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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

Michelada Peri Peri Poussin

Michelada peri peri chicken

It was sunny yesterday and it looks like it might remain so for an hour or two more. I was desperate to get the barbecue out and use it for the first time all summer and do some classics like beer can chicken and grilled sardines, but cautious of this ever changing weather this summer, I decided not to risk something that might take a couple of hours and decided to beercan a poussin instead.

Quick thinkers will have realised that a poussin is a petite bird and that the average beercan won’t fit inside it, which is how michelada poussin came about. I rather like a pre-dinner drink and often keep cocktail sized cans of tomato juice so I can have a Bloody Mary. These looked like they’d fit a poussin perfectly. Worried that the tomato juice wouldn’t give enough steam, I replaced half of it with a can of Red Stripe. I then carefully wedged the can inside the bird and marinaded with homemade peri peri sauce before cooking a few hours later.

I didn’t actually get to cook my poussin over the barbecue as my neighbours decided to throw a raucous party with a full on sound system that drove us all indoors with the windows shut, but I was delighted to see that you can still beercan a bird in your oven with a minimum of hassle!

Michelada Peri Peri Poussin: one poussin serves one person and amounts are for one bird

  • 1 poussin
  • 1 teaspoon peri peri sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree
  • splash vinegar (anything except malt)
  • drizzle of oil
  • 1 cocktail sized can of tomato juice, half and half with beer
  • 1 pair of latex gloves

First make your peri peri sauce. It’s easier than falling off a log and it’s brilliant because you can add as much heat or flavour to it as you like giving you the chance to experiment and customise

Peri Peri Sauce:

  • 8 large red chillies
  • 2 scotch bonnets
  • 4 cloves roast garlic
  • vinegar (not malt) to loosen
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ses salt
  • two sprigs fresh thyme

Roast all the chillies until blackened and blistered. This should take about 25 minutes at 200℃. Make sure you wear latex gloves and once the chillies are cool enough to handle, top and tail chop the red ones finely. Remove the seeds from one of the scotch bonnets. Then put everything in the blender and blitz until a thick puree. Add in the lemon juice and enough vinegar to make the consistency like a thick ketchup. Pour into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge. It’s pretty hot, and fairly addictive, especially used raw, cooking mellows it to a pleasant tingle.

To do the poussin, pour half the can of tomato juice out and top up with beer. Wedge the can up inside the bird so it is literally perched on it. Mix the peri peri sauce and tomato puree with a splash of vinegar and oil to make it loose enough to rub over the bird. Make sure you wear latex gloves to do this and work the marinade into all the nooks and crannies and leave to soak in for an hour or two.

To cook, either use your kettle barbecue with the coals on either side and the poussin in the middle to cook indirectly for about 30 minutes before giving the skin a crisp up over the heat or pop in the oven on a tray to cook for 40 minutes at 180℃. The liquid inside the can steams the poussin as it cooks so the meat is super succulent and the vertical roasting means all the skin is equally crisp. I kept it simple, roasting a few tomatoes in the tray under the bird as a side dish to soak up the juices.

Once the bird is done, set to one side to rest, making sure there is a tray or bowl to catch the juices. Ten minutes will make it even more juicy and delicious and more to the point allows the can to cool enough that you can pull it out to make the poussin easier to eat. Dust the skin with some sea salt and then sit down to perfectly poultry.

The meat is so juicy, you need some flatbread to soak it up, but as you pull the legs and wings off it’ll be dripping down your hands too. Don’t miss a morsel of the meat and revel in the good proportion of skin to meat compared to a normal chook. There’s something incredibly decadent about a whole bird to yourself and it gets round the who likes what bit dilemma nicely. I found one whole poussin and some flatbread was incredibly filling, but utterly indulgent and delicious. It didn’t stop me wanting to demolish a second crispy skinned spicy little number…

 

 

Negril, Brixton Hill

Despite a legendary Caribbean heritage, I don’t find Brixton the best place to eat Caribbean food, especially in the evenings when the vans in Brixton Station Road are closed. Bamboula isn’t bad, but it doesn’t make me excited about jerk like the good stuff should. The only place that does that for dinner is Negril.

Well worth a walk up the Hill, you must remember to book as this unassuming spot gets packed out in the evenings. In summer this is partly because they have a lovely patio out front to while away a sunny evening, but mainly because Negril is simply great.

From the friendly welcoming reception when I phoned to book for a Friday night to the very end of the meal, I couldn’t fault anything about Negril. And by the look of it, the packed out patio, full restaurant and queue at the door all agreed with me. An unusual place in that it is equally good for non meat eaters and carnivores alike, Negril specialises in ital food and jerk chicken, along with many other Jamaican favourites served in healthy portions with a home made feel while feeling like a bit of a night out. It’s BYO, but also does a great selection of soft drinks and juices and doesn’t baulk at all when you ask for tap water, bringing us a jug of the stuff when we each asked for a glass. This thoughtfulness and willing got the meal off to a great start!

After checking we knew our way round the menu, our friendly and helpful waiter took our order for a half jerked chicken each with festival and coleslaw for me and plantain and rice and peas for my mum and provided glasses for our wine as the place filled up steadily and we got to listen to the world’s most irritating woman at the table next to us ponder why her date hadn’t called her again.

Before we both lost patience with her and told her the answer to her query, the food arrived and distracted us. A mound of crisp skinned flavoursome free range chicken appeared. On my plate there were two enormous pieces of festival, a dish of the best home-made coleslaw around and some rich glossy chicken gravy while my mum had heaps of fried plantain and rice and peas along with some fiery scotch bonnet sauce and barbeque sauce to accompany it.

The food was fantastic. You can really taste the difference that being free range makes to the chicken. Dark, flavoursome meat is complimented by a fantastic jerk rub filled with thyme, allspice and scotch bonnet that tingles nicely on the lips without making the eyes water. The rice and peas were subtly coconut infused and well spiced. The coleslaw is worth the trip alone and the festival made me very happy with its vanilla fragrance and crispy outer and was the perfect way to soak up the delicious gravy. The sauces tasted home-made and added a good kick if you like your chicken on the lively side.

Portions are generous, but that didn’t stop me clearing every scrap off my mine in record time because it was all just so good. My mum struggled more due to the more carb intense nature of her sides, leaving some of the plantain. Our waiter automatically offered her a doggy bag and despite every table now being full, appeared back straightaway with a cardboard carton of leftovers bagged up and ready to go. We couldn’t even think about the selection of desserts that included rum and raisin bread and butter pudding and tropical fruit salad, but lingered to finish our wine before settling the very reasonable bill.

A half chicken with two sides comes to £12.95 each which to me is great value and more worthwhile than the £22.95 sharing platter that comes with a 1/4 chicken each and a smaller, but wider variety of sides. But skip the chips and salad it offers and get stuck into the proper Jamaican offerings like the rice and peas, hardo bread or roti instead as they do them so well. They also do great sounding breakfasts at the weekend such as coconut French toast and Eggs Callaloo that I can’t wait to try.

If Negril was closer to my house, I’d be in there every week. Well cooked, good quality food delivered with friendly efficient service that manages to be helpful without being pushy and a great atmosphere, it ticks all the boxes a good neighbourhood restaurant should. Do yourself a favour and book a table immediately!

Negril
132 Brixton Hill, SW2 1RS
020 8674 8798

Bloody Mary Soup

Summer has taken a while to get here, but it’s all arrived at once and suddenly it’s hot enough to melt the tarmac and send you searching frantically for any way to cool one’s self even momentarily. Ice cream is the obvious answer, but if that doesn’t seem like a proper lunch, then a chilled soup is just the ticket.

Due to my dislike of peppers, I’ve never tried a gazpacho, but I figured that by taking my influence from fresh seasonal produce and chilling it, I would end up with something just as good. A quick rummage in the kitchen reminded me I had some lovely looking vine tomatoes and a particularly good bunch of celery. As celery only really come into its own for me as a cocktail ingredient, it didn’t take much of a leap to start knocking up a Bloody Mary soup.

Some celery and carrots went into a pan with an anchovy and half a Scotch bonnet for a fruity kick and both the veg and I sweated gently for around ten minutes. They softened and sweetened in that time while I used it to skin and chop some lovely ripe tomatoes. These then went into the pan with a good grinding of black pepper, a sprinkle of celery salt and a glug of tomato juice. Everything shimmered and simmered in the heat for about twenty minutes while I turned my attention to a sorbet.

I blended everything up to make a thick soup of unrivaled colour, adding a big splosh of Lea and Perrins, a delicate shake of Tabasco and some more black pepper before loosening the texture with two shots of ice cold vodka. The whole thing went in the fridge to chill down and I relaxed in the garden for a while. When it got overwhelming enough that I considered turning the hose on myself, I served the soup with a frozen stalk of celery as a garnish and literally drank in the refreshment.

The sleek sweetness of the tomato and carrot were lifted by the tickle of the Scotch bonnet and Tabasco while the icy cold vodka left a lovely mouth tingling kick behind. The mix of chilled liquid with the spice of the black pepper and cubeb-infused Sacred vodka and the savoury of the rich umami took my temperature down in the most delicious of ways, leaving me well refreshed and relaxed round the edges.

Not one to serve to visitors who have driven to visit you, there is no nicer way to chill out in the garden on a baking hot Sunday afternoon than with this super simple soup. Much healthier and more refreshing than any ice lolly around!