Tuesday, 28 May 2013

School of Wok - Quick Fire Street Food Class

School of Wok, located in Chandos Place, very close to Covent Garden Market, and notorious for being a trendy foodie area, is conveniently and aptly just a stone's throw from London's Chinatown. The Quick Fire Street Food class was exactly that - no chopping or prepping, everything was laid out for us, all we had to do was shape our wontons, toss a bit of chicken in corn flour, and stir-fry our noodles using our newly acquired wok tossing skills as taught by Stefan. Stefan Lind is the charming and handsome (I quote) chef assigned to teach us the joys of a smoking wok, and the art of wonton origami. He is a Leith's graduate, and with his Jamie Oliver hair, his passion for Asian cooking and the ease with which he imparts his knowledge made the class really enjoyable and I certainly learnt a few things about soy sauce and wok tossing.

I wokked up at 7pm, and was greeted by Mel, wearing her 'Wok this Way' t-shirt - a precedent for an evening of wok-related puns. We were seated in the shop area around a table laid out with everything we needed, surrounded by giant woks, and in full view of the passing public (which, incidentally, is how one or two of the other students discovered the class). Here Stefan showed us how to fold the diamond-shaped wonton pastries around the filling (Chinese chives, shittake mushrooms, garlic, coriander, spring onion, and Chinese leaf) into traditionally shaped wontons. My attempts went from 'rustic', to 'perfect', thanks to Stefan's 'don't clap, overlap' instructions.

Rustic, and perfect, wontons.

Wontons - served with sweet chilli sauce
Next, the Smoked and Shredded Chicken. Marinaded in Liquid Smoke - yes, actual liquid smoke! -  and light soy sauce, with sesame oil, our brief was to dunk it in some egg, and coat it in shedloads of seasoned cornflour to ensure that crispy fried texture we all know and love. The wontons and the chicken were then taken away by Mel for deep-frying, while we were taken into the kitchen, where all our ingredients were ready for us, arranged clockwise in the order required. Very convenient!

Prepare to Wok this Kitchen
Meanwhile Stefan demonstrated how to cook the Hong Kong Noodles. They take about two minutes (pre-prep is wonderful!). In the carbon steel wok, he heated the oil until it was smoking, then using a metal wok spoon, added in the ingredients in gradients of hardness, starting with baby corn, and finishing with the pre-cooked, cooled and completely dry egg noodles. A toss, a spin, and a dash of dark soy sauce, and there it was - a sizzling masterpiece.

Returning then to the Smoked and Shredded Chicken. Pre-marinated and deep fried by Mel, we simply had to wok swish some spring onions, garlic and chilli, then the chicken - it literally took 90 seconds. Everything was then taken to the table where we enjoyed our Quick Fire Chinese Food with a cheeky glass of wine.

Hong Kong Noodles and Crispy Smoked Chicken

Stefan, me, and some giant woks. Shittake happens.

There are many other classes available at the School of Wok, ranging from one hour Quick Fire Classes, to Knife Skills, to Professional Courses and Party Classes. 'Whether it be Char Sui or Sushi, Spring Rolls or Summer Rolls, we can teach you the authentic way to prepare a whole range of Oriental dishes in our state of the art kitchens.'

If you can think of any other wok-related puns, I would be delighted to hear them!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

May Supper Club (Eurovision)

This month's theme was Italian with a twist. Not Swedish. Or Danish. May try that next year, Nordic food being a huge trend just now.

Pane Guttiau

Sardinian flatbread, served with red pepper pesto and green pesto with basil. The pane guttiau was bought from a stall at our local park's centenary run by Palmavera Foods, and is a perfect salty low fat alternative to crisps.

Pane Guttiau

Spicy spinach cakes with mint yoghurt

Simple canapes, easy to make ahead, a chickpea and spinach mixture with onion, garlic, coriander, and spices, shallow fried, served with a natural yoghurt and mint dip. Recipe from December 2012 issue of olive magazine.

Spicy spinach cakes with mint yoghurt dip


I was very proud of my first attempt at making my own pizza! It was really delicious, if I may say so. 

Homemade Vegetarian Pizza

Homemade Harissa Chicken Pizza

Lemon and Lime Ginger Tart

I made this for my March Supper Club and it was so simple and well received, I couldn't resist doing it again. Light, zesty and refreshing. I have no idea why the photo has gone all flat though!

Lemon Lime and Ginger Tart

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Homemade Pizza

It's easier than you think! The dough takes a couple of hours to rise, and takes a bit of work to knead it and shape it, but I reckon if I can do it, most people can. The peperonata gives the pizza a real sweetness and is delicious. The harissa chicken can be replaced with parma ham or any other meat, as you wish. Here's how I did it:

Prep: 2-3 hours
Cook: 30 mins for chicken, 10 mins for peperonata, 8 mins for final pizza
Serves: 4

Pizza Dough:
10 g dried yeast
250 ml hot water
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp honey
Glug of olive oil
300 g flour

Add the hot water to the yeast and allow to activate for about 10 mins until there is a froth of about 2 cm (follow the pack instructions to be sure!).
Mix the flour, salt, honey and olive oil in a bowl and add the yeast mixture. Mix until not so sticky (add a bit more flour if you need to). Knead for 5 mins. Return to the bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise at room temperature for at least an hour, probably two, until doubled in size.

Divide the dough in two, and on a well-floured surface work the dough into two pizza shapes - you can try circles if you like, but rectangles are easier. The thinner the dough, the larger the pizza!

Tomato Sauce:
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Fresh basil
1 garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of salt

Just whizz everything briefly in your food processor.

2 red onions
1-2 red or yellow peppers
200 ml red wine vinegar
200 g caster sugar

Fry onions and peppers for a few minutes. You can use pre-roasted peppers if you prefer, if so you don't need to fry them, just add them once the onions are cooked.
Add the red wine vinegar and caster sugar, stir to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, leave to cool. Strain and discard the liquid.

Harrissa chicken:
2 chicken breasts
2-3 tbsp harissa spice mix
Glug olive oil

Smear the chicken breasts with harissa spice mix and olive oil (or harissa paste) and cook in the oven at gas mark 5 until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Shred. 

To cook the pizza:
1-2 mozzarella balls
Cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Rocket leaves

Heat the oven to gas mark 8. Prepare a baking tray, let it heat up in the oven, then sprinkle it liberally with flour. Place your pizza dough on the tray, then drizzle with some olive oil. Spread the dough with the tomato sauce, then slices of mozzarella. Top with peperonata and/or harissa chicken and the halved cherry tomatoes.
Bake for about 8 minutes.
Top with rocket and sprinkle with parmesan.

Enjoy with wine.

Harissa Chicken Pizza

Vegetarian Pizza

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Food Styling with Good Food Magazine

Earlier this year (the food publishing world is about five months ahead of us) I assisted the food stylists Carol Tennant and Jennifer Joyce on the April and May issues of BBC Good Food. Both shoots were two days in a proper food photography studio, and the dishes we prepared, styled, and ate, were photographed by David Munns. All recipes are available on the website.

I thoroughly enjoyed both shoots, learnt a lot, and would LOVE to do it again (as a career!)!

Big Bacon and Egg Pie (CT)
Boom-bang-a-bang Chicken Cups (JJ)

Bucks Fizzers (JJ)
Cheesy Chips (JJ)

Chicken Mole (CT)
Hot Cross Bun Ring with Spiced Honey
Butter (CT)

Malmo Meatball Subs (JJ)
Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup (CT)

Simnel Cherry Tart (CT)
Smoked Haddock with Buttered Spinach
and Mustard Sauce (CT)

Waterloo Sunsets (JJ)

Coffee Cake

A friend asked me to make a birthday cake for her mum from her grandkids (if you see what I mean). She loves coffee cake, so, not having made one before, I made one using a mish mash of Delia, Nigella, and goodtoknow recipes. I left out the walnuts inside, made a coffee buttercream filling, and added some golden syrup and a little cocoa to the rest of the buttercream to pipe the lettering, and around the edge, though you can't see, are the names of the grandchildren.

'The cake was delicious! x'


Coffee Cake

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Victoria Sponge with Passionfruit Frosting and Strawberries

Being asked to make a cake for a friend or family member is one thing. Being asked to make a cake for a group of strangers who are willing to pay for it is quite another. A mixture of excitement and nerves. Excited to do it but worried about how it would be received. The brief was quite simple - a classic tea time cake suitable for afternoon tea for a hen party. This left it wide open really, so I opted for a Victoria Sponge, covered in passionfruit cream cheese frosting, and topped with strawberries. 

Served for a private party at The Larder, N21.

Victoria Sponge with passionfruit frosting and strawberries.

Thank you to Mark at The Larder and the ladies who were celebrating! All the best to the Bride-to-be.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Red Wine Velvet Cake

Another work birthday cake. Like London busses, none for ages, and then three at once. Or in this case, two. My good friend is a huge cake fan, so the pressure was on, her favourite being Red Velvet cake from a renowned American bakery. Her mum is also a phenomenal cook (I have first-hand evidence of this from our work cooking club).

I found this recipe in The Stylist one evening on my commute home, and immediately thought of her. I sent her a photo of the recipe and she wanted it (I quote: OH. MY. GOD!!!!! CAN YOU MAKE IT FOR ME PLEEEEEEEEEASE?!!!!). So I gave it a go. Originally from the wonderful food blog by Smitten Kitchen, it appeals on so many levels, it's impossible to resist. 

Whilst my attempt at first looked a tad messy and nothing like the elegantly styled cake from the recipe tear, once it was cut into, it looked pretty nice. The reaction of colleagues was all good - Italians are a tough audience after all - and indeed my good friend commented it was 'quite possibly the best cake I've had in years!' Well you can't say fairer than that.

Try it. You will enjoy it, and there will even be a large glass of Rioja left over to enjoy while you wait for it to bake..

Red Wine Velvet Cake

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Samarqand [Restaurant Review]

Samarqand Central Asian Restaurant & Bar 
18 Thayer Street London, W1U 3JY
Meal for two, including wine, approx £100.

Finding the restaurant proved a little tricky, even for seasoned Londoners. However it's well worth schlepping up Mandeville Place to find Thayer Street and this Eastern European/Oriental fusion basement restaurant. It takes it's name, I'm guessing, from the second largest city in Uzbekistan, and the capital of the province of Samarqand.
The decor is modern and slick, with touches of traditional patterns, and a horse. Yes, a horse. In the centre of the dining room, stands a life-sized Mooi horse lamp, overlooking the diners as they chat, laugh, and eat their beef. We were seated in the cushion-lined alcove, with a large screen showing ice hockey, a match attended by Mr Putin. This screen was later pulled up to reveal a DJ playing loud dance music.

To begin we ordered Hereti, a Georgian dry white wine, which tasted much like Sauvignon Blanc. 
 The food was billed as wonderful, exotic, with succulent flavours, and enticing spices. To be fair, the dishes on offer, whilst unpronouncable in some cases, seemed to be borrowed from neighbours, the manty dumplings were much like Polish pierogis, and the shashlik was very familiar to my German friends, as was the borsht, and the plov, whilst easily the tastiest dish sampled, was reminiscent of pilau rice.

 We took some photos, enjoyed each other's company, heard some Eastern European and Russian accents, and in the end, sampled some traditional neat vodkas to finish. 


Zabon Salad

Zabon Salad

Ox tongue salad with cucumber, water cress and dill dressed with lemon and olive oil dressing
If you can get over the 'tongue' thing, this is a tender flavoursome dish.



Traditional Russian and Ukrainian beetroot soup, with veal and vegetables served with sour cream


Khachapuri (V)

Flat bread filled with cheese.


Almaty Plov
A traditional Central Asian rice dish cooked with succulent lamb,
three types of raisins, chickpeas and berberis served with Asian
tomato salad.
Spicy and full of flavour.

Chicken Shashlik
Marinated diced chicken grilled on the charcoal.
Lightly flavoured, and safe.

Steamed large lamb dumplings with Central Asian herbs.
A little slimy, the Astana  Manty with pumpking and chives had more
depth and flavour.


Napolean Cake
Light crisp cake made with layered pastry and cream.
For me, the best dessert of the evening.

Honey Cake
Sweet thin layers of  cake soaked in honey and nuts.
Although recommended by the waitress, this cake was quite
dry and stale, with no evidence of honey or nuts.

Ice Cream

Fruit Platter

Photos of starters taken from Samarqand website.
Other photos by Shani Jay.
Square Meal SamarQand Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Erdbeerkuchen (German Strawberry Cake)

At work, we have the birthday cake thing. If it's your birthday, you bring a cake. Or someone else brings one. Whichever. As long as there is cake. My good friend turned 30 at the weekend - although I don't think she is ready to embrace her thirties just yet - and her favourite cake, we discovered by gentle probing and MI5-style questioning, is Erdbeerkuchen. Now you may think, hmm, a cake with beer? But no, die Erdbeere is the German for strawberry, and der Kuchen is, of course, cake. The beauty of this cake is the simplicity, and the freshness, and, I expect, the nostalgic feeling brought about by eating something from your childhood.  

german strawberry cake
As ever, the recipe was pulled together from several different blogs, my favourite being the authentic German Kitchen, where the recipe calls for a shop-bought flan base [shock! horror!] but my German colleague said this was perfectly acceptable! So fair enough. Homemade jelly glaze topped the fresh hulled sugared strawberries. It turned out quite nicely, if I may say so, and I served it with some double cream, whipped up with couple of tablespoons of icing sugar, a splash of rum and the juice of a lime.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Girlie Night In - Chicken Curry

Staying in on a Friday night, with a group of girlies, called for a homemade Indian chicken curry, a simple dessert, and a lot of wine...

To nibble I made some mint sauce, served with shop-bought poppadums.

Chicken with almonds and raisins is ideal as you can dip in and out of the kitchen, whilst chatting and drinking. It takes time, but it is so worth it. Serve with pilau rice and naan.

Chicken Curry with Almonds and Raisins

For dessert, unplanned, Raspberry and Cranberry Sorbet  (still some left from last weekend) worked beautifully with some strawberries and chocolate sauce. Refreshing!

Sorbet with strawberries and chocolate sauce
And then, back to the wine...

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Chicken Parmo

Chicken Parmo. If you have ever been to Middlesbrough, you will know what I mean. If not then you will think, hmm, some kind of Italian cheesy chicken dish perhaps? Well ... if you are Italian, please look away now. If you're prone to heart problems, please look away now. 
Otherwise, have a few dozen beers and let's get a takeaway! Or in this case, a homemade one. 

For the Parmo: Flatten a chicken breast. Dip in beaten egg and then breadcrumb. Shallow fry for a few minutes each side until the chicken is cooked. (Proper Parmos are deep-fried, of course.) Next pour over some bechamel sauce (straight from a jar, naturally), and some grated cheddar. (Do not use parmesan. Far too expensive. And not cheddary enough.) Grill for about 10 minutes until golden brown.
For the garlic sauce (essential dip on the side): Mix a splodge of mayonnaise with a splash of white wine vinegar, and two cloves of crushed, chopped garlic

Serve with chips. But not broccoli.
Chicken Parmo. 
Himself liked it anyway. Well, he would... 

Breadcrumb and fry.
Smother in cheese sauce and cheese

Serve with chips. Ignore the green stuff.