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.
Check out Jessie’s blog recounting her adventures around the world at http://jessielevene.com/.
Please 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
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.
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.
This 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.
- 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.
This 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
The Savoy Kitchen – A Family History of Cajun Food? Check.
A packet of original, non-artificial, Sarah Savoy approved Cajun seasoning? Check.
A frankly kick-ass CD from Sarah Savoy herself? Oh Yes!
All you need to do is get your saucepans out, call your friends and get them to drop by the off-licence on the way over. Mardi Gras is on Tuesday March 4th so there’s no time to waste. And if you need any further inspiration, why not check out these truly wonderful photos, taken by Sarah’s sister Gabrielle, of a real Mardi Gras run in rural Lousiana: http://www.gabriellesavoy.com
Buy the Cajun Dinner Party kit right here
We’re delighted to announce the details of Sarah Savoy’s upcoming author tour of Scotland. Dates are as follows:
Weds 30 October
7.30pm Forgan’s St Andrews – Cajun Dining Club featuring a 6 course Cajun dinner.
Thursday 31 October
12pm Hammerton Store, Aberdeen – book signing, music & chat!
6.30pm Waterstones Dundee – performance & book signing
Friday 1 November
1.05 Radio Scotland’s Kitchen Cafe
3.30pm Looking Glass Books, Edinburgh – performance and book signing.
Apart from the Cajun Dining Club at Forgan’s (which is a TOTAL bargain at £24.95 for two), all events are FREE and feature not only Sarah’s very fine gumbo but also free beer courtesy of our good friends at Eden Brewery, St Andrews. It is Sarah’s first visit to Scotland, so please, don’t be shy, swing by and say hello!
We’re really excited about our latest title, Cookie Cooks, which was launched at Glasgow’s Aye Write! Book Festival on April 12. There was an amazing lineup for the Cookie Cabaret; fantastic food and wine from Cookie, music from Admiral Fallow, Dicky Trisco and Belle & Sebastian’s Richard Colburn, and live graffiti from Conzo Throb. BBC Radio Scotland’s Pennie Latin interviewed authors Melanie & Domenic0, then we all drank far too much wine while they signed books.