- 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

Thursday, 21 April 2011

RECIPE: Roast Butternut Squash with Pistachio Pesto and Feta Cheese

In recent years, I have been fusing Persian ingredients with ingredients from other parts of the world, creating my own style of modern Persian cookery. I make rice salads packed with fresh herbs like dill (well, it’s not only for fish you know) and tart little barberries and I also love making pistachio pesto, which can be kept for up to 6 months in sterilised jars. One of my favourite recipes using pistachio pesto is to simply drizzle it over some roasted butternut squash and top with crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds. Here is the recipe;

Butternut Squash with Persian Pesto and Feta Cheese

Ingredients
1 whole butternut squash, quartered lengthways, peeled and de-seeded.
200g feta cheese
100g of pomegranate kernels

Ingredients for the Pesto
250g of shelled pistachio nuts
150g Parmesan cheese or Grana Padano cheese, finely grated
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
1 small bunch of fresh parsley
1 small bunch of fresh dill
1 small bunch of fresh basil
Juice of half a lemon
Maldon sea salt
A light olive oil (extra virgin is not necessary)
Silicon lined paper or baking parchment

Method

Using a food processor, blitz your pistachios, adding a generous slug of olive oil to slacken the mixture. Then add all the herbs into the blender, add a little more olive oil and blitz again before adding your Parmesan cheese and a handful of Maldon sea salt, crumbled and thrown in to the processor. You will need to ensure that there is always plenty of oil to keep the pesto moving around the blender, so don’t be afraid to be liberal with your use of it. There is no exact measuring, so just add enough to keep the mixture nice and loose.

Add the lemon juice before giving it one final blitz in the processor ensuring that all the ingredients are evenly blended and decant into a sterilised jar or Tupperware container of your choice. Do remember that in order to effectively store the pesto for several months, a sterilised jar is your best bet as otherwise it will last only a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius and once hot, rub each wedge of butternut squash with oil and season generously with Maldon sea salt and place on a baking tray lined with silicon lined paper or baking parchment. Roast the squash for about 45 minutes, just until the edges have begun to brown slightly. Check to see if the squash is properly cooked using a knife; if it slides clean through then the squash is cooked.

Serve your butternut squash on a nice platter and drizzle generously with your vibrant green pesto and crumble your feta cheese over the top and scatter some pomegranate seeds over it to finish. A healthy, delicious dish or side-dish that is colourful and busting with Persian flavours!

REVIEW: Pollen Street Social, by Jason Atherton

Tucked away in a quiet side street attracting a bare minimum of passers by is Jason Atherton’s long-awaited contribution to the London restaurant scene. After his well-publicised and (allegedly) ‘amicable’ departure from Maze and Gordon Ramsay holdings, Jason has spent the past 18 months working towards the launch of his own restaurant, Pollen Street Social. It’s official opening was Monday 18th April and with a group of friends in tow, we beat a path down to Mayfair to be among the first to try Jason’s food.
A clue about the concept, lies in the title under ‘Social’; the very crux of this new establishment is built upon a foundation of informality and an unpretentious venue and staff serving good drinks and food, much of which is meant for ‘sharing’. God how I bloody hate sharing. I am an only child; I never had to share anything as a kid and I’m not quite certain I am ready for the trauma of having to share anything with anyone as an adult. Especially not my food!

The restaurant is tastefully decorated and although trading on the sociability factor, it does still have an element of fine-dining, both in the décor and the rather formal service. Guests are enjoying Tapas in the bar area as we are seated at our table covered with a delicate linen cloth (fine dining alert!) Our waiter is French and explains things to us a little too quickly which when paired with his otherwise nice accent, was a little too difficult to catch in such quick succession. He volunteers to us that he is ‘very nervous’ and apologises, which was very sweet although he probably didn’t need to reveal his nerves to us.The menu is a bit strange… half a page of cold starters (or ‘sharing’ plates, as they are referred to) and another half a page with all hot dishes. A very minimal selection of just five main courses with an almighty fail for me who was looking forward to the Turbot with Paella which has now been replaced by Halibut (Boooooooo). Another five dishes are listed under the heading ‘vegetarian; although I was thinking that perhaps they were more side dishes being touted as vegetarian just because they coincidentally were? Per the waiter’s suggestion, we each decide to order three starters each as our meal to get a good selection of different dishes and combinations.
.The wait staff circle our table at least 4 times offering us bread; at first, we weren’t entirely sure why but as the meals came out, the reasoning behind the excessive generosity of bread service became apparent. The portions are pretty tiny in some dishes which baffles us as to how and why these dishes could possibly be shared? Luckily none of us were into sharing, but there were some big disappointments with many of the dishes. My ‘Tomato and tomato with vanilla’ was a small bowl of 5 small half slices of different tomatoes at fridge cold temperature (the worst way to serve tomatoes, as you know) with a splodge of tomato pulp and a last minute immersion in ice-cold Gazpacho and no detectable presence of vanilla. It was fine but at £9 you do have higher expectations from a dish like this. Similar icy temperature comments came from those eating the crab and also the smoked foie gras dishes too.My next dish was the Cauliflower and squid with clear roasted squid juice; The dish was explained to me as a ‘sort of risotto’ but there was no rice present. In principle the dish was absolutely delicious and something I would happily eat again but despite being chosen from the ‘hot’ selection of starters, the dish was rather cold and the squid juice consommé poured over the top was luke warm, which was a shame. More feedback coming from my fellow diners regarding more ‘colder than necessary’ dishes as well as ‘Full English Breakfast’ – a ‘deconstructed’ (I HATE that word) dish of egg, with a few lardons and the promise of a ‘fried bread’ sauce… I’m told this dish didn’t hit the spot and when quizzing the waiter, the fried bread sauce was just buttered toast blitzed with milk. So not actually fried then? **sulks**.

My last dish was the a crab salad with almond and crab sorbet and pickled daikon radish. The dish was again far too cold; for those who don’t know why I keep rambling on about cold temperatures is because when food is too cold, the depth of flavours are masked and you cant really pick up on the true and intended taste of the dish. I couldn’t fault the dish otherwise, except for a rather unpleasant almond and crab sorbet, the bulk of which remained uneaten on my plate. My friends Mackerel was again ‘fridge-cold’ as she put it and not up to it’s best potential but the resounding ‘no-no’ of the evening had to be the ‘Red gambas seaweed tea consommé, dumplings & ginger’. Served on bed of rather pongy seaweed that we were expressly told was inedible (begging the question as to why it was on the dish) on a bamboo steamer with two small prawns, not quite the large gambas I am familiar with, concealing a bowl underneath with two dumplings filled with scallops and mussels. A broth was poured over the top layer (yes, through the bamboo steamer basket and the seaweed) and the smell was so off putting that two of my friends barely touched it.
Rather than retreat to the dessert bar, a novel area that you are moved to after your starters and mains, we retreated to the main bar for another cocktail before heading out to Hix restaurant in Brewer Street for a few more drinks, where shamefully we order several plates of fish and chips with curry sauce as we ended up being rather hungry!

I know we should have stayed for dessert as I have been hearing excellent things about many of the sweet treats on offer but we were a little underwhelmed by the savoury part of the evening, especially as we had all gotten so excited for the big night. I wouldn’t write Pollen Street Social off by any means although attention to detail is a little lacking. People say “Oh but it’s the first day” and “It’s just a soft opening” but we paid full price for dishes that did not deliver as much as they should have and to be honest, I think more restaurants should place extra emphasis on perfecting dishes during opening because that is when the bulk of people come flooding your way. So, I am divided and not sure what I feel about Pollen Street Social right now. I am a huge fan of Jason Atherton, of that there is no doubt and perhaps I will return to the bar for Tapas and cocktails but would probably need to return a little later on in the year when things have settled and I can have another go at getting the best experience for my money.

Pollen Street Social - 8/10 Pollen Street London W1S 1NQ
Tel. 020 7290 7600
www.pollenstreetsocial.com

REVIEW: Capote Y Toros

I just have to say how impressed I was by the lastest offering to the Old Brompton strip from the same owner that gave us 'Cambio de Tercio', 'Tendido Cero' and 'Tendido Cuatro' (2 out of 3) of which are located virtually next door to one another. Capote y Toros is a small space with perhaps 25 covers maximum, with walls lined with over 100 different labels of sherry from dry clear variety to the deeply dark and syrupy aged types.

I had accidentally gate-crashed a dinner and sat perched on the edge of the table but found the staff to be most accommodating and considerate of my unexpected arrival. A platter of wafer thin slices of 5J Jamon was served along with chorizo cooked in sherry with a divine tomato sauce, black pudding, stuffed piquillo peppers, the most deliciously moist octopus and wonderful little meatballs in a sherry-soused tomato sauce. Each dish bursting with flavour with just the right amount of sauce/juice to be mopped up with a hunk of bread.

My friends ordered a flight of sherries to accompany the meal and I got a little taster of each along with an unexpected education of how versatile sherry actually is. I never thought I would be a drinker of sherry but I really enjoyed the less dry, aged and almost syrupy sherries... How wonderful. No wonder the place with heaving... Trendy local blondes greet the owner affectionately with kisses and hugs and you immediately see why yet another opening on the same 10 metre strip of Old Brompton Road, makes absolute sense in every way. Good luck to them and I will most definitely be back, the very next chance I get!

Capote Y Toros - 157 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0LJ
www.cambiodetercio.co.uk

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

RECIPE: Spicy Lamb Koftas (Or Koofteh as we say in Iran)

So many countries around the world have their own version of these meaty patties and it just goes to show you how versatile they can be. I love every single version of them, but here is my own version that borrows its earthy spices from the middle east, but takes its heat from the fiery chillies that the Indians use to flavour their version. I like to serve mine with aromatic Basmati rice, which makes the perfect accompaniment.

Spiced Lamb Koftas

500g minced lamb (minced beef also works)
4 inches grated ginger
2 red chillies
4-6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of turmeric
8 spring onions (white parts only)
1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
2 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin powder
1 tablespoon of Maldon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
1 very generous handful of coriander
Tablespoon of cooking oil

Method

Place the lamb mince into a mixing bowl then finely chop your chillies and garlic and thinly slice your spring onions and add them to the lamb. Add all your seasonings and spices to the lamb and finely chop your coriander and also add to the lamb. Using your hands, really work in all the ingredients into the mince and ensure the are all well incorporated and divide the mixture into balls (roughly the size of golf balls) and pat them down to flatten them. They should be approximately 3 inches wide and about 1 inch thick.

In a preheated frying pan on a medium-high heat, add your oil and without over-crowding your frying pan, fry several of the patties at once. Once in the pan, don’t keep moving them around, just leave them to colour nicely on each side, allowing 6-8 minutes cooking time on each side. Once cooked through, serve immediately. Great with rice, but naan bread or tortilla wraps are also a great way to eat them, perfect with a drizzle of thick Greek yoghurt.

Monday, 11 April 2011

RECIPE: Lobster Stir Fry with Sweetcorn and Spicy Papaya

Born out of sheer laziness and the fact that I had a cooked lobster in the fridge, I decided to make a departure from the usual temptation to make a simply homemade mayonnaise to accompany my lobster and instead add some sweet and spicy Asian flavours to my little lobster friend.

My store cupboards are better stocked than any supermarket on earth, variety wise. 4 different kinds of soy sauce, sauces, dips, salts and chutneys... Chutneys being one of my all time favourite things on the planet to eat with cheese but also to use in cooking. This time I turned to a new chutney that I had not yet tried 'Geeta's papaya and orange chutney' - An absolute bloody revelation. I have long been a lover of their 'lime and chilli chutney' which I use on literally EVERTHING (yes, including cheese - so sue me!) and so I bought the papaya and orange chutney, saving it for the perfect opportunity to try it... and my friends, today was that day!

Gently spiced with cumin, coriander, subtle chilli heat and cardamom pods, the sweet and fruity flavours of the papaya and citrusy orange create a marriage made in heaven with the delicate flesh of the lobster. So without further ado, here is the simple recipe;

Lobster Stir Fry with Sweetcorn and Spicy Papaya

1 medium sized cooked lobster (at fishmongers or supermarket), cut into chunks
1 cob of corn, kernels cut off using a sharp knife
4 spring onions, sliced in elongated diagonal strips
2 heaped tablespoons of Geeta's papaya and orange chutney
1 generous handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of light soya sauce
Juice of half a lime
Cooking oil

In a large pan over a medium to high heat, drizzle a little oil and lightly sautee your sweetcorn kernels until they start to cook through. You will see the change when the stop looking mily and opaque and become softer and shinier in colour. Next add your spring onions and give the mix a quick stir. Add your lobster, chutney, lime juice and soya sauce and stir well to ensure the chutney and soy make a sticky glaze for the lobster. Lastly add in the freshly chopped coriander, stirring once more and plating the contents of your pan immediately. Remember that you only need to quickly re-heat the lobster as it is already cooked and cooking it for longer than necessary will make it tough and inedible.

Serve with your favourite kind of noodles or some plain steamed rice. Absolutely delicious... But as a reallly delicious alternative, you can place some of the lobster stir fry into a nice tortilla wrap and tuck in to the ultimate indulgence!

FAB FIND: Tetsuya Truffle Salt


There is nothing I love more than a good find... and I think I have officially found another one in the form of some seriously pungent, black truffle-spiked sea salt.

Unfortunately, at £19.95 for a 100g jar, it's not exactly cheap but this is what I like to call 'affordable luxury' and I can tell you that a little goes a very long way! My latest addiction has runny soft-boiled eggs split in half and seasoned generously with my Tetsuya salt... In fact I generally think that any kind of eggs, whether fried, scrambled or poached, work particularly well with the truffle salt. Dairy pairings, risottos, pasta and potato dishes are also winning combinations.

To get your hands on a devillishly indulgent jar of Tetsuya Truffle Salt, visit;

The Food Emporium at http://www.thefoodemporium.co.uk/

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Foraging For Wild Food In The Countryside

I do believe that the only way one can be an authentic voice in any field is to fully explore all the avenues that relate to a particular subject in order to fully understand the processes involved because there is no better experience than hands-on experience. To this effect, I decided it was high time I ventured into the wilderness and went on my very first forage trip with ‘Wild Food Larder’ Chef, writer and forage expert, Andrew Sartain.Now anyone who knows me knows I have never been much of an outdoorsy type but as a I get older, I seem to be embracing outdoor pursuit and so I donned my wellies and we headed to the country to meet Andrew. Honoured to have been the very first group of the year that Andrew took foraging, I arranged a Mother’s day trip for my Mum, myself and several other food-loving friends Anne (@AnneGiacoman), Donald (@Donalde), Alan (@Stewed) and Nicola (@NicMonks) and headed to a secret location just past Bristol bright and early at 10am (which, for me, is VERY bright and early on a Sunday). We met on the private estate for a lovely breakfast of Andrew’s own cured bacon and homemade sausages with local honey, homemade lemon cake and so coffee to warm us up for the day ahead.Immediately we were shown a whole host of exciting edible leaves including Valerian (known for its calming powers), Vetch (a sort of pea shoot-flavoured leaf) as well as nettles, dandelions, garlic mustard and many more leaves that I couldn’t even begin to describe the incredible flavours of. We literally ate everything from leaves to seeds and roots, all expertly explained to us in detail by Andrew. Who knew that so much of what surrounds us is totally edible; the mind boggles, it really does.For the next part of our foray, we headed to the beach by the Bristol Channel where the smell of fennel shoots drew us in and we tasted seeds and flowers of the Alexander plant, grazed on rock samphire and picked a huge quantity of sea beet leaves (kind of like a hardy sea spinach) as well as chives and an abundance of other treats before heading back to base camp, laden with an enormous basked packed full of herbs, leaves and flowers.Arriving back at the camp, a stunning lunch spread awaited us with delicate (and local) Portmerion crockery, endless jars of pickles, dips, pestos, sauces and spreads with giant loaves of bread, platters of cheese and fresh ‘foraged’ salad leaves. The griddle pan was smoking up a treat as Andrew placed his home made venison burgers and mutton chorizo burgers on the grill and I pitched in helping to finish off the bright green wild garlic risotto to accompany it all. There is nothing like of an enormous banquet of delectable treats to satisfy the empty bellies of a hungry group of foragers! I honestly didn’t think the meal would be anything remotely as spectacular as the one lovingly prepared for us by Andrew on the day.
After lunch, we divvied up all our foraged goodies before going for one last stint in the woods for my absolute favourite leaf of all… Wild garlic. The whole area was teeming with it as far as the eye could see; in fact as soon as we arrived in the morning and got out of the car, the overwhelming pungent scent of these innocent looking wild garlic leaves shot straight up our nostrils. Armed with a mini machete, I was shown have to effectively pick the leaves and within minutes had at least a kilo of the stuff to take back home with me ready to replicate Andrew’s recipe for wild garlic and walnut pesto; perfect for storing for up to a year!What a wonderful fun and laughter filled day and a very unusual Mother’s day gift to my lovely Mother (who is ever tolerant of my bizarre food-driven missions) but aside from that, I cannot emphasise enough, just how much you learn from spending a day with someone who has over 20 years of experience on the subject and who shares literally every little pearl of wisdom and knowledge with you. Worth every penny, I would say and I would highly recommend Andrew’s ‘Wild Food Larder’ forage trips because for less than the cost of a mediocre meal in a sub-standard restaurant, you will get a rewarding experience that is not only fun but also educational and if that isn’t enough for you, then the meal at the end alone, is more than worth the £40 per head fee that Andrew charges. Foraging is becoming a bit trendy so lots of people are doing it but both myself and the group I was with, were all suitably blown away by how much we experience, learned and ate on the day and we are now busy planning our next trip foraging in October for mushrooms! Much closer to home this time, in Berkshire / Sussex… as well as a day of fishing on board a Catamaran where we hope to catch lots of lovely sea bass to take home with us.

If you would like to join us for our next forage or fishing trip hosted by Andrew Sartain, please send me an email through my blog for more information.
Or visit Andrew Sartain’s website: http://www.thewildfoodlarder.co.uk/
Or follow him on Twitter: @Sarty1

Forage trips cost £40 per person for a 3 hour foray followed by a magnificent lunch and all the goodies you can carry to take home. Money well spent, if you ask me and even as I type, I can overhear my mother talking on the phone to her friends about all the different wild food we founnd and how cool it was... so it's definitely something everyone should experience.

RECIPE: Spaghetti Primavera (A La Foraging!)

In honour of the beginning of spring and armed with a whole load of foraged ingredients, I made a simple but mouth-watering dish of Spaghetti Primavera (Italian for ‘spring’) with my foraged wild garlic, sorrel, fennel shoots and a few giant prawns for good measure… Here is the recipe;

Pasta Primavera with Prawns

350g of large raw prawns, peeled
4 ripe tomatoes, cored and diced
75g of frozen peas
8-10 wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped (separate stem from leaves)
4 garlic cloves peeled, crushed and roughly chopped
A large handful of fennel tops (the wispy green bits) or some Chervil
A generous handful of your favourite chopped herbs or leave (such as spinach)
300g of dried spaghetti
A pinch of dried chilli flakes **optional**
A few knobs of butter
Some olive oil
Maldon sea salt

Method
Preheat two of your hobs on a medium-high temperature. Fill a large pot with boiling water and once boiled, salt the water and cook your spaghetti per the packet instructions. Place a large frying pan on the other hob and lightly sauté your sliced garlic cloves in a good drizzle of olive oil but do not allow them to burn. Then add your prawns and chilli flakes and quickly toss them in the garlic and oil mixture before adding the stalk part of your wild garlic leaves.

Next, add the chopped tomatoes, peas, fennel tops and any other leaves you have into the pan and ensure your pan is on a high heat so they sizzle nicely as you stir them. Generously season with Maldon sea salt and by now all the juices from the prawns and tomatoes will have made a lovely sauce for you so drizzle some extra olive oil over it before finishing with a few knobs of butter and setting aside.

Drain your pasta and return to the pan with just a little drizzle of oil to prevent the pasta strands from sticking to each other and then pour over your prawn, pea and vegetable mix and toss well before serving. Every bite is fresh, clean and deliciously addictive; the perfect lunch or supper for a quick-fix meal, bursting with flavour, fragrance and all the wondrous bounty of spring!

TOTALLY FRUITY: Pineberries... Berry Nice or Berry Bad?


Looking at the image above you may be wondering what the hell these albino-looking berries actually… well they KIND of look like strawberries although instead of red skin and white seeds, the colours seem to be reversed. So what are these alien berries then? Well they are in fact known as Pineberries and if you are quick, you may just catch them before they are all gone as they are only in season for 5 very short weeks and for those who want to catch them then head, nay RUN down to your local Waitrose and snap some up before they’re all gone.

The Pineberry, cultivated in The Netherlands by Hans de Jongh, is an intriguing fruit. A hybrid of two different types of strawberry (Fragaria Chiloensis and Fragaria Virginiana, to be precise) the flesh of the fruit can vary from white to orange and the flavour has quite bold notes of pineapple (hence the name ‘Pine’ berry) although many who have tried them don’t necessarily feel they taste of anything other than an unripe strawberry. I personally think that there is a pineappley taste to them and this may be because of an increase in acidity which makes them more similar to the pineapple, but the look is very much of a white strawberry.

Pineberries are smaller in size than strawberries and hilariously have even been accused of being nothing more than an April Fools day prank. But I can assure you that they very much exist and can be found at Waitrose for a limited time, priced at £3.49 per punnet.

www.waitrose.com