Wednesday, January 23, 2008


22 Harcourt Street
London W1H 4HH
0207 723 0666
(22 January 2008)

I went to see a screening of Faith without Fear a documentary about Islam by Irshad Manji at the Frontline club yesterday. She wrote a book called the Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in her Faith that became a best seller and earned her a certain amount of notoriety. She was present and did Q&A after the screening. I found her fascinating (extremely charismatic) and very thought provoking. As going to the Frontline Club involves going up to Paddington, i.e. to the top of my neighbourhood, I decided to invite the girlfriend to the restaurant Dinings as it is on the way back home.

I’ve know of this restaurant for a while but never been even though David & Michelle and the Chinese girls rave about the place and it is less than five minutes walk from my house. The place is a NOBU style Japanese/Fusion place that was started by a NOBU alumnus called Tomonari Chiba. The most remarkable thing about the place is the location in a non descript terrace in a really secluded street. More correctly, the Harcourt street is a side street near Edgware road that no one goes into unless they are on their way to the Swedish church (and naturally enough the fifty or so people who live there). Nonetheless the place is always full.

The second most remarkable thing is the price of the food. In London you just do not get value for money. There are plenty of quality places around but they all cost an arm and a leg. Actually, an arm and a leg won’t get you much. Dinings is Japanese and good Japanese food is always going to be expensive but I think they’ve achieved excellent value for money here.

We had five courses, two 250 ml bottles of Sake and green tea and the bill came to £80 with service. The food came to £46 or £9 a course which given the quality (and London) is really good. We had:

  1. Sea Bass & Yellowtail Sashimi (two pieces each) extremely fresh;
  2. Vegetable tempura ok, that’s dull but it was as good as it gets;
  3. Iberian pork shoulder with tomato sauce – crunchy and sweet without any sweetener added, really quite a feat;
  4. Grilled King Crab w/Spicy cream sauce – A difficult to describe dish, basically King Crab grilled in a blini pan covered in a cream sauce that had a consistency I did not recognise, had the girlfriend in rapture;
  5. Chu Toro Tataki (fatty tuna) w/Truffle miso sauce – the best dish of the night. The combination of truffle and miso is incredible and fatty tuna just the right vessel to carry the taste.

When we walked in we saw that our friends Catherine & Ailu (the Chinese girls above) where sitting at the bar in front of the Sushi kitchen. We joined them and as they are regulars at Dinings they really know the menu and offered us tastes of some of the food they where eating. The most memorable of those where a sashimi of some sort of white fish dressed in oil and fish sauce topped with coriander and red onion and a wrap of sea urchin that I loved but the girlfriend had nightmares about.

I foresee this becoming my new regular!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Leek Vinaigrette David

David’s been experimenting with Leeks and is very proud of his creation. He describes it as a twist on the rather austere leek vinaigrette that’s more common; His leeks are caramelized and melt-in-your-mouth, a nice contrast to the shalloty vinaigrette and chives or so he assures me. Serve this as a starter on it’s own.


  1. 3-4 leeks
  2. butter
    olive oil
  3. sugar
  4. parsley/chives


  1. olive oil
  2. maldon sea salt, pepper
  3. dijon mustard
  4. red wine vinegar
  5. shallots

Cut leeks into 2-3 inch batons. Put some olive oil, butter and 2-3 tbsp of water in pan. Sprinkle a tsp of sugar before placing leeks in the pan. Cover the entire surface of pan with one layer only of leeks. Cut parchment paper to size and place over leeks. Put on lowest possible heat for about 45 mins to hour, or until leeks have caramelized very well.

Make the vinaigrette, emulsify it as much as you can. Make sure shallots are cut very finely. Take leeks out of pan onto a serving platter, then drizzle vinaigrette over, add parsley and chives. Add more maldon sea salt to taste.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Foie Gras Bonbon

In July 2007 while vacationing in Shanghai I vent to the restaurant Jade on 36 at the Shangri-La Hotel. At the 36th floor of the Shangri-La hotel to be precise. This is where I had a rather magnificent foie gras dish that I wrote about here.

The foie gras bonbon is my attempt at making this dish. I should say the culmination of my attempts at making this dish as there where a number of very unsuccessful tries before I settled on a method that was satisfactory. The qualification “satisfactory” is important as I never managed to get the dish exactly like what I had in Shanghai.

The basic principle here is sweet, salty and tart in three layers. This is not dissimilar from the classic French Chocolate cake Opera and the name at Jade at 36 was: Passion-Choco Foie Gras Opera. The cake is a layered cake with dark chocolate (tart), chocolate ganace (sweet), coffee foam (tart) and almond pastry in quantities that form an extraordinary coming together of taste.

To achieve this with foie gras Jade has added passion fruit jam and cocoa powder. They somehow managed to make a square cake out of the foie gras. This cake rested on a layer of passion fruit gel and was topped with a thin layer of cocoa powder. This has caused me no end of trouble as foie gras is not exactly the most malleable of ingredients to handle. The taste is quite flexible and goes with many things but the material itself is not.

After multiple times of failing to reproduce either a satisfactory passion fruit gel or a to sculpt the foie gras I settled on the following: a shot glass filled with a bottom layer of berry jam, a tablespoon’s worth of foie gras all topped with 85% dark chocolate. This is not as good as what I remember from Jade but very good nonetheless.

To make the jam:

  1. 200 grams mixed blue and blackberries;
  2. 125 grams sugar;
  3. 100 ml good quality quite strong green tea;
  4. 1 leaf gelatine.

Heat berries and sugar together in a solid pot when the berries have completely fallen apart add the tea. Boil off all of the liquid (when the starts look thick is when the jam is ready. Pour through a sieve, let cool until you can add the gelatine and pour into the shot glasses. You need about 5 ml in the bottom of the shot glass. Leave in the fridge until the jam has set about two hours.

To get the foie gras into the shot glasses cut out round sections with an apple corer and put on top of the jam. Obviously, this assumes that you like me have shot glasses of a diameter that is similar to that of an apple corer. If not find some other method of cutting cylindrical sections of foie gras with a wider diameter.

Melt the 85% chocolate pour on top of the foie gras and serve.

Pancetta and Parmesan Pasta Sauce

Apparently today is the day for posting pasta recipes. Particularly, pasta recipes from David so I thought I would post this miscellaneous pasta recipe I got of him some time ago.


  1. 125 grams cubed pancetta;
  2. 150 grams best tomatoes available chopped (or you can just use canned);
  3. 1 large diced onion;
  4. 3 chopped garlic cloves;
  5. 225 grams grated parmesan cheese;
  6. Bunch basil;
  7. Salt & pepper to taste;
  8. Pinch sugar;
  9. Penne pasta cooked al dente (works with almost all pasta types actually);

Saute garlic and onions until soft, add tomatoes, basil, sugar and salt and pepper. Slightly reduce tomato sauce before putting it through a food mill to get rid of the seeds and skin.

In another frying pan sauté the pancetta till crisp. Add a tablespoon white wine or vinegar and boil off before adding the tomato sauce. Simmer for about 10 min.

Add the parmesan. This will look like too much parmesan but that is the whole point.

Add the penne to the pan, stir and serve immediately.

Gnocchi with Creamy Gorgonzola

I took this out of an email from David.

The overriding thing to remember when making gnocchi is that you do not want them to be chewy but airy and light. Therefore the less flour you can get away with the better. If the dough is still a bit wet and sticky add just the right amount of flour to eliminate the stickiness. The coarse semolina in this recipe gives these light gnocchi a slightly rustic edge which works well I think.

Gnocchi Ingredients:

  1. 1 kg Desiree or king Edward potatoes (floury type)
  2. Maldon sea salt, fresh ground pepper, grated nutmeg
  3. 2 large egg yolks
  4. 150 gr 00 flour
  5. 100 gr coarse semolina flour
  6. chives
  7. olive oil
  8. parmesan

Gorgonzola sauce:

  1. 284 ml container single cream
  2. thick slice of gorgonzola, to taste (roughly half or 2/3 amt of cream about right so that melted cheese does not stiffen up as temperature falls once in your plate)
  3. pepper, salt

Cook potatoes with skin on in large pot of salted boiling water. Drain and peel while hot. The potatoes must be very dry!

Put potatoes through a food mill; lightly fold in eggs and flours (which have been combined and mixed together). Add salt, pepper and a tad of nutmeg to taste. Work together to obtain dough.

Divide dough into four. On clean surface roll out each piece of dough into long cigar shapes. Cut into 2-3 cm lengths. The more irregular the better. Scatter some semolina flour on work surface and roll each piece over the back of a fork to make indentations which will pick up the sauce.

Put cream in large frying pan, add chopped gorgonzola when hot, keep stirring til cheese melts into cream, add pepper.

Bring large pan of salted water to boil. Add gnocchi and cook over high heat until they rise to the surface. Remove with slotted spoon and put directly into pan with gorgonzola sauce. Coat gnocchis with sauce, serve in bowls, add small sprinkling of chives, ground black pepper, dash of olive oil, tad of parmesan.

Amatriciana Sauce

David bummed this Al’Amatriciana sauce, from the Agatha and Romeo restaurant near Roma Termini five years ago. Very healthy, diet food really.

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  1. 300 grams pasta (rigatoni works nicely with this);
  2. 75 – 150 grams chopped lardon (quantity depends on preference);
  3. 2 chopped cloves garlic;
  4. 1 can of Italian tomatoes (usually 150 grams) either whole or crushed
  5. 125 ml white wine;
  6. 125 grams parmesan;
  7. salt, black pepper to taste;
  8. 30 grams butter.

Fry up lardons and chopped garlic in olive oil until both are starting to get golden. Add wine and let alcohol burn off while scraping bottom of the pan which has been caramelized with lardon.

Add tomatoes and let simmer away about 20 minutes -- break up tomatoes if they are whole -- season with salt and pepper at this stage. Add parmesan to sauce -- stir until parmesan melts into sauce.

Add butter to sauce -- the sauce will turn colours from a deep red to orangey and should be creamy and oily. About 5 minutes before sauce is ready put pasta into boiling water -- make sure you undercook pasta by about a minute.

Drain pasta, reserve 1-2 tblsp of pasta cooking water. Put pasta in pan with the sauce; add the pasta water to loosen everything up. Mix around for about a minute, season further with salt and pepper to taste.

Courgette & Sage Pasta

This is an old favourite that usually gets made when I’ve left too many courgettes too long in my fridge creating a need to use them up quickly. Very good though:

Ingredients (for two):

  1. 250 grams courgette sliced thinly;
  2. 125 grams Mozzarella cut up into dices (can also be replaced by ricotta particularly the salty type, would then be a typical Puglian dish and best served with Orecchiette pasta);
  3. 75 grams grated parmesan cheese;
  4. 150 ml tinned Italian tomatoes;
  5. 1 medium sized onion sliced;
  6. 2 chopped garlic cloves;
  7. 2 tablespoons fresh basil;
  8. 1 tablespoon fresh sage;
  9. Olive oil;
  10. Salt & Pepper to taste;
  11. 150 grams spaghetti.

In a deep pan at medium heat sweet the onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add the courgette and fry until it starts to go transparent. Add the tomato, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. If the tomatoes are whole mash them up. Let simmer until tomato sauce starts to thicken add the mozzarella and ¾ of the parmesan.

Stir until cheese is melted then poor over the al dente pasta you have already prepared and freshened up with a little bit of olive oil. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the pasta and serve immediately.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Green Olive Pesto Salmon

Some years ago David taught me how to make a dish of marinated salmon that was absolutely brilliant. For a little while I made this all the time but then as happens with all recipes I learn I got bored of it and forgot all about the recipe. I did however, send the recipe to an old friend Aksel and he apparently never got bored with salmon prepared this way.

Today he returned the favour by emailing me the original email I sent him six years ago. I must say this sounds really good.


  1. 1 tbsp capers-rinsed and drained;
  2. Juice and Zest of 1 lemon;
  3. Quarter 75 ml virgin olive oil;
  4. 1 tbsp dijon mustard;
  5. 2 tbsp black mustard seed;
  6. 250 gram salmon fillet;
  7. Salt and pepper to taste;
  8. 8 1.5 cm thick slices of baguette toasted;
  9. 75 ml green olive pesto*
  10. 2 scallions thinly sliced on the diagonal

Combine in blender: capers, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, mustard, 1 tbls of mustard seed until smooth. Cut salmon in to dice (quarter inch) and put in mixing bowl -- add caper mixture and mix well -- season to taste with salt and pepper

Spread each toast with pesto, top with salmon (now mixed with sauce), sprinkle with remaining mustard seeds and scallion slices and serve immediately

Green olive pesto:

  1. 375 ml cup of pitted jumble green olives;
  2. 1/2 red onion chopped;
  3. 75 ml of pine nuts;
  4. half clove of garlic thinly sliced;
  5. 125 ml of olive oil

* combine everything except oil for a minute then add oil slowly--let stand half hour before using

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Marrow & Herb Salad on Toast

This is based on a favourite from St. John restaurant that I wrote about last time I visited. They way they serve it is to put a roasted bone section full of marrow on a plate with sea salt and parsley salad. This means that you have to dig the marrow out of the bone yourself before smearing it on toast and covering it with the parsley. I figured that would be too much for some of our guests particularly the woman who won’t eat anything that looks back at her.

What I did instead was to add the marrow to the parsley salad and presenting the result on toast as a small amuse geul. I also did not tell people what they where eating. This was certainly particularly important the first time I got her who won’t eat things that look back at her to eat this.

In any case Ingredients for enough to make 20 small toast of Marrow Toasts:

  1. 1 whole shin bone of beef. Have the butcher saw the knuckles of each end and the bone into three sections (btw if you want to do the St John version you would not use the knuckles and have the bone cut into about 5 cm sections);
  2. 1 large bunch of parsley leaves only – no stalks;
  3. Juice of one lemon;
  4. Tablespoon salted capers well rinsed - if you can get the very small variety that is best others wise you need to cut them into biggish pieces;
  5. Tablespoon best quality virgin olive oil;
  6. Freshly crushed black pepper;
  7. Sea salt to sprinkle on the toast;
  8. Dense multigrain bread thinly sliced for toast. I used Poulain which worked a treat.

Roast the shin bone under the grill at 200 degrees for about 10 min or until the marrow starts to run. Then clean all the marrow out from the bone and put in a oven plate. Put back under the grill and leave in for a few minutes or until the marrow is hot through. You know this has happened as the marrow sort of changes colour from raw fat to something that quite disgustingly resembles cartilage.

Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients in a bowl. When the marrow is ready hack it up into small pieces and combine with the salad. You can also use a bit of the fat that came of the marrow but be careful as it is very potent stuff. Load onto toast, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Ragu (Bolognese Sauce)

Reading this food blog inspired me to make ragu following my own recipe. I started originally with a recipe from Anna Del Conte’s book Gastronomy of Italy. Being 85 years old she does not have a website as far as I can tell but Amazon will happily sell anyone who’s interested a copy. This was for a long time my favorite Italian cookbook it is however very traditional and once you have mastered the basics not very inspiring. The ragu recipe however, is like all the traditional recipes in her book, absolutely fabulous.
I’m afraid that as with much of my cooking Mrs. Del Conte would not necessarily endorse the recipe as it has evolved in my hands. In any case the basic principle here, as with any ragu, is reduction of liquids and concentration of taste. I use veal as the bulk of the meat as it is very light but I find that its taste is not strong enough so I add about 50% beef mince to the veal. If veal is not available this recipe works just as well with only beef but obviously it will be a bit different and heavier.
(When I make ragu I make enough to freeze at least three portions use later. If you used this recipe in one go this would be enough for 10 servings as Primi)
  1. 500 grams veal mince (try to get fairly rough mince as you do not want the meat to fall apart in the cooking);
  2. 250 grams beef mince (best quality in this case is not lean meat but something that has at least 15% fat content);
  3. 100 grams chicken liver, minced really fine. You can do this with a knife;
  4. 100 – 150 grams pork belly with the skin removed and cut up fine. If you can’t get pork belly use streaky bacon. Although the pork belly’s primary function is as provider of fat (and taste) I do not like to mince it like the other meats rather I cut it up as fine as I can with a sharp knife. This yields a little bit of texture in the sauce that is not at all traditional but I find very satisfying;
  5. 1 large red onion cut fine;
  6. 4 roughly cut garlic cloves;
  7. 200 ml red vine;
  8. 1 litre good quality chicken stock;
  9. 150 grams tomato paste;
  10. 1 tablespoon strong soy sauce;
  11. Two large carrots pealed and cut in half;
  12. A large celery stick cut in three (the idea is to discard both the carrot and the celery at the end);
  13. A bunch each of roughly chopped Basil and Parsley;
  14. Rind of Parmesan cheese. Letting the rind of Parmesan cheese simmer with the ragu yields a very nice creamy consistency in the sauce. I keep all the rinds from the parmesan I use in my freezer so that I can use it in my ragu. As I do not make ragu very often I usually have about three sizeable rinds that I let simmer for the whole coking time before discarding them at the end. If you do not have parmesan rinds you will need to use either full cream milk or cream to thicken the sauce at the very last moment;
  15. Salt and pepper to taste.
Fry the pork in a very hot heavy bottomed stewing pan until a bit crisp, lower heat and add the onion and garlic and sweat it a bit. When the onion in soft add the chicken liver and fry until done (it will brown). Raise the heat and add the veal and beef mince and brown the meat.
Add red vine and boil off most of the alcohol. Meanwhile dissolve the tomato past in the stock and add to the pan along with the soy sauce and 80% of the herbs. Add the vegetables and Parmesan rind and season to taste. Bring to boil then lower the heat to a simmer and let the sauce simmer covered for about 3 – 3 ½ hours. At the end you should have a meat sauce that is not liquid but leaves “legs” on a metal spoon if you stir the sauce. If you reduce the sauce too much keep back some of the pasta boiling liquid to add to the sauce at the last moment.
Check regularly if the sauce has the desired taste and try to adjust the seasoning as you go along. You do not want to be adding large quantities of salt or pepper at the very end as that somewhat negates the effort in simmering the sauce for 3 hours.
If you are using milk or cream add it at least 10 minutes before the end to allow it to reduce. Serve with either penne or spaghetti, with a generous shaving of parmesan and a sprinkling of the remaining herbs.

Waterloo Cocktail

Ingredients for 1 serving:
  1. 1 Large slice of orange
  2. 2 raisins
  3. 1 small piece of vanilla
  4. 1/4 tsp of grated palm sugar
  5. 1 dash of angostura bitter
  6. 2 splashes soda water
  7. Ice cubes
  8. 45 ml cognac

Bash up everything with one splash of soda water. Then add ice, cognac, and another splash of soda water and stir well.Pour through a sieve before serving.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Coquilles St Jacques Nobu Style

This is a classic Nobu recipe. Incredibly easy but tasty.


  1. 1 scallop and coquille per person
  2. best butter
  3. parmesan
  4. best soy
  5. garlic--pureed
  6. lemon
  7. maldon sea salt

Put scallop in shell. Rub tiny bit of garlic on top of scallop. Add a knob of butter and on top sprinkle soy sauce no more than tsp. Sprinkle at least a solid teaspoon of Parmesan.

Put under the grill (at 200 degrees) for no more than 3-4 minutes--depending on how big scallops are. When done, put scallops on a tray of salt so coquilles don't wobble around. Sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon on each scallop.

Beets and Date Caviar

This comes from a Hungarian restaurant and is served as a canapé.


  1. 4 beetroots
  2. Cognac
    handful of pitted dates
  3. 2 garlic cloves boiled quickly
  4. 2 tbsp lemon juice
  5. 50 gr fresh walnuts chopped
  6. 2 tbsp sour cream
  7. salt and pepper, chives

Heat a quarter cup of cognac and pour over dates to soak 30 minutes. Put dates and garlic in blender and chop. Add beets to blender, chop again. The ingredients should have a chopped consistency, not a puree. Transfer to a bowl; add lemon, walnuts, cream, seasoning to taste.

Put on blinis or toast. Followed by a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle chives .