Friday, 25 March 2016

Octopus, Avocado, Butter Bean Salad with a chili garlic dressing.

I purchase a whole octopus, reduced from Morrisons a couple of weeks ago. I prefer octopus's cousin squid and have only ate octopus twice (in Tenerife) prior to this rather impulsive purchase. In fact, I think I brought the octopus because I felt sorry for it, as my local Morrisons shop had several packets of pitiful looking octopus that were reduced to £1.20 (bargain or what) that needed to be purchased or it would be thrown away. Not one for wasting or passing up a bargain, I purchased a packet of octopus and stored away my new found bargain in the freezer. I was toying on what to cook, when I remembered that the fantastic A Lot On Her Plate cookery book by Rosie Birkett featured several octopus recipes. I decide on this recipe. The octopus does require some preparation work, but the results are great, tender, chewy and flavoursome, this made a great mid-week lunch (although I suspect would make a light evening meal. As you will see from the photographs, I was lacking on the butter beans, but it was great without it, but I have included the authentic recipe without my amendments for ease.
Here is how my Octopus, Avocado Salad with a chill garlic dressing. 

1 Octopus
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 red birds eye chillies, halved
5 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
3 slices of lemon
few sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stemmed
1 bay leaf
3 black peppercorns

handful of cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of white pepper
400g butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled, stoned and cubed.

First you need to tenderise the octopus. You can do this very easily by freezing it a couple of days before you cook it, and then defrosting it. Or you can buy it frozen and then defrost. You may also need to remove the eyes. Do this by cutting around and under them with a very sharp knife and popping them and the attached cartilage out. When you cut out there eyes you can then press the hard break (the creatures mouth) out of the centre cavity where the legs join together. Clean any gunk from the cavities with kitchen paper, and rinse the octopus under cold water in the sink for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, ask your fishmonger to clean and prep the octopus for you.

Place 6 tablespoons of the olive oil with the octopus, chillies, garlic, lemon slices, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns in a large pot or casserole, give it a shake, and cover tightly with a lid. Slowly bring it up to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes. At this point check for tenderness, prodding a skewer or cocktail stick into the fattest part of the octopus. If the octopus falls off the skewer easily with little resistance rather than sticking to it, it's done. If it clings to the skewer, cook it for a further 10-15 minutes, or until there's no resistance.
While the octopus is cooking, toss the tomatoes in 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt, the rosemary and vinegar and set aside.
Once it's cooked until tender, transfer the octopus from the casserole to a plate. Allow it to cool and then, if you like, peel of the dark skin and cut into chunks. To make the chili garlic dressing, place the softened garlic and cooked chillies that were cooked with the octopus in a mini-chopper with about 5 tablespoons of the purple cooking liquor from the pot and blitz until you have a creamy, emulsified sauce. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice and white pepper, and blitz again.
To assemble the salad, mix the beans with the onion, parsley, avocado and marinated tomatoes , and arrange on the plate. Top the octopus, and drizzle with the dressing.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Nosh and Quaff

If you are a foodie in Birmingham or the surrounding areas, you would have known that Nosh and Quaff opened in July. Nosh and Quaff is the brainchild of Aktar Islam and Jabber Khan who owns Lasan and Fiesta del Asado. Located on the trendy Colmore Row, right next to Victoria Square, this is perfect for the city workers, those fancy a bite to eat after work alongside those that want an informal yet sophisticated restaurant. I attended the launch party and was greeted by ladies on stilts which was was a warm friendly welcome and set the scene for the informal eating requirements here #letsgetmessy. Inside the restaurant, I found this to be dimly lit, I would have preferred a more brighter and lighter restaurant but there were also numerous positives which I found as soon as I waked in. I liked the combination of the different seating areas, it reminded me of an American diner, there was a combination of tables and bar stools. The ground floor had a more party vibe to it, perhaps due to the launch party and there was music pumping out, I wanted to hear myself talk so asked to be seated upstairs. This was not an issue, the staff were incredibly friendly and attentive throughout the meal and I loved their trendy denim uniform. I much preferred being seated upstairs, there was a live band, stunning views of Birmingham and an ideal place to host a group meal. 

The most important reason why we were there, the food. For the mains I felt it was necessary that I ordered the lobster after all this is one of the stars of the menu. Described as grilled fresh large whole, split with a garlic and lemon butter sauce, I was salivating reading the menu. When my lobster arrived, the lobster meat inside was tender and juicy and the accompanying sauce was light and fresh. Unfortunately my lobster was not piping hot and was just warm. I’m not sure the reason for this but it was a bit of a disappointment. The lobster was reasonably priced at £20 and the fries which accompanied it was well seasoned and crispy. The pork ribs which my nan ordered described as four-bone rib of naturally reared Hampshire pig in a peppery, mustard rub served with homemade slaw. I sampled the pork ribs, which I found to be delicious, peppery and meaty.

The side dishes were the Nosh and Quaff salad (£5) and Corn on the Cob. All which tasted good and I felt was reasonably priced. No restaurant with the hash tag #letsgetmessy would be complete without a decadent range of deserts, although there were 3 options they were perfect for rounding up the meal. The Rocky Road (£5) described as “ rich chocolate brownie, nut brittle, marshmallow ice-cream and loads of chocolate sauce. The other options are cheesecake and sharing sundae. As a chocoholic I can say that the chocolate dessert was sublime: indulgent, crunchy, moreish and sublime.

Overall: If my main courses were piping hot then there would be no hesitation on returning; I loved the menu concept and vibe of the restaurant.
Positives: helpful staff, great location and a great place for informal restaurant.

Not so good: My lobster was not piping hot.

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Nosh and Quaff. 
Nosh and Quaff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Caribbean Modern Book Review and Interview with Shivi Ramoutar

Caribbean Modern: Recipes From The Rum Islands, by supper club host and chef Shivi Ramoutar was released last month, to rave reviews by newspapers, magazines and food professionals. I eat a lot of Caribbean food at home, being of Jamaican heritage, however I am always surprised with the new recipes from the Caribbean islands. Shivi's heritage is from Trindiad, Trinidad born, Leicester and London raised I believe and that certainly shows with the number of Trinidad recipes that feature in this book. I have been almost desperate to find authentic recipes on "Shark and Bakes" and "Pelau" so pleased these dishes were featured in her cookbook. What I love about Caribbean Modern, is that all the dishes are so vibrant, colourful and exotic, exactly what Carbbean food is. There were so many recipes which I have bookmarked to try from this book, so far, I've made three dishes: Bag Bakes Sea Bass with Black Bean Salsa, Geera Pork Chops with Citrus Garlic Germolata and Ginger-Dressed Tomato, Orange and Ginger Salad.

The cookbook is split into the following chapters:
  • Introduction
  • Notes On The Recipes
  • Cutters (Snacks For Sharing)
  • Soups and Salads
  • One Pot
  • Two Pots or Three
  • Something On The Side
  • Sweet Things
  • Sticky-Fingered Good
  • Drink UP
  • For the Larder
By far one of my favourite dishes from Caribbean Modern is this incredibly light, flavoursome, tropical and healthy Bag Baked Sea Bass with Black Bean Salsa. 

I've never heard of "Geera, it's cumin pork, but I loved it, instantly. The pork chops was juicy and succulent, flavoursome and lush. Served with roasted vegetables, this dish is certainly a healthier way to eat a chop.

I love salad, especially as it's the Summer months. But salad combing heat, with fruit and more fruit (tomatoes are a fruit), I wasn't sure whether it would work, but it does. Marvelously.

Congratulations on your debut book, Caribbean Modern, I love it's fresh and light take on Caribbean cuisine.

11) What has been your inspiration behind your book?
The inspiration behind my book has come from my family and my upbringing between Trinidad and Leicestershire (UK).  Both countries provided a wealth of different flavours, ideas and ingredients that have impacted my recipes and creations.  It is particularly apparent in some of my recipes where I combine ideas from both regions, or adapt recipes that my family would cook in Trinidad, to take into account ingredients that are more readily available in the UK.

12)  In the UK, Caribbean food tends to be overlooked compared to other cuisines, why do you think this is?
I think this is definitely changing.  Perhaps in the past, the most well-known Caribbean exports would have been Jerk and Goat Curry, dishes that are boldly flavoured, but not necessarily the most beautiful dishes to look at, particularly if you had no idea as to how wonderfully flavourful they are.  Otherwise, Caribbean cuisine wasn’t so easy to find in the mainstream, so it went a little un-noticed.  But the UK as a nation has progressively become more adventurous and excited to try new cuisines, it is so wonderful to see.  That and the fact that we are travelling more and also the internet making the World ‘smaller’.  Caribbean food joints are popping up on the High Street across the UK. And the beauty about Caribbean food is that, because if its wide-ranging influences (British, Dutch, French, Spanish to Chinese to West African to Indian) it is both exotic and yet so familiar.

13)   You’ve introduced us to Trinidadian cuisine, what is your favourite dish from Trinidad?
    This is a tricky one.  I love it all!  At a push, if I had to decide, I’d go with ‘Buljol Butties’ - a breakfast dish of shredded salt fish with fresh vegetables (peppers, chives, tomato, lime and avocado) served in an absolutely drool-inducing, but easy to make bread, called ‘Fried Bakes’.  It is the perfect combination of sweet, savoury and tangy.  It is also vibrantly colourful and fresh.

14)   What dish would you recommend for those who may not have cooked Caribbean cuisine?

You know, I would go with 'Buljol Butties’ - not only because it is one of my favourites dishes, but it is easy to make but the results are so moreish!

15)   Who is your biggest culinary inspiration?
My family – my Ma, Pa, Mama and Aunties and Uncles.  They are all so passionate about food – both cooking and eating and it is such a joy to watch all of them do this.  I think I have said so many times before, but the Caribbean ethos is all about spontaneous hospitality, food, its creation and the enjoyment of it.  And you can see this everytime I watch any of my family members cook.  It never comes across as boring or routine.

16)   Best way to “lime” in the UK?
     Everyway, anyway and anywhere is the best way.  Have some food in one hand and a drink in the other, take your shoes and socks of, put on a little ‘soca’ music and chill with a friend or a random.

Thank you Shivi for taking the time to answer my questions. 
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