Sunday, 28 June 2009


Many of us look at cauliflower as a big ole, giant, over sized head of food that we use a bit in salads or boil for veg, but usually watch turn brown in the refrigerator or on the counter.  It’s shocking how easy it is to turn a whole head of cauliflower into an elegant quick side dish that will wow your taste buds.  So below are two very easy and quick recipes to expand your repertoire of ways to use this sadly sterile head of “flowerless” but tasty flowers!!!



1 head cauliflower

Splash of olive oil

Pinch of salt


1.  Wash and trim the head of cauliflower. 

2.  Cut into 6-8 large segments and toss in a bowl with a bit of olive oil and salt.

3.  Place in a preheated oven (200 C or 395 F) in a roasting pan & cook till browned (20-30 minutes).

4.  If still not fully cooked, cover with tin foil and cook in oven a further 10-15 minutes. 


Try adding 2 T garam masala or fennel seeds to mixture to add some other depth of flavour.  Or if feeling like a sinful treat, why not sprinkle some mature cheddar or Parmesan over the cauliflower after cooking and putting it under the broiler/grill.





1 Head cauliflower

1 onion, fine diced

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 to 1 cup milk (more or less can be used depending on consistency desired)

1T EVOO or butter



1.  Wash and trim the head of cauliflower

2.  Cut into small bite size segments (smaller the pieces, the faster it cooks)

3.  Place cauliflower, onion, and garlic in small pot, adding just enough boiling water to cover and medium high heat cook roughly ten minutes or  till soft (adding a touch more water if necessary).

  1. Drain vegetables, return to pot, and off heat, add ½ of warm milk and quickly puree with stick blender or in a food processor (with all starchy puree’s, if you puree to long you will start making a very glue like substance that you will not enjoy).

  1. Add a bit more milk if a smoother or thinner puree is desired.  Be careful as you could quickly end up with  a thin cream of cauliflower soup.

6.  Remove excess food bits from equipment, and finish puree by folding in butter or olive oil, and seasoning with salt and pepper.



Last week I added a Tablespoon of harissa (north African hot pepper paste) to the onions and garlic and cooked this down before adding the cauliflower and water for a bit of spice and then served it with a fennel-crusted pork tenderloin and roast asparagus. To make the pork and asparagus do as follows: 

1.  Roll the pork in toasted crushed fennel seeds and salt.

2.  Brown the pork on the stove top  and then toss it in oven with asparagus spears drizzled of EVOO and salt. 

3.  After 15 minutes, brush pork with a couple spoons of Dijon mustard and finish cooking.

4.     Cover pork and let rest out of the oven for  5 minutes and then slice thickly on a bias and serve with your cauliflower puree or roast cauliflower (or both), and roast asparagus.



Friday, 26 June 2009

FAVA -rite BROAD beans with BUTTER and LIMA

I finally think I have it figured out. With moving across the pond I seem to have lost a few beans in translation... Broad beans and fava beans are actually the same thing. Butter beans and lima beans are the same bean as well. Still working on the different terms for kidney, black, navy, and others!!!
We are getting broad beans in our weekly vegetable box, and I use them in all kinds of way. When small I chop them up, shell and all, and sauté with a touch of olive oil and garlic. When older/bigger I have shelled them and tossed them in a simple ratatouille. But after a little research I realize these are also my ole favourite beans that I always knew as a bean of another name, namely...fava beans.
In my restaurants, I occasionally went through the pain of dealing with fava em, blanche em, skin em and then cook em. What was 1 large box ends up as two pints of beans, beautiful, velvety and tasty, but only two pints...I had a whole bushel in the shell a half hour ago??? So I developed a love hate relationship with one of the most complex and wonderfully tasting beans in the field. Today I did my old standby and shelled, blanched, skinned, etc...and made a wonderful easy dish in honour of my bean confusion.

  1. PREP
    Fresh broad/fava beans in shell (at least enough to fill a reusable shopping bag 2/3 full at the farmers market...)
    1 glass wine ( or a nice glass of cool mint tea)
    2 cloves garlic, smashed
    1 shallot, super fine dice ( or sub leek or onion) water
    juice of 1 lime
    butter to taste ( or sub evoo)
    fresh mint


1. Ready a small pot of boiling water.
2. Shell all beans and then place them all in boiling water for 1 minute.
3. After 1 minute, drain beans and strain into cold water to stop cooking.
4. Squeeze beans out of tough outer skins and save beans.
Okay...its amazing how little actual beans you now have left (I told you to buy a lot)! You will be rewarded in the wonderful flavour of this puree or you may decide the other options I give in the “more dishes to wash” section are less time consuming and more up your alley.
6. Did I mention you might want to drink a nice glass of wine
( or cool mint tea) while doing this easy but slightly time-consuming prep work for the dish???
7. Heat a small sauce pan on medium high heat
8. Sweat garlic and shallot in oil till soft and translucent.
9. Add beans and just enough water to cover them, to pan and cook till soft, 5-10 minutes
(depending on how long they were blanched, how big they are, etc)
10. Add water as necessary to keep beans from drying out. When beans are soft and liquid is fully absorbed add juice of lime and smash this mixture with potato masher or stick blender.
11. Add butter to finished product and season with salt and pepper and freshly chopped mint ( or any other fresh, tasty herbs you have in the garden).

Serve this as a nice side to grilled lamb chops, as a nice change under some grilled chorizo sausages, a healthy puree to go with roast chicken, or use it as a fresh seasonal stand in for refried beans next time you are making blackened fish tacos...


Use the blanched beans tossed in a vegetable salad of arrugula, radish and manchego cheese tossed with a simple citrus and olive oil dressing.

Cook dried fava beans till soft, mash em up good with olive oil, garlic and lemon and serve with roasted shallots, a little bit of tomato parsley salad, toasted pita and poached egg for a modern take on Ful, a staple food of old Cairo.

Sauté simply with garlic and onion, add a dollop of olive oil and serve over pasta with Parmesan, lemon zest and fresh herbs.

Whatever way you decide to use them...use them up because they only are available a couple months a year (roughly early June to late July) so when they are gone, they are gone and you can spend the next ten months forgetting how much time you spent getting them ready and simply remember their vibrant fresh silky flavour!!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


As promised, albeit late (please blame the telephone company bureaucracy for my 4th week of living without a phone line...I could write a blog about what I think happened at the Boston tea party and let me tell you, it was not a tax was waiting for a cup of tea most likely and the bureaucracy associated with all shipments...whether tea or a phone line!!!)  But anyways, I have found the time and energy to write about the only meal I eat every week without fail, and today was actually the first time I ever made it!!! 

            My partner, Lauren, studies Adolescence among Bangladeshi and British Youth (The Abby Project) and due to this topic of study, she has spent time in Sylhet, Bangladesh and with many Bangladeshi migrants in East London.  This is what makes me very lucky.  I eat perfectly cooked, wonderfully healthy, absolutely flavour packed dahl (lentils) each and every week.  We usually make the dahl along with brown basmati rice (sometimes we sub in millet or quinoa), some raita, a quick cabbage and cumin sauté and some spicy chutnies.  Today, I finally got Lauren to dictate the recipe to me so I could try it out and give you all this incredibly tasty and healthy treat!!!

            The recipe makes enough for about 6-8 main course servings, so make the whole amount, and use the leftovers for a nice soup!!!  One very different technique that most people are not used to is that of tempering.  Tempering is the process where in we heat flavour elements (in this case cumin seeds, onion, garlic and ginger) in oil just before serving, and add the main ingredient (in this case lentils) to the sizzling pan. 


2 cups red lentils, rinsed thoroughly till water runs clear

5 cups fresh water (not water from rinsing lentils)

1 onion, fine dice

6 cloves garlic, fine dice

2 T fresh ginger, fine dice

2t turmeric

1t salt

2t garam masala

1t cumin powder

2 hot chile peppers, sliced in half (seeds removed if desired)

1T cumin seeds, whole

1 T vegetable oil

Fresh coriander (cilantro)


Lime wedges



  1. On stove top bring lentils and fresh water to a boil in an uncovered large saucepan.
  2. As it heats, skim off any foam that forms on the top of lentils.
  3. Just before lentils are boiling, add ½ the onion, 1/3 of the ginger, 1/3 of the garlic, and all the dried spice powders (not the cumin seeds) to the pot and let cook at a high simmer till lentils are just “al dente” (like pasta, we don’t want the lentils to be mushy, but simply cooked with the slightest give to the middle).
  4. Add the chili pepper to the lentils and let rest, in the pan uncovered, off the heat.
  5. Now you can cool these lentils and we will fast forward to the moment you want to eat your lentils...
  6. To temper ½ of your cooked lentils, you will need to heat a large sauté pan on your stove top over medium high heat.
  7. Add 1 T vegetable oil to pan and then heat 1T cumin seeds in the hot oil.
  8. Add the rest of your onion, garlic, and ginger to the hot pan and over a medium heat, cook the tempering mixture till caramelized (sweet and brown).
  9. IN one pour, add the quantity of lentils you desire to eat (in this case ½ the recipe) and stir. 
  10. Any excess liquid will quickly reduce and the flavours will incorporate.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro
  12. Taste the lentils, adjust salt if necessary and serve with lime wedges.



This dish will give you a healthy, cheap and flavour packed couple of meals. With your leftover you can easily make a hearty soup with any scraps of vegetables, the lentils and a bit of spiced water or vegetable stock.


For another way to cook your lentils, use the risotto recipe on last weeks blog, but sub the lentils for the rice and you will have a healthy, and hearty side dish that can then be turned into a nice cold salad as well for lunch!!!


Try making a simple chutney of one part dates, two part red onions, one part sugar, one part water, the zest and juice of a lime, 1 t black onion seeds and 6 chopped dried chiles...simmer this till thickened and adjust seasoning and be prepared for some serious heat!!!


And if you make the chutney you will most likely need the raita:  1 cup yogurt mixed with chopped cucumber, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and sometimes I add some cumin and lime zest...a cooling burst of flavour to mellow the mouth after hot chutneys!!!


SO try the lentils, enjoy the flavours and have a great meal with family and friends!!!

Thursday, 18 June 2009



            Okay, first of all, none of us want to see the word rats in the title of a food blog.  But the truth is, these creatures exist, and I am now witnessing that some are very picky eaters.  This past Sunday we planted our nice little patio with flower baskets, some palm like trees, and of course lots of herbs (coriander/cilantro, basil, lavender, chive, and mint) and salad green seeds (rocket/arrugula, spinach, and red leaf).  Seemed like a great idea.

            Living in East London is wonderful, we are near canals, parks, organic markets, Brick Lane, all that we desired for cultural enjoyment and of course we are in the heart of the area of study for my partner’s medical anthropology PhD fieldwork project titled ABBY (Adolescence among Bangladeshi and British Youth).  I wake up each morning, and look out over our street and shockingly; the sun has been shining down upon us each and every day.  But back to the garden.

            We planted the garden on Sunday and when I woke up to head to west London to teach one of the community food courses that I am a instructor for, I found quite a shock.  I was drinking my tea on the terrace amidst our new garden...and the flowers were beautiful, the plants were shady, the basil, lavender, mint and chives were looking great...but my coriander...where had it gone. 

            All that was left of our coriander was a few unnibbled stalks...every leaf and green shoot had vanished!!!  I was absolutely shocked...was it mice, moles, ants, slugs, or rats..???  I was not sure...but I knew that something had to be done...we love our coriander...mixed into our cucumber yogurt raita( 1 cup yogurt, ¼ cucumber, chopped coriander, lime zest, ½ lime juice, cumin, grind of pepper, pinch salt...all mixed together and let to set in refrigerator...and the perfect foil for spicy curries!!!), tossed in our Bangladeshi dahl ( Check this weekends blog, I promise!!!) just before serving, in our salsa ( 2 tomato, 1 garlic clove, ½ red onion, ½ jalapeno, lime juice, chopped coriander, salt, peppe...all chopped and a quick stir), truly a staple for us.

            I also noted that during the hard rain of the night all our row of seedling pots of  salad greens had fallen, what a rain.  I decided I needed to head to work, I got on the tube, then to the train, and waited for my ride.  Outside the station at a garden centre I spoke with an attendant who assured me it was most likely ants that ate the herbs.

            At work, I spoke with my co workers who listened to my coriander story and relayed similar issues in their gardens and how they had combated slugs,  with a variety of remedies ( salt, Vaseline, natural pellets, etc.)  I thought about all these things as I returned from work and  as my partner was making rice, dahl (lentils), and cabbage  for our dinner. When she asked me to run to the store for coriander, I decided, then and there...I would solve the coriander quandry.

            After a wonderful meal of rice, dahl,cabbage and  coriander-cucumber raita  we  relaxed and eventually went to sleep.  We spoke of waking up in the middle of the night to see the ants or slugs in action and I had the evil though of using more than my individual nutritional portion of salt upon them!!! 

            At midnight, I crept out of bed, walked over to the window where the herbs were visible, and waited...and what did I see., not a slug or an army of ants but a gigantic east London rat, staring at my/his coriander stems!!!  He was as shocked as I, and scurried away, once again knocking over salad green seed holders, and I guess he, like I was a bit upset to be forced to go elsewhere for his coriander!!!

            So sorry for the delay, I hope you enjoyed yesterdays quick pickle bit, and the present ramble. I will give you Laurens amazing Bangladeshi Dhal recipe for your weekend enjoyment (serve with a nice spicy quick pickle that you can find in the previous days blog, basmati rice, and the simple raita we described above.)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Pickles are one of those items we all have eaten at some time or other.  Sometimes we get them at a restaurant as a garnish, sometimes we just crave them, but who makes them?  I love to!  Not long term type pickles (I don’t have the space or the patience today), but quick pickled items...Like what you may say?  Well what about pickled samphirre with your mackerel, pickled shallots  to serve with a block of warmed feta cheese as an appetizer, pickled eggplant and  cumin sealed with EVOO for your grilled lamb kabobs, pickled red onion with black onion seeds to serve over some nice salmon and fennel puree...the list goes on and on...and these are all basically the same idea...the same quick pickle...



PICKLED FENNEL ( or sub red onion)


2 fennel bulbs thinly sliced ( toss out core but save long dark green stalks for stock and use frond ends as a garnish for pickle or other dishes...) (or any other veg you fancy...or a mix...adjust sizes of cuts as well...the bigger the chunk the longer it takes to infuse the flavour.  If trying to use whole items like green beans, you make want to blanche them is boiling water for 30 seconds to aid the process)

2 T fennel seeds (or any other spice you fancy)

1 cup white  wine vinegar (again you choose the vinegar)

½ cup water (you can omit water and add more vinegar for stronger flavour)

¼ cup sugar (try with different sugars, honey, etc.)

 2 T salt


  1. In a mixing bowl place fennel and toss with 2 T salt. This helps to pull excess water from the inside of  the vegetable (Don’t worry, we will clean off the salt in 10 minutes!!!)
  2. In a sauce pan heat up vinegar, seeds, sugar and water till sugar dissolves (place bitter or less edible  spices like peppercorns in a disposable paper tea bag holder to add more flavour as well)
  3. After ten minutes take fennel  and immerse them in bowl of water. Empty first mixing bowl, fill with clean water and now place fennel back in this bowl.  Perform this transfer one more time, or until most of salty taste has left the fennel.
  4. In a clean, dry storage container, add fennel and pour vinegar mixture over the onions.
  5. Mix fennel and make sure they are submerged in the liquid.  Place closed container in refrigerator and eat in a few hours or days



The idea is that the quick pickle can be made in advance and you can keep a variety of them for a long time in your cooler.  This gives you a variety of condiments for your impromptu guests, midnight snacks, or last minute funky garnish...

Try pickled asparagus spears or green beans with your Bloody Mary

Make the best Gibson martini ever with home pickled ramps or baby onions

A simple thin sliced cucumber, radish, and carrot pickle using rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds for your next sushi night...

Cabbage, carrot, radish, and garlic with cumin seeds with your tacos and margaritas

OR for the hardcore...pickled jalapeno slices with toasted fennel and shallots in balsamic vinegar and a few cold beers to chase them with!!!

So many combinations...all you need is some veg, some vinegar, some sugar and some salt...enjoy!!!!

Monday, 15 June 2009


I often here people speak of risotto, as if it was equivalent to crossing the Sahara or climbing Mt Everest.... the pain, the trouble, the time.  Bollocks...its simple, its elegant, its what I love to make at all times of the year with all kinds of ingredients...Lovely red risotto with beets and green garlic, roast tomato and grilled corn risotto...lets not forget bacon and ricotta risotto for those who don’t find the amazingly rich mushroom risotto fatty enough. Below I have a simple recipe for risotto with a quick trick to allow you to make risotto in advance (yes its possible, no its not a sin, and yes it will be perfect!!!)


2 cups Arborio rice

2 T vegetable oil

1 large leek (white and yellow only, save green for stock) or 1 large onion, finely diced           

4 cloves garlic, fine dice

1pound mushrooms, stems and caps separated and chopped           

4 cups fresh arrugula, washed and dried

2 cups white wine or use mushroom stock below

4 cups mushroom stock (plump some dried mushrooms in 6 cups boiling water with any vegetable scraps such as garlic, leek greens, carrot peelings, etc.after ½ hour, remove the tender mushrooms and strain the stock)

Butter or EVOO

Parmesan cheese, grated

S, P

Fresh herbs



NOTE:  Usually you can find cheap dried mushrooms at most Asian grocery stores, use them to add flavour to your favourite soups, stocks and sauces (even try grinding the dried mushrooms in your coffee grinder for a tasty garnish or seasoning).



  1. In a large sauce pan, heat to medium, and add 2 T vegetable oil.
  2. Add leek (or onion), ½ of garlic, and chopped mushroom stems.
  3. Cook over medium heat till onions are translucent (add touch of water if necessary)
  4. Add rice and toss to coat.
  5. Add white wine to pan and stir often, cooking over medium-to-medium low heat till wine has evaporated.
  6. Add 2 cups mushroom stock (or vegetable stock, or vegetable cube induced water) and again stir often and cook till stock has evaporated.
  7. Taste it cooked...if so then stop now.  Most likely it is soft on outside and hard in the middle.  If you want to use the risotto tomorrow or the next day, then stop here.  You can spread the rice out on a baking tray to cool, then set it in the refrigerator in a sealed container and continue with the next step when you want to have dinner (This is how we avoid spending an hour in the kitchen when friends are coming for dinner!!!)  But if you want to simply continue cooking then here we go...
  8. Okay, we are back to the we can add more of the mushroom stock and continue stirring being careful not to add to much stock, as we do not want soupy risotto.  I like risotto to be a touch “al dente” in other words, with a slight bite to each kernel of rice (not mushy).
  9. Once the consistency of the risotto is where you want it, then we can sauté the rest of the garlic with the mushroom caps and leftover mushrooms from the stock.  This can be done simply in a hot pan, with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  10. In the risotto pan we now want to add a splash of olive oil (or butter), a good handful of Parmesan...fold this in and then taste.
  11. Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon (to brighten flavour up if you like) or lemon zest.
  12. Now taste again...the risotto should taste rich, creamy and still have a visible texture of individual kernels of rice that seem to be stuck together simply with their own starchy goodness.
  13. The last step is to toss in the fresh arrugula, making sure to gently fold it into the rice so it wilts slightly, but does not get crushed.  This will give your risotto an extra bit of colour, peppery flavour, added vegetables and a nice crunch.
  14. Plate a nice mound of risotto, add a healthy portion of the sauté of mushrooms, a final sprinkle of Parmesan and fresh herbs...enjoy!!!!




 You can serve this risotto over oven-roasted portabellas and a side of the sauté of mushrooms.  As well you could serve the sauté of mushrooms and arrugula together under the risotto...or maybe add some pesto (see 25 MAY blog  about ramps) to the portabella caps (then roast in 200 degree C, 390 F oven for 15 minutes) and serve along side a garnish of Parmesan and pesto... 

 You are not bound to mushrooms...use the seasonal produce available...courgette and tomato risotto, grilled sweet corn and carmelized onion, roast beet and green garlic, simple parmesan risotto with a poached egg...etc.etc...and leftover risotto...make little risotto cakes stuffed with cheese and one can coat with bread crumbs and bake/fry them and serve with leftover pesto or marinara sauce!!!





Thursday, 11 June 2009


Well we finally picked up our box of organic veg and fruit and have realized quite quickly: people must not cook in London!!!  How could our regular size box of veg and bag of fruit cost so much and have the ability to last me most likely 2-3 days???  Maybe its that people use the organic as a supplement to their supermarket run???  Should we not be able to buy direct and get enough food to survive on for a week( it is a weekly veg box)...maybe i am a bit naive, or maybe I was spoiled up in Durham where the vegetables were still fresh with dirt and I had trouble finishing the box each week!!!  

Let me stop my ranting and start cooking.  Let me be happy that I have access to an organic box of vegetable and a farmers market as well.  Let me be thankful that its sunny and i have a nice old marble cafe table on our roof garden for us to have eaten  a breakfast (yogurt, fruit and nuts) upon this morning!!!!

 So as I walked to pick up my veg box last night, I let some red quinoa  steam away with white wine and leftover onion trimmings and thought about what would hopefully be in the box to make a nice meal with  the quinoa and the nice wild bass i picked up at the market I was at.

  Hmm... our veg box had cabbage, tomato's, onion, garlic, pepper, carrots, zucchini, and spring green in the 10 minutes walk back to our flat i came up with... Simmered wild bass over spring veggies and red quinoa.

1.5 pounds wild bass filet ( 2-3 pound whole fish), cut into four portions
1 T paprika
1 T turmeric
2 T vegetable oil ( I use rapeseed here in England)

1 zucchini, halved length wise and sliced thinly
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 green onion stalks, thin rounds
1 cup white wine

1.  Heat large saute pan over high heat and then add oil.
2.  Season fish liberally with s,p, turmeric and paprika.
3.  Sear fish fillets in pan ( set in pan away from you to minimize oil splatter)
4.  Shake pan as fillets are placed in it, to assure there is a layer of oil between fish and pan.
5.  Sear fish only to a golden brown on each side and remove to a plate to rest( middle should be raw.)
6.  Turn pan down to medium high and add splash of oil, and then garlic and onions.  
7.  Cook onions and garlic for one minute and then add zucchini and peppers.
8.  After vegetables start to wilt, add 1/2 cup white wine and scrape up any brown bits.
9.  Reduce heat to medium and add tomato's and green onions.  Cook for two more minutes.
10. Add rest of white wine and place fish slices on top of vegetables.
11.  Cook fish, covered for 3-5 minutes ( depending on thickness).

That's it.  Simple and nutritious.  But wait...does it have enough flavor???  Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to the finished dish, some lemon zest, maybe some chili decide...

Why not dress this dish up even more with some saffron in the simmering liquid, or use a whole fish roasted in the oven and stuff the finished product with the vegetable from the dish above. 

What to serve this with???  I would try some nice whole grains such as quinoa, millet, brown rice...or for summer serve with fried plantains and saute of garlicky kale or spinach!!!

One other around with different ways of cooking your on, bone in, whole fish, etc...dont be afraid, enjoy!!!!  AND AS USUAL...YOU GOT QUESTIONS...I GOT ANSWERS...


Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Awaiting my box of veg and internet connection

Well sometimes life does not move as fast as Ferris Bueller says.  Sometimes the vegetables grow fast and the internet connection takes months to be installed.  Such is life when we move down to East London.  We pick up our box of local organic vegetables today and look forward to eating fresh, local, and seasonal week after wonderful week.  

I have started work as a community food worker in west London teaching low income young mums and dads cooking and nutrition skills.  The focus is to help these young parents gain cooking confidence, to eat healthy, to feed their children nutritiously, and to do all this as frugally as possible.  

So as I work on recipes for the courses, i think of ideas for this blog, and will get back to posting a few times a week as i find closer internet cafe's and someday, someday soon I hope, a home internet connection!!!

Thanks everyone for emailing me with your cooking questions...feel free to keep em coming as I should be able to start checking my email more often...I am off to get my first organic London box of veg now and promise to follow up tomorrow with what we cooked for dinner with it!!!

Happy eating!!!