Archive | September, 2011

Bill Granger’s coconut bread

28 Sep

Anyone that knows me will be fully aware that brunch is my favourite meal of the day. Why wouldn’t it be – it’s an excuse to eat sweet, sugary, cakey goodness for breakfast. So when I saw Bill Granger’s recent brunch spread in The Times Magazine, I got all excited and put the Coconut Bread recipe STRAIGHT to the test. The results were fabulous, utterly fabulous!


2 eggs
300ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
310g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
230g golden caster sugar
150g desiccated coconut
75g unsalted butter, melted
Butter and icing sugar, to serve


1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas 4. Lightly whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl, add the sugar and coconut, and stir to combine. 3. Make a well in the centre and gradually stir in the egg mixture until just combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the mixture is just smooth, being careful not to overmix.
4. Pour into a greased and floured 21 x 10cm (8¼ x 4in) loaf tin and bake for 1 hour, or until the bread is cooked when tested with a skewer.
5. Leave in the tin to cool for 5 minutes, then remove to cool further on a wire rack. Serve in thick slices, toasted, buttered and dusted with icing sugar.


This recipe is from Bill Granger’s latest book ‘Best of Bill’, which is published by Murdoch Books.

Quadrille guest post – Enjoying your Fish Responsibly

27 Sep

You can see this post on the Quadrille website here.

Over the last few years, mine and I’m sure a lot of others attention has been brought to the sensitive issue of overfishing, which is happening in seas all over the world. This in turn has lead to a huge shortage of certain species. Celebrated chefs have done their part in educating the masses about which species should and shouldn’t be consumed. Restaurants also had to sit up and realise the problem. And if they continued to serve endangered species, they would be frowned upon. Probably the most well known example is when Nobu continued to serve Blue Fin Tuna, but recommended that their diners either don’t eat it, or ask for an alternative. Odd.

You see, if we carry on eating these endangered species, they’ll quickly fade out and we’ll have to kiss goodbye to them forever. What the likes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver have been telling us is to substitute certain species for ones that do exactly the same job. For example, Coley is a great substitute for Cod and will provide a firm and meaty addition to your dish!

But all of this talk about fish has made me want to eat it more. I picked up a little booklet from Selfridges during their month long Project Ocean when I dined at Hix Restaurant, Champagne and Caviar Bar for a sustainable fish supper, hosted by Mark himself, Valentine Warner and Mitch Tonks. Many of the dishes consisted of sea food that I had never tried before, the cuttlefish dish being one of them. It was served grilled in a broad been and edamame broth and was totally delicious. That alone opened my eyes – then I glanced through the little booklet, which detailed all of the fish that we should and shouldn’t be eating. It really is very handy. Whenever I’m planning a fish dish now I’ll glance at the book just to make sure that I’m doing the right thing.

Since I’m cooking more fish at home, I have recently looked to two books for inspiration. Mark Hix’s Fish etc and Jake Tilson’s In at the Deep End. The former is Marks range of classic fish recipes, taking inspiration from his Fish House restaurant down in his home town of Dorset.

The second is from Jake Tilson, a fine artist and designer who overcame his absolute fear of fish, strange I know, by traveling the world and subjecting himself to a wide range of fishy dishes. I haven’t had a chance to try any of the recipes in Jake’s book yet but the seaweed rock cakes are high on my to do list. Not technically a fish dish as such but they look delightful.

I glanced through Mark’s book and immediately stopped on the Thai Baked fish recipe. I’m lucky enough to have dined at The Ivy a few times and each time I opt for this dish. The Ivy chefs use sea bass but to make it at home I chose cod (North East Arctic). The paste that is smothered of the top of the fish is undeniably better than the ready bought stuff in a jar, while the simple dipping sauce of soy sauce, chilli, ginger and (garlic) is unbeatable. I didn’t have a banana leaf and I couldn’t get my hands on one in time so I baked the fish in a bit of tin foil, which worked just as well.

Thai Baked Fish Recipe

Ingredients – Serves 4

1 tbsp light (not toasted) sesame oil

1 small milk chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, peeled and the bulbous end roughly chopped

20g galangal or root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 lime leaves, roughly chopped

½ tsp ground cumin

10g coriander leaves

20g Thai basil

4 cod fillets, each about 200g, with skin, scaled and any residual bones removed

1 banana leaf , about 1 meter in size (I used tin foil)

For the dipping sauce:

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped galangal or root ginger

1 tbsp finely chopped lemon grass\2 lime leaves

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 tbsp soy sauce

For the fragrant rice:

2 lemon grass stalks, bulbous ends crushed

8 lime leaves


225g basmati rice, rinsed well in cold water


1. pre heat the oven to 200 degrees / gas 6. First, make the dipping sauce: heat the sesame oil in a pan and dry the chilli, galangal, lemon grass, lime leaves and garlic gently for 1 minute to soften them and release their flavours. Add the soy sauce, bring to the boil, the allow to cool and pour into a bowl or, ideally, individual dipping sauce dishes.

2. Now make the fragrant rice: cook the lemon frass with the lime leaves in about 1 litre of simmering salted water for 10 minutes. Add the rice and simer for 10-12 minutes more until it is just cooked. Drain in a colander, then return the rice to the pan, cover it with a lid and tne let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. This will help it become nice and fluffy.

3. While the rice is cooking, prepare the fish: heat the sesame oil in a pan and gently cook the chopped chilli, lemon grass, galangal, garlic, lime leaves and ground cumin in it for a couple of minutes until the aromatics are soft. Then tip the pan’s contents into a food processor with the coriander and Thai basil, together with a couple of tablespoons of water, and blend to a paste. Spread the paste on the fish fillets and wrap each one in a piece of banana leaf like a parcel, folding the leaf so that the edges join underneath the fillet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tip of a skewer inserted into the centre of a parcel comes out hot.

4. Place a fish parcel on each plate with a little pot of the dipping sauce. Serve the rice either in individual bowls or in a large bowl to be passed around.

If you’re unsure, here are a few suggestions of what species to avoid and what to replace them with:

Farmed Turbot instead of Brill

Pollack instead of Hake

Coley or Pollack instead of Ling

Skipjack Tuna instead of Marlin

Lemon Sole instead of Plaice

Lemon Sole instead of Dover Sole

Sipsmith – Sloe vs Damson

26 Sep

The summer has come to an end and Autumn is creeping in. And although I’m not overly happy about having endured the worst summer in two decades, I do love Autumn. The crisp sunny mornings and the beautiful leaves strewn across the floor everywhere you go put a smile on my face. I can’t think of a better way of celebrating the start of the season than by heading down to the Sipsmith distillery to try out the new seasonal spirits, Damson Vodka and Sloe Gin, which I did last week.

We were slightly confused whilst walking down a beautiful tree lined street full of the kind of Georgian houses that everyone wants to live in. ‘Maybe the distillery is in a house’ I said to my boyfriend. But then we stumbled upon it, a small room the size of a modest garage with a giant copper distillery toward the back. We had reached the Sipsmith distillery in Hammersmith, the equivalent of Charlie and the Chocolate factory for booze and the first copper distillery in London for two hundred years.

The aim of the evening was to showcase the two new and very lovingly created products. We drank cocktails and ate delicious cheese, courtesy of La Cave du Fromage. We were even treated to a huge and very impressive damson and Ginger Pig pork pie. After eating my body weight in cheese and marveling at the fascinating paraphernalia scattered around the distillery, I had to dash.

But the cocktails have stuck in my mind. And that’s because Sipsmith is the best. The first time I came across the brand was on a trip to Riverford farm. A self proclaimed ‘gin hater’, I ate my words and spent the next day wishing I hadn’t had quite so much of it. Nevertheless, the enjoyment I got out of it definitely outweighed the bad.

While the Sipsmith Vintage Damson Vodka is very limited edition and only available at Majestic, the Sloe Gin is available in Majestic and Waitrose stores nationwide. Both are priced at £23.50 for a 50cl bottle.

If you’re after something a little more simple, Sipsmith London Dry Gin (£27.49) and Barley Vodka (£26.25) is made in small batches and is available from Harvey Nichols, Waitrose, Selfridges, Hix, The Ivy, Majestic Stores or If you haven’t tried Sipsmith before, I urge you to and tell me what you think. I can guarantee you’ll like it.

Home made Dim Sum – minced pork dumplings

14 Sep

My first Dim Sum experience was shortly after I moved to London 6 years ago to embark upon my three year university experience. Well, I actually can’t say too much for a university experience but that’s a whole other story.

‘Lets go to Chinatown on Sunday to get Dim Sum’ exclaimed one of my course mates. Dim Sum I thought, what on earth could that be. Sure enough, when the bamboo baskets full of small pasta looking parcels arrived, I was a bit flabbergasted. I bit into my first one, a crunchy, pork filled morsel and devoured it in seconds. And so went the next and the next and the next until I was totally full and completely satisfied.

Where I’m from (Nottingham), the most Cantonese we’d get was a sweet and sour chicken or beef in black bean sauce dish with a side of chips and curry sauce(!?) from the local take away on a Friday night. I don’t think Dim Sum exists in that part of the world!

This is one of many reasons I love London. The diverse cultural aspect means that there is superb food to go with it. Since my trip to Chinatown 6 years ago, I think I have only been a further two times. Whoever I have dined with has always preferred a pizza or pasta, or a burger. I’ve been to Ping Pong a few times but I’m not totally sure it’s as authentic as my first Dim Sum experience.

So, many of you will know that last week I took part in a London treasure hunt (Hong Kong style) in order to help promote the week long Hong Kong – Live in London festival that is taking place this week on South Molten Street until Sunday 18th September.

The insight into Hong Kong’s vibrant culture has inspired me to try my hand at various Cantonese dishes. Having cooked pan fried Duck with bok choi and damson sauce over the weekend, on Tuesday night it was the turn of the mighty dumpling. We prepared one filling and made crescent shaped fried dumplings and wonton. The dumplings turned out incredibly well but the wonton not so well. They tasted great but looked a bit of a monstrosity!

I was surprised how easy it was to make – simply mix all of the filling in a bowl, fill the dumplings and then fry! I’d highly recommend attempting Dim Sum at home if you never have before. It’s incredibly rewarding and totally delicious.


25g dumpling wrappers
200g minced pork
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 clove crushed garlic
2 small shallots, chopped
2 tbp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
8 shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
Two handfuls of chinese cabbage
2 tbsp groundnut oil
100ml water


1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl
2. Fill the dumpling wrappers, fold and seal by pinching together
3. Heat a large non stick pan and when really hot add the groundnut oil
4. Add the dumplings to the pan and fry for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned
5. Add the water and seal the pan with a lid. Let the water gently simmer for 10 – 12 minutes

Serve with various dipping sauces. We had sweet chilli sauce, home-made damson sauce, oyster sauce and soy sauce with coriander and chilli.

My failed attempt at wonton:

Hong Kong – Live in London. Monday 12th – Sunday 18th September

11 Sep

On your marks, get set, GO! Although our experience of the Hong Kong tourism board treasure hunt was not competitive, our fitness levels were sure put to the test as we scurried, Anneka Rice style, around Central London on Thursday evening. It was a good job we put trainers on that morning!

So, why did the Hong Kong tourism board have us running around London, gathering clues to inform our next move, with a quick pit stop to sample some delicious Cantonese fusion canapés courtesy of a two-Michelin starred chef before ending up in Aqua, one of London’s chicest bars to sip two of their latest Asian inspired cocktails on a grand terrace overlooking London’s unmistakable skyline? To showcase a few of the many cultural connections between our great city and Asia’s world city and to give us a preview of the week long street festival, Hong Kong – Live in London, taking place in Central London this week.

Hong Kong – Live in London will run on South Molton Street from Monday 12th – Sunday 18th September and will feature a glut of themed entertainment, including Chinese acrobatics, face changing, live music and dancing, not to mention five specially commissioned interactive dragons, each armed with an iPad to educate visitors about Hong Kong’s vibrant culture. The Dragons will introduce visitors to the many fascinating aspects of Hong Kong’s diverse culture – cosmopolitan, fusion, variety, vibrancy and trends. But why a dragon? Next year in Hong Kong is the year of the dragon, an ancient mythical creature that symbolises power, strength, and good luck. The Dragon is an integral part of everyday life and symbolic of the energy and spirit of Hong Kong. So don’t miss your chance to catch daily entertainment on South Molton Street at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm and don’t miss the opening ceremony and dragon dance, which kicks off at 5pm on Monday 12th September.

But hold on, perhaps even more exciting is YOUR chance to win one of seven holidays for two to Hong Kong and experience this lively city first hand! The holiday includes two economy flights on Cathay Pacific Airways, four nights hotel accommodation and a meal for two at two-Michelin Starred Ming Court at the Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok. There are also seven chances to win £400 vouchers for Bosideng, South Molton Street’s newest menswear store due to open in July 2012 and a meal for two with a bottle of wine at Mews of Mafair! The competition runs daily through the duration of the festival so head to South Molton Street before 6pm each day and enter your name into the hat. Wow… It’s as simple as that!!! And if shopping is your thing, special offers and free gifts are to be had at participating stores on South Molton Street. Shops taking part include Ted Baker, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Lush Cosmetics and more. See full details here.

I also urge you to visit the Hong Kong Film Festival from Tuesday 13th – Friday 16th September at Prince Charles Theatre, Leicester Square, London. For more information and tickets, visit

Now back to my evening of discovery (Hong Kong style)… After receiving a single pink rose, a stylish pen and being encased in heady aromas of ginger flower upon entering the Langham Hotel in London, we shot off in taxis to The Dorchester. On entering we marched quickly through The Promenade to China Tang where we rather mysteriously entered the plush toilet cubicles as a group and listened to a poem that triggered off our next move playing out from the speakers above us. It was destination South Molton Street so we jumped in another cab but soon aborted and continued on foot as rush hour traffic got the better of us. We swerved the mass throng of eager fashionistas attending the annual Vogue’s fashion night out and snaked past discerning drinkers to arrive in the chefs dining room at Mews of Mafair. Surrounded by original wooden beams and a wall smothered in antique maps, we entered to find Chef Tsang Chiu King, Executive Chef of two-Michelin starred restaurant, Ming Court at the Langham Place Hotel in Hong Kong waiting for us, standing alongside Executive Chef of Mews of Mafair, Alan Marchetti.

Chef Tsang Chiu King has flown over to London especially for Hong Kong – Live in London and will be taking part in a culinary collaboration with Italian chef Marchetti in the kitchen at Mews of Mafair for two whole weeks from Monday 12th – Sunday 25th September. But it’s not just his kitchen paraphernalia that he has brought over, he’s also brought his extensive Cantonese fusion recipes with him and the kitchen at Mews of Mafair will be working hard to recreate Chef Tsang’s dishes and will be giving diners their own little piece of Hong Kong to remember. Expect dishes such as crispy sole fillet, sealed with Yuzu honey & juicy pineapple, home made black sesame shrimp toast, pan seared chicken and chestnuts coated in bold black truffles, buttery plump pumpkin and caramelised pork lion, braised in Merlot, sprinkled in black peppercorns. We all know that the sweet stuff is important to me and I’m excited to see that Tsang will be serving a green tea and lime tart with lychee ice cream and poached plums with vanilla rice pudding for dessert! The specially created limited edition menu will cost £19 for 2 courses and £24 for 3 courses. So if you don’t manage to get down the South Molton Street next week, you have an extra week to try to Michelin style Cantonese fusion dishes at Mews of Mafair!

And of course we were lucky enough to have a tester on Thursday. After watching Chef Tsang cook his signature dish of pan seared chicken and chestnuts coated in bold black truffles, we each slid the silver spoon into our mouths and waited. We waited for an explosion of flavours to hit us. And it did. The softness and sweetness of the steamed pumpkin with the saltiness of the chicken patty and unmistakable aroma of black truffle sauce had us all wanting more. I nodded my head in approval at Chef Tsang and a wide smile emerged across his face. He had certainly delivered the goods. Chef Tsang (via his capable interpreter) explained his ‘East meets West’ cooking style and inspiration– an example of this was the truffle and pumpkin used in his signature dish. Both ingredients are somewhat uncommon in Cantonese cooking but the combination certainly works.

Then came the crispy sole fillet, sealed with Yuzu honey & juicy pineapple. The sweet honey sauce matched perfectly with the tender white fish and the pineapple (I thought) was a nice touch. We were also given a glass of Mudhouse Sauvignon Blanc, which is a recommended pairing. All dishes that will be served at Mews of Mafair from Monday 12th – Sunday 25th September will have a suggested wine pairing, yet another nod to Tsang’s East meets West philosophy.

After scraping the sticky honey off my front teeth, I turned around to see a tray of delicious looking homemade black sesame shrimp toast. I’ve always been a sucker for prawn toast and I couldn’t wait to stick my honey clad teeth into it. My mouth is watering just remembering the crisp yet indulgently oily toast, accompanied by a butterflied prawn with the fantastic black sesame topping. It was so good, I snuck another one after everyone had taken one off the tray. Tsang worked his magic and as we ran out of the restaurant, I was planning my trip back next week.

In fact, the whole evening really opened my eyes to Cantonese cuisine and culture, and if my experience was anything to go by then vistors to Hong Kong – Live in London will not be disappointed. I can’t begin to count the amount of times my dad visited Hong Kong on business when I was a child. I had (and still do) a passion for stationary and the bags and bags of quirky, colourful goodies that were given to me as presents upon his return kept me quietly occupied for months. Not to mention the empty suitcases that he filled and brought back with clothes that had my brother’s friends extremely envious. I’ll never forget his stories of Hong Kong reaching all of your senses in one go because as soon as he walked out of his hotel, the sight, sounds and smells hit him immediately. Then the stories of how people trade – seeing people carrying wheelbarrows full of jewellery, clothes and trinkets and selling to the passers by.

It seems there is a common misconception that Hong Kong is predominantly visited as a business destination and is something of a gateway between the UK and other areas of Far East and Australasia. But just from the brief insight that I had on Thursday, it is obvious that Hong Kong offers so much more as a holiday destination in its own right. I’d love to experience this vibrant city and see it for myself!

As a result of Thursday’s excitement, I felt inspired to try something that I have NEVER attempted before… cooking Cantonese style. I asked Chef Tsang what the five most important ingredients in Cantonese cooking are. His answer was salt, sugar, soy sauce, vegetable oil and a wok. So the next day we set off to Hoo Hing, a Chinese supermarket not too far from our house to buy a trolley full of ingredients that I had mostly never cooked with before. The result was a delicious combination of duck breast with home made damson sauce, bok choi and shiitake mushroom. See the recipe here. Ok, so it’s not quite on the scale of Chef Tsang’s delicacies but considering that this was our first venture into Cantonese cooking, we both devoured it and vowed to experiment further within the realms of Cantonese cuisine. We also picked up ingredients for pork dumplings, which will be on the menu Tuesday evening!

Hong Kong – Live in London takes place on South Molton Street on Monday 12th – Sunday 18th September and features live entertainment daily at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm.

Hong Kong – Live in London will no doubt get busier towards the end of the week so get down there early in the week to be in with a chance of winning that fantastic trip for two to Hong Kong!

Pan fried duck with damson sauce, bok choi and shiitake mushrooms

11 Sep

This dish was inspired by my recent London treasure hunt, where I was given an insight into the fascinating culture of Hong Kong. Read more about my experiences here.


2 duck breasts
1 star anise
3 sprigs of rosemary
25 butter
10 shiitake mushrooms
1/2 red chilli, cut into rings (keep seeds in)
200g bok choi
A few drops of fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp groundnut oil
3 cloves garlic
120g white rice
Sea salt and pepper to season

For the damson sauce

3 cm ginger, grated
1 red chilli, seeds removed and diced
225g damsons, stoned and halved
75g light muscovado sugar
15ml balsamic vinegar


For the damson sauce

1. Stone the damsons and place into a pan, along with the balsamic vinegar, chilli and ginger. Cover with the sugar and plase on a medium heat. Let the sugar dissolve and leave to bubble for 5 minutes or until the damsons are soft
2. Blend the damson mixture until smooth and the pass through a sieve to get rid of all of the pulp

For the duck

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees
2. Score the skin of the duck and rub with salt and pepper
3. place into a pan on a medium heat and fry for 6-7 minutes. Add the butter, star anise and thyme and baste
4. Place into a the oven and cook for 6 minutes (pink) and 10 minutes (well done)

For the bok choi and shiitake mushroom

1. Heat the oil in a wok for 30 seconds. Add bok choi for two minutes until the leaves are slightly wilted
2. Add mushrooms and fry for a further two minutes
3. Add chilli and garlic and fry for a further minute
4. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce at the end just before serving

Plate up and enjoy the delightful flavours of Cantonese cuisine!

Homemade pizza – in a pizza oven

5 Sep

I adore going to my boyfriends parents house for the weekend. They live not too far from the coast and have the most amazing house – complete with a pizza oven and a large veg patch in the garden.

Despite the fact that the pizza oven has been sat in the garden for a good couple of years, we had never used it – until a couple of weekends ago when I was determined to make the most of the bank holiday weekend (and the last of the summer days).

For the toppings, we rummaged around in the veg patch and used home grown basil, potatoes, courgette – and used the eggs laid by the chickens that run free range around the garden!

I also used a pack of the BEST iberico ham that I carved by hand at the Brindisa ham school a couple of weeks ago as a delicious topping.

Here’s a recipe for dough and a basic tomato sauce – you can use whatever toppings you like. I usually prefer to keep it pretty simple but each one of us had a go at creating our own pizza and I have to say that they were all utterly delicious!


650g strong white bread flour
7g sachet of easy-blend yeast
3 tsp salt
25ml olive oil
50ml milk
320ml warm water


1. Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large mixing bowl and stir in the olive oil and milk. Add the water gradually and mix well
2. Knead for about five minutes either on a surface, or by using a dough hook on a mixer
3. Leave to rise in a bowl covered with a damp tea towel for roughly 1 1/2 hours, or until it has doubled in size
4. When the dough has doubled in size, knock it back and knead again until smooth. Place back in the bowl but don’t cover with a tea towel this time and leave in the bowl for another hour to rise again

Tomato sauce


5 tins chopped tomatoes
4 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper
Olive oil


1. Fry the garlic in a large glug of olive oil for 1 minute
2. Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves and salt and pepper and leave to simmer for an hour, or until very reduced and the cherry tomatoes have gone very soft

Cook the pizza how you want – but make sure to leave it in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt and the base to crisp.


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