A quick hello from me today, to share this recipe for turmeric fishcake bánh mì with lemongrass pickled fennel (as promised on Instagram).

I’m a huge fan of the bánh mì as you’ve probably gathered from the number of recipes on this site (grilled pork bánh mì; turmeric fish bánh mì; SPAM mì; crab num pang) because I think it demonstrates what a great sandwich is all about, which is lots of contrasting flavours and textures.

Here, the fishcakes are fragrant with galangal, fresh turmeric and lime leaves and the sliced beans add pops of crunch. There’s acidity from pickled vegetables, an absolute truck tonne of herbs and one of my favourite bánh mì additions: sweet chilli sauce. It’s there for sweetness – I garnish with extra chilli for actual heat.

Spicy, crunchy, fragrant, sour, sweet and just a little creamy with mayo. The bánh mì is brilliant because it’s endlessly variable, and I see it as a lifelong project.

Recipe: Turmeric Fish Cake Bánh Mì

There are quite a few ingredients here but you could easily leave something out if you can’t find it or leave a comment and I will reply with thoughts! As I said, this is a sandwich to play around with.

This makes 12-14 fish cakes, which is enough for 3-4 banh mi (depending on the size of your baguettes). 

For the fish cakes 

500g skinless white fish
40g rice flour
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 cloves garlic
1.5 inches fresh turmeric root, peeled and grated (or use a teaspoon of ground turmeric)
60g green beans, sliced 1cm thick
8 lime leaves, finely chopped
1 inch galangal, grated
Pinch salt
Vegetable or groundnut oil for frying

For the lemongrass pickles 

1 bulb fennel, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips or grated
200ml rice vinegar
100ml water
80g caster sugar
8g sea salt
1 star anise
1 slice galangal (or ginger if you can’t find it)
2 lemongrass stalks, outer casing removed and bashed
A few white peppercorns
A few Szechuan peppercorns (optional but good)

To make the banh mi

Sweet chilli sauce
Herbs (Thai basil, mint, coriander)
Birdseye chilli

Make the pickle by combining all the ingredients except the vegetables in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil to dissolve the sugar and salt then pour over the vegetables. Set aside.

Make the fish cakes by combining all the ingredients except the green beans and vegetable oil in a blender and blending to a fine paste. You want this mixture to appear ‘bouncy’. Stir in the beans.

Heat a frying pan and fry off a small piece of the fish cake mix to check the seasoning. If you’re happy, shape the fish cakes into balls then flatten into little cakes.

Fry the fish cakes in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or groundnut oil – they won’t take long, a few mins each side, depending on thickness.

Assemble the bánh mì by stuffing everything into a baguette!

Long-time readers (hello, and thank you) will remember my phase of Project Sandwiches – those which took time and effort but meant I could happily spend the day baking bread and pickling vegetables then sit down with a brilliant sandwich at the end of it.

I made huge meatballs subs; chicken sandwiches which involved roasting a whole chicken with 40 cloves of garlic then making mayonnaise with its fat; salt beef (and corned beef); banh mi; burgers; sabich and, of course, po’boys.

This fried mussel po’boy is a variation on the classic shrimp filling. Mussels are cheap and sustainably farmed so I’m making an effort to eat more. Is it a faff deep-frying mussels? Absolutely yes. We had to steam them open, pluck them from their shells, coat them in cornmeal then fry them but they did make an excellent filling once tossed with Old Bay seasoning. I suffer for my art.

We piled them into sub rolls with homemade garlic and gherkin mayo which I finished with a bit of smoked olive oil, a spicy pickled salad of finely diced sweet white onion, bell pepper and celery, lots of shredded lettuce, some celery leaves and Peckham Smoker hot sauce. It was memorable: mussels hot from the fryer, rich smoky mayo, piquant salad and pops of searing chilli heat.

If you ever make this I must warn you that your kitchen will smell like fried mussels for at least two days. We opened all the windows and sat shivering for an hour in front of Masterchef, The Professionals which took the edge off a little bit but it really was quite the funk. Have I put you off making this sandwich yet? If I have then I’m sorry – project sandwiches are best suited to the truly dedicated.

Fried Mussel Po’Boy Recipe

(makes 4)

1 kg live mussels
4 white sub rolls (or baguette)
Iceberg lettuce
2 eggs lightly beaten
Plain flour
Coarse polenta
Old Bay seasoning

For the pickled salad

1.5 sweet white onions, finely diced (these are smaller and sweeter than regular brown-skinned onions – just use a small regular one if you can’t find any/can’t be bothered)
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
2 green chillies or jalapenos, finely sliced
2 ribs celery, finely sliced
120ml white wine vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon caster sugar
2 large pinches salt

For the mayonnaise

2 egg yolks
100ml flavourless oil
30ml smoked olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 gherkins, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Begin by making the salad. Mix everything together well. Set aside and give it a stir now and then while you make the other elements.

Make the mayonnaise. I find this easiest in an electric mixer. Add the egg yolks then slowly begin adding the flavourless oil drip by drip, then in a thin stream. When it’s all incorporated add the lemon juice, mustard and garlic and whisk in. Slowly add the smoked olive oil. Tip into a bowl then season with salt and add the gherkins.

Clean the mussels by pulling off any beards. Give any that are open a sharp tap on the work surface – if they don’t close they are dead – chuck those ones away.

Heat a few splashes of water in a large pan. Once hot add the mussels and put the lid on until they open. Remove them from their shells, chucking any which haven’t opened (dead).

Get three plates or shallow bowls ready – one covered with flour seasoned with salt and pepper, one with the beaten eggs and one covered in polenta. Coat the mussels first in flour, then in egg, then in polenta. It’s easier if you use one hand for dry stuff and one hand for the egg.

Heat a large pan or fryer with vegetable oil to 180C. Fry the mussels in batches until golden brown (a few minutes). Drain on kitchen paper and put in a very low oven or under a low grill to keep warm while you fry the rest.

To make the sandwiches split the sub rolls, add mayonnaise, salad, lettuce and loads of mussels. Top with extra Old Bay seasoning and hot sauce. Congratulations, you have made a Project Sandwich.

A dish of crab and corn feels like the heady height of summer. I made this plate to cheer myself up, truth be told; there’s nothing ‘wrong with me’ per se, I just feel a bit overwhelmed. Arranging sunny flavours on a plate can go a long way towards lifting my spirits, particularly followed by an hour or two on the sofa with a book. Like a kind of reset button.

I bought a dressed crab for this because cooking and picking one would’ve been too much, and I charred the corn indoors on a griddle pan rather than on the barbecue because I didn’t want the smokiness to overwhelm the crab but honestly, I also couldn’t be bothered with faff.

Rich, salty crab meat and sweet niblets (niblets!) of corn are a wonderful combination and I brought it all together with a sauce of melted butter, harissa and brown crab meat. A squeeze of lime plus its zest and a few wiggly tarragon leaves and this is a very fine and really quite decadent lunch.

There are different directions you could take this in depending on mood – an Old Bay and chilli butter would be fantastic, as would straight up tarragon, or tarragon and chive. Try swapping lime for lemon or grapefruit, or add carbs e.g. small potatoes. It’s a very simple recipe – just a lovely arrangement of good things which has the potential to make you feel very clever and capable.

And yes, I’m feeling much better, thank you.

Charred Corn and Crab with Harissa Butter Recipe

Serves 2 with bread/potatoes/whatever as a main dish, or 4 as a side

1 dressed crab or 1 brown crab cooked and picked – separate the white and brown meat
2 large cobs of corn, husks removed
1 spring onion, white and green parts very finely sliced
A couple of sprigs of tarragon leaves, picked
Juice and zest of 1-2 limes
25g butter
1 tablespoon harissa

Heat a griddle pan until very hot. Rub the corn lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper, then place into the pan. Cook, turning frequently until charred lightly on all sides. Remove and allow to cool, then slice the niblets from the cob.

Gently melt the butter and stir in the harissa and brown crab meat.

Scatter the corn over a serving plate, add the white crab meat and spring onion. You may not want/need all of the spring onion. Drizzle over the harissa butter and follow with a good squeeze of lime juice and zest. Taste and adjust by adding more seasoning or lime juice. Finally, add the tarragon leaves and serve.

Want more crab recipes?

Hot Crab Dip | Crab, Corn and Caviar Tacos | Crab Lasagna | Crab Fried Rice | Louisiana Crab Cakes 

Want more corn recipes?

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters | Sour Creamed Corn | Corn and Kimchi Fritters | Pickled Corn with Scotch Bonnet 

Regular readers will know I have much love for retro and unfashionable food. I warmly recall hastily scoffed Findus Crispy Pancakes after-school, hot, greasy pasties on holidays in Cornwall and cold rice salad eaten curled up in Dad’s armchair, glued to Ready Steady Cook. These are, of course, comfort foods for me but I think they have merits in the taste department too and I often find myself defending the likes of the steak slice and cod in parsley sauce. They are basic yet satisfying dishes which seem to warm me until I glow like the Ready Brek Man. They hark back to times when my tastebuds were simpler to please and a sausage roll with a takeaway packet of ketchup followed by a snail bun from the school canteen really was the highlight of my day. Still sounds pretty rad, to be honest.

In a slightly different category of retro foods, you’ll find the vol-au-vent. These were not consumed at home but appeared at family events by which I mean weddings or funerals. Here one would encounter what I (and I think, probably, most people) call the ‘brown buffet.’ A trestle table is laid with platters of triangular sandwiches (ham, cheese, chicken, prawn mayo, tuna, that kind of thing), those tiny wrinkly sausages, tiny wrinkly sausage rolls, mini (wrinkly) quiches, pork pies etc. And so we come to vols-au-vent.

I’ve always adored vols-au-vent because what you have is pastry + creamy savoury filling which is an objectively good combination. The most common flavours were 1) creamy chicken and 2) creamy mushroom but I occasionally encountered a slightly leftfield creation involving fish or perhaps even a brown, steak-appropriate sauce. In recent years, the vol-au-vent made a comeback and I’ve had some decadent snackette versions in restaurants filled with soft, pudgy garlic snails (yes, yes and thrice yes!) or lip-coating braised oxtail.

You’re probably not too surprised to see crab filling mine (again, regulars will smile or groan) which I’ve combined with creme fraiche, lemon and curry powder, for extra throwback points. They’re so easy to make too: cut pastry, bake pastry, cut pastry again, combine filling and dollop into pastry. The perfect party snack (there’s no denying the festive bellyache season is nearly upon us) or just a way to show off at your next brown food buffet.

Curried Crab Vols-au-vent Recipe

Makes around 15

500g ready-made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 dressed crab (this will give you white and brown meat)
1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon medium hot curry powder (these vary wildly so it’s best to add a little then taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika

You’ll need two pastry cutters (or in my case, two glasses) which are a few cms different in size. So one cutter (glass) had an 8cm rim and the other had a 4cm rim.

Preheat the oven to 190C

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm. Cut circles using the larger cutter then, use the smaller cutter to partially cut smaller circles in the centre of each large circle – don’t cut all the way through the pastry. You can reroll the remaining pastry but it won’t rise as well so try to be economical in the way you cut the circles.

Place the circles on two large baking trays and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes, or until risen and golden. When cool enough to handle, cut the centre circle out, leaving the base intact.

Combine the crab, creme fraiche, lemon juice, curry powder and paprika. Taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice, seasoning or curry powder as necessary. Divide between the pastry cases and top with a sprinkle of the chives.

Anchovy and bottarga pasta

I know, you’re never going to remember the name of that pasta shape but don’t worry, this is freakin’ fabulous with basically any pasta – I know this from extensive experience. A great choice would be orecchiette or ‘little ears’ which is what they use down in Puglia when they make their famous broccoli and anchovy arrangement.

As I said on Instagram when I posted a snap, this recipe is proof that with the best ingredients you can make incredible food in no time at all. It uses really excellent bottarga and anchovies both from Lina Stores in Soho, part of a hamper they sent me before Christmas as a promotional effort. If you’ve never been then really, get over there – I’m a long-time customer as it’s a real goldmine of Italian ingredients and one of the very best delis in London, full stop.

This is such a simple dish. You gently cook garlic in butter (olive oil would be more traditional but I love the richness of butter on pasta), then melt in those beautiful anchovies. Next add some blanched and roughly chopped Tenderstem broccoli, chilli flakes and a good squeeze of lemon juice and let it sizzle for a few minutes. The hot pasta is added in one steamy swoop and the lot stirred together and slipped into bowls before topping with crisp crumbs and a shower of golden roe.

It’s probably my favourite pasta dish of all time, actually. Anchovies are one of the world’s greatest ingredients and the quality of these was outstanding – you’ll need to gently tease the flesh from the whole fish (easy) before melting them into the sauce because they’re packed as whole fish, not teeny, aggressive fillets. It’s got everything: garlic, chilli heat, salty fish and lemon plus CARBS. You’ll always be able to rely on Food Stories for carbs, guys, no matter what happens.

Fusillata Casareccia with Anchovies, Broccoli and Bottarga Recipe

Pasta of your choice for 2 people
200g Tenderstem broccoli
4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
Chilli flakes, to taste
8-10 anchovy fillets (or to taste)
Juice of half a lemon
Handful breadcrumbs, toasted until golden
Butter or olive oil

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.

Put the Tenderstem into a pan of boiling water. When it comes back to the boil, drain.

Heat a knob of butter or splash of olive oil in a frying pan and gently cook the garlic for a minute or so, stirring. Melt in the anchovies. Add chilli flakes and the broccoli. Stir to coat and add lemon juice.

Once pasta is cooked, drain reserving a splash of cooking water. Add both to the frying pan. Stir well.

Transfer to bowls then grate over bottarga and add crumbs. Yeah, it’s really simple.

I want to be able to look back on my life as one long series of crab dinners. Tasty little weirdos. I’m never happier than when working over a crab and I think that if I had to choose the absolute best way of eating one, it would be simply steamed and served with a baguette (not a sourdough mouth-ripper, a nice soft white job, handmade by someone) and plenty of just-whisked mayonnaise. That’s it. That’s heaven right there providing, of course, you’ve remembered the chilled white wine.

Looking back, I can remember many excellent crab feasts, including a lesson in cooking Singapore chilli crab at Rick Stein’s seafood school in Padstow where a group of mates and I got the willies before putting a skewer through their heads (you must, it’s the most humane way of doing things), then plastered ourselves in the rich sauce, flinging bits of hairy pink leg through the air as we ate, our fingers stained orange.

There was a stir fry of small mud crabs in Borneo, one of my first meals there, and it was so good we started eating and immediately ordered another plate. There was something feral about it, something fusty and borderline illegal. Brilliant.

I remember two marvellous crab sandwiches in San Diego, both sparkly-fresh, rammed with crab meat, the bread so soft it felt like coming home. Sandwich nirvana. I get dreamy-eyed for steamed crabs eaten overlooking the beach in Jersey, for endless crab buffets in Sweden and for cracked beauts on ice in London’s Wright Bros. (can’t beat the Spitalfields branch in my opinion – they also do an insanely good chocolate mousse).

Anyway, the weird thing is, there are hardly any crab recipes on this blog, WTAF?! So, I’ve decided to rectify that once and for all. Over the next couple of months, I’m gonna be hitting that crab hard. This is the first instalment my friends and I swear it’s one of the best Crabby Things you can make. Hot crab dip is very much a Southern American thang but my version is a sort of mashup – a bit British, a bit Maryland with the Old Bay Seasoning, a bit deep South with the cream cheese. It’s rich, but I’ve used less cheese than other recipes and ramped up the crab flavour by using the brown meat, which literally no other person seems to do, ever. Mishtake.

Hot Crab Dip Recipe

1 banana shallot (or 2 smaller ones), finely diced
2 large cloves of garlic
50g butter
1 dressed crab
140g cream cheese
1 lemon
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (you can buy it on Amazon)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
50g breadcrumbs
Parsley, to garnish (optional)
Bread, to serve (or crackers)

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3

Melt the butter and gently soften the shallots and garlic for a minute or two. Whisk in the cream cheese. Remove from the heat and add the crab (white and brown meat), the Old Bay and cayenne and the juice of 1/2-1 whole lemon (I needed all of it in the end). Mix in the breadcrumbs. Taste and add some pepper (I used white) and salt if you need it, but you probably won’t since the main ingredient of Old Bay is celery salt.

Transfer to an oven proof dish and bake for 10-15 mins or until warmed all the way through. Garnish with parsley, if using and serve with bread or crackers. SO GOOD.

People get worked up about bánh mi, don’t they? All spittle-mouthed and red around their Pob-like cheeks. A major point of contention is the bread because the bánh mi is a product of French colonial rule in Vietnam, when the baguette was adopted but made lighter, somehow, with a famous, crackly crust and aerated crumb. People argue about how this baguette is made.

Some say lightness comes from the use of rice flour, but many argue this is rubbish because hardly any Vietnamese recipes contain rice flour and those that do never work. Also there’s the question of humidity, with many claiming the bread gets its texture due to high atmospheric humidity (and goodness knows it IS humid there, I have frizzy hair photos to prove it) but really, it’s more likely down to humidity levels in the oven during baking.

I say this as someone who isn’t a baker, so what the hell do I know anyway? I also didn’t eat any bánh mi when I was in Vietnam, because a) I was only there for 24 hours, and b) I was at the wrong end of the country (it’s a Southern thing) and my guide told me the bánh mi in Hanoi are ‘all shit and just for tourists, so don’t bother’.

What I do know about bánh mi, is that they’re a lesson in the perfect sandwich. There’s something crunchy, something soft, something pickled, something creamy or fatty… there’s heat and herbs and it’s all brilliant, providing you don’t expect it to blow your mind, in which case it will definitely blow your mind. In any case, it’s just a freakin’ sandwich. Here are three bánh mi experiences I can remember as I write this:

Best Bánh Mi Experience: Banh Mi Hoi An in Hackney. This place sells some of the best bánh mi in London and trust me, I have put the work in. Get the pork special or whatever it’s actually called. You’ll know when you get there. There isn’t really any seating and it’s cramped (unless it goes downstairs? I can’t remember) so be prepared for a takeaway situation.

Worst Bánh Mi Experience: Somewhere in the Vietnamese bit of Melbourne. Someone told me about this incredible bánh mi I just had to have so I did another ‘mad sandwich dash before the airport’ thing and by sheer brutal bad luck got a taxi driver who was total clown shoes. He got lost three times and chucked me out on a massive freeway after we had a disagreement. Anyway, I found it, ordered it, ate it, and it was shit. Then I couldn’t get a taxi back because it was a weird area and so I had to walk for two miles and got vicious sunburn.

Best ‘Bad but Good’ Bánh Mi Experience: Viet Café, Camberwell. You just know I go back for this all the time and I don’t even care who knows. The bánh mi is objectively Not Good with its pappy, part-baked baguette, overcooked pucks of ‘chicken satay’ and – wait for it – sweet chilli sauce but damn, does it hit the spot. The sweet chilli sauce makes the whole thing work, it’s sweet-hot gloopiness both lubing the dry chicken and bringing its own special brushstroke of filth.

Arguments aside, the bánh mi is quite simple, really, and anyway, if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to make a good sandwich. I made this as backup when a mate came around for lunch and I was recipe testing something else I knew wasn’t going work (but had to be done that way anyway for completeness) and he liked it, so I made it again, but better. This would be fantastic with fresh turmeric which is usually available EVEN IN MORRISSON’S in south London but did they have it this time? Of course they didn’t. Still, that makes the recipe a bit more accessible, I guess. Just use the ingredients you have to hand, guys; that’s what the Vietnamese did.

Turmeric Fish Banh Mi

This makes 3 sandwiches, or I guess one massive baguette which you could portion up. You want to find a light baguette for this, so leave sourdough out of it, because that won’t work at all (if you’re local, I bought these at Ayre’s Bakery in Nunhead). Also, it’s best if you cut the veg into thin sticks by hand – I have used a fancy julienne peeler in the past and it makes the strips too thin so they just flop in the pickling liquid and lose their crunch.

For the pickled vegetables

1 large carrot, cut into thin sticks
1/4 daikon, cut into thin sticks
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Large pinch salt

Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar over heat and pour over the vegetables in a shallow dish. Leave while you make everything else, stirring occasionally.

For the fish

300g firm white fish, cubed (I used haddock). Don’t be an arse – make sure it’s sustainably sourced.
1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated (grating leaves behind the nasty fibrous bits)
3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (yup, much more towards the 5 end of the scale myself)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (I used Three Crabs brand)
Zest of 1 lime
2 teaspoons turmeric powder

Mix the ginger, garlic, fish sauce, turmeric and lime zest and smother all over the fish. Leave for 20 minutes or so. Brush off any excess marinade, thread onto skewers then cook under a moderate grill for a few minutes each side (this depends on the size of your chunks, obviously).

For the sandwiches

3 small, soft, white ‘torpedo’ baguettes
1/2 cucumber, deseeded and cut into long strips
1 red chilli, finely sliced
Coriander leaves
Mint leaves

Assemble by splitting the baguettes and pulling out some of the crumb (yes, I forgot), spreading with mayo, adding pickled veg, herbs, chilli, cucumber. Add the fish by putting the whole skewer into the sandwich, clutching the bread, then removing the skewer. You may want a squeeze of lime juice, but see how you go.


Sometimes I have a conversation with people at the gym, which starts when they say something like, “why don’t you try x diet?” or “why don’t you cut carbs?” or “why don’t you reduce your intake of this?” and all the time I say, “I can’t” and they look at me like I’m making an excuse. It’s very hard to explain what I do, my love of food and the emotional significance of it, to people who are able to eliminate food groups, or drastically reduce calories. I can’t communicate how it goes against the very fibre of my being (literally) to restrict my intake of food in that way.

What I do is about more than describing what I eat, it is about how it makes me feel. It is the comfort of steam rising from a stew plopping gently on the hob, the dumplings warm and heavy on top. It’s about the sticky bun with builder’s tea when you’re frantic about the state of the world, or the slippery flick of buttered spaghetti, eaten in bed, with a hangover. It’s not even just about the joy of fat and carbs either – in January I crave bright, green vegetal things which bring freshness and vitality to a sad sack month.

I’ve often heard the phrase ‘don’t be an emotional eater’, meaning don’t comfort or reward yourself with food, and I think, ‘is there any other way?’ What is it like to look at ingredients and see calories instead of flavours? To stab letters into an app that passes judgement on what you’re about to consume, reducing it to numbers? Numbers are the worst. There is the very real problem of obesity, of course, and everything that comes with it, but that is why I bust my ass at the gym five times a week. To see food purely as fuel is such an alien concept.

This is not an anti-clean eating rant, although goodness knows I have plenty of those within me, it’s just an observation now that I’m in contact with people from another world – lovely, intelligent, fun people but with attitudes to food that are light years away from my own. I think of these conversations every time I make something I know they wouldn’t touch with a spiralizer, which brings me nicely onto this recipe for prawn toast. I live with a prawn toast obsessive – never an opportunity missed to order one of those white paper bags from the takeaway, his eager paw rustling in and out until all that’s left is grease spots.

The homemade version is obviously much nicer, and we played with the mixture a bit, ramping up the prawn flavour with some shrimp paste (so good), adding garlic, spring onions and soy. It’s fantastic with scrambled egg for a really OTT brunch, and the chilli oil is crucial for counteracting all that richness. That’s right, guys, extra fat on top.

Prawn Toast with Scrambled Eggs and Chilli Oil

This makes 4 rounds and so serves 4 people (4 pieces is enough with the eggs).

250g prawns
2 cloves garlic
4 spring onions
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (I used a Thai one)
1 dash light soy
1 egg
4 slices cheap white bread
Oil, for frying (veg or groundnut)
Sesame seeds
Chilli oil, to serve

For the eggs

6 eggs (I used Burford Browns, hence the amazing colour)
Large chunk of butter (LARGE)

To make the prawn toast, put everything in a blender except the bread and process to a paste. Heat a frying pan and fry a tiny bit of the mixture to check for seasoning – add salt if you like. To assemble, divide the mixture between four pieces of bread, spreading in a thick layer on top. Cut the crusts off. Divide each into four triangles.

Spread sesame seeds on a plate and use them to coat the top of the toast. I found it easiest to sprinkle these on rather than dunk.

Heat oil to a depth of a couple of cm in a heavy based pan and fry each piece until golden (a couple of mins each side should do it). Set aside on a plate covered with kitchen paper. You could keep them warm in a low oven if you like.

To make the eggs, whisk them in a bowl and season. Melt the butter in a pan and add the eggs, moving them around gently until they are nearly cooked. Take them off the heat before you think they are fully done. Don’t over stir.

Serve alongside prawn toast, chilli oil on top.

Jerk Octopus

It’s fair to say I’ve had a few disasters when it comes cooking octopus. People still say to me, in actual real life rather than just on the Internet, “OH MY GOD THE RED BAG THOUGH,” referring to the time I cooked one in a bag and it came out looking like someone’s blood donation. A friend said this less than a week ago, and the Octopus Red Bag Incident was in February 2013 – we are all still traumatised.

I was experimenting with sous vide at the time (yeah I know, but we all did it) and the octopus released its juices into the sous vide bag and I wasn’t aware that those juices are naturally quite red. Pulling that thing out was quite the shock and I was then too scared to eat it.

Suck up that flavour.

There have been other issues – mainly to do with getting the octopus tender, and you’ll come across various bits of advice. People will tell you to put a cork in the water when you’re cooking the octopus but don’t bother. I read somewhere that this myth probably comes from a time when they were cooked in huge tubs with corks and string tied to them – the cork would float and make the octopus easier to pull from the water.

Bay leaves and thyme soaking.

I buy a frozen octopus because it does seem to make a difference to the texture and they’re more readily available (though not cheap). I then cook it in a pan with a little water and its own juices – they release so much that it’s enough to simmer them without adding much else although of course, you can add red wine or whatever you like. Once its tender around the skirt (the bit where the tentacles join the head), you’re good to go.


So I wondered why no one ever seems to jerk octopus because – and I’m not even joking here – it tastes quite a lot like chicken. You can jerk seafood too of course and it just all made sense. Was there something I was missing? Well, no, is the answer. The only thing I was missing was jerk octopus in my life. Yeah, it’s a bit of effort but this magnificent creature is prime for a bit of jerkin’ – marinate as usual once it’s cooked, then crisp up those tentacles on the BBQ so they’re charred outside, tender on the inside… fabulous.

Jerk Octopus

We ate it with the most unashamedly 90’s rice salad and I’ve now decided I need to write about that separately. It has huge nostalgic significance for me. Here, then, is a recipe for jerked octopus. There are no sous vide bags, no corks, no shocks and hopefully no mental scarring.

Jerk Octopus Recipe

1.5kg octopus (doesn’t matter really though, the cooking method is so simple)
1.5 tablespoons allspice (freshly ground if you can – buy the berries and grind them)
50g dark packed brown sugar
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 bunch large spring onions (about 5)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 scotch bonnet chillies, deseeded
Juice of 2 large limes
1 teaspoon salt

Thaw the octopus and put it in a (lidded) saucepan large enough to fit it comfortably. Add some water until it comes halfway up the octopus. Bring it to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and cook very gently for 45 minutes to and hour, or until tender when you poke a knife in into the top of a tentacle (where they join the head).

Allow the octopus to cool, then remove the tentacles.

Blend all the marinade ingredients and combine with the octopus. Leave for a couple of hours in the fridge if you can.

Cook the octopus on a BBQ over direct heat – it won’t take long. With chicken I make a bed of bay leaves soaked in water to cook the chicken on but the octopus isn’t on there long so this time, I chucked them in the coals with some soaked thyme which makes lots of lovely, scented smoke. Cook the octopus, flipping frequently until a little charred, brushing every now and then with the marinade (remember: the octopus was cooked before it went in the marinade so there’s no need to worry about contamination).

Serve hot with your choice of sides.