbhieh is steamed initially for about 30 minutes and then simmered in stock and a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. The Mograbhieh and Barberries were to provide the sour note that the rhubarb would have provided, along with some different textures.


The dish is finished with some toasted Pine Nuts, Almonds and fresh Coriander, it was awesome, the boss loved it a lot as it tasted so different from anything either of us has eaten before.  Its not a difficult dish to prepare, the ingredients are available from Ottolenghi’s and Steenbergs, go buy Bethany’s book and create some masterpieces to set your taste buds on fire..

Christmas Dessert No.1

Dessert No

I have been set a challenge by the boss, create some desserts of your own for Christmas! Not one to turn such challenges down here is my 1st attempt, Its Mango with Lime, Cardamom Panna Cotta, Pistachio Dust and Super Short Shortbread!

Its relatively easy to make and I can honestly say, its original as anything can be these days. A couple of you that know me have asked why I don’t publish prescriptive detailed ingredient lists, this is mostly due to copyright infringement, and the fact I am trying to encourage people to have a go, like many other food bloggers.  As this is my invention, I will list the Ingredients and process.

You will need.

  • 1 Can Mango (I could not get fresh at the time, the supermarket had sold out)
  • 1/2 Cup Pistachios, ground in a blender
  • 330 ml Double Cream
  • 2 Sheets Gelatine
  • 200 grm Plain Flour
  • 170 grm unsalted butter
  • 140 grm Castor Sugar (Mine is infused with Vanilla pods and a Jar is always in the cupboard)
  • 1 Lime
  • Maldon Sea Salt
  • 12 cardamom pods

To make the Mango base

1. Put 4 Martini Glasses in the fridge to cool down

2. Put the Mango in  a saucepan with Half a Squeezed Lime and the Zest.

3.  Add a couple of good tablespoons of water and bring to a gentle heat.

4. After approximately 15 minutes, using a hand blender puree till smooth.

5. Add 1/2 sheet of Gelatine, soaked in cold water and squeesed.

6. Split the puree across the 4 Martini glasses, put a 5 mm layer of Pistachio dust in each glass and put back in the fridge. It should look something like this.

stage 1

To make the Panna Cotta

1. Pound the Cardamom in a pestle & mortar and add to the Cream to infuse for at least an hour.

2. Put 1 1/2 sheets of Gelatine in cold water.

3. Strain the cream after an hour and put into a saucepan with 55 grm of castor sugar and bring to the boil, remove from heat.

4. Squeeze the Gelatine, add to Cream and stir.

5. Put the saucepan in a larger pan with some cold water and continue to stir to cool the cream, about 5 minutes and then transfer the cream to a pouring jug.

6. Take each glass and VERY slowly pour in the cream mixture, taking care not to dislodge the Pistachio too much, and then return to the fridge for at least two hours.

To make the Super Short Shortbread

1. Stick a block of butter in the freezer for about an hour to harden.

2. Sift Flour, grate in Zest of 1/2 Lime 75 grm Sugar and mix, put in fridge.

3. After an hour, grate the Butter into the Flour mixing gentle as you go, the gentle squeeze the butter and flour bringing it together into a dough, press gentle into a baking tray, it should look like this after 40 minutes at 140 deg (fan), and a dusting of castor sugar.

short bread

Leave the short bread to cool for a couple of minutes, then take a sharp knife and cut into pieces whilst in the tin, and leave to cool for a couple of hours before carefully removing. Don’t be tempted to try some at this stage, honestly it will all be gone before you can serve with the rest of the dish its so tasty. I made a variation of this the other day, with Pistachio Nuts and Lime Zest, slightly less butter and cut into biscuit rounds, also worth a go.


So here is dessert No.1 Mango, Lime, Pistachio with Cardamom Panna Cotta and Super Short Shortbread, what’s really strange and unusual when you combine the layers, is that there is a distinct taste of Mint, quite unusual and I guess a combination of the different ingredients.

Till next time, happy cooking.

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…