Moro-style Beetroot Borani

One of my favourite restaurants is Moro. We used to go regularly after it opened, back when it wasn’t quite so popular. After the first Moro cookbook came out, it quickly attained legendary status. You could never get a table, although sometimes you could sit at the bar. Luckily the cookbook was so good that you could replicate most of their dishes at home and look dead clever at the same time. We left London in 2004 and haven’t been back to the restaurant, not sure what it’s like any more. But I keep a wistful eye on the London restaurant scene via the blogs and was excited to see they have opened a tapas place called Morito just down the street. The reviews have been mixed – hispanophiles Dos Hermanos didn’t rate it – but online reports almost universally rave about a tapa they serve called beetroot borani.

I absolutely love beetroot, I just think it’s got such a sophisticated flavour – tasting of freshly dug earth (in a good way) as well as sweet and acidic. I love it paired with dill or caraway seeds – and it loves lactic flavours like yoghurt and sour cream. It’s obviously very good with oily smoked fish, particularly salmon and eel.

So I was keen to try out the beetroot borani which is essentially a yoghurt and beetroot puree. There is a recipe in Moro East (probably the least satisfying of the three Moro cookbooks, but still well worth owning). The dish they serve at Morito has been augmented by the addition of some salty feta crumbled over the top and walnuts. The recipe calls for the beetroot to be boiled, but I find that roasting the beetroot gives a better result, although it takes longer.

This was the surprise hit of Hannah’s little party yesterday (can’t bring myself to write the yukky words baby shower).

Beetroot borani

Beetroot borani, canape style

500g beetroot
400g yoghurt (preferably a creamy, full-fat yoghurt like Total)
3tbps olive oil
1 tsp Sugar
1 clove of garlic, crushed to a paste
small bunch of dill
1/2 pack feta cheese

Take whole beetroot, top and tail and and scrub clean. Place the beetroot on a sheet of foil. Sprinkle over some salt and olive oil and wrap into a tight parcel. Place the foil package into an oven-proof dish and into a 180 degree C oven and cook until tender, this could take between 1-3 hours depending on the size of the beetroot.

Remove and allow to cool. Peel the beetroot. Very roughly chop the beetroot and blend in the food processor. Add yoghurt, olive oil, garlic, half the dill and sugar and process until desired consistency (you may like it smooth or chunkier). Season to taste with salt and pepper and more sugar if you want it.

Spoon the mixture into a bowl. Chop the rest of the dill and sprinkle over. Crumble over the feta cheese and some walnuts if you like.

This is nice served as a meze or tapas, or alternatively as little canapes over crisp flatbreads. It would probably also be a good accompaniment to roast lamb or chicken dishes.

Beef Cheek Rendang

What’s your favourite curry?  Maybe it’s a rich and spicy Rogan Josh or a hot and sour Vindaloo?  Thinking further east, there are wonderfully aromatic Thai curries, fragrant with lemongrass and lime tempered by luscious coconut.  Japanese curries are sweet and fruity, and of course us Brits claim a whole subcontinent of curry as our own. Curries are exciting, full of spice and flavour, you must have a palate of cardboard not to love a good curry! Now if you were to ask me what my favourite curry is I would have no hesitation in saying Rendang. The incredible concoction of flavours from Indonesia/Malaysia, it’s an explosive mix of the earthy, warm tones of the Indian sub-continent and the high fragrant notes of SE Asia. Both tempered and enriched by lashings of coconut. It’s most commonly made with tough cuts beef (Rendang Daging) but it’s also great with shoulder of lamb. I’ve never heard of a pork rendang and I see no reason why it wouldn’t taste great but it’s like having a pork biryani, just sounds wrong doesn’t it? Over the years I’ve tried cooking it with many different cuts of beef; blade, shin, oxtail and brisket. But there’s one cut above all others that makes my perfect Rendang; cheek. Imagine big chunks of wobbly beef that appear solid but when you put it into your mouth melts into a flood of beefy rendang goodness. Well imagine no more, because here is my recipe.

Rendang recipes change from cook to cook. Please feel free to alter any component of this dish, add cumin and coriander if you want a more Indian vibe, add belachan (shrimp paste) or fish sauce for a deep salty tang. The only thing you musn’t change is the method. Rendang must be dry. It must not be swimming in sauce, if it is then you’ve not cooked it properly and the flavours would not have been fully developed. This recipe makes a lot of Rendang, halve it should you wish.

Ingredients for the Spice Paste
Dried Long Red Chillies (Kashmiri Style) – 20
Shallots – 300g
Ginger – 50g
Galangal – 50g
Turmeric Root – 20g
Garlic – 50g
Nutmeg – 2, yes two whole nutmeg
Cloves – 10
Cinnamon – 1 tbl
Candle Nuts (macadamia nuts if unavailable) – 12
and the rest
Beef Cheeks – 2.5kg cut into large golfball sized chunks
Lemongrass – 3 stalks lightly bashed and tied into knots
Kaffir Lime Leaves – 10
Curry Leaves from 2 stalks
Coconut cream – 2 cans (600ml)
Dessicated coconut – 80g (optional)

Make the paste

  • Tear off the stalks of the dried chillies and shake out the seeds before softening them in warm water. When they’re soft blitz them in a food processor with the shallots, ginger, galangal, turmeric and garlic. If you need to loosen this mixture to help the blending then use a little of the soaking water.  Make sure that everything is well blended.
  • Grind the nutmeg, cloves and candlenuts as fine as possible in a big mortar with a heavy pestle. Add the blended mixture and the cinnamon to the freshly ground spices and use your pestle to amalgamate everything together into a bright red-orange paste.
  • You could of course make the whole paste the old-fashioned way from scratch in the mortar and pestle, if you like to punish yourself.

Make the Curry

  • In the widest non-stick pan you have (a deep sauté pan is best) fry the curry leaves in a little vegetable oil till their aroma is released.  Then add the beef, coconut cream, spice paste, lemongrass, lime leaves and a good smattering of salt. Stir well and let it come to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down to as low as possible and cook it uncovered for about 3 hours.
  • After a few hours the meat should be nice and tender and most of the liquid will have evaporated. This is when the rendang magic starts. If you taste it now it will be under-powered even insipid. You see, to cook a rendang properly you need to do the opposite of braising and brown the meat at the end.
  • Crank the heat up to medium so that the meat and aromatics start to fry gently in the fat and the oil released by the meat and coconut cream. Remove the lime leaves at this point as they will become bitter when fried. Turn the meat carefully when it browns on the bottom, this is why you needed to cut big chunks of beef as small pieces will turn to mush.
  • For an extra coconut hit, toast the dessicated coconut till light brown, blend it to a fine powder before adding it to the rendang near the end of the cooking.
  • When the meat has been well browned and is dark all over your rendang is done. You can eat it now with a fresh chiffonade of lime leaves sprinkled over it but cruelly it tastes much better the next day. So make it the day before you want to eat it and make too much because it freezes really well too.

Pressure Cooker variation: To cut the cooking time use your PC to cook the meat in the coconut cream and spice paste till just tender, drain off the meat and fast reduce the gravy in a wide non-stick pan. Put the meat back into the reduced gravy to brown all over and finish making the rendang in the regular way. Tip: Less coconut cream is needed, just enough to coat the meat and spices. Use only three lime leaves, the regular amount will produce too bitter taste when pressure cooked.


San Francisco Cookoff: Carnitas

“Why don’t you write about those Carnitas on my blog, I made an account for you” said mr smokeandumami enthusiastically.  But I wasn’t sure, this blog is like a diary isn’t it?  If not a diary then it’s Nick’s personal expression of his love of good food.  So at best I’m going to feel I’m doodling over another man’s thoughts.  At worse it could be even more personal, it could feel like playing with another man’s todger!  I know in these enlightened times that that’s kinda ok, but you know I’ve just never been that way inclined.  After a few days though I’ve warmed to the idea, maybe it’s more like he’s thrown me the keys to his Ferrari and I’d be foolish to turn down the opportunity to give it a blast around the block.  So here goes, wheelspinning away on the first proper collaborative contribution to smokeandumami.

Last Saturday there was Popstrami reunion round at Nick and Hannah’s where we had a nice casual dinner with a San Francisco cookoff theme.  This had been brewing for a few months and originally the main course was supposed to be Mission-district Burritos, massive tortillas overfilled with rice, refried beans and meat.  Truly a meal (or two) in itself.  I’ve had these from a Mexican street cart in New York and to be honest, they weren’t that great.  What are great are Carnitas, and as I’d volunteered to do the main then that’s what I’m going to cook!  Carnitas translate to little meats, these are little open tortilla parcels filled with highly spiced shredded pork, a little salsa (pico de gallo usually) and guacamole.  Here’s how I made them the other day, it was enough to feed ten hungry people – about 30 portions.  Although there were only 7 of us!

  • Cut up one whole pork shoulder butt into big chunks and season them liberally with salt.  Whilst the pork is salting, gently toast 3 pasilla, 4 ancho and 8 chipotle chillis in a dry pan till they are soft and malleable.  Don’t overdo them, they shouldn’t be too dry or brittle.  Remove the stalks and seeds and cut the chillis up into small pieces.  Cover with boiling water and let it soak for 15 minutes until the chillis are soft enough to blend into a smooth puree.  Whilst they are blending add 6 fat cloves of garlic and a tablespoon each of cinnamon and cumin.  That’s the mole made.
  • Brown the pork chunks all over in a shallow wide pan so that the meat is in one layer.  Add the mole and enough water to just cover the pork, stir well then stick the whole lot in a 150C oven uncovered for about 3 to 4 hours.  You will need to turn the pork occasionally when the top browns, maybe once an hour.
  • The pork is done when 80% of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is fork tender.  If too much liquid has gone before the meat is tender then simply add some more water.  Remove from the heat and when cool enough shred the pork with your hands.  The mixture should be moist and sloppy, ready for your carnitas!
  • Some people like their meat drier, you can after shredding put the meat back into a hot oven to crisp up but I like mine nice and sloppy!
  • Slap some meat on your tortilla (I prefer corn tortillas), add salsa and guacamole.  Eat and repeat till well stuffed.
Cheers Lap aka Prawncrackers aka Oishinboy



Linguine and purple sprouting broccoli

No parmesan in the house yesterday or indeed much of anything (how could this happen?), so I cooked this. Crispy fried breadcrumbs actually work much better than cheese in this dish, giving some textural contrast. I’m absolutely mad about the linguine I’ve discovered from Cav. Giuseppe Cocco, the bronze die cut gives it a rough surface which improves the taste and permits the pasta to pick up more sauce.


Serves 2

200g linguine, use a bronze die cut pasta such as Cav. Giuseppe Cocco
250g purple sprouting broccoli
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 anchovy fillets, whole
2 tbsp dry white wine
squeeze of lemon
50g breadcrumbs
chilli flakes

Cook linguine in the standard way (1 litre water per 100g pasta, at least 10g salt per litre of water). Meanwhile, rinse and roughly chop the purple sprouting broccoli. Cook garlic, anchovies and half the olive oil for a couple of minutes in a large frying pan or saucepan, without letting the garlic brown. Add purple sprouting broccoli and white wine and increase the heat. Cover and let the broccoli cook down well until very soft. Fry off the breadcrumbs in another pan with the rest of the olive oil. Drain the pasta well and add to the broccoli with a bit of the cooking water. Remove from heat, mix well and add salt and black pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon. Dish up, sprinkling over the toasted breadcrumbs and chilli.

Pork ribs dry rib

Keeping with the theme of using the blog as a place to store my notes, some brief jottings on a recent batch of pork ribs.

Pork ribs and slaw

Dry rub

(quantities expressed as ratios)

1.5 – paprika
.5 – smoked paprika (hot)
1 – salt
.5 – pepper
1 – garlic powder
.5 – chipotle paste

Paste makes the rub wet so difficult to apply. Also it’s too hot for Hannah! Too much black pepper (or not ground enough).

Smoke two hours over maple. Put in dish with apple juice and cook tightly covered in very low oven (110C) until done (meat tender but still on the bone).

I tried this BBQ sauce recipe subbing liquid smoke for the smokey juices drained from the meat. This recipe has too much tomato ketchup in. Glaze the ribs in sauce and finish in hot oven.


Putting the carrots, onion and cabbage in very well salted boiling water for five minutes, before draining improves the texture and flavour. Dressing is simply yellow mustard seeds and rice wine vinegar. Refrigeration before serving improves the flavour.

Recipe Roundup, Weeks 1&2 January 2012

A round-up of recipes that I have cooked recently, or caught my eye and get added to the “must make” list. I increasingly find myself referring back to my blog for notes and inspiration, so this is an attempt to be a bit more systematic.

Cooked recently:

Chicken broth with matzo balls

Matzo ball soup: good recipe for matzo balls. They do need cooking for a long time to ensure they are cooked through and you don’t end up with a stodgy centre. I use my standard recipe for chicken soup (cooked low and slow).

Ox cheek goulash

Beef brisket goulash: I used ox cheeks instead of brisket (900g – 2 cheeks), only 1 1/2 onions and 2 peppers. Probably could have used another onion for more body. Sherry vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Needed reducing quite a lot. Very nice, Hannah liked this a great deal! The sour cream, chives and lemon zest take this dish to another level, bringing it alive.
“It’s It” (Ice Cream Sandwiches): Made for our San Francisco supper-club (of which more later), these really was a massive faff to make.
Crab linguine: My recipe for a very successful crab linguine.
Simon Hopkinson’s chocolate pots with ginger: Lovely, replaced ginger with cinnamon and no stem ginger as didn’t have any!
Wild sea bass, lentils and spinach: does not need a recipe, but a nice combination. Although must try to remember that Hannah HATES lentils (memories of communal living).
Janssen’s temptation: I used my regular recipe, but cut the potatoes and celeriac into flatter strips on a mandolin, which worked very well.
Pork ribs with slaw

Spotted, on the list:

Pork knuckle kibil
Pork cheek tacos

Soupy twist!

The World Wakes up to Birmingham’s Food

By now most of the newspapers have picked up on the New York Times’ choice of Birmingham as a “place to visit in 2012”. Generally stories plough the same tired furrow. After covering off the obligatory line of ‘Birmingham!? Really? Yeah, I know I bet you thought it was a shit-hole.‘ will go on to point out the regenerated Bull Ring and Selfridges, mention our three Michelin-starred restaurants, and perhaps the Balti Triangle (it’s got loads of curry restaurants!). Maybe a mention of the canals, of defunct industry and if you are lucky a little dig at the accent too. And Cup-a-Soup. And Tizer.

To many, this is all old news at this point.

So I was very happy to get the opportunity this week to speak to Nick Wyke from the Times and give him my (opinionated) view of the cities food offerings and perhaps help represent a more interesting view of Birmingham’s offerings.

And I was absolutely delighted yesterday when I read his piece that that he’d managed to get so many of my suggestions into the piece. Of course he mentioned the great Turners, Simpsons and Purnells but he also covered:

  • my favourite farmers markets, Harborne (2nd Saturday of the month) and Moseley (4th Saturday of the month), and a few local producers including Lightwood Cheese
  • the two best delis in town, Anderson and Hill and Capeling and Co
  • our burgeoning coffee scene including Urban Coffee Co and Six Eight Kafe
  • the incredible Birmingham Wholesale Market (save our markets!!) – mentioning sea urchins and alphonso mangoes, two seasonal imports available at this fantastic place
  • the Chinese quarter, including the Golden Pond where we like to have dim sum
  • alternative (and superior) options to the Balti Triangle: Lasan and Jyoti’s as well as stalwarts Al Frash and Al Faisals
  • my favourite meal of all: the dripping-cooked fish and chips at the Black Country Museum

I also re-iterated my thoughts that Birmingham has great high-end options and decent cheap eats (mainly Indian and Chinese) but very little in the middle bracket, with the exception of the awesome Carters of Moseley.

So now we have risen above the cliches, I am hoping this article (and this blog) will show the city council that there are other options than reflexively granting permission for new Nando’s, Pizza Express or Cafe Rouge when they sit down to plan.

In the long run, as demonstrated by the interest from the New York Times, this could do a great deal for Birmingham’s tourism industry as well as our own enjoyment of the city.

Crab Linguine Recipe

Hannah said she wanted crab linguine, but she wanted a creamy version, not oily. Most web recipes for crab linguine are for the tried and tested olive oil, garlic, chili, lemon and parsley combo and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But there aren’t so many creamy versions, so I decided to make my own up.

As with all crab recipes it’s best when made with freshly cooked crab. But this recipe can be knocked up much more with the pasteurised crab meat you can find in the supermarket, which seems more practical for an after-work dinner. I like the “Seafood and Eat It” range as they do a half-and-half white and brown pack. The taste is fine. Lap introduced me to the idea of serving the brown crab meat as a loose pate, enriched with clarified butter, served on toast (sourdough would be good) alongside the pasta, and it’s a jolly good idea. And of course you should be generous with the crab meat which should be present in goodly amounts clinging to each strand, not searched for hopefully at the bottom of the plate.

Another recent pasta revelation is that I much prefer the Giuseppe Cocco linguine to de Cecco (too thick) or Waitrose’s own brand stuff, it’s narrower and so more sauce can adhere to the pasta, yet still keeps its texture.

Creamy Crab Linguine

Serves 2

200g linguine (Giuseppe Cocco)
150g white crab meat
50g brown crab meat
50g brown shrimps (crevette grise)
70g butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped / minced
50ml white wine
150ml fish stock
2 tbps double cream
Half a lemon
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Clarify the butter or – even better – if you have Morecombe Bay shrimps already in butter use that. Cook the shallot in about half the clarified butter until soft in a decent sized pan which will take the pasta later.

To make the brown crab pate:

Put half the softened shallot, the rest of the clarified butter and the brown crab meat in another saucepan and combine over a low heat. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Set aside. Add a drop of Pernod if you like.

To make the crab linguine:

Cook your pasta until al dente. While doing this add the white wine to the pan and cook until reduce by at least half. Add the fish stock and reduce by half. Add the white crab meat and brown shrimps and stir and remove from heat. Add the drained pasta and stir well. Add half the chopped parseley. Season to taste with salt (important!), pepper and lemon juice. Finish by stirring in the cream, still off the heat. Plate up and add the rest of the parsley.

Serve the brown crab pate on a piece of toast with the crab linguine.

Variation: garlic instead of onion in the pasta