This recipe first appeared on the Great British Chefs website. 

Some condiments – ketchup being a prime example – are not worth the bother of making at home, while others improve on the original by 100%. Reader, it is stupendously good. I hadn’t realised before I made it that it’s a fermented product, which is odd. I’ve been making a lot of fermented hot sauces recently but this one is probably my favourite. I can’t stop eating it, particularly with eggs but to be honest, you could slosh it on anything and be very happy. It’s hot, sweet, funky and pungent with garlic. I like to danger-dare myself to eat ever-increasing quantities.

Home Made Sriracha Recipe

Makes approx 1 litre

600g red chillies, stalks removed
10 garlic cloves, peeled
4 teaspoons sea salt
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
75g soft light brown sugar
75g caster sugar

Put the chillies, garlic, salt and sugar in a blender and whizz to a rough puree.

Pour into a sterilised jar or bowl and cover. Leave to ferment for 3 days, burping each day.

Blend again until very smooth. Add to a saucepan with the vinegar and fish sauce, bring to a simmer and simmer a few minutes, then pour into sterilised jars.

Burnt leeks are having a moment. We’re now barbecuing this ‘boring’ and familiar vegetable in the style of the Catalonian calçot. Leek and potato soup? Forget it, pal.

While the outside is completely charred the insides collapse into buttery softness and you could finish them with lots of different toppings. A Spanish romesco sauce would still be lovely or some grated hard-boiled egg. Maybe bottarga? Crunchy breadcrumbs fried in the oil from a tin of anchovies would be pleasing or spiced butter, hollandaise, a tahini dressing, miso…

The warm yoghurt sauce is not as weird as it sounds because its creamy sharpness plays off the sweet leeks. I dotted it with some whizzed chipotles in adobo which I made for a hot sauce commission – that fires the whole thing off in a Mexican direction, particularly once garnished with oregano.

We’re coming into grilling season now and I suggest you get involved with grilled leeks because it couldn’t be easier: put them on the grill and take them off when they look f*cked. Simple.

Burnt Leeks with Warm Yoghurt Sauce and Chipotle Recipe

4 leeks
1 egg, lightly beaten
250g full-fat natural yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
50ml hot water (hot from the tap)
2 chipotles in adobo – available online ready-made or I have a recipe for chipotle in adobo on the site here
Olive oil
Fresh oregano

Heat a barbecue for direct cooking.

When the flames have died down and the coals are covered in a thin layer of grey ash, place the leeks on the grill. Cook for around 10 minutes or so, turning until completely black and charred all over.

Mix together the yoghurt, egg and garlic in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot water. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and simmer gently over medium heat for around 5 minutes. Season.

Whizz the chipotles with a glug of olive oil to make a dressing.

When the leeks are ready, split them down their length and add the warm yoghurt sauce, chipotle dressing and oregano. Lovely served with this fresh flatbread recipe.

You can forget your apple sauce, pal – quince and scotch bonnet is where it’s at. I’ve combined them in a hot sauce before but this is more of a quince mush with chilli in it, which is a lot nicer than I’ve just made it sound. It’s a fruit sauce for pork, south London style. The quinces we bought in Peckham’s General Store and the scotch bonnets well, they’re everywhere. Colourful little buggers.

The pork is rubbed with scotch bonnet powder so the crackling and outer meat is spicy too but you could just roast it simply with salt. This reduction in overall heat will also help with the problem of what to serve on the side. Vegetables make sense but the carbs are trickier. The first time I made a sort of spiced pilaf which took things off in another direction entirely and we’ve also had it in baps with mustard and a cabbagey ‘slaw like a spicy hog roast.

Potatoes?

Anyway, it’s a very fun thing to do with quinces which are at their fragrant, knobbly best right now. Snap ’em up in the shops or – ideally – steal them from someone’s garden. They may even give them to you! I dunno. Things like that mainly happen outside of London.

Roast Pork Belly with Quince and Scotch Bonnet Sauce Recipe

1.6kg piece pork belly (or thereabouts) cut from the meaty shoulder end, with ribs attached (this is just my preference because then you get the tasty ribs as well)
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons scotch bonnet powder (I buy this in Peckham but you can also buy online)
2 large quinces
1 fresh scotch bonnet chilli
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus a bit extra for prepping the quinces)

If you have the pork belly the day before, pat the skin dry, score it, then leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out. If not, just pat it dry then score it. Remove any tough white membrane from the top of the rib section.

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Mix the salt and scotch bonnet powder (if using) and rub this all over the pork belly. Place it on a rack in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 140C and cook for 1 hour 20 minutes, then whack it back up to 220C for a final 20 minutes. This should give you great crackling.

For the quince sauce, peel and stone the quinces, cutting them into segments – you’ll need to pop them in some water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it while you do this, to stop them turning brown.

Cover them with water in a saucepan and add the scotch bonnet (leave it whole) and the honey. Cook until soft, around 1 hour. Remove the chilli and drain. Blend the fruit and stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt. Serve with the pork!

 

I remember reading some ‘dieting advice’ once, probably during the ’90’s when I was an impressionable teenager and therefore likely to have been seeking out that kind of drivel. The author – who I imagine now writes articles about baking eggs into the centre of avocados, or runs a ‘cartwheels on the beach’ Instagram account – advised readers ‘never reward your success with food.’ Are. You. Actually. Freakin’. Kidding.

Woman, did ya not know that rewarding oneself with food is one of life’s greatest pleasures? I feel sad that you were not able to get a new job, pass a test or (let’s face it) do something very routine and dull like pay a bill or go to the dentist without promising yourself a fat sandwich afterwards, or a share-size bar of Dairy Milk. How did you reward yourself, exactly? Perhaps a stern rap on the knuckles (good for staying ‘in the moment’) followed by two hours of step aerobics? Buzz off.

When I want to reward myself with food like a normal person I know how to do it properly, which brings me to these crab tacos. We’ve recently enjoyed various successes in this house and wanted to celebrate but we’ve also had some struggles and the logical response to both is the same: good food. If this were a ’90’s multiple choice quiz with absolutely no scientific basis my answers would now reveal that I am ‘C: The Emotional Eater.’ Who isn’t? If you see food as ‘just fuel’ then we are too fundamentally different and I think you meant to click on the link to www.don’tsabotagemy#gains.com.

We had to really work for these as well due to an apparent shortage of masa flour in the south east London area. In the end we bought some in Wholefoods (Picadilly) and as a result made an important discovery which is that the Cool Chili Co. masa flour is WAY easier to make tacos with than this Mexican brand, the one we usually buy. Our tacos often turn out a little crumbly but with the very finely ground Cool Chili Co. stuff they were pretty much perfect. If you’re having the same trouble, give it a go. They have a stall at Borough Market as well as the online shop.

We’d already come up with this recipe a few months back during a test run. The brown meat is mixed with smoky Mexican chillies, topped with a lime-heavy grilled corn salsa, white crab meat, sour cream and then – because why TF not – some caviar. Not the massively expensive stuff you understand but enough to give it a salty kick and make you feel like a boss. Enough to make you feel like you’ve received the reward you deserve for just, like, existing in the world without making a hash of it. If you want to make a hash, of course, then rock on.

Crab, Corn and Caviar Tacos Recipe

You can make this with 1 large, whole crab if you want to cook it yourself but obviously, the amount of meat will vary. I’ve given you the weight of meat here to make things simpler. This makes around 18 tacos.

For the tacos

250g masa flour (masa harina)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the crab

150g brown crab meat
200g white crab meat
1/2 dried Guajillo chilli
1/2 dried Ancho chilli
1/2 Pasilla chilli (obviously, just use one variety if you have one but I happened to have three – or mix it up)

For the salsa

4 corn cobs
1 small red onion, finely diced
Juice of 2 limes
Large handful coriander leaves, chopped

To serve

Sour cream
Caviar

Barbecue the corn cobs until lightly charred on all side. Shave the niblets (NIBLETS!) from the cob and mix with the other ingredients plus some salt. Set aside.

Soak the dried chillies in boiling water for around half an hour, or until softened. Deseed and whizz in a blender with the brown crab meat. Set aside.

To make the tacos, put the flour in a bowl and add the salt. Add 350ml water and bring together into a ball. Cover this and let it sit for 20 minutes. Press on the ball – if it cracks you need to add a bit more water. Do this a tablespoon at a time until it’s soft but not sticky. Divide into approx 30g balls. These instructions I copied from the back of the masa flour packet – they’re very good!

Line a taco press with a greaseproof paper square and place a ball on it. Put another square of paper on top and press.

Heat a dry frying pan or skillet over a medium-high heat. Cook each tortilla in a dry pan until the tortilla begins to release itself from the pan – 20-30 seconds. Flip – sometimes they puff up (desirable), sometimes they don’t. Don’t worry about it. Keep warm wrapped in a tea towel.

Assemble! We did brown meat followed by corn salsa, white meat, sour cream, caviar.

Quince and scotch bonnet hot sauce

I was going to start this post by asking long-time readers to recall the different food phases I’ve been through over the years. There was the sandwich phase, the barbecue phase and (link to current topic dead ahead, guys!), the hot sauce phase. Then I realised: I still wang on about sandwiches, I actually make a magazine about barbecue and here I am sharing a hot sauce recipe. I’m like, so not as fickle as I thought I was *flicks hair*.

I’ve wanted to make a fruity hot sauce for ages and as much as I love pineapple or mango with chilli, it’s quince season, so here we are. I am a big fan of the quince. Raw, they’re just rock hard weirdos but cooked they’re perfumed and sweet once you’ve um, added a load of sugar. Raw quince will pucker your mouth like a cat’s bottom.

What I like about this recipe is that it’s simple. You can taste the fruit and you can taste the flavour of those chillies (not just the heat). It also really comes together after a week in the bottle, transforming from something that was ‘yeah, pretty good actually’ into a sauce I’m fully in love with.

I’ve been pushing the boundaries in terms of the amount I can slosh onto my eggs and I can’t wait to try it on tacos. I also made an absolute shit tonne of it so if you know me in real life, you’re probs getting hot sauce for Christmas.

Quince and Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce Recipe

This filled a lot of jars of different sizes. I reckon it would fill around 6-8 ‘regular’ Hellman’s mayonnaise jars if that’s any help. You’re welcome… *gritted teeth emoji*

5 quinces, peeled, halved and then chopped into chunks (I think I cut each half into four pieces)
15 scotch bonnets, stalks and seeds removed
15 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
8 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 litre water
Neutral oil (vegetable, groundnut)

Cook the quince in a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes or until soft.

Add a splash of neutral oil to a pan and soften the onion and garlic without colouring. This will take around 5-10 mins – be careful to keep stirring it.

Add the quince, onion and garlic, chillies, vinegar, sugar and salt to a blender. Blend until smooth. Add back to a large saucepan with the litre of water. Allow to simmer gently for around an hour.

Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Force upon friends and family as Christmas presents.

Coffee and Chipotle Short Ribs

This is the second of four recipes I created in partnership with Vitamix and Great British Chefs (that means they paid me to write ’em). 

I’ve been trying to think of something to say about these beef ribs other than that they taste really good and I can’t, really, because it’s Friday and my brain is frazzled. What do British people do when they don’t know what to say? They talk about the weather. So I’m going to say that these are perfect for the barbecue now it’s cooled down a bit, and we can all contemplate actually standing in front of a metal bucket full of hot coals. I’m very glad to see the back of that heat, quite frankly, and until we get air con you can keep your 30 degrees + thanks very much. There, that’ll do, won’t it?

Oh yes, I should say that this is a fantastic rub made by whizzing coffee beans and chipotle chillies together in the Vitamix. The idea here, apart from the fact that it tastes brilliant, is to show you that the Vitamix will blend up pretty much anything, including those notoriously hard to grind beanz.

This results in a smoky, sweet and spicy bark that’s different enough to make people ask you for the recipe. You could easily serve these as tacos with sour cream, some pink pickled onions, hot sauce, black beans and so on. Think something hot, something creamy, something spicy, something crunchy and fragrant, then yer meat = TOP TACO.

Coffee and Chipotle Rubbed Barbecue Short Ribs Recipe

1 rack of beef short ribs
2 tablespoons coffee beans
1 handful of dried chipotle chillies
1 tbsp of dark brown sugar
1 tbsp of salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Add the coffee beans, chillies and cumin seeds to the Vitamix and pulse on Variable 5 until you have a medium to coarse spice rub consistency

Rub the paste all over the ribs and leave to marinate 24 hours (this is an important length of time, do not reduce it because it will affect the final texture and moisture of meat)

When ready to cook, remove the tough membrane from the ribs (the meat-side, not the bone-side), and cook at around 105°C on offset heat in a barbecue or smoker. The length of time will depend on the thickness of the ribs and could take 5–8 hours.

I have so many recipes to share with you but London is currently experiencing a heat wave and I’m finding it hard not to just flop onto the cool kitchen tiles with the cats. Nobody wants to cook anyway, right? Yeah, yeah, so 30 degrees doesn’t seem that extreme but there’s something about the fuggy London heat that clings to your skin like a special kind of grime. It’s oppressive.

I’ve always wondered, when visiting places like Borneo or Vietnam, why they have such an extreme approach to indoor temperature control and it’s because they genuinely like to freeze in between bouts of professional sweating. I heard a story the other day about someone who grew up in Dubai and they had to carry around a jumper when it was 45 degrees outside so they wouldn’t become Mr. Frosty if sat inside for more than half an hour. That’s ridiculous.

Broad beans with yoghurt and smoky chilli butter

Some people claim to like the heat, of course. Good for them. I say it’s just not natural for a human to be exposed to these conditions. In Malaysia, I asked someone if they were born able to bear the heat or if they built up resistance over time and their answer was: neither. People living in very hot countries don’t enjoy it either. They just have to get on with it.

If all this sounds like a bitch and a moan about the good weather then I’m sorry to tell you that’s exactly what it is. Give me 25 degrees and a gentle wind and I’m a happy woman. That’s perfect weather for a BBQ, say, or sitting in the park with an ice cream. It becomes more about Vitamin D and less about survival.

Broad beans with yoghurt and smoky chilli butter

Tomorrow, this weather is due to break and it’s then that I will share with you a recipe for ice cream because I’m doing this on my terms now, weather. I’m taking back control.

Broad Beans with Yoghurt and Smoky Chilli Butter

This is a lovely thing to eat with lamb, as we did (recipe coming soon), or on its own with bread for swooshing through that sauce. The yoghurt is very cooling (yes, COOLING) and the butter is great because it’s butter and it’s infused with ground up smoky chilli. It’s essential that you use a whole chilli here – one of those Mexican ones with a complex flavour, not, say smoked paprika.

This also works best with small, sweet beans.

500g broad beans in their pods
50g butter
1 smoky chilli e.g. Poblano, Ancho (Chipotle would be a bit much)
Yoghurt

Pod the beans and cook them. Pop them from their tough husks. Allow to cool.

Melt butter. Grind the chilli. Add to the butter.

Spread yoghurt on a plate, top with beans and the butter. Serve.

harissa

I am currently finishing my PhD – a hangover from my life before food. People that know me in real life are sick of hearing about this, and will have stopped reading after that first sentence (if they bother reading this site at all). It is a horrendous experience, the PhD, even as a writer. The sheer scale of the workload is terrifying, overwhelming, and it makes me break down into a wobbly fit every time I think about how much I haven’t done yet.

It’s very weird, too, swapping constantly between academic and creative writing. The former is all about clearly stating facts and results, but my PhD is also quite theoretical, so it’s mind bending and headache-inducing too. Then I have to stop doing it for a while and write something about a lunch I had in Azerbaijan at the home of a little Russian lady, recreating the atmosphere, describing the scene, conjuring memories of the food. My brain is doing some serious acrobatics and you know what? I’m KNACKERED. Thank heavens for this blog where I can just let the words spew out of me (sorry).

Still, it’s my fault, because I chose to do the PhD in the first place. The point of me telling you this is that I am cutting out all non-essential activities, like having fun in the kitchen. Usually, I might spend an hour or so making something nice for lunch – now I scuffle back and forth to the fridge in my pyjamas, grab whatever is inside and eat it. I barely have time to slap together a sandwich. Gasp! As if I ever just ‘slap together’ a sandwich… I can’t believe you would think that.

chillies
Clockwise from top: Guajillo, Chilli de Arbol, Pasilla, Mulato.

The problem is, the no cooking thing is not sustainable. Not for me, anyway. Food is my life. I will become depressed. So, I am stockpiling brilliant things that I can stick in the fridge and sort of blob on top of bowls of rice with chicken and veg or whatever. Hello, then, to harissa.

It’s a mongrel recipe because we basically just dug around in the cupboard – the bit right at the back where you can feel the spiders’ webs – until we found the rustling packets of dried chillies. Hands came back clutching smoke-laced Ancho, spiky Chilli de Arbol, fruity Guajillo and the curious, squat Mulato. We also roasted some good old regular fresh chillies and a pepper and mixed the lot with cumin seeds, coriander seeds, caraway and garlic… it’s punchy.

You could use any mixture of chillies you like I suppose, as long as what you have at the end is something so full of flavour you can just stir small amounts into other dishes, spread it on a sandwich, mix with yoghurt or mayo, use it to coat chicken wings… whatever. Would it be easier to go and buy a jar of harissa? Sure, but where’s the therapy in that? This way, I enjoyed the scent of smoky chillies curling around the kitchen; I roasted peppers until sweet and blackened, then slipped off their skins; I dry-toasted spices, sucking up the citrusy scent of coriander seeds, then I whizzed it all together and I felt better. I felt better before any of it had even passed my lips.

Harissa Recipe

This fills a 350g jar.

1 dried Ancho chilli
1 dried Mulato chilli
3 Chilli de Arbol
2 dried Guajillo chillies
1 dried Pasilla chilli
1 red pepper
5 regular mild fresh chillies (not cayenne but the ones you get in supermarkets. What are these called, please?)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
5 cloves garlic, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil (yeah this was a bit random, so you could just use 2 tablespoons of flavourless oil, like groundnut)
2 teaspoons good sea salt

Soak the chillies in boiling water for at least half an hour. It’s easiest if you weigh them down with something like a plate or bowl, to stop them bobbing to the surface. Once soaked, remove the stalks and seeds.

Char the peppers and fresh chillies over an open flame until blackened all over. I did this on my hob (watch them and turn frequently) but you could do it under the grill. If you roast them in the oven, the flavour of the red pepper would be stronger and might overwhelm everything else. Once they’re blackened, wrap them in cling film for five minutes (this makes the skin easy to peel) then, peel and discard the stalks and seeds. It’s easiest if you run them under the tap while you’re doing it.

Add the chillies to a blender with all the other ingredients and whizz to a paste. Keep in a sterilised jar in the fridge.

Labneh

Labneh is strained yoghurt. Now now, do bear with me, it’s delicious. You mix regular, full-fat Greek yoghurt with a scant half-teaspoon of salt then bung it in some muslin and hang it over a bowl overnight. Drip, drip, drip. In the morning all the whey has drained away and what remains is a creamy thick ‘yoghurt-cheese’. It’s magic scooped up with warmed flat breads and sprinkled with za’atar, smeared in a kebab, or rolled into balls, covered with herbs and stored in olive oil.* I’ve taken to eating it plain on walnut toast first thing too; the contrast of hot toast and cool, tangy topping really floats my breakfast boat.

Popular in the Middle East and South Asia, it pops up in mezze, sandwiches, dips and even desserts. It’s basically a flavour whore and will take whatever it can get.

When it comes to comfort snacking, I tend to top it with my salty little friends the anchovies; briny, umami-packed miniatures. First it was the boiled egg with anchovy dippers, then the baked eggs with the same. Now I can’t get enough of them slivered and draped over the labneh, prickled with chilli and sprinkled with whatever herbs are lying around, or perhaps some papery shavings of red onion.

Labneh

Despite labneh’s surprising richness, I like to reason with myself that it’s fairly healthy; not that the fat content of anything has ever held me back, as I’m sure you’ve come to realise. A drizzle of olive oil is all that’s needed to counter the balance back towards gluttonsville though, so don’t worry about that.

Labneh with Chilli and Anchovy

500g good quality, full fat Greek yoghurt (I find Total is the best brand)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Anchovy fillets, sliced in half lengthways
1 small mild red chilli, finely chopped
A few leaves parsley (or other herbs), finely chopped
Black pepper
Good bread, toasted, to serve

Muslin and string to strain the yoghurt

Mix the yoghurt with the salt then line a bowl with the muslin and dollop the yoghurt in the middle. Gather up the muslin then tie the top with string and hang somewhere (preferably cool, although I’ve never had a problem in my kitchen), over a bowl, overnight. In the morning remove from the muslin, mix in the lemon juice and refrigerate until needed. It will last a few days.

Spread on hot toast and top with the anchovies, chilli and herbs. Some black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil won’t go amiss.

* I’ll dig out a jar and post a piccy and recipe up for you; it’s really beautiful.

Chimichurri

When a girl gets gifted with a hefty hunk o’ prime cattle, her thoughts immediately turn to entertaining; a lengthy weekend lunch with mates was on the cards. Picture this: nearest and dearest gathered on sofas with a glass and a smile; the soothing rhythm of contented chatter drifting through the kitchen; me pondering whether or not to give the beef another 10 minutes resting. I imagine myself emerging from the kitchen carrying the magnificent centrepiece to a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and pairs of eyes gleaming with excitement. I’ll be as proud as punch as I set her down on the table and…

…pooff! That was the sound of my dream going up in smoke. We still don’t have a proper dining table and it’s breaking my heart. Our only stand-in is a dainty set of patio furniture which only sits two and well, it’s garden furniture. That only really feels right if you are either a student or it’s Christmas and you need to squeeze in a couple more relatives. So anyway that’s my excuse for two of us eating a piece of meat that could probably serve ten. I’m sticking to it.

I began by cutting off two fat sirloins for Sunday lunch. A ballsy chimichurri filled the craving for something with the invigorating prickle of salsa verde without actually being just that; I seriously need to overcome my addiction to the green mistress. Parsley is still a main contender here, whizzed with a lorra lorra garlic and spiky chilli flakes. A fine way to commence a week of bovine feasting. It’s a tough job, eating all that lovely meat, but someone’s got to do it.

Chimichurri

30g parsley leaves (a large handful)
2tsp hot chilli flakes or to taste
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 shallot
Olive oil, to loosen
4 cloves garlic
Salt
A sprig of fresh oregano, leaves removed (optional)

Either chop the garlic, parsley, oregano and shallot very fine or whizz in a food processor. Mix in the chilli flakes, vinegar, lime juice and loosen with olive oil to reach your desired consistency. Season with salt. Great with grilled meats and fish.