Lamian dough – heftier to work than it looks.

It’s been incredibly exciting seeing the recipes coming in from traders for the Greenwich Market Cookbook, everything from Arapina‘s wonderful Greek biscuits and pastries, delicate & fragrant & redolent with her family’s history in Asia Minor, to Pig Dogs & Brisket’s deep and dirty southern-style mac & cheese. But as well as being an inspiration, the global nature of the market has also brought along some difficulties.The La-Mian and Dim Sum stall is a quiet legend in street food circles – they used to work from Brick Lane but are now permanent fixtures in Greenwich – and from the moment the project started, I knew we had to get them on board.  Lui Zhongyi and his wife Kelly make a wonderful array of food, but they are most famous for the hand-pulled noodles which Zhongyi pulls and stretches with a theatrical zeal quite at odds with his serious persona. Of course, he’s not really dour at all – he just isn’t so comfortable with the English language and as it was his culinary secrets we were after for the book, this was a problem. Enter the amazing Jessie Levene! Jessie is a polyglot, and a greedy one at that (I mean that as a compliment). Having spent 3 years in China, writing a column on regional foods and blogging about her experiences, she not only speaks great Mandarin but also has a real wealth of knowledge about the context of different Chinese dishes. So, thanks to Jessie we will have some of Zhongyi & Kelly’s domestic recipes in the book, but in the meantime she has also very generously given us some background about la-mian in general and some of her wonderful photos of noodle pullers in action in China. Here they is, because the second best thing to eating la-mian is reading about them:


La-mian (literally translated into English as ‘Pulled Noodles’) are a truly visual eating experience – fresh wheat dough pulled by hand into long, even strands, served in a plain beef broth. Perhaps this doesn’t sound all that special, but it must be seen to be believed, and in China, La-mian are usually made within eyesight of the diners. Through a magical and mind-boggling process of twisting, folding, pulling and loud slapping of the dough onto the work-board, the chef creates perfect noodles from raw dough in mere minutes. He or she also makes it look ridiculously easy, which it certainly is not.

La-mian comes from the city of Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, in China’s north west region. Lanzhou is on the borderlands of Han China, meaning that it’s population is a lot more ethnically diverse than in the major cities on the east coast. One of the largest ethnic groups here is the Hui Muslim minority, and it is most often Hui chefs who one can find making La-mian across China. La-mian restaurants in China are usually pretty basic affairs, but are often open later than many other eating places, making them particularly convenient for a midnight snack. They’re also amongst the few restaurants in China where pork is not on the menu – Hui Muslims keep halal, and choice of meat at La-mian joints is usually only beef, chicken or lamb.

La-mian itself is a cheap, filling and delicious meal. The finished dish itself isn’t that much of a looker – just plain white noodles in a clear soup, topped with sliced cooked beef and fresh coriander. But it’s the visual spectacle of the making of the noodles, right in front of you, which makes La-mian so special.

Man pulls noodles!

Man pulls noodles!

Check out Jessie’s blog recounting her adventures around the world at http://jessielevene.com/.

soupPlease excuse the recent radio silence, but we’ve been very busy. Some great new projects are bubbling under, our mailbox is full of recipes from Greenwich Market (in English, Mandarin and Italian), and we’ve been working away on our first eBook – a digital edition of Fraser’s Seasonal Soups.

We’ve grappled with digitising our books before but have always shied away from it for two reasons – firstly, from an old-fashioned love of having print cookbooks to get dirty in the kitchen, and secondly (and more importantly) because of the design limitations of epub formats – especially for hand illustrated projects. We needed to get our heads around it though, and the publication of Fraser’s Seasonal Soups last year was a good opportunity to start thinking how we’d like an eBook to look and feel. Thanks to the talents of Stuart Cockburn at I Love Grids, we now have a version that captures the hand-drawn feel of the print book while having the convenience and functionality of an eBook.

Fraser’s Seasonal Soups by Fraser Reid is available for kindle on Amazon right here, and will be on sale in our own shop and on other platforms very soon. Please do take a look and let us know what you think, and what you prefer to cook from – print or digital? Print cookbooks, more than any other genre of books, have held their own in the digital revolution, but as more and more people use the internet to find things to cook, the notion of using your kindle or iPad or laptop in the kitchen is becoming the norm. And anything that gets people cooking is ok by us.

To whet your appetite and in recognition of the fact that soup is not just for the winter months, here’s a seasonal March recipe for you from the soup genius himself.

Smoky Sweet Potato & Butter Bean

Serves 4

Hands down this is one of my favourite soup recipes and it always goes down well with customers. The creamy butter beans are the perfect balance for the smoky paprika and sweetness of the potatoes.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 stock cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a pot on a medium heat and add the oil or butter. Fry the onion and garlic for 5–10 minutes until they soften slightly.

Add the sweet potato, carrots, drained butter beans and smoked paprika to the pot, mixing everything together.

Pour in 1.2 litres of boiling water, crumble in the stock cubes, and then bring it all to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend the soup and season to taste.

Buy Fraser’s Seasonal Soups by Fraser Reid print edition here or as a kindle book here.

cane syrup - black

It’s International Restaurant Day tomorrow – a great idea from Finland encouraging people to set up restaurants for a day, anywhere, for fun. The idea of the day, according to the website, is “to have fun, share new food experiences and enjoy our common living environments together.” Since it started up in 2011, it’s grown from 45 restaurants in 13 cities in Finland to a whopping 2017 restaurants popping up, just for the day, in 30 countries around the world. Amazing! In a moment of crazed enthusiasm on Tuesday, me and my 9-year-old daughter decided to get involved and serve Gumbo from the communal barbecue in the park in front of our house. I’m now looking out of the window at a full-blown Scottish November storm, wondering when I mistook Dundee for Louisiana…

Despite inclement weather conditions, for 2 hours only, Special O’Cajun (geddit? Puns courtesy of Stanley, age 11 – yeah, don’t blame me ok?) will be serving up Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, Baked Beans and Gateaux de Sirop from the shelter of the Magdalen Green cherry trees. They’re all recipes from Sarah Savoy’s beautiful book, The Savoy Kitchen – A Family History of Cajun Food which we were very proud to publish last year. Of all of them, it’s the Gateaux de Sirop that I love the most: a dark, moist spiced cake that smells to me of childhood and takes me back to the sticky gingerbreads my mum used to bake, and her mum before her.

Where my mum would have used treacle and golden syrup, the ‘sirop’ in this recipe should really be dark cane syrup.  Sarah says: “This is a very old-fashioned recipe that Cajun ladies used to make to bring to their friends when visiting. My dad used to grow sugar cane and cut and peel pieces of the cane for us to chew on as an afternoon snack. When he was younger, one of his favourite treats was getting to sample the ‘cane beer’ made during the process of making the cane syrup. As the cane boiled, the foam and chuff that rose to the top was removed to a pot beside the fire. In the heat the sugar would ferment and that would be used to make the beer. I’m gonna get around to trying that some day.”

Here’s Sarah’s recipe, just in case you can’t swing by our restaurant tomorrow. Happy International Restaurant Day everybody x

Gateau de Sirop

Serves 10

  • 260g (1½ cups) brown sugar
  • 125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 350g (1 cup) dark cane syrup or black treacle
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 375g (2½ cups) plain flour
  • 200g (1 cup) raisins or chopped dried figs
  • 100g (2/3 cup) chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 23 x 33cm cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and flour your cake tin, then line it with greaseproof paper.

Mix the brown sugar, oil, and cane syrup or treacle in a large bowl. Put the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda in a cup with 250ml (1 cup) of very hot, but not boiling, water then pour it into the syrup mixture. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, cocoa powder and lemon zest and stir until combined. Beat in the eggs, one by one, then gradually fold in the flour, then the raisins, and then the nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake it for about 50–60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Serves 10

N.B. Sometimes, instead of mixing the pecans into the butter, I like to candy them in butter, sugar and cinnamon, then chop them roughly and sprinkle over the baked cake.

Buy The Savoy Kitchen – A Family History of Cajun Food by Sarah Savoy here.

peapodsAfter a great summer working holiday hours, KP is hitting autumn with a roster of great new projects.

First, we have a lovely little soup book that we’ve been pestering the author about for some time. Fraser’s Fruit & Veg is a little greengrocer in Dundee – nothing special in that, you might think. However, when it opened its doors 4 years ago there wasn’t one greengrocer left in the city centre, not one. And as Dundee has something like the highest supermarket:citizen ratio in Scotland (*invented statistic alert*), the general view was that a dedicated greengrocer’s was no longer a viable business. Fraser didn’t buy it, and very soon he had turned his corner shop into a thriving community hub, selling a huge range of fruit & veg including produce grown specially for him by local farmers and gardeners. He began to sell weekly soup bags containing a recipe and all the ingredients for a batch of soup for 4 and, in his very charming, insouciant, just-knocked-this-together kind of a way, helped everyone from harried mums, OAPs and starving students to get a healthy, cheap home-cooked meal on the table. By definition, the soups are always seasonal (he bases each week’s recipe on whatever is best (and best value) in the shop that week) and always simple to make and easy to embellish – as Fraser says with a shrug, ‘it’s just soup’. Fraser’s Seasonal Soups is a collection of his favourite, best-selling recipes and a celebration of something we all feel in danger of losing, the thriving community shop. The book is beautifully illustrated by Jen Collins  and is going to look a treat. Watch this space – Fraser’s Seasonal Soups will be hitting the shelves in November, and we’ll post some advance recipes up here over the next few weeks to whet your appetite.

We have also been spending time at Greenwich Market, which was established in 1737 making it the oldest market in the UK. It’s a wonderful place: get the river taxi from central London, then wander up past the Cutty Sark and the maritime museums and parks and into Greenwich itself. Between two pillars, hidden within a square of shops and restaurants, lies an old cobbled market filled with different traders every day. From motorbikes to antiques to kaleidoscopes to military memorabilia, the variety on sale is enormous. And that’s more than matched by the market’s food offer too. Again, the traders change every day but so far I’ve seen everything from Chinese hand-pulled noodles and Hungarian langos to Ethiopian samosas and an Iranian grill. The smells are incredible as you walk about. We’re researching a book that will pull together recipes from all those traders, pretty much an A-Z of the finest street food in London.

2014-08-14 13.25.57

Oh, and one last thing: on Sunday 26 October you might want to check out Brixton Flavours. It’s a new one day food festival in Brixton featuring many of our very favourite restaurants – and Brixton-dweller & KP author Miss South is going to be in evidence also. Follow ’em on Twitter (@BrixtonFlavours) for updates and news.

We’ve some other pots on the hob as well, so as soon as they come to the boil we’ll let you know. In the meantime, happy cooking.

cookie_rowan_jellyThe Rowan tree is one of the most beautiful sights of early autumn and its berries make a fabulous jelly that is great with grouse and for adding flavour to gravies and sauces. You should pick the berries when they are a full­-bodied red colour, but before they turn mushy. Rowan berries were used in the middle ages to scare off evil spirits. You will feel like a witch stirring a cauldron of off­-putting ingredients when making this, but it all adds to the mystical ambience. Cook the fruit the night before the jelly is to be made.

Makes about 2 x 500ml jars of rowan & crab apple jelly

  • 1kg rowan berries
  • 1kg crab apples, roughly quartered but cores left in
  • 1.5kg granulated sugar (approximately)
  • a jelly bag or a muslin

Wash the fruit well. Remove all the stalks from the rowan berries and put them in the pan with the quartered crab apples. Pour in enough water to come half way up the fruit, bring it to the boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer and leave the fruit to cook, stirring from time to time. As it softens, use a large spoon to crush the fruit against the sides of the pan.

When everything is soft and mushy, turn off the heat and tip the lot into your draining material. A jelly bag makes this easy, but what I do is cover the top of a large pan with a muslin, and then tip the mush into it so the pan catches any drips. When all the mush is safely caught, suspend it over the pot and tie it up. We have tried this in many ways: hanging it on the back of a chair or tying it to the knife rack in the kitchen. Basically, you just need to hang it any place where you can leave a large bowl or pot beneath it to catch the juice as it drips through the bag. Leave it overnight.

In the morning, measure the juice in a measuring jug. You can squeeze the bag to get the very last remnants of juice out. This might cause your jelly to be cloudy, but as it’s generally used for cooking that doesn’t really matter. However, if you want your rowan jelly to be completely clear for a gift or just for perfection, don’t touch the bag. Now comes the maths. For every 500ml of juice you need 375g of sugar. When you’ve figured out your quantities, put the juice and sugar in your jam pan, heat it slowly until the sugar dissolves, and then bring it to a low rolling boil for 10 minutes. Test a teaspoonful on a cold saucer: if the surface of the jelly wrinkles when you push your finger on one end, it’s done. If it doesn’t wrinkle, boil it for a further 5 minutes and repeat the test. Leave the jam to cool for a couple of minutes, decant it into sterilised jars, and seal.

Buy Cookie Cooks by Melanie McCallum and Domenico del Priore here.

studio_73_brixtonvillageSuper excited about this week which finally sees the release of Recipes from Brixton Village by Miss South and the traders of Brixton Village. It’s a beautiful book that’s the culmination of 18 months work and, we think, really captures the essence of the market and the incredible range of food businesses working from there.

So, how are we celebrating? Things kick off on Thursday night with a launch party at Studio 73, who are hosting an exhibition of work by our illustrator Kaylene Alder. Beer from Brixton Brewery and Celia Lager, music from DJ Spin, it’s going to be fun. Then on Sunday we’re hitting the delights of Herne Hill Market, where there’ll be tasters, signings and a chance to chat to Miss South from 11am, then a talk by Miss South at Herne Hill Books at 2pm. So come and say hello!

The book will be widely available from Thursday night onwards, and you can always get a copy direct from us (free p&p in the UK) or a signed copy from the Brixton Blog shop. We’d love to hear what you think…



_NTI6114Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a light lunch

This is a wonderful summer salad from Brixton Village’s Cornercopia, bursting with the flavours of an English market garden. It makes a great light lunch or starter and goes well with a glass of elderflower cordial or sparkling wine. It’s very flexible: the broad beans could be replaced with runner beans, fresh edamame beans or courgettes. Try a soft boiled egg or strained yogurt in place of the curd cheese. If you have them available, decorate the salad with pea shoots, mustard cress or nasturtiums.

  • 200g baby broad beans, podded weight
  • 200g peas, podded weight
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • large handful of fresh herb leaves — either mint, coriander, parsley, basil
  • 200g curd cheese, ideally goat or ewe’s milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

You need to double pod the broad beans, first removing the velvety outer pods and then blanching the beans to remove the tough inner skins. Blanch the beans in boiling water for 60 seconds and then plunge them into iced water to refresh them. You can then slip the skins off to reveal the jewel green beans inside. Pod the peas and blanch and refresh as above.

In a large bowl, mix the podded broad beans and peas, the sliced spring onion, and half the herbs you are using with the grapeseed oil, lemon juice and zest. Gently toss it together and season well.

Transfer the dressed salad to a serving dish. Drop spoonfuls of curd cheese on top and scatter with the remaining herbs. Serve.

Buy Recipes from Brixton Village here.

Photograph by Joby Catto.

Jalisco - Tamarind Margarita  DSC_7643AServes 1

At Jalisco, Wilson Porras is on a mission to bring good margaritas to Brixton. Too often tequila in this country is seen as something to be forced down disguised with salt and lemon, but mixed well it is to be savoured and enjoyed. Combined here with the tang of tamarind, these margaritas are very moreish and easy to make. They will change your mind on tequila!

Use tamarind pulp for the best flavour here. Wilson also uses silver tequila – tequila that has been distilled twice – making it smoother and cleaner to drink in this tamarind margarita.

For the tamarind syrup:

  • 40g tamarind pulp
  • 100g sugar
  • 500ml water

Break up the tamarind pulp and put in a pan with the sugar and the water. Heat gently for 30 minutes then strain it all though a sieve, pushing the pulp with a spoon. Retain the dark syrup and throw the debris in the sieve away. Chill the syrup until needed. It will keep for several weeks.

For the margarita:

  • 50ml tamarind syrup
  • 35ml tequila
  • 20ml Triple Sec

Before you shake the margarita, pour a small amount of the tamarind syrup on a saucer. Pour some granulated sugar onto another saucer. Dip the rim of your glass into the saucer of syrup and then into the sugar.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour the tequila, Triple Sec and tamarind syrup over it. Shake well to mix and chill, and strain.

Serve in the sugar-rimmed glass over plenty of ice.

Buy Recipes from Brixton Village by Miss South & The Traders of Brixton Village here.

Photo by Colin Hampden-White.

coffee pot - blackThese babies don’t take much time or effort. Make the dough at least a few hours ahead (maybe more depending on how warm you keep your kitchen). This recipe makes about 30 beignets, but that’s cool, because you can keep the dough in the fridge for at least 4–5 days, and you can also freeze it. If you want to freeze it, go ahead and roll the dough out once it’s risen, cut it up, and freeze the dough shapes on wax or parchment paper until they’re hard. Then you can put them in a freezer bag, take out as many as you want on any given morning, let them thaw an hour, and fry them up!

These are perfect with a big cup of hot coffee with milk or a black coffee flavoured with chicory in the style of Café du Monde.

  •  ½ tsp dried yeast
  • 75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
  • 30g (2 tbsp) vegetable shortening (such as Trex)
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 450–600g (3–4 cups) plain flour
  • icing sugar to serve
  • vegetable oil for deep frying

Pour the yeast into a bowl or large mug. Add 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) of warm water and a tablespoon of the sugar, then stir the mixture with a fork until it’s just combined. In another cup, melt the vegetable shortening in 125ml (½ cup) of hot water.

Meanwhile, gently beat the egg, cream, the rest of the sugar and the salt in a large bowl. Once the yeast mixture has started to froth, stir it in too, then add the melted shortening/hot water and mix well.

Add about 300g (2 cups) of flour and stir until it starts to come together pretty well. Then add another 150g of flour and knead the dough by hand until it is soft, elastic and not sticky. Only add the remaining flour if you need it to get a smooth dough.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated in a bit of vegetable oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it sit until the dough has at least doubled in size. (If you plan on making the beignets more than 4 hours later, let it rise in the refrigerator.)

Now for the fun part! Punch that dough ball down a few times, then roll it out on a floured surface until it’s roughly 5mm thick. Cut the dough however you’d like. You can use cookie cutters if you want, but I prefer just cutting it with a very sharp knife into random squares and triangles (with sides of about 5 cm) and whatever other shapes happen. Set the pieces aside on wax paper or on the floured workspace so they don’t stick together.

When you’re ready to fry the beignets, heat a 1 cm depth of vegetable oil in a frying pan to hot but not smoking. Drop a piece of dough in to the oil to check the temperature – it should puff up right away and start turning golden after about 30 seconds. Fry the beignets in batches, taking care not to put too many in the pan. When they’re golden on one side, turn them and let them brown a little on the other. You can keep turning them until they are golden brown all over. If they get dark too fast, you’ll need to turn down the heat and remove the pan from the heat for a minute or two.

Set the fried beignets on a few layers of paper towels on a plate and sprinkle them with icing sugar. Let them cool for a couple of minutes before enjoying them with your café au lait (or chocolate milk).

Makes about 30

Buy The Savoy Kitchen – A Family History of Cajun Food by Sarah Savoy here.

Check out the ace new trailer for our forthcoming title Recipes from Brixton Village, produced by our friends at Bonnie Brae. Featuring many of the great traders who have contributed to the book, it captures the flavour of the market at its very best in the blazing sunshine. Enjoy!

Recipes from Brixton Village by Miss South with contributions from the traders of Brixton Village is published on 22 May and can be pre-ordered here.