Monday, 27 September 2010

селедка под шубой - Herring under a fur coat.

Selyodka pod shouboy otherwise known as herring under a fur coat is the

most beautiful salad I've ever seen. The first time I saw this was in a little

Cafe on Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg. We'd spent the day exploring

the Peterhoff Palace, comparable only to Versaille with its ornamentation

and gilded statuary.

Such things make me hungry. Our Russian guide and friend Olga

recommended a cafe for our arrival back in the city. I ordered

chicken and a slice of what looked like purple cake, while my

friends and travel companions Emma and Mike waited.

The purple cake turned out to be Herring under a fur coat and here's

how you make it.

Par boiled, grated potato
Salted herring fillets 
Spring onions
Grated carrots
Boiled eggs
Grated Beetroots

Spread the potato on a plate followed by the herring and spring onion.

Cover this layer in mayonnaise. Add the layers in order of the list above

and photos and cover each time in mayonnaise. Leave over night for the

beetroot juices to run through each layer turning the whole thing purple.

Serve in slices like a cake.

Proposal. Crunchy Baharat Chicken and Sumac Rice

This is Loch Ken in south west Scotland, taken moments before I proposed to S. 

She said yes and I've never seen such joy pouring from a person's eyes. We will

marry in Cornwall in late September 2011.

There's nothing like a bit of exciting news to inspire you in the kitchen and this 

week brought the following delightful and somehow autumnal dish. I won't

pretend it's seasonal though.

This is chicken thigh strips in a baharat spice mix and ground toasted rice which 

gives it a crunchy and aromatic coating. Imagine a Turkish KFC and you'd be 

close. The rice contains diced red onion, pistachios, sultanas, parsley, garlic, 

sumac, cinamon and lemon juice. The recipe asks for saffron, but I recommend  

extra sumac as its a really interesting sour fruity flavour which is brought out by 

the lemon juice.

The Baharat spice mix is the fun part. You could buy the mix from a specialist 

shop but it's far more interesting to get to know your spices. Start with the

whole spices, create the mix, toast in a dry pan for a minute until you start to 

hear popping, then grind the spices while still warm. 

Turkish Baharat contains mint. This is the key ingredient. Use a large amount. 

Also black pepper and paprika are a large constituent. As with any spice mix, the

ingredients vary so you can include coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, 

cardamom, cassia, nutmeg, allspice. I recommend at least the holy trinity of Cs 

(a termed coined by my father) which for me makes up the heart of any spice 

mix: Coriander (seeds), cumin and cardamom.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Rhubarb Custard Crumble Pie

Recipes like this are not as popular as the classics because they're difficult to 

categorise. The simple rhubarb crumble is my favourite pudding. It has a 

strong nostalgia for me because my granddad used to make it. Grandma 

would say he'd made one specially for me, but there were plenty of us on a 

sunday afternoon eating it. I like to share.

This recipe however results in a pie and it's also a crumble, with custard 

inside rather than on top. S is away until the weekend so this time 

unfortunately (for her) I didn't share and I gained a pound in the 

process. Trust me though, that's a good thing; I wouldn't mind a few 

extra pounds and it was very delicious.

Here's the link for the recipe because I'm not going to pretend it's my own. 

I would recommend however the largest oats you can find to mix in the 

crumble topping and my big pastry secret, salted butter. Yes you read 

correctly. It's only very unhealthy if you eat the whole cake in three 

days, but I'll be ok. It makes tastier pastry.

From top left anticlockwise, sweet shortcrust pastry, crumble topping, rhubarb, raw custard.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A simple supper from the garden

I'm back on the theme of

local and seasonal

. This year I've had

no access to a garden,

just a small, very concrete

urban back yard. I wasn't

about to let that stop me

from growing Things to Eat, however!

I set about making a miniature green haven out of a motley assortment of

growbags and plastic milk bottles, and have managed to coax a more-or-less

reluctant crop of veggies into life. It may not be the most cost-effective

way to get hold of the freshest and most seasonal produce but it's certainly

rewarding, and I'd recommend it to everyone who has even the tiniest bit of

outdoor space!

Today I was very excited to be harvesting

the first of my aubergines.

Aubergines! In England! I've never grown

them before and their delicate ballerina-

like flowers and startlingly purple-veined,

fearsomely spiky leaves were a real


I wanted to cook something

very simple to showcase the

aubergine, so I diced and

it with garlic and

some of the just-ripening

cherry tomatoes

my surprisingly effective


growing system.

Stirred through linguini with a sprinkling of cheese and a scattering of

thyme from the kitchen windowsill this made a tasty and satisfying

supper- and tasted all the better for knowing that most of the

ingredients had come from no more than six feet away!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

I'm coming to the end of a very good bag of Ethiopian coffee. Ethiopia, the origin 

of the coffee bean. Who knew that? Coffee is not truly indigenous anywhere else.

I highly recommend this Yirgacheffe. It's smoothe and fruity with hints of dates and 

big grapefruit and apricot tastes. 

S has been learning to drink coffee. Not out of ambition, but more to be a part 

of something quickly becoming a ritual culture in my house. Also she can't resist 

the smell of freshly ground coffee and my enthusiasm at finding out how to make a 

nicer cup than the last.   


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Chicken Risotto with a secret ingredient

The secret ingredient is taragon. There, that wasn't much of a secret was it? Neither 

are the shitake mushrooms in the photo. But feel free to keep it a secret from 

your friends, because they will be asking "What did you put in this?"


Olive oil

1 onion chopped finely
1 clove garlic chopped
1 aubergine diced
6 shitake mushrooms sliced
200g arborio rice
Cooked chicken breast diced
1 pint chicken stock (best home made by boiling chicken bones with vegetables and bay leaves, white wine optional)


Fry the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft then add the aubergine and 

mushrooms, cook until soft. Add the rice and cook for a minute before 

adding half of the stock. This "toasts" the rice and allows it to absorb the 

liquid slowly without going mushy.


Simmer until the liquid is absorbed before adding half of what is left of the stock. 

Risotto needs your full attention and the trick is timing. Adding the stock 

bit by bit allows you to get the correct consistency as the rice is cooked. Perfectly 

cooked risotto should not be hard and stick to the serving spoon, nor should it be 

so wet that it runs off your plate.


Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


This week has been about luxuries. I've been drinking expensive coffee and even 

more expensive cognac, neither of which I've had to pay for. Lucky me! So 

when it came to familydinner and my turn to cook I found myself craving 

something simple and non luxury. Not that I'd been eating foie gras, caviar 

and oysters all week, but I felt like I needed a contrast. For me there isn't much 

more family orientated and simple than meat balls with spaghetti and 

tomato sauce. I'll happily tell all about my Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee and my 

quest to make the perfect cup of coffee, and the Fine Champagne Cognac that I 

also profited from this week, but I'd just as soon (or sooner) talk about meat 

balls and how they're an easy way to feed and impress a large group. 

There are plenty of meat ball recipe available online. I've made them in a food 

blender and without blending and it makes a difference, but get your 

seasoning right and either makes a delicious meat ball. I use rosemary in the 

meat and thyme in the tomato sauce.