Friday, 16 March 2012

A Taste of Asia Dinner Party

I think it's about time my company got a plug. Last night the remit was to cater a dinner party for eight people, but with finger food. As you may gather, we don't do quiche, sandwiches, crisps or cheese and pineapple. However, with a spot of imagination we did produce some vol-au-vents and other little novelties on a stick!

Anyway, with the help and guidance from one of my associate partners, we came up with the following list of dishes.
Potato, Onion and Spinach Pakoras (India) - Crunchy on the outside, soft and spicy on the inside. Served with homemade tamarind sauce and mint chutney. A real flavour explosion
Lentil Vol-au-vents (Middle East) - Beautifully light pastry with a spicy lentil, spinach and minty yoghurt filling. Great combo of textures and not a prawn in sight.
Paneer Tikka (India) - Delicately spiced soft chewy cheese served on a cocktail stick.
Fishcakes (Thailand) - Fragrant little bundles of fun served with a homemade sweet n sour dipping sauce. The lemon grass and chili sings of Thailand.
Jeera Chicken Boats (India) - Spicy chicken on a bed of mint and yoghurt chutney served on crunchy baby gem lettuce. The cumin and yoghurt work so well together and the leaves give great texture.
Omelette wraps (Thailand) - Soft and spicy with a cheeky little bite to them.

You may think I'm blowing my own trumpet, but my mouth is actually watering writing this piece. Thankfully I made more than was necessary as very little was leftover. Time for seconds :o). If this wets your appetite and you would like to be fed by The Coconut Monkey, then check out

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cottage Pie

When I go on holiday to Thailand, Greece or Italy for example, I never seem to be there long enough to sample all of the food on offer. I'm sure that many of you have experienced that same frustration. Well, I'm actually worse than that. Even at home there just aren't enough days in the week to cook or eat everything I want. Eventually after a few months I tend to have covered most dishes, then I have a flashback and think, I haven't had that for ages. I also spend so much time experimenting with cuisines from around the globe, I often overlook the British classics.

Everybody must have a recipe for Cottage Pie, even though they probably call it Shepherd's Pie. Basically, a traditional shepherd's pie is made with lamb mince, cottage is beef. Apart from that, anything goes! I hate these dishes that when served up just seem to disintegrate on the plate into a puddle of mush. To avoid this, I strain off most of the liquid which when reduced makes a great silky sauce. Anyway apart from tasting great, it's dirt cheap, around £1.50 per head for 4 people. I cook mine on the hob, although you can also cook it in the oven for an hour after frying off the mince and veg.

Ingredients : 500g lean beef mince, chopped onion, large carrot, 2 sticks of celery, tin of chopped tomatoes, 250ml beef stock, half a tube of tomato puree, few sprigs of thyme (stalks removed), small tin of sweetcorn, 2lbs floury potatoes ie maris pipers, milk, 25g butter, tbsp horseradish, seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, tbsp olive oil.

1. Dry fry the mince in a casserole dish / pan and set aside.
2. Saute the onion, celery and carrot in the olive oil.
3. Combine the veg with the mince, tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, thyme, sweetcorn, few lugs of Worcestershire sauce and seasoning. Mix well, cover and simmer for 45 mins / place in oven GM 4.
4. Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water. You time these to be ready about 5 minutes after the meat.
5. Place a sieve over a heavy bottomed pan. Using a ladle or large spoon, gradually strain off the liquid by pressing against the sieve. Don't push too hard as you want to retain the texture of the veg. Place the filling into a pie dish.
6. Mash the potatoes or if you're a gadget freak use a ricer. Add the butter, milk, horseradish and add more seasoning to taste. Spread over the filling and make a fancy pattern. Place under a hot grill until golden.
7. Meanwhile, reduce the liquor until you get a silky smooth sauce. To make it glossy, add a knob of butter. Check the taste as you may need a dash more Worcester sauce or seasoning.

This is a dish than can be prepared hours in advance and then finished off in the oven. It also freezes well. The star of the show however is the sauce for me, the more you reduce it, the more flavoursome it becomes.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Roasted figs with cinnamon syrup and rose water yoghurt

I used to like watching Ready Steady Cook where the chefs were given 20 minutes to create a masterpiece from an unknown bag of ingredients and an endless store cupboard. However, when I went to see the programme being filmed, I realised what a charade it all was. In fact after opening the goodie bag, the chefs took about half an hour to decide what to create before the director called "Action."And then to rub Maldon salt in the wounds, the audience weren't even allowed to sample what the 'celebrity' chefs made. Hmph!

Following my trip to the Turkish store in the week, I found myself with an array of ingredients, but no actual idea of what to do with them. So I thought I'd put myself to the test and come up with a dessert. Figs are such an attractive fruit, but they never seem to taste as good as they look. Well this dish as I gladly discovered does them justice and only takes nineteen minutes and fifty nine seconds to make! For two people, the cost is around £2.00 each

Ingredients  : 6 figs, 50g caster sugar, cinnamon stick, 2 tsp rose water, 2 tsp water, handful of hazelnuts, 100g Greek yoghurt, 2 tsp icing sugar, 2 tsp runny honey

1. Heat oven to GM5 / 190c.
2. Place hazelnuts on a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes. Once done, set aside to cool and then roughly chop.
3. In the meantime, cut a cross across the top of each fig. Go half way down. Then squeeze the bottoms so that they open up as per first pic. Place in a roasting tray and bake for 15 minutes.
4. In a pan, heat the sugar, honey, cinnamon and water until you get a smooth syrup.
5. In a small bowl, add the rose water and icing sugar to the yoghurt and mix.
6. To serve, place 3 figs in the centre of a plate. Drizzle the syrup over the top. Add a dollop of the yoghurt mixture and sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Roast Chicken with sumac, za'atar and lemon

(If you're of Palestinian decent, I apologise for being so excited by a dish which is probably your equivalent of sausage and mash. For the rest of the world, if you want to try something that just tastes so different from anything else, give this one a bash) It is based upon the recipe from the amazing debut book Ottolenghi : The Cookbook

As a child, I used to love being taken into London and wandering round Hamleys, gazing at all of the toys on display. As an adult, I get the same thrill browsing aisles of food in ethnic supermarkets, farmers markets, delis etc. This week I visited one of a chain of Turkish food stores called TFC in Leytonstone in search of middle eastern delights. Like all those years ago, my eyes lit up on entering the shop, my only disappointment being that they didn't have trolleys so that I could buy everything in sight. A year ago I'd have thought that sumac and za'atar were Israel's entry into the  Eurovision
Song Contest. Today they are my new salt and pepper whilst Pomegranate Molasses has replaced salad cream!

The dish itself is very simple to prep and cook. The smells from the oven are mouthwatering and the taste is amazing. In fact the more you eat, the hungrier you become if you get my drift. As there are so many flavours going on, to serve, I just warmed up some Turkish Pide and made a sauce from Greek yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice and seasoning. In typical British fashion, the sauce is great for dipping your bread in at the end! For two people....

Ingredients : Pack of chicken thighs and drumsticks, thinly sliced red onion, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp ground allspice, 1 tsp ground cinammon, 1tbsp sumac, thinly sliced lemon, 100ml water, seasoning, 2 tbsp za'atar, 10g butter, 20g pine nuts, handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Prick the chicken which will enhance the flavour and place in a large bowl with the onion, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, water and seasoning. Mix thoroughly, cover and leave in fridge for up to 24 hours.
2. Pre heat the oven at GM6 / 200 degrees. Transfer the chicken to a roasting tray skin side up and cover with the onions and marinade. Cook for about 35 minutes.
3. Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan and add the pine nuts. Cook until golden and drain.
4. To serve, place chicken on a large plate and sprinkle with the parsley and pine nuts.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Kin - Leather Lane, London. Asian Street food brought to London

A year ago I was in Thailand treating my stomach to the finest time of its life. I loved the food, not just for the incredibly well balanced dishes, but also for their use of fresh ingredients and how healthy it all is. As Victor Kiam once said 30 years ago, "I liked it so much, I named the company after it." No matter where you travel, it's impossible to re-create that dining experience back home. The food can compare, but the sights and sounds cannot be replicated. Therefore, in search of some 'real' Asian street food, I ventured to one of my favourite parts of gastronomic London, Clerkenwell to see what Kin has to offer.

In Thai, Kin means food and I wanted to eat everything. The menu contains a range of Thai, Chinese, Indonesian and Malaysian dishes. The Victorian building has been almost stripped naked with lots of exposed beams, brickwork and floorboards, but this simple decor merely allows for the excellent food to stand out more. One element of Thai culture which can be exported from the land of smiles is friendly staff and our waitress was adorable. To start we had Bun Cha, sweet pork strips with lettuce, rice vermicelli, chilli (mandatory in everything), herbs and pickled veg. A really good dish to arouse the taste buds for what lay ahead. The Chinese inspired salt & pepper calamari was divine, the squid was so soft and seasoned perfectly.

The Chicken Pad Krapao was one of those dishes that you wished came in a bottomless bowl. The spicy stir fried minced chicken with Thai basil, chillies, onions and red peppers took me right back to Chang Mai. It just satisfied all my senses not to mention palate which was having a ball. The red veggy curry was just about the creamiest curry I've ever had. The Coconut Monkey must've been working overtime to create this dish. To cut through all this richness, we opted for the Green Papaya salad which I often put on my own menu. This was slightly disappointing as it lacked a bit of punch and needed more lime juice and garlic in it.

Including a couple of beers, the bill for two was about £35, however are currently running a 50% off deal, but I'd be happy to pay the full amount. Their website isn't yet developed, but here's a link anyway. If you can't get yourself over to south east asia, get yourself up to Clerkenwell instead.