Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The easy Peri-Peri Prawn and Pineapple dish that packs a punch (serves 4)

  1. 800g large prawns
  2. half a pineapple
  3. a beer
  4. a handful of fresh basil
  5. 1 cup of jasmine rice
  6. half a cup of good Portuguese Peri-Peri marinade

  • prepare the prawns by removing the central 'vein', keeping the shells and heads on
  • do this by cutting through the upper shell, all the way down and into the tail and about half-way into the flesh of the prawn, then finding the vein and pulling it out
  • once all the prawns are prepared place onto a large baking tray and cover with the marinade
  • chop up the pineapple into bite-size chunks
  • rinse and chop the basil, leaving a quarter of the leaves intact
  • rinse and prepare the rice as instructed on the packet
  • pop the tray with prawns under a preheated grill, close to the bottom of the oven
  • watch carefully, making sure to turn prawns as they turn pink
  • when the prawns are done, put them in another dish at the bottom of the oven (to keep warm)
  • at the same time put the pineapple under the grill, close to the top of the oven, turning after a few minutes and removing when done
  • put the original prawn pan with left over marinade onto a hot plate on the oven
  • add to this most of a beer (taking into account the chef might need a little refreshment) and allow to reduce
  • after about 5 minutes, run the marinade/beer sauce through a sieve and into a warm bowl
  • once the rice is done, mix the basil in, and keep warm
  • put a little rice on each plate, then some prawns, a bit of grilled pineapple and a few fresh basil leaves

Edgebaston is no longer just the home of Warwickshire cricket

David Finlayson, winemaker of Edgebaston at the Finlayson Family Vineyards, is the latest of a bloodline of prominent movers and shakers in the SA wine industry.  A distinguished family heritage, formative training at Elsenburg and work experience in France, California and Australia have given him a unique and skilled approach to the art of making wine. 

The Chardonnay, for instance, a food wine with great fruit and subtle wood, is made up of fruit that is matured in New, 2nd fill and 3rd fill French oak, as well as a portion in concrete (Nomblot) eggs.  These are relatively new to the world of winemaking with the main benefit being the continuous flow of liquid, keeping fermentation temperatures constant and negating the need to fiddle with the wine.

Edgebaston's 'Rock Stars' are the Pepper Pot and the Berry Box red and white blends.  The Pepper Pot, my palate's particular favourite, is a complex and wonderfully balanced Rhone-style blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache, Viognier, Cinsaut and Tannat.     

The Berry Box red, a Bordeaux style with a bit of Shiraz, seems incredibly popular, as is the Sauvignon Blanc dominated Berry Box white blend.  The Rock Stars are widely available and most importantly really good value for money. 

Something that David says will go well with his Chardonnay.

Tuna Carpaccio

  1. 400g sashimi-quality tuna (or yellowtail)
  2. 1 lemon
  3. freshly ground rainbow peppercorns
  4. a small handful of fresh coriander leaves
  5. a small handful of fresh red basil leaves
  6. 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • place the tuna in the freezer for 30 minutes until firm
  • using a very sharp knife, slice the tuna into paper-thin slices  
  • arrange the slices on a serving plate
  • squeeze the lemon over the fish and leave for 10-15 minutes (the fish will turn opaque)
  • sprinkle the fish with ground rainbow peppercorns to taste and garnish with coriander and basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Apple, walnut and mature cheddar scones (makes 6)

  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1 cup grated mature cheddar
  3. dash of cayenne
  4. 1 Tbsp baking powder
  5. a sprinkle of salt
  6. 1 egg
  7. milk
  8. 1 apple, skin removed and grated
  9. 10 walnuts, finely chopped
  • beat an egg in a 250ml cup and add milk to 3/4's full
  • mix all the ingredients until well combined
  • preheat the oven to 200 C
  • butter the baking dish (muffin pan) and divide the mixture into 6 hollows
  • cook for about 12 mins and eat immediately 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Laos - same same but different

Quite a while ago now, early in 2008, we were lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Laos.  Surrounded by Thailand, Myanmar, China, Vietnam and Cambodia, it has the much publicised and incredibly unfortunate record of being the most bombed country in the world.  As I explored different parts of the place, the bombing fact in the back of my mind, I was constantly astounded.  It is absolutely beautiful with an atmosphere that can only be described as one of peace and calm.

Sunset over the Mekong

Wat Phou Champasak

On the way to the Bolaven Plateau
Luang Prabang is a scene that is about as serene and picturesque as you'll find anywhere in Asia, with orange-robed monks rambling along the ancient streets, views over an appropriately calm bend of the Mekong and a fascinating blend of colonial and traditional Laotian architecture.  The town caters to the entire tourist spectrum, from budget backpacker huts to the kind of resort where you can get a hot-stone massage before your early morning low-fat Mochachino.  If you're interested, and make the effort, you will discover a disturbingly raw but refreshing character as well.  The local food market, as an example, sells the usual array of colourful fruit and vegetables but if you wander into the meat section you're in for a bit of a surprise.  An amazing assortment of animal parts, mounds of congealed (jelly-like) buffalo blood, handy packets of bile and a lively, chunky smell in the air make it an experience worth writing home about.


I loved the food in Laos, a fascinating fusion of it's neighbours fare with the occasional hint of french flair for good measure.  To try to get to grips with what we were eating my wife and I attended a cooking course with the Tamarind Cooking School.  This took the better part of a day, with us visiting a market, exploring ingredients, preparing and eating some food but most importantly getting a look at the heart and soul of the cuisine of Laos.  I researched a bit and discovered that this school is doing incredibly well, receiving great reviews.  I got in touch with them and they were happy to give us one of their authentic recipes.

The kitchen

Minced meat and herb salad

  1. 150g beef, minced, ground of finely chopped
  2. 1/2 tsp salt
  3. 1 tsp fish sauce
  4. 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  5. 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  6. 1 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves and stems
  7. 1 stalk lemongrass, white section, very finely sliced
  8. 1/2 cup mint, roughly chopped
  9. 1 Tbsp roasted sticky rice powder
  10. 1 Tbsp lime juice
  11. 2 chillies
  12. 1 small handful finely sliced banana flower
  13. 2 snake beans (yardlong bean or bora), finely sliced
  14. 1/4 cup pak hom baen leaves (saw-tooth coriander), chopped
  15. 1 Tbsp fresh galangal, finely chopped
  16. 1 tsp dried chili powder
  17. a small handful of beansprouts, soaked briefly in hot water to soften
  18. a sprinkle of stock powder
  • in a wok, lightly saute the meat with the salt and half the fish sauce
  • remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining ingredients to combine
  • arrange on a serving platter, garnish with greens and serve with sticky rice


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Desperately seeking Eataly

Eataly is New York's mecca of all things Italian.  It's essentially a warehouse filled with a variety of restaurants, a food market, a gadget shop, a book store and somewhere to get great Italian beer, wine and refreshments.  There is even a touch of the attitude that you'll come across in the boot shaped country.  Let me make myself 100% clear on this.  I love Eataly.  They have a cheese, meats and snackie sort of place.  A pizza and pasta focused eatery.  Meat, fish and vegetarian restaurants.  A take-away rotisserie bar that does chicken, lamb, pork, turkey and beef.  There is even have a rooftop beer venue.

We sat down at 'Il Verdure' (the vegetarian spot) for some wine, a salad and a beautiful Farro-style risotto.  After looking around for a while and enjoying another glass of wine we ended up standing open-mouthed at the heavenly rotisserie.  At this stage my resistance was low and I ordered a large prime rib sandwich, made with 100% Black Angus beef, extra-virgin olive oil (from the gods) and a house-made porcini rub.  Thirty seconds later I was biting into the juiciest, most flavourful and most tender meat I have ever had the pleasure of devouring.  If you're visiting New York you just have to visit Eataly. 

I have described a walk below that takes in the Brooklyn Bridge, the real Chinatown, Union Square and the Flat Iron District, leaving you outside Eataly.  This will give you the chance to replenish a few of the calories just lost.  Or, if you're not a big fan of walking, just get the metro to 23rd street, or even better catch a cab to the doorstep. 

The Boozy Prune's #1 New York Walk
  • hop on the Metro, the F line down to York Street in Brooklyn
  • walk through Brooklyn Heights and down to the East River for some great views back at Manhattan
  • then walk back towards the Brooklyn Bridge, stopping somewhere for a take away coffee and a bagel on the way (there are some cafes on Old Fulton Street)
  • with coffee and bagel in hand, look for the steps (and probably crowd) going up and onto the bridge
  • walk over the bridge, enjoying the views but dodging the cyclists and irrational joggers at the same time
  • continue straight ahead to City Hall and enjoy a bit of people watching
  • take a right turn (North) onto Lafayette Street and continue all the way up to Grand Street
  • explore all corners of Grand, which is the real Chinatown, making sure to watch the sports and activities in Sara D Roosevelt Park
  • if it's after midday, and you're in the mood for a glass of wine, walk up and turn onto Rivington Street and carry on to Ludlow
  • here you'll find Inoteca and it's wonderful wine list
  • walk West to Broadway and then turn right, up to Union Square
  • walk through the square and then out the top left corner, onto 17th Street
  • continue on and then turn right onto 5th Ave, which will take you North, all the way up to Madison Square Park and the Flat Iron Building
  • you're now a few steps from Eataly, which is at 200 5th Ave (west of the little square in front of the Flat Iron Building)
All this talk of walking might have you ready for a quick bite to eat, and if you can't get to Eataly now, here's a recipe they've given me to satisfy you in the meantime.

Spaghetti Cacio & Pepe (crushed black pepper and Pecorino cheese) - 6 servings

  1. 2 Tbsp salt, for the pasta water
  2. 2 Tbsp whole black peppercorns, or more (to taste)
  3. 1 pound spaghetti
  4. 2 Tbsp softened butter
  5. 1 and a half cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano, or more to taste
  • bring a large pot with 6 quarts of water and 2 Tbsp salt to a boil
  • heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat
  • grind the peppercorns coarsely into the butter
  • warm up a big bowl for serving the pasta, using a bit of the pasta water
  • drop the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook until al dente
  • quickly lift the pasta from the pot, let it drain for an instant, then drop it directly into the saucepan
  • mix the pasta with the sauce until well coated
  • remove the pan from the heat and immediately scatter a cup of the grated cheese over the pasta, tossing in quickly
  • as you mix, sprinkle over a spoonful of hot water from the cooking pot to moisten and amalgamate the pasta and condiments - add more pepper and cheese to taste
  • serve straight away, while the spaghetti is very hot 

EN Japanese - Big in New York

A visit to EN-Japanese was a special treat for us after a few days exploring New York.  I will be the first to admit that I am completely useless somewhat of an amateur when it comes to Japanese cuisine, especially of this calibre.  We hadn't had the time book and seemed pretty lucky to get a table, arriving just as a group departed.  We were taken through to the central part of the restaurant, to a large oval, communal table that surrounded a dramatic floral arrangement.  The service was impeccable from start to end and watching the chefs preparing all sorts of dishes in the open kitchen added to the experience.  I'd guess that even if you're a Japanese food guru, this place will astonish.  It takes age-old gastronomic traditions and injects them with a mix of contemporary ideas and innovation.  I ordered a variety of wonderful small tasting dishes; my favourite being the assorted Japanese mushrooms and sun-dried daikon radish with yuzu.  A dish that for me had the most intense and purest flavour profile of anything I've ever eaten.  The next leg of our culinary adventure took us to a blue miso crab soup, followed by yam and edamame wrapped in nori, fried and served with natural sea salt.  Each dish had such complexity of flavours and textures and all were completely new to my palate.  The duck and potato, covered with a mochi rice cake and served in a dashi broth dazzled my taste buds and amalgamated my thoughts on the night.  Grub I had never tasted before, served in a way that was completely new to me with combinations I would never have dreamed of, fashioned with such finesse that the result was something that not only worked but made absolute sense.  Add to this the extensive wine list, enough saki to sink a battle-ship and a variety of tasting menu's and you're faced with a restaurant that is at the very top of it's game.  And probably at the pinnacle of new-age Japanese cooking.   

The chefs at EN-Japanese gave me a recipe that turns broccoli rabe and bamboo into something worth drooling over.

Nanohana and Takenoko Nuta-ae (Broccoli Rabe and Bamboo Shoot dressed in Su-miso)

  1. 1 bunch of broccoli rabe (also known as rapini or broccoletti)
  2. 1 tin of bamboo shoots (or freshly sliced or precooked if you can get your hands on some)

Dashi broth:
  1. 1 litre Dashi
  2. 100cc Soy Sauce
  3. 10cc Mirin
Su-miso dressing:
  1. 100g Saikyo Miso
  2. 100g White Miso
  3. 40g sugar
  4. 60cc rice vinegar
  5. 30cc Sake
  • Make the Dashi broth by bringing all the ingredients to a boil
  • take off the heat and leave half the broth hot and chill the other half
  • place 1 bunch of broccoli rabe in a pot with enough water to cover, and boil for 30 secs
  • immediately place broccoli rabe into the chilled Dashi broth
  • put bamboo slices in the hot Dashi broth in a pot, bring to a boil and then simmer on a low heat for 3 mins
  • then place the entire pot in a cold bath
  • refrigerate both broccoli rabe and bamboo slices in their respective broths overnight
  • squeeze excess Dashi broth from the broccoli rabe and cut broccoli into 2cm pieces
  • take bamboo slices out of the Dashi broth and combine with the broccoli
  • make the Su-miso dressing by combining and mixing all the ingredients
  • toss the bamboo and broccoli in the Su-miso dressing 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Becco - one of New York's best deals

Finding a really good deal in New York is like trying to balance upside down on your head.  It usually leaves you with a headache and is close to impossible. 

The Italian restaurant of Becco, in the busy Theatre District, is special for a few reasons.  The food leaving the kitchen is innovative and beautifully created.  They have an extraordinarily comprehensive wine list and the staff are attentive and well trained.  What absolutely appealed to me was a special $25 wine list and a nightly 'Sinfonia de Paste' that includes either a Becco Caesar Salad or Antipasto Misto (marinated and grilled vegetables and seafood) and an unlimited table-side service of 3 pasta presentations.  All for $22.95. 

The powers that be at Becco kindly gave me a fantastic ossobuco recipe.  Enjoy!

Veal ossobuco with Barley Risotto


  1. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  2. 1 sprig fresh thyme
  3. 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  4. 4 whole cloves
  5. 1 lemon
  6. 1 orange
  7. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  8. 1 cup finely chopped onion
  9. 1 cup shredded carrot
  10. 1 cup finely diced celery
  11. 3 whole shanks of veal, bones in, each about 3 and a half pounds, and each cut in 2
  12. 1 cup all purpose flour
  13. 1/2 cup veg oil
  14. 3 tsp tomato paste
  15. 1 cup dry white wine
  16. 2 cups crushed plum tomatoes
  17. 4 cups chicken stock
  18. salt and pepper to taste
Barley Risotto:
  1. 2 quarts water
  2. 1 cup diced (1/4 inch) trimmed carrots
  3. 1 cup diced (1/4 inch) onion
  4. 1 cup diced (1/4 inch) trimmed celery
  5. 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 1 and a half cups pearl barley
  8. 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  1. 2 lemon peels, no white pith, finely chopped
  2. 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
  3. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Prepare ossobuco:
  • tie the rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and cloves securely in a 4 inch square of cheesecloth
  • with a veg peeler remove the zest of the lemon in wide strips
  • do the same with the orange and then squeeze the orange and retain the juice
  • heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over a medium heat in a wide, heavy casserole, large enough for all the veal
  • add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until wilted, around 5 mins
  • add carrot, celery and the bundle of herbs
  • season with salt, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 mins
  • pat veal shanks dry with paper towels and then tie a piece of kitchen twine securely around the perimeter of each, to hold them together during cooking
  • season with salt and pepper, coat with flour, shaking off the excess
  • divide veg oil between 2 heavy skillets and bring up to medium heat
  • add shanks and cook, turning once, until well browned on all sides
  • add browned shanks to casserole with veg and add tomato paste
  • stir paste in well and cook, stirring occasionally and turning the shanks once or twice, for around 10 mins
  • pour in white wine, bring to the boil, then add orange juice, and orange and lemon zest
  • bring to a vigorous boil over a high heat for 10 mins
  • add crushed tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 30 mins
  • stir in a cup of chicken stock
  • cover and simmer over a low heat, adding stock to keep the level of the liquid in the casserole the same, until the shanks are tender, around an hour and a half
  • rotate the shanks in the casserole as they cook
meanwhile, prepare the barley:
  • bring the water, celery, carrot, onion, bay leaves and olive oil to a boil
  • stir in the barley and cook until tender but still firm, around 20 mins
  • drain barley and set aside
and the gremolata:
  • toss the lemon zest, parsley and garlic in small bowl until blended and set aside
  • when the veal is tender, remove the shanks and cut off strings
  • put the cooking sauce through a sieve, pressing hard on the solids to remove liquid as possible
  • return the meat and strained sauce to the casserole and bring to the boil
  • check seasoning and keep warm over a low heat
finish the barley:
  • heat the butter in a large, heavy skillet over a medium to low heat
  • add the barley and cook, stirring often, until heated through and coated with butter
  • season with salt and pepper
and finally:
  • serve some barley and 2 pieces of veal onto each plate, add a little sauce and then sprinkle over gremolata

Photograph: Marcus Nillson

Friday, 3 May 2013

Kinara Kitchen - a little corner of Pakistan, in Dublin

Kinara Kitchen, in the trendy Dublin neighbourhood of Ranelagh, was our venue for a night out with 2 friends and longtime Dublin locals.  They'd heard about the restaurant's authentic Pakistani flavours and decided it was something for us all to experience. 

On walking through the doors you are struck by a wave of new-age vibe and trendy decor and on the way to our table, as we passed the super-chic cocktail bar, I looked down and wondered if I shouldn't maybe have polished my shoes a little more.  I had no idea what to expect from the menu, but on paging through I discovered the essence of the place was firmly on their heritage.  The food might be glamorously presented and the roaming waiters incredibly knowledgeable on the wines of the world; but the focus of the restaurant is to allow the real heart and soul of Pakistani cuisine to shine through.  I thoroughly enjoyed my ethnic prawn curry, with bold layers of flavour, a perfect match with a garlic nan.  Our table was covered with an amazing array of dishes that included a chicken curry, crisp and spicy squid, a dal and some vegetarian delights, all fantastically prepared and presented.

I know very little about the food of Pakistan so asked what makes it different from that found in India.  This was the answer:

"Everyone is guilty of confusing Pakistani food with Indian.  As you start to scratch the surface of our cuisine you realise that the flavours, aromas and techniques of cooking are distinct and individual, just as are the recipes and traditions.  Being a country that is bordered with Iran, Afghanisthan and China, the influences from these cuisines have had a direct impact on our cuisine, together with the regional cuisines from indigenous people living in the land that makes up Pakistan.  The historical influences are those left behind by the Mughals, those brought by the migration of people in 1947 from corners of India that now make up Pakistan.  This has made Pakistani cuisine distinct - those flavours that are identifiably Pakistani are haunting, aromatic - more meat and simple vegetables, barbecued food, rich sauces and regal rice dishes and breads.  The best way to experience the differences of flavour is through actually eating and cooking Pakistani food - the essence of this flavour comes from the way we 'bhuno' or cook the onions, ginger and garlic - the time at which we add our other ingredients.  Here is a recipe of a patriotic green chicken curry - simple flavours but an identifiable Pakistani flavour in the curry - with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom amongst the spices and coriander, mint and green chili, three main components of Pakistani dishes make up a vibrant green sauce and is great with nan or plain basmati.

Green Masala Chicken Curry (2-3 people)

Make the Masala paste by combining the following in a blender:
  1. half a bunch of coriander leaves
  2. 15 mint leaves
  3. 1 Tbsp green chili
  4. 1tsp salt
  5. 1 tsp brown sugar
  6. 1/2 tsp turmeric
  7. 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  8. 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
Other ingredients:
  1. 500g full fat natural yoghurt
  2. 2-3 tsp veg oil
  3. 2 chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized pieces
Whole spices:
  1. 1 cinnamon stick
  2. 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
  3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 10 black peppercorns
  5. 3 green cardamom, bruised
  6. 8 cloves
  • whip the yoghurt and add the green masala paste
  • heat the veg oil in a pan, when hot add the whole spices and stir and cook until an aroma builds
  • add the green masala paste and fry until the oil starts to rise to the top of the yoghurt mix
  • add chicken and stir, then turn the heat to low and leave covered to cook until the chicken is done, stirring every now and then, adding a bit of water if needed
  • serve hot with rice or nan or both