Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sugar crusted salmon recipe

Sugar crusted salmon
It may not look like much, but I really love this strange fusion rub for salmon, courtesy of Nigella's How To Eat, who in turn took it from Neil Stuart's Pacifica Blue Plates.

Nigella adapted Neil's original recipe to remove the cocoa, but I put it back in and loved the outcome. It's sweet, spicy and hot all at the same time, and super-quick so perfect for after a hard day in the office.

Sugar spiced salmon - serves 1


1 fillet of salmon, skin on or off depending on your preference
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cocoa

1. Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan until hot
2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, then dust the salmon all over with the sugar-spice mixture
3. Pop the salmon into the frying pan until cooked through. Mine took about 5 minutes per side, but use your judgement as the timing will differ depending on the thickness of the fillet.

I ate this on a bed of soy-soaked sugar snap peas (the salmon that is, not me!).


The Princess

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pompoko - a Japanese Brighton Bargain

Delicious Japanese food at Pompoko, Brighton
After a wild night out watching the Mighty Boosh in Brighton, the bf and I needed sustenance before our drive home. And we definitely found it at small-but-perfectly-formed Japanese restaurant Pompoko.

Pompoko is very cheap, very cheerful and very popular judging by the amount of people eating at 10.30pm. It's the perfect place for a quick late night bite to eat and also does takeaway. We squeezed ourselves into the last two seats in the 20 seat downstairs area and ordered our meals from the counter.

Delicious Japanese food at Pompoko, Brighton

The Ebi Fried prawns were crisp and delicate in their breadcrumbed coatings, and the Gyoza dumplings were light and fragrant with a deliciously soy-soaked chicken and vege filling.

Moving on to main courses, we were served with generous rice bowls topped with chicken in a sweet and sour sauce (Chicken Nanban Don) and beef strips in honey, ginger and soy (Beef Shouga Yaki Don). Neither us could finish our rice, and we left pretty stuffed.

At only £13 for two starters, two mains and two soft drinks, there's no need to flash the plastic at Pompoko. In fact you couldn't if you wanted to, as it's cash only. They're also unlicensed, so if you need some sake to wash down your donburi, just bring your booze with and stump up the very reasonable £1 glass charge.

110 Church Street, Brighton, 07747 703072

11am-10pm Tues to Thurs, 11am-11pm Fri and Sat, 11am-9pm Sun
Cash only

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Macaron class at L'Atelier des Chefs

Not to be confused with coconut macaroons…macarons are a sugary French delicacy, think little domed, almondy meringue biscuits sandwiched together with something sticky and decadent. They are a treat I'd tried in Parisian caf├ęs but never been brave enough to bake before. However with some encouragement from Niamh of Trusted Places, moral support from a whole host of fellow food bloggers (Lizzie, Su-Lin, Krista, Josh, Alice, Helen, Jonathan, Abi, Kang, Tom, Bron, Mark, Mia and Shuna) and expert instruction from our teacher Baldwin, on Saturday the impossible became possible.

We split into four teams, each of which was assigned a different flavour of macaron. My team was tasked with the Foie Gras & Porto variety, a sophisticated flavour combination in chic cement-grey. Another first for me was de-veining the foie gras, a messy job but very satisfying. Rather like walking barefoot in mud and letting it squidge between your toes, we plunged our fingers into the foie, squeezed and pulled it apart, ripping out the veins wherever we found them (much to the revulsion of our vegan videographer!). We then simply whizzed this up in the machine with some porto, butter and cream to make a super-rich and luxurious filling.

De-veining the foie gras

We then moved on to the basic recipe for the outer macaron shells, which was identical for all the teams save for the different lurid food colourings.

Basic Macaron recipe

350g icing sugar

250g ground almonds

215g egg whites

150g caster sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 160c. Whisk up the egg whites with a pinch of salt, add the caster sugar and beat until you have a stiff and glossy meringue mixture. Add food colouring of your choice.

2) Sift the almonds and icing sugar through a chinoise to get a fine powder.

Sieving the ground almonds

3) Mix the dry ingredients with the meringue mixture throroughly. There's none of the usual gentle folding, in fact you're intentionally knocking the air back out of the meringue mixture. We used a plastic spatula to cut and fold the mixture until it was smooth and shiny. It is ready when a cut in the mixture absorbs back in 9-12 seconds.

4) Use a piping bag to pipe macarons onto a greaseproof paper lined baking tray. The trick is to let the tip of the piping bag rest on the greaseproof paper at a 45 degree angle and increase the pressure without moving the bag. This makes the macaroons perfectly circular.

Piping the macaroons

5) To get the air bubbles out of the macarons (and therefore stop them cracking open in the oven), drop the trays onto the worktop hard!

6) Let the macarons dry for 15 minutes at room temperature. They are ready to cook when they are just "touch dry".

7) Cook for about 15-20 minutes in the oven.

8) Leave to cool on the tray, then sandwich together with your choice of filling.

It is really up to you and your imagination as to what to fill your macarons with. Some great filling ideas from around the blogosphere can be found. How about chocolate ganache, passion fruit or cardomom, wattle seed and orange? Even Nutella would go down a treat I'm sure.

After almost two hours of slaving in the kitchen, we finally got our just desserts (literally). The foie gras teamed perfectly with the sweet, crunchy and slightly gooey macaron casings, rather as it does with a sticky dessert wine. I also adored the golden-brown salt caramel variety. The raspberry & rosewater were subtle and fragrant, belying their razzle-dazzle-red exterior, and the lime & ginger were zingy and refreshing in a zippy green. After trying one of each flavour, we picked up our doggie bags (haggling/bargaining/fighting for our favourite flavours where necessary) and tottered on our sugar-fuelled way.

Raspberry & rosewater macaroons

L'Atelier des Chefs was the perfect place to pick up a tricky new skill in a relaxed atmosphere. Of course if you're not willing or able to go to all that trouble you can pick up a few macarons from Laduree. However, all that labour comes at a price. And you wouldn't have half as much fun…

The Princess

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Gypsy's Bakery sign

I'm back from the wilderness, the arctic tundra to be precise, where I've been spotting polar bears, braving blizzards and, of course, finding all the best places to eat.

First, let me just say that Churchill, Manitoba, Canada is NOT a gourmet destination. With a population of around 900 people and no roads linking it to the rest of the country, Churchill has something of a captive audience. And in polar bear season, when the bears gather near Churchill in readiness to go north for seal hunting as soon as the sea freezes, it's pretty hard to get a table anywhere.

Gypsys is known as the "Place to be in Churchill" and is certainly a favourite with all the tour guides and drivers. It is always packed full of locals and tourists alike, staggering in from the sub-zero temperatures to tuck into something great.

And when the weather's like this....

The bear lift
Following mum
Play fighting
Churchill grain elevator

You need food like this...

A Gypsy's Bakery longjohn!

Ah yes, the Gypsys Bakery long john. It's a super-sized, super-sweet chocolate eclair. Quite simply the best foodie experience in Churchill. Unless you're a bear of course, in which case a nice bite of ring seal will go down nicely (don't watch if of a nervous / seal loving disposition!).

The Princess