Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Pan fried mackerel fillets with beetroot and radish and pomegranate dressing

It's been a while. Quite a long while. There have been many reasons for this but what's important is that finally I have the time and motivation to regularly update this blog again with my culinary escapades!

First up is a super super quick to make, yet delicious light summer dish. I would recommend it for a light lunch or dinner. The sweetness of the pomegranate molasses used in the dressing perfectly complement the fresh beetroot and radishes and the intense flavour of mackerel. Truly delicious!

Pan fried mackerel fillet with beetroot and radish and pomegranate dressing

Recipe by Athene Knufer


  • 2 large mackerel fillets
  • 2 cooked/roasted beetroots
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • A few sprigs of dill
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Begin by slicing your cold but cooked beetroot and radishes and arrange on a plate so they are overlapping.
  2. To make the dressing, stir the oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, white wine vinegar together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Season your mackerel fillets with salt and pepper and heat a little oil (your choice, I used rapeseed oil) in a non-stick frying pan.
  4. When the oil is hot enough add the mackerel fillets skin side down to the pan and keep them gently pressed down with your fingers in order to keep the skin flat and crispy.
  5. Cook for 1-2 on the skin side, until it is crispy and then turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes. It shouldn't really take longer than 4 minutes to cook mackerel (if that), but fillets vary so keep a close eye and use your judgment in order to not overcook your fish.
  6. Place your pan fried mackerel on top of the beetroot and radish and spoon the dressing all over the plate. Add little bunches of dill. Serve.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Minced lamb and kale with couscous and minted tzaziki

It's been almost a week since I posted something! That's not due to a lack of cooking though, I've just been keeping super busy with making delicious canapés. Expect there to be quite a few recipes soon from all the leftovers!

For the mean time, I still have plenty of recipes in the backlog that are waiting to be shared here. This dish had a definite mediterranean influence, with beautiful warm flavours coming through. More importantly, this is quick to prepare and is a healthy balanced meal, too.

I used minced lamb, but you can use minced beef too, however lamb will taste even better with the addition of the fresh, zingy minted tzaziki. So without much further ado, here is my recipe.

Minced lamb and kale with couscous and minted tzaziki

Recipe by Athene Knufer


  • 300g greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • a handful of chopped mint leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 500g minced lamb or beef
  • 250g mixed kale, blanched and chopped
  • 400g diced tomatoes
  • 250g couscous
  • 250ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • pitta bread to serve

Cooking Directions

  1. First, prepare the tzaziki: put the greek yoghurt in a bowl and stir in half a diced onion, 3 cloves of chopped garlic as well as the lemon juice, white wine vinegar and chopped mint leaves and season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Cover the tzaziki and place in the fridge for at least 1.5-2 hours, to let the flavours steep.
  3. To make the kale and minced lamb, lightly saute the other half of the diced onion for a few minutes.
  4. Then add the minced lamb, add the other 3 cloves of chopped garlic and fry until brown.
  5. Once well browned, add the diced tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes on a low heat and season well with salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, make the couscous by adding 250ml of chicken or vegetable to the couscous and simmer on a very low heat for 5 minutes, covered. Then take the couscous of the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork before serving.
  7. Finally, add the chopped mixed kale (i used a mixture of cavolo nero and curly kale) to the pan and cook for another few minutes and re-check the seasoning.
  8. To serve, plate the minced lamb and kale with some couscous, tzaziki and warmed pitta bread. Enjoy!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Sunday Roast at The Water Poet, Spitalfields

A Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago my boyfriend and I spontaneously felt like going out for a good roast - preferably in East London, close to home.
A quick google search suggested a few pubs and restaurants, including The Water Poet in Spitalfields, on Folgate Street. Now, I remember this pub because I used to live in one of the buildings opposite the Water Poet on Folgate Street as a child, right next to London's well known time capsule Dennis Sever's House. I remember my father used to go there for a few pints with friends on a weekend or after work, but I haven't been there in years and years.

Having arrived without a booking, we weren't surprised to find the pub hustly and bustly in the middle of a busy Sunday lunch service. The pub is beautiful, large and has many interesting nooks and crannies away from the main seating area. We weren't able to get a seat in the main pub area but were placed in an afar room, but as we just turned up we were happy to get a seat at all.

I quite liked the room actually, it had a nice quirkiness to it. Having looked at the lunch menu beforehand we were quick to order our roasts with the waitress - 6 hour roasted old spot pork belly with russet apple sauce for me and free range cornfed breast with chestnut, cranberry and pork stuffing for Paul, both for £13.50. Both the dishes were served with roasted potatoes, carrot & suede puree, parsnips, yorkshire pudding, gravy and savoy cabbage. Our drinks arrived quickly, the food was a bit of a longer wait, which was fine - we were eagerly chatting and the waitress was very very friendly and keeping us up to date with our order. When our food arrived I was astonished at the sheer size of it all - what a massive plate of food! Brilliant!

Being a pretty picky restaurant eater things can unfortunately be spoilt for me quite easily. I pick up on details and if they bug me, they can ruin my experience a little at times. However, this left me happy and rubbing my stomach! The pork was succulent and delicious, the apple sauce was great, the savoy cabbage had a nice bite to it and the carrot and suede puree was perfectly seasoned - everything was piping hot, something that is VERY important for me with roasts and something that I've been disappointed with both at The Princess of Shoreditch & The Star of Bethnal Green. And everything that was there was there in abundance!

The only slight let down were the potatoes, which you could tell would have tasted great a few hours ago but were only good when we had them - but this remark is basically just to show that I'm being reasonable and objective while rating this roast and really not a big point ;) Our service, let me say, was fantastic - the waitress was sweet and attentive and having worked as a waitress for a long time it's not often that you'll hear me praise the service but when I do really like someones service attitude you won't hear the end of it!

All in all, if you're looking for a filling roast (we had absolutely no room for dessert and we ALWAYS have room for dessert), go to the Water Poet. It'll work a treat.

The Water Poet on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Jiro Dreams of Sushi: A Review

Meet Jiro. He's 85 years old, regarded to be the best sushi chef in the world and is still working in his 10 cover sushi bar Sukiyabashi Jiro, located in a subway station in Tokyo. He has been working on perfecting the art of sushi for 75 years and was given three Michelin stars in 2008.

In the 2011 documentary film 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi', directed by David Gelb, Jiro's life and dedication to mastering his craft, improving it a little each day, is portrayed in a fascinating and mesmerising way. In Jiro's restaurant there are no appetizers and a whole meal can take as little as 15 minutes - the experience is dedicated to simple and beautiful sushi, using the best ingredients and techniques. While this sounds like a description that many restaurants would give themselves, the level of quality demanded by Jiro is quite extraordinary and clearly exceeds the expectations one would have of a label such as that. Jiro has a dedicated supplier for nearly every ingredient he purchases - be it the rice, the tuna or eel. These suppliers are all characterised by their great knowledge of the product they provide and have built relationships of trust with Jiro over many years.

An apprenticeship in Sukiyabashi Jiro will take ten years - one chef recalls being allowed to have a go at making Tamagoyaki (grilled egg sushi) after ten years of being an apprentice, and having made over 200 batches of it before Jiro deemed it to be of the right quality. This is what distinguishes Jiro's eatery from the rest - its pure dedication to getting it absolutely right, consistently, every time. Another example for the work that goes in to the preparation of the sushi is named in the documentary: octopus is hand-massaged for 45-50 minutes before it is served warm, in order to prevent it from having a rubbery texture.

In this sense, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an astonishing documentary to watch for anyone interested in food and the amount of work that can go into perfecting a bite-size portion of sushi. It is beautifully shot and aesthetically pleasing and will have your mouth watering within a few minutes. But the film captures far more than that - it is a brilliant portrayal of an extraordinary personality, someone that enjoys what he does and has happily spent most of his life as a true 'shokunin' - a craftsman or artisan at heart.

Just as interesting, to me, was the story of his two sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi, who have both followed in their fathers footsteps. As the eldest son, at 50, Yoshikazu is supposed to take over the restaurant when his father steps out or passes, as is family tradition. Takashi, the younger son, also trained with his father and left to open his own sushi restaurant, which is a mirror image of his fathers, and holds two Michelin stars. Both sons were trained extremely hard by their father and show similar values and dedication to being shokunins, however, it is said that they will never be able to surpass their father, as they would have to be twice as good to be even regarded as equal - such is the impact Jiro has made on the world as the first man to lift sushi to such a high standard. Interestingly, Yoshikazu was the one to prepare the sushi for the Michelin guide critics that earned the restaurant its three star rating - a testament to his obviously immense talent that still lingers in the shadow of his fathers persona.

The film is beautiful and will delight many a viewer, as it captures so many things: A family business and its traditions,dedicated craftsmanship, perfection of food and Japanese culture. It's a gem and you should watch it.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is still being shown at Hackney Picturehouse in London or can be viewed here or here.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Shakshuka with artichoke hearts, feta & almonds

I can't wait for January to be over. The weather is as unpredictable as ever, with days that are either freezing cold or surprisingly mild - but the sky is always grey and grim.
If there has to be a winter, at least let's have a few days of snow! Apparently February is going to be a proper winters month and hopefully after that, we can look forward to some springtime sun action...

The worst things about this time of year are the colds and flus and viruses and horrible health problems that circulate and hit everyone at some point. At the moment, 4 out of 5 of our house members, myself included, have come down with a cold. It's not fair!

Yesterday, I stayed home in an attempt to recover a little, but I also managed to get up at some point and make myself a fiery hot shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato sauce) - one of my favourite cold remedies. And it was delicious! It's easy to make, ready in about 20 minutes at the most and is bound to make you feel healthy and refreshed afterwards.

Shakshuka, or shakshouka, is said to have Tunisian origin, however its popularity and variations across different countries of the Middle East make it hard to pinpoint whether this is 100% true. Either way - it combines all the beautiful Middle Eastern flavours and is the perfect breakfast or brunch meal.

This is my version, and due to weird cold cravings I included harissa paste for extra spiciness, artichoke hearts for fresh, lemony flavour and sprinkled chopped coriander, toasted flaked almonds and crumbled feta on top. YUM!

Unfinished shakshuka with no toppings except artichokes.

I've got to add, I've got a somewhat newly found addiction to artichokes - as a young child (I must have been about 5 years old?) I had a traumatic experience involving artichokes that meant that I didn't try them again for most of my life.
It went like this: My mum and dad were hosting a dinner party and there was lots of food laid out on the dining table....at that point in time, my culinary tastebuds weren't quite as developed and I mischievously took a big bite out of an artichoke, having mistaken it for a chicken drumstick (apparently my eyes weren't functioning properly either?), which was my favourite food back then. I remember this quite vividly; the taste of artichoke was incredibly offensive to me then. Now that I know how delicious they actually are, I try to include them as much as possible, in a bid to make up for many lost years perhaps.

On another note, this dish also marks the first time that I tried black garlic in cooking - I saw it at the market and was somewhat intrigued, having (perhaps ignorantly so?) never even heard of it. Black garlic is aged white garlic and is almost pastelike as you peel it out of the cloves. The packaging says its flavour is reminiscent of molasses and balsamic reduction and I couldn't agree more - its smell is intense, its taste slightly sweet, and it adds a nice subtle flavour. I've now used it in a risotto as well as in this shakshuka, and out of the two I would say I prefer it in risotto - to me shakshuka benefits from the strong pungent flavour of white garlic. But try it yourself, if you can get your hands on it and decide for yourself!

Without much further ado....my recipe for shakshuka, best served with warm pitta!

Shakshuka with artichoke hearts, feta & almonds

Recipe by Athene Knufer

Serves 2


  • 2 eggs
  • 400g chopped (canned will do) tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves of (aged) garlic, finely diced
  • 10 pieces of artichoke hearts, preserved in oil
  • 1 teaspoon of of crushed pink peppercorns
  • 2-3 teaspoons of harissa paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • a handful of toasted flaked almonds
  • a handful of crumbled feta
  • a handful of chopped coriander

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and lightly sauté the onions on medium to low heat for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and pink peppercorns, toss for another minute or so, then add the chopped tomatoes and cook on medium to high heat.
  3. After a few minutes, add the harissa paste and lemon juice, stir frequently and season to taste.
  4. The paste needs to cook for at least another 5 minutes before you add the eggs and you should feel it thickening and changing in consistency a little while you keep stirring. It's a bit like a sofrito in this sense, it develops its flavour the longer you cook it.
  5. Nudge two little wells into the tomato sauce, reduce the heat and add the eggs to either well. You don't want the whole egg to be in a small well but rather to be spread out a little over the surface of the sauce, so it can cook properly.
  6. Add the pieces of artichoke heart by just gently pushing them into the sauce, so they are still visible. Cover the pan with a (see-through) lid and let the eggs poach in the sauce on a low heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, get the almonds, feta and coriander ready. When the 5 minutes have passed, check to see that the egg whites have fully cooked and take the pan off the heat, as you don't want the egg yolks to overcook.
  8. Scatter the feta, coriander and flaked almonds generously over the shakshuka and serve with warm pitta bread.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What to do with mangoes? Pt. 1

Strolling back home to our house this Sunday afternoon following a magnificently huge roast at The Water Poet (which I will review here shortly!), my boyfriend and I went to pick up some fruit from the market just outside Shoreditch High Street station.

Having just eaten about my weight in meat, we both vowed to eat a bit more healthily in the following days. And while we often manage to eat healthy things, we usually end up indulging in something chocolatey afterwards, because the healthy option just wasn't enough. Ah well.

Today, however, we successfully avoided anything chocolatey and still had a form of 'dessert'. As I'd spotted some deliciously ripe mangoes at only £1.99 per box, I decided to make a nice and refreshing mango and lime lassi.
And what shall I say - it was delicious! I originally included cardamom and infused the milk I added to the lassi with seeds from 6 cardamom pods, however this subtle taste could hardly be detected in the final product....this was due to my spontaneous addition of lime and I think with a few more seeds the cardamom would be beautiful with the mango, but only without the lime.

The lime and mango has got to be a winning combination though - the lime cuts through the sweetness of the mango beautifully and gives this lassi a refreshing 'zing'. I know it's not summer yet, but I imagine this to be an absolute winner when drunk nice and cold on a warm day.

For the moment, turn up your heater, stick the lassi in the fridge, then sit back and forget its winter as you enjoy it. Oh, and preferably eat something spicy with it and it will do wonders!

Mango and Lime Lassi

Recipe by Athene Knufer

Yield: ca. 1 Litre


  • 2 large, ripe mangoes
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml low-fat greek yoghurt
  • zest and juice of one large lime

Cooking Directions

  1. Cut open the mangoes and scoop out all the flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add the flesh to a blender/food processor with the milk and yoghurt and blend till smooth.
  3. Add the lime juice at the end and give it another quick blend.
  4. Chill in the fridge for 20-30 mins for the perfect cool temperature.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Sushi making class at Suzu, Hammersmith

On most mornings when I open my email, I have about ten Groupon messages waiting to be deleted. While this can be rather annoying, I've not disabled this because once in a while, something does catch my eye.

Recently, I spied a deal for a two hour sushi-making class at Suzu in Hammersmith, with a glass of plum wine and a complete sushi-making kit to take home for £35 and promptly purchased the deal. It was my first Japanese cooking class and as I've been wanting to incorporate more sushi into my canapé menus, I had the perfect excuse.

A quick google search showed that Suzu is a small but lovely Japanese tapas bar that offers high quality, fresh and delicious food which is valued by customers in many positive reviews.

I arrived quite early and was happy to see that I wasn't the only one who had showed up alone, and settled in with a delicious glass of plum wine.
The Japanese-born Makiko Matthews led the class and taught us how to make Kappa Maki (cucumber sushi rolls), salmon nigiri and westernised inside-out 'California' rolls with avocado and salmon. She also explained and gave us a guideline sheet about how to cook perfect sushi rice (which we were told is very different from cooking normal rice!) and where to buy the freshest sushi-grade fish.

I will review Makiko's sushi rice making on this blog soon and include all her invaluable tips.

To make the Kappa Maki you need to begin with a sushi mat that has been wrapped in clingfilm and have either slightly damp hands or wear gloves that you cover with a dab of oil, so the rice doesn't stick to your hands.
You align the nori seaweed sheet (rough side up, shiny side down!) with the bottom of the rolling mat and take an egg-shaped ball of rice, around 130g and place it on the bottom middle of the seaweed. Then press the rice from there towards all the sides evenly, making sure to leave a strip free of rice at the top, in order to seal the roll later. We were also told not to press the rice too firmly.

Once the rice is pressed into an even layer, you place two cucumber strips in the middle of the rice, and then take the bottom of the map and tightly roll it to end where the strip that is free of rice begins. Then, with your left hand pressing down the roll and moving it forward, you pull back the mat with your right hand. Leave the rolls to rest for a minute and the moisture from the rice will naturally seal the seaweed. You can then cut your roll in half and then cut each of these in 3 pieces in order to have 6 portions. Use the sharpest knife you can find, cut gently and ideally wipe your knife with a damp cloth after every cut for best results!

The rolls look something like this.

For the salmon nigiri, you will need the best fish you can find in order to avoid food poisoning. Makiko has recommended Atari-Ya, who have several shops in London and have been supplying Suzu for over five years. If you tell them what kind of sushi you want to make, they'll even cut your fish so you have the correct portions!

If you are slicing your salmon yourself, you should cut them into pieces that are about 5 cm long, 3 cm wide and 1 cm thick. To form the nigiri, put the piece of salmon on your left hand and press an oval shaped ball of sushi rice weighing between 10-15g on the middle. Then press your right index finger on the rice and clamp your left hand together. After that, try and form your nigiri so there is a nice height, shaped like a curve in the middle, and make sure the salmon covers the head and tail of the rice and that no rice is peeking out of the sides.

My first attempt at nigiri looked something like this (the one at the back is probably the best!)

To make the inside-out california rolls, start in the same way as if you were making the Kappa Maki, but use 150g of rice and spread the rice over the whole sheet of seaweed and don't leave a strip free! It's especially important for the rice not to be pressed down too firmly as the roll will look unappealing if the rice looks squished.

Then flip over your seaweed sheet, and place two pieces of avocado and two thin strips of fresh salmon in the middle of the sheet and roll in the same way as described for the Kappa Maki.

This is what my roll looked like. If you cut it into 6 pieces, it looks beautifully colourful!

You can also play around with what ingredients you use and the way you roll your sushi - Makiko, who is originally from Tokyo, informed us that the sushi there are usually rectangular shaped, while in other places sushi rolls are round.
In my opinion, the class was very well structured and ideal if you are new to making sushi and want to learn the basics in order to get your creativity flowing. Makiko makes sushi with her children on a weekly basis and encouraged us to experiment with ingredients when we make sushi at home - apparently her house has seen the birth of a unappealing Full English Breakfast sushi roll as well as a divine-sounding sushi roll with wasabi, cream cheese and blue cheese filling with dried dates, chives and cucumber! Yum!

At the end of the class, I received this sushi-making set including rolling mats, sushi rice, rice vinegar, nori seaweed sheets and wasabi. I will be making sushi with it very soon!

I highly recommend anyone to give sushi making a go, and if you're in London, definitely check out Makiko's classes - she not only teaches sushi classes but also runs classes on how to make katsu curry, dumplings, tempura and okonomiyaki.

172 Hammersmith Road
London W6 7JP
0208 7411101

Makiko's blog: www.blog.helloonline.com/eatjapanese/