Bread and Butter Pudding

I think I could live off bread. What a peculiar sentence. I mean I think I could continue to live/subsist/scrape through (delete as appropriate) if I limited myself to only eating bread everyday. Bread in all its lovely mutant forms. I like pasta, I like noodles, I like rice and I like potatoes but I could substitute all those to live in eternal bread happiness. No more ravioli, no more ramen, no more paella and no more chip...Okay maybe I overstated the point but bread makes up a sizeable part of my diet (and there's nothing diet about it). I dream about crispy, pillowy (still going with this adjective), light and airy bread. The intense savoury bubbles and the comforting texture of a good loaf is my idea of simple undemanding bliss.

















 
One of my favourite breads is the sweet egg-yolk-enriched French classic: brioche. One of the best examples I've ever had was at the renowned Poilane boulangerie in Paris. It was a thing of simple design which excelled in the smaller details (beautifully darkened crust, buttery smooth crumb). Although brioche is hard to resist I often get left with half a loaf (maybe more) going stale and in need of quick use and one of my favourite ways to use it up is in my bread and butter pudding. There are three essential components to elevating a bread and butter pudding into a top-class dessert and they are: 1) the 'custard' that sets this has to have an intense vanilla flavour and have a smooth mouth feel; 2) the pudding needs a crispy sugar-covered top to give a different texture to what's underneath and an added sweetness (I haven't included too much sugar in the milk mixture); 3) a personal touch - mine is soaking the sultanas with rose water (amaretto works too, especially if you elect to use ground almonds in the recipe). Check these three things off and you have your own delicious dessert that you can show off this Christmas.


















Ingredients
300g brioche
100g butter
75g sultanas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons rose water
100g caster sugar
25g soft brown sugar
25g ground almonds
600g milk
2 large eggs


















Method
Butter a baking dish and preheat your oven to 200C. Soak the sultanas in the rose water and a little sugar for 15-20 minutes. Slice your brioche into 1cm slices and butter both sides. Drain the sultanas and place them at the bottom of the baking tray before layering on the brioche slices. Whisk the eggs and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy and then add the milk. Add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly before pouring over the layered bread (make sure to get all the top slices of brioche wet). Mix the brown sugar and ground almonds together and scatter on the surface. Dot any remaining butter on top. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the 'custard' has set and the pudding has expanded. Take off the foil and brown under a grill. Let it cool down and serve it warm with ice cream. This is a perfect alternative Christmas dessert.

Lebanese Cuisine Basics: Mutabbal

Here is the second part of the Lebanese Cuisine Basics series and this is another of my personal favourites. Mutabbal (or what is better known as Baba Ghanoush) is a smoky aubergine dip that is the grander, more interesting sibling of that well-known but ubiquitous chickpea dip. Mutabbal relies on the interplay between smoky aubergine, creamy tahini and the citric acidity of lemon and is more pronounced than hummus bi tahina. If the ratio and preparation are right, this simple dish is elevated into more than just something to sink a few pita chips into. Top with paprika, pomegranate seeds and a sprig of mint and you have a great salad. I guess you could cut the aubergines into chunks (once smoked) instead of turning them into pulp, which could produce an interesting texture. This recipe is one my mum has used for decades so it's stood the test of time. It's too easy to not try once!


















Ingredients
1 large aubergine
3 teaspoons of tahini
2 tablespoons of yoghurt
5 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 clove of garlic
a good few glugs of olive oil
a  sprinkling of salt

handful of pomegranate seeds (optional)
dusting of sweet or smoked paprika (optional)
sprig of fresh mint to garnish

Method
Pierce your aubergine a few times with a fork (to let out steam) and place it on an open flame on your hob. Use tongs to avoid burning yourself. Your aubergine should start to smoke up, blister and wrinkle (so turn on your extractor fan). Keep turning the aubergine until completely tender and charred and set aside until cooled. Peel off the skin and chop up the aubergine. Add to a bowl along with the tahini, yoghurt and lemon juice. Add the crushed garlic and however much olive oil you fancy. Season to taste and then do actually taste to check whether the ratio between the tahini and lemon juice is right. Add tahini if the mutabbal is too acidic or add lemon juice if it lacks a sharpness. Spoon onto a serving plate and dust with paprika. Cut a pomegranate in half and tap the skin with the back of the spoon to release the seeds and scatter on the mutabbal. Add a spring of mint and some more olive oil. Toast some bread and tuck in.

Lebanese Cuisine Basics: Muhammara

Wow, that took a long time! Sorry for the delay, folks, but here it is - the all new Olive Fig Grape layout! I went through a number of templates before I arrived at the one that seemed to fit best. Now we can finally get back to talking about Lebanese cuisine. A particular issue for me in my first 50 posts is that I didn't blog about enough of the basics. I don't mean how to hold a knife and how not to squeeze lemon juice in your eye but rather what constitutes the basic layout of a Lebanese table at dinner time.


















A concept closely related to Lebanese cuisine is the idea of Mezze - a range of shared dishes served with the aim of inspiring congeniality and allowing for multiple tastes and sensations to be experienced (not unlike tapas, pintxos and all their long-lost cousins). Mezze is a quintessentially Lebanese concept - open your home and (more accurately) kitchen to friends, family, neighbours and whoever else because that is the essence of hospitality and the height of social interaction. Mezze platters usually consist of dishes such as batata harra, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh and the like. Sometimes it strays into something more adventurous including things like bastirma, sujuk and one of my personal favourites muhammara. Sure, muhammara isn't technically a Lebanese creation but like much of the cuisine of the Levant, culture and identity overlap. Ful Medamas has about four million variations in the area between Cairo and Damascus and muhamarra is no different. If you didn't know, Muhammara is a hot pepper and nut dip that is great paired with hummus or simply spread on khubz. I love to eat it with grilled merguez. Mmm. The recipe below comes from my dad so any angry letters from any Syrians should be addressed to him.


Ingredients
1 red chilli
1 bell pepper
30g pine nuts
30g walnuts
30g pistachio nuts
30g almonds
a pinch of cumin
50g or so of breadcrumbs
1/2 a cup of olive oil
salt and pepper
juice of half a lemon (optional)

Method
The trick here is to break up the nuts by hand (I don't mean using your bare hands, read on). You can chop them if you're confident enough or more traditionally use a pestle and mortar to crush the nuts. Don't crush them too fine. Blitz the de-seeded chilli and red pepper in a food processor and mix with the crushed nuts. Add the remaining ingredients minus the olive oil. You want to work the mixture whilst pouring the olive oil in (don't do this in a processor, the olive oil will get bitter). The mixture might need more olive oil (it should moist but not too wet). The olive oil will help preserve it and it will keep for up to 10 days. Season it and then add the lemon juice if that's your preference. Serve with khobz or pitta bread and some hummus.

Chocolate Cake (and 50 posts!)

Oh yeah! It's a celebration, all right. I'm celebrating achieving what I set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year - namely to start a food blog (check!) and to get to fifty posts before the year is up! Looks like I made it! We still have a month and a bit of the year to go but I'm proud of myself for getting there so quickly. This was just the beginning of my journey and I hope you all follow me whilst this blog grows and evolves. Now I've reached 50 posts I've activated another thing on my to-do list but this one's a bit of a secret. Once it's completed I'll let you lovely people in on it. Also this site WILL be changing soon enough with a new logo and hopefully a new design.



















I had hoped to bring you the new design today (and that's partly the reason for the delay) but it's taking longer than I anticipated. To make up for it, I've included a chocolate cake recipe in this post. I made this for my dad's birthday and it went down really well. It's pure chocolate bliss. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.



















Ingredients
Chocolate Cake
200g dark chocolate (I used 76%)
200g butter
1 shot of espresso
175g type '00' pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking power
250g light Muscovado sugar
50g golden caster sugar (optional)
25-50g cocoa
3 eggs
75ml creme fraiche
125ml water

Chocolate Ganache
200g dark chocolate
300ml double cream
4 tbsp caster sugar (optional)


Method
Preheat oven to 140C. Butter and line a 8'' cake tin. Melt 200g of chocolate, the butter and 125ml of water in a pan on a low heat. When fully melted add the shot of espresso to the mixture. In a bowl whisk the eggs until pale and fluffy and beat in the creme fraiche. Add the melted chocolate mixture slowly to the egg mixture mixing constantly. Add the dry ingredients in steps (sugar then flour then baking powder then cocoa) making sure to beat thoroughly so everything is fully incorporated. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1hr 15mins - 1hr 25mins or when a toothpick inserted into the deepest part of the cake yields dryish crumbs. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the ganache: break up the remaining pieces of chocolate into smallish bits and place in a bowl. Heat up the cream and the sugar in a pan on a medium heat and take off just before it reaches boiling point (it starts to froth but not bubble over). Pour the cream onto the chocolate pieces and whisk until the chocolate melts. Wait for the ganache to cool down slightly before placing in the fridge for half an hour. In the meantime split the chocolate cake horizontally into two. Also make some flakes or curls of chocolate using a sharp knife. Take out the ganache from the fridge and spread 1/4 of it in between the two layers of cake. Sandwich down and spread the remaining 3/4 of ganache onto the surface of the cake with a pallet knife. Place the cake into the fridge for an hour for the ganache to set slightly and serve. Although it might be a bit of overkill some thick cream might be a good contrast to the pure chocolateyness of this cake.

Roast Quail with a Cannellini Bean Stew and Chestnuts

It's the 8th of November already? Where the hell did all that time go? By my estimations this year has been only six months long. Am I feeling the effects of time and ageing? Is global warming making the autumnal weather colder or am I just getting...old...er? I mean, I actually hurt my hip last week! My hip! I might as well put my name down on the NHS waiting list for a hip replacement because by the time my turn comes around I'll bloody well need it. Nursing my faulty hip, I took solace in writing absolute garbage for NaNoWriMo this past week. It's great emptying the cache of blunted creativity lurking around in my mind but I'm not sure how viable my 'novel' actually is.



















So I took my creativity and went back to the kitchen where I had a few disasters and one or two successes. This is one of those successes. I love quail but I usually have it barbecued so I went in search of a new recipe. I consulted The Complete Robuchon by (surprise, surprise) Joel Robuchon and came away with a great recipe for roasted quail but I needed something to pair it with. One epiphany later and I was making Roast Quail with a Cannellini Bean Stew and Chestnuts. I'm not sure where I got the idea from but this definitely went down as a success.



















Ingredients
Roast Quail
4 quail
4 dessert spoons of butter
4 sprigs of thyme
4 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
a good amount of fleur de sel
a sprinkle of white pepper

Cannellini Bean Stew
1 can cannellini beans - drained
2 spring onions
4-5 Chantenay carrots - diced finely
1 stalk of celery - diced finely
1 dessert spoon of butter mixed with 1 teaspoon rapeseed oil
1 cup of chicken stock
1 teaspoon freshly picked marjoram
a splash of white wine vinegar
seasoning

Chestnuts
a handful of Italian chestnuts - oven roasted, peeled and diced*

* To cook chestnuts: pierce the skin and cook for 10 mins on full heat in the oven (the skin will split when they're cooked). Alternatively roast your chestnuts on the barbecue!



















Method
Preheat your oven to 250C/475F and lightly grease a deep baking tray.Trim and clean your quail. Combine butter, thyme, garlic and half of the fleur de sel and spread on the quail (in the cavity and on top of the breast and legs). Rub the remaining fleur de sel and pepper on the skin of the quail and place them in the baking tray on their sides. Cook for five minutes and turn the birds so the breasts are facing down. Turn onto the other side after another five minutes and then complete the rotation and cook for another five minutes. After twenty minutes of cooking (in total after every rotation has taken place) sit the quail on their backs and spoon over the juices and roast for a few more minutes until the skin has browned. Cover with foil and let the birds rest for 5 or so minutes.

The stew takes 20 minutes to cook so you want to be prepared to start cooking the beans when the birds go in to the oven. Sauté the onions, celery and carrots in the butter and oil mixture until softened. Add the beans, the marjoram and the chicken stock and cook for 15 minutes (stirring occasionally). Add a splash of vinegar and season to taste. Spoon the bean stew onto a plate, place one quail on each plate and scatter with the chopped chestnuts. Top with the juices from the roasted quail and/or truffle oil if you fancy it. Eat and be happy!

Kishk Soup

Another week, another soup. I can't believe it has actually been a whole week since I last posted. I've had one of the strangest weeks of my life but I think I'll save that story for my autobiography (yeah, right). However, something that kept me going through the past seven days was the promise of good simple autumnal food. This time of year is great for richer, more filling foods and nothing fulfils more than a good bowl of soup and some crusty bread.
























One of the things I really associate with this time of year is this version of kishk soup. Kishk is a fermented mixture of dried yoghurt and cracked wheat which is a very popular staple in the mountainous regions of central Lebanon. When I was younger we usually ate kishk as a topping on mana'eesh and even then it was on special occasions. Although my parents made it at home, I always savoured our trips to the local Lebanese bakery where they would make the most exquisite kishk mana'eesh. It wasn't until I was in my teenage years that I started to appreciate kishk soup and how good my parents use of it was. My dad's version in particular is the one that inspired me to have a go and this is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Ingredients
2 beef tomatoes - diced
1 medium onion - diced
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup of kishk
2-1/2 cups of water
seasoning (if needed)
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
1 tablespoon of almonds
a few parsley leaves

Method
Fry the onions in butter and a little olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and fry for 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook gently for five minutes. Pour in the dried kishk and water into the pan and raise the temperature. You want the soup to be at a gentle boil (a bit further than a simmer). Cook for 10-15 minutes (the soup should get thicker and will continue to do so as you take it off the heat). Taste the soup and season if necessary. In another pan fry the almonds and pine nuts in a little oil until golden brown. Fill a bowl with the soup, scatter on a few of the nuts and top with a few parsley leaves. Serve with crusty bread.

Almond and Strawberry Cake

If I knew you were coming, I'd have baked a cake. But what use is waiting when I could have the cake all to myself? Luckily my gluttony is negated by the level of which my hunger is sated when I eat a slice of this cake. This is a cake that looks much more difficult to make than it actually is and is perfect as a dessert or as a part of an afternoon tea. Unfortunately by using fresh fruit the cake doesn't last beyond 2-3 days at room temperature but that shouldn't be a worry. I had a moment of inspiration a week or so ago after I posted on my twitter account that I had found frozen strawberries and ground almonds in my freezer. I asked my followers (that sounds ridiculous) for ideas but it seems they're much more shy and retiring than they make out! That wasn't a worry though as I soon had a flash of creativity. This is not a million miles away from a classic Lebanese cake known as sfouf that I made before (click here) but the emphasis here is less on spice and more on the interaction between a crumbly almond base and moist fruit pieces. This is definitely a crowd pleaser :-)



















Ingredients
a handful or so of strawberries (approx. 300g)
150g ground almonds
150g butter
125g caster sugar
125g self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
50g Marcona almonds (flaked)
icing sugar for dusting

Method
Heat your oven to 180C. Grease and line a 13'' cake tin. Mix all the ingredients minus the strawberries and the flaked almonds. The cake mixture should be quite thick but that's okay. Scoop half of the cake mixture into the cake tin and then layer with the whole strawberries. Pour on the remaining half of the cake mixture on top of the strawberries (you can use a moistened spatula to spread evenly). Top with the flaked almonds and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or so or until the surface of the cake is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve with a dusting of icing sugar. If you want to spoil yourself serve with clotted cream ice cream.

Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad

Oh yeah! Giving it to you Fergus Henderson style! This dish comes to you straight from the kitchens of one of the saviours of British cuisine. This is a dish that Anthony Bourdain considers his ultimate comfort food. This is a dish so warming, unctuous and decadent that it'll brighten up those idle Autumn evenings. This is a dish...that my mum really likes! Yeah! Oh.



















So, anyway, I went to the Ginger Pig and bought some really nice looking veal marrow bones and followed one of the simplest recipes ever for one of the most delicious things ever. This is so rich and filling that I wouldn't recommend eating too much of it but it's a great autumnal treat. The only change I'd include (for personal taste) is the addition of sumac to the parsley salad to give it an even bigger zing and cutting through more of the fat. Oh and I used sel gris! Good salt is a must.





















To make this dish follow the recipe here. :-)

Rose and Pistachio Pots

So at last here is the dessert from the underground restaurant event I held last month! It's a continuation of a recipe I posted when I first started this blog and it has slowly evolved into the dessert below. Anyway, enough babbling, here it is!

















Ingredients
Strawberry and Rose Jelly
1 sachet of powdered gelatine or vegetarian equivalent
500ml moderately hot, but not boiling, water
100g sugar
3 tablespoons good quality rose water
two handfuls of strawberries

Pistachio Cream
A small carton of double cream (or low fat equivalent)
a handful of roasted, unshelled, unsalted pistachio nuts
3 tablespoons of sugar
1-2 tablespoons of water

Cake Layer
1 small Madeira cake (recipe)


Method
You'll need to prepare the jellies and Madeira cake 3-4 hours (or even the night) before serving so plan ahead. The Madeira cake should be cooked and cooled (or bought from the shop!) by this point and cut into rounds encompassing the entire circumference of your chosen ramekins (there should be enough to make 6 pots). Put the water, sugar and 3/4 of the strawberries in a pan and make sure the water doesn't boil. Take the pan off the heat after 2-3 minutes. Mix the rose water in and make sure the sugar has dissolved. Strain the liquid into a measuring jug and vigorously mix in the gelatine making sure it is fully dissolved. Cool the mixture at room temperature. Place the Madeira cake rounds at the bottom of your ramekins and press down. Pour the liquid into the ramekins and let it cool down for 20 or so minutes. Place a few remaining strawberries in the jelly and use a toothpick to make sure they go into the position you want (presentation is important!). When the jelly has completely cooled down place the ramekins in the fridge.

Crush the pistachio nuts in a plastic bag until quite fine (make sure they're not all powdered - texture is important) and place them into a pan with the water and sugar. Heat together for a minute to so and leave to cool down whilst you whisk the cream. When the cream is fluffy add the pistachios making sure to fold them in. You might need to whisk the cream to get some more air into the mixture. Layer a teaspoon or so of the cream onto the jellies and top with extra crushed pistachios. Refrigerate for 20 minutes and then serve. Note: If you wanted to go all the way and make this into a trifle you could just add a custard layer!

Kabocha Squash, Oxtail and Ox Cheek Soup

This is one of those really comforting recipes. A really cheap but wonderful autumnal soup that you can leave on the stove for a few hours whilst you get on with your day. It combines the sweetness of Kabocha squash with an umami-rich stock made from oxtail and root vegetables. But that's not all! This dish also has pieces of stewed ox cheek in it and is finished with a zesty garlic and lemon panko pangrattato. This dish was in fact not made by me, so credit must go to my brother for this! We ate this a week or so ago when everyone in our family was ill and we needed something comforting to eat. This definitely helped. Sorry I don't have a pic of the final dish. My camera failed me on this occasion!



















Ingredients
1 kabocha squash
1 echaliom shallot
1 medium onion
2 carrots
1 swede
1 parsnip
1 leek
2 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 kilo ox tail
1/2 kilo ox cheek
1 litre chicken stock
10 peppercorns
5 teaspoons of panko
half a lemon zested and juiced
a glug of olive oil



















Method
Brown the meat in batches in a large pot and set aside. Dice the shallot and onion and fry until translucent. Crush four of the garlic gloves, add to the onions and fry off for half a minute. Cut the rest of the vegetables roughly and add to the pot. Add the meat once again and then cover with the chicken stock. Add the peppercorns and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Turn to a low heat and simmer for two to three hours. The soup is done when the stock is thick and the meat is tender to the touch and falling off the bone (in the case of the oxtail). 10 minutes before serving the soup you can make the pangrattato. You need to fry off 2 cloves of crushed garlic in a little olive oil for half a minute. Add the panko breadcrumbs, the lemon zest, a little seasoning and a squirt of lemon juice. Sprinkle on top of the soup before serving.

Also, before I forget, I'm sorry about my irregular posting. I'm currently reworking the site and new things should start to appear in the near future. It'll be worth it. I promise!

Banana Cake

There's something amiss in the dining room. There are five places set but only four of us are present. I look around and shrug my shoulders. My father is always late. He spends hours doing something that should take half an hour. The scary thing is that I'm pretty sure I'm inheriting that trait. The more I realise how similar I am to my parents and the more I push to be different, the more aware I become of how all the paths in front of me are leading to the same destination. But that's okay.



















Sometimes you can't rush things. I like spending time mulling things over but I think that my dad could represent Lebanon in the Olympic mulling-things-over team. Not that there is such a thing. Sorry to disappoint. It takes another twenty or so minutes before he's back. He was at the supermarket, he says. He didn't buy much, he adds. My dad has a habit where he sticks by a simple set of essentials that he buys on every trip to the supermarket. This hasn't changed for years. Bread, eggs, milk, cheese and bananas. The thing is, those are all staple food items but he has one extra issue to contend with - he always buys far too much. In his mind it's better to have too much than to have too little. Not that I necessarily agree with that theory but he'd grown up in a country during a long civil war - you had to always stock up just in case.

The bread, eggs, milk and cheese all get eaten before their expiry date but the bananas always linger. As banana connoisseurs know, there's nothing wrong with a browned banana, but when they turn that unappealing colour the collective mindset changes and bananas get left to rot. Herein lies the problem. We always have too many bananas going off at the same time. So over the years we've had to find a way to use them. Aside from smoothies or milkshakes, this is probably the simplest and tastiest recipe you could make. I've layered it with crunchy peanut butter and nutella to make this really difficult to resist but having it naked (the cake, not you) is just as rewarding.

Ingredients
3 overripe bananas - mashed
130g of butter + more for greasing
250g plain flour
2 large eggs - lightly beaten
150g soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
a sprinkle of cinnamon + nutmeg
peanut butter (optional)
nutella (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and flour a cake tin (1kg capacity). Whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the bananas. Sift the other ingredients into the mixture and work until fully incorporated. Pour into the baking tin and bake for 45minutes -1 hour or until browned and a toothpick comes out of the deepest part clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut up into big portions and serve up with peanut butter and the nutella or a vanilla cream. This is no-nonsense and decadent in a different way. It'll keep at room temperature for four days (covered in cling-film).

Griddled Tuna Steaks with Curried Chickpeas

A couple of days ago I was having a conversation with a friend when a dreaded question popped up. It was a question that I'd constantly batted away because it always put me in an awkward situation. But there was no way I was going to escape it this time. I just had to brace myself, listen up and answer it without making too much of a fuss. If you found out you only had one hour left on Earth, what would be the last thing you would eat? She asked. That question niggles away and always seems to activate my inner Larry David...I just don't know what I'd eat. I'd want to eat everything - like I was in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, I'd take a bite out of the lamppost...take a bite out of an...Oompa-Loompa. But people like real answers and I didn't know what to say so I went through a list of things I wanted to eat. Mum's kibbeh, the biggest steak in the world, chips, labneh, nutty gelato, a really greasy burger/kebab/hot dog, pizza, a croissant made out of too much butter, cheese, otoro sashimi...



















I'm pretty sure at this moment it had been 3 or 4 minutes since I'd said a word but my friend knew better than to wake me from my moment. Mmm. Fatty tuna. There's something so luxurious about eating tuna belly fat (clearly it's not inherent in the description) that to me is more rewarding than a great steak or a greasy kebab. I guess it's a pure and relatively guilt-free mouthfeel that also activates ancient synaptic connections that associate animal fat with pleasure and satiety. That and the fact it costs an arm and a leg and I hardly ever get to eat it...It would definitely be a fine way to say goodbye to the world. And the Bluefin species. I joke.

Tuna is way and beyond one of my favourite things to eat and overfishing is definitely a massive issue for responsible eaters. Ethically sourced tuna is without a doubt one of the better things to have in your fridge and I find it much more rewarding than chicken. I think we should be eating less chicken and more fish. Chicken is the meat world's pasta - so ubiquitous and so easy to cook that you wouldn't serve it for a special occasion (unless you had an amazing recipe). One of my favourite lunches is this griddled tuna steak recipe which I pair with curried chickpeas and a medium boiled egg. A boiled egg on top makes everything better. Serve it on the weekend with some rosé if you want to pretend that summer is still here. Oh, yeah, and one question: If you found out you only had one hour left on Earth, what would be the last thing you would eat?

Ingredients
2 tuna steaks
1 can of chickpeas
1 medium onion
2 tomatoes
1 teaspoon tomato puree
a small handful of chopped coriander
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
a pinch of garam masala
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
zest of 1 lemon and the juice of half
2 eggs



















Method
Dice the onion and fry in a little sunflower oil until translucent. In another pan dry roast half the cumin and the mustard seeds until you can smell the essential oils of the spices in the air. Crush the seeds in a pestle and mortar and then add the seeds, the chilli flakes and the garam masala to the onions. Fry for 20 seconds and then add the tomato puree and cook out for half a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and seasoning and let simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the coriander to chickpea mixture when you've turned the heat off. Dry roast the other half of the cumin seeds before crushing and massaging into the tuna steaks. Add the zest and the lemon juice and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Boil the eggs at this point to medium (you could also poach them). Heat up your griddle until it's smoking and sear the tuna steaks (making sure not to overcook). Dish up the chickpeas, add the tuna on top and the egg on top of the tuna steak. Sprinkle a little salt onto the egg and garnish with coriander. Easy peasy.

PS - Sorry I didn't update for a while. I didn't have access to the internet on my computer for a few days!

Saffron and Orange Lamb Shanks (with Robuchon Mash)

So it was approaching the big night of my first underground restaurant event and I still didn't have a main course. I had sent out the invites three weeks ago. 21 days. 504 hours. 30, 240 minutes ago. How was I not panicking? I should have been panicking! Something inside me was ignoring the warning signs with an assured calm. I guess by chipping away at the expectations of my guests by suggesting in the invitations that a successful night was one in which I didn't make anyone ill and one in which I provide three moderately edible courses. It became my self-fulfilling prophecy and up until the day before the event I was walking blindly into failure. And what did I do when I knew I was gravitating towards failure? I went off and made a cup of coffee and put my internal alarm on snooze. Somewhere between making and consuming the coffee an idea hit me. Lamb! Yes! Lamb! That's kind of Lebanese, isn't it? I couldn't get the word lamb out of my head. I was just sitting there, tapping my fingers muttering the word lamb under my breath. I guess I was making lamb. What kind of lamb and how wasn't apparent just yet.

















The haze of procrastination started to wear off about lunchtime when some internal resilience actually saw me make some steady progress. I typed the word lamb into google and realised I was being silly. I typed in lamb recipes and I managed to get to page three of the search results before deciding I had to actually figure out what kind of dish I wanted to make. I got up to have a breather (after two or so minutes of actual thought) and then inspiration struck. I don't know why or how but I suddenly had a vivid idea of what to make (I was even aware of the ingredients). Saffron and Orange Lamb Shanks...how did I even know how to make that? Maybe wasting your days away reading cookery books, blogs and magazines pays off! I wrote down the ingredients I thought I needed and went off to the butchers. Suddenly everything was okay. Melodrama was replaced by a real assured calm and I was happy with my main course selection. I decided to pair it with a mashed potato recipe inspired by Joel Robuchon's famous pommes purée. This is how I made it!

Ingredients
Saffron and Orange Lamb Shanks
6 lamb shanks
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 onions diced
4 carrots roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of saffron
3 bay leaves
4 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 can of diced tomatoes
a splash of Worcestershire sauce
zest and juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper

Robuchon Mash
900g - 1kg of a floury variety of potato
300g butter
150ml milk
salt and pepper

Method
Lamb Shanks
Brown the lamb shanks in olive oil and set aside. Heat up your stock in another pan and add the saffron to it. Fry the onion until translucent and then add the girl. Add the canned tomatoes and cook for a minute. Add the cumin, bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce. Place the lamb shanks back into the pan and top with the stock. Heat till boiling and then cover the pot before turning it all the way down. Cook for 3 and a 1/2 hours. Turn off the heat and add the zest and juice of an orange. Check seasoning and adjust.

Mashed Potatoes
Bake the washed and unpeeled potatoes at 180C until soft (this takes quite a while...like over an hour). Scoop out the insides of the potato into a ricer. Set aside the riced potatoes (hah) and then work through a sieve (this is quite difficult). Add the potato to a pan with the butter and heat up until the butter has melted. Add the milk in slowly until it reaches a consistency of your liking. Add the seasoning and then serve with the lamb shanks and a little bit of the cooking juices.

Warak Einab and Labneh

Warak Einab. Dolma. Dolmades. Vine Leaves. Aren't they just the most delicious? I was thinking about how peculiar it was to a person who'd never eaten vine leaves to be served vine leaves for the first time. The texture may not suit some but the taste is universally delicious. Garlic, mint, lemon, rice and lamb? Yes, please! However, I opted for a really old fashioned recipe. This version contains no rice and no meat whatsoever. I've also paired it with a thick Labneh (click here for recipe) because it adds a much needed cool creaminess to the dish. I'm sorry that I only have one photo and that the recipe may not be exact but I think it's definitely worth the hassle.

















Ingredients
1 pack vacuum packed vine leaves (around 80 but you only need half)
3 beef tomatoes
2 medium sized potatoes
2 medium sized onions
1 1/4 cups bulghur wheat
4 spring onions
1/2 cup of parsley
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tsp unsmoked sweet paprika
2 tbsp tomato concentrate
4 cups of water
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 -2 tbsp olive oil

Method
Technique
Okay, first up you need to the know the technique for rolling these bad boys. You need to place each leaf completely flat on a chopping board (rougher side facing down) before proceeding to cut off the stem at the bottom of the leaf (if it's still there). You need to spoon one to two teaspoons of mixture into the centre (just a tiny bit below dead-on) before rolling the right and left hand sides of the leaf inwards. You then roll the bottom up (not too tight) making sure to keep the opening at the bottom (so it doesn't unroll). Now onto the stuffing...

Stuffing and Cooking
Chop the spring onions and 2 beef tomatoes really finely before adding to the bulghur wheat. Add half the tomato paste, half the paprika, the parsley, the mint and seasoning to the wheat before making sure to mix well so everything is distributed evenly. You can add a splash of water or olive oil to give the mixture a better feel. Roll the vine leaves as above. This should make 40. Slice the potatoes, onions and the remaining tomato and add to the bottom of a large pan. Gently place each of the stuffed vine leaves on top of the potatoes, onions and tomato in the pan. Add the rest of the paprika and tomato paste, olive oil, lemon juice, water and some seasoning (the vine leaves should be 3/4 immersed). Bring to a slow simmer and place a cover on and cook for 25 - 30 minutes on a low heat. Some of the vine leaves may have torn but that's okay. Leave the vine leaves to cool slightly before serving with a spoonful of Labneh. Mmm.

Going Underground

Underground restaurants are everywhere right now. Every blog, magazine, newspaper and television channel has been underground restaurant crazy this past year and I thought I'd join the party before the clock struck midnight. One of the things I set out to do this year was to hold an underground restaurant (or supper club) event in my living room and this past Saturday (26th September) I did just that! I'd been planning the event for a month but being part of the Google generation my ability to concentrate was severely tested. Luckily I managed to get my stuff together and hold a pretty successful event (no one was poisoned; no expensive plates were broken).

















This, being my first foray into the underground restaurant game, was limited to friends who were keen and supportive of the idea (and looking forward to getting a 3 course meal for less than the price of a mojito). This was me testing the water; I needed to challenge myself and this was the perfect environment. Having friends over made the atmosphere comfortable and I think overall it was a very good night. I'll be publishing the recipes for each course right here for you lovely people but to tide you over until then, here is the menu:




Olive Fig Grape
Menu 26/09/09

Warak Einab and Labneh
Stuffed Vine Leaves with a Thick Yoghurt

Saffron and Orange Lamb Shanks
Served with 'Robuchon' Mash

Rose and Pistachio Pots
Rose Jelly and a Pistachio Cream



I went for a Lebanese theme to tie-in with my blog and one of the courses was a reworking of an old recipe I'd already published. We had Fairuz playing in the background and plenty of Jalab drink to go round to push some of the Middle-Eastern vibe. The atmosphere created by sharing with friends and interacting between meals made this a distinctly social event and for me this was one of the best food-related experiences of my life. I'll definitely be doing this again. Thanks to everyone who came! And a special thanks to Sam for taking the pics :-)

A Paris Special

Hello! I've just come back from Paris and I've got a good few food pictures to share with you. I'll be back to posting recipes in the next blog. Eid Mubarak to anyone celebrating!


Pierre Hermé (and some Ladurée)

One of the things I really wanted to do on my trip was to visit Pierre Hermé's pastry boutique in the 6eme arrondissment but I never thought I'd have to wait an hour to get served (I was, however, expecting some delay). But testament to the quality of his pastry I actually went to two different locations on successive days just to overindulge and get a better idea of what being the godfather of pastry entails. I tried 8 different flavours of macaron, the vanille millefeuille and the ispahan croissants. The macarons were really intense delicate little flowers that were a prime example of how to make this wonderful delicacy. I love macarons and although Hermé's were very good I still had Ladurée's vanille macarons in the back of my mind. I've had Ladurée's macarons in both London and Paris now and although Hermé's macarons are slightly more exciting, Ladurée's are slightly more delicious (and slightly more expensive). My favourite macaron at Hermé was the jasmine scented one. The peach and saffron was also delicious.



















The real triumph of my trip to Hermé's shops was eating that sublime millefeuille. It was flaky and delicate (it could hardly support it self) with a caramelised pastry and and an excellent vanilla kick. This was death row stuff. The croissants were another great revelation as buttery croissant was met with rose, lychee and raspberry to create a super breakfast. Only the pain au chocolat avec pistache at Ladurée could rival it in my opinion. I should also mention I had a rose St. Honoré at Ladurée which was also sensationally good and reminded of the ispahan flavours.




















Chez Robert et Louise

This small restaurant de feu (powered by wood fire) in one of the main arteries of the Marais reached an overwhelming popularity after being featured on the first ever episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. This restaurant had character and charm in the bucket load and more importantly the food was delicious. I sat at the bar upstairs and enjoyed using my broken French to communicate with the staff and my companion diners. There was a lively atmosphere and we all shared a glass of rosé whilst talking about the restaurant and its overwhelming popularity with Americans and Brits alike. At one point during dinner I could hear 80% of people around me speaking in English which made for a strange atmosphere. I think the staff enjoyed my attempts at speaking French (as opposed to the tactic of some to walk in speaking English from the offset) and they even brought me an espresso at the end of the meal gratis.



















For my main course I opted for the entrecôte (rib eye) cooked on the wood fired grill (pictures above and below) with a side of potatoes cooked in goose fat. The wood fired grill imparted a great clean smoky taste to the steak (cooked rare) which retained its juiciness and umami punch. The goose fat potatoes were also tasty but weren't crispy enough for my liking. We were provided with grey sea salt to sprinkle over the food but I don't think the food needed much uplifting. I definitely recommend this place but make sure to get a reservation. So many people were turned away for showing up without reservations but you might be lucky (turn up near opening time at 7pm and you might snag a table).




















Pain de Sucre

I was recommended this patiserrie by a friend who told me the two owners are ex-Pierre Gagnaire pastry chefs so they had some inventive pastries to try. I didn't try the macarons here but opted for a Baobab (not the fruit) which was a clever play on the baba au rhum. There was a custard bottom with an excellent cake dome that was pierced at the top with a baster filled with rum which I was instructed to use to pierce the top of the cake to evenly distribute the liquid. This was so messy and extremely filling but also quite satisfying. I just needed a coffee to go with it and all would have been well. I know I'm in no position to suggest anything but I would also have liked a different texture to the cake...something with a bit more action for my teeth.




















L'as du Falafel

I was excited about this. Apparently I was going to have the best falafel in the world (according to some internet reviewers) whilst those with more reserve said this was the best falafel you could get in Europe. Again, anything to that effect just doesn't sit right. Either way I was expecting something delicious. And I got something delicious. Really delicious and quite light. The chilli sauce was definitely great. The falafel balls were moist and not one bit greasy. But by no means the best falafel in the world! I still remember eating at the original Khalifa Falafel in the Basta (Beirut) and that for me was way and beyond this sandwich. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a quick lunch though.




















Bahn Mi in Belleville

I found this area of Paris the most interesting. North African and Vietnamese immigrants settled here after Belleville became part of the greater Paris area and the sheer diversity in cuisine was astounding. I spent quite a bit of time her getting acquainted with some great food culture. I really enjoyed the Bahn Mi at Dong Huang (whilst other bloggers have suggested stale bread or skimping on filling I didn't find this) and I thought it was a great example of the Vietnamese Sandwich. There was a queue of about 7 people to get in but I think it was definitely worth it. Really cheap and filling. I may have enjoyed it more than L'as du Falafel.




















Conclusion

I had a lot of fun in Paris and I'm sorry I didn't take pictures of half the stuff I saw and ate but I was too busy feeding myself. Most things I tried were delicious and the food culture of Paris is influential for any aspiring chef/gourmand. For tasting an exceptional millefeuille gives me reference for what I want to aim for and allows me to further understand how to try and emulate some of my food heroes. Hopefully one day I'll produce food this good. We live and learn.

Fish and No Chips

What's more quintessentially English than Fish and Chips? Bulldogs and Benny Hill? The Queen and The Queen's English? Roast beef? Our Gallic neighbours seem to think the latter is the most descriptively apt, as we are endearingly known as le rosbifs. But, you know what? I think English cuisine doesn't get the credit it deserves and although the origins of some contemporary dishes (including fish and chips) aren't historically English, they've become culturally so. And that's what makes England and especially the metropolitan area of London so great for food: multiculturalism. To influence and be influenced. Sure it's not as rosy as this humble food blog can account for but too much is made of the negative.

















Fish and chips has it's origins in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine and was brought over in the late 19th Century to Britain. Britain found a home in its hearts and on its land for this simple dish and today (for me at least) there is nothing that says home more than fish and chips. This is my tribute: a Lebanese inspired ode to fish and chips. Oh wait, before I forget I've excluded the chips from this recipe as I'll be doing a special on them in the future. Look out for that! Also, I'm sorry I haven't updated properly for a while (I've been ill). There's some exciting stuff coming your way, so stay tuned!

Ingredients
White fleshed fish (sustainable cod or haddock or pollock)*
1 bottle Lebanese beer (I used Almaza)
plain flour
the zest of half a lime
cumin seeds
salt

*You could use Red Mullet for a more Beiruti twist but it's expensive in the UK and may be too strong a taste for some.

Method
I didn't put any measurements because it depends on how much you're making. You want a relatively thick batter (scotch pancake thickness). Deep fry one piece of fish at a time at 180C until browned. To prepare the fish: flour the fillets and shake off excess; dip in batter and place in hot oil. Drain on kitchen towel, squirt with lime and eat with tartare sauce.

Tabbouleh

I've been thinking about my blog a lot recently. I had a sudden sense of urgency in the last few days after realising that I'd been neglecting the classics of Lebanese cuisine. Whilst my aim is to be a bit more creative there is a use to having solid tried-and-tested recipes populating this blog. Tabbouleh is one of those things that is so simple that it allows for wide and varied interpretation. It might not be any stretch of the imagination to presume every family in Lebanon has their own tweaked version and I bet every person thinks their mum's version is the best! I'm going to avoid modesty and go all and out and suggest my mum's version is up there.



















Ingredients
3-4 small bunches of parsley
2 beef tomatoes
8 fresh mint leaves
2 spring onions
2 tablespoons fine bulgur wheat
2 medium lemons
2-3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
salt and pepper



















Method
Finely chop parsley and spring onions. Dice the beef tomatos and add to the parsley and onions. Rip the mint into small pieces, add the bulgur wheat, the juice of the two lemons, the seasoning and the olive oil. Mix and let sit for at least an hour. Serve as part of a mezze or with lamb cutlets.

Olive Fig Grape: More About Me

I'm sorry I have to disappoint by not publishing a recipe-related post today but I think this article is long overdue. The 'about' section on my blog page doesn't reveal much so I thought it was about time you got to know a little more about the motivation for this blog and a bit more about me! I asked a friend to figure out some good questions and I've answered them below. Use the comments section if you want to know more!

Why did you choose the name Olive Fig Grape?
The name simply refers to three foods with agricultural origins in Lebanon. They are quintessential Lebanese ingredients and some of my favourite foods. I wanted this blog to be about Lebanese cuisine without being atypical of how Lebanese cuisine is perceived in the West. I wanted to give a nod to something quintessentially Lebanese that would also allow me a blank canvas to expand into the territory of New Lebanese cuisine...whatever that might be. I value tradition but the authenticity of ingredients and techniques is also important.

You say that, but a lot of your recipes don't seem very Lebanese...
That's fair. I like to think that Lebanese cuisine encompasses the majority of the things I cook and write about, but I have left myself room to broaden my culinary repertoire. Sometimes I'll even be showcasing a whole set on a whole different cuisine (like I did with the Pizza Special). A lot of my food is inspired by growing up in London, being obsessed with Italian food as a teenager and my passion for Japanese, French and Turkish cuisine.

Olives, figs, grapes....choose one and only one.
Automatically it's down to either olives or figs. However much I love olives I think I'll have to go with figs. They have a season and elicit so many memories of childhood.

So what possessed you to start a food blog?
I wanted to measure my own ability in the kitchen by testing myself. By publishing posts I have to make sure I cook something a bit different each week and make it look beautiful. Also this has been in the works for quite a while but I'd never had the ability to see the idea through. I wrote this down on my 2009 to-do list and made myself stick to it. That makes it sound forced but I truly enjoy writing this blog.

What's your death row meal?
Awesome pizza and awesome gelato (hazlenut or pistachio)...by the bucket. Maybe some chips. Some Kibbeh. Steak. Otoro. Food. Give me food!

Favourite TV Chef?
Bourdain but not for the cooking. Blumenthal for the obsessiveness.

Favourite Cookbook?
As in my profile: I've used the Silver Spoon the most and I'm drawn to it time and time again. I also like Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection.

What one ingredient couldn't you live without?
Onions or garlic. Lemon if you believe the Lebanese culinary stereotype.

What is your current culinary obsession?
Mexican food. Definitely. I also love the New Spanish/Basque food thing. What's better than eating Pintxos with a Cerveza 100yards away from the beach?

Are we running out of questions?
I think so. Maybe it's time for you lovely people to ask anything you want and I'll try to answer them below. It was quite weird interviewing myself but there you have it!


Chocolate Brownie Cake with a Clementine Crème Fraîche

My vitriolic criticism of all things related to the superfood trend may have been a little short-sighted. I mean, shouldn't we celebrate a trend that allows us to eat antioxidant-rich and utterly delicious foods such as avocados and (dark) chocolate? Maybe I'm a hypocrite but beyond that I am a glutton. A recent study by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (published in the Journal of Internal Medicine) has reported that consuming chocolate cuts the death rate in heart attack survivors. Previous research had shown that antioxidant levels in dark chocolate was conducive to lowering blood pressure and aiding gastrointestinal health. Chocolate isn't just delicious but it's also good for us. The Mayans and the Aztecs had it right some centuries before chocolate was brought to Europe by the Spanish. Chocolate is an aphrodisiac, a drug, an addiction and everything that is good in life. This is a celebration of that.




















Ingredients
Chocolate Brownie Cake
100g butter
150g caster sugar
50g brown sugar
130g good quality dark chocolate (I used 76%)
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
1/2 a tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Clementine Crème Fraîche
1 x 300ml pot of crème fraîche
2 clementines
4 tbsp icing sugar

To line the cake tin
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp cocoa powder



















Method
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the cake tin and line with cocoa powder. Shake off the excess. In a pan heat the chocolate, sugar, butter and golden syrup on a low heat until fully incorporated and as smooth as possible. Whisk the two eggs until frothy and doubled in volume. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add the vanilla extract. Take the chocolate mixture off the heat and place in a cold bowl. Whisk the eggs into the mixture vigorously before adding the flour (along with the other ingredients). Make sure everything is incorporated and then pour into the cake tin. Cook in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick yields a slightly wet crumb (for a soft and chewy centre). Take out of the oven and cool on a wire rack. You can reheat and serve it warm with ice cream but I prefer whisking up a nice clementine crème fraîche. Zest the two clementines into the pot of crème fraîche and add the icing sugar. Whisk until incorporated and put in the fridge for five minutes. Cut the brownie cake into segments and spoon on the crème fraîche. Mmm.

Apple and Blueberry Muffins

Nigella (Lawson; we're on first name terms, don't you know?) says that making your own muffins can be really easy and even quite comforting. Clearly she's never been in my kitchen. I'm not as messy as I once was but things do get pretty chaotic at times. I guess it's a calm and controlled chaos and that's okay because an hour later I'll be sitting on the sofa surfing the internet with a coffee and a muffin. However much fun Nigella is to watch (for a 22-year old man, ahem) I'm not a fan of her muffin recipe (sorry!) and I think I've found one better. These muffins are an edited version of the Blueberry Crumble muffins from the Ottolenghi cookbook. You should definitely try it!



















Ingredients
270g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
170g caster sugar
70g melted butter (unsalted)
190ml milk
zest of half an orange
1 Granny Smith apple (unpeeled and diced)
90g of blueberries
a crumble mixture (flour, ground almonds, brown sugar and butter)

















Method
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and set to the side. Whisk the eggs, sugar and melted butter in a separate bowl and slowly work in the milk. Add the zest and the fruit to the egg mixture. Tip in the flour and mix as few times as possible (until it's all incorporated but still quite lumpy). Preheat the oven to 170C. Spoon the batter into muffin cases (that are held with a muffin tin) and nearly to the top. This should make 8 muffins. Scatter the crumble on top generously and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and increased in size. Cool on a wire rack and then boil some water for your coffee. Yum.

Beetroot and Goats' Cheese Risotto


When I first started learning how to cook one of the dishes I'd frequently revisit (and exhaust) was the classic Milanese dish of risotto. It soon became my calling card; I knew how to cook a decent risotto. But by the twentieth time of cooking a risotto I suddenly had an epiphany...I'd become a one-dish wonder.  That realisation forced me to change tact and to save the risotto for special occasions. I had to learn how to cook something else. Over the years I revisited the risotto several times but the more I cooked it more adventurous I became. 













This specific recipe isn't the most adventurous of my attempts but it has an immediate visual impact and a wonderful sweet, earthy taste from the beetroot. The fresh goats' cheese turns this from a good risotto into a very good one (if I say so myself). When I brought this out for my Mum to try she was taken aback by the colour but she had something on her mind. She first stared at the risotto and then inspected the dish before exclaiming that there was something quite devilish about the colour and to a superstitious woman like her it was quite alarming. She did try it and I'm glad to say she loved it (and there were no ill effects nor any sign of an antichrist). 


















Ingredients
1 cup Egyptian short grain rice (or Carnaroli)
2-2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 stalk celery
1 large onion
2 small cloves of garlic
1 dessert spoon olive oil
a splash of a dry white wine (optional)
3 medium sized beetroots - grated
2 tablespoons of parmesan
1 tablespoon of good quality butter
1 block fresh soft goats cheese (I used a variety from the Poitou-Charentes region)
salt and pepper (careful on the salt, there's stock and parmesan in this)

















Method
Sweat the diced onion and celery in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the garlic for no longer than half a minute. Add the rice and make sure that every grain is coated in oil and fry for a minute. Add the wine if you're using it or proceed ahead if you're not. Add the beetroot and stir in and then ladle on the first spoonful of stock. Try to stir this as few times as possible. You only want to stir to stop it from sticking. Add a ladleful of stock at a time until the rice has increased in size and is tender to the bite. You want to make sure not to dry out the rice too much so it's best to add a little more stock after your rice is cooked to your liking. Add the grated parmesan and butter and stir. Cover and leave to rest for one minute. Cut the goats' cheese into chunks whilst you wait. Spoon on the risotto and layer with some goats cheese and a splash of olive oil. Then it's time to eat!










Blueberry and Clotted Cream Shortbread Tarts

Something about the term superfood really grates me.  I mean I've never imagined a blueberry in a cape or an avocado ridding the world of all tyranny. Sure, I believe in the power of consuming foods that are nutritionally good for us, but this talk of foods we must be consuming (and buying at a premium) to rid ourselves from potential ailment and disease doesn't sit well with me. I do believe there is a relationship, if not direct correlation, between diet and health (physical and mental) and we shouldn't sneer at sound advice. The term superfood (as used in marketing terms) is just used as leverage by the supermarkets and suppliers to charge an exorbitant amount for something that was 50% cheaper last year and it's my belief that this isn't sound advice.



















Okay, so this is clearly fuelled by demand and supply, but this illusory demand has been created by the media and their shit-mongers. I'm here to give you a piece of really good advice. You don't need to spend £10 on goji berries or have a shot of aloe vera before breakfast. No, what you need in your life is...brace yourself...you might have heard this before...it's...balance! Oh how simple was that? Eat your greens, don't fry everything, switch to using rapeseed (canola) oil, make sure you get some fibre, drink plenty of water and exercise once in a while. There's also no problem in treating yourself every now and then so don't feel bad about it. To both completely remove the shackles of faux-nutritionists and parody the superfood ideal, I've used blueberries in my version of a shortbread tart (and topped them with clotted cream). You could alternatively make biscuits out of this recipe by rolling the dough and baking it on a flat tray. Either way I hope you enjoy this. Bon appetit!

Ingredients
150g plain flour
25g rice flour
50g sugar
100g good quality butter
100g of blueberry jam
50g of clotted cream
a few blueberries to decorate

Method
Mix the two flours, the sugar and the butter in a bowl by hand. You want to form the ingredients into a dough that just about sticks together (hence the term short). If it's not quite right you can use a splash of water or milk to get it there. Refrigerate the dough for half an hour before diving into equal sized balls. Grease a muffin tin and place one ball in each mould (should make about 12) before pressing down in the centre and working to the sides of the muffin tin (so you have a hollow muffin base shape out of the dough). Bake until golden at 180-200C making sure to prick the bases with a fork every 3 or so minutes to stop the dough from expanding. Cool on a wire rack before filling each shortbread base with a tablespoon of super-duper blueberry jam and a teaspoon of clotted cream. You could use any other kind of jam if you aren't convinced by the muscles of the humble blueberry - I think apricot is pretty damn delicious. Make yourself a pot of tea and have some fun.

Grilled Halloumi with Mango and Mint

Sometimes words only exist to complicate something so simple. Out of Monday blues and summer-lust comes this recipe combining three simple ingredients: ripe Pakistani mangoes, a traditional sheep and goat's milk halloumi and freshly picked mint. Not a hint of Lebanese to it. Oh well.

























 Ingredients
200g diced ripe mango
200g sliced halloumi
5-6 leaves of freshly picked mint


















Method
Heat up a griddle pan and and sear the halloumi for 30 seconds on each side. You need the pan to be smoking hot to get good grill marks. Dice the mango and pick the mint leaves before combining the three ingredients. Make yourself a drink, grab some crusty bread and make your way to the garden to enjoy this delicious salad.