Friday, June 25, 2010

I wanted...I bought...I made

This week I am also going to Borough Market for the shopping as well as doing the planning - the man may be pleased! It is finally properly hot like summer and has been for days. Forecast is for more. I am delighted.

So - I have food chain Sunday so Saturday will be busy busy and I am determined to go to the cinema that so did not happen! so I'm thinking salmon and parsley butter with new potatoes and salad will be quick and wonderful in the evening. Sunday we are heading to Richmond for a bbq with Jaey and Marie and their little dawgie Eddie -which I am seriously looking forward to totally brilliant afternoon. Monday is more bbq - but only for me see chef Adam above cooking burgers at The Avalon - so the man may well have pie and beans in front of the footie - difficult for him but I'm sure he'll cope. Tuesday I think tofu and cabbage omelette and salad with six cereal loaf from Paul. Wednesday I am still trying to get those lentils, I did and they were not good, too sad after weeks of anticipation Thursday I am wondering about spaghetti bolognese that I have in the freezer and it was good Friday we are out. An easy week.

Saturday was blue sky sunny and balmy from the off. Such a pleasure to be out and Borough was fairly quiet very early. Someone had parked an aston martin on the corner of Park Street and as we wandered up a big truck was trying to negotiate the corner and avoid the car. The disaster seemed so imminent there were plenty of onlookers curious to see the outcome.
Coffee from Monmouth - bought while the man watched the drama - £11.50 - Too many watchers so the truck guy had to go slooooooooow and squeak past without doing damage. Not always the outcome...

No meat on the list so no visit to Ginger Pig - makes for a skewed Borough shopping sensation for me.

Went to Ted's Veg who had no carrots as they couldn't get any decent ones - bought onions, cucumber and leeks - £2.80

Chocolates from L'Artisan du Chocolat - a bargain £2

Went to the Green Market only to discover that the asparagus people were not there this week, which was disappointing. Bought eggs from Lizzie at Wild Beef - £1.50

At Booths they did have carrots, also bought garlic, jersey royals, celery, spanish plum tomatoes to see if they roast sweetly they don't, were slightly bitter so will buy Isle of Wight till later in the summer and bananas, including a second bunch of free bananas that were at the end of their life but should make good cake - £5,20

At Furness I bought two fillets of wild salmon that were thick and a lovely sludgy grey pink - £9,50 Expensive but sublimely good simply pan fried in butter for a couple of minutes each side then finished in the oven for a couple of minutes

Strawberries from Chegworth because they always have the best - £3.50 As I was waiting to pay I heard someone at the Gastronomica stall say 'lovely to see you back' so, stickybeak that I am, I looked around to see who it was and, much to my surprise, it was Gianni! He's been off crewing boats off Plymouth for about a year and he's back till December.

So of course had to go and buy some cheese, he told us he'd had a great time, offered us bits of cheese to sample while complaining that now he is behind a counter and all the cheese is refrigerated, even though it is not the best way to keep it but it is H&S European directive. Bought a serious hunk of a soft tangy cheese and a soft goat's cheese for £10

The over to Neals Yard for milk and cream and yoghurt - £11.80

Toast bread and a brownie for my lovely one - £3.10

That was all - £58.90 and back on the bus

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Anzac Biscuits

I read some of the food boards on the web. Sometimes I learn a few things, other times I contribute something I know to the discusssion. One asked, the other day, what a woman could send her boyfriend on his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Something that would be a treat but would not spoil or be any other kind of disappointment on its arrival. Had to be Anzac biscuits.

Ate them all the time as a kid, an endless staple in school lunchboxes, that once I got to be about 12 I would make myself as my contribution to the week. Easy as they are I was still very pleased with myself when they turned out golden and chewy and fabulous.

April 25th every year we would march in the Anzac Parade, a day of national remembrance for the 8,000 soldiers who died in Gallipoli in their disastrous attempt to conquer Constantinople in the first world war.

Took me a while to make the connection between the bikkies and the parade but eventually I did wonder how they could both be Anzac. Their origins are somewhat murky. The story that seems most likely - or at least the one that I like the most - is that the wives and loved ones left at home made these to send overseas. There is nothing in them to spoil, so they would arrive pretty much as they had been sent to have bring joy to their recipients, carrying the love with which they were made from one side of the world to the other.

It has been years since I've eaten one let alone made a batch. I'm delighted to say they tasted as good as I remember - and the man loved them too which surprised me a little. Claims he doesn't like coconut.

Anzac Biscuits

The golden syrup adds a rich depth of sweetness, the bicarb makes it fizz like honeycomb.

Makes 24

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup dessicated coconut
125g butter
2 tbspn golden syrup
1 tbspn water
1tspn bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.

Line a baking tray with parchment.

Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a large bowl.

Put the butter, syrup and water into a small pan and stir over a medium heat till the butter melts into the syrup. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda - it will make the mix fizz up to the top of the pan. Take it off the heat.

Stir the butter syrup into the dry ingredients and mix well. You will have a mix that is ever so slightly crumbly rather than wet.

Drop teaspoonfuls into little mounds onto the baking tray a couple of centimetres apart - they will spread as they bake.

Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack before eating.

They will keep in an airtight tin for a very long time, though I've never been able to resist them to find out quite how long.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I wanted...I bought ...I made

Me and the Masterchef men - and a lady who lunches!

Hugely excited. It is the lovely Vicki's birthday Saturday and we're all off to a special tasting menu supper at Trinity about which I have heard nothing but exceptional things. Should be a treat. It was indeed.

On Saturday I am off to Birmingham for the Good Food Show courtesy of Miele and, to a mix of delight and trepidation, they have booked us into an Invention Round with John and Greg and the whole Masterchef whizz bang lights and music. The man is off again by himself to Borough so he has decided it's a good week to get healthy for summer as we have nothing else planned. Think he's hoping for a lot of crudité! So Sunday shall be roast with salads gammon that he cooked in the afternoon with white bean and fresh herbs from the garden salad with leftovers for lunch, Monday I think salad composé in the french style asparagus and poached egg topped with a little friton for added joy, Tuesday lentils with halloumi and a side salad of yoghurt and dill because I was planning that for Thursday last week and it didn't happen chicken and mash and peas but I am still much taken with the idea. Wednesday steamed tofu, steamed aubergine peppers and black beans and rice, Thursday chicken and mash because the man loves that more than most things wonton soup as I bought wonton Wednesday at Jen café and didn't eat them, Friday omelette and salad. Healthy, no?

Had a brilliant day Saturday while the man stayed home and did stuff. Got to Birmingham by train and met up with everyone - Jo, Ali, Kavey, Mimi and James, as well as Roxy and Nicola from 1000heads. Was very surprised to discover the Masterchef experience was first thing. The bloggers collected in the back room got a list of pantry items to check for a few minutes then a peek in the mystery bag with two minutes to decide what to make. It doesn't get tougher than that.! Remarkably difficult to think straight at that hour with a few hundred people sat watching, a man with a movie camera flitting about and lots of questions from Andi Peters - a previous winner on the celeb version, so qualified more than most to be up there.
My first thought was to make pasta with bacon and peas and some mascarpone but really I wanted stir fry so, despite the fact that there was nothing much to use to make a decent sauce, I went with chicken with crispy garlic and ginger over basmati rice. Partly because it could be done inside 30 minutes and partly because I could see eating hot shredded chicken in a way that I could not see eating creamy pasta before 11 in the morning.
This year's Masterchef winner, Dhruv, and last year's winner, Mat, who will be known forever to readers of Nancy Banks Smith's Guardian column as Ming the Merciless both clad in Wild Garlic t-shirts roamed the benches and tasted and compared. Followed closely by Greg and John themselves, more charming and less shouty in real life, also doing lots of tasting and chatting. As well as Andi Peters and the man with the camera. No wonder my nerves were shaky.
Thirty minutes later we were all plated up and - joy - given champagne. Mat and Dhruv had a short list of three for John and Greg to choose the winner. As the first guy brought his dishes forward - he'd done main and dessert - I abandoned hope of being on the list and started chatting to others to see what lovely things they'd made. Then Kavey was called with a great plate of raspberries and pancakes and she explained herself and her dish. Then it was me! That came as an unexpected surprise. So I shimmied up to the counter and watched while they tried my dish and there was serious love for the crispy ginger and garlic but, no sauce, too dry, I did not win. But yay! for Kavey if it couldn't be me.
Check out the video's on Jo's blog if you fancy seeing the action.
A wander round the show - madly busy - was followed by lunch in the Masterchef restaurant (where the picture was taken). Food was great - all of it dishes from previous winners - and being slightly away from the hustle was seriously relaxing. Jumped the rope to be back on the Miele stage for the follow up session, a cookalong with a Good Food journalist Barney. Weirdly this was much more difficult despite having no decisions to make and not being nervous at all. Made chicken skewers with pitta crisps and toffee berry tartlets - all in under 30 minutes, reinforcing my desire to have a total Miele kitchen as the whole lot came out perfectly.
Total respect to all those who, after a three course lunch, sat down and ate the lot. I was happy to give mine to Kirsty, the trainer from Miele, who'd been working so hard she'd had no lunch. Good deed done and a great day out I was back on the train home, Masterchef apron safely tucked in my bag for an outing in the feast with bron kitchen, where invention rules.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Scotch Quail's Eggs

Figuring resistance to the World Cup is futile I started planning dinners in front of the tele for England matches as I know that's where the man will be. Finger food but more substantial than nuts. Plenty of napkins.

In my mind's eye I laid out a fabulous feast for Saturday night, eclectic, interesting with guaranteed delight in every bite. In much the same way that England went in expecting a win and ended grateful for a draw I fumbled the final result and created a meal that was less than the sum of its parts. More miscellaneous mishmash than desirable diversity.

Desperate for more summer rolls but this time with prawns and using vietnamese basil from a plant in the garden. Variations on this theme are becoming a motif for the summer. Had to have asparagus because the season is too short to waste a single opportunity, but decided I would make aioli with some spring garlic rather than hollandaise. These two dishes are not natural companions but I didn't really think of that. I also really really wanted to make some mini scotch eggs using quail's eggs which, when they existed only in my mind's eye, were tiny things that were no more than a single mouthful of lightly spiced pork encasing the egg with a warm runny yolk. How hard could it be? Figuring they could also be dipped into the aioli, thereby tying all the elements together, all would be well.

The rice paper rolls were lovely and prawny but the dipping sauce - a mix of soy, chilli and sesame sauces lacked the delicacy to match them. The asparagus was fabulous and the aioli, though strong, was really good. But it belonged to a different meal to the rolls.

The quails eggs were way too difficult to peel with runny centres, the smallest pressure had yolk squirting everywhere. Four of them ended so empty there was no point taking it further. I was determined to have them, so I rolled the rest in pork and crumbs and, as you can see, they ended up the size of tennis balls not golf balls. They were not really runny in the centre and they were a little underseasoned. Balls! Slathered with aioli they were pretty yummy. Did they make a good match with the rest of dinner? No. But on the basis that things won't be perfect on the first attempt I will definitely make them again.

Scotch Eggs

The recipe comes from Heston Blumenthal, is easy to follow and should make a dozen scotch eggs, barring disaster.

12 quail eggs
A couple of cocktail sticks
480g best-quality pork sausage meat
Salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper, to taste
150g Japanese breadcrumbs or white home-made ones
3 medium eggs, beaten
Plain flour for coating
1.5 litres groundnut or corn oil, for deep-frying

Heat a pan of water to boiling point, prick the tops of the quail eggs with a cocktail stick and cook the eggs — one minute if you want a softer set, or 2 minutes and 15 seconds exactly if you prefer them hard. As soon as your timer goes off, remove the eggs from the boiling water and plunge them into a bowl of iced water as quickly as possible.

While the eggs are cooling, season the sausage meat with salt, a small pinch of cayenne pepper and black pepper, then check the seasoning either by frying a little in a pan or microwaving for 20-30 seconds and tasting. The meat will need to be well seasoned.

Shell the eggs under water in a small bowl and wrap each one in 40g (a golf ball) of sausage meat. The easiest way to do this is by first making a ball of sausage meat, then flattening into a shape big enough to go around the egg. Press the edges together to seal, taking care not to squash the egg inside.

Put the plain flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls. If using Japanese breadcrumbs (try Mount Fuji;, break them up slightly with your fingers to make it easier to coat the sausage meat.

Roll the scotch eggs in the flour, gently tap off any excess, then roll them in the beaten egg and, finally, the breadcrumbs.

Put them in the freezer for 5 minutes to harden the breadcrumb coating, then dip again into the egg and breadcrumbs.

Deep-fry — you can use an ordinary wide frying pan, but make sure the oil covers the eggs — for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, then finish in a hot oven for a further 2-3 minutes.

Cold next day for breakfast they were crunchy and lovely. There will be more!

Friday, June 11, 2010

I wanted...I bought..,.I made

Look at that lovely morcilla

It has been a long grey wet week with a kind of wintery half light most of the time. Supposedly sunny for the weekend which seems so immensely unlikely that perhaps it is true. On the basis it might be I think we shall have english smorgasbord and join the nation in watching the first match in the World Cup. Slightly odd mix of mini scotch eggs, summer rolls and asparagus with aioli, not a match made in heaven but then neither was the football. Not really my thing but right about now it seems futile to resist. Sunday I am out for the morning but I fancy spice roasted lamb and perhaps some tabbouleh, warm butterbean mash instead and spiced mashed carrots big bright in your mouth clean flavours. Monday I think simple stir fry noodles, Tuesday spag bol because it has been so long! Wednesday I am out but the man could have pasta again, Thursday lentils with haloumi turns out we were out Thursday not Friday which I discovered after I got home Thursday but a mad dash got us to the Barbican on time! and Friday we're out, much to the man's delight we are home so can have hot sausages, salad and crusty bread in front of the footie which is good as it tends to be the dinner I can't imagine a week before.

Watery sunlight for our trip to Borough this week and, bizarrely, the market was practically empty. Football didn't kick off till 7.30 so not sure what that was about! At the Ginger Pig I bought a shoulder of lamb that they very kindly halved for me,half in the freezer half spiced and steamed Sunday for dinner and cold for lunch a couple of days, pork mince scotch eggs, chicken carcasses and a pig's foot, split big pot of stock as I'd run out - cost £25.17

At Booths couldn't think quite what I wanted so ended up buying only beetroot will make salad with it raw early next week and bananas meant for smoothie but ended up as lunches - £1.40

Freshly caught and peeled prawns rice paper wraps Saturday night from Shellseekers - £4.80

Eggs and sausages meant for lunch Saturday but went into freezer and now are dinner Friday from Wild Beef - £4.50

Asparagus from the special stall, even though at that very moment there was no plan but it was lovely steamed and served with aioli Saturday - £3.90

Tomatoes from Isle of Wight, expensive but good, lunches and some roasted with garlic and herbs as the sauce with sausages Friday night - £3.50

Wandering past the Gamston Ostrich stall noticed they had salami - had to be worth a try - still in the fridge but it will be fine next week -£3.90

Talked about smoked salmon but decided against

Coffee from Monmouth - £11.50

Milk and pasta from Neals Yard - £7.60

A brownie for my sweetie - £2

That was all - £68.27

And finally a question for you if you've read this far. The morcilla in the picture came back with us from Spain and I put it in the freezer till last Friday whereupon I split them as shown then grilled them. They were truly fabulous but even under a high heat for a short burst they fell apart. Any one know how to cook them and keep them intact?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Food Blogger Connect 2010

Learnt how to shoot lovely pictures!

Had a brilliant time last weekend at Food Blogger Connect - a conference for bloggers but live! So nice to meet lots of others, all of them enthused about food and blogging and meeting to have a good time.

Flawlessly organised by Bethany from Dirty Kitchen Secrets I also managed to learn a lot while I enjoyed myself. A wine tasting in the garden first up presented by got the weekend off to a good start, then a high energy skype session with Jaden about monetizing a blog but what I got from it more was about understanding the blog as a brand that I own and can develop as I like. She had thousands of ideas and stories and left the whole room buzzing.

Saturday was sociable as you like and lots more interesting sessions - Jeanne drew on her lawyer background to talk about copyright then moved seamlessly into the form of recipe writing, which though some elements are subjective you can achieve a lot of clarity like the number you cook for with the quantities in each recipe, size of pans you need for baking, things I don't necessarily do. But will now!

Then there was Hilda dissecting the camera, she made the technical details understandable and I have since started setting the ISO on my little camera to have a little more control over my pics.

Last session of the morning was a group presentation. Jeanne, Kerrin and Jamie talked about writing style and voice - answering the big how and why questions in relation to their own very different blogs and getting all of us thinking. For me the questions are about who it's for and what I'm trying to get across and best of all - need to get myself a plan! It probably seems obvious to non bloggers but I find it is so easy to get caught up in the minutiae and totally lose sight of the big picture, that it's not only about the post being there but where it comes from and how it fits into an overall scheme and also what direction I want to be taking. They were brilliant - check out their blogs to find out why!

Lovely lunch back in the beautiful gardens and a good chance to meet lots of new people and find out about the vast myriad of blogs out there - some of which I knew but so very many that I didn't. It was just fascinating.

After lunch the irrepressible Meeta and the charming Mowie talked about the art of food styling and the shooting of food porn. And I was ashamed! At how bad most of the photos are that I use on my blog. But these two are so positive about making things beautiful that by the end of the session I was convinced I too could do better, and I had a list of things about colours and lighting and most of all attitude - think 'ready to eat!' - that should make the blog so much more interesting visually.

Sunday was grey but the conference continued to sparkle. First session with coffee was Julia and Kerrin spoke from their different perspectives about getting writing published. Julia detailed her journey from blog to book and Kerrin had lots of tales of pitching till the magazine commissions started to come her way. Basically, mostly the answer will be no but if you keep asking, creatively as you can, sometimes the answer will be the one you want to hear.

The last session was meant to be live but, due to the late running of ryanair flights from Dublin - boohiss! - Niall skyped instead from his office back to us about social media - how, why and you must. It all made so much sense. So follow me on twitter!

Then there was brunch but, fabulous as it looked I headed off, my mind reeling with such a great collection of ideas and the pleasure of meeting so many great people.

A big thank you to everyone involved.

And here's who else was there, a collection of great blogs.

























































Such delights!

Asparagus & Pea Penne

When I was a kid growing up in Australia the opening of a tin of green asparagus spears was a rare and wonderful event. Starting at the bottom of the can it was opened half way round the rim, drained of its liquid, then fully opened and decanted into a bowl. Opening round the base of the tin meant the spears came out right way up. My very first chef trick!

What followed would be special - usually the spears would top a salad on a really hot day or they would accompany a Friday night supper of crusty bread, hot rotisserie chicken and possibly sliced ham after my mother had done the shopping after work. A delightful occurence in our household to have an entirely shop bought meal, usually not as good as the food my mother cooked but somehow seemingly forbidden fruit and therefore so much more fabulous. Other times the chicken would be cooked at home, ham was a staple sliced for sandwiches or on the bone at christmas but asparagus? It came in a tin.

When I was about 12 we had a family holiday in New Zealand - my very first overseas trip. We travelled from place to place and stayed in hotels and motels that my father had booked when he worked out our route. We arrived in one town later than usual (I'd say we'd got lost but my dad would deny it) and found the hotel we were staying in. Reception told us that dinner would be served imminently so we dumped our bags upstairs in our rooms and scurried back down again, saving the usual 'oohs' and 'ahhs' and exploration of a new place till later.

Dinner was a three course affair with a choice of 3 dishes for each course. One option for the starter was asparagus vinaigrette. I thought I knew what asparagus was, but I had no idea about vinaigrette. I'd like to tell you at this point that, unabashedly adventurous, I chose this dish to start. In truth what happened was I told my mother that was what I was going to do and she asked if I was sure I would like it. Couldn't lie, said no, she suggested I have something else. I did. No idea what is was I chose in its place.

It is the asaparagus I remember.

My sister ordered it and the contents of the plate set in front of her had never seen the inside of a tin. Fresh asparagus, deep green, crisp (who knew it could be crisp?), and, most astonishing of all, hot. A fan of warm spears were lightly bathed with a gleaming dressing - the very height of sophistication. How I wished I'd been brave enough to order it. I was allowed a tiny taste.

It made my regret complete.

It was probably another two or three years before I came across fresh asparagus for sale and not until I came to live in London that I ever cooked it myself. It is a truly wondrous vegetable, and the shortness of the season simply makes it more desirable.

I was enjoying myself at Food Blogger Connect over the weekend so the man did the shop armed only with a shopping list. And his glasses. Thinking it would make a great lunch Sunday I put asparagus on there. We were out Saturday night and Sunday, on my return, my sweetheart told me to go read the papers while he made me some food. He came in a few minutes later with a lovely platter of bits to pick at while I babbled happily at him about my days' adventures. We were out again Monday and so, by Tuesday, I really needed a new plan to use the asparagus.

Despite the pouring rain and sub 20C temperature I remembered it was spring. So I paired one green with another of peas and set the lot into a delicately creamy bowl of pasta. Utterly elegant, and oh so nice next day for lunch.

Asparagus & Pea Penne

For dinner for 2 and 2 lunchboxes next day you need

150g frozen peas
2 bunches of asparagus, about 750g in weight, snapped off their woody base
25g butter
250ml chicken or vegetable stock
200ml cream
1 sprig rosemary
1 garlic clove, peeled
350g penne
50g grated Parmesan
Possibly a peashoot to decorate

Bring a small pan of salted water to the boil and add the peas. Return to the boil, cook rapidly for a minute or so until the peas have just unwrinkled. Drain and tip them into a bowl.

Bring another pan of salted water to the boil. Cut the asparagus spears into lengths about the same size as the pasta, reserving the tips. When the water boils, add the cut stems. When the water returns to the boil, add the tips. Boil rapidly for about 90 seconds then drain and add them to the peas. Mix the butter into the hot vegetables and season.

In the small pan put the stock and cream, rosemary and garlic. Bring to the boil and let it bubble furiously till the liquid is reduced by about one third. Remove the garlic and rosemary and discard.
Cook the pasta in a large pan, according to the instructions on the packet, unitl al dente. Drain, return it to the big pan then mix in the cream and vegetables and the Parmesan. Check the seasoning and serve, decorated with a little pea shoot should you have some. Ours have been decimated by snails.

Fresh asparagus is incomparably wonderful, but deep down I still have a soft spot for the tinned stuff!

Friday, June 04, 2010

I wanted...I bought...I made

Leek frittata topped with robbiola cheese

The man is in charge of the shopping this week, which always adds a little frisson, for me at least. Simple enough plan, we are out Saturday night, Sunday roast pork with roasted med veg and new potatoes as the weather is lovely all of it cold at the end of a fine weekend - gin clear skies at the moment and there is hope that it will carry on. If I keep calm perhaps...oh dear, that so did not happen

Monday we are out, Tuesday I'm planning beef noodles asparagus and pea pasta, Wednesday some dahl if it's cold and salad if it's hot - or even warm had eggs and some robbiola that needed using so made a spectacularly good frittata with leeks and salads on the side.

Thursday we are out again. Friday omelette and salad and crusty bread found morcilla in the freezer so it will be sausage and eggs and salad. Very yum.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Carrot and Mustard Seed Salad

Here's a quick and easy lemon squeezy recipe that I made last night to go with roasted cauliflower and a cucumber raita and some rice. Possibly a perfect mid week nearly warm night supper.

Simply grate 3 decent sized carrots and mix with the juice of half a lemon and some salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small pan and, when hot, fry a tablespoon of mustard seeds till they start to pop. Tip the hot and popping oil over the carrots, stir, check seasoning and enjoy.

Thoroughly delicious.
Sadly not so great cold next day - a touch bitter.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Steamed Spicy Beef Tendon

A couple of months ago the man and I had tickets to the Soho Theatre which, apart from the anticipation of what was billed as a delightful show, gave us a reason to go again to Bar Shu, one of my absolute favourite restaurants in London which had been shut for a while due to fire and rebuilding. Marina O'Loughlin's review in the Metro opened 'I am so far outside my comfort zone that I think my gums are bleeding'. And she eats for a living. On our first visit I was simply blown away - we ate food that I had never come across before and all of it variations on extraordinary. With Fuchsia Dunlop as consulting chef, Bar Shu specialises in the authentic flavours of Sichuan Province. This cuisine is famous for its fiery spiciness - and wow is some of it hot! but also for the sheer variety of its tastes and textures, often served in a lip-tingling pile of chillies and Sichuan pepper. It has great depth of flavour and, done as well as it is at Bar Shu, enormous subtlety. Genuinely exciting food.

On our first visit I was so eager to try everything I ordered about three times as much as we could eat, which gave us a great sampling of some of the menu and a collection of takeaway boxes that made the best lunches for the next two days. Soon after it closed for the longest time and this was our second trip back after its return. I ordered much more circumspectly, figuring I couldn't really take half a dozen tubs of spicy food to the theatre, but couldn't resist ordering the ox tendon. It was like nothing else - unctuous and rich, melt in the mouth with a tiny resistance to the bite, small pieces of almost transparent tendon floating in a mindblowing chilli and pepper sauce. Alongside the other dishes the richness of it defeated us but I couldn't let it go. Without consulting the man I asked the waitress to box up the rest of it to take away. As their is no such place as 'away' what I was intending was to take my box of spicy ox tendon to the theatre then home later on the bus. The man grinned complicity. After all it was Friday night.

By chance a few weeks later there was a piece on serious eats about beef tendon, and I suddenly realised I could try and recreate a little piece of this magic in my very own kitchen. I was aware that it might need a few goes, but if I don't start now then when? The next Saturday at the Ginger Pig at Borough I asked Charlie if he could butcher me up some beef tendon (I figured ox was unlikely and probably generic on the menu at Bar Shu). He looked a touch bemused and said another guy had asked him for it once, chinese guy. But the answer was still no, not really.

Vaguely disappointed but, hey, the world is full of recipes. Then a few weeks later Iwas in one of the big food shops in chinatown and, hey presto, they were selling fresh beef tendon at the butchers counter. Perhaps this was meant to be.

So I googled and read what little I could find on techniques and recipes and decided to start by steaming the tendon in soy for a long time then let it cool. Refrigerated for a couple of days, the tendon was a little chewy still, and not entirely easy to slice. I decided I'd aim for a bowl of hot - both temperature and spice - sauce with lovely gobbets of melting tendon. Served over rice and briefly steamed bean sprouts (for a crunch in your mouth) it was good. But not great - which is where I'd like it to be. For now it is a work in progress.

Steamed Spicy Beef Tendon with Beansprouts

250g beef tendons (from an asian butcher)
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup water
3 tbspoons chilli oil, with sediment
2 tspns sugar
1 tspn sesame oil
1 tspn toasted groung sichuan peppercorns
100g fresh beansprouts, washed and with their squiggly tails removed

Wash the tendons well then put them into a bowl soy sauce and enough water to partially cover the tendons. Set the steam oven to 100C and cook for 4 hours.

Remove the tendons from the bowl and put onto a plate. Pour the soy/water liquid from the steaming into a bowl and refrigerate it to use in the next step of the cooking. It will split into a firm dark soy 'jelly' with a creamy white cap of beef fat.

Let the tendons cool to room temperature; then refrigerate until they are completely firm.

Slice the tendons into bite size pieces and put into a bowl. Take the fat off the set jelly from the previous steaming and keep for another use. Dice the jelly and scatter over the tendon then add the chilli oil and sugar.

Steam in the oven at 100C for 40 minutes till the tendon is meltingly tender. Scatter with the ground sichuan pepper. Return the bowl to the oven, along with the beansprouts in a perforated tray, and steam for a further 1 m inute to just take the raw edge off the sprouts.

Serve over plain rice.