Posts

boxty 2

Brixton Boxty

boxty 2I have to admit that boxty wasn’t something I ate as a child. Popular in Monaghan and Leitrim, it’s a type of potato pancake made from grated potato, but it was so alien to me as kid, I basically thought it was made up until I was older. I first saw it as a real thing in my beloved potato bible The Humble Spud and I’ve been meaning to make it for years, but I disappeared down the tangent of rosti instead and forgot to back up until recently.

Half of you are probably lost by now. Isn’t a potato pancake just a potato pancake I hear you cry? Well, no, rosti are made with semi cooked grated potato with a high starch content, mixed with onion and fried on each side in butter and is eaten as a savoury side dish. Boxty uses raw grated potato before being fried and can be sweet or savoury. Potato farls are made with mashed potato before being cooked on a griddle and then often fried until golden. And I’ve never yet made a latke, but I’ll bring you breaking news about them when I do…

Some recipes for boxty use mashed potato in with the grated spuds but I thought I’d some pureed fresh corn instead since I have tonnes left over from a recent Brixton Bugle recipe. Combining corn and potato gives a autumnal feel and a taste of Brixton which I thought I’d enhance by adding some chopped Scotch Bonnets, fresh coriander and lime. I then served it with some grilled tomatoes for a really good brunch. Read more

Stamppot

Stamppot

Stamppot I’m going to say something deeply unfashionable in foodie circles: I like Dutch cuisine. I like hearty soups and stews and mountains of cabbage anyway. I’m very Northern European in my tastes and I like small deep fried things, thus I enjoyed the hell out of the food when I visited Holland.

Dutch food gets a bad rap and I’m sure a lot of that comes from the fact tastes have changed and this kind of solid, simply flavoured food doesn’t translate well when cooked in bulk or done cheaply like in ready meals. But frankly, I think it’s pretty outrageous of the Irish or British to criticise other countries’ food as being bland or boring. It misses the point, creates a kind of food snobbery and ignores the seismic effect World War II had on Northern European food and the attempts to regroup from that. Read more

The Perfect Potato Salad

potato salad

I remain ever optimistic that spring, never mind summer, is just around the corner. Warm light evenings, the smell of barbecues in the air, Pimms on the patio, all the indicators of warm weather for many. But for me, I know it’s summer when it’s time to make potato salad.

Mister North and I grew up on potato salad. Family picnics and barbecues always involved a big salad bowl of it designed to last several days out. But because our mum makes the best potato salad possible, it never lasted more than one meal with the last chunk of spud highly prized.

Since we started blogging, I’ve debated whether to share this family secret with you all, but since pretty much every person who has ever tried a batch of the potato salad made the North/South Food way has asked for the recipe, I’ve decided the time has come. The secret is a little bit of milk in with the mayonnaise. Before you raise your brows, it lightens the mayo so that it coats the potatoes better and thus makes the salad creamier without being greasy or overwhelming.

I’ve grown up making this so I never weigh anything so I’m giving you a description not a list.

The Perfect Potato Salad: intended to serve 4

  • 1 kg of salad potatoes such as Charlottes
  • 2 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 scallions or handful dill, chopped
  • 2 big gherkins, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper

You can make this with any potato really, but a firm waxy salad potato like a Charlotte is perfect. Sainsbury’s Basic Salad Potatoes at a quid a bag are simply the ones too knobbly and bobbly to make it to the Taste the Difference range. Cut your potatoes into quarters and leave the skin on. Boil for about 8 minutes or until al dente. You do not want a floury fluffy potato here so don’t overcook.

I flit between two types of potato salad, either a slightly Germanic one with lashings of chopped dill and gherkins or a more Irish version with chopped scallions. Both are delicious. I find the dill version a better basis for a meal and the scallion one a side dish.

If you are doing scallions, slice both the green and white while the potatoes are cooking. Place them in the colander you’ll use to drain the potatoes and then empty the pan of boiling water and potatoes over them. This blanches them and stops them being too oniony. Allow everything to cool for about 30 minutes.

Boil the kettle and fill a mug half full of boiling water. Place your tablespoon in it and allow it to heat up slightly. Then scoop out your mayonnaise into another mug or small bowl. Measure out half a tablespoon of milk. I use semi skimmed. You could use full fat. Mix well. You’re looking for a consistency slightly thicker than double cream, but still suitable for pouring. Add the other half tablespoon if needed (if you use the oddly textured Hellmanns, you probably will.)

Pour the mayo dressing over the still very slightly warm potatoes and the blanched scallions and mix well so it coats well. If you’re using dill instead, add it and the gherkins at this stage. Serve the salad and watch the bowl empty rapidly. My suggestion is to make a lot more than you need. There is never enough…

Callaloo Aloo

tinI love spinach. Gorgeous green leafiness, it seems to suit every single style of cooking you can challenge it with and adds iron rich taste to everything. But even Popeye would baulk at the price of it these days. Pillowy packets of it disappear into nothing when cooked and takes you aback everytime. When I first lived in London on a student budget I ate mountains of the frozen version and it still seems to taste of the cheap white wine I washed it down with making me struggle with this budget option.

So imagine my joy when I came across a huge can of that altogether most robust cousin of spinach, callaloo, in the Nour Cash and Carry for just 99p recently. The stronger stems and bigger leaves suit canning well and it retains its texture and flavour much better than spinach does. I thought it would suit slow cooking well and decided to update the Indian classic saag aloo with callaloo for an easy one pot meal.

Originally published at Brixton Blog…

Read more

lovage_and_fenugreek-13

Potatoes with fenugreek & lovage; onion & lovage bhajis on the side

Ah, lovage. Blessed with the kind of name which conjures up images of old-fashioned English cottage gardens, nestled next to lavender, it was a herb I’d heard of but until last year I’d not cooked with, until Deanna Thomas gifted me with a generous bunch from her garden. You rarely see it for sale so it’s a herb best used from home-grown if you can manage to source it from a friend, or nurture your own. By all accounts it grows voraciously, so if you do have a patch, you may wonder how to use it up.

When I did start to use it, I was initially thrown by how to play to its strengths. I was delighted and confused in equal measure by its curious ‘curry meets celery’ characteristics… a robust savoury flavour, and it holds its shape and body better than parsley, but I couldn’t find many recipes which excited me. Last year I made an experiemental lovage pesto, served with grilled sardines and lemon juice, but the rest of my stash went into the stockpot and I never felt I’d taken full advantage of its full potential.

This year I was determined to make the most of lovage’s late spring delights, and thought it might work well with some south Asian flavours. A quick look online referenced ajwain seeds in Indian cooking, but despite common misperception these aren’t the same as lovage seeds. Despite not finding a great deal of precedent, I didn’t think I could go far wrong, so on a wet midweek evening last week I got busy in the kitchen for an hour, making a hearty veggie meal for myself and a mate who’d dropped round. Few things counter the soggy evening blues better than grinding your own spices and making something with a touch of spice.

The fenugreek & potato dish has become a firm favourite over the last six months, fuelled by a discovery of fresh fenugreek (alternatively labelled ‘methi’). As mentioned before, I’ve been inspired by Anirudh Arora’ recipes in ‘Food of the Grand Trunk Road‘ and one recipe which leapt out was Aloo Methi Ka Saag. It’s quick and easy compared to many of the recipes in the book, and it’s healthy and good for veggie guests.

I’ve always loved saag aloo, but was really intrigued by the inclusion of fresh methi in this take of a simple classic. Fresh fenugreek has small ovoid leaves and a mild aroma, and can be found in many asian groceries. However it seems to wilt incredibly quickly, even if kept in the fridge in water, so I’ve found it’s best to make this on the day of purchase if possible. You can wash and freeze the leaves: though it seems to tone the flavour down at least it’s a good fallback if you fancy a quick fenugreek hit.

However – and I’ll try to be delicate here – I’ve discovered that fenugreek does have a peculiar ‘characteristic’ which means you’re likely to be reminded of it for a day or two after consumption. Somewhat like the effect asparagus has on some people, the malodorous qualities are longer-lasting and tend to permeate from a variety of regions. It seems this is a common side-effect, and is known on mother and baby forums as fenugreek seeds are used for stimulating milk supply. Not sure I make the connection with maple syrup though…

Finally, I’ve had my cockles warmed by the hitherto unknown delights of panch phoran – a Bengali five spice mix – thanks to Rice & Pickle’s mango pickle recipe she posted a few months ago. Days after reading her recipe, while the name was still fresh in my mind, I stumbled across a pack of this mix in Unicorn, and have been adding it to dishes ever since. As it contains fenugreek seeds it has a particular affinity to fresh methi, and has proven itself to be another reliable addition to the larder shelves.

Over the years I’ve tried a few different recipes for onion bhajis, but have found this from Daxa Dashani on the BBC website is reliably reproducible. However I tend to increase the amount of onion in the recipe, using a couple of decent sized onions to add more bulk. I also dry roast and then grind the panch phoran, adding it to the mix before letting the batter rest. Instead of the spinach in the recipe you can substitute this for other greens: earlier this spring I used wild garlic, and here I used lovage leaves, chopped roughly. This recipe makes around a dozen bhajis, depending how generous you are with the mix. Make sure you drain the bhajis well after cooking, sitting them on kitchen paper or napkins to remove any excess cooking oil.

The final dishes were great (and disappeared in no time between two hungry lads): the lovage gave an extra savoury depth to the bhajis, but was less obvious in the aloo methi. I used a scotch bonnet chilli in the aloo methi, but cautiously removed it before serving. As I’d used smoked paprika rather than chilli the spice flavour was more muted than when I’ve made this previously, so I served it with some hot sauce on the side. A breezy fresh salsa or a fiery lime pickle would be an even better choice.

Best served with some raita, a chutney (which I overlooked on this occasion…doh!) and a glass of good Indian Pale Ale. Fast, fresh and healthy!

Potatoes with fenugreek and lovage
(based on a recipe by Anirudh Arora)

  • 3 bunches of fenugreek
  • 1 handful lovage leaves
  • 30ml vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon panch phoran
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 green chillies or 1 scotch bonnet, sliced into lengths
  • 1″/2.5cm length of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 8-10 new potatoes, sliced… or several larger potatoes roughly diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • a decent squirt of tomato purée
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Coriander leaves to garnish
Remove the methi leaves, then wash well and chop. Dry with kitchen paper and leave to one side.
Heat half the oil in a wok and add half the cumin seeds until they snap, crackle and pop. Add the methi leaves and stir until they start to wilt down, then remove and set aside to cool.
Add the rest of the oil and heat, adding the rest of the cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle, chuck in the ginger and chillies and sauté well for a minute. Add the coriander, salt, turmeric and chilli/paprika, stir and cook down for a couple of minutes, then add the spuds. I tend to turn the heat right down and cover the wok, letting everything cook through slowly for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are just starting to give.
Stir through the tomato purée and cook for a further few minutes, then add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and the garam masala. Finish with a garnish of chopped coriander leaves, and enjoy.