Sunday, 18 May 2014

Cured Salmon (Lox)

Salmon sashimi is one of those delicacies that I enjoy every time I get the chance. I'd be more than happy to make this at home but the problem boils down to the lack of supply of the freshest sushi grade salmon. I know that you cant just use any old shop bought salmon. Eating this raw could be dangerous. I have searched high and low and spent countless wasted hours on the internet looking for a source. The only way I can find to get this fish is a 4am trip to London's outstanding Billingsgate market. You also have to buy this in bulk which for us mere end consumers is not really feasible. I also believe that some suppliers have already frozen the fish to remove possible parasites so it needs to be eaten within a few days. Smoked salmon is a good alternative but the smoke really does over power the delicate flavour.

Then I discovered Lox. Lox is salmon that has been cured or brined. This process 'cooks' the fish making it safe to eat and it's the closest I've found to sashimi. Yes, it's not as soft, delicate and tender but it is easy to make and most of all easy to source and cheap.  Although you should use fishmonger fresh fish, you don't have to. Below is my recipe for lox using shop bought packet salmon.



1 Packet of salmon fillets
200g Sugar
200g Table salt
2g Fresh Dill


Wash and pat dry the pieces of fish and place skin side down on a baking tray or in a plastic container.

Mix the salt, sugar and dill together and pour over the salmon forming mounds and making sure the fish is completely covered. Place this into the fridge overnight.

 The next day, remove the now hard mixture and wash all the excess off the fish. At this stage, the outside of the lox will be very firm. The heading picture above was taken at this stage. Personally I like the outside 'skin' but it can be removed if you wish. Slice thinly ensuring you do not include the skin. Serve on its own or as part of a dish. Delish!

Here is lox sitting on my continental potato salad with a lemon oil and coriander and lemon grass sauce.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Continental Potato Salad

My nan used to live in Holland. When I went to visit I used to relish the different food types I'd see and try. I'd peruse the aisles of the supermarkets in awe trying to figure out what was in each packet as I couldn't understand the ingredients. I picked up a small pre-made salad pot with a white plastic spoon on top. It looked a little like a yogurt. To my surprise, it was potato!

Continental Potato Salad 

300g White Potatoes (Maris Piper)
50g Mayo (I prefer Heinz or Hellmans)
5g Salad Cream (I prefer Heinz)
50g White Onion
50g gherkin
3g Salt (I prefer Maldon Sea Salt)
Teaspoon of Schwartz Mixed Herbs*

Optional: 75g ham/gammon

Makes enough for a side dish for 4 people. If making for more double the quantities.


Peel the potatoes and dice them to the size of a... dice! (I know it's die singular but it doesn't have the same ring to it). Wash and drain. Place them into a saucepan along with the salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potato is soft and a knife slides in easy. This potato salad needs them to be soft as the edges form a mash that thickens the salad. No hard chunks in this one!

Whilst the potatoes are cooking cut the onion and gherkins into a fine dice. The pork/gammon too if you are using it. Once all the ingredients are ready it really is a simply as adding this all to a bowl and mixing thoroughly. Cover and chill in the fridge.

Take a look at my Lox Recipe, here the potatoe salads act as a refreshing base.

*This is a non negotiable brand. See Brand Notice

Friday, 16 May 2014

Simple Shellfish Stock

This is a brilliant thrifty recipe that delivers outstanding results. To think I used to throw the shells in the bin!

Simple Shellfish Stock

Heads and shells from approx. 1kg of peeled cold water prawns.
4 Cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed.
A pinch of black peppercorns
3g 'Big pinch' good quality salt. (I prefer Maldon Sea Salt)
3 Dried bay leaves
1.2 litres of water (approx.)

Simple Shellfish Stock

Add all the ingredients to a large saucepan and place a lid on top. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat and then simmer for about 2hrs stirring occasionally. I wish I could bottle the aroma that fills the kitchen whilst this stock is being made.

After 2 hours turn off the heat and allow to cool. I usually strain the stock first through a sieve to remove all the large pieces. I then strain the stock that is left through a muslin cloth and then the stock is ready to be used. It will keep in the fridge for a few days or it can be frozen in which ever vessel you see fit. Personally, I like to use the pour and store style bags or those plastic takeaway style containers.

Simple and tasty, this stock is a great base for all sorts of dishes and sauces.

Sunday, 11 May 2014


I've always loved crab sticks. They are real treat on 'Seafood Sunday'. I first came across them when I'd popped into a pub with my dad one Sunday afternoon. Back then, almost all of the pubs we went to had some kind of white port-a-cabin style van outside with a plethora of seafood available on a chilled ice display. I wasn't so adventurous so I'd end up with 10 crab sticks or stix whilst my dad would get a pint of prawns and some whelks.

As I've grown I continue to love them but the humble crab stick has come in for a real hard time over the years. Now we all know that crab sticks actually contain no crab don't we? Do we also know the red dye is actually made from insects? Cochineal in fact. The crazy gang down at the food labelling department have actually stopped them being called crab because they don't contain any, they are actually made from surimi. Below is a good article from the American TV show 'unwrapped' which details how the product is made.

So why am I telling you all this? Well I have noticed a vast difference in the quality and taste of surimi products but they are all still just surimi. When discussing this fact with my niece once I recall her saying "Ain't it all just mashed up fish? Its all the same." No it's not.

I have decided that I will create this post as my homage to surimi. During my time on this post I will be sampling and reviewing all the surimi products I can find and detailing them here. From the good, the bad and the ugly, this will be my no holds barred surimi tasting platform.

Watch this space...

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Nandos Red Pepper Dip

This quick and easy recipe was inspired by a visit to Nandos. A friend asked me to try the red pepper dip starter and I've been hooked ever since. Like many of the foods I eat out, I have tried to recreate this dish at home and this little gem is very close to the Nandos red pepper dip. There are a fair few recipes on the web but I like this one.

Red Pepper Dip


1 Jar of roasted* red peppers. (320g)
1/4 Small white onion (30g)
1/2 Salad tomato (40g)
4 Capers (7g)
3 Sundried tomatoes (25g)

*I prefer the Aleyna brand of peppers but any will do as long as they are roasted. I have seen some that say 'marinated'. Please do not use these as your dip will not taste pleasant at all. It will be sour and sharp.


Ensure that you have drained all the ingredients well. Place them all into a food processor  and pulse for about 1 minute. Empty into a bowl and refrigerate for about 1hr.This will make enough for a starter/snack for 4. It might be hard to skip the refrigeration step but it's important, this dip tastes better cold.

It's that easy! - Serve with some warmed pitta bread. Enjoy.This is great as a present to take to a friends house too along with a nice bottle of wine.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

I dreamed a dream of pies gone by...

As a kid back in 1980's East London, I would be looking forward to Saturday lunchtime with gusto. You see, I was fortunate enough to grow up a mere 5 minutes walk away from London's finest Pie & Mash shop. The Noted Eel & Pie House nestled on the corner of West St. and Leytonstone High Rd in a small area known locally as Harrow Green. 

Pie, Mash & Liquor
Now, I know that sweeping statement of mine might just raise eyebrows and stir controversy. Many will argue that it was Clarkes in Exmouth Market, Goddards in Greenwich, Kellys on The Roman Rd or Manzes, the oldest pie & mash shop in London. Don't get me wrong, I have tried ALL of these and they sure are fine examples of this old fashioned grub but.., but... I've been going to The Noted Eel & Pie House since as long as I can remember, knee high to a grasshopper. Imagine a short scruffy boy reaching up to the grey marble counter waving aloft old battered one pound note, "please miss, a single please". Then I'd take a seat at the MIND THE STEP tables hoping a bottle chilli vinegar was unoccupied as I was too shy to ask someone. I like a bit of pie & mash with my vinegar.

The real shame is that these small pieces of east end history are fast becoming extinct as our palletes demand a more diverse range of exotic flavours and spices. It's the green liquor I think. The silky parsley gravy that people seem to judge like the cover of a book. If I could leave a slogan on a wall it would read, 'Give pie & mash a chance!' It's not all bad news however as there are a few old school heroes out there still keeping this tradition going. Pie & Mash shops have been springing up in the suburbs some of which are extremely good. Lawson's in Wickford, Essex is one that I recently visited and not only was the food and atmosphere and d├ęcor reminiscent of my past, but it was also by far the best value I have seen for a long time. A double pie and triple mash to go with my vinegar was just what my hangover needed.

Whist I was eating I noticed a fine display of old photos and football memorabilia adorning the walls. There's even a signed shirt from another pie and mash fan from Leytonstone, David Beckham. A glance to right of this shirt was the chalkboard style prices list with a white hand written sticker...'Frozen pies'. Are you kidding me? I found my mind rushing with a hundred questions, You can get these pies frozen? They can't be as good as fresh can they? How will I cook them? I just had to find out so I bought the last few pies they had in stock and headed home eager to find out how the pies would come out. I don't have a special oven and I have no idea what temperature or how long to cook them or even if they cook from frozen. Last but not least, I'm stuffed and cannot eat any more pies! I put my new found treasure into the freezer and forgot about them.

My last experience of pie & mash frozen was from ASDA. They sold Robins frozen meal and it was awful. I'm not a fan of frozen/instant mash anyway because fresh is so easy to make. I could write an in depth review of Robins but I think I'll leave that for another day.

A few days later I was once again hit with what I can only describe as mind blowing cravings for pie and mash again. I get them every so often and have been known to travel on a 60 mile round trip just to satisfy them. Then I remembered, I have pies in the freezer! I grabbed the white plastic bag and to my surprise there was a pot of liquor also in the bag. Frozen liquor? I popped of the pot lid and staring back at me was an ice encrusted stone hard lump. I placed it back in the freezer and put a few of the tin lined minced beef pies on a baking tray and popped them in the oven. After about 20 minutes on 190C I began to think about what I was doing I realised that this is not going to work, these pies are already fully cooked and to reheat from frozen was going to need a lower heat, even more, I should have defrosted them really to bring the core back to a reasonably chilled temperature. I opened the oven door and there was the sorry sight of my ruined pies. Pies that had travelled with me and had promised so much. These were no longer pies, they were meaty biscuits. I ate them anyway and although crunchy and hard with no gravy left, they still had that original pie flavour. This could work I thought, this could work with a little preparation.

Whilst perusing eBay once I had noticed that there was someone selling the pie tins you the pies cooked in at the shop. Small oval shaped tins which house the thinner foil tin. I then began to think, are these a standard size? I even measured my frozen pies to check. Would these help in my quest to have east end pie and mash at home? I had to find out so I bought some. Once these tins were in my hands I immediately went and took the last few pies, together with the liquor out of the freezer and placed them in the fridge because tonight, was going to be THE night. All day at work I was thinking about how I was going to do this.

I got home, popped the pies into the new tins and into the oven on a low temperature. I then turned my attention to the liquor. It looked like one of the most unappetising things I have ever seen. I tipped it into the pan and it held shape! It just sat there looking at me like a slime green parsley blancmange. I attacked it with a whisk and some elbow grease. To begin it looked lumpy and horrible but it's a bit like making a sauce using a roux, the more you work it the better it gets. As the heat began to rise the sauce began to some together and eventually it resembled the liquor I know and love. As I tasted it I began to realise, yes you can. Yes you can make pie, mash & liquor from frozen and it loses very little of the flavour of being in the shop.

And just because I fancied it I also made my own chilli vinegar using a bottle of drivers malt vinegar and those little red dried chilli peppers. Go easy with them though, they can be spicy little fireballs and the longer they are in the vinegar the hotter it gets!

So there you have it, you CAN have that original east end pie and mash meal at home anywhere in the UK if your prepared to go out of your way to get it.