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.

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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.

Recipes-from-Brixton_village-square-avatarThis roast pork recipe from Fish, Wings & Tings makes a fantastic Sunday lunch or centrepiece for a family party. Very simple but packed with flavour, it’ll become a firm favourite in no time. 

Serves 4–6

  • 1kg fresh boneless pork belly, skin left on and scored
  • 8cm piece of ginger
  • 25 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped
  • 375ml dark rum
  • 10–15 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 tablespoons annatto oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ask your butcher to score the skin on the pork or use a super sharp knife to do this yourself. Place the pork in a dish and season well.

Finely grate the ginger and then squeeze the pulp over a small bowl to extract the juice. Discard the pulp. Add all the remaining ingredients to the juice and mix; then pour the marinade over the meat. Massage it into the pork (it is best to wear gloves for this if you are sensitive to chilli) and leave it to marinate overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 250℃ and take the pork out of the fridge to come up to room temperature. Line a roasting tin with foil and place the pork in it, scraping off any excess marinade.

Roast the pork for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cut the pork into cubes and serve with hot pepper sauce on the side. The skin will be crisp and the meat very tender.

Pre-order Recipes from Brixton Village by Miss South and the traders of Brixton Village here.

senzala-tweakedThis pancake day, why not try these delicious recipe for gluten-free buckwheat pancakes or galettes from Senzala Creperie at Brixton Village? Featured in our extremely exciting upcoming title, Recipes from Brixton Village, due out in May 2014.

Makes 8–10 large crêpes

Senzala serve two types of crêpes. This one is made from buckwheat flour and is known in French as a galette. Buckwheat is not related to wheat and is completely gluten free: it has a slightly nutty flavour and is delicious and very easy to use. This recipe is also completely vegan.

Galettes freeze really well: just put sheets of greaseproof paper between them before you put them in the freezer. It’s worth doing a big batch and having some spare this way as they are so versatile, suiting both sweet and savoury fillings and toppings. You are only limited by your imagination!

  • 250g buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 500ml water
  • vegetable oil

Simply mix the flour and salt with the water until the batter is the consistency of double cream. Chill the batter for at least 30 minutes or overnight, allowing it to come to room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking. Whisk well before using as the flour can sink slightly.

These are crêpes rather than pancakes so you want them to be very thin and easy to roll or fold. You’ll need the biggest pan or skillet you have so you can spread the batter out. This will approximate the finish of using a hotplate in a crêperie. Heat the pan on a medium heat and then brush it lightly with oil. It should sizzle slightly.

 You are now ready to make your galettes. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan and swirl it round to spread it out thinly. Allow it to cook for about a minute and then lift the edges up with a spatula. It should be golden brown and slightly bubbled and lacy around the edges.

 Flip the galette over and cook for another minute on the other side. You may need to sacrifice the first one to the pancake gods as it usually takes a while to get the heat and rhythm of crêpes just right. When the galette is cooked, either fill and eat it immediately or keep it warm in the oven for a few minutes until needed. They’re delicious filled with goat’s cheese and caramelised onions, or with caramelised apples and butterscotch sauce.

Pre-order Recipes from Brixton Village by Miss South with contributions from the Traders of Brixton Village here