Recently I've fallen back in love with Haggis. Admittedly, our relationship had only been on a brief break, and it certainly made our reunion all the sweeter. Before we split, things between us had gotten a bit stale. You couldn't separate it from its old pals, neeps and tatties, and it was all too often doused with whisky, reeking of booze and disappointingly, inevitably limp.
But now, Haggis has changed its ways. I see it in a whole new way and can't keep my hands off it! I'm loving spicing it up and every day I can't wait to come home and try new things with it.
Jokes aside, all the above is true. Haggis is so much more than something you eat once a year at Burns night, boiled in a stomach and served with a whisky cream sauce. I had my eyes opened recently at a Haggis and Indian tasting where they took this very Scottish ingredient to the East and most successfully! Since then I've been experimenting at home. From sandwiches to the below recipe, the results have been both tasty and surprising. Be brave, give it a whirl; it won't bite and it probably won't even 'baa'.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
260g Macsween's Haggis (For this recipe I used their AMAZING venison one, but you can use their normal or vegetarian one as you like)
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil for frying. Enough to fill a saucepan at least 2 inches.
For the sauce:
1 bunch fresh coriander
1 bunch fresh mint
1 red chili (more or less to taste)
2 cloves garlic
Juice of half a lemon
1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1. Begin heating up the oil gently over a low heat. It will take a while to heat and you don't want to bring it up too fast, so put it on a low heat and let it warm while you prepare the rest. It is hot enough when you drop a breadcrumb into it and it sizzles fairly vigorously.
2. Remove the Haggis from its skin and break it into chunks. Microwave it on high for about 2 minutes until it is cooked.
3. Season the beaten egg with salt and pepper generously.
4. Take a handful of Haggis and roll it into a ball about one inch across, or whatever size you'd like it to be. Dip it in the beaten egg, and then roll it in the breadcrumbs until it is evenly coated.
5. Carefully lower it into the hot oil and deep fry for about two minutes, until it is golden brown and crisp all over. Remove and place on kitchen paper (to soak up the oil). Repeat until all the Haggis is used.
6. To make the sauce: simply blend all the sauce ingredients in a processor/ blender/ pestle and mortar until it forms a paste with about the same consistency as a loose pesto (or a ketchup!). This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until ready for serving.
7. Serve the crisp Haggis balls immediately with the spicy coriander dip. Enjoy.
There are a lot of good places to drink in Covent Garden, but also a lot of massively dire ones. The scale of dire there ranges from the hipster, moustached and uncomfortable, to the downright loutish. If I see another trilby-toting Eastern-European butchering my Old Fashioned again, asking for £14 with a straight face, I suspect lime wedges won’t be the only things crushed under his muddler. Customarily, I avoid both it and its elbowing tourists, and dip in for carefully selected outings, sticking to my boroughs for sessions of drinking.
But now, hope springs eternal, in the form of 90s preppy America. Probably the only time you’ll hear me say that. Earlham Street Clubhouse has opened, just round the corner from Leicester Square and up the road from Flesh & Buns. An underground lair, designed by some award winning design whose name I never remember but probably should – all quirky battered wood, copper bar tops, exposed brick and squishy suede. Yummy. Its burrowing underground rooms have booths sunk into the walls, some with their own phone and a vintage gas pump serving beer straight to the table. Somewhat cool. The menus are attached to the ceilings by lanyards, waiting to be yanked down for a peruse.
Mayonnaise. One of life's essentials. I love it. My reputation for loving mayonnaise spans seas and continents- I have it on everything. Ketchup, pfft. Don't bother me with that. Take me to Belgium and slather it on thick.
PLUS it's so easy to make yourself! However, one thing that always amuses me is seeing people's faces when they see it made for the first time. We all know that it isn't particuarly good for us, but the sheer proportions of its constituents can be mildly shocking. Just SO MUCH OIL.
Mayonnaise is an emulsion sauce - a sauce made from the combination of fat with oil. These two ingredients aren't good friends, they don't like to hang out. Naturally they separate. And so, extra attention is needed to merge them, just like with a Hollandaise Sauce. The trick is speed, or in fact the very opposite of that. When adding your oil, do so painstakingly slowly, dribble by tentative dribble and make sure that each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. If you go too fast, the two will separate and you'll end up with a curdled mayonnaise. See step 1 below too for a way of avoiding splitting.
There is also debate on the type of oil to use. I use groundnut or sunflower. Pure olive oil comes out too bitter for me, although I like to add a dribble at the end for a slightly fruity twinge. Finally, mayonnaise unseasoned pretty much tastes of nothing. You'll need to season it to add flavour and this is another thing that is so epic about homemade mayonnaise - you can totally personalise it - more than you can do with a Hellman's jar! Classic additions are mustard, lemon, salt and pepper, but you can ramp it up a bit with garlic or herbs too if you like.
Anyway - give this a try; it's a classic and an absolute essential for all cooks.
Ingredients (makes about 290ml or 1/2 pint):
2 egg yolks
pinch sea salt
250ml groundnut or sunflower oil
25ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
1. Whisk your egg yolks with an electric whisk for two minutes until they are thick and pale. Add the salt and whisk for 30 more seconds until they are thick and sticky. Some recipes don't have you do this stage however, whisking them up like this makes the yolks ready to receive the oil and tends to avoid them splitting.
2. Continue whisking, but add the oil in a thin, very slow dribble. About a tablespoon at a time, whisking between each and making sure each dribble is mixed in thoroughly before adding the next.
3. Once you have reached the consistency you want (you might not need all of the oil) add the olive oil and beat for a further 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice, mustard and garlic and whisk in. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
4. Add any other seasonings you fancy - e.g. chopped herbs, more garlic, etc. This can be kept in the fridge now, sealed, until you are ready to eat it!
Borek are traditional Turkish pastries, cigar shaped and filled with cheese and herbs. The pastry around the outside is crisp and the inside is salty, fresh with herb and soft. I love them served with Tzatziki, a yoghurt dip with cucumber and mint, or just with plain unsweetened yoghurt. Although you can buy them ready made in Middle Eastern supermarkets, and most restaurants in Turkey serve them as standard, they are really easy to make yourself at home. Give it a go.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
Yufka pastry sheets (1 pack is more than enough) or filo pastry sheets
300g feta cheese
1 egg, beaten and divided in 2 portions
1 handful of mint, chopped (no stalks)
½ handful of coriander, chopped (you can use the stalks)
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Water (for sealing the borek)
1. Preheat an oven to 220 Celsius
2. Place the cheese, herbs and half the egg in a bowl and mix together thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and season with a little salt and plenty of pepper.
3. Cut the pastry into triangles by slicing into 2 long rectangles and then slicing each rectangle diagonally repeatedly to get many even thin triangles – like slices of pizza in shape and about 2 inches wide (at the base of the triangle).
4. If you’re using filo, use three layers as it is very thin. Lay one triangle (or 3 stacked on top of each other if filo) in front of you, with the base of the triangle away from you and the pointy end closest to you. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling at the base end and roll the base end up and over it, then roll it up to the pointy end, flattening it a bit as you go and rolling it into a thin cigar shape.
5. Seal by wetting the pointy tip and pressing it onto the cigar. Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat.
6. Brush each cigar with the other half of the beaten egg completely. Then brush with olive oil.
7. Bake for around 15 minutes or until they are golden brown and crisp. Keep an eye on it for this after about 12 minutes. Serve warm, with tzatziki or a plain unsweetened natural yoghurt dip.
Nestled in a cosy nook at the heart of London’s business sector, the City, lurks a shiny new outlet for my baked, roasted, tossed and sandwiched desires. Euphorium Bakery, newly opened this month, wafts bready smells down Threadneedle Street, enticing both bankers and my not-so-financey self in to sample its wares, a task which I happily completed last week at its opening. To describe Euphorium as a bakery is perhaps misleading. Emporium would be a better word. Its surprisingly large, multi-level store hosts a multitude of different food groups, good to grab-and-go or to munch upstairs in their comfy sofa’d coffee shop area.
Granita is a frozen ice dessert - delicate, intensely flavoured flakes of chill, crystalline wonderfulness. It is the ideal dinner party dessert because you can bang it up way in advance and simply serve at the point of desire.
This version is 'Turkish Delight' and gin flavoured; a blend of rose, cardamon, lemon and a good slug of gin. Served with a scoop of natural yoghurt and a sprig of fragrant mint, it makes just a lovely treat for a hot day or after dinner dessert. Enjoy.
Ingredients (Serves 6):
635ml water (2.5 cups)
100g white sugar
Juice of 2-3 lemon (add more as desired)
25ml rose syrup
2 green cardamon pods, crushed so that they crack slightly
5 tablespoons of gin
6 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
Garnish: sprigs of fresh mint
1. Place the water, cardamon pods and sugar into a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the rose syrup.
2. Leave, uncovered, until cooled. Add the gin and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning - add more syrup or lemon juice if required.
3. Place into the freezer and leave for around 30 minutes. Then take a fork and scrape away the forming ice crystals from the edges and break up any larger pieces forming in the middle. Leave for another 30 minutes and repeat. Repeat this until it is all frozen and until you have broken it all up into light, dry and fluffy ice crystals which are intensely flavoured. Approx. 3 hours.
4. When ready to serve, scoop into glasses or bowls and place on top a spoonful of natural yoghurt and a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.
Vermouth. Now there’s a tipple I’ve always wholly disregarded. Something to bang in a martini, something that sits at the back of my parents’ spirit shelf, sticky and collecting dust, something not very nice. And so, when invited to attend a monthly vermouth tasting at popular Soho restaurant Mele e Pere, I’ll admit, it was more the inclusion of several plates of high quality Italian food within the modest £15 price tag that enticed me.
I’ve never enjoyed the taste of hat. Vermouth; what a revelation! Made from combining white wine with alcohol, botanicals and a blend of sugar, it can be drunk by itself or mixed into cocktails where, for once, it is the star, not the understudy. The Mele e Pere bar staff are tremendously knowledgeable about this typically Italian beverage and even go as far as making two of their own. Our host took us through the history and composition of vermouth, passing round samples of the aromatics that go into it for us to scratch and sniff – for example, rhubarb root and the psychedelic wormwood (which I scratched and sniffed particularly hard). We then plunged into some serious tasting, sampling their ‘home brews’, a few particularly fine commercial vermouths and a series of somewhat delicious cocktails.
Restaurant Story, encamped on a traffic island by London Bridge and the brainchild of Tom Sellers, has just won its first Michelin star after being open a scarce eight months. Alacrity to rival that of Dabbous last year and with similarly youthful a chef. But is it deserved? Can it really equal Dabbous, for which the waiting list stretches on deep into 2014? I made my way
over a few weeks ago, prior to the Michelin announcements, to judge for myself, but primarily just to eat. First things first, after all.
This dish of pan fried fillet of sea bream, with tart, creamy lemongrass scented beurre blanc and choi sum makes a delicious main course for any dinner.
Beurre blanc is a classic French emulsion sauce made by combining butter (lots of it) with white wine vinegar and white wine. This recipe takes it Eastwards, flavouring it with fragrant Asian lemongrass. Paired with blanched and buttered choi sum (an Asian green vegetable, I suppose a little like bok choi), dripping under moist white fillets and crisp skin....yeah, happy days.
Ingredients (serves 2):
The fillets of 2 sea bream (get your fishmonger to scale, fillet and debone it for you, or do so yourself)
1 stick of lemon grass, woody outsides removed
500g cold butter, cut into one inch cubes and put back in the fridge
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp shallot, finely chopped
300g choi sum, tough ends removed
vegetable oil, for frying
salt and pepper
1. Begin by heating a pan of water until it is on a rolling boil. Plunge in the choi sum, turn the heat off and let the heat of the water cook them. Leave in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain, slather in butter and salt and keep warm for later.
2. Heat the white wine, vinegar, shallot and lemon grass in a saucepan until it has reduced to about two tablespoons worth. Turn the heat to low and add a cube of butter and vigorously whisk it in until it has melted and incorporated in. Add another, continuing to whisk. Gradually continue adding all of the butter, one or two cubes at a time, and always whisking until all the butter has been added. The sauce should be thick, smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and heat over medium high heat until very hot. Season the skin of the fish with salt and put into the pan skin side down, pressing down as you place it to stop it curling upwards. Saute the fillets for about 3 minutes on the skin side until it is crisp, before turning onto the flesh side for about 30 seconds. Season again lightly.
4. Plate: serve the fillets piled over the choi sum with plenty of that lovely sauce spooned around.
Hello, Mr Sea Bream
Plated and ready
London spoils us for choice with food. Hundreds, hundreds and thousands of restaurants sprinkle its streets, like so many sultanas in a tea loaf on Sunday. At times it’s enough to drive me to anxiety. My to-do list expands daily at the rate of my loosening belt notches and I eat and I eat and I eat, pursuing an impossible completion.
But finally, a solution to my frustration. New street food market Urban Food Fest brings the best of London street food to Shoreditch High Street in a Saturday night food market-cum-party, providing budding eaters with an ever-changing range of consistently excellent grub. Founder Jessica chooses a select range of quality vendors, vetted and rotating from week to week, to ensure that no Urban Food Fest is ever the same. Imagine my glee – in one fell swoop of a delicious evening, 10 of my to-dos utterly, and greedily, ticked off.