Wednesday, 27 February 2013

DIY Doner

I'd been planning on making my own doner kebab for some time. But there were several problems to solve... in particular, how to get the meat into the right texture, and how would I mould it into the correct shape? And how would I get my hands on the mysterious kebab shop sauces?

The Meat

I decided that the only way of getting the lamb finely ground enough was to put it through some serious punishment. I tried putting it through our stupid mini food-processor, but the motor was clearly struggling, so I transferred it to the mixer for a lengthy pounding. Reasoning that the chances of a typical doner kebab containing 100% meat were pretty slim, I added some egg and breadcrumbs. I also threw in some salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, and mint sauce.

To mould the doner into the traditional shape, I made a cone out of greaseproof paper, and stood it in a glass. I packed in the meat as tightly as I could, then wrapped the whole thing in foil and clingfilm. I put it in a tray of water, and cooked it in the oven on a very low heat for several hours - hoping the meat and fat would break down and become one single dense mass.

When it emerged, I was glad to see that the resulting cone of meat looked more or less like a mini doner. Rotating it under a hot grill would have been the best way to brown the meat, but lacking the appropriate equipment, I fried it for a couple of minutes. It was then ready for slicing.

The Sauces

The kebab shop chilli sauce is like nothing you ever see in the shops. Runny, spicy, sour and tomatoey... the only option was to make my own. I fried some onions, garlic, and chilli, before adding tomatoes, tomato puree, tabasco, and vinegar. I blended it all up, until the consistency looked approximately correct. It didn't look quite right (too smooth and thick), but the taste was almost there.

Kebab shop garlic sauce is one of my all time favourite things. I made mine from a mixture of yoghurt, mayo, garlic, coriander, and mint sauce. Again, blended until smooth. This time I'd really nailed it, it tasted just like the garlic sauce I know and love, but with a stronger, fierce garlic flavour.

The result...

I sliced the meat and put it into a toasted pitta, before throwing in some bog-standard assorted salad, along with onion and tomato. With a generous helping of both sauces, and of course the obligatory slice of lemon, I am pleased to say that this was a really close approximation of an authentic takeaway doner kebab.

The only problem was... is this meal really filthy? What's so bad about a bit of lamb with bread and salad? Even the sauce has vegetables in it. The doner kebab may be a sheep in wolf's clothing.



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Hot Chocolate Fudge Brownie Nut Sundae

I heard through the grapevine that some of my valued fans were disappointed when they saw one of my recent creations - not only was it not deep fried, it actually contained vegetables. Well, there's no fruit or veg to be found in this one. An ice cream sundae, packed with chunks of chocolate brownie, caremelised nuts, pieces of chocolate, and hot chocolate fudge sauce.

Caremelised nuts

I put cashews and walnuts in a dry pan, and heated until they were slightly toasted. I then added a few spoons of sugar, and continued to heat until it turned slightly brown. Then the magic happens - add a knob of butter and a splash of water, and the sugar instantly dissolves. The water evaporates in a few seconds, and you're left with a thick sticky glaze covering the nuts. When cooled, this sets into a hard coating around each one.

These would make a fine snack on their own (possibly with a sprinkling of salt... everybody loves salty sticky nuts), but these were destined for greater things.

Hot chocolate fudge sauce

I took chopped milk chocolate and dark chocolate, a lump of butter, some chocolate syrup, sugar, cream, and a glug of baileys. I nuked the whole lot in the microwave for a few seconds, resulting in a smooth, silky, shiny, and sickly sweet hot chocolate fudge sauce.


A good chocolate brownie should be crispy on top, and gooey on the inside. These were not good brownies. But they were they best I could do at 9pm in suburban south London.

I chopped two of the brownies into cubes, and then started to put the sundae together. I crammed the chopped brownie into the sundae glass, along with the nuts, the remainder of the chocolate (chopped into chunks), three scoops of vanilla ice cream, the hot chocolate fudge sauce, and loads of squirty cream.


The obvious drink pairing would be a classy dessert wine - perhaps a glass of Sauternes, or a fine German Eiswein. But on this occasion, I made a shooter from Baileys mixed with melted chocolate, topped with vanilla vodka.


It tasted great - in particular, the hot chocolate sauce was bloody brilliant - but this is one of the few things I've ever eaten which has genuinely made me feel physically sick. Upon reflection, a single dessert which contains two bars of chocolate, two brownies, and three scoops of ice cream, is too much even for me. I don't usually approve of sharing desserts, but on this occasion, it may have been wise.



Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Day After Pancake Day - Kaiserschmarrn

You will, no doubt, remember from my Bosna post that I appreciate Austrian food. Well, here's another Austrian-influenced "dish", perfect for using up any leftover pancakes (especially any early prototypes which may be less than perfectly formed).

Kaiserschmarrn is an Austrian pancake dessert. If you've been skiing in Austria, you may have seen it served on the mountain - often in huge portions, sometimes easily big enough to be a whole meal in itself. I guess the real thing would be made by making a thick pancake, and then chopping it up halfway through cooking. So this is a little different, but no less tasty. I cut my leftover pancakes into strips and re-fried them in lots of butter, along with some sultanas.

They're traditionally served with a plum compote. I have no idea how to make a plum compote. So I chopped up some plums and cooked them with some sugar, water, and a couple of spoons of dubious "mixed fruit" jam. The jam actually had no visible fruit in it at all - in fact it was pretty disgusting, and could best be described as a red sugary jelly. But the plums were so tart, that the combination somehow seemed to work (miraculously).

Served with squirty cream, and topped with icing sugar.

Guten Appetit.



Monday, 11 February 2013

Pancake Day - Cripsy Duck

What's the nation's favourite pancake filling/topping? Lemon and sugar? Maple syrup? Nutella? Nope. The UK's favourite pancake is the crispy duck pancake. Fact.

OK, so those thin steamed Chinese pancake thingies are a bit different from your average British pancake-day effort, but I see no reason not to combine the two. Although if you have any Chinese friends, they might possibly try to kill you when they discover this bastardisation of their cuisine.

I rubbed a duck leg with salt, sichuan pepper, and star anise. Then roasted it on a low temperature for two hours, until the meat was nice and tender.

I left the duck in the fridge until I was ready to eat it - at which point I dipped the legs in cornflour and fried them over a very high heat, in a mixture of vegetable oil and duck fat, until the skin was very crispy.

The meat fell off the bone effortlessly when shredded with a fork. Perfect when rolled between a pancake with cucumber, spring onion, and hoi sin sauce! And you have the added benefit of celebrating pancake day and Chinese New Year with one delicious meal.



Saturday, 9 February 2013

Onion Bhaji Sandwich

I'm going back to my roots. No baking, no recipes, just an old school sandwich. Onion Bhajis, with all the trimmings, between two slices of bread.

The Yellow Stuff

What exactly is that yellow sauce that comes with your poppadoms and other Indian starters? I don't even know what it's called, but I know that it is an essential component of an authentic curry house experience. And I reckon my version was pretty close to the real deal... yoghurt mixed with a bit of mint sauce, sugar, and turmeric.

The Salad

You know, the stuff in the little plastic bag that always seems to come with your takeaway. Slices of lettuce, onion, carrot, and always a wedge of lemon. Should there be a piece of tomato in there? How about coriander (in the classier establishments)? My memory was failing me. I decided that tomato just wouldn't be right for this sandwich, but coriander would probably go pretty well.


I thought that the perfect bread for this sandwich would be an artisan organic ciabatta. But then I saw that Saino's had some white sliced crap going cheap, so I got that instead.

Mango chutney on one slice, yellow stuff on the other. Broken up (and warmed up) onion bhajis in the middle, with the salad on top. A big squeeze of lemon, and a bit of salt and pepper.

This sandwich was, in all honesty, bloody delicious. Perhaps even better than a fish finger sandwich. Maybe I need to change the name of the blog.



Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Pork and Apple Pie Pie

I love pork pies. Those fatty, dense slabs of pastry and meat - it's the kind of food that could only really come from Britain.

I also love apple pie. And since we all know that pork goes with apple, why not combine the two dishes? But I'm not talking about a simple pork and apple pie. Oh no. I mean a pork pie with a whole apple pie inside it. Making a pie within a pie has long been an ambition of mine, even though I'm not really much of a baker. But after I came up with this concept, I just had to give it a try.

Pork pies are made from something called hot water crust pastry, which is made from water boiled up with lard or butter (I used both), then combined with flour. It's really pretty easy to make, and requires almost no stirring. You just pour the hot liquid into a well in the flour, and it all just sort of magically combines with a minimum of persuasion.

I made the apple pie in a small ramekin, using lots of thin layers of apple, and just a little bit of sugar. I rolled the pastry as thinly as I could without breaking it.

Next I prepared the filling for the pork pie. Sausage meat, chopped pork shoulder, sage, onion, a drop of oil, and salt & pepper. I use the term "sausage meat" - I'm not sure how much actual meat these sausages contain. "Grey sludge" might be a more appropriate description. But it's really just there to plug the gaps between the shoulder meat, thus ensuring maximum density.

Once the inner pie had cooled, it was time to start assembling this monster. You're supposed to make these free-standing, but that sounds way too hard, so I used a small cake tin. I put a layer of pork at the bottom of the pie, then put the apple pie in the middle, and surrounded it with as much pork mixture as I could cram in. I put the lid on the pie and crimped the edges, and brushed it with egg.

These things take a LONG time to cook. After half an hour on a high heat, I removed the pie from the tin, and cooked it at a lower heat for another hour before it was ready.

The finished pie was delicious, and well worth the wait. The pastry of 
the inner pie was a little undercooked, but it tasted great anyway!