Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Renaissance Pine Nut Soup

I bet at some point you’ve tasted a White Gazpacho or ajo blanco as they call it in Cordoba. It is thick and creamy and made much like red gazpacho, minus the tomatoes – but including bread, olive oil, vinegar and a ton of garlic, maybe egg yolks. It’s garnished with bits of apple and raisins usually. There is a riot of flavors in this soup but it can be utterly delicious. But people tell you it’s the historic ancestor of gazpacho. Well, I don’t think so exactly. Or at least I’ve never seen anything exactly like it in the past. But some things come close. Here’s one that definitely captures 16th century taste preferences: take out the garlic and vinegar, add sugar and rosewater. I know it’s SO unhip nowadays, but I think this comes much closer. And frankly, it is fabulous.

Juan Vallés Regalo de la Vida Humana pp. 623-4

Escudilla de piñonada

Take a good quantity of pine nuts which are well cleaned and white and as much of blanched almonds, and put all together in a stone mortar, moistening the pestle of the mortar with rose water or with broth so it doesn’t oil up, and then being well crushed loosen it with chicken broth and pass through a sieve, and then put it in a clean pot and add to it sugar and cook stirring always with a pestle until it thickens, remove from the fire and leave to rest a little covered with a cloth and over the plates, sprinkle sugar.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Routledge International Handbook of Food Studies


What do you know? Another book of mine just arrived. Here's what's inside:

Social sciences

1 The anthropology of food - Robert Dirks and Gina Hunter
2 The sociology of food - William Alex McIntosh
3 Food and communication - Arthur Lizie
4 Historical background of food scholarship in psychology and major
theoretical approaches in use - Kima Cargill
5 Nutritional anthropology - Janet Chrzan
6 Public health nutrition - Arlene Spark
7 The archaeology of food - Katherine M. Moore

8 Journalism - Helen Rosner and Amanda Hesser
9 The cultural history of food - Deborah Valenze
10 Culinary history - Ken Albala
11 Food and literature: an overview - Joan Fitzpatrick
12 Philosophy and food - Lisa Heldke
13 Linguistics and food studies: structural and historical connections - Anthony F.
14 Food and theology - David Grumett
15 Food and art - Travis Nygard
16 Food in film - Anne Bower and Thomas Piontek
17 Food and television - Sarah Murray

Interdisciplinary food studies
18 Food studies programs - Rachel Black
19 Food and American studies - Margot Finn
20 Folklore - Lucy M. Long
21 Food museums - Elizabeth Williams
22 Food and law - Baylen J. Linnekin and Emily Broad Leib
23 The intersection of gender and food studies - Alice McLean
24 Culinary arts and foodservice management - Vivian Liberman and Jonathan Deutsch
25 Food, cultural studies, and popular culture - Fabio Parasecoli
26 Food and race: an overview - Psyche Williams-Forson and Jessica Walker

Special topics in food studies
27 Food justice: an overview - Alison Hope Alkon
28 Food studies and animal rights - Carol Helstosky
29 Qualitative and mixed methods approaches to explore social dimensions of food and
nutrition security - Stefanie Lemke and Anne C. Bellows
30 School food - Janet Poppendieck
31 Food in tourism studies - Lucy M. Long
32 Food and the senses - Beth M. Forrest and Deirdre Murphy
33 Anticipating a new agricultural research agenda for the twenty-first century –
Frederick L. Kirschenmann
34 Food and ethics - Julia Abramson

News From The Food Urchin Supper Club

Hola Amigos

It has been very quiet on the Food Urchin Supper Club front lately. Mostly because I have been a busy man. A very, very busy man. I have been keeping this under my hat but well, you see, one of my many, many part-time jobs involves shaving legs and most recently I was the leg barber for various members of Team GB's cycling team. Yes, I was the person chiefly responsible for keeping thighs and calves silky smooth, in order to gain those extra, vital seconds. And if it wasn't for my efforts, the likes of Wiggo and Hoy would never have got those gold medals. It was a dirty job* but someone had to do it and now that the games are over, I have more time on my hands to concentrate on cooking, feeding and other epicurean adventures.

So, after some consideration and some consultation with Catalan Cooking supremo, Rachel McCormack, I have decided to press ahead with a Spanish themed wheel barrow bbq supper club which will be called "The Spanish Themed Wheel Barrow BBQ Supper Club."

Yes, essentially cooking food on a wheel barrow.

And why not.

It will be held at FU Towers in Hornchurch** on Sunday 16th September, a bit of a depart from the usual Saturdays with an earlier start of 1:30PM and the four course menu is as follows:

Flame grilled leeks*** and Romesco sauce

Monkfish Paella with Saffron

Grilled Meats with Aioli and Roasted Peppers and Aubergines

Chocolate and Apricot Tart

All for the handsome price of £25 per head, including free tap water and home baked bread.

If this has got your taste buds tingling and the ol’ mouth watering, then please contact me at foodurchin@yahoo.co.uk to book a place.

Grassy Arse.

The Furch (as those flying, cycling boys used to call me)

 Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce (which should be slightly blacker according to Rachel)

Just look at those legs, that's my handy work that is

*I wouldn't mind, I only went in for the job to get the chance of shaving Victoria Pendleton's legs but she wouldn't let me anywhere near her, nor would any of the other girls.

** Just a stone's throw from central London (well 30 mins on the c2c)

*** The leeks are a substitute for calçots, which, as you may or may not know, is an allium or onion-like vegetable popular in Spain and traditionally eaten in Spring. Very delicious and very messy after dipping in the romesco sauce, we'll supply bibs and paper towels.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Runner Bean, Apple and Shallot Salad

Runner beans
In terms of growing fruit and veg, this year has been a very tough one down at Norfolk Road. The enveloping greyness and perpetual drizzle that we have encountered for most of the summer has really taken its toll, not just on our plot but across the allotment as a whole. Yields are down, weeds are up (vine weed in particular) and the onslaught from pests and disease has been merciless. The hatred I have developed for slugs and snails is now bordering on the psychotic. Not content with leaving tiny turquoise pellets of death, scattered upon the ground, I have taken to wielding my shovel, like Sláine of 2000AD fame, muscles warping and spasming as I go into berserker mode, at the merest sight of these damn molluscs. The gleeful crunch and splatter is hardly humane but have you seen what these parasites have been doing my cabbages?

The damp and warm conditions have also given rise to the deadly occurrence of Phytophthora infestans or blight as it is more commonly known. A couple of weeks ago, when I popped down to check on the courgettes, I noticed a sign on the main trading hut that, in short, went along the lines of:


So I ran around to our plot and there before me lay a desolate wasteland of withered shoots, seemingly besmirched beyond repair. However, after dusting off my knees and wiping my eyes, I had a chat with some of the veterans. They told me that as long as we took quick action to cut and clear the offending shoots, taking them well away from the site to the local dump, then hopefully, fingers crossed, that would be enough to stop the fungus from entering and ruining our beloved spuds. So at present we are keeping a very close eye on them. Even so, in issuing words of advice, the old guys uttered them with a slow, disbelieving air, shell-shocked, staring a thousand yards off into the distance. They were obviously hit by blight too. Oh yes, baneful 2012 will go down in folklore at Norfolk Road, with sad recollections over pints in the pub, ending in “You weren’t there man, you weren’t frigging there.”

It hasn’t been total doom and gloom though, as some crops are doing quite well. Varieties of chard and spinach continue to shoot through with spirit, cavolo nero and kale remain robust and after the recent burst of sunshine, our sweet corn is looking very good indeed. And we’ve got tons and tons of runner beans. You might deadpan a cheer and unenthusiastically wave a flag at the mention of these legumes but I am becoming quite partial to them, especially when they are young and fairly small. I recently made a batch of runner bean chutney, using a recipe by the great Fnar himself, ValentineWarnerand found myself pleasantly chomping away on raw tidbits as I was chopping away. After commenting on Twitter on how surprisingly sweet they were, a young lady named Pooble Moo (not her real name, I am sure) replied, saying that runners were her one of her favourite vegetables and that she often ate them raw in salads. She expounded with further suggestions and I tried one last night. So seeing as I haven’t done a recipe post in a while, I thought I would pass this on, as it is rather good and very simple. A sort of crunchy, fresh, green coleslaw, to accompany roast chicken or to eat on its own.

One note though, if you try this with larger runner beans, a quick blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds and refreshing in ice cold water wouldn’t go amiss. And having one of those nifty bean slicers would make lighter work. I did start off by slicing neat, even juliennes of crisp bean but then I became very impatient and began chopping with furious abandon.

No finesse, that’s me.

Runner bean, Apple and Shallot Salad – serves 4

500g of young runner beans, sliced thinly (try and discard the actual pink beans within, not too fiddly really after rinsing under a tap in a colander)

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced thinly

1 banana shallot, sliced thinly

Handful of toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1tbsp of chopped parsley

50ml of extra virgin olive oil (I used Nudo)

Healthy glug of white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper


Combine the sliced runner bean, apple and shallot in bowl; add the hazelnuts and parsley combine a bit more.

Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to make a light vinaigrette and combine with all the other ingredients. It’s all about combining really.

Serve with roast chicken.

Told you it was simple.

Don't forget to combine those ingredients

Runner bean, apple and shallot salad with roast chicken and unblighted Charlotte spuds

Sunday, 19 August 2012

HOT – Turn up the heat with some chilli and spice.

Chilli and lychee martini 
Fire up with this refreshing and spicy cocktail which packs a punch in more ways than one! The ground chilli is optional to garnish, try a light sprinkle or omit it if you would rather something milder. 
Serves  2 

• 1 x 550g can lychees
• 120ml vodka
• 30ml lychee liqueur
• 6 lychees
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 small red chilli, whole split lengthways
• 1 egg white
• 1 cup ice cubes
• ground chilli, for garnish (optionl)

1. Place martini glasses in the freezer to chill. Drain lychees and set aside 120ml of the syrup.
2. Combine the vodka, lychee liqueur, lychee syrup, lychees and sugar in a cocktail shaker. Muddle well to break up the lychee and dissolve sugar.
3. Add the chilli and egg white, ice cubes and shake vigorously for 1 minute.
4. Strain into chilled martini classes and serve with a tiny dusting of chilli powder.

food dept fact: Left over lychees in the syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week or can be frozen for up to 3 months. Lychees add a delicious sweetness to contrast the chilli in curries, so add them into your dish just before serving.

Roasted peanuts with shichimi spices and roasted nori 
Our recipe for these nuts was inspired by David's recent visit to Hartsyard restaurant in Newtown. The peanuts he ate had delicious morsels of crispy duck skin. But to make things easier for you at home we have made a few changes and we are sure you’ll love them just as much as he did. Shichimi (seven flavour chilli pepper) is a blend of 7 Japanese flavours and is often served along side soups and rice dishes. We have used a ready made spice mix available at good Asian grocers that specialise in Japanese groceries. We bought this one at Tokyo Mart in Northbrige, NSW. It is a combination of ground chilli, Sichuan pepper, roasted mandarin or orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, ginger, roasted nori and hemp (or poppy) seeds.
Makes 500g

• ¼cup duck fat
• 500g raw peanuts, in the shell
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon shichimi spice mix
• 1 tablespoon salt flakes
• 1 sheet roasted nori, crumbled

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C (360˚F).
2. Place duck fat in a small sauce pan over a low heat until melted and hot.
3. Place the peanuts in a large bowl and toss through the duck fat, spread the nuts onto a large roasting pan and roast for 20–25 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and toss through the olive oil, sprinkle over the shichimi spice mix, salt and nori, toss well.
5. Cool and store in an airtight container for up 1 month.

food dept fact: Duck fat can be bought in a good deli or butcher and any leftovers can be used to make very tasty roast potatoes.


Chilli jam 
This chilli jam makes an excellent base to tom yum soup, great in stir fries, blend it with coconut milk and cook chicken or seafood, add to salad dressings. Sally loves a spoonful on top of laksa to add an extra kick.
Makes approximately 2½ cups

• 50g tamarind pulp
• ½ cup boiling water
• 1½ cups vegetable oil
• 2 large Spanish onions, finely chopped
• 1 cup (approximately 18 cloves) garlic cloves, process in a processor until finely chopped
• ¼ cup dried shrimp, pound in a mortar and pestle
• 1 cup dried red chillies (de-seed them if you would like a milder jam)
• 1 cup shaved palm sugar
• ½ cup fish sauce

1. Roughly chop the tamarind and place in a medium bowl, pour over the boiling water and allow to stand for 10 minutes or until the water has cooled enough for you to put your hands in. Knead the tamarind to remove the pulp from the seeds and fibres. Strain well, discard the seeds and fibre and set aside the pulp.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion in 2 batches,  until golden brown, using a slotted spoon lift the onions from the oil and set aside.
3. In the same oil, fry the garlic until golden in colour and ensure it is translucent and cooked through. Strain from the oil and set aside with the onion.
4. Again in the same oil fry the shrimp for around 1 minute and strain, set aside with the other fried ingredients.
5. Finally in the oil fry the chillies for approximately 15 second or until they are a dark  red colour, strain and add to the other fried ingredients. Be careful not to over cook the chillies or they will become bitter.
6. Place all of the fried ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process to form a paste.
7. Drain any remaining oil from the wok and reserve. Return the paste to the wok with the tamarind liquid, palm sugar and fish sauce. Ensure the palm sugar has dissolved and simmer for 1–2 minutes.
8. Place into sterilized jars and cover with a layer of the cooking oil, store for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

Sweet chilli ginger sauce
Sally created this recipe out of necessity whilst living overseas in Massachusetts during the late 90’s. Sweet chilli sauce was not on any supermarket shelf so this sweet chilli ginger sauce recipe was born. The ginger gives it a different twist. 
Makes approximately 2½ cups

• 200g large red chillies, whole, stalks trimmed
• 2–3 red birds eye chillies, whole, stalks trimmed (add as few or as many of these as you like depending on how hot you would like your sauce)
• 5 cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
• 8 cloves garlic, peeled
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 cups white vinegar
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce

1. Combine the 2 different types of chillies, ginger and garlic in the bowl of a small food processor and process until finely chopped.
2. Combine the sugar and vinegar in a saucepan over a low heat and stir without boiling until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger paste to the sugar syrup and simmer for 25-30 minutes until thickened. Add the fish sauce and simmer for a further 1-2 minutes. Pour into sterilized bottles and when cool store in the refrigerator for up 6 months.

food dept fact: See our Preserved lemon recipe in our Slow Post for “how to sterilize jars and bottles”. Serve as a delicious dipping sauce for your favourite yum cha or Vietnamese rolls. You can also drizzle it over chargrilled chicken or prawns, then sprinkle with coriander leaves and squeeze over fresh lime juice – YUM.

Chilli and black bean blue swimmer crabs 
Serve this finger licking crab with some rice or warm roti to soak up the delicious sauce. This recipe uses our very own delicious Chilli jam but if time doesn’t allow use a good quality one from an Asian grocer. Remember to have a crab picker on hand to crack open the crab and remove every last morsel of crabmeat.
Serves 4

• 750g ripe tomatoes
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• 8 purple shallots, finely sliced
• 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
• 5cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
• 3 small red chillies, sliced
• 1 tablespoon salted black beans, rinsed
• 4 uncooked, blue swimmer crabs
• 2 tablespoons Chilli jam
• 2 tablespoons shaved palm sugar
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• ½ cup good quality fish or crab stock
• 4 shallots, thinly sliced on the diagonal, to garnish
• 1 cup coriander sprigs, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F). Place the tomatoes on an oven tray and prick the skins. Roast for 20 minutes until the skins blister. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, peel the skins and roughly chop, set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat and sauté the shallots, garlic, ginger, chillies and black beans until shallots are transparent. Remove from the heat and set aside the wok.
3. To prepare the crabs, rinse them under cold water. Turn the crabs upside down and lift the flap, pulling away from the crab body to remove the outer shell. Cut the crab in half and remove the gills, cut into quarters and rinse the crab under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Clean and rinse the removed crab shell and cook with the crab pieces for decoration.
4. Return the wok to a high heat and add the crab pieces to the wok with the shallots, garlic, ginger and black beans, toss well.  Cover the wok and cook for 5–7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the crab shells have begun to turn bright orange.
5. Add the tomatoes, Chilli jam, palm sugar, fish sauce, tomato paste and fish stock. Bring to a simmer and cook the crab for another 5–10 minutes or until the crab is cooked through. If you would like the sauce thicker, remove the crab pieces from the wok, cover with foil and keep warm, simmer the sauce until it has thickened then return the crab to the wok, toss through the sauce.
6. Sprinkle with shallots and coriander. Serve immediately with rice or warmed roti. 

food dept fact: We have used blue swimmer crabs in this recipe as they are less daunting for some to handle, rather than a live mud crab. But if you are feeling game, mud crab is just as sensational as the blue swimmer. Talk to your fish monger about storing the mud crab until you are ready to use it, then pop the mud crab into the freezer for 30 minutes to put it to ‘sleep’. Plunge the crab into a large pot of boiling water and simmer for approximately 5 minutes, until the shell has completely changed colour. Clean and prepare the same as the blue swimmer but you will need to give those big claws a crack with a meat mallet before you add them to the sauce, continue to cook as you would the blue swimmers. You could also use large prawns in their shells, lobster tails, scampi, Balmain bugs or a combination of them all.  Salted black beans are available in an Asian grocer.

Vietnamese chilli beef and noodle soup
Mmmm, let the aroma of this warming soup fill up your kitchen at dinnertime. Traditionally the base for Vietnamese Pho is home made stock – so we decided to opt for a simpler version by using store bought quality beef stock instead of making our own stock. This spicy soup has all the Asian flavours you desire and is also a meal in itself.
Serves 4

• 1 onion, halved, skin on
• 4 cloves garlic, skin on
• 5cm piece ginger, unpeeled
• 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 4 cloves
• ½ cinnamon stick
• 2 star anise
• 1 dried red chilli
• 1 black cardamom pod (optional)
• 2 litres quality beef stock
• 500g tail piece, beef, eye fillet
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 20g rock sugar or 1 tablespoon sugar
• 375g dried rice noodles
• 2 cups bean sprouts
• 2 birds eye chillies, seeded and julienned
• 1 cup coriander sprigs
• 1 cup Vietnamese mint sprigs
• 2 limes cut into wedges
• Asian chilli sauce (sriracha) and hoisin sauce, to serve (optional)

1. Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a dry frying pan over a medium heat and cook for 7–10 minutes on each side until charred. Peel the onion garlic and ginger to remove the charred skin, roughly chop and place into a stockpot.
2. Place the spices into the same dry pan and toss for 2–3 minutes to roast the spices. Gently crush the spices in the pan with a pestle while cooking to release the flavours, add to the stockpot.
3. Cover the charred ingredients and spices with the beef stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes to infuse the stock.
4. Place beef fillet into the freezer and allow to partially freeze for 20 minutes, once firm, slice very finely across the grain of the fillet and lay onto a tray until ready to use.
5. Strain the stock and return to the pot, bring to the boil. Season with the fish sauce and sugar.
6. Prepare the rice noodles as per the instruction on the packet. Drain well.
7. Place half of the beef evenly between 4 deep soup bowls and top with noodles. Divide the remaining beef slices between the bowls on top of the noodles.
8. Ladle over the boiling broth and serve alongside a platter of bean sprouts, chillies, herbs, lime wedges and sauces.

food dept fact: We have used black cardamom seeds to infuse the stock with a delicious smoky flavour. They are very different to green cardamom and if you can’t get them at your Asian grocer just leave them out, don’t substitute the green ones.

Pan-fried pork and chilli dumplings with chilli infused red vinegar
These make great party nibbles. Serve them on a platter with the dipping sauce or serve them individually on ceramic Chinese soupspoons, drizzle each with a little sauce.
Makes approximately 48

• 500g pork mince
• ½ cup chopped garlic chives
• 2 tablespoons soy
• 2 teaspoons sesame oil
• 2 tablespoons finely julienned ginger
• 1 tablespoon Chilli jam
• 2 small red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon corn flour
• 2 packets round dumpling wrappers
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• ¾ cup water
• ¼ cup Chinese red vinegar
• 1 large red chilli, finely sliced on the diagonal
•     • black sesame seeds, to garnish

1. In a large mixing bowl combine the pork mince, garlic chives, soy, sesame oil, ginger, chilli jam, chopped chilli, and cornflour. Mix well.
2. To make the dumplings place a dumpling wrapper in the palm of one hand and brush around the entire edge lightly with water.
3. Place a teaspoonful of the pork mixture onto the centre of each wrapper and fold the wrapper in half to enclose the pork. Pleat and seal the top layer of the wrapper 3 times towards the centre on each side of the dumpling. Pleating only the top layer of the wrapper will cause the dumpling to get that crescent shape. Press the sides together firmly and place on a lined tray. Lightly cover to prevent the wrappers from drying out and refrigerate until ready to cook. These can be assembled several hours before they are needed.
4. Heat a large non-stick frying pan with a tight fitting lid, over a medium heat. Add the oil and arrange all of the dumplings over the base of the pan. fry for 1-2 minutes or until the wrappers are golden on the base only.
5. Pour over ¾ cup of water or just enough to come 1/3 of the way up the side of the dumpling. Cover tightly with the lid and cook for 6-8 minutes.
6. Remove the lid and cook for another 1–2 minutes to evaporate any remaining water.
7. Combine the Chinese vinegar with the sliced chilli and serve alongside the dumplings. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and serve immediately.

food dept fact: The raw dumplings can be frozen for up to 1 month. Cook the frozen dumplings while still frozen and allow an extra 5 minutes with the lid on to ensure they dumplings are cooked through.

Cajun fried chicken with a green chilli and coriander dressing 
Fried chicken is a marvelous thing to pack in a picnic basket or try this recipe with wings for great finger food.
Serves 4–6

• 1 x 1.8 kg chicken
• 1 tablespoon Cajun chilli spice mix
• 1½ cups buttermilk
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 2½ cups plain flour
• extra, 1 tablespoon Cajun chilli spice mix
• vegetable oil, for deep-frying
• 1 quantity Green chilli and coriander dressing
• extra, Cajun chilli spice mix, for serving

1. Rinse and dry the chicken with paper towel. Cut up the chicken, begin by cutting it into quarters. Cut the drumstick from the thigh and cut the thighs in half. Remove the wing from the breast, trim off the wing tip and discard (or save for chicken stock). Cut across the chicken breast into three pieces.
2. Place the chicken pieces with the spice mix in a large bowl and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
3. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a large flat bowl.
4. Combine the flour with the extra spice mix on a large tray. Toss the chicken in the flour and spice mix; dip into the egg and buttermilk mixture then again in the flour and spices. Shake off excess flour and place onto a tray.
5. Deep-fry the chicken pieces in hot oil for 10–12 minutes depending on the size of the chicken pieces.  Drain on paper towel and serve with the Green chilli and coriander dressing and an extra sprinkle of Cajun chilli spice mix.

food dept fact: We have explained how to trim the chicken for this recipe but if you have a good butcher get him to do all the hard work for you. Otherwise this recipe would work really well with just using chicken wings, discard the wing tips and cut the wing into 2 pieces. As the pieces are smaller when using the wings you will need to cut down the cooking time to approximately 8–10 minutes depending on the size of the wings.

Cajun chilli spice mix 
Makes approximately ⅔ cup

• 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
• 1 tablepoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• 2 tablespoons onion powder
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 2 teaspoons dried thyme
• 2 tablepsoons salt flakes

1. Combine all ingredients in a jar and store in a cool, dry place for up 6 months.

Green chilli and coriander dressing
Makes 1½ cups

• ½ small Spanish onion peeled
• 1 clove garlic, peeled
• 1 large green chilli, stem removed (remove the seeds if you would like it milder)
• 1 cup coriander leaves and stems
• 1 cup continental parsley leaves and stems
• finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
• ¼ cup olive oil
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• sea salt flakes, to taste
• ½ cup buttermilk

1. Place the onion, garlic and chilli in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add the herbs, lemon zest and juice to the processor and process until smooth.
2. Add the oil and season to taste.
3. Remove from the processor and stir through the buttermilk. Use as required.

Mayan chocolate tart
Delicious spiced chocolate flavour that finishes with a mild chilli hit. Why did we call it Mayan chocolate tart? Well! The first record of chocolate being consumed was when the Ancient Mayans ground cocoa beans and blended them with spices, chilli and water to make a bitter drink. We have taken the idea of blending chocolate with spices and chilli to create this deccadent dessert.
Makes 1 x 23cm flan

• 1 x 300g packet frozen dark chocolate short crust pastry
• 1½ cups cream
• 2 small red chillies, split
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 vanilla bean split, seeds scrapped
• 450g dark chocolate, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180˚C (360˚F). Allow pastry to defrost but not get warm.
2. Grease a 23cm flan pan and place onto a lined baking tray. Line the flan pan with pastry and prick the base with a fork. Line with baking paper and pie weights.
3. Place into the freezer and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.
4. Bake for 8–10 minutes, remove the baking paper and pie weights and return to the oven for another 5–7 minutes or until the pastry is cooked.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cake cooler.
6. Combine the cream with the chillies, cinnamon, vanilla bean and vanilla seeds in a medium saucepan. Gently whisk over a medium heat until the cream comes to the simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutess to infuse the spice flavours into the cream.
7. Place the chocolate into a large mixing bowl and strain over the hot cream. Whisk gently until the cream has melted the chocolate. Pour into the pastry shell, swirl the top of the tart with the back of a spoon and allow to set at room temperature.
8. Slice and serve at room temperature with cream.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Food Urchin Caters For The Wedding of the Year

There are physical challenges and then there are mental challenges. Sometimes there are mental challenges that leave you feeling physically drained. Sometimes there are physical challenges that leave you feeling totally mental. But in order to achieve greatness; absolute, legendary, supreme greatness, challenges in life must be met. And prior to standing aloft that summit of triumph with flag in hand, upon that pinnacle of achievement, upon that mountain of grace, we must first plummet into the depths of hell. To sacrifice all, to push boundaries, to sweat tears and blood, to rake our backs, bruise our knees and chafe our wrists, to drown and keelhaul our very own souls. Only then can we resurface to claim the prize, the glory, forever more and after, and then some more. Olympians know this. Usain Bolt knows this. And now the Food Urchin knows this. For last week he gave his all. With every last breath and seething sinew, he pushed himself to the ultimate limit and smashed through that ticker tape and to tremulous, thundering applause; he leapt on that podium to receive his gold. Yes, the Food Urchin has now catered his very first wedding and on several occasions, he very nearly came a cropper. Even stepping down from that three-tiered platform was fraught with danger. One illusive splodge of wet, mashed potato on the floor, one mistimed step and whoosh, he would have gone arse-over-tit and smashed his teeth to smithereens on stainless steel, were it not for the invisible hands that held him up along the way. This is how events of the day unfolded.

Way back in some distant time and place, two young and very lovely girls approached the Food Urchin with a proposition. Not that kind of proposition mind, however titillating that might have been. No, these ladies only had eyes for each other and they wanted to cement their relationship with a declaration of love, a civil ceremony and they wanted to know if the Food Urchin would be up for catering for their small wedding of 20 odd guests. “Sure,” came the reply, because the Food Urchin is pretty muddyfunking cool at cooking and shizz but as the date loomed and the numbers increased to 50, the utterances soon turned to “Shiiiiiiit!” Luckily, the meal wasn’t to be too complicated and with planning and dry runs and plenty of prep, morale and confidence was running high. Plus the Food Urchin had assembled a crack team to nail the job on the head. Namely his wife, parents, cousin and cousin’s girlfriend, with the latter pairing having lots of experience in wedding catering and who were arriving later in the day.

So far, so good and so after rocking up to the venue on a sunny, warm morning with loaded cars and vans, the Food Urchin immediately sets to the task of cranking out a couple of bacon rolls, for he knew his team couldn’t go to work on empty stomachs. Now at home, any ordinary citizen would simply switch on the gas hob and whack a frying pan on to get those sheets of streaky crisped up but in a professional kitchen, it seems that things are slightly different. Due to (open fingers) health and safety (close fingers), it seems that no appliances, including scary, behemoth cookers will become operational until a myriad of flicks and switches have been twisted and turned. Cue a frustrating 10 minutes of twisting and turning, peering and listening for gas, tentative padding of hot plates with fingers and gnarling sense of desperation as our tummies begin to growl. Eventually, the Food Urchin, somewhat embarrassed, pops his head into the venue’s management office to ask for help and a bored, belligerent staff member swans in and turns a switch on the wall that was always there, staring at the Food Urchin in the face. The Food Urchin utters his very first swear word of the day but then gets on with the business of breakfast.

Appetites sated, the Food Urchin and team begin to unpack and get organised. Pot and pans are distributed, contents of cool bags emptied into fridges, the dry ingredients larder is sorted and a host of knives and other utensils clatter on steel surfaces. Immediately it becomes apparent that some tools are missing, such as a wooden rolling pin but the improvisational Food Urchin doesn’t sweat it, there are bottles of water in the fridge, who needs a rolling pin when you’ve got a heavy, round, hard water bottle that will do the job? HA! No sweat. A radio gets switched on and heads bow down as ingredients get sorted, chopped and scraped and the air in the kitchen is calm and industrious.  Until it becomes apparent for the second time that the Food Urchin hasn’t brought as much yeast as he thought for making bread and suddenly the air is punctuated with the second shrill swear word of the day. Trying to take these minor setbacks in his stride, the Food Urchin decides to crank out the remainder of the dessert (a trio of chocolate brownies, key lime pie and homemade ice cream with raspberry coulis, no less) and to smash into dicing some cucumber for the prawn cocktail. The kitchen starts to warm up, as do the ovens and then some sort of time displacement happens. 

Blinking up, through a beaded brow, the Food Urchin frowns at the clock at the wall. “Surely it hasn’t taken me an hour to chop some fracking cucumbers?” the Food Urchin thinks to himself. And then the wedding organiser enters and announces gleefully that according to her schedule, the guests should be ready to sit down in a couple of hours. At that precise moment, a dolly zoom brings the Food Urchin’s pristine bald head and horrified face into focus. A raised eyebrow and wandering eyes scan all over the kitchen, conducting several thousand calculations in a second and then boom, the Food Urchin is gone, screaming “DON’TWORRRYI’LLBEBACKINAMINUTE!!!!!!” as he races out the door. 

Now, tearing down country roads in his battered Megane, the Food Urchin is on the lookout for a shop, any sort of shop that might sell bread. Pain de campagne, French stick, Mighty White, any sort of frigging bread but all that rushes by are trees and fields and the occasional quaint, picturesque, sodding cottage. Then suddenly, it appears. A bloody farm shop! Executing a right hand brake turn at 70 miles an hour, the Food Urchin screeches into the car park and leaps out through the window, without opening the door. Running in like a man possessed, he then jumps and bursts through the multicoloured fly curtain and practically lands on the deli counter.

“DO YOU SELL BREAD?” he yells at a nervous woman standing behind the counter. She fearfully clutches her apron up to her chin and simply nods yes. 

“THEN GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR BREAD!!!!” he says, pointing and bellowing at the top of his voice. Shaking, she manages to scoop up several crusty bloomers and a rather good looking, rustic boule into carrier bags. The Food Urchin thrusts a crisp note forward before spying some delicious, homemade pork pies.


And then the Food Urchin is gone, tyres squealing off the forecourt, leaving a squall of dust. 

As he bounds back into the kitchen, the Food Urchin’s parents look noticeably relieved and though the clock is ticking, the Food Urchin now starts to feel invigorated, that nothing is standing in his way. It is now time to prep the canapés and make some crostini so the Food Urchin opens the door to the oven to check temperature and promptly burns his forehead. No matter, adrenaline is starting to kick in now and with a vivid red stripe across his spam, the Food Urchin relays orders to the team, masterfully, purposefully and by this point, somewhat sweatily. Huge stock pots and saucepans are placed upon the hob and industrial strength food bags from IKEA are emptied. Bags containing luxurious soup, beautiful beef, braised in beer, sublime mushroom stroganoff and exquisite sauces. And mashed potato too, creamed, fluffy and light, though they remain inside the bags. The idea is to heat the mash through in a water bath, sous vide style and then cut the corners of the bags to pipe onto warm plates; an ingenious idea. The Food Urchin lights all the rings on the gas hob, echoing the words “FLAME ON!” with each deft click of the butane lighter, winking at his team with every squeeze. The atmosphere is still busy but smiles abound the place and everyone is cool and relaxed. The Food Urchin’s cousin arrives with his girlfriend and asks is there anything he can do.

“Chop some parsley if you like, show us your skills,” the Food Urchin grins, nonchalantly.

Guests then begin to arrive in the courtyard, full of joy and laughter having just seen the happy couple exchange vows of matrimony. Canapés are passed out and chilled glasses and bottles chink in the gorgeous sunshine. The tipping point of service edges into view and slowly but surely, guests enter the main banqueting suite. The starters are plated up, Food Urchin and the gang are ready to go.

But then the Food Urchin notices something in the corner of his eye. The DIY sous vide mash, sitting in its water bath of gently simmering water doesn’t look quite right. Well not the mash itself, but the water. The water looks, well, the water looks a little bit cloudy.


And then, pandemonium. 

The pot is seized from the stove, with steaming hot water sloshing everywhere and is placed into a cavernous sink. The Food Urchin dips his hands in to retrieve the scalding hot potato and immediately screams, holding pink, stubby hands into the air. The Food Urchin’s Dad then dips his hands in to retrieve the scalding hot potato and immediately screams, holding pink and familiar stubby hands into the air. A colander is thrust upon the pair from out of nowhere and amid a blur of arms, elbows and feet, as if by some magic touch; the mash is saved. Albeit with some thorough whisking and a hefty dose of salt.

Collectively, the team sighs a breath of relief and the starters begin to filter out of the door but by this point the Food Urchin is starting to feel the pressure, cracking the eggshell of his fragile demeanour, revealing the demon within.


The Food Urchin’s loved ones simply stare back at him and then get on with their work, sadly ruing inside that the inevitable has happened. Their husband/son/cousin has turned into a twat. Or worse still, he is beginning to turn into Gordon Ramsay.

Thankfully, a smooth momentum begins to take hold again and as empty bowls and plates come back, the mains start to go out with efficiency and speed. The Food Urchin, eager to keep the tempo up and to perhaps make amends for his earlier briskness, barks surreal words of encouragement, whilst mindlessly piling mash into presentation rings.


The others just glance at each other, as if to say ‘no, it really has happened’ but the Food Urchin just keeps ploughing on. And on and on and on.


Now the Food Urchin is making a speedy decent into total meltdown, yelling at an empty stock pot, calling it no amount of obscene words. To the sound of a heartbeat, the kitchen starts to fade into black and out again. Back and forth, back and forth. Time slows down and so do all words and sounds, morphing, as if someone is dragging a thumb on a record.  Then suddenly, all goes pitch black, as if someone just switched off a light. And it remains dark for some time.

Then slowly, like a new dawn, light begins soak back through, peeping in from the edges. A tap-tapping sound resonates in the Food Urchin's ears and as he opens his eyes, he looks down and can see that he is holding a chef’s knife, chopping against a plain wooden board and nothing else. A hand appears on his shoulder and whispers into his ear, “You can stop now Dan, we’re all done, everyone loved the food. Even the ones who had crushed new potatoes instead of mash! Come on, the buffet is out now and the evening guests are here. Why don’t you stop, go outside and take a breath of fresh air.”

The Food Urchin looks up and he sees his wife’s beautiful face smiling back at him. She rubs a damp, dirty tea towel over his face and pinches his nose before ushering him out into the courtyard. But before he has a chance to walk through the door and grab a cold, well deserved beer, she stops him and takes his hand, still smiling sweetly.

“But listen to me Dan, if you ever call me that word again, we’re getting a divorce, OK?” 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

SPRING – Big news for the food dept! We are featured in delicious magazine! YAY!

We are so thrilled! It seems fitting that our editorial debut into print comes in the September issue of delicious magazine which is also their relaunch edition. Spring has sprung early for the food dept, so grab a copy of delicious, where you will find our wicked dessert feature, "Bright sparks", we are soooo loving the heading. There is even a little profile piece on little ole us.... terribly chuffed. Thank you team delicious!

To celebrate, we have a few extra recipes from the shoot to whet your palate AND our first competition to get you all excited, read below!

For more Spring dessert recipes check your local newsagents for the September issue for the delicious. magazine.

For your chance to win a food dept photographic print, subscribe to the food dept and to the delicious. It's just a few clicks away.
We have a fabulous competition, you could be hanging a beautiful food dept artwork on your wall. The winner will be able to choose ANY image from the wicked feature in delicious magazine and we will send one lucky reader a high quality giclee print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper.
To enter, you must subscribe to the food dept, just type your email address into the box on the top right-hand side of this page.
To be eligible to win you must also go to the delicious website


Lemon curd
These little jars of golden lemon curd make beautiful thank you gifts or look for decorative jars and sell them at your next local fete.

½ cup (110g) sugar
• finely grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
• 3 large free range eggs lightly beaten
• 100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1. Place sugar, zest and juice in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add eggs, stirring to combine.
Return the pan to low heat and add the butter, a piece at a time, whisking constantly for 8–10 minutes until thickened.
2. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, cover surface with baking paper and chill lemon curd until ready to serve or pour into sterilized jars. Use as required.

Coconut and passionfruit cupcakes with meringue frosting 
We think these little cupcakes would fit right in at Sydney's uber cool pool bar the "Ivybar" where they have lots of yellow and white stripes everywhere. The meringue frosting might be reminiscent of Marge Simpson's hair, but they are truly a statement cupcake. Whether you are about to jump into the Ivy pool or kick back and watch "the simpsons" you are in definately in for a treat!
Makes approximately 32 mini cupcakes (approx. 4–5cm).

• 1½ cups self-raising flour
• ½ cup desiccated coconut
• ¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup passionfruit pulp (approximately 3–4 large passionfruit)
• 175g butter
• ¾ cup caster sugar
• 2 free range eggs
• 1 qty Meringue frosting

 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature. Whisk together the flour and coconut in bowl, set aside. Combine the coconut milk and passionfruit pulp in a small jug and set aside. 
2. Cream butter for 1–2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the caster sugar a third at a time and beat for 1–2 minutes after each addition. 
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time and beat for 1 minute after the addition of each egg. 
4. Add 1/3 of the flour and coconut and beat on low until just combined.  Add half of the coconut milk and passionfruit mixture and beat until combined. Repeat this again and then finish with the final third of the flour and coconut. Do not over beat the mixture or it will become tough. 
5. Line mini muffin pans with papers and ¾ fill the cup cake papers. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when tested. Allow cool on a cake cooler. 
6. Using a piping bag and plain nozzle, pipe on the Meringue frosting into a large ball on each cupcake, top with another smaller ball of meringue frosting.  Using a blowtorch lightly caramelize the meringue frosting. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1–2 days.

Meringue frosting

• 3 large free range egg whites

¾ cup sugar
• pinch of salt
1/3 cup water

1. Combine the egg whites, sugar, salt and water in a heat proof bowl and lightly whisk over simmering water until the sugar has dissolved. 

2. Transfer to a large mixer bowl and beat on high until stiff peaks form and the mixture is cold to touch and glossy. Do not over beat. Use immediately.

Caramel salted popcorn 
This makes a great movie snack for kids or adults. Make some paper cones and fill them for your next party or put a jar-full on your next lolly bar.
Makes 2 large trays

• spray oil
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• ½ cup popcorn kernels
• 3 cups sugar
• 1 cup water
• 60g butter
• 2 tablespoons salt flakes

1. Spray and inside of a large saucepan and 2 rubber spatulas with oil, set the spatulas aside. This will allow you to work easily and quickly with the caramel later. Heat the vegetable oil in the greased saucepan and heat over a medium to high heat. Add a couple of corn kernels, place the lid on the pot and swirl over the heat until the kernels pop. When they pop, remove from the pot and add the remaining corn kernels, cover and give the pan a swirl. Once the kernels begin to pop swirl the pan around over the heat until the popping stops, remove from the heat, remove the lid and set aside. 
2. In a large saucepan combine the sugar, water butter and salt. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Do not allow the mixture to boil at this stage. Brush down the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush to make sure there are no sugar crystals. Once all of the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and boil without disturbing until the caramel is golden brown.  
3. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss well with the oiled spatulas. Pour onto 2 large lined trays and press out with the oiled spatulas, allow to set at room temperature.  Once hard and cold break into bit size pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

food dept fact: Add ½ cup roasted peanuts (or your favourite roasted nut) in with the popcorn before you toss through the caramel.

thank you...
To the ever reliable photographic assistant Leanna Maione and our lovely food assistant Linda Uzunovski, who laughed along with us on the day of this shoot. Your help is always appreciated.