- 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

Monday, 27 June 2011

RECIPE: Quinoa Salad with Puy Lentils & Lemon Sumac Dressing

With the sweltering heat in London town, it seems summer has finally crept up on us at last and heavy foods just don't cut the mustard in the heat. I crave lighter more refreshing dishes like salads and simple grilled meat and fish and salads don't always have to be made with boring lettuce leaves.

Quinoa (Keen-wah) is one of my favourite grains and it is an ancient grain of Peruvian origin, named after a town called 'Quinua'. It's consumption can be traced back 4,000 years and unalike most other grains, it is deemed as a complete source of protein meaning it contains all the 9 essential amino acids necessary for our dietary needs.

Flavourwise, don't expect too much. It has no major distinguishable flavour but absorbs the flavours of whichever ingredients you pair with it, rather beautifully. It is a very delicate grain and requires no more than 7-8 minutes cooking and this makes it perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.

Sumac is one of my favourite spice seasonings and of course the fact that it is Persian, is an added bonus. Its almost citrusy nature makes it a perfect partner for lemon dressings and I just love using it with salads and none more than this particular recipe for a fantastic summer salad packed with healthy ingredients and full-on flavour.

Quinoa Salad with Puy Lentils & Lemon Sumac Dressing (Serves 6 as a side dish)

200g of Quinoa
250g of Puy Lentils
1 large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley (or 3 small packs), finely chopped
2 small packets of fresh mint, finely chopped
500g of baby tomatoes (I use Pomodorinos or Baby Plum) halved
2 lemons
1 heaped tablespoon of sumac
Olive oil
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
Maldon sea salt
Pepper

Boil (seperately) the Quinoa and Puy Lentils per the packet instructions until cooked and rinse well in cold water, drain and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add your halved tomatoes, chopped herbs, spring onions a very generous amount of olive oil (about 5-6 tablespoons) and the juice of 2 whole lemons (or 3 if you prefer) along with your sumac. Add several generous pinches of crushed Maldon sea salt and a generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper and mix all the ingredients well. Add your Quinoa and Puy lentils and stir all the ingredients well to ensure they are evenly mixed through and that the dressing coats the Quinoa an Puy Lentils. Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning if desired.

I like to refrigerate this salad for an hour or two before serving to allow the flavours to have time to work their way in to the Quinoa and lentils but also serving a nice cool salad on a hot day, is the perfect way to refresh and satisfy your guests!

RECIPE: Prosciutto Fig & Goat Cheese Salad with Pistachios

This is more of an idea, rather than a full-scale recipe. Sometimes my friends need quick pointers of how to put a quick lunch or supper together using a few good quality ready-to-use ingredients from a supermarket.

This is one of my favourite salads to make, especially in late summer when figs are wonderfully ripe and plentiful. Unearthed products are a brand I like a lot not only for their lovely little Goat's milk balls but also their barrel-aged feta is splendid and their tapas and deli meats ranges are also wonderful. I always find Waitrose has great special offers on their products too.

For a quick meal, I throw a few ingredients together and happily manage to satisfy the hungers of not only myself, but any guests that may also come through the door and not only are the colours of the dish splendid, but the flavours are really great too.

Prosciutto Fig & Goat Cheese Salad with Pistachios (serves 2)

Pack of your favourite salad leaves, washed
1 pack of 'Unearthed' Greek Goat's milk balls
4 ripe figs, washed and cut into quarters
8 slices of Prosciutto or Jamon Serrano if you prefer
1 large handful of shelled pistachio nuts
Best quality balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

On a large flat plate of shallow wide bowl, empty your lettuce leaves and arrange your fig quarters, goat's milk balls and Prosciutto. Drizzle over a little olive oil and then follow with a generous drizzle (as much as you like) of Balsamic vinegar. Lastly scatter your pistachios on top of the salad for a last bit of colour and an added crunch. If desired, serve with toasted Ciabatta to make a full meal.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

LONDON STREET FOOD: The Pitt Cue Co.

On the tourist-clad riverbank adjacent to the London Eye, beneath the Embankment pedestrian bridge hides a gleaming silver trailer with a black pig logo on it. The Pitt Cue Co. has attracted quite a bit of attention in foodie circles and is starting to amass a rather loyal fan-base dedicated to the delights of the BBQ'd goodness dolled out from the trailer.I must say, I'm no BBQ expert but I do like to think that I know good food and finding proper BBQ in London is virtually impossible. Bodean's used to be half-decent but my last few visits saw a noticeable decline in not only the food but the service. I find the whole concept a bit tacky these days and prefer simple, straight-forward BBQ food with no fuss or frills... this is exactly what you will find at The Pitt Cue Co.

The menu is really very basic consisting of but a few dishes each day, including pulled pork (a traditional Southern vinegar and spice seasoned shredded pork meat), beef brisket (again, more shredded meat) and ribs... Oh how I love ribs. Sides are either pork-infused black beans or a rather delicious red cabbage coleslaw, unlike the rather disgusting stuff we call coleslaw here. Quality of produce is really top-notch here so expect no less than restaurant quality, despite the novel trailer.The pulled pork is absolutely delicious, moist, slightly fatty in a really good way and perfectly seasoned with just a little relish on top. The ribs are absolutely delicious and really meaty although my one complaint would be that for £7 I really did expect more than just 2 ribs.. In fact I was actually digging around the box thinking that surely there must be at least one more! The beef brisket was my least favourite of the 3 dishes. It was a bit chewy and not as flavoursome as the ribs and pulled pork. Lesson learned that when the trailer has a pig on it, you should only come for the pig!Pitt Cue Co. also BBQ vegetables, such as marrows (?!?!) bizarrely, but I'm a carnivore and if I want BBQ, I want meat and shall accept no substitutes! Overall, a fantastic new addition to the increasingly popular London street-food scene... My only gripe being that at £7 per portion, it doesn't offer the same value that perhaps some of the other street-food stands in town do but I'm the kind of girl who is happy to pay any price to curb a craving... so long live Pitt Cue Co. - a most welcome newcomer to the Southbank scene.

The Pitt Cue Co.
Bankside, SE1
(A silver trailer, underneath Embankment footbridge)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Food and Culture of Persia

Iran, known as Persia until 1935, is home to one of the world’s most ancient, continued civilizations that can be traced back to 2800 BC. Persian culture is a rich tapestry of history, literature, poetry and astronomy but one element of our culture seems to have been overlooked by the modern world and instead buried and long forgotten. The culinary history and traditions of Persia have impacted the cuisines of many countries from the Mughal Empire of India to Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa; wherever you see meat or poultry combined with fruits and nuts, this influence can be attributed to Persia.Persians are colourful characters; loud and loving, nosy but well-intentioned. Hospitality is of paramount importance to us and the guest is always treated like royalty in our homes. We have this strange custom in our culture called ‘ta’arof’ – which means ‘to offer’ and is a gesture of politeness and respect. It is the practise of putting others before yourself but can often involve people going to quite hilarious lengths in doing so. In one instance, I recall my mother and my aunt bickering for a good 10 minutes over who was going to pay the bill in a restaurant “No, I’m paying. No, I insist, put your money away for goodness sake!” Ta’arof can be applied to anything although, in today’s society, one does question if ta’arof is still as genuine as it once used to be. Either way, along with our ‘bend-over-backward’ style of hospitality, it is something we are famous for doing in Iran.My own family left Iran when I was just two years old and so I didn’t have the good fortune of seeing the Tehran that my mother would talk of fondly. I wish I could tell you tales of how I learnt to cook by watching my mother and grandmother but the reality is I didn’t. Neither my mother nor my grandmother knew how to cook and therefore passed no pearls of wisdom on to me. The few dishes that became part of my grandmother’s repertoire were things she mastered once we had arrived in London. By my twenties, I realised that nobody was going to pass on the secrets of Persian cookery to me and I made it my mission to teach myself all the most important Persian dishes, if only to cater to my own cravings.Although real home cooking was scarce in our household, I was still fortunate enough to have a few food-related memories from my childhood. My grandmother would rope me into various arduous tasks each time she cooked. Picking the leaves off of half a dozen bunches of herbs, shelling cardamom pods or broad beans and removing the stems from barberries (tiny sour berries used in a popular rice dish). If I close my eyes, I can still smell those ingredients on my hands and recall my grandmother’s glare as she would check to see if I was finished or not.There are a few important things that you need to know about the culinary traditions of Persia and its people. The first thing is that food, in every case, should always be abundant; not only in quantity but variety. Generally, catering for double the amount of people eating is perfectly normal in our culture. To under-cater is the worst form of embarrassment that could ever befall any host. Secondly, rice is the absolute centre of any Persian meal. No matter what you are eating, nine times out of ten, rice will always find its way to the table whether served with a stew or as its own stand-alone dish with meat or chicken. Lastly, we rarely eat alone; it’s like an unwritten rule of our culture that suggests that food is always meant to be shared, almost as if the flavour of food improves when done so.'Khoresh’ stews are the cornerstone of Persian cookery and ingredients are adapted to the produce that is available in each region. Some stews include both sweet and savoury ingredients as well as both vegetables and fruit. Variations differ depending on family and regional preference and traditionally Khoresh is made using lamb but many people use beef and sometimes chicken too. The secret to making a really good Khoresh is slow cooking, which enables the flavours to amalgamate and intensify, creating a dish with depth and abundant flavour.Persian food is vibrant and diverse with combinations that are unique in both flavour and texture but also very regional. There are a myriad of dishes that in essence are kept pretty simple as well as the more opulent and intensely-flavoured dishes as well. At parties and gatherings, the feast you prepare almost becomes a show-like spectacle aimed to wow your guests and become a talking-point of the evening. As time goes by, the traditions of our kitchen are often lost or forgotten but the food of my people and the memories of my childhood are sacred to me and so I try to preserve the traditions and recipes of my heritage as much as possible.So many of our ingredients remain a complete mystery to the western world but slowly some are making their way into the main stream. Pomegranate, persimmon and quince are now more popular than ever before and spices like saffron, cumin and sumac are sold in every supermarket. Rose water and pomegranate molasses also seem more familiar now but what about dried limes, rose petals and verjuice? They don’t seem to get used as much. Our food is neither spicy nor abrasive and the use of herbs, tomatoes and citrus are abundant. Whilst meat is a key component, there is an endless array of seafood and vegetarian dishes to indulge in also.London alone has nearly thirty Persian restaurants, most of which serve the traditional charcoal-grilled meat but nothing reflective of true home cooking. Whilst preserving authenticity is important to me, in the interest of a lighter way of eating, I make a lot of modern Persian dishes at home, utilising many of the classic ingredients but simplifying the processes involved. The modern slant seems to work very well and creates vibrant and flavoursome dishes for everyday eating and this kind of gentle introduction has proven to be very popular with my friends.Think of Persian culture as a treasure trove of unexplored delights, begging to be opened. A land steeped in history with quirky customs, beautiful landscapes and warm-hearted people that have been overshadowed by political opinion not shared by the majority, but most importantly, home to some of the best food and produce, you will ever eat. Now if that’s not enough of an incentive to try Persian food, then nothing is. I really hope you enjoy it!

RECIPE: Mongolian Lamb with Peanut Sauce

This has fast-become one of the most popular party dishes I make. It is a simple marinade for lamb and once done, you wrap the meat pieces in baby gem lettuce leaves and drizzle a little peanut sauce over them before popping them in your mouth. A sweet and smoky flavoured lamb, enrobed in peanut sauce with the crunch of fresh lettuce does wonders inside your mouth!

It's a simple dish to make and as it takes next to no time to cook, it really has proven to be a winning party dish as I just throw my meat on the griddle and within a few minutes, its ready to serve!

Mongolian Lamb Recipe

Ingredients:
2lbs of lamb leg meat (chopped into 2 inch chunks and beaten flat with a wooden spoon)
Peanut butter
Milk
Soy sauce
Baby gem lettuce leaves (about 2-3 heads of lettuce)

Marinade:
200ml of dark soy sauce
4 heaped teaspoons of cinnamon powder
6 heaped teaspoons of cumin powder
5 heaped tablespoons of clear honey
3 teaspoons of sesame oil
4 teaspoons of olive oil
6 inches of grated ginger
6 bashed garlic cloves
3 tablespoons of water

Place all your marinade ingredients in a bowl (dont worry about strength of mixture as its just a marinade) and mix til you get a smooth/even consistency. Then add your lamb pieces into the mix ensuring they are well coated and steeped in the marinade.
Allow to marinade at room temperature for up to 4 hours.

Make a quick peanut/satay sauce using 4 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and enough milk to thin out the sauce to your desired pourable consistency. Set aside.

In a good, heavy based large frying pan preheated over a high heat (or med/high on gas) drizzle some oil and drain the marinade from your lamb and fry until nice and charred on both sides. You want the pan to sizzle thoughout the cooking process so make sure the temp is high enough. Once all the meat is cooked, serve wrapped in piece of lettuce and drizzled with some peanut sauce... delicious! Enjoy!

LONDON STREET FOOD: Buen Provecho

Street food is fast becoming one of the coolest foodie things to indulge in, in London town. Perhaps a sign of our ever-difficult economy, good quality street food stalls (and I'm not talking about the sketchy hot dog stands that appear at 4am outside nightclubs) are beginning to pop-up everywhere and the demand for their delights, is high.
'Buen Provecho' literally means 'Bon Appetit' or 'Eat Well' in Spanish and a friend first told me about the stand a few years ago and I'm ashamed to say, I never managed to make the journey there. But I recently met a friend for lunch and we headed straight to Buen Provecho to see exactly what was on offer and meet Arturo Ortega Rodriguez, the owner of the stand.The food is very simple; 5 different kinds of tacos on offer (beef, pork, 2 chicken and a vegetarian option) as well as rice, Tortilla chips, a soup of the day and several different homemade salsa all served from a small tent near Waterloo station. Prices are incredibly reasonable, with a mixed selection of 3 tacos coming in at just a fiver... it makes for economical eating at times like these. Arturo serves simple but authentic Mexican food and my experience didn't disappoint whatsoever.

The stand is busy and the food is delicious. I went for a mixed selection of beef, pork and chicken Tinga tacos, all of which were really very good. It's hard to find good quality Mexican food in London but when you do find it, it's a real gem worth sharing and so I wanted to share my first find with you and encourage you to make the journey to ensure you get a taste of 'Buen Provecho' for yourself.

'Buen Provecho' is located on Lower Marsh Street, SE1 which is about 2 minutes walk from Waterloo Station. For more updates you can join the Facebook fan page.

Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 11:00am - 4:00pm

Sunday, 12 June 2011

RECIPE: Lobster Noodles with Ginger and Spring Onion

I love Chinese food but when your favourite restaurant is rather pricey, sometimes cooking at home is a better option. So when I got my hands on two lobster tails from my fishmongers recently, I decided to make one of my favourite Chinese dishes of lobster noodles. Admittedly, I could have taken a better picture of this recipe but the aromas were so inviting that I just couldn't wait to tuck in and so 'slap-dash' imagery is all you will get this time.

When I cook, I have a tendency to ignore recipes in favour of 'guessing' how something should be made. I can say that (surprisingly) the success rate of my method has thankfully been quite high and rarely do my attempts fail. Ginger, spring onion, lobster, egg noodles... Maybe a bit of onion? How hard can that be? Not hard at all... and here is the recipe;

Lobster Noodles with Ginger and Spring Onion (serves 2)

2 lobster tails (Or uncooked whole lobster if you prefer)
6 inches of ginger, sliced into 2 inch strips
8 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 medium white onion, halved and sliced into 1cm thick half-moon slices
150g of fine egg noodles
Kikkoman's Soy sauce
A little corn flour or plain flour
Salt
Oil for cooking (vegetable, sunflower, ground nut but not olive!)

Bring a pan of water to the boil over a medium-high heat ready for cooking your egg noodles in.

Place a large wok or deep cooking pot over a medium-high heat (just medium if using gas). Then using a large sharp knife or meat cleaver, chop your lobster tail into 5-6 pieces (keeping the shell on) and dust the pieces with a little cornflour or plain flour. This process is the classic Chinese way to treat any meat/fish bound for wok-frying and is called 'velveting'. It not only protects the meat a little but also thickens the sauce that everything cooks in. Once coated, put a generous amount of oil in the pan, about 3 tablespoons or so add in your ginger and onions. Give them a quick stir before adding all the lobster pieces into the pan also.

At this point, add your noodles into the boiling water (adding some salt to the water) and cook them per the packet instructions. This usually takes 5-6 minutes. Once done, drain and rinse with cold water an set aside.

Move your lobster around the pan ensuring it gets well coated in the ginger and onion infused oil and check to see that the shells are turning from greyish black to the vibrant orange colour of cooked lobster. Then add your noodles into the pan and mix the ingredients well before adding about 4-5 tablespoons of Kikkoman's soy sauce to the pan and mixing well again. Make sure you are stirring the contents of the wok/pan every minute for a few minutes before finally adding your spring onion slices and giving it all one last stir. Your lobster meat should be nice and bright white and the shells should all be completely orange before serving. Garnish with a few chopped spring onions and enjoy!

Return To Pollen Street Social

You may remember my recent write up of my visit to Jason Atherton's new restaurant Pollen Street Social a couple of months back? Well to make a long story short, I left the restaurant being rather disappointed with the meal and questioning whether or not 'soft openings' (this is usually the first week when a restaurant opens and sometimes a discount may be given to diners to encourage patronage) are a reason for restaurants to 'drop the ball' and serve up an underwhelming culinary experience.To my surprise, my review gained quite a lot of attention and when Jason Atherton himself got in touch with me regarding my write up, I was nervous to say the least. But I have always been a big fan of Jason's and hopefully what I wrote came across as constructive rather than critical. As i read the message, I quickly saw that it was different to what I thought was going to be said. Jason had read my review and felt disappointed that things weren't perfect on the night and with this in mind, he asked me to come back to Pollen Street Social and give him and his team a chance to prove themselves and their capabilities in the kitchen. I was so touched that a Chef would care this much about any review and without losing his temper, invite the author back for another meal.Nervously I walked into the restaurant and Jason was standing at reception and called out my name. At this point, I genuinely think I may have peed myself just a tiny bit from being so nervous... not sure why! Once seated, we were presented with the menus and I was so surprised to see how very different the content was. No more 'sharing' plates and not so many choices either. The menu was thinned down to a more digestible size with many of the less popular dishes that we had from the first visit, removed entirely. I was so impressed that here is a Chef, who is incredibly well known in the UK and he has done what VERY FEW CHEFS in the UK do... put his own thoughts and ego aside and genuinely listened to the public. Having worked with many Chefs in the past (some of which read my blog, so I have to be careful!) A Chef's work culminates on a plate... when we carelessly critique their food, we are essentially criticising their life's work!The dishes I chose were simple, well-sourced and abundant in flavour. A beautiful selection of multi-coloured beetroot with Goat's curd to start with, delicate and unpretentious with sweet beetroot pieces complimented by creamy Goat's curd. My main course was the real star of the show; Halibut with Paella and clams - absolutely packed with flavour and every forkful melted in the mouth. And who on earth prepared those asparagus spears? They were so expertly trimmed, which made me think about truly how much effort goes into making one main course. From vegetables, to the Paella, to the Halibut itself followed by the clams, the sauce and most likely another dozen elements that aren't immediately obvious to the average diner. No wonder the my write up prompted him to contact me; I guess we never truly factor in just how much effort goes into producing food like this.We were rather spoiled rotten for dessert. I don't really have a sweet tooth if I'm honest, but I do like to find something to nibble on and the infamous 'dessert bar' at Pollen Street Social has been raved about by many. 'PB and J' - A disassembled peanut butter and jelly dessert which was nice but didn't entirely float my boat. The chocolate 'Tiramisu' dessert was more my cup of tea although after a rather large meal, it proved to be a little too rich. The very pleasing site of a sorbet selection was right up my street as I do love to be able to try a little of everything and the sorbet selection hit the spot perfectly.Staff and service weren't really part of the problem on my initial visit and they still remain very professional, courteous and no doubt have found their stride since the opening. The bar at Pollen Street Social is great, it must be said. Huge whole leg of Jamon Iberico on the bar waiting for some lucky patron to order up an expertly carved plateful. Fantastic cocktails too and a great place to order some grazing nibbles whilst having a drink (or four!) If only more Chefs genuinely cared about what people truly thought, whether right or wrong, and implemented some changes to show that they were listening, then the culinary scene would be greatly improved. Although Jason, don't change too much for us... We like you, very much, just as you are.

Pollen Street Social - 8/10 Pollen Street, London W1S 1NQ
Tel: +44(0)20 7290 7600
http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com/