Monthly Archives: January 2010

>My rambling walks through Chinatown Soho last week…

>Some places take you back in time and Chinatown hurries me to the year that I came to London in my Renault 5 with a suitcase full of books and an empty address book! Wong Kei, the ex-barber shop turned fast-chinese-food was the eaterie of choice and London’s cooking was first brought to my taste-buds through a rush of exotic flavours and slightly louche drinking habits… Or rather, the habit of not eating and just drinking!

But I always preferred eating with drinks rather than the other way round and now I go to Chinatown to get bags-full of extraordinary and delicious ingredients. I have been experimenting with exotic soups lately and will soon post my best findings.
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>My homemade bread

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RECIPE FOR THE BAKERS BREAD

500gr of strong flour

15gr of baker’s yeast or 1 packet of dry yeast

350ml of water with a pinch of salt

Pour the flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and put in the yeast diluted in a cup of warm water.

Pour the lukewarm water slowly in while mixing with a wooden spoon. Mix well to get a soft but not sticky ball of dough.

Knead the dough on a worktop by rolling it on itself with some tempo! Add flour if it sticks. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with cling-film or a wet cloth. Leave to rise for one hour in a warm place, or just leave it out for the night.

Knead again for as long as you enjoy it! Let it rise for another half hour, this time snugly fitted into a greased cake tin or a lined baking tray. When it has risen nicely, you can decorate by slashing the surface with scissors or powdering with extra flour. Meanwhile, start the oven at its highest temperature.

Put to bake in a very hot oven for half hour, on the bottom shelf. It is ready when the crust is a deep golden and solid to the touch.

Yesterday evening, I made this into small balls of dough and rolled them in various seeds :linseeds, sesame or oats taste nice- Or you can stuff them with raisins or nuts for breakfast.

>Taramosalata: Another dip for tomorrow’s homemade bread!

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Ingredients list:

Smoked cod roe 1 whole or about 200g

1 large lemon

Salt and pepper

Ground breadcrumbs 2 tbsp

Full milk 4 tbsp

Garlic clove 1

Olive oil 1 small glass

Pinch of cumin to serve

Mix the milk and breadcrumbs. Take the fish eggs out of the packaging then if necessary peel the thick darker skin and scrape it with a sharp knife. Put all the ingredients in a blender and slowly add the oil. If the mixture is too liquid, add some breadcrumbs. If it is too liquid, add lemon juice or milk, according to flavour. Mix in a bit of pepper and cumin.

Dust with cumin and serve with toast or pitta bread.

I get my smoked cod roe from Waitrose supermarket: it is sold in a plastic vacuum-sealed pocket in the cold store. You can use fresh cod roe and steam it before use, as I have done before, but you then miss a lot of the nice smoky flavour that you get in the Taramosalata they serve in the sea-side tavernas of Greece… This is so easy and delicious that you will never buy the processed version again!

>Tapenade

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Feeling lazy on saturday night so here is a quick recipe to have a fun, tasty meal in minutes! And I’ll have more time for that Articulate game I’ve been promising to the children for two days… Now give me : a round fruit with stone that you can get in several different colours… Ah! and they grow in Nina’s garden!

Black olives (stoned) 500g

1 small glass of olive oil

2 garlic cloves

Tuna in brine- 1 small tin

4 to 5 anchovies in oil

Capers 2 tbsp

Thyme and origan

Put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz to a rough paste. If the mix is too dry, simply add a drop of olive oil. Serve on small slices of toasted baguette.

I also love serving this on a heap of wholemeal spaghetti for a healthy and tasty quick-meal. You can add some bite to the pasta by chopping half a seeded chilli on top.

>Bourride de baudroie

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Bouillabaisse comes from Marseille but this fish soup is rooted somewhere between Arles and Sète, the beautiful fishing port where Paul Valéry asked to be buried in the most heavenly cemetery on earth : “the marine cemetery”.

A sun-baked location on the sloppy hills that overlooks the sea below, it is inhabited by slender cypresses and seagulls.

Here I break my resolution to only post recipes that take under half an hour to produce! But this soup is so rich in flavours and images, so laden with the finest from the sea and the freshest from the fields, that it would be a great shame to leave it out when I’ve just made it. It is in fact very unfussy and almost impossible too mess up… All you need is a great fishmonger and you’re off!

Ingredients list:
Baking potatoes 2
Leek 1
Carrott 1
1 garlic clove
zest of one orange
Fennel bulb 1
Bay leaves 3
Fresh thyme 1 small bunch
Parsley 1 small bunch
Fish stock 1 1/2 litres
White wine 500ml
Monk fish tail (1 large one)
Small white fish such as brim or whiting 2 whole
A few fresh prawns (if you can)
For the aïoli:
6 fresh garlic cloves
Egg yolks 2
olive oil 25cl
Salt and pepper
Mustard
First fry your small fish (whole but gutted) in a cast-iron pan with the herbs and seasoning. When it is nice and brown, add some water. You need to cover the fish and let it simmer a bit. If the broth is too bland, add a Maggi cube to strengthen it up.
Leave to rest while you prepare your main pot: Slice the fennel, chop the leek, the carrot and potatoes. Add to it the garlic, finely grated, bay leaves, and wine. Put on a medium heat and add the monkfish when it is bubbling.
Strain your pan with the small fish into a sieve, then with a fork take out all the flesh and the prawns if you use them. Put the juice and the flesh into a blender and blitz away. Add seasoning to taste: it must be full of flavours and rich enough to stand up to the Aïoli- that’s next!
Pour into the pot and cover. Leave the soup to simmer but not reduce to much.
For the Aïoli, I use the upside-down attachment that came with my blender and is supposedly dedicated to coffee or spices: that way, I find I seem to always get it to “gel” – though I always do cross my fingers! This is almost a mayonnaise but full of the smoothness of garlic so – unlike mayonnaise- I find it pretty easy to get right!
Put a little mustard in the blender to start it up, then the garlic and salt. Pour the olive oil very slowly and steadily. The mix needs to start becoming creamy and smooth straight away, then you build it up slowly with the oil, until you get the right quantity. It is pungent and raw!
Keep aside in a bowl and serve with the soup and thick slices of toasted bread to spread on…