Sunday, 30 September 2012

Padron Peppers Tapas

One of the best things about having a cooking obsession, is trawling around food shops and markets on a search for the weird and wonderful.

My fascination for tapas started in a Spanish restaurant in the village of Caleta in a small forgotten windswept cove in Tenerife. The cafe sits atop a rocky precipice overlooking a particularly rugged part of the Atlantic coast, and is fairly well known for its fabulously fresh wide selection of authentic tapas and its main course cousin the ration. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place.

It was there that I first had a plate of Padron peppers - the cousin of the chilli (but not too distant, since about 1 in 20 of them is a spicy timebomb) - to enjoy with a glass of the local wine. What a find! How on earth could a fried pepper sprinkled with sea salt be such a gastronomic treat? I thought that maybe my love of such a simple dish had more to do with the stunning surroundings, the strong wine or the holiday vibe. Until now.

Mrs Ribeye and I found a rare pack of 'Padrons' (as I affectionately call them) at: La Plaza Delicatessen, Portobello Road, London, W10, while we wandered through Portobello Market last Saturday. Of course, we had to pop in to Makan for lunch, but on the way home we happened past La Plaza and I wasted no time in picking up a pack from the vegetable counter. Having offered a timid 'gracias' to the shopkeeper and then moronically repeating 'de nada' when he replied to my thanks, I decided never to attempt to speak in a foreign tongue on home soil again.

So, were the peppers as good as I remember? Er, maybe even better actually. Our good friends Ophelia and Kumar came over for dinner last night and I made Cassoulet (I'll post the recipe soon Click the link!) as a main course and these Padrons as a snack with pre-dinner drinks. Maybe because I used less oil than our Spanish friends, or maybe because I used a ridged grill pan to give them a slightly charred taste or something, but they were a delight. Kumar and I are chilli-heads so anything that looks like a chilli is going to please us no-end. Mrs Ribeye is a chilli-hater, and so these were not her favourite (although I'm not sure why), and Ophelia seemed non-committal. So maybe they're a boy's thing.

Dessert was my Apple Strudel Samosas. The whole dinner was well-balanced and I was happy with the result. Oh, one thing about the peppers: They're a bit pricey. £3.75 for a 400g punnet, means that the cost per serving is £1. I suppose even a return Easyjet flight for the pepper-carrier from Tenerife doesn't come so cheap these days. Gracias indeed.

Serves 4 (tapas-sized servings)


400g Padron peppers
Sunflower/vegetable oil for frying
Coarse sea salt

In a blisteringly hot grill pan, fry the peppers in the oil until slightly charred. Sprinkle with seas salt and serve immediately with cold beer or wine.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Honey Cake

There may not be a single drop of honey in this cake, but this is a recipe which needs to be handed down to my great-great-grandchildren.

My mother, Mrs Ribeye Sr, rarely writes down a recipe. A while back - before Potless came about- I resolved to start documenting my mum's signature dishes for posterity. One of the reasons, is that very few of my mum's dishes (a) contain the key ingredient in the title - as in this cake for example; (b) taste or look remotely the same from one year to the next; and (c) almost always are made with a 'secret' ingredient which she either forgets to put in, or deliberately doesn't, due to not having it in the cupboard on the day she chooses to cook it.

Hence, the birth of Potless. So now I have my old dear's dishes, plus a few of my own of course, to show the future Ribeyes that us crusty types weren't so bad in the kitchen in the 'olden days'.

This cake is really a carrot cake without the carrot or frosting. However, it is a fail-safe crowd pleaser in the Ribeye household at Jewish festival gatherings. Last night's was a blast. I adore catching up with my cousins, aunt and uncle and married-ins. The newest generation of Ribeyes are so damn adorable!

This is a really rich cake and a little goes a long way (think loaves and fishes). I don't follow any religion whatsoever, but my mum's cakes truly are Divine. They're cheap to make too. This cake will feed an army - and all at about 20 pence per serving.

Makes one large tray cake to serve 16-20 people


450g self raising flour
120g caster sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
450g tin of golden (corn) syrup, plus a tin of water and 3/4 tin of sunflower oil
2 eggs 
2 tablespoons of kiddush wine, port, dry sherry or other sweet wine

Preheat oven to 150c. Mix the flour sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices together. Heat the syrup, water and oil in a pan or microwave until dissolved. Beat the eggs and add to the dry ingredients with the syrup mix and the wine. Work quickly to make sure the baking powder and bicarb are still active before cooking. Line a large tray-type tin with cooking parchment and spoon the mix in. Cook in the preheated oven for one hour. Do not remove the parchment paper until the cake has fully cooled. Cut into cubes with a serrated knife and serve.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


It's funny how our tastes change. When I was a kid, you couldn't get me to eat a yoghurt for love nor money, but these days I'm eating the stuff with gusto.

Acquiring a taste for things takes many methods. A childhood hatred for orange juice was reversed when I was given freshly squeezed juice for breakfast on holiday somewhere and after gingerly trying it, found that it was far more heavenly than the concentrated carton crap I had thought was the only way the stuff was available.

Like all children growing up in the 1970's can testify, a daily delivery of school milk was the only way that the  State could guarantee that the population grew up with healthy teeth and bones - until 'Margaret Thatcher Milk Snatcher' decided that the money was better spent elsewhere. I couldn't have been happier. Thanks to the school milk being served at a highly un-refreshing room temperature and seeming to contain revolting 'bits' in it, I haven't been able to drink milk at any time during the rest of my forty year life. It's something which upsets me to my very core. Watching Mrs Ribeye enjoy breakfast cereal always left me jealous, until I discovered muesli with yoghurt.

Loving yoghurt, but hating milk has got to be the most blatant way to illustrate how irrational food phobias are. I don't like milk, but I love sour milk? Madness. Secretly, I'm hoping that I'm locked in a room for a week with nothing but a create of milk slowly going off for company. I'd emerge a delighted breakfast cereal consumer and go about my life a more fulfilled person. But, as it's never going to happen, yoghurt will be my saviour instead.

Today's recipe is not only the last in my Greek meze series of dishes, it is also a celebration of the mighty yoghurt. I buy supermarket tubs of tzatziki on a daily basis to eat with pitta bread for snacks or as part of my vegetarian midweek lunch, but making it yourself is far better than buying it. I can't say the same for Houmous, which is far better shop bought, but tzatziki is way nicer when you assemble it yourself. I noticed that shop bought tzatziki frequently contains cornflour. How very inappropriate and disgusting (not that I can taste it, but still).

Just make sure you buy the very best Greek yoghurt to ensure that you have a lovely thick tzatziki. The other major tip is to use dried AND fresh mint. The dried herb adds a warm background note, while the chopped fresh leaves add a refreshingly zingy top note. I grow fresh mint on my roof terrace, and I have found that it is as easy to grow as weeds - the problem is more about keeping it from growing too big rather than worrying about it dying. Just buy a mint plant from the living herbs rack in you supermarket, and water it only when the very top surface of the soil is looking a bit dessicated.

Cost-wise, this easy delicious dish is super reasonable. 50p per serving is all.

Serves 4


1 x 500ml tub of Greek yoghurt
Half a cucumber, de-seeded and finely chopped
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of dried mint, plus some for sprinkling
1 clove of garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate until to need to allow the flavours to intermingle and develop. Remove from the fridge and sprinkle with the dried mint. Serve with hot pitta bread.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Rainbow Greek Salad

The weekend is upon us! Which means boozing, partying, eating meat and no bloody work. Nice.

Mrs Ribeye and I have been pretty pretty good at keeping away from the flesh during schooltime, but as soon as Friday night approaches, our carnivorous instincts re-awaken and I break out the beef. That's not to say that we exactly suffer for the other 5 days a week, but man oh man, those vegetarians do not know what they're missing.

Still, if was a veggie I wouldn't exactly starve. As long as you've got a nice bit of feta cheese and some crunchy salad veg, you're going to eat well - as today's recipe testifies.

I love a Greek salad. But as always, I reckon I can improve on it. Go to any Greek restaurant and the salad arrives after the main course and just before the baklava. I'm a big fan, but why have the Greeks decided that a salad has to be so damn boring? I've been to tavernas in Corfu, Crete and London, and they all seem to agree that a salad should consist only of tomato, cucumber, sweet peppers, onion, olives and cheese. All very good, but not colourful enough. With our supermarket shelves heaving with fresh colourful produce from all over the world, why stick to the basics?

Nowadays, a Greek salad for me is a challenge to buy the most eclectic mix of colourful vegetables I can find. Hence, my 'Rainbow Greek Salad'. Try making yours with beetroot, radishes, baby corn or roasted aubergines. It's a chance to put the 'Wow' back into your meze!

Feta cheese tastes the same to me whether I buy the dearest artisan block or the cheapest value range - so I always buy the cheapest. I'm not sure why feta cheese is ever expensive. After all, it's only separated milk (which can be bought for 45p a pint). Be a skinflint like me and this dish comes in at a very pocket-friendly £1.50 per serving. Or buy the dearer stuff if you like. After all, it is the weekend...

A great lunch dish, starter, or pre-baklava meze staple. Just don't tell the Greeks...

Serves 2


Tomatoes, cucumber, yellow and red peppers, spring (salad) or red onions, peeled carrot - all cut into 2 cm dice
Handful of pitted black olives
1 x 200g block feta cheese, cut into 2cm dice
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Pinches of salt and pepper

Arrange the vegetables on a serving plate with the olives and top with the feta chunks. Sprinkle oregano over the cheese and dress with the oil and vinegar about a half hour before serving. Season to taste (remember that the cheese is naturally quite salty).

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mediterranean Lamb Stew

So, after having played guitar for a few years and then given it up to pursue other worthy projects, I picked it up again on a suggestion from my mother, Mrs Ribeye Sr, who said to me: 'why don't you play the guitar any more? You used to be fantastic'. I love mums. They're always there to puff you up - even if what they say is an utter (but very nice and non-self serving) lie. Frankly, we could do with a few more mums and a few less Oxbridge morons in Parliament.

So how is my guitar playing, honestly? The funny thing, after a bit of a shaky start - where even the strumming of a few basic chords was a bit of a nightmare - I think I'm loving it even more now than ever. I think it's because I'm secretly treating my playing standard as 'absolute beginner', but also 'someone who can miraculously play some cool songs and funky riffs by ear'; which means that I have fooled myself into believing I am a GUITAR PRODIGY!!!

If I had played continuously for the last few years, I probably wouldn't be miles better than I am now, and my then wife would (rightly) ask me 'whether I really ought to see if I'm world class at something else'. But this way, she is being all encouraging and supportive - except when I ask her to sing along with my four chord rendition of  A Horse with No Name. On the hour, every hour.

Anyway, the reason for this news of picking up neglected old habits again, is to say that I resurrected a dish I used to make all the time, and which I did get bored with for a bit from over indulging, but which now is all new and delicious once more. This lamb stew takes the cheapest, fattiest cut of lamb and makes it into a proper dinner party dish with a most exotically rich flavour.

Having scouted my local supermarket for a bargain cut of meat for Saturday night's dinner, I spotted a likely contender: Lamb shoulder on offer at £5 per kilo? Yes please. I served my Home-made Houmous with pitta bread as a starter, and our friends Axel and Dali came over for a right middle eastern feast. In fact, Dali IS middle eastern and told me that my dinner tasted just like his mum's cooking. I hope that this is a compliment.(a son's relationship with his mother truly is a two-way 'puffing-up' street).

Oh, one last thing; this dish seems like a lot of work, but it isn't. Apart from a bit of chopping and a quick gathering of a number of dried herbs and spices, this dish is no harder to make than any regular casserole. The key is to always have a large store cupboard full of dried herbs and spices. Go on; go shopping now!

Thanks to my bargain lamb find, this dish cost me a fantabulous £2 per serving. Serve with fragrant basmati rice. It may not be authentic middle eastern, but it's perfect with this stew.

Serves 4


1 kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 carrots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of flour
125ml white wine
1 x 400g can of chickpeas in water
1 x 400g can of plum tomatoes in juice
500ml water
1 tablespoon each of ground coriander, cumin, dried oregano and dried mint
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Basmati rice to serve

Preheat oven to 150c. In a large casserole pot, fry the lamb shoulder in the olive oil until well browned and remove from the pot. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and stew until soft. Sprinkle in the flour to avoid lumps and add the wine, chickpeas, tomatoes and water and then return the lamb to the pot. Stir in the herbs and spices and place the pot in the oven to cook for 4-5 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. With a spoon or ladle, skim the oil off the top of the sauce and serve the stew with rice or pasta, garnishing liberally with fresh parsley.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Home-made Houmous

I'm sorry but shop-bought houmous is better than home-made. I don't care who makes it or which shop you buy it in, the houmous sold in a tub always trumps your own. Why? I suggest that there is a special ingredient only known to manufacturers of middle eastern dips which they sprinkle into the machine with the rest of the ingredients. I'll bet it's fairy dust.

So why bother making your own, and why have I posted a recipe here at all? I'll tell you. It's because I have an obsession with telling the truth, and last night I made a middle eastern meze for friends and didn't want to tell them that I made my own houmous when I didn't. Tzatziki, on the other hand, IS better home-made than shop-bought (recipe to follow soon) and so I was delighted to offer them a delightful yoghurty alternative to embellish the start of the feast.

So why is shop-bought houmous actually better? The answer is that it's mellower and has a better texture. The ingredients have had a long time in their hermetically sealed polythene container to really get to know each other and balance each other out - a bit like leaving two heavyweight boxers in the ring for an hour and seeing them emerge all battered and calm. The other thing is, the manufacturers have managed to find a way to easily peel the skins off the chickpeas, ensuring that their finished dish is smoother than a baby's bum - not full of papery shards of floppy old skin. Yuck.

I am, of course, exaggerating. Home-made houmous is fine, and tastes approximately the same as the one from Waitrose etc. It's even quite pleasant when you garnish it with reserved chickpeas, olive oil and paprika. But let's face it, once you garnish some of the shop-bought stuff with reserved chickpeas, olive oil and paprika, who the hell would know if you made it yourself or not? Maybe half a lie is better than a lie or no lie?

Oh, a quick note on tahini: Buy a big tub of it from your local middle eastern grocer. I use Green Valley just off the Edgware Road near Marble Arch (who also sell baklava to die for). Once you've got over your obsession with making your own houmous, you'll find yourself unable to pop to the fridge hourly to steal a spoonful of the deliciously rich clay-like sesame paste. It's like a slightly bitter peanut buter, but for some reason, so much better - it's gotta be that bloody  fairy dust again.

Oh, the other thing about shop-bought houmous, is that it's really cheap. 80p-£1 for a 200g tub is about the going rate. Make it yourself and it's going to cost you 75p per serving. Why bother?

Serves 4


1 x 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed with 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed) paste, or 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, ground to a powder
1 clove of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Pinches of salt and pepper
Ground paprika, for sprinkling

Toasted pitta bread to serve

In a blender, whizz up the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and seasoning. Transfer the houmous to a bowl and make a shallow well in the centre. Garnish with the reserved chickpeas, sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with the reserved tablespoon of olive oil. Serve with the pitta bread.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Pan-fried Turkey Breast in a Mushroom Cream Wine Sauce

Don't judge a book by it's cover - this recipe may look a bit 'busy' but it is absolutely delicious.

I've never been much of a fan of turkey. It's a dry old bird and should only be eaten under sufferance on Christmas day when you've already eaten twenty sausage rolls and wouldn't really fancy eating anything, so if you're not really hungry anyway turkey might as well do.

How wrong I am. I have just bought some turkey steaks and found them to be moist, delicious, low fat, slightly veal-esque, without the ethical issues, slightly pork escalope-esque, without the dullness issues and slightly steak-esque without the cholesterol issues. Without wanting to come across faddy and fickle: It's my new favourite meat! (what a surprise).

Oh, and in keeping with the low fat mishigas, the cream sauce is actually made with half fat creme fraiche. So there.

I don't know why turkey gets such bad press. The reason why they have a reputation for being dryer than an old flip flop is that it is almost impossible to cook an entire bird without some parts of it cooking longer than the others. The breast will NEVER take as long to cook as the thighs and legs. I suppose if you cooked it on the lowest heat possible, constantly basting it and then just grilled the skin to brown it you might be able to retain some moisture, but who has the time and/or inclination to cook a turkey dinner for ten hours? Not me.

At this coming Christmas, I've decided that I'm going to stuff the breast and roll it all prettily up and roast it, then cook the legs and thighs separately in a sort of casserole. That way, I have gravy for the whole dinner, and two delicious dishes, rather than a lot of leftovers from one big dish to make a million sandwiches with on Boxing Day.

Anyway, Christmas is still a long way off, so today's recipe is perfect for an autumn weekend feast. I served my turkey on a pile of slow-fried cabbage and onion (just braise cabbage and onion in olive oil, seasoning and nutmeg for an hour until all of the liquid evaporates - delish), and no potatoes, rice, pasta or other starches. You could almost say that this is a healthy meal. Almost.

Turkey breast steaks are really good value in my local supermarket - £5 per kilo is all; which means that today's dish comes in at a very reasonable £2.50 per serving.

Serves 2


500g turkey breast steak, cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
125ml wine - white or rose
100g half fat creme fraiche
Pinches of salt and pepper

Braised cabbage and onion, to serve (see note above)
Fresh parsley, finely chopped, to garnish

In a hot pan, sear the turkey breasts in the olive oil until slightly golden and set aside. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft and translucent (5 mins approx). Add the wine and reduce to burn off the alcohol (5 mins approx). Stir in the creme fraiche and return the turkey to the pan. Simmer until the turkey is cooked through the middle and the sauce is thick and unctuous. Pile some cabbage/onion onto the centre of the plate and top with the turkey and mushroom cream sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley immediately before serving.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Malaysian Curry Laksa Soup

Can you see from today's recipe photo that it is slightly out of focus on the right side? That's because I was in such a hurry to eat this laksa that I was already pulling the bowl nearer to myself before the picture had a chance to fully expose. What a greedy guts.

You can't blame me though. Every now and again I cook something so unbelievably incredible, that I go a little bit crazy. Laksa is not really 'cooking' in the narrowest sense of the word. It's really an assembly job, and the key is to assemble as many ingredients as you possibly can. More is definitely more, so to speak.

Mrs Ribeye and I ate a delicious laksa at Makan Cafe on the Portobello Road, which was delicious and came with lovely king prawns, and so I resolved to make my own at the first opportunity. Mine however, comes with king prawns, chicken, tofu puffs, and fresh chillies.  I'm sure that mine is not as 'Malaysian street food authentic' as a laksa is supposed to be, but I certainly didn't see anyone complaining when I served it as part of my Asian-inspired dinner party last week.

I served my Asian Salad as a starter, which was vividly bright and refreshing, followed by this rich, creamy, spicy soup. A fabulous combination of flavours and textures.

Sorry to be banging on so much about this soup. Although I'm no stranger to a bit of shameless self promotion, I really feel like this recipe could become my signature dish, so I'm allowing myself a little bit of extra backslapping.

As far as Laksa paste is concerned: Yes you could make it yourself with your blender or pestle and mortar or authentic bamboo and rock plate equipment, but I wouldn't. Go to your local Asian grocer, who specialises in ready-made authentic pastes. It's not a bit lazy or shameful - even in the Far East, pastes are sold in every market and grocery store. Although making a Thai green curry paste is better from scratch, because the ingredients are that much fresher, laksa paste is better shop-bought for some reason. Maybe it's because the main ingredients are dried or woody, rooty things, rather than fragile herbs. Who knows? Anyway, a Malaysian company called Dollee make the best one by a long way - it comes in a foil pouch.

Oh, and one last thing: Don't bother making your own tofu puffs either. When buying your laksa paste, you will find a big clear polythene bag of fried tofu puffs in the chiller section. They are utterly sublime (and if I'm honest, the best thing to scoff straight from the fridge after a heavy night out. The other night I ate ten. Oops.).

Depending on what you put in your laksa, the cost will obviously vary. Today's recipe comes in at £3 per serving, but you could be more austere and leave out the prawns, or more luxurious for special occasions and put in some crab or lobster. It's completely up to you.

Serves 4


1 x 200g foil pouch of Dollee (or other brand) curry laksa paste
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
1.5 litres water
4 chicken thighs, skinned and boned and cut into 2cm dice
200g rice noodles, soaked until tender
200g beansprouts
200g cooked king prawns
8 tofu puffs, halved
2 red chillies, cut into fine rings
Fresh coriander leaves
Fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks

In a large pot, heat the laksa paste, coconut milk and water until it is simmering. Add the chicken pieces and cook until tender (20 minutes approx). In large bowls, place portions of rice noodles and beansprouts. Pour the soup over and pile the chicken pieces on top of the noodles. Add the king prawns to the pile of chicken and place tofu puff pieces around the edge of the bowl. Garnish with the chillies, coriander leaves and fresh ginger.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Insalata Tricolore

It's such nice weather for a September morning, that it was a pleasure to do my new early morning 6k trot around Regent's Park.

In the last month or so, I have managed to keep up my 'three trots around Regent's Park per week' routine fairly well, and I am pleased to say that I have managed to shed a whopping 7.5 kilos. I am now half way to my target weight of 80kgs.

Of course, it's not all about exercise - I need to stay away from my hamburger obsession. I haven't totally managed it (McD's on the weekend - oops), but I am definitely doing better than usual. One way to keep eating well is to eat a lot of raw foods. Today's dish is a perfect example.

I have no idea  how many calories are in a ball of mozzarella, or in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and I don't care. If this dish is all I'm eating for a meal, then BRING ON THE CHEESE! Obviously, my lackadaisical attitude towards dairy consumption can't be all bad, or I would not have lost a few inches of tread from my spare tyre so effortlessly. So there.

The key to a good insalata tricolore, is to use lots of fresh basil - like a salad garnish rather than a herb - lots of good quality dried oregano to season the cheese, and lots of top quality peppery extra virgin olive oil. I also use a splash of red wine vinegar to cut the richness of the cheese and avocado, but this is strictly a personal preference.

Oh, and one last thing: I only use cheap mozzarella (not the hard or grated stuff, but the 'value' one in the plastic bag full of water). For some reason, a good quality buffala seems a bit to gooey and jelly-like for this recipe. Buffala is great in cooking, but when eaten raw in a salad, the firmer cheaper stuff compliments the other ingredients a little better.

Because I'm using cheap mozzarella in this dish - 44p per 125g ball - this recipe comes in at a fab £1.50 per serving. Great as a starter or lunch, or as a dinner with garlic bread if you're not feeling as wobbly as me.

Serves 2


1 large avocado, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 balls of mozzarella cheese, cut into 1cm slices
4 tomatoes, cut into 5mm slices
Large handful of fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar (optional)
Salt and black pepper

Arrange the avocado, mozzarella and tomatoes in to three strips down the centre of the plate to make the stripes of the Italian flag. Garnish with the basil leaves and sprinkle the oregano over the cheese and tomato. Sprinkle with the oil and vinegar, if using. Season liberally - the ingredients are deliciously bland and need heavy seasoning.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Cherry Bakewell Cake

Making cakes is my new BIG THING!!!

1. They're so easy to make
2. They look great and can be decorated to satisfy all your creative urges - even when they don't look professional, they still look delicious
3. Most people don't make them - so you look like a hero for presenting your home-made effort
4. They're great as a pre-made dessert for a dinner party - so that you spend more time with your friends and less time in the kitchen
5. They make your wife (oh, or husband) happy

Since I discovered the '6663' method of making cakes - you know 6oz of butter/sugar/flour, plus 3 eggs - I have started to spread my cake-making wings and now experiment with the ingredients. Today's recipe substitutes half of the flour for ground almonds, then I add a smidge of almond extract. Voila - a cherry bakewell sponge!

Cherry bakewell tarts are traditionally a sweet pastry case filled with frangipane and a layer of raspberry jam, then thickly iced and topped with a glace cherry.My cake is even better, I promise.

Just bake half the mixture in two separate pans, spread a thick layer of jam between them and allow a ton of icing to drip and harden, before going crazy with those luminous red cherries. When I served this cake recently, the gasps of admiration were audible - mainly from me actually. I do love my own cooking.

Anyway, the sponge was moist and delicious and not at all heavy from the ground almonds. Next time I'm going to try other ingredients in my cake batter. Orange flower water, rose water, elderflower cordial, vanilla extract, chocolate, peanut butter...

Makes 1 large cake (serves 6-8)


175g butter
175g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
75g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of almond extract
4-5 tablespoons of raspberry jam
100g icing sugar
12-16 glace whole cherries

Preheat the oven to 170c. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix the almonds, flour and baking powder together and quickly fold into the butter mixture with the almond extract. Transfer to two shallow, greased baking tins (approx 15-18cm diameter) and then bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden but not brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tins. Once quite cool, remove to a drying rack and spread the raspberry jam onto one sponge before topping with the other. Mix the icing sugar with enough water to form a thick paste and then dollop it onto the centre of the cake, allowing it to naturally spread and drip. Top with the cherries.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Asian Salad

Asian food is so delicious and appropriate at this time of year; when your dietary requirements are lighter and  your palate has taken a summer break from needing to be satisfied by large plates of lardy goodness.

Don't get me wrong, I love eating winter warmers, but at the beginning of September, I'm starting to get a bit anxious that the autumn chill is nearly upon us, and so, in denial, I carry on with my summery diet until the last leaf has fallen of the trees.

I actually love autumn. Mrs Ribeye and frequently I take a nice evening stroll through Regent's Park, just a few hundred yards away from Potless Towers, and we love to notice that the evenings are getting a little chillier and the trees are starting to lose their fresh lustre. You'll notice that the photography on the site will start to be a little less bright as I take photos indoors instead of on the roof terrace during the summer months (I was a bit worried that I would need to get a bright lamp to take pics, but why? I think it's nice to chart the seasons on the brightness of my photos).

On the weekend, we had an Asian-influenced dinner party with some very close friends, and this salad started us off nicely. The main course was a delicious Malaysian Laksa (recipe to follow), and the two courses complimented each other beautifully. The evening was a little bit spicy, a little bit rich, a little bit fresh and a little bit drunk (oops).

For your Asian salad; just choose the crunchiest, most colourful vegetables you can buy. Even raw cabbage is brilliant. The dressing is inspired by my many visits to the Benihana chain of restaurants - Benihana pretends to be Japanese, but it's really American. My dressing pretends to be Asian, but it's really from Marylebone in London. I bought a ton of specialist ingredients from my local Asian grocery and whacked them together with no idea if it would all work out.

I needn't have worried. The salad was incredible, and my laksa was equally terrific. If you serve these two dishes together as a dinner party menu, then make life easy on yourself and serve a flavoured yoghurt with fresh fruit as a dessert. It sounds a bit easy and a cop-out - except that I was served it at my friend Ying's house, and if it's good enough for a real Asian person, it's good enough for an aspiring one! Needless to say, our guests scoffed the lot (one of my most important criteria in selecting friends, is their capacity to greedily scoff).

Cost-wise, this recipe is as reasonable as it is tasty. £1.25 per serving is all it is.

Serves 4 (as a starter)

Salad ingredients:

1 small packet of wild rocket leaves
1 yellow pepper, cut into 5mm matchsticks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 5mm matchsticks
Third of a cucumber, deseeded and cut into 5mm matchsticks
Handful of beansprouts

Thumb of ginger, peeled and cut into 2mm matchsticks, for sprinkling
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Fresh coriander leaves, for sprinkling

Arrange the vegetables in a haphazard manner - you are looking for a light, random colourful pile. Dress the salad first, then garnish with the ginger, sesame seeds and coriander leaves.

Dressing ingredients:

3 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, drained
2 tablespoons stem ginger syrup
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons of water

Whizz the ingredients up in a blender and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavours mellow and develop. Serve the salad immediately after the dressing has been added.