Tuesday, 12 April 2011

L is for...

... Lychee Martinis and laverbread cakes, langoustine and lobster lasagna, liver loaf with lemon-dressed lambs lettuce, followed by a main course of lemon thyme-stuffed leg of lamb on lentils with lardons and leeks, a palate-cleanser of lemongrass and lavender lollipops, a pudding of lebkuchen-based lemon mousse served with lime sorbet, loganberry jelly, Limoncello jelly and loganberry coulis washed down with Limoncello. Next came the cheese course of Lincolnshire Poacher, Langres, Little Wallop and Livarot with linseed crackers,  followed by Lapsang Souchong truffles, Lamingtons and liquorice root.

L night played host to a wonderful mix of people, mostly with the surname Davies. One particular Davies (thanks Tom) was kind enough to bring his own "L" themed mixtapes. That's right, mixtapeS. Tom brought us two CDs and Richard had also made two, so their compilations pretty much covered the whole evening. Not only that, they managed, without any pre-planning, to have no cross-over at all. Good job, boys. The letter L is clearly absolutely rife in the world of music. We listened to the likes of The Last Poets, Lambchop, Luke Leighfield, Lipps, Inc, The Longpigs, Led Zeppelin and Liliput to name but a few, and they were just from Tom's collection. From Richard, Laibach, Like a Thief, Little Boots, Loki, The Libertines and Leonard Cohen  were just a handful from his L night music menu. We drank Labouré-Roi, Louis Latour Pinot Noir and Languedoc.

Lychee Martinis

Deliciously fragrant and refreshing, though make no mistake, these pack quite a punch.

measures are per person

1 measure Vermouth
2 measures Vodka
2 measures Lychee purée
Plenty of ice
1 fresh peeled lychee for each glass

Shake the purée, vodka and vermouth with the ice and strain into Martini glasses. Pop a fresh lychee into each glass. Drink up.

Laverbread cakes

Most of the laverbread cakes had been eaten before the photo was taken

Laverbread is a Welsh delicacy - which seemed appropriate given the quantity of Davies's at the table (though none of them were related to each other). Laverbread is puréed seaweed and I found some in Fortnum & Mason in a little tin which, like seemingly every ingredient I have ever purchased in F&M was just over £5.  A bit steep for a tiny tin that you could probably buy for 50p in Wales, but it was tasty enough that I didn't feel robbed of the extra £4.50. Richard made the laverbread cakes and this is how he did it:

4 oz/ 100 g lardons
1 tin of laverbread
4 oz/ 100 g oats, plus extra for coating
Salt and pepper

Fry the lardons in a frying pan in a splash of oil until the lardons are crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve the frying juices for later. Pop the bacon in a food processor with the laverbread and oats and blitz. Season and form into patties and roll in oats. Reheat the lardon fat and fry the laverbread cakes until nicely browned on both sides. Drain the cakes on some kitchen towel and serve.  

Monday, 11 April 2011

K is for... smoked Kirkham, Keen's Cheddar, Kilcummin and Kelsey Lane


It was to Neal's Yard Dairy in Borough Market that Richard went to collect K night's cheeseboard. He returned with smoked Kirkham, a crumbly, creamy unpasteurised cows milk cheese and definitely a favourite of the night. He also bought some Keen's Cheddar, a deliciously rich and tangy unpasteurised cows milk cheese, and Kilcummin, a smooth and firm unpasteurised cows milk cheese, described by Neal's Yard as having "some quite wild flavours which can be either yeasty, sweet or tongue tinglingly spicy but with a warm savouriness alongside it". Lastly, we had Kelsey Lane an unpasteurised soft sheeps milk cheese - rich and milky and my personal favourite of the night. I served the cheese with kalamata olives.

K is for... Kumquat kasblotz and kulfi

A kasblotz is a baked german cheesecake with a pastry base with a soft cheese filling. I used a mixture of Ricotta and Quark (just to make it extra German). I made a kumquat syrup which I set with a vegetarian gelatine to go on the top. I must admit, I'm not a huge fan of kumquats and this cheesecake did nothing to change my mind. If, on the other hand, you love these strange little citrus fruits, this cheesecake is the pud for you. 

Kumquat kablotz 

for the shortcrust pastry base

5oz/ 125g unsalted butter
4oz/ 100g icing sugar, sifted
9oz/ 225g plain flour, sifted
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cold milk
The seeds from 1 vanilla pod 
A pinch of salt

I often make shortcrust pastry in the food processor - it really is the work of seconds to make the dough. If you don't have one, don't panic, it will only be the work of minutes nonetheless, but make sure your butter is at room temperature if doing it by hand - it doesn't seem to matter if it's used straight from fridge in a machine.

Blitz together the butter and sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until a dough begins to form. Tip it out on to a large sheet of cling film, pat it down slightly and pop it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour. 

Preheat your oven to 180 C (160C Fan)

I used a deep, loose bottomed 8" cake tin for my kasblotz. Roll out the pastry and lay on top of the loose bottom of your tin. Cut around the edge so you have a fairly neat circle, place a sheet of baking parchment over the top and scatter over some baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and take off the parchment and beans and pop back in the oven for 5 minutes or until the pastry is a pale golden but not quite crisp (it will be cooked again). Trim off any rough edges and place the pastry topped loose bottom on a wire rack to cool.

for the kasblotz filling

1/2 lb/ 225 g Ricotta
1/2 lb/ 225 g Quark
4 fl. oz/ 125 ml double cream
4 large eggs, beaten
The seeds of 1 vanilla pod
The zest of 1 lemon
4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar

Turn the oven down to 160°C (140°C Fan) and pop the kettle on

Beat the cream and cheese together until smooth and then gradually beat in the eggs, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Place the cold pastry crust back inside the tin and place a sheet of foil underneath the base of the tin, scrunching up the sides so it stays put. Do the same again, so water won't get in. Place the cake tin inside a roasting tin. Pour in the cheese mixture and then pop the roasting tin in the oven and pour boiling water from the kettle halfway up the sides of the cake tin. Bake for about an hour and a half or until the kasblotz is just set in the middle. Remove from the water bath and leave to cool completely.

for the kumquat top

10 oz/ 250 g kumquats, finely sliced
10 oz/ 250 g caster sugar
8.5 fl. oz/ 250 ml water
The seeds of 1 vanilla pod
2.5 grams of agar agar (or 3 leaves of gelatine, soaked in water until soft for non-veggies)

Place the sugar, vanilla and water in a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the kumquats and leave to simmer for about half an hour or until the kumquat slices have turned slightly translucent. Remove from the heat and leave the kumquats to cool in their syrup to allow the flavours to infuse.

Once cool, remove the kumquat slices with a slotted spoon. Carefully tuck a sheet of clingfilm around the top of the cooled cheesecake, so that the kumquat jelly won't leak down the sides. Let the clingfilm drop over the edges of the tin and then lightly oil the clingfilm. Prettily place the kumquat slices over the top of the cheesecake.

Stir the agar agar into the kumquat syrup and stir over a medium heat until the liquid comes to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, pour the liquid over the kasblotz and pop in the tin to set.

Once set, place the cake tin on an upturned bowl and use a sharp knife to help release the kasblotz from the tin. Then use a blow torch or hairdryer to warm the sides of the tin to help it slide off more easily. Carefully remove the clingfilm and then push the sides of the tin down to remove it. Use a palate knife to transfer the kasblotz on to a serving plate and then heat your palate knife in boiling water, dry it and trace it round the kasblotz' edges for a neater finish.


Several of K night's guests declared this to have been the nicest kulfi they had ever tasted. Result!

1 tin (410 g) evaporated milk
The same volume again of double cream 
4 cardamom pods, bruised
1 oz/ 25 g caster sugar
8 oz/ 200 g pistachio nuts, chopped  

Place the evaporated milk, cream and cardamom in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes to reduce. Stir in the sugar until dissolved, remove from the heat and pick out the cardamom pods. Stir in the nuts and pour into kulfi moulds if you have them (I don't) or a tupperware box. Once cool, pop the lid on and stick in the freezer for at least 3 hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer 20 minutes before serving.

K is for... Kai choi and crispy baked kale

I've always loved greens, even as a child, but if you aren't quite as enamoured of these leafy lovelies, have a go at oven baking them. My K night guests thought the kale had been deep fried and assumed it was deep fried seaweed, like you get in Chinese restaurants (which isn't seaweed at all - it's usually cabbage or pak choi). They were thrilled to discover how healthy it was and even more thrilled that it didn't taste healthy at all! The kai choi was simply stir fried with a little chilli, soy and garlic.

Kai choi

2 heads of kai choi, trimmed, chopped and washed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
A glug of sunflower oil
A drizzle of sesame oil
A dash of soy sauce

Simply heat the sunflower oil in a wok and chuck in the kai choi, garlic and chilli and stir fry for about 4 minutes. Season with soy sauce and drizzle over a little sesame oil. Toss the kai choi so it is all coated and serve.

Crispy kale

A large bag of kale, hard stems removed
A drizzle of sesame oil
A tbsp mirin
1tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan)

Wash the kale thoroughly and dry it in a salad spinner if you have one. Ideally the kale should be completely dry before baking. Toss the kale in the oil and mirin until nicely coated and pop it into the oven to bake for 10 minutes, toss the kale around and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until crisp but still a bright and inviting forest green. Toss the kale in salt and it's ready to serve. Don't be tempted to put the salt on before it goes in the oven - your kale will be soggy, not crisp.

K is for... Krumpli nudli

Whilst flicking through Elisabeth Luard's European Peasant Cookery I came across a little entry about krumpli nudli. I was instantly excited, if only for their name, but, reading on, Luard offers this fun little nugget of history:

"Undergraduate Miss Ellen Browning, niece of the Poet Robert, travelled through Hungary in 1895. She greatly approved the supper she was offered in a peasant farmhouse:

Presently the good woman began to set about her preparations for supper. We were to have 'krumpli nudli'. I begged permission to assist preparing them, which was readily granted, A large pot of potatoes had been boiling in their jackets. These were now strained off, skinned, mashed with salt and flour into a paste and rolled into 'worms', then dropped into a pan of boiling lard and thrown into a hot colander to drain as soon as they were cooked, then turned into a big dish, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and popped into a hot oven for ten minutes. These are excellent, I can assure you, and Madame Irma made them to perfection. She seemed to be a very capable plain cook. For my dinner she had given me roast chicken with pickled-plum compote, followed by 'jam-bags' [dumplings stuffed with jam]. "

"Potato worms" you say, Miss Ellen Browning, niece of the poet Robert? I'm sold. Krumpli nudli it is. Reading through the account of how to make them (that's all there is, no recipe), I decided that the krumpli nudli dough sounded quite similar to gnocchi. I tried to follow Browning's recipe as closely as I could - I was after some authenticity - but, I decided that deep frying the spuds in lard might not go down kindly with our veggie guest, so I swapped the lard for sunflower oil.

The guests really went for the krumpli nudli. It was described as "proper comfort food" and "a taste of childhood". Strange that it tasted so familiar, despite the fact that no one at the table had ever eaten or even heard of krumpli nudli before. I put it down to the power of the potato. Although, I must admit, I didn't get as excited about this dish as most of my guests. It didn't conjure any nostalgic revelries for me. Maybe I was too fixated on what a fiddly and time-consuming dish it had turned out to be and so I was feeling a bit cross with the krumpli nudli for not giving my taste buds an experience to match  the effort I'd taken in making them. And, in truth, I couldn't get past my feeling that the krumpli nudli didn't really go with the rest of the dish. I think they probably worked better with the vegetarian option - a kidney bean burger (made from the same mixture as the kidney bean patties topped with kimchi that I served with the cocktail, but which luckily Jo missed, so she didn't suffer any menu repetition). A bit like posh veggie burger and chips. Still, I'm glad I tried these Hungarian potato worms, if only for their name.

Krumpli nudli

2lbs/ 1 kilo of potatoes (I used Maris Pipers)
3 - 4 tbsp of plain flour
2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten (this isn't in Ellen Browning's account, but I wanted the breadcrumbs to stick)
Half a small stale white loaf, crusts off and made into breadcrumbs.
A wide saucepan filled halfway up with sunflower oil (or lard, if you'd rather)

Boil the potatoes in their skins until soft. Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling and mashing with the salt and flour. You should end up with a malleable dough that you can then roll into worms. Drop the worms, a few at a time, into the boiling oil and leave for about ten seconds before removing from the oil with a metal slotted spoon. Drain the cooked "worms" on kitchen towel. Don't be tempted to bung the whole lot in the oil at once, the temperature of the oil will drop and they'll become a big, greasy homogenised mess.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C Fan)

Once all the "worms" have been deep fried, dunk them in the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs and pop them in a shallow oven proof dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, 8 April 2011

K is for... Kangaroo with kiwi sauce

I turned once again to the good people of Freedown Food Company for four succulent fillets (they come in bags of two and, to be honest four was far too much but two would have been pushing it).  The kangaroo was deliciously tender, juicy and subtly gamey without being overly rich. The kangaroo was a real winner on K night, and one guest described it as "a little mouthful of Heaven". As the evening's menu had so far been quite influenced by Korean cookery, I didn't see any reason to go off-piste for the kangaroo - despite the fact that I served it alongside a Hungarian potato dish. If you can't get hold of kangaroo you can substitute it for beef or venison.

The vegetarian main was a large kidney bean burger, made from the same mixture as the little kidney bean patties topped with kimchi served with Kir Royales. Jo missed the nibbles, so she didn't have to eat the same dish twice - phew!

Marinated kangaroo fillets

4 kangaroo fillets, weighing approximately 250 g each

for the marinade

6 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 red chillis, chopped
2 tsp sugar
A generous amount of ground black pepper

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Place the kangaroo fillets in a large sandwich bag and pour the marinade over the top. Tie the bag up securely and squidge and shake the bag to ensure all the meat in well covered. Pop the kangaroo in the fridge to marinate overnight. Take the meat out of the fridge an hour before you plan to cook it, to ensure it has come up to room temperature. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C Fan)

Heat a skillet or large frying pan until very hot. Pour in a generous splash of oil and sear the kangaroo quickly until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer the fillets to a baking tray and pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Ideally, kangaroo should be served rare as there is so little natural fat in the meat if you cook it for much longer it will dry out, but you can probably get away with leaving it in the oven for 15 minutes if you'd rather. Once out out the oven, leave the meat to rest for ten to fifteen minutes before carving.

I was on the phone to my mum and mentioned that I was making a kiwi sauce to be served alongside the kangaroo and she said,

"Eurgh, sounds disgusting!"

My wounded expression must have translated with my uncharacteristic silence and she immediately changed her tune to,

"Well, I'm sure it will be lovely, if you're making it."

Nice save, mum! But in actual fact, you had nothing to worry about. The kiwi sauce worked really well and the sweet, salty and sour notes balanced beautifully and turned out to be an accidental marriage made in Heaven with the Korean-style kangaroo. To be honest, if you'd eaten it blindfolded you might not have actually been able to tell it was kiwi sauce at all, although I don't think you'd be surprised when told. It had a strangely unplaceable, slightly exotic flavour, but once revealed it immediately became unthinkable that you could ever have mistaken it for anything else. Also, the slight green tint to the sauce might have helped give the game away, although I did have the foresight to sieve out the seeds to keep the guests guessing as long as I possibly could. I will be making this again. And as soon as possible.

Kiwi sauce

6 kiwis, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic
A finger of ginger, peeled and grated
3 tsp sugar
5 tbsp soy sauce
5 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil

Blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Transfer the ingredients to a small saucepan and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary, and pass the sauce through a sieve (if you wish) into a sauce jug to serve with the kangaroo.

K is for... Kimchi and kelp broth

Luckily for Jo, our vegetarian guest, she missed the meat fest that was the kebab course and turned up just in time for some kimchi and kelp broth. Needless to say, if her train from Leeds had arrived in London earlier that evening I might have reconsidered the kebabs altogether. Although Jo has no problems watching others carnivorously attacking big lumps of flesh, it's just that she has no wish to join the delicious dark side herself. Fair enough. But still, her timing was remarkably brilliant nonetheless. 

Kimchi and kelp broth

to make the dashi

About 2 oz/ 50 g Kelp/ kombu
1 litre water

Place the kelp in a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil, leave to simmer for about 20 minutes before straining the liquid. Reserve the kelp.

About 1 heaped tsp of white miso paste per bowl
Dashi stock
2 spring onions, chopped
2 tbsp cabbage kimchi* (I bought it this time, as it wouldn't have had time to mature if I'd made it)
1 red chilli, finely sliced
The reserved kelp, chopped
A pinch of wakame

Place the dashi in a saucepan, with the spring onions, kimchi and chilli, over a low heat and stir in the miso until it has completely dissolved. Do not allow the broth to boil. Add the kelp and wakame and stir until the wakame has rehydrated. Taste and add more miso if necessary, then ladle the broth into warm bowls and serve.

* You can buy kimchi in most oriental supermarkets

K is for... Kaffir lime leaf-marinated kudu kebabs and kohlrabi salad

When researching where I could buy kudu, I discovered the excellent Freedown Food Company which, conveniently for us, is located just down the road in Battersea.  Kudu is incredibly lean and, as such, I wasn't convinced it would be suitable for kebabs. I hoped that marinating the meat for a very long time would guarantee tenderness, but really is was just an excuse to get another K for kebab on the menu. In fairness to this cut of kudu, I knew really that a slow cooking would be kinder to the meat but I was seduced by the Freedown Food Company's cooking recommendation:

                              "A great low-fat low-cholesterol alternative to beef. Ideal for kebabs or stir-fries, and makes 
                               great stews and pies. Versatile meat to have in your freezer".

Right, I thought, kebabs it is! And if I keep brushing the meat with oil I'm sure it won't get dry. And I was right! The meat wasn't dry, but neither was it tender. It was juicy whilst remaining sinewy and chewy at the same time. My guests didn't seem to mind, but I felt sure it was just politeness. The dish wasn't terrible, but did require strong teeth and jaw muscles - which isn't really what you want from a kebab. I would buy kudu again, its flavour was deliciously rich and subtly gamey, but it's not suitable for kebab-ing.  Next time I will be slow cooking my kudu in bucket-loads of red wine and leaving the skewers in the cupboard.

Kaffir lime-leaf marinated kudu kebabs

1 kilo of diced kudu
A handful of kaffir lime leaves, scrunched up
The juice of 4 limes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 finely chopped shallots
1 red chilli, finely chopped (seeds in or out depending on personal taste)
Salt and pepper
Bamboo skewers, soaked

Toss all the ingredients into a bowl, ensuring that all the meat is well covered. Pop some cling film over the top and leave to marinate, stirring every now and then, in the fridge for 6 hours, or overnight. Take the meat out of the fridge 45 minutes before cooking to bring the kudu up to room temperature. Thread the cubes of marinated meat onto the skewers and place under a preheated grill. Brush the kebabs with oil as they cook, turning them over until all the meat has nicely browned. Serve alongside a kofta (kid or otherwise) with kohlrabi salad.

Kohlrabi salad

1 or 2 kohlrabis, finely sliced

for the dressing

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
The juice of 2 limes
1 tsp sugar
A small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Mix together the salad dressing ingredients, taste for seasoning and pour over the kohlrabi and toss just before serving.