- NEWS & ACHIEVEMENTS -

2011
Delicious Magazine Recipe Feature Recipes published in Princes Trust Charity 'Trusty' Cookbook Guest panellist on UKTV Food's 'Market Kitchen' Recipes published in 'Come Dine With Me Special Occasions' book Blog named as a "Media Must-Have" in Jan & Feb issue of Olive Magazine

2010
Launch of Sabrina's one-to-one private cookery tuition Guest critic on Gordon Ramsay's 'F-Word' series finale Organised Top Chef Charity Banquet for Haiti raising £70,000 for 'Action Against Hunger' Seasonal Food & Recipe Writer for 'Blue Tomato'

2009
Winner of Channel 4's 'Come Dine With Me' (West London) 'Bronze' winner in professionally judged 'AA Home Cooking Competition 2009' Appointed resident cookery columnist for Foodepedia

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

RECIPE: Pommes Boulangere (A French classic!)

Until a couple of years ago, potatoes would have been at the bottom of my list of favourite carbs. I have no idea why but I can tell you that things seem to have changed and I couldn't be happier about it. Lately I have been trying out lots of different ways to make yummy and innovative dishes using potatoes. Everything from classic Spanish Tortilla to potato hash as well as stuffed potatoes.

During the summer months, good old fashioned potatoes are seriously neglected. We stop eating chips, we stop eating mash and the only spud that gets a look in is the Jersey new potato in salad form. Now that the weather is getting colder, it's a great time to focus on root vegetables and the like as they are perfectly in season and just the kind of food we start to crave in Autumn/Winter.

So how to make the humble potato more exciting? Well, potatoes are so versatile and whilst we Brits love our mash and chips and know what to do with the humble spud, the French have a few great ideas as well (think Dauphinoise and Fondant!) But this is one of my favourite potato dishes from France and I'm happy to eat it as a main meal on it's own and its called Pommes Boulangeres. Boulangeres deriving from the French word for bakery (Boulangerie), this dish would most likely have been something that a baker one day came up with and popped into his baker's oven or possibly local families would prepare and take to the baker to cook for them in his oven. Either way, thank god for its creation!

This dish is incredibly simple, as most peasant food should be; consisting of layers of thinly sliced potatoes dotted with butter, seasoned with salt, pepper and a scant seasoning of thyme and once the potatoes are layered right the way to the top of the baking dish... pour over good quality chicken stock and then place in the oven. The result is delicious and rather than ramble on any more and ensure you just how you can make it here is the recipe for my Pommes Boulangere;

Pommes Boulangere

- Large waxy potatoes - not Maris Piper / King Edward (quantity depends on size of oven dish you choose!)
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- White/brown onions (again, as many as you would need to cover each layer of potato in your own oven dish) sliced roughly into half moons
150g salted butter
- Maldon sea salt
- Black pepper
- Good quality chicken stock (but you can use Knorr jelly/liquid stock too) enough to top up and almost cover the potatoes
**ovenware suitable dish with lid** (Le Creuset pans are great for this!)

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees (fan assisted) and thinly slice the potatoes to the thickness of a matchstick, approximately. Then layer your potatoes until you have generously covered the base once, overlapping the potatoes slightly, seasoning well with Maldon sea salt and black pepper and covering with a generous handful of the sliced onions. Then dot with a few knobs of butter (small) and a scant sprinkling of fresh thyme and repeat the process until either the ovenware dish is full or you have run out of potatoes, but make sure that your top layer consists of potato only with just a little butter and salt and pepper.

Once the dish is full, gently pour the stock over the potatoes until it just about covers the potatoes, but not entirely and place in the oven for 20 minutes on 220 degrees without the lid, before covering with a lid and reducing the temperature to 170 degrees and cooking for a further 40 minutes.

Once the time is done, simply lift the lid and serve! This is a great dish perfect with meat, fish, game or just on its own or with some cheese even. Use vegetable stock if you are a vegetarian, of course and enjoy!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

'Sabrina's Kitchen' Pop-Up Supper Club Nights

After the success of my French Launderette Supper Club, I was overwhelmed with demand for more new supper club dates. Although the French Launderette has been well and truly laid to rest (RIP), 'Sabrina's Kitchen' is born and the team and I have put just 8 dates (yes, so make sure you get in quick!) in the diary to host some fun and unique evenings with just one thing in common... SERIOUSLY good food.

My co-host for duration of 'Sabrina's Kitchen' is the lovely Simon Fernandez of 'ferdiesfoodlab' who will help me deliver a memorable meal to you all in a beautiful grade 2 listed building located just 1 minutes walk from Aldgate East underground station in London. The evenings are focused on convivial, communal dining perfect for singles as well as small or larger groups.

VENUE
Toynbee Hall - 28 Commercial Street, London E1 6LS

DATES CUISINE
Wed 16th Nov / Persian – A tasting of classic and my own modern style of Persian cooking
Tue 22nd Nov / Spanish - Classic, popular dishes from all over Spain
Fri 25th Nov / Arabesque - Feast of Eastern dishes from Arab states to Turkish delights
Wed 30th Nov / Pan-Asian – Favourite flavours and dishes from the Orient

Tue 6th Dec / Persian – A tasting of classic and my own modern style of Persian
Wed 7th Dec / Spanish - Classic, popular dishes from all over Spain
Mon 19th Dec / Arabesque - Feast of Eastern dishes from Arab states to Turkish delights
Tue 20th Dec / Pan-Asian – Favourite flavours and dishes from the Orient

** Minimum donation of £40.00 per person includes a special cocktail on arrival & your meal **

To make your booking please email me at: sabrinaghayour@hotmail.com and be sure to include the following info:

* Number of guests in your group
* The date on which you'd like to attend
* Guests names
* Any allergies
* Mobile contact number

Deposits of £20.00 required to secure your booking (via PayPal) to secure your place. Bookings are not confirmed without receipt and clearance of deposit payment. Remaining balance of payments to be made in cash on the night please as unfortunately we are unable to accept cheque or credit card payments.

I am so excited to be hosting these special evenings and I look forward to meeting those of you who couldn't get a spot at the French Launderette and I hope you will invite your friends and family and tell everyone about my dinners. The more the merrier and perfect in time for the festive period too! GET BOOKING FOLKS and PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!!!

Best wishes

Sabrina

Blog: http://sabrinaspassions.blogspot.com
Twitter: @SabrinaGhayour

Monday, 19 September 2011

RECIPE: Linguine with Calabrian Salami N'Duja & Prawns

Hands up who has heard of salami N'Duja? Well, fret ye not as you aren't alone. Until a few years ago, I hadn't heard of it either and if you know ANYTHING about me, you know I make it business to learn about Italian ingredients/produce of any kind, but none more so than salami.

So what makes this particular salami so special? Well (wait for it) this salami is spreadable! You read that right, SPREADABLE and it is absolutely divine. Packed with masses of fiery chillies from the southern most region of Italy, Calabria, this wonderful salami is so versatile and can be used in so many ways (stay tuned for more N'Duja recipes, because I won't be giving away ALL my secrets just yet!) but it is traditionally just spread on a simple crostino (or toasted bread) and enjoyed.

But where oh where can this fiery fabulous salami be found? Well, the picture above was taken from the 'De Calabria' stall at Borough Market but Melograno Deli in Notting Hill also sell in it a jar and to be honest most Italian delis and food markets are beginning to stock it either whole or in a jar so its well worth hunting down and it keeps perfectly well in an airtight container.

I've long been a fan of combining foods from land with foods of the sea. Think 'Surf n Turf' minus the hideously tacky label and instead revert to the almost musical-sounding Italian version 'Monte e Mare' - meaning 'Mountain and Sea' instead. This wonderful pasta dish was born out of pure laziness and simply utilising ingredients I had in the house and to amazing effect too, I might add and it takes virtually no time at all... so here is the recipe;

Spaghetti with Calabrian Salami N'Duja & Prawns (Serves 2-3)

250g Linguine (or Spaghetti)
200g shelled uncooked tiger prawns
150g salami N'Duja
400g tin of chopped tomatoes (the better the quality, the better the result!)
A handful of sunblush/slow roasted tomatoes **optional**
Maldon sea salt
Olive oil

Cook the pasta (per the packet instructions) until al dente. For the recipe, its best to undercook the pasta just a little because we want it to cook in the final sauce for a little so it really absorbs all that wonderful flavour. Once cooked, drain the pasta, rinse well with cold water and set aside. In the same cooking pot over a medium-high heat (or medium if using gas) drizzle just a little olive oil and then add the N'Duja salami and quickly stir it to prevent it burning. Once the salami is heating up, add the prawns and stir well til they are coated in the salami and beginning to turn pink almost completely then add the chopped tomatoes and sunblush/slow roasted tomatoes and mix all the ingredients together well and season with some Maldon sea salt. Not too much salt as with all the chilli, you won't really need to over salt the sauce.

Now add the pasta to the prawn, N'Duja and tomato mixture and give it a good mix with an extra slug of olive oil if needed. Cover with a lid for a few minutes to keep moisture in and finish cooking the pasta in the wonderful juices. Then remove the lid and give it a good stir for another minute or so and you are ready to serve! The sauce is not VERY fiery, but it certainly does pack a punch, thats for sure!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Comfort & Spice

The latest release from Quadrille Publishing House's 'New Voices in Food' series is from Niamh Shields titled 'Comfort & Spice - Recipes for modern living'. Niamh is the author of 'Eat Like a Girl' blog which is one of the UK's most followed food blogs.

Seperated into sections titled Brunch, Speedy Suppers, Long Weekend, Sugar & Spice and Drinks, there is a lot of comfort to be found in this book with everything from lemon and ricotta pancakes with raspberries to Beijing dumplings with chilli and soy dipping sauce. There is also a really helpful section on what to do with leftovers; packed with useful tips for transforming your leftovers into delicious new meals.

Niamh has also featured recipes for more elegant dishes like scallops with samphire and pancetta and Ras el Hanout lamb shanks with cous cous. There are a broad spectrum of dishes from around the globe that really make this a fab book for every day use. There is no pretense, no faffy skilled technique required; this is good, home-cooking with flavours from around the world and nothing is overly complicated or scary to try and attempt. Definitely the kind of book that provide no intimidation for any level of cook but creates really lovely meals perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

There are some nice pictures in the book, but I only wish there were more as some of the recipes sounds amazing and a picture alongside every one would be fantastic! Looking forward to Niamh's next cook book already, but not before I have literally cooked my way through a good chunk of her first cook book, Comfort & Spice. Great job Niamh, we love it!

Right now on Amazon, you can order the book and its a total steal at almost half price... Just click here to purchase. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

There is only one thing I like more than cheesecake and that is cheesecake ice cream. Creamy, velvety indulgent raspberry goodness, in this instance. As you know, cheesecake anything is never a low-fat option, but everything in moderation as they say. You can very happily use low fat substitutes when making the ice cream mix and it will turn out virtually exactly the same. I don't normally EVER endorse low fat products (apart from 0% Total yoghurt!) because low fat just isn't the same in most instances, such as mayonnaise and cheese for for this recipe, low fat cream cheese, Creme Fraiche and double cream if you can find them.

Raspberries are one of my favourite berries and I think they work so much better in ice cream than strawberries do and they truly remind me of late summer. You can easily use any other fruit to make this recipe but the sweet, tartness of the plump raspberries are just the perfect accompaniment to the rich nature of this ice cream and provide a balanced acidity that works brilliantly with the cheesecake flavours.

The most essential tool when making ice cream is a decent ice cream maker and so when the good people at Cuisineart very kindly sent me a swanky new 'Ice Cream Deluxe' machine, I was beyond ecstatic to try my favourite ice cream recipe in it to see how it turned out and I must say, the result was deliciously creamy and smooth in texture. Absolutely perfect. All you need to do 24 hours before you want to make your ice cream is to freeze the ice cream bowl and the next day, you can have delicious ice cream ready within 30 minutes (I still find that amazing!)

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

150g cream cheese
250g of double cream
200g of full fat Creme Fraiche
200g caster sugar
200g of fresh raspberries
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod OR 2 teaspoons of best quality vanilla essence
A pinch of salt

Using a handwhisk, mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl until the mixture is nice and smooth and evenly incorporated. Don't worry about getting it perfect as the ice cream mixer will really do most of the mixing for you.

Wash and drain the raspberries and add them to the mixture, folding them in gently until the mixture begins to turn pink. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, switch it on and allow to churn for 30-35 minutes and you are done. You can eat it right there and then or freeze the mixture for a couple of hours to firm it up a nicely.

My only advice to you when making fresh ice cream is to make sure you eat it within a week maximum as it just isn't the same after that. Although, this recipe is so delicious, I defy you not to eat the whole lot within 24 hours! It's gooey, thick and very decadent and perfect for this lovely burst of spring sunshine we are having. If you want to add strawberries or any other berries/fruit at all, just add 200g of your desired fruit instead. But soft fruits (like berries) tend to work best!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

RECIPE: Courgette & Aubergine 'Chips' (Zucchini e Melanzane Fritti)

Having just come back from Rome, it is safe to say I am missing the great food very much and so I decided to create a little Italian magic in the kitchen in the form of one of my all time favourite recipes.

Zucchini Fritti are the Italian equivalent of chips and to be perfectly honest, I would ALWAYS pick them over the humble potato. They are utterly addictive and being much lighter than the humble spud, you can end up eating A LOT more of them than normal chips... and why not? They are damn tasty and actually really easy to make. For a bit of diversity, I like to throw in some aubergines into the mix because the two vegetables work really well together and as long as you cut them into same size strips, they cook at the same time and the result is totally mouthwatering.... My perfect kind of food!

Courgette and Aubergine 'Chips' (Zucchini e Melanzane Fritti) - serves 2

2 courgettes
1 medium sized aubergine
1 litre of cooking oil (I use sunflower and think its best)
2 pints of milk (full fat or semi skimmed only)
300g plain flour for dusting

Without peeling them, slice your courgettes and aubergines into thin chips (about 7mm width) and then place all the chips in a bowl and cover completely with milk and leave to soak for an hour. This process breaks their fibres down and absorbs a bit of moisture making them cook better. Leave them to rest in the milk for an hour.

After about 45 minutes, take a large cooking pot and add your oil and turn the hob on to a medium - high heat (or medium flame is using gas). Add your flour into another bowl and once the oil is bubbling nicely (but not aggressively) take handfuls of the chips out of the milk, place them in the bowl with the flower and make sure they get a good coating. The milk soaking plus the flour will actually make the perfect batter coating for the chips.

Once the chips are nicely coated in flour, place them in a sieve and shake off the excess flour over the sink or into a bin and then carefully add them into the hot oil. The oil should bubble nicely once the chips are added and the chips should cook in approximately 8 minutes or until nice and golden. Once done, place them on a plate lined with a double layer of kitchen paper and salt immediately with Maldon sea salt. Repeat until all the chips are done and enjoy!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Joe's - Draycott Avenue, London

Long time neighbourhood favourite, Joe's on Draycott Avenue, has long housed the chicest locals and 'ladies that lunch' who break up an otherwise strenuous day of shopping with a spot of lunch in this monied part of town. Packed to the rafters on weekends with glamorous types and yummy-mummies, it has recently seen Greek Cypriot TV Chef Maria Elia take the helm and I popped along to see what interesting new things Maria has done with the menu.I didn't really know what to expect to be honest; a lot of the food in the area is overpriced, over-hyped and generally somewhat lacklustre for serious food devotees like myself. I was actually incredibly surprised to discover how innovative, well balanced and beautifully conceived the dishes were. I couldn't wait to try them! Chef Maria Elia was a gracious hostess and popped up to say a brief hello before sending out little 'tasters' - dish after beautiful dish of seductive plates just waiting to be savaged by a ravenous Persian girl like myself.The first course, served on an elegant slate platter, was a beetroot and Beluga lentil salad with a sharp Greek yoghurt adorned with both golden beetroot as well as the classic deep purple beetroot also. This is just the kind of food I love to eat. Not heavy, not greasy, light and healthy but without sacrificing flavour or enjoyment. I could have eaten this 10 times over and been eternally happy.The next course is possibly one of my favourite delights of the sea; the humble octopus. Scary looking for some but absolutely delicious and a staple of Greek culinary culture. If you haven't tried Octopus before, you are absolutely missing out! A delicate curled tentacle gently resting on a mix of braised barley and onions with a scattering of fennel seeds and elegant strands of fresh dill. What a treat; a fantastic combination and a great dish that I simply wouldn't have expected on a menu in this part of town.Now admittedly pigeon is not one of my favourite things but every once in a while, I enjoy it, provided it is cooked properly and paired with the right accompaniments. Delicate but meaty chunks of pigeon breast with a vibrant green sauce (the name of which escapes me) akin to pesto but not pungent with excess basil of coarse in texture. The pigeon itself rests on a green gage tatin that provide the perfect sweet yet sharp fruit flavour that so often works well with pigeon. I must say, I was surprised at how much I liked this dish. I still day dream about it everytime I see pigeon on a menu anywhere.More food? Absolutely. Maria Elia is Greek after all... And you know from my Greek adventures that they love to feed people... A LOT. This is not a problem whatsoever for me. In fact, I absolutely welcome it as long as it comes at a slow and sensible pace. Asian fish stew proved an almost virtuous 4th course, with a clear ocre-tinged seafood consomme infused with eastern aromatics like ginger and lemongrass with generous chunks of seabass, mussels and a scattering of puy lentils, coriander and bean sprouts to finish. It's the kind of food that feels healthy as its going down... do you know what I mean? Cleansing... rather zen, if you will. Enough said really as lets be honest, this is my 4th course with no end in sight so it's pretty safe to say I was now WAY past Zen/Virtous eating!The 5th course (yes, there was yet ANOTHER course) was beyond intriguing for me... a savoury baklava! "Madness!" I hear you say... Layers of filo pastry with green beans, feta cheese, tomatoes and honey. Two word; ABSOLUTELY DIVINE. Even I wasn't initially sure of this little creation but it was the perfect balance of sweet versus savoury combined with the wonderful sharpness of brilliant white feta cheese. Totally moreish and yet another nod to Maria Elia's heritage. If I could have, I would have ordered another portion as takeaway. I'm pretty sure I cold try and attempt it at home although less confident about it turning out even half as decent as Maria's dish.Last but not least came dessert, which at this point was a lost cause simply wasted on me. I ordered it but to be perfectly honest, I was so stuffed that they could have put George Clooney on a plate and I'd have little interest in tackling him. A simple slice of treacle tart with vanilla ice cream and an apricot puree was nice but I'd have to say Maria's talent shines in the savoury portion of the menu. Maybe I'm just not a dessert person as much as I am a savoury lover or maybe I'd just eaten my BODY WEIGHT in food! Either way, Joe's exceeded my expectations on every scale. The menu was beyond reasonably priced which led me to wonder why on earth I never come here? Perhaps the illusion that the crowd of diners would be annoying Yummy-Mummies? UNFOUNDED. Perhaps the food wouldn't be anything of interest to me? UNFOUNDED and more importantly, perhaps the prices are ludicrously high because of the plush South Kensington location and the fact that it's owned by Joseph boutique across the road... UNFOUNDED.

Very glad to have discovered this great little spot not so far from home and I can safely say, I will genuinely be coming back and look forward to sampling more from the regularly changing, seasonal menus created by Maria Elia.

Joe's
126 Draycott Avenue, London, SW3 3AH
Tel: 020 7225 2217
http://www.joseph.co.uk/joes-cafe/locations/

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bees - What's all the buzz about?

I was recently invited to the 'Magners Bee Aid' launch where we were given the chance to learn a little bit more about the plight of the British bee and how their extinction could affect us as a nation. You may have seen the ads on TV with Magners 'Beard of bees'?On arrival I was given a nifty little beekeepers outfits (modelled above!) which I donned along with my snazzy yellow marigolds and after a talk from the British Beekeepers Association we were invited to take part in a spot of beekeeping for ourselves over-looking London town.

Now admittedly the prospect of being stung by bees had virtually paralysed with fear for a while, but I knew this was something I wanted to get involved with somehow and learn a little more about. I was also reassured (many a time) that the bees wouldn't really have that much interest in me in all honesty, which was good enough for me. As the beekeeper withdrew the bees from their hive, I had a massive lump in my throat and was rather nervous. I must admit I did find the experience rather daunting and I sheepishly retreated to the safety of the indoors, 15 minutes before anyone else did. But at least I did it! I stood there whilst the little bees were buzzing around, doing there thing and I learned a lot about the structure of the hive and the importance of drones, worker and Queen bees. They have such a sophisticated and well-structured work ethic, it puts us humans to shame.So why on earth did I get involved in this? Well here is what you need to know;

- One third of all the food we eat would not be available if it wasn't for bees
- In the UK alone, 70 crops are dependent/benefit from visits from bees
- The UK value of the bee industry has been estimated at over £200 million per year
- 10% of all crops & 25% of all plant species are pollinated by bees
- Our violent farming practices continue to disturb the natural habitats and forage of solitary and bumblebees at a rate which gives little chance for survival or re-establishment of hives

You might think that none of this is relevant to you, but you'd be wrong. Without bees you can effectively kiss goodbye crops such as apples, pears and orchard fruits and the buck doesn't stop there because without pollination, crops that animals feed on that make things like cheese and dairy products, would no longer be possible. The effect would be devastating on a scale which we, in our daily hustle and bustle, are failing to comprehend nor fully appreciate.

Magners have created a 'Bee Aid' campaign with a very generous initiative that I'm hoping you will all participate in... For every time that anyone 'likes' the Magners page on Facebook, enters the Magners competition or downloads the Magners phone app, Magners will make a donation of 50 bees to the British Bee Keeping Association and Federation of Irish BeeKeepers, to help save 1.5 million urban bees over the next year. So please visit the Magners Facebook page and 'like' it as with enough 'likes' it could make such an amazing difference to the survival of bees and the survival of the crops we enjoy and very often, take forgranted. Thanks everyone.

Website: http://www.magners.com/
Twitter: @MagnersUK
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/magners/
For more information on the plight of the bees, visit: http://www.bbka.org.uk/about/corporate_members__sponsors/magners_cider

Monday, 8 August 2011

RECIPE: Focaccia Bread

I am no master when it comes to baking but I generally find that I can pull off bread better than pastry or say meringue making. So when I was looking for the perfect bread recipes, I had to turn to none other than Guardian & Sainsburys Magazine bread expert Dan Lepard.Through a few very kind exchanges on Twitter, Dan encouraged me to try this recipe and I'm so glad I did because (as you can see above) the results were splendid and I just had to share the recipe with you.

Focaccia Bread

125g cold sour cream
2 tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
1 sachet fast-action yeast
550g strong white flour, plus extra for shaping
4-5 stems of fresh rosemary
200mls of extra virgin olive oil
A generous handful of Maldon sea salt
Extra olive oil, for kneading
Oven paper / baking paper

In a large bowl, mix the cream with 150ml cold water and 100ml boiling water. Add the salt, sugar and yeast, then mix in the flour until it forms a rough ball. Cover the bowl with some clingfilm and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly oil your kitchen surface or a large (non-wooden) chopping board and gently knead the dough for 10 seconds before returning the dough back into the bowl and leaving it to rest for another 10 minutes. Repeat the quick knead process two more times at 10 minute intervals, then roll the dough out into a rectangle shape approximately the size of a large oven tray and line the tray with some baking/oven paper and place the dough onto the paper lined tray. Stretch it out as much as possible and using your fingers, literally poke deep holes all over the dough (trying not to piece the dough but still being pretty tough with it) and cover with clingfilm and leave to rest somewhere warm for 2 hours (or a little more if you like).

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-assisted). Once the two hours is up, remove clingfilm from the top and drizzle 200ml of extra virgin olive oil over the dough, ensuring it covers every nook and cranny of the dough. A silicone brush will help aid this process. Sprinkle the entire surface of the bread liberally with the uncrushed Maldon sea salt flakes and pick the rosemary leaves from the woody stems and sprinkle them evenly on the bread dough. Place on the top shelf in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. The results, as you can see above, are absolutely splendid... I hope you will give it a go.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

RECIPE: Churros and Chocolate (HEAVEN!)

I do love a good donut. Donuts of all descriptions but Churros really do it for me. Perfect balance of dough to cinnamony-sugary, crispy goodness. Add a pot of dipping chocolate into the mixing and I'm good to go.

Last year I bought myself a Churros maker which, to be perfectly honest, looks like a gentlemen's genital enlargement tool. Ok, I'm trying to be polite... quite frankly it looks like a penis pump, but if it gets the job done and makes good Churros, then I am happy. Basically you only really need a piping bag with a star-ridged nozzle to do the job really, so don't go frantically looking for a special Spanish Churros maker like I did!

This recipe is not my own; it is a recipe from Thomasina Mier's 'Mexican Food Made Simple'which I bought last year with the intention of making Churros. So forgive me, as clearly I am a little behind but MAN was it worth the wait! So here is the recipe;

Churros and Chocolate

125g plain flour
125 self raising flour
450ml of boiling water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
A good pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
200g of caster sugar
1.5-2 litres of sunflower oil

For the chocolate sauce
200g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa)
50g milk chocolate
2 tabelspoons of golden syrup
300ml of double cream

In a heavy based saucepan over a very gentle heat, pour in the double cream, golden syrup and break in all of the chocolate and stir well until the chocolate melts and the sauce because a rich, glossy chocolate mixture. Then turn the heat off. Then preheat a large pan over a medium to high heat (or medium if using gas) and pour the sunflower oil in it in preparation for frying your churros.

In a heatproof or metal bowl sift the flours and salt together into the bowl and make a well in the centre. Measure out 450ml of boiling water in a measuring jug then add your olive oil into the hot water and stir well before pouring into the centre of your well in the bowl with the flour in it and using a fork, stir well.
The mixture is going to look bizarre, like a thick, raw bread dough but this is correct and you will need to let it rest for 10 minutes.Once done, fill a piping bag with some of the mixture and testing the oil is hot enough first (usually a small bit of bread should turn golden within 30 seconds) and pipe in your churros dough (about 5 inches long) and snip the ends off with a pair of scissors. Don't overcrowd the pan because they have a tendency to stick together in the oil otherwise, so 3 at a time works best. Fry them all and once done place on a plate lined with a couple of sheets of kitchen towel to drain off excess oil.

Mix the caster sugar and ground cinnamon together and either roll the churros in the sugar mixtures of liberally sprinkle the sugar mixture over the Churros... And don't forget to pour yourself a nice cup of the chocolate sauce to dip the Churros in. HEAVEN!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

STREET FOOD: Big Apple Hot Dogs

Do you like hot dogs? I sure as hell do... and finding good ones in London or in fact anywhere in the UK is truly a very hard job. As you may know, I have recently been exploring the street food stands of London trying to seperate the wheat from the chaff and wrapping my lips around this bad-boy-of-a-hot-dog was nothing short of a pure, unadulterated pleasure.

Owner of Big Apple Hot Dogs is the colourful Abiye, who on this occasion was joined by his teenage son Isaac on a gorgeous sunny day, serving up hot dogs from their little corner just a stones throw away from Old Street tube station. There is a lovely table just adjacent to the hot dog stand where you can sit and if you're lucky, as we were, you are bathed in sunshine whilst sipping a cold drink as you contemplate what to order.

Waiting for my chosen hot dog, 'The Big Dog' - a double smoked pork hot dog seasoned with marjoram, garlic and black pepper, felt like the longest wait of my life. I was absolutely dying to get my chops around one of those bad boys and the wait was killing me. Finally I am presented with an absolutely enormous hot dog and the first bite delivers the crucial 'sausage snap' that any self respecting hot dog should have, followed by a mouthful of meaty, juicy sausage, bathed in your chosen sauce (which in my case HAS to be mustard and ketchup and loads fof it). For £3.50, there aren't many better meals to be had in the City, let alone the country.

I have waited in line for over an hour to eat hot dogs at the world famous 'Pinks' in Los Angeles as well as explored the hot dog scene in New York at places such as Gray's Papaya, Shake Shack and Crip's Dogs and to be perfectly honest, they've got nothing on Abiye's Big Apple Hot Dogs. My one wish would be that the Chilli Cheese Dog would become more popular over here, as it is my favourite and nobody seems to be doing it. Having said that, Big Apple Hot Dogs are more than enough to satisfy my inner greedy girl and I cannot wait to go back for some mo', fo' sho'!

You can follow Big Apple Hot Dogs on Twitter: @BigAppleHotDogs

Big Apple Hot Dogs
239 Old Street
London
EC1
Tel: 07989 387 441

Friday, 29 July 2011

RECIPE: Mediterranean Green Bean Salad

Summer seems like it is finally making its way to our shores, at long last and i just love making delicious but filling salad that makes a great meal in itself or a perfect accompaniment for grilled meat and fish.

I took a little inspiration from one of my favourite holiday salads, the Nicoise, but tuna and eggs aren't for everyone so my fantastic vegetarian version is an all round crowd-pleasing dish with lots of different flavours and plenty of bite! The best part of the whole thing is that it really doesn't take a hell of a lot of skill to put this great recipe together, it is more of an assembly job than anything else and of course, as with most of my recipes, you can adapt it by substituting ingredients to suit your own tastes too.

Mediterranean Green Bean Salad

2 x 200g packs of uncooked green beans
2 x 240g of Sunblush tomatoes in oil (The oil is important for the dressing!)
400g of capers (retaining their brine for dressing)
400g of Kalamata olives
1kg of baby new potatoes, halved (or any other small potatoes)
1 bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped
Olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
**oven/baking paper**

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking tray with some oven paper and add in your halved baby new potatoes and drizzle over some olive oil, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a generous amount of Maldon sea salt and then mix with your hands, ensuring each potato is coasted in oil and seasoning. Then speread them all out and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Once done, remove from oven set aside.

Bring a pot of cold water to the boil and add your green beans to the pan and boil per the packet instructions or until you get your desired texture. Dont overcook them, as no one likes mushy green beans! It is good to keep a little crunch in them so they add another texture to the salad when eating it. Once cooked, drain them and plunge the beans in cold water with a cold tap running over them to stop them from cooking, then set aside.

Using the largest bowl you have, pour in the Sunblush tomatoes and oil from both packs of your tomatoes and add in the brine and capers from one of your caper jars but just the capers from the second jar. Add in your olives at this stage and mix all the ingredients really well before adding your potatoes whilst hot into the bowl. When warm, potatoes will absorb the dressing nicely and really give you flavour in each bite. Stir the ingredients well and allow everything to cool.

Once cooled, add in your green beans, chopped dill and give the mixture a good stir. I like to use my hands for this process to lift all the ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and really make sure they get an even coating of dressing. That's it folks, the salads are done! I would recommend you serve this with a nice grilled tuna steak, roast chicken or just by itself! However you eat it, you will enjoy it!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

MEAT ODYSSEY: A La Cruz Restaurant, London

Once in a while, I get what I like to refer to as a 'Golden Ticket' invite. When a good friend of mine invited me to A La Cruz restaurant in Clerkenwell, with the promise of a whole 'Asador' BBQ'd lamb, my inner carnivore simply couldn't resist. 'Asador' comes from the Spanish word 'Asada' meaning to roast or grill and so an Asador is what you would use to grill your meat and the one at A La Cruz is the only one of it's kind in the UK.A La Cruz is a short walk from Farringdon tube station and the restaurant itself is elegant yet unpretentious and for the purpose of our evening meal, we were fortunate enough to be seated in the 'Gala' private dining room (named after the boutique brand of one of Argentina's most prestigious winemakers, Bodega Luigi Bosca). Meat is the main feature on the menu and with the average Argentinian consuming 66kg of meat each year (compared to European 25kg) I knew dinner was going to be meat-heavy. Our generous hosts Marcelo Porcu (General Manager) and John Rattigan (Menu & Kitchens Director) joined us for what will go down in my mind as one of the most memorable meat-feasts of my life.I was surprised when starters were served as with all the meat I had seen lined up to be cooked for us, I really didn't think starters would be part of the menu but being the greedy girl I am, I'm sure glad they were. A trio of Argentinian delights with a classic Empanada pastry filled with minced beef, onions, chopped egg, parsley and a little hint of chilli, were unlike any of other I'd ever tasted. The moisture and juice captured within that pastry was inexplicable and made for a delicate and moreish Empanada that was inhaled leaving little trace of its existence. A little earthenware dish containing baked Provolone cheese, perfect for baking and grilling as it retains its firmness without melting, was sprinkled with herbs and utterly delicious accompanied by a toasted bread croute. Lastly, something I am always a tad wary of... sweetbreads. Not SWEET BREAD but sweetbreads or 'Mollejas' are the thymus neck glands and whilst they don't sound very nice, I DEFY YOU to think that the classic Argentine way of cooking them is anything other than incredible. I am a total convert. They were beautifully charred on the outside, perfectly cooked and full of flavour.The next course came sizzling through the door. Literally. As the door swung open, I could hear the hissing and sizzling of two rather large fillet cuts of beef on a hot plate. This kind of noise is pure, unadultered seduction to ears like mine. As I turned my head, everything seemed to move in slow motion as the smell of charred meat wafted across my nose. The Chef then ably sliced the enormous fillet into quivveringly thick and juicy steaks and we were each served two enormous hunks, one drizzle with Bearnaise and the other with the classic Argentine Chimichurri sauce. At first bite, there were gasps and sighs around the table and then SILENCE as the meat-led ecstasy kicked in. Top quality, juicy, rare meat... the like of which I can honestly say I have not ever had the fortune of eating in the UK before. This was something truly magnificent and unless I come back to A La Cruz, there is little doubt that beef like this would ever be experienced again outside of Argentina.Despite my ever-expanding waistline, I managed to push-on through to the next course for the main attraction... Drumroll please as the doors are held open and a huge board is carried in by 2 men with the whole lamb splayed out on it along with possibly the largest knife I have ever seen in my life. The room bursts into rapturous applause and all eyes are trasnfixed on the beast that will end our feast. We all gathered round as the Chef skillfull hacked into the lamb, pulling limb from limb and making it look easy with his years of expertise. Some got leg, some got shoulder but being the spoilt brat that I am, I had my own ideas and wanted ribs, fat and loin and of course I wasn't disappointed.My plate of lamb was genuinely so stunning that it took me a while to stop admiring it and want to tuck in. Served with a simple accompaniment of just a few Padron peppers, I proceeded to tear meat from bone, wrap each morsel in a sliver of crispy, fatty skin and take my first bite. The feeling is unlike any other; the combination of the flavour and charring of slow coooked meat with crispy lamb fat was out of this world. Plain and simple. There is really not much else to say. I was rendered utterly speechless.Dessert was a crazy suggestion at this point but before we knew it, out came huge plates of pancakes filled with the classic Argentine 'Dulce de Leche' accompanied by a milk ice cream was beyond excellent but I must confess that after such a magnificent feast, I was barely able to muster the willpower to lift fork to mouth, let alone polish off a whole plate of food again. Alas, this may just have been the straw that broke the camel's back (me being the camel) but it was so very worth it and I still cannot believe my luck for receiving such an invitation. Now do you know why I called it a 'Golden Ticket' invitation?Hands down, A La Cruz is not only the best Argentinian restaurant I have ever been to but will probably be one of my top recommendations in London for serious food lovers. Where else will you be able to eat meat roasted in a proper Asador? And where else will you be able to eat such amazing quality meat prepared with such love and expertise that it will leave you wanting more? Very rarely do I implore people to try anywhere but A La Cruz MUST be experienced. So don't rest on your laurels folks, because until you've experienced A La Cruz, you really haven't experienced amazing meat. Make sure you say hello to the very lovely John and Marcelo if you ever go and tell them Sabrina sent you!

A La Cruz - 42 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0HU
Tel: 020 837 1999
www.alacruz.com

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

REVIEW: Quince

Half Turkish, half Bulgarian Chef Silvena Rowe is a face that many of us recognise for television, whether Saturday Kitchen, Market Kitchen or Good Food, Silvena is by no means a new face but she has recently just opened a new restaurant in London and I went along to check it out.Silvena is a commanding figure of a woman; Incredibly statuesque, with piercing blue eyes and her signature spiked blonde hair, she isn't a face you would forget in a hurry. She has landed one of the most prime spots in town for her new restaurant Quince, which is located at the Mayfair Hotel, attracting a healthy volume of patrons, celebrities and papparazzi each week.The cookery remains true to Silvena's roots and mirrors the style of cooking featured in her two latest books 'Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume' and 'Orient Express'. There are plenty of spices in her cookery, but never over powering and always complimentary. Food from these parts of the world are flavoursome, diverse and always have something to suit everyone's tastes.The menu has so much choice that I didn't really know what to go for, especially as I was on my own, so I chose cumin-spiced calamari with quince Aioli, lamb Börek pastry cigars and vegetable Börek bites with a lemon tahini dip, smoked aubergine dip with pomegranate molasses and lastly one of her signature dishes of giant prawns with pomegranate butter, flecked with pomegranate seeds.

This is my kind of food; food that is plentiful, with different flavours and textures but nothing that overpowers anything else. If anything, this kind of food was made to compliment each other, perfect for sharing (if you so wish) or eating, greedily, by yourself. The Böreks were perfectly crisp on the outside, crusted with nigella and sesame seeds and filled with moist almost sweet, lamb with a delicate spicing. The Börek bites had a little more kick to them, perfect for a vegetable dish.

My favourite dish had to the prawns with pomegranate butter, so elegant with a perfect acidic balance from the pomegranate molasses to cut through the lashings of delicious foaming butter. A finally scattering of pomegranate seeds and a few flowers make the dish visually stunning too. The calamari was wonderfully crunchy and the cumin was gentle and not at all overpowering, paired with the sweetened quince Aioli. The smoked aubergine dip with tahini and generous swirls of pomegranate molasses was heavenly and thankfully I refused the several offerings of bread as otherwise I would have ended up eating about 4 slices of the stuff laden with the smoky aubergine dip.

Silvena is a colourful character; Very animated, very vocal, very friendly. In fact I saw her buzzing from table to table throughout my meal and she spent at least 10 minutes with each table, which was a very nice touch and I think many clients appreciate this. Quince has an open kitchen and you can see absolutely everything that is being prepared which makes for entertaining viewing and for food geeks like myself, I find it absolutely rivoting! Not to mention the fact that some of her Chef Brigade are very cute indeed. I digress... Quince is a great place to come any time of day really and I'm told there is a great vibe in the evening with the cocktail bar in full swing. It's definitely a place I will come back to.

Quince - Stratton Street, London W1J 8LT
www.quincelondon.com
Tel: 020 7915 3892