Nickloman's Blog

Genomics and face stuffing around the world

A very autumnal dinner

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Sometimes you make a dinner where the flavour combinations come together better than you dare expect, and you end up making a menu that you know you will return to again and again.

Yesterday was one of those dinners. I made:

Slow-braised leg of mutton
Smoked roseval potatoes
Roast crown prince squash

followed by

Orange-baked quince

The mutton recipe I used was derived from this recipe from the Blackface Meat Company although I had a smaller joint of meat so it only needed about 3.5 hours in all.

I really like Roseval potatoes and always pick them up when I spot them in the supermarket. They are a waxy, salad potato with a thick pink-purple skin which I usually peel off, leaving a pink middle layer. To prepare smoked potatoes you boil the unpeeled potatoes in salted water until tender and leave to cool. Peel the potato, trying not to remove too much of the layer immediately under the skin. I cool-smoked the potatoes for about an hour using oak and apple. Then reheat the potatoes in butter when you are ready to serve.

I won’t patronise you with a recipe for roast squash, but I strongly recommend seeking out the Crown Prince, this variety has a light blue-green skin and a lovely delicate flavoured orange flesh. Charbel sells them at Harborne and Moseley markets at the moment.

Baked quince is easy. This is another recipe from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook. Wash the skin of the quince and then wrap each quince in foil. Sit them upright in an oven dish and bake in a hot oven until quite tender (say 1 hour). Remove, and let cool. To make the orange syrup dissolve 275g caster sugar in 250ml water, add 5 tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 tsp orange-flower water. Remember not to stir the syrup after it has come to the boil so it doesn’t crystallise. Then, halve each quince removing the core as you go. Place the quince flesh-side down in an oven dish and pour over the syrup. Bake until the quince are very soft and “treacly”. Serve with creme fraiche.


Written by nickloman

October 16, 2011 at 6:05 pm

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Recipe: Windfall Cake

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Fun things to do with quince. Membrillo is the obvious one. I did also try HFW’s lamb and quince salad recipe but it didn’t go down very well with the missus (it was quite honestly a bit weird).

Anyway, this cake is well worth a try.

Windfall cake

3 large apples (I used Bramley)
1 large quince or 2 small ones
175g butter plus extra for greasing
2 eggs
180g soft brown sugar
100g blanched almonds, processed to breadcrumb texture
2 lemons
85g flour
50g almond flakes

This is a great use of quince and very autumnal. It produces a very soft, unctuous textured cake with a lovely flavour of quince and lemon. This recipe is from Sarah Raven’s fantastic (really) Garden Cookbook, but she credits the original to Monty Don. So I feel justified in reproducing it here!

1) Peel, core and roughly chop the apples and quince. Make sure you get all the quince core out because this can be very hard. Put the fruit into an oven-proof dish and cover with 50g of brown sugar as well as the zest and juice of a lemon. Bake at 180oC until the pieces are soft but not quite broken down (20-30 minutes).

2) Cream together 150g of butter with 150g of soft brown sugar in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and beat in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add the processed almonds and flour and fold into the mixture. Mix the fruit in.

3) Transfer the mixture to a greased, lined baking dish. I used a 19cm dish with good success (original recipe asks for 26cm so that will probably also work).

4) Bake for 30 minutes. In the meantime melt 30g of butter with 25g of brown sugar in a pan, plus juice of a second lemon. Add almond flakes. Remove cake from the oven and spread mixture over top of the cake. Put back in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until brown.

5) Leave to cool in tin.

Serve with some creme fraiche, or yoghurt, or ice-cream! In fact I tried that Heston salted caramel popcorn ice cream and it was quite good.

Written by nickloman

October 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm

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The Best … Asian Tiger Prawn Recipe: Sambal Prawns

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I wanted to cook something special with the lovely tiger prawns I picked up at Eddie’s Seafood Market on a recent trip to Edinburgh. And so I reached out to Lap who really knows his shit, not least when it comes to Asian recipes. Here’s what he came back with:

I’m assuming about four to five prawns per person. So for four people this will make up to 20 medium sized prawns.

Prepare Prawns: cut legs off, slit down back of shell and remove vein. People will not appreciate the effort involved in doing this but you will!

Prepare Sambal Paste: soak ten to fifteen dried red chillies (the kashmiri style ones, mild to medium heat, very red, seeds discarded), when softened blitz with two cloves garlic, an equal measure of ginger and galangal (so in total the same as garlic), three small shallots and a thumbnail size of toasted shrimp paste (optional, you can use fish sauce later). You should have nice vibrant red paste. Use the soaking liquid to loosen it if required.

Prepare other stuff: Make some tamarind water. Lightly bash one stalk of lemongrass and tie into knot.

Cook: Heat up some oil, and gently fry some curry leaves, when fragrant add the sambal and gently fry that till aromatic. Add prawns and lemongrass. When almost cooked, season with salt (or fish sauce), tamarind and sugar. The final dish should not be wet but the sambal should stick to the prawns shell and have permeated where you’ve slit it. Dress it up how you like!

It was darned good with the spanking fresh prawns. However it was rather hot, so if you are a wuss you might want to cut down on the number of chillies a little.

Written by nickloman

September 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

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Indian Summer BBQ

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Summer is not over! Even though it’s nearly October, we still managed to sit out until 10pm and have a BBQ. You can knock all this up in less than an hour after work.

Photo by Hannah!

Kentish cobnuts – lovely, milky and sweet at this time of year
Padron peppers (still available in Waitrose, don’t think I’ve ever seen them in any other supermarkets) – cooked on a frying pan on the BBQ in olive oil. Be liberal with the Maldon salt.

Butterflied leg of lamb, Moro’s muslim mediterranean marinade (see below)
Moro aubergine and tomato pilav
Moro chickepea salad
Mint and cucumber yoghurt

English strawberries, raspberries, meringue and yoghurt (we didn’t have any cream!!)

Moro Muslim Mediterranean Marinade

In my opinion, this is one of the best things you can do with a butterflied leg of lamb. The cumin and coriander comes through beautifully.

Juice of one lemon
Handful of coriander, roughly chopped
Two large cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste with salt
Two teaspoons of cumin, freshly ground
Red onion, grated
Black pepper
Olive oil

Butterfly the lamb and give it a good slashing on both sides to encourage the marinade in. Combine all ingredients and rub over lamb. Marinade for as long as you’ve got (I only had an hour and it was fine, but I didn’t put it in the fridge so as to encourage it along a bit).

Chickpea salad – ideally you’d cook your own chick peas but I didn’t have time. I’ve found that I much prefer the East End tinned chickpeas as they are plumper than the standard supermarket brand ones.

Written by nickloman

September 29, 2011 at 8:45 am

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Review: Rossopomodoro, Selfridges, Birmingham

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I’ve already complained on this blog about the lack of decent food in Selfridges, Birmingham.

So it was with some trepidation we stepped across the threshold of Rossopomodoro, a new pizza-pasta chain with some pretentions of authenticity in Selfridges Food Hall.

There is some expectation it might be decent. They name check Slow Food (not my thing but recognisably not a bad thing), and DOP and DOC (not the rapper) on their website and import both their flour and their mineral water from Italy. This is not actually very cool because both flour and water are abundantly available in England (someone let them know), but at least they are trying I guess.

Service is impressively nonchalant/horizontal, which is certainly authentic when I remember our holiday in Rome, the one where we ate about as badly as we could in England. But actually, bring the drinks over yeah?

Starter was burrata. This mozzarella “pouch” filled with cream and mozzarella scraps (thanks Wikipedia) is lovely and creamy. But presumably they didn’t make it themselves and it was £7. It was served with crap tomatoes and stale bread and a couple of anchovies.

By now I was beginning to despair of the meal entirely.

But – hang on.

The pizzas were … actually extremely nice.

A light, soft dough with a bit of char on the crust from the wood-fired oven. A tomato sauce that was zingy and light and tomato-ey (idiom copyright John Lanchester). Decent mozzarella in the correct proportions. It was … REALLY QUITE GOOD INDEED. Certainly the best pizza I’ve had in the West Midlands.

In the end I was so impressed that I forgot the bad things and we skipped away happily into the sunset.

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September 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm

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Smoked dauphinoise – omigosh new food invention?!

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I got excited that I had invented a recipe, and a search for “smoked potato dauphinoise” is a GoogleWhack. However I cannot stake my claim as a genuine food inventor, as there are hits for “smoked dauphinoise“. Damn.

Anyway, smoked dauphinoise – it came to me as I considered a partner for a brace of roast grouse. We know that smoked potatoes are nice, as is smoked mash. And indeed smoked ice-cream is very nice too. So why not smoked dauphinoise?

Listen carefully for I will impart two useful secrets now. One is for the best potato dauphinoise recipe – courtesy of Simon Hopkinson’s “Week In, Week Out” and the second is for the smoking modification. Naturally I did this on the Bradley Smoker.

Smoked dauphinoise

300ml double cream
150ml semi-skimmed milk
600g potatoes (I used Desiree, Maris Piper also work great)
One clove of garlic, bashed
Salt to taste
Ground white pepper
Ground nutmeg
Small knob of butter

Simon Hopkinson has a very canny way with this dish which takes all the pain out of it. Instead of waiting for it to cook from raw in the oven and ending up with uncooked bits of potato you start it off on the hob.

Firstly, peel and slice your potatoes about £1 thickness. Wash the slices under a cold tap to remove some of the starch. Dry thoroughly in a tea towel (this is important so the cream mixture sticks to the potato surface rather than being repelled by the water).

Mix the other ingredients except for butter (salt, to taste) together and add sliced potatoes in a flat dish. Make sure that the potatoes are all separated and coated in some cream mixture. Allow to infuse for a bit.

For smoked potatoes:

Put the dish of cream and potatoes into the pre-heated Bradley smoker, and hot-smoke on maximum temperature over oak for about an hour. Allow to sit around for an hour or two for the smoke to penetrate completely. Quite honestly the mixture won’t taste great at this stage.

For both types:

Then, add the mixture to a large frying pan or casserole and put over the heat until the cream has thickened significantly and the potatoes are nearly tender. If your hot smoker is very hot then you may be able to skip or foreshorten this stage.

Add back to a buttered baking dish and cook for 30-40 minutes in an 180C oven until golden on top and nice and wobbly.

Smoked or unsmoked, this is very good!

Written by nickloman

September 19, 2011 at 9:07 am

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Recipe: Buttermilk Pannacotta

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I’m forever forgetting and trying to reconstruct this recipe, so this is another aide memoire blog post. I use Bryn Williams’ base recipe but have been steadily dialing down the gelatine to help give it a lovely wibble. I would also advise less sugar than he recommends.

Buttermilk panna cotta

284g buttermilk (1 St. Ivel carton, available at Waitrose)
284g double cream
100g caster sugar (too much, try 50-75g to taste)
1 vanilla pod
2 leaves gelatine (specifically, Costa fine leaf gelatine – in the blue pack)

Scrape out vanilla pod and add seeds and pod to pan with double cream. Bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk in soaked gelatine leaves ensuring they are completely dissolved.

Put buttermilk in bowl and pour hot cream mixture over, removing vanilla pod. Mix.

Pour mixture into small Pyrex bowl, cover with cling-film and refrigerate until set (~4 hours).

Turn out onto plate and serve with berries, poached rhubarb, etc.

Written by nickloman

September 19, 2011 at 8:53 am

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Ondine, Edinburgh

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A solo dinner at the bar at Ondine, Edinburgh. Highlights were a few Loch Ryan native oysters – small but packing a decent iodine punch, so much more interesting than pacific oysters. Good smoked salmon, dense texture, quite mildly smoked but with some nice flavours in the cure (juniper, I think) could have been even more thickly sliced but there was plenty to go with good bread and the horseradish cream. Grilled langoustines were great, super sweet and coming with chips tasting distinctly of beef dripping (a good thing). I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the dill myself, but can’t complain really. Cheese was a bit dull. By no means cheap, at least you can see that money has been spent on sourcing excellent ingredients. Overall a really enjoyable meal made even more fun by getting chatting to an American couple who’s favourite TV show is also “The Wire”.

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September 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

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Fisher and Donaldson in Dundee: Picture report

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Two days in Dundee! I stayed by the river, which is undergoing much development work as part of a 30 year plan.

Dundee is home of … Scott’s HMS Discovery …

The Tay Railway Bridge

The Beano, the Dandy and Desperate Dan …

The largest collection of sweet, starchy treats known to man, at Fisher and Donaldson

Dundee Cake – and a new invention, the Irn Bru cupcake!

And so, to Edinburgh.

Written by nickloman

September 15, 2011 at 8:56 am

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Guide to ordering at Jyoti’s Birmingham

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I love Jyoti’s – a vegetarian indian restaurant in Hall Green, Birmingham. The food is cheap, filling, carefully spiced and very satisfying. Despite it being vegetarian, and despite not using ghee this food is not necessarily healthy – because you WILL over-indulge, straining your pancreas and giving you starch terrors. This is a good thing obviously.

However, the menu is long and the dishes vary from sublime to rather ordinary. I am going to keep this blog post as a guide to dishes I have really enjoyed, because I always forget which ones I like!

And if you have been yourself, please leave comments about dishes you have enjoyed or not.

Starting from last night’s takeaway.


Dahi puri – eat-in only, little puris, filled with a mixture like bhel puri, with a tamarind sauce to pour in. Always a fun starter.

Mogo chips – cassava chips served with hot chilli to dust over. These are great but never eat more than a handful for a starter as they expand in your stomach and you’ll never eat your mains.

Bhel puri – always good. Comes dry if you take-away, remember to add the sauce.


Plain dosa – the Jyoti dosas are lovely, served with a very thin daal. However they don’t take-away very well as they don’t benefit from sitting around.

Masala dosa – as per the plain dosa but with a large filling of potato. Prefer the plain.

Mattar methi malai – probably my favourite dish on the menu, peas and fenugreek. This is always great.

Sev and tomato – a lightly spiced tomato curry, but I don’t think I like sev very much.

Palak + chana – spinach and chickpeas, not very exciting.

Jeera rice – cumin-rice, very nice.

Bengan masala – a very good aubergine curry.

Vegetable biryani – nice rice, with a fairly plain vegetable curry accompaniment

Malai kofta – vegetable koftas, I think containing paneer, in a very tasty sauce. Always worth a go.

Written by nickloman

September 10, 2011 at 9:39 am

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