Wednesday, 24 August 2011


I spent 3 weeks in Andalucia in the late 1990’s and was bowled over by it: the Moorish architecture, the food, the people, the ‘manyana’ attitude and the overwhelming scent of jasmine everywhere. I loved it and it is high on my list of places to go back to – especially Seville. Memorable dinners included half a roasted lamb – a lamb so tiny that the kidney was the size of a quail egg and the flesh was meltingly tender, with the scent of rosemary and smoke…

So when I heard that Rick Stein was doing a series of programmes from Spain I had to watch them – and buy the book. The series got mixed reviews from food bloggers but I enjoyed them, and I love the book.  So over the next couple of months expect to see a few of those recipes but they may be slightly adapted, as this one is.    

Quite apart from sustainability issues, cod is expensive. I popped into Morrisons to buy 350g of cod and it was nearly £4, whereas 400g of pouting, a smaller relative of cod, was under £2 - no contest. Pouting is a smaller fish nut in a dish like this the smaller flakes don’t matter as you can leave the fish in chunks and the flavour is comparable. Rick salts his cod overnight and then soaks, before cooking it separately and adding to the chickpeas.  I find it easier to salt the fish for two hours before you want to eat then rinse it off well and cook in the stew.  I also didn’t have the time today to cook my own chickpeas so I used a can (KTC variety, which are nice and big and very tender).  Rick uses saffron but I didn’t have any - I don’t think the dish suffered from its absence.  So here we are – Peckham Salt Pouting with Chickpeas and Spinach.

Serves 2

400g pouting or other firm white fish
2 tblsp sea salt
2 tblsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried red chilli flakes
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 small potato, chopped into 1” cubes
200 g spinach washed and roughly shredded
Chopped parsley to garnish

Skin the fish, remove any bones and place on a non-metallic plate or dish.  Sprinkle over the salt and leave for 2 hours, then rinse off well and cut into chunks. 

Heat the oil in a wide deep sauté pan and fry the onions and garlic gently with the paprika and chilli flakes until soft and slightly browned. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened then add the potatoes and 500ml water and a pinch of salt. Simmer until the potato is just cooked. Crush some of the potato into the sauce.

Add the spinach and cook over a high heat until cooked down into the sauce. At this point there should be a fair amount of liquid in the pan. Lay the fish chunks over the chickpea mixture, cover and cook for ten minutes until the fish is cooked through. Check and adjust seasoning.

Spoon into bowls with the parsley sprinkled over and serve with some crusty bread if particularly hungry. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Pig cheeks have been a bit of a revelation to me. They are inexpensive (I get them at Morrisons for around £2.70 for 500g), meaty and when properly cooked have a yielding gelatinous quality that gives all the unctuousness of a fatty bit of pork belly without the fat. I’ve braised them plainly with onions and beef stock, and also Chinese stylee, but the lovely Mr Redding suggested that next time I felt like making a vindaloo I use them – and Reader, I did.  Vindaloo likes a reasonably long cooking time, which suits this cut, and they turned out rather deliciously. I don’t like my curries very hot so only used 3 dried red chillies but if you like it hotter then use more, and add a whole green chilli (or 3!), slit up the middle, to the pan when simmering.

This needs marinading overnight, after an initial 2-3 hour rub, so be warned!

And I don't know what happened with my camera but this is the only photo I have, so use your imagination!

500g pigs cheeks, each cut into 3
1 tsp salt
3 tblsp red wine vinegar

Spice paste
3 (or more) dried red chillies
½ tsp. cumin seeds
3inch cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods
7 cloves
½ tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tblsp. red paprika
5 peeled garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
3 tblsp. red wine vinegar

2 tblsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp.sugar
1 or more whole green chillies slit in half lengthways

 Rub the salt and vinegar well into the pork and set aside for 2-3 hours. 

Grind the chillies, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, or mortar if you’re feeling strong.  Combine with the turmeric, paprika, garlic, ginger and vinegar to make a thick paste. Add to the pork, rub in well, cover and refrigerate overnight (seal tightly because it’s quite pungent). 

When you are ready to cook, heat the oil in a wide frying pan until medium hot. Add the garlic and onions and fry until brown (but not burnt!).  Add the tomatoes and the green chilli if using. Stir until the tomatoes start to soften, add the sugar then the marinated meat and all the spice paste.  Fry on a fairly high heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the meat is browned and the spice mixture is cooked out.  Turn down to a medium heat, add 500ml water, and once the pan has come to the boil lower heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours.  Remove cover for the last 30 minutes so that the sauce thickens and coats the meat.

I served mine with some dhall.....

Spinach cooked with finely sliced onions and ginger, and rice with cardomom pods....

Sunday, 7 August 2011


OK, last post for a while on all things Persian/middle eastern – promise. My Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday (at nearly 50 he still buys me a birthday present) and I said I’d like some cookery books. I consulted Amazon and amongst them was Silvena Rowe’s ‘Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume’.  So when my great friend Sashimi Girl came over for lunch I thought I would try out a few recipes on her, along with a main course from ‘Persia in Peckham’.  For a more in depth view of lunch, including cocktails and pictures of my gorgeous kitten see her blog.  I won’t detail the recipes here; they’re either in Silvena’s book or Sally’s.  It was all delicious (even though I do say it myself) and there wasn’t much left….

We started with Warm King Prawn Salad with Pink Radish and Red Onion from Silvena, but I don’t like raw onion in salads so I left it out….

Then we had Sally’s Ghormeh Sabzi…

With Silvena’s pilaf with Vermicelli, Apricots and Pistachios, I left out the chickpeas as we already had enough protein….

And her Tomato, Pomegranate and Sumac salad with a Pomegranate dressing….


And to finish up the Pistachio Revani with Passion Fruit Syrup….

 We didn’t have much room by the end of it and rolled away from the table replete…thanks Ladies!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


I should just re-name my blog ‘What to do with a pack of lamb mince’, probably far more representative at the moment.  I do believe it is an extremely useful thing to have in the freezer and being of limited means....

Anyway, I have mentioned before Sally Butcher and her shop Persepolis on Peckham High Street for all things Persian – I am also the proud owner of a signed copy of her cookbook ‘Persian in Peckham’.  These kebabs are a slight variation of her recipe for Chelo kebabs …I add a couple of teaspoons of ras-el-hanout and a bit more baking powder.  The baking powder is a revelation – makes the kebabs light and succulent and ‘bouncy’, avoiding any hardness that a lot of meatballs have. 

This time I served them with some baba ganoush, beetroot in yoghurt, salad with lots of mint and coriander, wraps, and the relish in Sally’s recipe (which is HOT to my palate, so be warned!!!).  On other occasions I have made a chickpea salad with a tin of chickpeas, some harrisa, yoghurt, lemon juice, fresh dill and coriander, spooned that over salad leaves, put the kebabs on top and sprinkled with lots of coriander and finely diced cucumber.  

Chelo Kebabs

Serves 2 as a main course

250g minced lamb
½ shallot finely diced
2 tsp. Ras-al-hanout
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp. baking powder
Salt and pepper 


1 small green chilli finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
Olive oil
1 dessertspoon carrot or quince jam
2 tsp. malt vinegar 

To serve:  salad leaves, fresh coriander and mint
Combine the kebab ingredients in a bowl and knead together using your hand.  Do this for a good ten minutes until the mixture becomes sticky and homogenous.  Wet your hands then form into balls or patties or mould round skewers – whatever takes your fancy. Rest in fridge while you make the relish. 

Fry the chilli and onion in a splash of olive oil until softened, then add the jam and vinegar and simmer gently for ten minutes or so.  Spoon into serving pot. 

I generally grill the kebabs, in a futile gesture to losing weight, quite gently, 7-10 minutes a side. 

Line a plate with salad leaves and generous handfuls of mint and coriander then arrange kebabs on top.  Serve with the relish, baba ganoush, grated beetroot with yoghurt, plain thick yoghurt and flat breads to wrap it all up in. Some Persian pickled cucumbers are nice as well. And remember something to wipe your hands with!!!