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,







Huevos Rotos or Huevos Estrellados – Depends who is driving!

This quick recipe was inspired by a new book that dropped through the letterbox last week. Morito is a Tapas/Meze restaurant in London’s Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, and sits next to its bigger family member Moro. Both are owned by Sam and Sam Clark and have books published to match their food inspiration, Morito being the most recent.

WP_20140511_15_57_42_ProA similar recipe is also in Omar Allibhoy’s Tapas Revolution, hence the title of this post, in ‘Morito’ its Broken Eggs, in ‘Tapas Revolution’ it’s Crashed Eggs. This dish won’t take two days to make, but is delicious served with some crusty bread.


You can see all the ingredients in the 1st picture, this is enough for 2 people. To start with, peel and cut your potatoes into approximately 1 inch chunks and place in a bowl, we are going to marinade for a couple of hours with a good glug of Olive oil, 2 Garlic gloves, sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme that have been lightly crushed to release their flavours and some Maldon Sea Salt.

WP_20140511_19_25_32_ProAfter a couple of hours we are ready to slice the Onion and Peppers, and gently fry until soft, about 8 – 10 minutes. Different colour peppers seem to cook at different speeds, this adds varying elements of texture and makes the dish even more interesting.

WP_20140511_19_53_00_ProThe next stage is to remove the Peppers from the heat, and in a separate pan, fry the Potatoes gently in Olive Oil until tender and slightly crispy on the outside, while they are cooking you can slice you Chorizo into 1 cm lengths and add them half way through so they can release some of their spicy oil in the potatoes. Then add the Onions and Peppers so they can warm through, we are almost done!

WP_20140511_19_58_21_ProNow for the Rotos or Estrellados moment, break three Eggs into a cup and drop into the mixture from a height, the Yolks should break on impact, remove the pan from the heat and stir gently, you want the residual heat from the mixture to just cook the Eggs. If you think you need to return the pan to the heat for a bit longer then do so, but you want the eggs just cooked and soft.

WP_20140511_20_05_09_ProPut a pile on the middle of a plate, and sprinkle some chopped fresh Parsley, you can finish the dish of with some Salt, if you think its needed and some freshly ground Black Pepper, I also added a couple of Tomato slices and some Rosemary and served with some Bread.

That’s it, a quick a tasty simple dish that full of flavour and really simple to cook.


Till next time, L8ers.




Fragrant Gnocchi, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Chocolate Mousse, More Courses & Glasgow’s Finest!


The weeks are flying by at the moment, the trip to France is booked, a week at the Gascony Cookery School in early June is something to look forward too. Being impatient and keen to add to my culinary knowledge I spent another day in London with the ‘Pukka Paki’, Sumayya and what an event it was! I had recommended the school to a colleague at work and by sheer coincidence he decided to pick the same day as me to attend. Glad you enjoyed it Tom.


You HAVE to attend the cookery school to appreciate the subtle techniques involved in cooking Pakistani food, its mostly hands-on and you would not get anywhere near the same from reading a book. There were four of us on the course, all keen foodies (and blokes!!) and we had great fun learning new skills and understanding the differences between Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani cooking.

On the menu was Beetroot & Beef Curry – Chaukandar Gosht, fragranced with Cardamom and Cinnamon, Green Masala Chicken Biryani – infused with Mint, Coriander, Lemon and Green Chilli’s and whole garam masalas, Channa Daal with Takra of Curry leaves, red Chilli, Cumin and topped with Tamarind, Homemade Naan breads with Poppy Seeds & Qawami Seviyan – sweet Vermicelli with Cardamom, Saffron, Cloves and Pistachios.


After time spent learning and cooking we all sat down to a hearty (and very tasty) lunch. I cannot recommend Sumayya enough, her courses are also available through the Divertimenti Cookery School in London, if you want to learn some new skills her courses are money well invested and great fun.

Moving away from the exotic spices of Pakistan, last weekend saw my 1st attempt at Gnocchi which were surprisingly straight forward.


The potatoes were boiled in their skins from cold, about 30 minutes and then peeled with the back of a knife, SIFTED flour to keep things light was added after the potatoes had been through a ricer. If you are careful, you end up with soft pillowy (if there is such as word) Gnocchi, which are rolled on the back of a fork to create furrows for the sauce to stick.


As you can see the final presentation needs some more practise. they are very soft so might benefit from some time in the fridge before finishing off. Unlike the usual sauces that accompany such delights, I went for a more unusual (in my mind) combination to go with the Gnocci, Slow roasted Tomatoes, Feta & Middle Eastern Flavours!


This element needs starting early, the Tomato’s are going to be SLOW roasted for about 8 hours at 100 degrees. Take about 10 Tomatoes, cut them in half and place on a baking tray that has had some half decent Olive Oil spread on the surface. Sprinkle with some Sea Salt and make sure they are well coated in the Oil, they should be CUT face down. Add to the tray a halved head of Garlic, a chopped Onion and sprinkle everything with some Thyme, Coriander Seeds, Sumac and Pepper! Stick them in the oven and wait for the aroma’s to fill the kitchen, this does take a while (8 hours of course). Keep an eye on them as ovens do vary.


To add to the interest, a vegetable medley was prepared consisting of Onions, Peppers, Garlic, Aleppo Pepper, Thyme and some more Sumac. The Gnocchi was put into boiling water (but not moving, so they don’t risk breaking up), until they popped to the surface and then drained briefly on some kitchen paper.


The Gnocchi were then lightly fried in some Butter and Ras Al Hanout sprinkled on top , ensuring an even coating and imparting the ‘exotic’ element of the dish. The presentation could do with  a bit more work but I was preparing for a trip to Glasgow so rushed. Place a bed of the vegetables on the plate, then surround with the roasted Tomato’s and place the Gnocchi on top. The final flourish is some Feta Cheese, broken up and distributed around the plate. Finish off with some cracked black pepper it was really tasty.

The Shandon Belles – A taste of Glasgow

I had a couple of days in Glasgow last week, and a couple to come this week so an excuse to try some new restaurants. Looking at Trip Advisor there were a few that caught my eye, the 1st being The Shandon Belles, in Argyle Street, WHAT a find. The place is steeped in history and sits below another famous landmark, The Buttery where Two Fat Ladies is situated.


Dishes on the Menu included Whole grilled Sardines, dressed leaves, soft herb dressing, pink Prawns, sweet Chilli & Coriander Mayonnaise for starters and mains, Pepper filled with vegetable Cous Cous & smoked Mozzarella, dressed leaves (v), Meat loaf, Chive Mash, Tomato Jus.

I decided to go for the Fish of the day special, which was Ling, with cheesy Mash and Soft herbs. Never had Ling before, will certainly order it in the future, cooked to perfection and utterly delicious, the fish was served with roasted vegetables and certainly hit the spot. To be honest I was that tired I only managed the one course but plan to re-visit at at later date.

The service was impeccable, the place is steeped in history and when I was chatting with the waiter and talking about the blog, he presented me with a folder to look at, with pictures from the past and menu’s going back to the 70’s which was fascinating. Imagine Steak Tartare being more expensive than Lobster, and Tongue and Sweetbreads on the menu, delish!

Highly recommended, great value and well worth a visit.

The Tiki Bar & Kitsch Inn – Another taste of Glasgow!


The following night I was in a different part of Glasgow, my own fault and due to some confusion with hotels! I am really lucky to have some great technology at my disposal, which includes several smartphones with integrated GPS and some useful software. I use them to good effect when away, searching for places to eat that are within walking distance, but also linking to Trip Advisor to get a view of quality.

The Tiki Bar and Kitsch Inn was one such find, a 15 minute walk from the hotel it promised some interesting Thai flavours, freshly cooked and no bottled sauces in sight (as stated on the menu!).

While I was choosing what to eat the lovely waitress bought me some water, and delicious Spicy Crackers with a Sweet Chilli dip to munch on, a really nice touch. They were very crisp and  not at all greasy like some of the Prawn Crackers you usually get served in oriental establishments, they certainly got the taste buds dancing.


I was pretty hungry so thought I would go for a starter, the divine (and spicy) Crying Tiger Beef Salad, Grilled marinated beef, served cold with a Thai style green salad (beef is cooked medium rare). YUMMMMMMMMMMM, the beef was cooked perfectly and the starter really set the evening off beautifully.


Mains were Pla Tod Yum, Crispy fillet of Coley dressed with fresh Mango and Cashew Nuts in roasted Chilli, Lime and Lemongrass sauce with Jasmine Rice, another stunning dish and another 1st as I had not had Coley before either. Dessert, yes I WAS hungry, was a delicious Coconut & Mango Panna Cotta, which slipped down and did a great palate cleansing job.

Like The Shandon Belles, I cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough, awesome food, fantastic service and another lovely evening. Give it a try if you are in the area.

Back to the kitchen for one final flurry, Chocolate Mousse. Never made it before so onto the Internet to look for some guidance and another well known chef and food blogger, David Leibovitz came to the rescue. David is a Pastry Chef originally from the USA but now living in Paris,  has written a number of books and also has a fantastic blog, (click on his name above to take a look).


The recipe I went for is originally from Julia Childs, details can be found HERE. My version added some Mandarin segments, I like the fruity tang against chocolate, and I did not add the alcohol (didn’t have anything appropriate in the cupboard at the time).


The process is like making a Sabayon, whisking Egg Yolks and Sugar over hot water to create a light and airy mixture, just follow the instructions in the link above and you shouldn’t go wrong, I went technical and used an electric whisk rather than the hand method.


The chocolate is melted over a ‘Bain Marie’, hot not boiling water with a bowl over the top (NOT touching the water as the chocolate will burn), with the butter. Use the best you can get, my preference is Willi’s Cacao, you can get it online or in Waitrose. In this recipe I used the Rio Caribe 72% Chocolate Drops, really tasty, rich and sublime.


The final process is to whisk the Egg Whites to soft peaks and gently combine with the Chocolate/Butter mixture, folding gently combining the two and loosing as little air as possible.

I placed the Mandarin Segments in the bottom of Martini glasses and spooned the Mousse on top, then popped into the fridge for a few hours to set.

The feature image for this post shows the results, to find out what they taste like have a go yourself, they were Mmmmmmmmmm.

That’s it for now, flying back to Glasgow tomorrow for a couple of days so looking forward to trying another eatery. I am hoping to get some time to test a Danish Pastry, Kringles in the near future.

I stumbled across them on a Twitter post by Yotam Ottolenghi, so have been researching recipes so I can have a go. They take a few days to make and the diary has been pretty full recently but look really interesting as there does not seem to be a huge amount written about them.

Till next time, L8ers……………….


Tutts Clump Ribs & Asian Slaw – Heaven on a plate!

Another manic week over and things are looking good for the remainder of the year, a holiday in Djerba is on the cards and work is going really well.

With a change in the weather and some fantastic looking pork ribs on sale at the fave farm shop, thoughts turned to America and Jamie Oliver’s book of the same title, which features a plethora of great recipes. This is my slightly modified version of 5* Pork Ribs with Epic BBQ Sauce.


Tutts Clump is both a small village near Reading and the name of a fantastic Cider Producer. Tim Wale the genius behind the Cider was born in the village and started commercial production around 2008. The Cider replaces the apple juice used in the Rib cooking process, more about that later.

Its takes 24 hours to make this menu but the results are absolutely worth it, the result are the best ribs I have ever tasted, the boss also commented in a similar vein, please give them a try.

MARINADE – For this you need Fennel Seeds, Smoked Paprika, Orange Zest, Garlic, Dried Thyme, Brown Sugar Sea Salt & Pepper.


All the ingredients for the marinade need pounding in a pestle and mortar to make a smoothish paste. Steenbergs herbs and spices feature in most of my cooking these days, fresh, vibrant and from known sources which are at minimum Organic and many Fairtrade, they are difficult to beat.


Once the marinade is ready rub it well into the Ribs, you should find the marinade starts to soften after a time, this is exactly what should happen as it reacts with the meat. Cover with cling film and stick in the fridge for 24 hours.

EPIC BBQ Sauce – For this you need Onions, Chilli’s (I changed from the recipe here as I had Chipotle Chilli’s which add a depth and smokiness to the sauce), Garlic (lots), fresh Thyme, fresh Rosemary, fresh Coriander, Bay leaves, Cumin seed, Fennel seed, Paprika and Cloves, Oranges (zest & juice), brown Sugar, Balsamic Vinegar, English Mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, Tomato Ketchup, Apple Juice, Salt & Pepper…………Phew!  Believe me, its worth making this with or without the Ribs, its outstanding.

With a food processor, mince the Onion Garlic & Chilli’s to a smooth paste and fry gently (if you are using dried Chilli’s like me, they need soaking in warm water for at least 20 minutes to soften).

The Herbs & Spices get the processor treatment next, along with the peel of the Orange, and add to the Onion mixture along with the Brown Sugar.

Lastly, Water, the Apple Juice and Orange juice and other ‘wet’ ingredients and simmer gently for 10 mins or so.

Once the sauce is cooked you pass it through a sieve, it should look something like this.


Glossy, silky and delish.  If you sterilise a jar, you can keep the sauce for several months but once you taste it, my bet is it won’t last that long.

Next stage is for the following day so put your feet up and enjoy the evening………………………..

The Ribs go though 3 stages of cooking, all ‘low ‘n slow’. Firstly set the oven to 130 deg, the Ribs are cooked for 1 hour 30 mins with the frown face down, so the meat side is facing the baking tray and the bone, sinew side is in the air. When done, you need to create foil parcels (I lined mine with greaseproof to make sure the foil was not pierced by the bone edges), this time the ribs are turned over and smiley side is up. At this stage I used the Tutts Clump Cider instead of the apple juice, it brings something more to the dish and you need about 1/4 bottle for each rack. The foil is then sealed, and back in the oven for another 1 hour 30 mins, they will look something like this.


The next stage is to put the Ribs back in the oven having drained off the liquid to dry them a little bit, the final stage is to coat the Ribs in the sticky unctuous sauce and give them another 30 mins before they are ready to devour.


Asian Slaw With a Touch of Levant

To accompany the Ribs I planned both texture and further layers of flavour. Simple SweetCorn smothered in Red pepper Butter, Potato wedges, marinated and cooked in Ras Al Hanut and a touch of Cayenne Pepper, and the other star is Asian Slaw with a touch of Levant.


 The Asian Slaw is a taste as you go experience, you can see the Ingredients I used in the picture above. The extra flavours were provided by Pomegranate Molasses, Sumach, Yuzu Juice, Lemon Zest, Rice Wine Vinegar, Jaggery (Indian Sugar you can even get in the well known supermarket that I don’t like going too!), Ground Persian Black Lime and Rapeseed Oil.

Just finely chop equal quantities of Apple, Carrot, Onion, Cabbage and Cucumber (cut in half and remove the centre with a spoon). The dressing should follow a 3:1 ratio of Oil to Vinegar, remember that the Lemon and Yuzu Juice is also acidic so an allowance should be made for this.

Aim for a slightly sweet, slightly sharp flavour, everyones taste buds are slightly different so just experiment and see what happens, remembering its easier to add than remove.


So after another mammoth event, and quite a few ingredients a really delicious (and quite healthy) meal.  The Ribs really are awesome and work well with the slightly tart slaw.  I added some slide baby plum tomatoes to go with the corn and wedges and the main even was great.

It may seem a lot to do but in reality its a few simple stage spread over  a couple of days, try them and you won’t be disappointed.

Till next time bon appetit.